Unseasonably Seasonal

A transistor radio allows for the lone known comfort, NPR Sunday edition, as I take in the morning amid my new environs. Alien birdsong flitters in and out of vivid green plants that remain mostly foreign at this moment. A lingering peculiar sulfur odor often hangs in the air- enough so that it is common to have poor air quality conditions.

At night a mere five minute walk provides an overlook to the “glow” within this remote location. How remote? More than 2500 miles from North America, 3700 miles from Japan, and 1850 miles away from the nearest island neighbor. I speak of the Hawaii chain and the island of Hawaii in particular and that “glow” emanates from Halemaumau crater within the greater Kilauea Caldera which in term is part of larger Mauna Loa, the most active volcano on the planet.

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the “glow” from said 5 minute walk from 203.  Sorry for camera shake – a tripod may be in order.

Unseasonably Seasonal

season:

noun

1. one of the four periods of the year (spring, summer, autumn, and winter), beginning astronomically at an equinox or solstice, but geographically at different dates in different climates.

4. a period of the year marked by certain conditions, activities, etc.:

baseball season.

verb (used with object)

9. to heighten or improve the flavor of (food) by adding condiments, spices, herbs, or the like.

verb (used without object)

14. to become seasoned, matured, hardened, or the like.

Seasonal:

adjective

1.pertaining to, dependent on, or accompanying the seasons of the year or some particular season; periodical: seasonal work.

noun

2.a seasonal product, employee, etc.: to hire seasonals. # A person who works a job(s) that fall within a particular season then seeks future employment elsewhere. Eg lifeguard, firefighter, chair lift operator, Park Ranger

(from dictionary.com # author’s added )

2016 was my first foray with being a Federal employee with the National Park Service (NPS). this serendipitously coincided with the Centennial celebration of the NPS across all 417units Due to few full time positions ever becoming available and the competition when it does happen, most people begin their NPS journey as seasonals. These seasons are often labeled Not to exceed 1039 hours in a year.

Seeking new locations ( my sister always says to write Mark’s address in pencil) and varying responsibilities as I often do, this arrangement fit rather nicely into my mantra. Given my prolonged efforts into entering this agency it was indeed a magical year.

First stop, Joshua Tree National Park as a Visitor Use Assistant- Fee Collection Ranger. Think monkey in the box that takes visitors’ money and throws them a map in the the never ending task of slaying a line of cars from Los Angeles.

Nearly one month into my season, I realized it was time to begin searching for the next gig. Not because I wasn’t enjoying being a monkey in the box. More so, I was more concerned about melting in the box with the impending summer temperatures that often reach over 100 degrees. Additionally, all the cool summer positions for other Parks were being posted or flown in mid February. One thing that I’ve learned as a seasonal for roughly the past 10 years; is one must stay ahead of the game in the constant pursuit of next gainful short term employment.

To my surprise, I received and accepted an offer after only two weeks of applying. (so much for that government inefficiency, although to be honest the time frame for Joshua Tree hiring was excruciatingly long.) With a feather in my cap of knowing my next landing spot, Yosemite National Park, I was truly able to maximize the remaining 2 ½ months in Joshua Tree.

As for Yosemite, I was a Restoration Worker in the Mariposa Grove of ancient Sequoia trees. Restoration is often confused with cabinet and other carpentry work. Not in this case- think Dirt Ranger- (in fact that is what my homemade name tag stated.) Duties included shoveling gravel, collecting seeds, slinging mulch dirt soil dirt magic, and other miscellany.

Note: the author intends to publish more in depth writings of both seasonal gigs- stay tuned

As summer played out its string, the search for the next seasonal job began in earnest. Procuring winter seasonal work has always been a struggle. Lacking interest or skill set in skiing or other fast winter pursuits eliminates many possibilities. Most Park units have a skeleton crew as the visitation drops to a mere trickle.

At one point, I had over 40 applications out with both the NPS and Forest Service across the Southwest covering jobs from Interpretative Ranger, Fee Collection, Maintenance, Biological Science Tech, and few other more random titles. If I were a fisherman, I would have starved.

Many hits as in applications being referred, meaning my 10 page resume passed the mustard. Yet the interviews were not happening. I’d call, leave messages, and never hear from a damn human being. At the last moment, in early November, a mere 10 days before my Yosemite assignment ended and housing disappearing with it I was called by the Gallatin National Forest.

The job was for a Snow Ranger and buried deep in the position description was one sentence mentioning snow mobile operations. Even with two years in Alaska, I never rode on let alone operated a snow machine, the colloquial term up north. During the Knowledge and Skill Assessment section of the application, I lied like all applicants did and embellished my lack of experience with the vehicle.

(** editors note: Federal resumes are tedious and wordy. If one can walk, talk , and chew gum- your resume needs to state that at the highest level of competence. The machine, computer conducting the keyword search, is unemotional and does not infer, make guesses, assume, or basically give a shit about the weary applicant. )

Before the interview, I chatted with my Crew Leader and it turns out that Chad had a similar position with the Sierra National Forest. Chad like me had limited or no experience with snow mobiles but his Supervisor was willing to train him on the job. Thus a glimmer of hope hovered like a false sense of security during the conference call with two district Rangers.

All systems were go and then the question that I knew was coming, “ Please explain your experience operating trucks with trailers and snow mobiles.” The trucks and trailers was easy and I even mentioned my recent trip to the Valley with a skid steer en tow. Lightning, bears, rattlesnakes, rockfall, and fire are all over rated risks in Yosemite. The most dangerous risk factor is a visitor driving a rental RV and I probably encountered at least 5 of them during said trip.

My response for snow mobile operations was – “ as far as snow machines (note- I was trying to impress them with my colloquial knowledge) I don’t have any.” Crickets there were crickets on both connections of the conference call for 10 hard seconds and then the interview proceed.

Miraculously, the powers that be were still interested in possibly hiring me. The glimmer of hope lit from the conversation with Chad kept the dream alive. I was going to be a Snow Ranger in the National Forest to the north of Yellowstone. One hangup remained, the trio of district Rangers wanted to check in a final time to elicit the opinion of my would be partner.

Living as a dirt bag for roughly the last 10 years, I try to always have a plan Z. Plan B simply doesn’t allow for enough comfort to set aside the mysterious ways of circumstance.

(expanded definition of seasonal: synonyms for seasonals: rambler, hustler, dirt bag, etc. Dirt bag is sometimes interchangeable with a dirty hippie or climber. Climbers don’t have jobs and live in broken down vans. I’m neither a mechanic nor a climber despite living in Joshua Tree and Yosemite within the same calendar year. These two destinations are some of the worlds’ premiere climbing locales. With my college degree I would be considered a professional dirt bag.)

Plan Z was a venture into the murky content of Texas A&M job board which serves as a clearing house of various field jobs based around the world. Many are geared towards graduate students while others are volunteer positions. One particular position was an intern (what a terrible name for a job title) as a Volunteer in Park ,VIP, at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HAVO,.

The work was, is, equivalent to that of GS-5 Biological Science Technician. Provided housing in the Park and the poor bastards even get $10 for each work , volunteer, day in way of a food stipend. – an aside- this does not buy much in the way of SPAM. Well the location seemed right and the work experience was something I was seeking in the continuing effort to make me a more well rounded candidate in this viscous cycle of seasonal employment.

I swallowed my pride just before hitting the send button while simultaneously began dreaming of living on a volcano.

Meanwhile, at one of the few spots in Death Valley with cell coverage, *** the Gallatin National Forest rechecked my interest in the Snow Ranger position. My interest remained high despite some personal skepticism. The relayed message boiled down to this: expect a phone call next week with a job offer.

*** the author was in the midst of an impromptu road trip with friends gallivanting across the desert in route to his second gear cache in Phoenix.

The next week arrived and with it my first interaction with Jim, my would be partner. Jim wanted to review my experience. It turns out that in all of North America the most dangerous place for snow snowmobiling , I was no longer trying to impress him with colloquial knowledge, was in the Gallatin. In fact, Cooke City MT has the highest death rate per capita involving snow mobile accidents. Jim shared stories of Search and Rescue missions at 1 am 20 miles into the Backcountry. This would be part of my job and he reiterated that this was no place for a novice like myself. I told him that the job description failed to emphasis this skill set and I would have never applied if it had. Weighing the risks of the steep learning curve, I withdrew my candidacy.

A week later, Plan Z became Plan A as I accepted the VIP position at HAVO. Figured I’d give myself till the end of 2016 until purchasing a plane ticket, allowing for the unlikely event of lingering applications turning into paying offers. It turns out that I turned down two such offers: one was a part time Visitor Services Information Assistant in Mendocino National Forest, one of my favorite California Forests. The housing arrangement was messy so I turned it down. On Martin Luther King day, I received a phone call from Zion National Park. It was probably an offer for a Fee Collection position which I had reluctantly applied for the previous week. ( a seasonal must apply for numerous positions to put oneself into job predicaments. The applicant then needs to make a decision. At least that is my MO.) It wasn’t until the actual interview did I realize this position was to bleed into the long hot summer. This was not in the cards as I was and still am intending to head back to Yosemite in some capacity this summer.

The recent Federal hiring freeze has thrown a wrench into the works for myself and 1000’s more across the country. Many veterans that the midnight tweeter pretends to give a damn about have been screwed. ******( note: The opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and do not represent any of the agencies mentioned by name or inferred. Besides those agencies have been silenced until further notice. )

So two weeks in and I’ve seen lava at Halemaumau Crater, learned 10-15 native plants, and monitored out plantings of Threatened and Endangered species. Tomorrow the crew overnights in a restricted area in the Kahuku unit

 

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the new HAVO heli pilot delivers the rain catchment system to the remote Kahuku Unit.  TC would have been proud.

 

As far as the next Plan Z goes, well it is too early to tell.

 

 

 

 

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Coming to a Crossroads near you- A road trip into the Sublime

800px-Mendocino_California

Ford and Ukiah streets Downtown? Mendocino, CA population 894.

If one turns right its the U.S. Post Office- 95460. This is a place where the workers know my name without asking. Funny because I seldom received much snail mail, does anyone? It is not uncommon for folks to say hi without knowing names, we know each others’ faces from passing in such a small community.

Turning left or south provides entrance into the Mendocino Market, which is really a deli. Like much of the town during the tourist season – summer and agreeable weather weekends- it is full of tourists. Not during these times it is the locals. My usual order is a veggie pesto on sourdough. For fun I’ll leave my alias DC for the cashier to call out when the order is ready.

Turning around brings you toward the center of the village. You will pass Corners of the Mouth, the local health food and homeopathic center. Just beyond is Mendocino Savings Bank which is housed in a old Masonic church made famous for its steeple one tree carving of Father Time and the Maiden. Now you are on the main drag, Lansing. Across the street is Mendoza’s the other grocery store, where I always find a fellow shopper that I know. Patterson’s Pub, bring cash money as they don’t take plastic, Anderson’s Alternatives, and mini liquor store round out the main commerce center.

Lastly, if you continue down Ukiah after a dogleg or two to the right you will hit the ocean. Next stop Hawaii. Technically you are in Mendocino Headlands State Park. I always head for the third turn out on my off time. As a naturalist we often take students to the second turn out for access down to the rocky beach for tide pooling. The ocean serves as an interactive backdrop while zoning out in my car listening to a Giants game, reading the paper, attempting a call (service is spotty), or daydreaming. Birds, whales, waves, boats, sunsets, and clouds dancing across the sky all preform their magic at various times. Each visit is unique.

I wouldn’t argue with you if my description of the place I’ve called home for the past year sounds like paradise. But I find myself at my own proverbial crossroads and it is time to move on.

There isn’t anyone or anything keeping me here. I don’t grow nor do I intend to enter the over saturated cannabis market. Besides if I stare at that ocean anymore I might just burn a hole through the center.

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To be fair my actual residence and the place where I worked the majority of my various jobs is inland. The Mendocino Woodlands State Park is only eight miles from the coast, yet at times can seem a world away. This dark lonely forest once served as the set for a campy horror movie The Howling. http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1887673344/tt0082533?ref_=tt_ov_i This park is a beautiful place in its own right but I’ve payed out all the rope for this setting. Basically I’m bored, desperate, and wanderlust stricken. The last time this happened I walked from Mexico to Canada.

This time my journey will be powered by an internal combustible engine. The endpoint isn’t as exotic either, Marietta Ohio. My hometown. The quiet river town stuck halfway between being a fracking boom town and a historic frontier from days of yore. It is complete with a Walmart and two McDonald’s ( if memory serves me right) and earthen mounds built by the Indigenous peoples.

This c junket begins September 26 with a visit to a fellow thru hiker’s home in Davis, CA and ends Halloween in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Peninsula, Ohio. It is here that I will use the powers vested in me from the internet to officiate a wedding between my two friends Mike and Juan.

Sounds like a Halloween party precedes the Wedding Day followed by another party. Why wouldn’t I drive 2000 some miles to attend? After the ceremony I’ll head southeast back to Marietta.

The route which is very open ended has planned stops in San Diego, The Grand Canyon, Denver, Carlsbad Cavern, and many points in between. If you are within 200 miles of any of these way points let me know so you can sign the road trip guest registrar. Co adventuring is encouraged. I intend, I haven’t loaded the car yet, to keep the passenger seat open for a hitchhiker or a friend.

Instead of making this a trip lumbering back home with my tail tucked between my legs it is to be a celebration. It is in the name of love after all. Love of family, friends, mountain air, gravel roads, greasy spoons, Park Service passport stamps, local brews, meteor showers, natural hot springs, and the unknown.

See you out there.

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Working for the naked people- thoughts from the tub and beyond

15 August – Front Desk

Sitting at the ready but mostly reaching for the proper words to recount. Another Saturday night finds me working from 4pm to midnight at Orr Hot Springs   http://www.orrhotsprings.org/ Smoke still hangs in the air from east bound Lake County and northbound Humboldt County wildfires.

Getting here as with most places in Mendocino County is an adventure. In fact the road I take from the coast, Comptche Ukiah road, changes to Orr Springs road at the General Store in Comptche. Essentially it is the same road, more potholed and narrow from the General Store to Orr itself.

Most of our guests come via the HWY 101 corridor. A good majority come all the way from San Francisco or other municipalities of the Greater Bay Area.

The remoteness of this location is evidenced in my phone conversations while booking reservations. Pleading non locals to use the written directions contained in an email sent shortly after said conversation. You see both google maps and GPS paint a false picture of success. Your would be arrival is annouced miles before actually arriving in the proper place. This is due to rugged and steep wooded valleys throughout the general area.

The lack of reception and WiFi are two of greatest redeeming qualities of the resort. When guests ask for a password I relish the fact I can let them down with the lack of near omnipresent technology of places not here. Any disappointment is usually quelled when the guest realizes , “Oh I can really relax now.” No tweets, no emails, no updates, or likes. No unimportant important brain occupiers of today’s

distracted world. Instead people meet other folks in the communal kitchen, often sharing food. Sometimes impromptu music occurs from the array of instruments in the dining area. All is not lost – somethings are found.

The remoteness and lack of distractions lead to a relaxed atmosphere and I haven’t even mentioned the hot springs yet. To a non plumber like myself, the plumbing here is a rather complicated matter. The water is drawn up from various springs on the property. Some sources are boosted by heat pumps before landing in there respective porcelain tubs or communal pools , while other waters head directly to their destination. Other than the heat, nothing is added or subtracted from the soaking water.

The mineral content of the waters rambles on like an ingredient list of packaged food from Grocery Outlet. However most of these ingredients are easy to pronounce, are not produced in a lab, and don’t lead to childhood obesity or the early onset of diabetes. Boron is the most prevalent, while silica is the most distinguishing characteristic of the water. Honestly, I can’t tell the difference. Just like drinking wine, I either like it or I don’t. In the case of these here waters- I like it.

My duties as PM Gatekeeper are numerous, but do not include writing free form as the current case may be. PM Gatekeeper is one of the more interesting job titles I’ve ever held. With much potiental for a Ghostbusters reference, it has only happened once where someone has asked if I am the Gatekeeper.  Of course it is Zul who asks the question “are you the keymaster?”  check it out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9L7UUp0FxY  As the case with many service jobs the practice of the duties can arrive in spurts or remain as something that needs to happen at a set time or only when needed.

Besides checking in guests as they arrive, I also give them an orientation and field questions of the local area. Then there is the kitchen, if you have ever stayed at a hostel or the more likely scenario, lived with housemates, you know where this is going. I’m pretty good about keeping a positive attitude towards the kitchen, otherwise this job would be a drag. I even show first time guests the kitchen and stress the importance of communal. . Focusing on the washing, drying, and putting away of dishes.

Its all about community so leaving a cast iron skillet on the commercial grade twelve burner stove does three things. 1) Given the very high temperature on and around the stove, any food left in said vessel makes washing usually by them but sometimes me, very challenging. 2) It takes up a burner which on a Saturday night when 20 people decide to make dinner at the same time can be difficult. 3) It becomes the established norm- leave your stuff behind and someone- me- will take care of it.

Yes I get it, people are relaxed and enjoying themselves. They paid a lot of money to stay here. After dinner it may be on to sexy time in the room, so sure why not leave a dish here and a dirty pan there.

The rant is nearly over. Reorganizing misplaced utensils, unstacking near calamitous Jenga towers of dishes, cutting knives, and wine glasses from the drying rack and emptying food waste containers comprise a small list of the never ending checking of the kitchen.

Other duties preformed include checking the bathhouse. Creeper alert? Nope I’m checking water temperatures and ensuring that glass items didn’t make it down towards the bathhouse.

We allow cameras but like pictures of things not of other people.  There are no devices allowed in the Bathhouse proper

We allow cameras but like pictures of things not of other people. There are no devices allowed in the Bathhouse proper

As an employee, I receive several benefits. The wage is fair at $15 an hour. With my residence an hour away and clocking out time at midnight, overnight accommodations are provided. The converted shed is cozy if not slightly misplaced amongst the guests’ cabins, cottages, or yurts.

Additionally, I can guest friends in for free on days not rhyming with Friday and Saturday. Once a month, I can stay for free along with friends in a room or cottage. Free soaking is starting to lose its luster. The winter is the time I want to spent time in waters ranging from 100° to 107° F. Summer is too hot to enjoy, minus a dip in the cold plunge pool usually hovering around the mid 70°s.  

This job did get me out of a temporary employment rut. Yet now seems to be cramping my style. If you need a reminder, most cool things happen on the weekends, the two nights I work, Friday and Saturday.

Sure I’ve had many a meal prepared for me from very gracious guests. Tonight it was Cornish game hen with wild rice and green beans. I’ve been tipped in the form of beers for going above and beyond in the eye of a guest. Yet anymore, it mostly feels like I’m working at a party I wasn’t invited to.

A self termination date to my employment at Orr has been added to the calendar. All good things, or things that were good and got stale, must come to an end.

So I must remind myself to enjoy the waters, whether they be hot or cold. Share stories with the guests , no matter how boring their lives may appear to be. Soak it all in, not just the water but the slowing down of our hectic lives. Breathe, stretch, and heal. Perhaps I will meet a lifelong friend or lover in the dwindling days, or might just continue to clean up somebody else’s mess.

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Getting through on haiku

Whish, whish, whish
crunch, crunch, crunch
left, right, left
5 7 5
scrape, scrape, scrape
splash, splash, splash

The rhythmic sounds of legs driving across varying terrain and tread. Some strides are longer than others, some more confident, others more deliberate over questionable purchase on logs, ice, snow, knife edge, rattlesnake territory, or fucking asphalt.

Wind, rain, sun, fog, sweat, body stench, and many other variables alter one’s pace. But over the long course of an average day of eight to twelve hours of hiking totaling anywhere from twenty to thirty miles the body finds not only a pace but a rhythm.

After food and sex fantasies, concerns of water, swatting mosquitoes, and losing count of the mountains that there isn’t time to climbs, the brain settles.

Suddenly, you are bored. “I’m doing this again” like I have for the 39 days and for the next unknown amount of time.

Sometimes a song develops as the miles, glaciers, deadfall, dog shit, poison oak, and fellow thrus pass by. Other times a puzzle is encountered. How do I articulate my boredom, my current struggle, my chosen hardship of the here and now?

Syllables fall from the sky and land into a domino rally like arrangement. And if one is lucky enough the 1000’s of intricately laid bones stand until an index finger slams into the apex and if on queue everything falls into place.

Here are the haiku that occupied my brain during some of the journey. In the beginning of the journey it was a coping device. Over time they became less necessary and more uncommon. Note: my creations don’t usually adhere to the traditional two images juxtaposed.

Day 1
One step at a time
Closer to what hard to say
Thus I keep walking

Day 2
Naked hiking man
On Easter how to explain
Oh it is 4/20

Day 4
Dawn windy traverse
chit chat AM wine dandies
Long Strider advice

Day 10
Crisp flowing water
Entering the maw of heat
just over the pass

Day 11
Wilderness vista
Gated homes casinos smog
Chant down Babylon

Day 13
Animal cages
But who should be held captive
Bears or the hikers

Day 16
Like ducks on the pond
Oddities of the So Cal
Get out to see it

Day 21
A ridgeline grand slam
Peak bagging at its finest
let the games begin

Day 22
Entering the zone
The brain moves faster than the feet
How did I get here

The Smartphone is dead
Lewis and Clark laugh out loud
should have brought the maps

Day 23
Play whack a poodle
Not the dog the itchy plant
Avoid at all costs

Day 24
Lancaster is close
Two foes enter one will leave
Kirk vs. Lizard

Day 27
Escape from LA
The desert of Sierra
Either is finer

Humans try so hard
Spinning blades of progression
The desert still wins

Day 29
One step at a time
Closer to what hard to say
Thus I keep walking

Day 30
Race the winds of change
To and fro we sway about
Out of our control

Day 31
The Jedi was right
Stay on target and trust it
It is your hike

Day 37
Maslow’s needs not met
Not enough food or water
give me some Cheetos

Day 39
Where is all the snow
Thru hikers cheer yet plants moan
Something has to give

Day 40
A ribbon of trail
Placed amid a masterpiece
Words cannot describe

Day 43
One Pass at a time
Each reveals its own secrets
Up over and free

Day 45
Tracks are not the truth
Merely hints or distractions
You must choose your way

Day 62
Shouldering the pack
The weight is not a burden
Instead you are free

Day 77 4th of July
The Cascades are here
Lassen has many flavors
Try a Cinder Cone

Day 95
When it rains it pours
Put out fires let us drink
Life in the mountains

Day 99
Oregon redefined
Mosquitoes ruin my day
Huckleberries save

Dinner for ninety
Lift head net bite chew repeat
Who invited them

Day 118
Indian Heaven
Original Trail Magic
Spot pick eat enjoy

Day 135
What is it you want
How badly do you want it
Now you must prove it

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Fear and Loathing in Transition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADay -6 Tok,AK to Whitehorse Yukon 397 miles

Two international border crossings within the span of a week have my imagination running wild. Perhaps I’m living the life of a jet setter corporate type closing mega billion takeovers, or maybe as a photojournalist documenting the migration of the Trumpeter Swan. Yet the harsh reality is: my through hiker status I’ve been happy to wield has changed to that of an unemployed homeless bum.

My self visioned persona of a superhero beastmoding, hiking god who can crank out 25 miles at the drop of a hat is taking several hits. I’ve noticed that introductions no longer have the letters DC coming out of my mouth. Now it is Mark, oops I just outed myself. Don’t get me wrong Mark is cool but the usage of a alias, moniker, or trail name means I’m on the trail. Using my given name means I’m not.

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Thanks for the ride

900 plus miles to ask of any more would be insane
maybe when it is over over they will be in the hall of fame

Brooks is the maker
Cascadia the name
Perhaps in honor of Callenbach’s Ecotopia game

From river bottoms low
and mountain top heights
these puppies kept me alive
even from the certain death of rattlesnake bites

Providing sure footing over steep mountain passes
and managing to stay intact from midnight explosions
caused by rice and bean gases

As tough as they are accidents do happen
don’t forget to take them off for afternoon napping

While climbing steep hills I drop into low gear
can still pick em up and put them down
especially for impending beer

If you are enjoying the words that I’ve been mixing
then brace yourself for the tales
of superglue and duct tape fixing

For postholes do happen
and boulders can cause a bust
but a hiker has to do what a hiker has to do
so keep on going is a must

As desperate as times are
there is no need to despair
as I’m headed to the valley of Seiad
to pick up a new pair

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All in a day’s work

All in a day's work.

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All in a day’s work

4:25 am- I double check my watch, my basic technology on this trip, for the 12th time during the night.  Placing it within the semi open sleeping bag so that it wakes me.  Also so that it does not wake my hiking partner, Easy A, or SloBro sleeping in a hammock nearby.  The task today is simple: get to Chester.  The conditions are get on trail by 5ish so that I can crush the 16 miles to HWY 36 and have time to hitch.  The deadline is by 1pm so that we can watch the World Cup match US vs. Belguim.  Yes it is true, I am now hiking for World Cup Peace.

5:20- after vacating my semi-level cowboy camping spot, gave Easy A the flattest area, and slamming a Pop Tart I was ready.  Well technically it was from Trader Joes and was all Organic toaster pastery.  Still nasty pop tart to me and I know it will give me dry mouth.  With water not close to trail and the time ticking it was a risk. 

5:22  Peg legging my way up the trail, left Achilles sometimes takes a little while to wake up after its rupture in 2008.  Doing big miles does not help.  SloBro left even earlier than me.  The morning sky is aglow in unknown hues of pink and purple- I fell like I’m floating along the volcanic ruins of the past.

6:07 reach the first check point- Junction for a meadow, we wanted to camp there yesterday but 31 miles out of Belden was too big of a pull.  29 miles on the hottest day of the year left us worthless by our 8 pm arrival to our eventual camp.  The pace is perfect- the tread is seemless, sans rocks.  Basically dust and sticks.  In a few miles it will all be downhill.  My brain goes into cruis control, even with my sore shoulders and knees, hell and feet at this point.

7:27?  just before reaching CS1324 two bear cubs climb up a tree.  I heard a weird noise behind a tree and then suddenly they scampered up.  I got a few pictures and some video yet kept my distance.  I knew mama would be close.  Yup 30 seconds later see appeared about 35 yards away.  See was checking out the scence and wondered why her babies were tree climbing.  When she saw me she started a bluff charge.  I put up both arms and said in a calm voice “its okay.”  She , like a good bear should, ran off.  I continued on my way.

8:00 am- suddenly I see an odd object up ahead- holy shit it is the halfway marker.  I knew it was coming,but in my haste to get to the HWY I forgot.  A sense of joy, accomplishment, and the knowing of much more to go all occured simotenously.  Managed a few pictures.  SloBro arrived and we congratulated each other.  Instead of asking him to take my picture my beastmode kicked in – must make miles.

10:15- multi roads, a gate and the unknown.  At one point I turned around, yet could not find the trail.  Continued on the road, as I heard traffic and my goal ahead. 

10:30  HWY 36- crushed it- 16 miles in about 5 hours.  Yet no sign of the trail.  I saw a County Line sign down the road.  Yup I managed to come out below the trail.  Oops- oh well may be an advantage as two dirtbag hikers is scarier that one. 

10:45  California Highway Patrol pulls over.  Asks if everything is okay.  Yes it is I tell him, just managed to come out south of the trail.  A ride is offered and accepted.  I even got to sit up front.  Robert gives me the lowdown on Chester.  When he retires at 50 he plans to hike the PCT.  Should have gotten a picture- oops.

11:02  Arrive at the Antler Hotel- Had Officer Robert drop me off in front of Easy A to impress him. 

11:30  We go the dentist office, first place all thruhikers go while in town.  Actually was recommended from Officer Robert and the Trail Angels at Honker Pass.  We are given a hug from the receptionist, a bag of cookies, score mountain houses out of the hiker box, and a coupon for $20 off our meals at the Locker Room

11:50 Milkshakes

12:07 Start redeeming our $20 coupons

3:15 After a double bacon cheese burger, fried zuccuni, a large helping of ice cream, and two large beers – I leave the Locker Room.  The US lost a frezied match in the final moments of extra time.  Well now I can get back to hiking.

4:00 Arrive at Chester Library- slow internet- this blog will be full of errors, minus pictures, and numerous grammar mistakes.

Get over it- I just hiked to the halfway point on the PCT

 

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High Sierras

A few quick notes before getting back on the bus, yes there is public transit on the 395 corridor. The bus will take me from Lone Pine to Independence where I’ll stay for the night. It is odd to walk the streets of a small town in high 80 temps when I woke up cold in the mountains.

The trip is all downhill from here, minus thousands of feet elevation gain and loss. By downhill I mean I crested the highest point- Forester Pass at 13,200 feet. The south approach was nearly snow free yet on the other side, the official border of Kings Canyon, there was still plenty of snow from a recent storm. The fact I did this on May 29th in shoes and trekking poles speaks of the drought striking California.

The mountains, well the Sierras, have been a good thing for the trip. Finding water is no longer an issue. In fact there are now times to bath and wash clothes most days. A simple dipping into the cold stream manages to reduce the “Mark” on all the clothes. You know it is bad when you have a hard time dealing with your own stench.
The high altitude causes one to slow down and smell the roses. Turns out spring is just begining in the high mountains.

This next jaunt from Kearsarge to Red’s Meadow might be one of the most beautiful and trying. A 7 day food load over at least 5 passes of 10,000 which may or may not have snow on the north aspect. Good thing I bought new base layers today, the sweatpants scored from the Kennedy Meadows hiker box saved my life but they are done.

Sorry no pictures to share- left the camera in the hotel.

Oh I ducked out on doing Mt. Whitney. I did it years ago and after I thought about doing it again it was too late. I had not planned with enough food. I did manage to get up Olancha Peak which makes 10 peaks for the trip- half way to 20 for 20.

Here are some haiku

These are from Section F and G which were tough. Very windy, a rain storm, and not much water.

Face the winds of change
To and fro we sway about
Out of our control

One step at a time
Closer to what hard to say
Thus I keep walking

The Jedi was right
Stay on target and trust it
It is your own hike

Maslows needs not met
Not enough food or water
Give me some Cheetos

Finally something less focused on my personal struggle

A ribbon of trail
Placed amid a masterpiece
Words cannot describe

Filed from the public library in Lone Pine Ca- Doctor Chicken – D.C. signing off

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Blade Runner- now in color

Tehachapi Day 29 mile 558

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I left my journal in Mojo , my pack, which in a friend’s hotel room.  Thus only one haiku- well maybe two from recall

Humans try so hard

Spinning blades speak of progress

The desert still wins

Not much to report in this quick entry, other than it’s getting hot and water is even harder to find.  Plan on getting back out later today, not sure how that will happen as Tehachapi which I misspelled all 4 times in outgoing postcards today is a 10 mile hitch back to the trail.  Strange week as I found myself in Northridge returning a REI tent and getting cash back.  Managed to keep another boycott streak intact as Walgreens had the card reader I’ve been looking for.  A Walmart visit was not needed, it is tough being self-righteous at times.

Other random locations included a dinner at Western Sizzler from the traveling trail angel Steve.  Double Tap and I dined like kings, on Steve’s dime no less, filling up at least 3 plates of various real food stuffs.  Later we began the undocumented 4th alternate route avoiding the Powerhouse burn.  Instead of going 20 miles west and then 20 east along busy roads we headed straight up the gut.  Along side an old course of the trail, perhaps from the early 90’s HYOK- especially on roadside detours.  More wind turbines and solar farms were the road side scenery. 

 

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In the distance is a good overview of the 4th alternative

 

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The entire gang of the Fellowship and Double Tap (foreground) take shelter in the shade under Cottonwood Bridge.  Later a local from Lancaster, Rodger, gave us all some Pepsi Colas.

 

Lastly

Escape from LA

Sierras or Mojave

Either is better

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