Category Archives: Harpo’s PCT Journal

Harpo’s PCT Journal: Oct 6-8

    Photo by FutureDad 
Day 111-113 (Anderson’s in Green Valley to sulphur spring camp trailhead)
Miles hiked this section: 71

PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 407

Miles hiked so far: 2225 ish

  
  Day 111

We wake at dawn and dawdle at the Anderson’s watching morning news. Terry makes us pancakes and coffee — she and Joe are such generous souls. It snowed in Wrightwood –  we’ll be there in several days. Fall is upon us, but in these lower elevations of the desert it’s still hot and sunny.

Today Is a challenge Groucho has been dreaming about since the Appalachian Trail. Today he attempts the 24/24/24. 24 miles +24 beers in 24 hours. It is 24 miles from The Anderson’s (and a convenience store) to Agua Dulce… another little town. Also Future Dad agrees to face the challenge with Groucho. They saddle up with a duct taped 12 pack in each hand, and walk the first few miles alone.

Twinless and I run into them an hour later and learn Future Dad is a chatty drunk. Groucho’s strategy, on the other hand, Is silence and smiles.

FD reveals their safe word…. A safe sentence, really. I ask “so what is the word” and first he doesn’t want to say in case it will break the spell. We urge him on “what if Groucho is passed out and you say the safe word but we, the sober ones, don’t know it?” Future Dad can’t remember it.  uh oh. Groucho reminds him “the safe word is ‘Andrea Dinsmore says you’re never going to make it.”

Soon FD says he needs a snack break at the next crest. He arrives pantsless… Or “Hucking it”… Our nominculture for this Huck-created technique. We all sit down and FD exclaims “ha! I can’t sit down because I’m not wearing any pants.”  I loan him my tyvek sit mat made from a priority mail envelope.

We get up to leave, FD’s pack exploded everywhere. He needs 10 seconds more and starts counting down on repeat. Each time he gets to 3 he says “wait wait” and starts again. This goes on until the pack is full and he needs to pee. On my sit mat. He asks if I want it back and I politely decline.

Future dad has maybe had 7 beers. This can only end in tears or death.

We go another couple miles and I stop to pee behind my umbrella for privacy. FD says ” it’s so funny that you’re peeing right now because I just peed down my leg.” Apparently “Hucking it” provides enough freedom for FD to attempt and fail the don’t-stop-to-pee technique of celebrity athlete Andrew Skurka.
Ok so then FD needs to take a serious break. Twinless hikes on and after 20 minutes I hike a little ahead of Groucho and FD, looking for their sillouttes on the horizon every so often. Eventually I just stop and wait. I have cell service and confirm the pizza joint is open until 9pm. I think this might provide incentive, so I lay down the plan when they arrive. They should try to sober up enough to get to town… 12 miles in 5 hours. Then finish their beers with pizzas. They are on board. I hike with them a few hours till we crest the hill. We have under 3 hours and 8 miles to go. Huck shoulders my pack and I take off jogging the last miles… Seeking cell service to order our pizzas and hoofing it to a place Bug left the car and driving it back to the trailhead where our Heros will emerge. The night falls on me and i grow creeped out hiking alone, especially as my headlamp dims and I use my also-dwindling phone as a flashlight the last hour. Hearing rustles in the bushes I imagine the family of mountain lions hungry for pizza in these very hills. The only thing I see, however, is a toad.

Meanwhile, a couple miles back FD and Groucho are nestled in a safe group of sober Wrong Way Gang members. Groucho has turned into Kung fu panda -making “ha yah” emmissions and running downhill in the dark without a headlamp. Huck reports he only fell once.

I re-arrange our luggage in the car and swoop up Bug and Twinless to get the pizzas with me. Huck, FD and Groucho walk 2 more miles of trail along the road into Agua Dulce to finish their 24 miles. The grocery closes at 9pm too, so I race around getting Groucho and my resupply. As I’m leaving, I am approached by Tom… a PCT alum and the son of the Saufley’s… Famous trail Angels who closed their home this year after 18 years of service to PCT hikers. Tom offers to put us up at his own house, just 2 blocks away. We gratefully agree. Out inebriated friends join us and we whisk them to a beautiful home with pizza and adorable puppies. We chat into the night with the lovely new friends and fall asleep in their living room. So thankful for hospitality. Groucho finishes his 24th or 26th beer with a shot of tequila and 2 joints. He is future Dad’s new hero. He is the only person anyone has met to finish the challenge. Even Tom has only heard tell of 2 people in the two decades his parents hosted hikers. Congrats Groucho.

    Photo by Twinless


day 112

The main problem with California is all the town vortex potential. When I’m on trail, thinking about an upcoming town visit, I imagine getting in and out as fast as possible… just grab my town food, do my laundry and get back on trail. But one shower, one beer and 2000 calories later, I hardly feel like I”ve ever even been on trail and I start to dawdle… And the town vortex begins. Peer pressure of Wrong Way Gang really hurts any effort at efficiency to get out.  Everyone promises to awake at 5am, and yet by 6:30 you’re still lying there as silent as death, hoping that everyone else will also have forgotten their alarms. Then someone secretly rouses, and heads to brunch or coffee. And everyone slowly wanders to join.  We all look at our phones for several hours. And then at some point people start to make mention of leaving. Once we spring to action, things move faster, but it can still take hours to get out.

So succeptible are we after Groucho’s 24/24/24 victory in Agua Dulce, that we end up caught in a mini vortex. We wake at Tom’s. We dawdle. We play with puppies. And pack up. And go to brunch. And go to the hardware store. And the grocery. And then do internet. And then the grocery again. And finally around NOON…. we head out. By then, we realize that we can’t pull a normal-mile day. So we look at the data and aim for the Acton KOA. A fancy campground that we will need to pay a little to stay out. It’s only 10 miles away. To get there we wander through beautiful Vazquez park – filled with epic rock structures and botanical interpritive signage. We pass through a tunnel under the freeway, and then it’s easy switch backs for the last several miles down to the KOA. The new owner is present and super nice, and the staff give us a spot on the lawn to cowboy camp for only $30 (6 people, a dog and a support vehicle). We can also swim in the pool and charge devices in the community room. It’s a pleasant afternoon. As dusk falls, Huck (who has a gear addiction) drives with Bug to LA to pick up a backpack prototype he just ordered online. It’s about an hour away. They get back super late… we are already sleeping.

   

 
Day 113

Late arriving hikers, bright KOA lights, and chatty caretakers make this night’s sleep super crappy. No matter. The alarm goes off at 4:30 and Groucho and I start to pack up. Huck joins in, as usual. But as soon as we’re done, we notice that Twinless, FutureDad and Bug are still down for the count. Bug whispers to me she’ll see me at the dirt road in 37 miles with the car. Motivation. We pack our stuff with us… just in case. Bug does her best on these country roads, but occasionally the precarious conditions make it difficult for her to reach us.

We hike out, assuming FutureDad and Twinless will be soon behind. It’s dark and steep,… a big climb today. I’m in the middle, but at some point Huck stops to wait. He explains he saw two wide eyes peering at him 10 meters away. Maybe a coyote. Maybe a cougar. Thrilling. We wait for Groucho and hike closely until light.  Around dawn we start to space apart again and I am alone as I watch the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen, humbly rise in the clouds to the East.

About an hour after dawn, I catch up to the boys and we start to watch lizards. The tan ones always run. The black ones pause and seem more intelligent somehow, peering unafraid at us from their perches. At some point Huck stops to take  a photo. I realize I have to pee so I duck a few yards down trail, telling Huck that I’m retreating to pee, as Groucho has already done before me. Huck… hard of hearing because of an accident during a training exercise in the Danish military involving gun discharge… doesn’t hear me. Caught up in his camera, he glances up to realize that I have taken a crouching position a few yards back and worries that he scared the lizard away. He stares at me. I am embarrassed but don’t know what to do as he stares and asks “did the lizard run away.” finally I stand and he states “Oh! you were peeing! I thought you were photo-ing the lizard.”  I don’t care anymore. We’ve thru hiked together, so basically Huck knows all my impropriety. Somehow he tolerates me anyway.

Eight miles into the day we reach the Ranger Station at the crest of the hill. We find an impeccable residnet ranger who has left us several gallons of water and also takes time to point out the imfamous Poodle Dog Bush… a new threat we’ve been awaiting for a long time. Poodle dog bush is a desert-dwelling plant that looks and smells vaguely like marijauna. Growing in burn areas and reeking havoc on anyone who comes into contact – poodle dog is similar to poison oak, creating blisters and rashes for most people who touch it… dead or alive.

  
Photo by Twinless

The next 10 miles are riddled with Poodle Dog. It’s like an obstacle course. If we even touch it to our clothes we need to remove the clothes and wash them separately. WE feel like we’re in a video game, dodging and breezing along poodle dog branches… hoping that we don’t use up our one life.

Then suddenly, we reach an area where the “trail gorillas” have cleaned up shop and there is no more poodle dog. The next few hours pass serenely. Time begins to morph… I’ll feel like 5 minutes have passed and it’s almost an hour. I am in the intense meditivave phase of this journey.

We pass a stoner marker for the 420th mile of the trail. Just then I see sprout the dog! and Bug! They’ve hiked up from the next road crossing to meet us. We hike with Bug a mile back to her car and find surprises. Guacamole and Beers! Slack packing is the best. We hang for awhile, cooling down after a hot afternoon.

Tomorrow is Twinlesses Birthday. Bug informs us that although we left camp at 4:30am… Twinless and Future Dad didn’t leave until 7:30 this morning. We are planning to hike 37 today but there is no way they will possibly catch up today or tomorrow if we don’t wait for them.

What is the best way to celebrate Twinless’s birthday? We decide to leave easter egg style treats for Twinless along the way tonight and tomorrow for her to get throughout her birthday — and then try to kidnap her tomorrow night and take her into town. Bug’s car can facilitate so much fun!

So we get to the Mill Creek Firehouse and leave twinless a vodka and several birthday cake flavored oreos in a ziplock right at the water source. She is sure to find it because this is the only water for almost 20 miles in either direction. This is probably where she will spend the night.

  
We hike on – about 12 more miles up a pass, and then downhill for many miles as it darkens. At this point we realize that Groucho forgot his flashlight in Bug’s car, and Huck’s headlamp is loosing battery. IN a rare moment of responsibility I have BOTH a headlamp and a flashlight. Therefore I become the beacon in front… letting my friends know about upcoming obstacles. Huck starts speaking German (he somehow knows Danish, English, Portuguese, and a bit of German and Spanish and well as several other languages.) He begins to call out “Poodle Hund Sheise” (i.e. Shitty Poodle Dog). I… also speaking poor German… start to respond by qualifying the poodle dog… Grosse (big) poodle dog sheise.  Eine kleine (a tiny) poodle dog Sheise. Etc. It amuses us much in our exhaustion.

Again, Bug – having driven ahead – hikes back to meet us a few miles from camp. It’s a relief to see her. I’m so tired and my feet are sore toward the end of the day. We camp in a dirt parking lot next to a meager trailhead.

 

Harpo’s PCT Journal: Oct 3-5

  Day 108-110 (camp near cooper spring to the Anderson’s in Green Valley)

Miles hiked this section: 65
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 478
Miles hiked so far: 2150ish

 
108

At dawn we have already been walking 2 hours with tiny red dots blinking on the horizon. Shadows of windmills backlit by rising sun. After ten miles the boys break and I catch up. We walk the final six miles to the road together. It’s a major freeway. To hitch is to fail here. It’s also probably illegal. It is hot and bright. Thankfully the trailhead hosts a list of trail angels willing to help.  I get ahold of Jan who says she’ll be here in 20 minutes! She drops us at the bakery where Twinless and Bug have left us 4 days of food. A huge resupply we don’t even need to go to the store. We blog and charge and rest and eat. At 6pm Jan swoops us back to the trail. She is lovely. One of my favorite Angels yet. So loving and funny. We sing her our songs for hitching and thanks and she videos us. 

  
As the sun sets we walk 3 miles up the hill and camp in a windy flat spot near windmills. Twinless – a day ahead – sends us a text. Her parents have been worried sick the last 6 hours because   Her GPS tracker failed and sent an emergency signal. Thank God they didn’t send the police to look for her as she’s been hiking naked all day. 

    
Day 109

At 2am the breeze picks up and the windmills assume a sinister quality as they chew thee air. At 3:36am I wake to drops of water hitting my face. Huck soon exclaims “oh shit it’s raining” and three of us hurriedly pack up. future dad simply grumbles and rolls over. Huck shouts across the wind “tyler you need to pack up or your sleeping bag will be wet and you’ll be fucked ” future dad uses a down bag – which is lightweight and super warm (tho made by hosing down baby geese with a pressure washer) – until it gets wet and then it’s as useful as a soggy paper bag. He springs to life saying he couldn’t tell which was real life – the world of his dreams – or “a world where it rains in the desert and Twinless hikes naked.” 

The long dark morning is punctuated with cold whips of air in our faces. The windmills are having a heyday. Every so often the rain turns on for 5 minutes and then turns off as abruptly. It’s dramatic as the sun rises and we see layers on layers of storm clouds. Many of them settled on the peak we are about to climb. 

We hike up and up and up… Into damp fog. Some hunters donning cameo and guns are up here riding their ATVs on dirt roads and thru the PCT leaving huge ruts. This pisses off Groucho who waits for them to pass, then heaves huge stumps and partially burn trees in their return path. He also spies a wildlife hunting camera that he obstructs. At 2pm we have all of our climbing done for the day and have done more than 20 miles. We decide it’s a good day to attempt a double marathon. 

 Bug has been texting me all day. She was supposed to drive north to Seattle today from San Francisco. When she got in the car at 5am she cried at the prospect and then started driving south. She thinks she will be here by sundown. A fact I keep to myself so she can surprise everyone. 

We walk thru a huge windmill farm. And then the terrain flattens completely and by 4pm we are in the aquaduct. The 20 mile straight/flat stretch of trail which, covered in concrete, directs water for the mountains into the desert of LA. It’s very contentious subject among the resident angels we’ve been staying with. Their farms, lands, wells and streams are going dry to service city folk. 

The miles on the aquaduct go fast. By 7pm we have walked 38 miles and are headed into the sunset when we see a silloutte. It’s Bug. Everyone is hyped. We walk back to her car and she has Whiskey and avocados! The important things. We slack pack the next 6 miles along the aquaduct… Leaving everything but water with bug. At 46 miles the trail diverges back into the forest. Bug can meet us again in 6 miles at a road crossing but doesn’t want to do it alone. I volunteer to go. My feet are swollen, my tendons ache. I don’t need to do a double marathon. I have already beat my personal record, set during the 4 state challenge on the AT, by hiking 45.8 miles. We drive around to the camp and arrive at 11:15pm. We cuddle up with Sprout the dog and doze off. At 1:30 am the double marathoner Heros join us happy and exhausted. We all sleep. 

  
Day 110

It’s snowing around lone pine/horseshoe meadows. We were there 8 days ago when Jon said the halo around the moon meant snow might come… In 8 days. Eerie. 

We are safely in the comfort of town. The trail is closed in the next section because of fire damage from several years ago. Normally people road walk or hitch around. We have Bug. 

Everyone but Future Dad hops in the car at 8:30am. Future Dad is a purist and has hiked a continual footpath up to this point. This is an example of Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH) – We all have our own personal rules to follow out here and future dad’s mandate is to hike as much if the trail as he can and find a way to walk thru or around any closure. No matter how far, or hard. My mandates so far are 1) to hike as much of the trail as possible 2) except if there is a cool alternate trail that intersects; 2) except when the trail closure detour involves excessive road walking; 3) except when continuing on might damage my body enough to permanently take me off trail. Future dad packs up to go and Bug chauffeurs the rest of us to Lake Hughes where we meet with Twinless at the excellent Rock Inn for brunch. After hash browns and coffee we drive 4 more miles to the home of The Andersons. Famously generous trail angels who allow hikers to camp in their manzanita grove of a backyard. We dry our gear our, shower, do laundry and take naps before taking Terry and Joe out for dinner. 

On our way back we intercept future dad doing a road walk in the dark. (I don’t like road walks because walking on pavement is so hard on your knee and ankle joints but also because I don’t trust cars. In the history of the PCT there have been very few deaths but #2, ironically, is death by car. ) FD regales us with tales of washed out trail and poodle dog bush infestations. pDB is a major problem in this section. Similar to poison oak, brushing up against it can cause severe rashes and blisters lasting weeks. The plant thrives in burn areas and the hills here are covered. fD never saw a trail closure sign until he got so fed up he bushwhacked his way down to a trailhead. There he finally saw a warning and closure notice posted. (Lucky NOBOs get all the good signs.) 

We pass out quickly under the manzanitas. 

Harpo’s PCT Journal: sep 30 – Oct 2

  
Day 105-107 (walker pass to a tree)

Miles hiked this section: 55-70ish

PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 582

Miles hiked so far: 2075ish

105

Rich and Rita have a regional map in the wall and we realize today we can slack pack! We identify a road at Bird Spring Pass in 21 miles where Huck and Twinless can pick us up in 8 hours. They both want a day off anyway. We pack super light packs with just water, 1st aid and water and are able to fly. Bug joins us and it’s fun catching up with her. We have heart to hearts and see jack rabbits, burned out dune buggies and lots of new desert brush. future dad and I chat about seeking purpose and finding peace with one’s self rather than an egoistic list of achievements. Then we reach the top of a climb and FutureDad and Groucho become possessed and strip naked- running to the pass in their birthday suits. Bug and I run too… But opt for clothing. We are picked up on a bumpy road But Huck is a master driver and soon we are at the grocery. 

  
We return to Rich at Ritas – cooking them dinner – and hearing about their 60 years knowing each other- from when they were children together in Argentina. The generosity of these souls astounds us all. 

106

My ankle tendons have been protesting the last few days. Especially mornings… and now the problem spreads to my shins. I decide to take a rest day and help run the support vehicle so the others can slack pack if they want. It seems the problem is contagious because Huck and Twinless also rest again along with bug and I. We drop Groucho and Future Dad at the dirt road and head to Lake Isabella. I do chores including blogging and a long boring story of another lost package I try to track down at the post office. We grab pizza and beers and drive back for a picnic with the triumphant slack packers. We camp near trail on a windy hill. sprout the dog has an epic crush on Twinless and keeps trying to get in her tent. Bug is having the time of her life but sadly decides she needs up get back to studying and “home”… Even though she’s not sure where home is. She will leave tomorrow. 
107

Bug hikes out a few miles and then returns to her car after some sad hugs. We are all bummed. Twinless has to get off trail in a few weeks for a wedding and decides to skip another 50 miles ahead so she can get to a town with public transportation by oct 15  — so she gets in the car with bug to Tehachapi.  She’s all about the joy of the journey- she started 250 miles into Washington from her home near Snoqualmie pass  – so from the start she isn’t concerned about hitting all the miles, in order, this one year. She’s therefore not a “purist” as they are known in the secret language of thru hikers.  In stark contrast FutureDad has made one continuous footpath from Canada. Everytime he hitches away from trail he returns precisely to where he left. Exactly. He is pretty OCD about it. I think about these contrasting ethics a lot today. Both are totally valid. Both will have hiked over 2000 miles, impressive by any account. And both will undeniably be transformed by their journey. Where in the spectrum do I fall? Probably the middle. I am here for rigor, duration, and transformation but I refuse to be shackled by the handcuffs of the trail. At that point it becomes just another job. I make choices to both push myself and also to find satisfaction in as many days as possible. At dark we lose the trail for a second but find it again -trudging the last mile uphill ending another 30+ mile day. I sleep under a tree like a wild animal nestled in duft, away from the wind.  Best sleep ever. 

Harpo’s pct Journal: Sep 28-29

  

 Day 103-104 (Kennedy meadows south to Lake Isabella)

Miles hiked this section: 50
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 652
Miles hiked so far: 2005ish

700 miles to go!!

  
Do you spy the tiny dragonlizard buddy??

Day 103

Our first day hiking in the desert we are blessed with cloud cover. I enjoy a great chat with Twinless where she lets me go on and on about the future and possibilities. Thru hiking is a practice of fully inhabiting the present moment and indulgences in future concerns are normally frowned upon. After a swarm of tiny ants attack me at our lunch break I evacuate the valley and press on alone up the 6 mile ridge following tiny bear prints. I sing going around corners in case the little buddy is still around. Wrong Way Gang footprints often go around animal prints to preserve them for the enjoyment of hikers behind, but I start stepping on and obscuring prints because last night Jon said many of these hunters are looking to score trophy bears. The thought breaks my heart and I am pissed the hunters are using my trail to do this. 
My mood is glorious, my energy is good and the day flies by talking with Future Dad and Twinless about 20-something Millennial concerns such as Tinder and wedding ceremonies. As a 3-time maid of honor I think I have a lot of wisdom to pass along. 
The sun sets and I am walking alone singing musicals. Then future Dad appears and the last few miles pass joyfully in the dark. I am ready for camp but we see a headlamp about 2 miles further along the ridge. The lamp blinks at us… Probably Huck or Groucho because this is a typical wrong way gang signal. I’m bummed we will have to keep going but then we round a bend and we are on a flat point in the ridge with the lights of the Air Force base glinting brightly below and our friends sitting under a tree. We set up in this most beautiful of campsites. Cell service comes more often near these towns and I get a text message from Bug relaying she misses is and is going to meet us at the next road tomorrow! 

  
104

Waking at 4 am, I hike down hill seeing my friends’ flashlights bob in the distance ahead and behind me. After a few miles we come to the only water we will see today. It is a tiny trickle impossible to collect from… I fold a leaf and prop it over a rock where the water flows a little faster… The leaf acts as a spout and though it is slow it allows me to fill my bottle. I can’t wait to see Bug. I told her we would get there around 1pm. I book it last 6 miles and decide to Try to trail run the last two. I am surprised I can actually talk and breath normally while running. 
Then Bug! In a Car! With her adorable dog Sprout. She shuttles us 40 miles to Lake Isabella and we get pizza and groceries. We comically try to fit 6 hikers, 6 packs, groceries and a dog in a hatchback. 
At dark, we drive back to the pass and find the home of a few new PCT trail angels Richard and Rita who live off the grid and let us stay in their propane/solar powered guest house. Hot showers and lights abound until 10pm when the solar runs out and the lights suddenly go out. We find our headlamps and set up in the floor in the living room and pass out. 

  

harpo’s PCT journal: sep 26-27

   Day 101-102 (rock creek to Kennedy meadows south)
Miles hiked this section: 59
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 702
Miles hiked so far: 1955ish

*please forgive the lack of spelling, punctuation or editing. As usual, I am typing with my thumbs on an creaky iPhone 4, laying with my sleeping bag over my head so no one can see the screenglow… 

  
Day 101

Yesterday was tough… Waking at 2:00am to hit the summit of whitney – the tallest peak in the lower 48 – at dawn. So for whatever reason we decide to wake at 5am and hike 35 miles today. It will be easy after all we have accomplished, right? 
In the am we pass Chicken Spring Lake – the last alpine lake on our hike. Tomorrow we descend into the desert. We seize the day and swim in the frigid water. 
We decide to hike 30+ to get to Kennedy Meadows South tomorrow before the store closes. The day is a blur of hills and rocks and trees. We are told water is a problem… And the water report hasn’t been updated much lately. A mile after the lake I realize I forgot to fill up there… I have half a liter to make it eight miles. Amateur Hour. The next spring is .3 miles off trail and not well signed, so I walk right by it. About half a mile later I realize the mistake and trudge back driven by thirst. At the end of a switchback is a pile of rocks on a small rock wall. A faint line runs thru the dirt below. Oh… Of COURSE this is the water. I follow the path until it peters out to nothing and use my guthook compass on my phone to navigate the remaining .1 to the trickle of water. Some genius has situated a horse coral near the creek so everything smells shitty. I crouch by the one viable trickle and am blessed with super cold water that fills my bottle in about a minute and a half. We were so lucky with gushing water the last few weeks. This is a harsh initiation into the new normal – the descent into the desert.
I hike alone all day finishing my John Muir audio book. Then I turn up the tunes. I feel a blessed sense of aloneness. But around 5:45 dusk is coming and I speed up to find my compatriots for our last miles. I don’t like night hiking alone. 
I Trot downhill and and look at my watch. I love doing math equations in my head while I walk. I figure if I If I can achieve a pace of 3 miles per hour for the next 24 minutes I’ll get to the next water source at 6:09. I think my friends will be there… 1.2 miles away. I pick up the pace and then realize I have to go to the bathroom… Trowel style. I don’t have time for this. I ignore it. But Resistance is futile. I sigh, drop my pack, find a bush, crouch behind and dig my hole to do my business. I run back to the pack and double up on my footsteps, flying down the hill. I hear a whistle and see my friends waiting by Dead Man Creek… It is dry but a spring .3 miles away is running. I look at my watch in disbelief. It is 6:05. Wait. I hiked 1.2 miles and shat in only 20 minutes? I don’t believe it. I tell my friends and general astonishment abounds. Future Dad is especially hyped and dubs this a new PCT challenge, the “OnePointPoo” He will attempt and fail this challenge three times as of press time. 
Twinless joins us and we celebrate her first 30 mile day before walking another 5 miles in the dark, up hill. Our last climb of the Sierra. 

  
Day 10

We sleep in a bit, rising just barely before dawn. We ascend a quick jaunt uphill and then it’s down down down from the Sierra into the desert. 
At our morning coffee break Future Dad, inspired by the 1.Poo challenge reveals he has named his poo trowel Bette Midler. Genius. I suggest we should all name our trowels after actors who have started on stage AND screen. And so we introduce new members to the Wrong Way Gang… Neil Patrick Harris, Liza Minelli, Christopher Walkin, and my personal favorite (also my own golden Deuce of Spades) Patrick Stewart aka Jean Luc. 
At this point the boys take the wrong path… Twinless and I can tell because their footprints go the wrong way. We’ve all become like mythic Rangers, able to track each others footprints thru rock or dust. Knowing who is ahead, who is confused and who pulled off trail to answe the call of nature. The boys are clearly confused. And we are too far behind to inform them so we continue on the PCT into the meadow, often scanning the adjacent hill for bashful bushwackers. Finally we see 2 tiny umbrellas emerge and three humans in the far side of the meadow about a mile and a half away. I wave my umbrella and they reciprocate. We see each other and with their maps/navigation skills they can make their way this way. We break by a huge bridge over a tiny trickle of a creek, witnessing a disquieting number of Americans with guns gesticulating and confused on the way to the killing fields. 
We meet up and descend into drier and drier country. The landscape, terrain, flora and fauna change rapidly. Suddenly we see lizards, flowers, yucca, yellow grasses. So much life and beauty… Mountains overhead– made of rock jumbles appearing to be held together only by hope. Rock wall striations – like crumbling cross hatched impressions in a peanut butter cookie. 
By 3pm we reach Kennedy Meadows. We are parched… But KMS has a friendly store, beers, a teepee to camp in, and some amazing regulars yapping it up on the porch. They are sweet and kind and knowledgeable. We chat with George – a horseman- who used to be the captain of the maintenance team for the south 700 miles of trail. Also John, a musician, producer and contractor who lives down the street and brings us a bottle of wine later while we watch the full moon eclipse. We fall asleep late in the warm comfort of the desert. 

Harpo’s PCT Journal: Sep 23-25

  
 Day 98-101 (Kersage Pass/bishop to Mount Whitney/Rock creek campsite)

Miles hiked this section: 42
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 760
Miles hiked so far: 1900 ish
*please forgive the lack of spelling, punctuation or editing. As usual, I am typing with my thumbs on an creaky iPhone 4, laying with my sleeping bag over my head so no one can see the screenglow… Much like a 9 year old reading comics after bedtime

  
Day 98
We wake anxiously in Bishop. Half our friends are packed and gone. It is 6 am. We believe they are at the coffee shop and hustle to join them. We reconvene and then, after an hour-long hitch attempt, we walk a mile to the bus. For $6.50 they will take us as far as Independence… 40 miles closer to the trail. As we leave Bishop we see our new friend Future Dad trying to hitch, and failing… Cute tho he may be. We convince the driver to stop and we offer to pay his fare. Future Dad is elated and geekily keeps talking about how great it is to finally be in the Wrong Way Gang. That he’s been following us for months and can’t believe he’s here. He is like a high school freshman oogling the seniors. Although we will soon learn he is a smart navigator, fast, a keen story teller and up for absolutely any challenge. 
In Independence we walk to a campground with shade and, for an hour, attempt to hitch the remaining ten miles. No cars even pass by. After calling all two of the local hotels, Twinless comes across an angel -Anna and her dog companion Chewie-willing to take us the remaining ten miles for $75. Anna is grey haired and sharp with hiking tales to tell herself. She advises us to never say no to the offer of adventure. 
We hike five miles up the pass and then an easy 3 down by pretty lakes. Then… Finally… Around 4pm, we are back on the PCT, loaded with food and ready to hike the rest of the Sierra. 

We press on about 6 more miles, and I talk to Twinless and future dad about family and my belief that when you let go of the fear of being yourself around your folks, when you attempt to self actualize, you open the possibility for more love and respect from them. Future Dad resolves to ask his parents again if they will come to Campo to see him finish. 
At camp, Groucho is in a terrible mood about losing his buff and handkerchief in a group laundry attempt in Bishop. The group dynamics in general are all encompassing and growing challenging as we gain more members of of our fellowship. I sometimes feel the brunt of the tension from Groucho… Maybe I know him well enough to pick up on even subtle signals of discontent. I go to sleep sad and strangely feeling alone. If I feel this alone, maybe I should just hike alone. I’m tired. I’m in one of the most remote regions of the U.S. And I am surrounded by chatter. In a few days Bug will be done with her hike and leave… the group is starting to fracture in more ways than one. I don’t know what the future holds for the 6 of us. 

   
 
Day 99
Today we climb the highest point in the actual PCT… Forester pass. The morning is freezing again. Groucho Leaves camp early and quietly tells me he will see me at the top. I listen to John Muir’s “my summer in the Sierra” as we ascend. It reminds me of the feeling reading Whitman the first time. Another brother from another era. His description of lilies companionably resting on poison oak. His anthropomorphic take on the sovereignty of plants and animals resonate with instincts I’ve had since a child. Shouldn’t we all have a chance at freedom and happiness no matter our species?

  
I am moved and turn up the LOTR soundtrack as I do the last ten switchbacks. Crying as I summit… thinking about world… Human sorrow, loyalty and love. 
Groucho isn’t at the top. I am listening to the rocks and they tell me he just needs his solitude. It’s not personal. I walk down the rocky path into the beautiful valley. I am alone but peaceful. After 2 hours Bug catches up. I have coffee with her. I feel because she is leaving I can confide in her the strains on my heart. My longings and confusion about the group dynamics and the struggle to stay upbeat. She reciprocates. We walk together the rest of the day. 
Around 3pm we all reconvene at the intersection for mount Whitney. An 8 mile side trail up to 14500 feet… The tallest peak in the lower 48. We will summit tomorrow early. We cache food at the campground bear box so we can lighten our load. then hike to Guitar Lake… Leaving just 5 miles to hike in the morning. We aim to wake at 2:00 am to reach there by sunrise. We set up camp, eat and fall asleep by 7:30 pm… 4 of us cuddling up under Huck’s tarp. 

  

   
 

   
 
Day 100
I wake 3 times before 2am because of tarp stakes failing and coming out of the ground in the wind. Finally Huck storms off at 1:55 am…. Having only slept a few hours. We all hustle to join him… grabbing our day packs and all our warm layers and Water. 
Together we trod in the dark, uphill. I am in front and set slow pace. There is so much wind and it is just above freezing. If we walk too fast we will sweat and then we will freeze when we get to the top and find ourselves cooling down and waiting for sunrise in wet clothes. So, slow and steady she goes. The trail is dimly lit from the near-full red moon. It sets several times behind the hill, but as we keep ascending we keep seeing it reappear. 
At the junction we see a man descending… Having just thrown up from altitude sickness. He didn’t make it this time… He drove from LA that night. Going from sea level to 14000 feet in one day is no joke. 
It is the darkest before the dawn as the moon sets finally and completely. The rock face is sheer downhill on our left (west) and uphill on our right. Then occasionally, The rock face parts and we can see to the East… The lights of Lone Pine far far down the valley. We are really high up and it’s a long way down. I become more concious of my footing. 
I pause to go pee. I’m excited like it’s Christmas but nature calls when it calls. There are rocks on both sides… I make due on a large flat rock and the pee sprays everywhere, but mostly on my left shoe. A fact I begin to notice ten minutes later when it drops below 32 degrees and my left toes go numb. 
As we approach the summit the wind takes on a bitterness and minor fury. The famous metal and stone shelter is inhabited by a flip flopper in his tent. We pile in anyway. It is still dark and so cold. We get warm, eat a snack and prep trail magic. 
Groucho and I have been talking about hiker on hiker magic since Oregon and since Whitney is the terminus of the John Muir Trail, Groucho has orchestrated a trail magic plan to help JMT hikers celebrate the end of their hike. We bought airplane bottles and candy in Bishop and have carried this extra weight up nearly 40 miles and at least 8000 feet. 
We crack open an airplane bottle and add it to hot water and coffee, passing it around. We present Bug with her own pint of whiskey and vegan candy corn. Her special treats for finishing her 400+ mile section. We will miss her. 
Eventually we see thru the window that The horizon seeps orange and we rush out to the rocky outcroppings – freezing but happy. We see forever horizon stretching as wide as it does deep. As the sun comes closer and closer to creating a new day. 
My toes are so cold they hurt. I almost can’t feel them. I am seriously worried about permanent nerve damage so I go back to the shelter with Twinless. We do jumping jacks. Is this sunriseworth nerve damage to toes? Yes. I return and dispense more magic with Groucho to JMTers and day hikers. Everyone is delighted. And then suddenly an explosion of hot pink sun on the horizon. Future dad, Groucho and I sing thru my medley of patriotic tunes. People are giddy and taking selfies. Folks touched by our magic share whiskies and cigars with our group. 

   
 
Soon we are flying down the mountain- chattering, shivering and passing out renaming magic to day hikers looking green in the face, and JMTers looking relieved and excited. We reach the Whitney portal junction and suddenly sadness… Bug leaves us. I am never good at goodbye. What will we do without our spirit animal? 
As the rest of our group descends to Guitar Lake, bug descends alone down to Lone Pine… A balloon bobbing on her back pack and a mandate to Pass out the remaining trail magic which we hope will help her find a speedy hitch. 

I hang back thinking about what we’ve accomplished. I’ve never considered myself outdoorsy or particularly adventurous and yet here I am and I’ve never been happier. And yet I miss my friends and art and family and collaborators. and we still have so far yet to finish this particular thru hike.

We are back at the PCT by 1pm and hike a quick few hours to a campsite by a creek. We run intoSOBOs soaked and black sheep who we haven’t seen since Sierra City more than a month ago. Here we pass out by 7pm… Exhausted. And wondering what the hell can possibly top this?

Harpo’s PCT Journal: Sep 21-22

  
 Day 96-97 (Woods Creek Waterslide to Kersage Pass/bishop)

Miles hiked this section: 17
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 790
Miles hiked so far: 1877 ish

*as always forgive the lack of spellings, punctuation or editing. As usual, I am typing with my thumbs on an creaky iPhone 4, laying with my sleeping bag over my head so no one can see the screenglow… Much like a 9 year old reading comics after bedtime

  
Day 96
My body is so tired this morning but it is a town day so we start early… Eager for town food tonight since our food bags are mostly empty…only plain oatmeals and potato flakes remain. 
Crossing a long squeaky suspension bridge, headlamps illuminating each other’s backs and heels, we carefully step over missing planks. I am reminded of Romancing the Stone. Only safely across do we see the sign warning that only one hiker at a time should cross. Lucky NOBOs get all the good signs. 
We approach our first pass of the day racing by huge lakes, each rippling with hundreds of halos. Hungry fish enjoying bug breakfasts. I am furious at the sight of sleepy JMTers lazily packing up their tents in impacted restoration DIRECTLY BEHIND signs requesting no camping. There are no rules on the JMT apparently, which explains the frequent campfires we’ve seen, also the switch back cutting. 
Again we find the first splash of sunshine for our coffee break. then on to Glen pass. Up and up past lakes and over rocky switch backs with several false summits. 

Humming little mermaid tunes to myself before turning up the MP3 tunes… Then Dancing to the top with my buddy Meatloaf. 
We enjoy a quick descent before going off trail 8ish miles to cross up and over kersage pass. This is the “easiest” way to get to a town for resupply. I pass the extra miles easily talking with Huck about film and stage directors – lars Von trier and castellucci. I descend the last 5 miles by myself. 
 The Onion valley trailhead parking lot is full of cars but none are leaving. Groucho and Twinless talk to every camper here and we discover Everyone we see is staying the night. We wait for almost two hours before Twinless calls an employee at the Hostel California who offers to drive the 120 minute round trip for a few gas dollars. This type of joy filled coercion is Twinless’ special gift. Even when on the phone and they can’t see she is all legs. 
Hostel California is as wonderful as everyone says. A historic old house, with friendly staff and a huge kitchen set in a charming downtown with abounding hiker amenities. A juice bar with vegan cheesecakes sits across the way and three excellent gear stores are within a block. We pay for a nights rest and Groucho offers to paint a mural tomorrow in exchange for a second night for the crew. It’s agreed. Tomorrow we will zero in Bishop. 

   
 
Day 97

Laundry. Hunger-induced Nausea. juice bar. Gear shops with actual helpful and ultralite gear. 1mile Walk to grocery. Homemade vegan nachos. Guitar tunes by new Wrongwaygang member Future Dad who just caught up. A beautiful mural by Groucho. Sleep.