Tag Archives: california

Le Blob – a fond farewell

It seems weird to me having a crush on a car. I know, I know – it’s practically part of the American identity (cars & unrequited love both I guess) but still it’s a strange feeling for me, especially after not owning a car for 17 years. But here I am, bidding a lover’s bittersweet farewell to what’s essentially a bucket of bolts.

Meet Le Blob – a 87 Subaru GL wagon whose body has seen the better part of three decades and 300,000 miles, but who is still young at heart. O wait, that’s a transplant – the Weberized EA 81 is probably from an earlier era Subi, but only sports about 90,000 miles. Yung in Subaru years. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on when, like many of us, this car has become somewhat of a monster (think Frankenstein) with age. It’s lifted, motor & tranny swapped, interior lights & ac deleted, somewhere lost the horn and the muffler, sits on 27s and looks badass. I’ve never got so many random dudes throwing up devil horns in town, or anywhere.

Kinda a slug on the street, Le Blob still shreds dirt like a champ. Over the past year it was my daily – I was living 10 miles down a dirt road so rutted the FedEx dude got stuck (long after the UPS van quit trying) twice. On hot summer nights, when the work was done on the weed farm, I’d drive out into rural Northern California – out towards Tahoe National Forest or out along the South Yuba river.

Drinking a road soda deep in the trees was sometimes my only solace – I was living with some nightmarish Bali hippies whose spiritual journeys were exhausting to hear about and surprisingly (and frustratingly) contradictory. I’d roll out towards Malakoff Diggins or out to Bowman Lake and run trails for hours, dispelling the negative vibes. Then I’d hit up my favorite spot in Grass Valley, the co-op – a strange vortex of trim culture; hand tooled leather festival holsters, asymmetrical haircuts, and the lilting strains of metaphysical dubstep. Did I mentioned I was also at least a half hour from anywhere on the farm? It was my first adult experience with commuter culture, and NEEDING to drive for basic services was disconcerting it best.

I poured money and blood into this vehicle. I suffered busted knuckles, strange forearm bruising, and curses flew freely from my tongue. I threw away money. Things broke (constantly) and as an amateur mechanic I spent countless hours watching YouTube videos, scouring forums, and scratching my head.

Despite all these difficulties and the weird place I was at in my life, this car maybe saved me; Le Blob offered me a safe space, escape, and groceries. And I’ll be sad to see it go… which is probably why I sold it to a good friend at a heavy loss. So it goes & goes & goes… ūüėČ

PCT Memories 2015

Cactus to Clouds Route

IMG_3141Harpo and I were looking for a little cool down hike after finishing our southbound PCT hike this year. We were staying with her lovely cousin & her husband in Hesperia, CA looking for local hikes while sitting in their hot tub. Of course, one of the most difficult hikes in North America came immediately to mind…

The San Jacinto mountains in southern California are the last major range the PCT traverses on its way meandering towards the Mexican border. Approaching the San Jacinto Peak the¬†PCT proceeds under¬†Highway 10, across a brutal stretch of wash out, and up the northwest side of¬†the range¬†– turning off just shy of the summit and¬†proceeding down to Idyllwild. Future Dad and I broke off from the Wrong Way Gang and took the 8 mile side trail to¬†summit San Jacinto. The view had been totally socked in, but we made it worth our while by carrying out 10 lbs of trail trash on our way. Descending to Idyllwild we ran into an older gentleman, foaming at the mouth, who excitedly told us he was about to finish the hardest day hike in America, the Cactus to Clouds route. It was difficult to get a word in edgewise (he was the type who inhaled quickly and exhaled words, spitting flecks of foam the entire time) but we gleaned the existence of a route from the¬†Coachella Valley floor to the San Jacinto Peak¬†–¬†covering 14 miles (23k) and ascends¬†10,300 feet (3,100¬†m).

According to some the Cactus to Clouds route is one of the most difficult¬†and dangerous¬†day hikes in America.¬†Beginning behind the Palm Springs art museum (elevation 500), the Cactus to Clouds route proceeds up ridges on the east side of the San Jacinto mountains along the Skyline Trail, climbing just under 10 miles and 8,000 feet before intersecting¬†trails around the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. This is where most people quit – you can ride the tram back to Palm Springs for $12 and be done. OR¬†you can continue up the¬†5.5 mile summit trail, which leads to San Jacinto Peak climbing another 2,400 feet to the second highest peak in California at¬†10,834 feet (3,302¬†m). The trip then rounds out with the 5.5 mile / 2,400 foot descent back to the tram, clocking 21 miles and about 13,000 feet of elevation change. Not bad for a day in the hills…

Harpo and I slept late and didn’t arrive in Palm Springs until 8am… most people start hiking the trail around 3am to avoid the desert heat. We were blessed with light, hazy clouds all day – really fortunate considering the possible alternatives. The first 8 miles traverse several ecosystems – from low scrub desert chaparral to manzanita groves to alpine forest – through a series of well graded switchbacks following white spraypaint blazes. I could see this being confusing in the dark or snow, as there are numerous trails all headed (roughly) the same direction. The last 2 miles before intersecting the Tramway proved the gnarly part – much like Mailbox Peak I felt like I was climbing stairs the entire time, tho the trail (which is listed as unmaintained) was always pretty easy to follow. There was cursing, and a few tears, but we made it to the intersection with the Tramway in¬†about 4 hours. From there was the easy part – well maintained and marked trail, pleasantly graded up to the summit.IMG_3134

Well, kindof easy considering we’d already had the most physically rigorous day for either of us 2700 miles and 4.5 months of hiking. But now was not the time for complaints… onward and upward, as they say.

We continued climbing, summiting San Jacinto Peak in frigid temperatures (it was warm in Palm Springs when we started at 8am and close to freezing at the summit – there’s about a 30 degree difference between the base and peak) after just under 3 hours on the summit approach trail. Our total ascent time was just over 7 hours for just over 14 miles – not breaking any speed records, but not slouching either.¬†The view from the summit of San Jacinto is something to behold – San Gorgonio, the Coachella valley, and much¬†of the Inland Empire visible on clear days, and clouds spilling over and splitting the lower peaks of the San Jacinto range. But then again, what is beauty without suffering?

We were stoked, took a couple pictures and headed down post haste. With the 12 minute tram ride – displaying what is truly a marvel of modern engineering – our journey was complete in right around 10 hours, and just as dark was falling. We caught a hitch with a delightful fellow we met in the last mile descending¬†to the tram – he was down from Alaska for a month staying in Palm Springs. We had a great conversation about hiking, the desert, and family – buoyed by our success, and looking forward to meeting Harpo’s folks in Vegas the following day.

Cactus to Clouds¬†is no joke, and to treat it as such is to endanger yourself – it was an extremely difficult hike. Even for a couple of PCT thru hikers who had just finished walking all day, everyday – we still had our meltdowns, challenges and eventually our triumph. I think the hike was only possible for us because of the overcast weather. Sweating in the desert the entire way up we easily could have succumbed to heat stroke – especially with the extra weight of more water. We managed to drink 1 liter before we started, and each carried 3 liters, refilling 2 liters at the ranger station near the tram. That’s a total of 6 liters for the duration of the hike on an overcast fall day… many sources recommend carrying up to 3 gallons (12 liters / 25lbs) for a hot day starting at 3am.

There were several great resources we used in researching the route and getting environmental and anecdotal information – the excellent information provided by ¬†Perry Scanlon, and¬†Hikin’ Jim’s post on the same subject.IMG_3133.jpg

Harpo’ PCT Journal: October 23-25


Day 133 -135 (julian to mile 11)
Miles hiked this section: 75
PCT traversed so far: mile 2660 ‚Äď 11
Miles hiked so far: 2590+ ish

133
Now that Groucho has returned from the Lemurian abduction he seems different. First of all his butt does a lot of the talking. It seems really invested in weighing in on every conversation. Also he looks strangely like a young Willie Nelson. No matter. We are in love and I can put up with these new factors in our relationship… Barely.

We know future Dad and Twinless camped 5.6 miles behind us last night. We wake early to try to get miles in before it’s too hot. We’ll break in the afternoon and hope they catch up then.

The day progresses so pleasantly. We realize it’s been so long since we hiked a full day together. Just the two of us. We’re back where we started.

We leave a note at a water cistern for FutureDad and Twinless to catch us in mount Laguna tomorrow morning if not before. “Let’s finish together!”

The sparse clouds lend some shade to the day and we breeze along. finishing on a high note… Camped at the most beautiful overlook, drinking a trail hot toddy.


134

10 hours of sleep is too much. Like all old people I went to bed at 630pm last night. And at 5am I am wide awake. Staring at my phone till the batteries die and then staring at the sky watching 5 shooting stars. The sky lightens and I rustle around making coffee for me and Grouchy. We decided to catch sunrise here since we have a short walk to town. We pack up and take our coffees to the Foster Lookout. As the light grows, the sky pinkens. The terrain is the stuff of Star Trek alien planet renderings. Desert canyons and craggy rock faces.

Then the sound of Ravens calling in the canyon below. A flock?, murder?, crew… Maybe 30… Rise up… cawing and circling in an invisible thermal. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Another 3 crews come thru over the next 20 minutes. They’re migration reminds us of thru hikers. But their intelligence is their own. “They are so smart. How they do that… Assemble, organize, ride thermals, fly? Humans are so arrogant. Assuming our gifts are the only ones worth having.”
“Those ravens are probably looking down thinking “look at those stupid flightless humans.”

We get almost to town and what the what??? Walking toward us is Huck and Bug. I am cautiously happy… “What are you doing?”… Bug replies “We parked in campo and hitched here. We decided we want to hike with you.”

Wow. The team is almost back together. Groucho and I head to town.

I smell bad. But I’ve lost my desire to shower. A problem apparent to me when I bypass the campground showers in Mount Laguna and go straight for the EXCELLENT gear store where I buy toe socks. Gross, hu?

We have only 41 miles to go. We take a day in Laguna … Getting more food, and trying to catch up on blogging. I sit outside the gear store for hours. Looking thru photos I notice my head has grown improbably large compared to my body. I haven’t lost that much weight so it must be my ego swelling.

Eventually hunger drives me to the restaurant where I eat a garden burger. I pick the red onions off the burger and then reconsider and put them back to disguise the smells emenating from my vagina.  (sorry mom.)

I look down at my dirty, disheveled body… I’m at the phase of the thru hike where my calves are as big as my thighs but much, MUCH more tan. How can I return to civilization like this??
At 5pm we hike out and continue into dark camping under an old oak tree.


135

The wrong way gang is back together. We only have 25 miles to get to camp tonight. Our last PCT campsite. We drag our heels taking a long morning break at a camp ground filled with Cowboys. A lady walks by with her horse in tow. “Look at that beautiful horse”. Groucho adds “and it’s slavery jewelry.” “What… Like it’s saddle?” Then from futureDad “oh you mean the lady’s diamond ring?” I’m so proud. Future dad has become a feminist.

We pass a glowing, nine year old section hiker – articulate, smart and good at spotting wildlife. Then, later on the day, two cheerful marathoners a generation older than us (from Kansas City) who are just out for a day jaunt while visiting friends. They want to thru hike in a year or two. Again – anyone can hike the PCT if they have the willingness to make space in their life for it.

We take a second break -for 3 hours- at the deserted Lake Morena campground. Drinking cider, making dinner, chillaxing.

And then just 8 more miles to camp and our last big ascent of the hike. It’s beautiful. I hike mostly with Twinless and we yammer about British history. At dusk we see the glow of eyes ahead on the trail. Curious and cautious it stares bravely into Twinless’s headlamp. Giving us a long time to look at it’s outline. It looks like a little cat with an improbably long tail. At camp Huck googles and comes up with a photo of a kit fox which might be what we saw.