Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

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Day 30: Hiker Heaven and my birthday

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Date: May 29, 2017
Miles: 0
Health: Stopping is not good for your body. Resting feels good but it's hard to get moving. 

Note: as my camera is still broken (see day 25), all photos here are from iPhone 7 Plus. 

I wake up at 7am but still feel tired. Rest, beer, and having nothing to do makes for loud hikers. I think I got to sleep around midnight.

Pony found her name in the store.  

Pony found her name in the store.  

Most of us pile on to the 8am ride to town to get breakfast. As we get in everything is close. Memorial Day. So instead of restaurant breakfast we all buy food from the grocery store and head back to Hiker Heaven. I buy a large bag of store made like flavored tortilla chips and store made guacamole and salsa.

The recharging station.  

The recharging station.  

At Hiker Heaven everyone seems to be moving in slow motion. There's an air of relaxation. I sit down and eat my chips with people I've not yet met. There's about 60-70 hikers in so there are a ton of new faces around.

The word has gone out that I have a birthday today so everyone I meet congratulates me as we meet. As I generally don't like to celebrate my birthday it feels kind of weird to have so many people congratulate at person.

Chickens raiding someone's tent.  

Chickens raiding someone's tent.  

The day moves slowly. I do my laundry, watch Netflix, drink sodas and beer, and hang in the shade relaxing. I feel pretty out of it, like I have no energy. That's what happens when you're on the move for a long time and then stop.

Ride to town.  

Ride to town.  

Around 5pm we head back to town for birthday margaritas and Mexican food. We fill up a large table and eat and drink.

As we get back to Hiker Heaven I see Kelley, Derek, and Bianca and sit down next to them. We talk about the trail but all of a sudden I'm surprised by a large group of people standing behind me and three cakes being laid in front of me. One of the cakes has candles with numbers 2 and 9 on them :)

My three birthday cakes.  

My three birthday cakes.  

I'm totally surprised by this. The people singing, the super nice birthday card and the cakes get me all teary eyed. I just cried yesterday, I can't cry two days in a row. I try to read all the nice messages people have written on the card but can't without starting to cry. I'll save them for later reading.

A sign in one of the trailers.  

A sign in one of the trailers.  

We eat all the cakes and enjoy the beautiful sunset. I've spend my birthdays in some weird places doing some weird things but this has been one of the nicest ones.

I completely forget to take any photos during the day so this is a very photo limited post.

Day 29: Getting to Aqua Dulce

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Date: May 28, 2017
Miles: 18,4 miles (29.6km), from North Fork Ranger Station to Hiker Heaven. 
Health: Feel stronger and better every day.

 Note: as my camera is still broken (see day 25), all photos here are from iPhone 7 Plus.

Town day! Although we were far away from the small town of Aqua Dulce, it's still an awesome feeling to get to go to town. You start fantasizing about all the proper food you're going to eat, and being able to drink cold drinks. And getting a shower. And ice cream.

Getting to town gives a little extra umph to your step.

I first woke up around 4am. My sleeping bag wasn't as dry as I thought it was and all the moisture had transferred to my clothes during the night. It was still dark and only one tent was being taken down, with the headlamps fully blazing and shining around the entire campground. Ugh. I pull my moist sleeping bag over my head and fall back asleep.

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I wake up again at 5am and people around me are also starting to wake up. Pony and Queso are slowly getting up, I see some movement in Sunshine's sleeping bag. Wait, Blü is gone? He must have sneaked out somewhere between 4am and now.

Everyone seems moving kind of slowl again. I eat my breakfast in bed. What a luxury. Queso, Pony, Sunshine, and I all get our things packed up at the same time and head for the trail at the same time. I feel like I want to try out my morning speed so I push forward with music  blasting from my headphones.

I spend the morning leapfrogging with Hot Sauce and Sunshine. On one of the ridge lines my phone comes alive and I notice I have connection for the first time in a while. I call my family, and many friends, and spend few hours hiking while talking with everyone back at home. It feels great to be able to speak Finnish again.

Morning hike along the ridge line.  

Morning hike along the ridge line.  

I've been kind of frustrated with not being able to properly communicate with people around me lately. I feel like I only communicate things that I know how to say, not things that I want, or feel.

The morning flies by in a instant and I soon arrive at the KOA campground junction. From here you can get water and either go to the campground and use their store, or move onwards and go directly to Aqua Dulce, which is about 10 miles away.

Sunshine and a bunch of other hikers are staying at the KOA. There's a rumor going around that there will be free margaritas at the KOA today at 10am. I feel like I should push on and get to Aqua Dulce and to Hiker Heaven.

This is how we often see the trail.  

This is how we often see the trail.  

Hiker Heaven is the home of Saufley's and they host PCT hikers on their large backyard. There are no good camping spots, or any other lodging within 10 mile radius to Aqua Dulce, and people are saying that there's a 50 hiker limit at the Hiker Heaven, so I kind of want to get there early.

Morgan, Laurel, Kristen, and Pig Ben, or The Girls, are pushing straight to Aqua Dulce so I gang up with them. But as we get to the small stream that's the last reliable water source, I start looking at the description of KOA and the promise of ice cold soda, ice cream, and free margaritas is just too much for me to resist. It's not about the destination but the journey, right? So I turn around and hike the 0.4 miles to the KOA campground. The Girls don't share my enthusiasm for ice cream and instead continue to Aqua Dulce.

KOA campground

Ice cream! 

Ice cream! 

I pass by Hot Sauce who's sitting under a tree drinking an ice cold Mountain Dew. He tells me where to find the small grocery store and I head towards the way he's pointing. It's weekend and the campground is full of people camping and barbecuing.

Pretty soon I notice a punch of people who look nothing like the people enjoying their weekend here – thru-hikers. I head over and find everyone there. Of course right next to the grocery store and the charging station. Two things that are always sure to pull thru-hikers.

Margarita time! 

Margarita time! 

I buy chips, soda, and a large pint of ice cream. A snack. As I get out, Sunshine points out that the chips and ice cream I bought are both low calorie. Damned. Only when thru-hiking you're disappointed that the junk food you bought doesn't have enough calories.

We sit in the shade, constantly popping back to the store to buy more food. It feels great to eat something other than bars and tortillas.

Kippis! 

Kippis! 

Pony reads me the poem her father wrote to her before the trip and I basically spend the entire time crying against her shoulder. It was such a beautiful poem. It's funny how words can have such a powerful reaction.

Soon the margaritas appear and this is starting to shape up to be an awesome afternoon. Now if I could only yogi some barbecue from some of the campers around, that would be perfect.

Soon the realization that we still have over 10 miles to cover, and it's starting to get late, hits us. Pony, Queso, and I start preparing to head out. It's not the greatest timing as it means we'll be going out at the hottest part of the day. But we really want to have spots at Hiker Heaven.

Start of the climb.  

Start of the climb.  

Sunshine is going to LA with a friend of hers so we leave her at the store and head out. I start first, and Pony and Queso behind me. As soon as I get out of the shade the heat hits me.

I start to climb out of the valley and back up to the hills and it's really hot. But I feel like it doesn't bother me as much as it used to. I'm soon up top and see the campground far below. No sight of Pony and Queso though. Wonder if they changed their minds.

Warning about poison oak on trail.  

Warning about poison oak on trail.  

I watch a section hiker someway ahead of me and he seems to be struggling. He takes a lot of pauses and has no sun protection. Soon I catch up to him as he's stopping on top of one of the climbs. I ask if he needs any help and if he has enough water for this section and he reassures me he's fine. I quickly assess how much water he's carrying and feel like he doesn't have enough with the rate that he's consuming. I offer to give him some of mine but he declines. I feel bad for him as there's no shade anywhere for miles and he has no way of protecting himself from the midday sun. I'm somewhat cool under my umbrella.

I keep hiking and hope he finds some shade.

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At one point I receive a phone call from Pony and she informs me that they stop and look for shade to wait out the heat. I still feel fine so I push on.

While I move slower than usual in the heat, it doesn't seem to bother me that much. I've hardly touched my 2.75 liters of water and there's only 4 more miles left.

Vasquez Rock

See people for size reference.  

See people for size reference.  

Soon I arrive to the Vasquez Rock park. This is the place where many Star Trek episodes, Bonanza, and many more films and TV shows have been filmed. It's beautiful and I wish I could come back here during better light, like during dusk or dawn.

I take the mandatory tourist photo of the actual rock and continue to the mile long road walk to Aqua Dulce. The town is small, only few houses along the main road.

Road walk to Aqua Dulce.  

Road walk to Aqua Dulce.  

Soon I notice a pile of backpacks against a terrace fence. It's never too hard to find thru-hikers in town. As I head over I find Blü, Kelley, Derek, and Airplane Mode. I haven't seen her for awhile.

God bless Dick! 

God bless Dick! 

Before I get to take off my pack, everyone starts pushing me towards the parking lot. A ride to Hiker Heaven. We all hop in on a pickup and after few minutes we're at the legendary Hiker Heaven. I'm too tired and hungry from the heat to properly process any information. So as soon as I get in, and get the lay of the land, I find my spot, pitch my tent, and hop on the next ride back to the town.

Don't leave your tent open! 

Don't leave your tent open! 

Before I go I see a familiar face in the crowd, Fyre! It's so good to see her again! She hitchhiked here through LA and has been waiting for us. We also get a message that Blis is back on the trail, only few days behind us.

One of the more popular activities in Hiker Heaven.  

One of the more popular activities in Hiker Heaven.  

Once back in town I head over to the pizzeria and again order way too large pizza. I fill myself with ice cold sodas and take the rest of the pizza to go. At Hiker Heaven I get a haircut, take a shower, put all my clothes to the washer, and enjoy few beers with everyone. Tomorrow's my birthday and I'm super tired so it's time to go to bed.

Day 28: Feeling my trail legs coming along

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Date: May 27, 2017
Miles: 17.5 miles (28.2km), from Mill Creek Fire Station to North Fork Ranger Station.
Health: Feeling really good. The past few short days have given me a ton of time rest.

Note: as my camera is still broken (see day 25), all photos here are from iPhone 7 Plus. 

What a night. I woke up around 3am feeling all wet. Wondering if it had rained I started to look around in the dark and noticed everything was covered in light layer of frost. We had cowboy camped right on the shoulder where all the clouds from the sea pass through and they had dumped all the cold moisture on us during the night.

My gear all wet after the night.  

My gear all wet after the night.  

My sleeping bag was at parts completely soaked through, and I noticed a puddle of water inside, next to the zipper. Uh. I was too tired to care, and it was still warm inside the bag so I just positioned myself around the puddle and went back to sleep.

I woke up again at 5am, hoping I had just dreamed all that. No such luck. By this time everyone else was also waking up and wondering what had happened. No one else had water in their bag. I toss and turn a lot when I sleep so I must just kept melting the frosting on the zipper, and slowly piling that in the bag as I moved around.

Morning climb.  

Morning climb.  

We were again in no hurry as it was going to be a colder day so everyone moved over to the picnic table to dry their stuff up. While we ate breakfast we talked about the water carriages for the day, and how far people were hiking. Wilder and some of the girls were pushing for the longer option, and Blü was doing the shorter one. I decided to see how the day would progress.

As my bag was soaked, and I wanted to dry it and not compress wet down, I stayed back as others left. It took about 35 minutes for my bag to dry in the morning sun.

Climbing up from the shade.  

Climbing up from the shade.  

I filtered a liter of water for the 7 mile carriage to the next source, cameled up another liter, and then started heading down to the trail. To get to the trail I passed by the campground and surprise, Sunshine was there. As I didn't see her yesterday I was certain she had stayed few miles back up on the ridge. Derek and Kelley were there also.

We sayd quick hello's and I crossed the highway to get to the trailhead. As I was doing that, a pickup pulled next to me and a man named Jim approached me, asking if I could help his crew. They were doing trail maintenance and asked me to record the trail mileage for all areas on the ridge that were overgrown. They were approaching me from the other direction and we would meet later in the day. We shook hands and I thanked them for the awesome work they were doing by keeping the trail open and hikeable.

Sometimes the trail is green.  

Sometimes the trail is green.  

Today was again going to be a funny day, as due to the fire closure, we could either hike to the ranger station, making it a 17.5 mile day, or hike to KOA, making it a 26 mile day (41.8km). As I was climbing up the first hill up to the ridge line, I looked at the elevation profile and it looked pretty easy, in PCT terms. We had few over 1,000 feet climbs, but it was mostly downhill towards Aqua Dulce. This would be the theme to come for several days as we're slowly descending towards Mojave desert floor.

Baton climbing up.  

Baton climbing up.  

During the morning I passed many spots of Poodle Dog Bush. By now I could tell when I was approaching them by the awful smell of the plant. Luckily they weren't directly on the trail and were easy to avoid. It's just another annoyance to look after both, rattlesnakes, and Poodle Dog Bush.

The trail was again easy and fast. At one point I was taking photos and Sunshine caught up to me. Guess I was going slow with all the pole twirling and singing along to the music from my headphones. We made the last mile to the water source together and met Blü and few other hikers there. I had barely touched my water so far.

Resting on the water source.  

Resting on the water source.  

As Blü and Sunshine continued on after filtering enough water for the next 10 miles, I stayed behind to eat a bit more as I was getting hungry. The day was going fast. If I would continue with similar pace I would be at the Ranger Station some time after midday.

There are flowers on the desert.  

There are flowers on the desert.  

Shortly after I left the water, I met up with Jim and his crew and gave them the coordinates to the overgrown areas. It's a good thing that they are working on these as there was one section where many of us almost fell from the trail as you couldn't see your feet through the thick brush and the trail just disappears. My hiking pole saved me from tumbling down the face of the mountain on that one.

As I hike after Blü and Sunshine, I see couple of snakes, hummingbirds, countless lizards, and few chipmunks. The chipmunks always crack me up, they're so cute.

The views are always amazing.  

The views are always amazing.  

At one point, up high on the ridge line I notice my phone has reception and I quickly call my mom. I also notice I've gotten some comments and messages from readers and read through them. Talking with my mom and all the nice messages get me on such a good mood that I smile for the next half an hour and hiking feels really good. I can't wait to get to Aqua Dulce to answer everyone's messages.

Trail legs

Climbing up.  

Climbing up.  

Lately I've noticed that most of the climbs don't feel that bad anymore and I can just simply power through them with almost no change in pace. I can also easily hike for three-four hours without stopping.

We're getting to be about four weeks in on our hike and that starts to be around the time thru-hikers start getting their trail legs. It will take another two to four weeks to properly have them, but I definitely notice a difference. Now that I see that we're about to go up on a mountain, I don't feel like I'm going to die. I still dread the over 3,000 feet climbs, but those are rarer.

I catch up to Blü and Sunshine as they are taking a siesta under a large pine tree next to the trail. While I feel like hiking on, the shade and the possibility of eating more, are just too much to pass by. I scavenge my food bag for something different.

Sunshine literally sleeping on trail.  

Sunshine literally sleeping on trail.  

After some Nutella tortillas I have to move back to the sun as it's too cold in the shade. Blü sleeps in his sleeping bag and I climb next to Sunshine on a log. We talk about important things like which way we put a roll of toilet paper on a holder, and whether we put salami or cheese on top on a bread. Then we fall asleep, right on the trail.

I get woken up as few hikers come by. While the two still sleep I gather my things and continue on.

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Soon I reach the Ranger Station and meet familiar faces there. But not Wilder and the girls. I've missed them by few hours. I want to push on but not knowing where Wilder and others are planning to stay, and not having any good plans, I sit down and enjoy the one dollar ice-cold drinks that you can buy from the Ranger Station.

How many hikers can you fit on a picnic table.  

How many hikers can you fit on a picnic table.  

Sitting down was a mistake. I get lazy and the cozyness and the amenities of the campground, versus hiking 8.3 miles alone to unknown, get the better of me and I get soft and decide to stay. Blü and Sunshine arrive. A little later Pony Express and Queso Grande also arrive. We haven't seen them for over a day. It's great seeing them again as our little group has been getting smaller and smaller as Fyre and Blis are off the trail and Andrew and Dragon are somewhere behind us.

Hiker hands.  

Hiker hands.  

We all sit around the picnic table, sing and play ukulele, and have a good time. At times this feels more like camping in a group, just doing long miles in between.

We cowboy camp again and I fall asleep listening to the power lines rattling close by. Tomorrow we push to Akton and then to Aqua Dulce.

Day 27: Easy day

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Date: May 26, 2017
Miles: 19.9 miles (32km), from mile 398.7 to Mill Creek Fire Station. 
Health: No new blisters, legs tired but feel fine. Definitely need rest.

 Note: as my camera is still broken (see day 25), all photos here are from iPhone 7 Plus.

Today was quite an easy hike in PCT terms. We only climbed few thousand feet, which meant 1.5-2 hours of climbing, and the rest of the day we climbed slowly down. The trail was also quite easy. At times it felt luxurious.

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We woke up with Blü quite late, around 6:30am. Blü got his things together quick and I took a little bit more time. We were ahead of everyone else and it wasn't going to be a hot day so no need to rush anywhere. I was on the trail 7:05am.

Does not concern thru-hikers.  

Does not concern thru-hikers.  

My first order of business was to make the two miles (3.2km) to Camp Glenwood for water, and to use their pit toilets. All that chili yesterday made me hike a bit faster.

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At Glenwood I met Blü and a big group of other hikers. Most hikers pushed on but I stayed to eat a slow breakfast. Soon Wilder and others showed up, followed by the rest of our trail family a little later.

I had already wasted enough time so it was time to get on the trail. I was still a bit down from having an off day yesterday, and missing Blis and Fyre, but Morgan gave me a good pick-me-up before she left and I started to feel a little better.

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I felt like I was moving super slow but looking at my progress I was moving at a steady 3.5 miles per hour (5.6km/h) pace. At one point there was a junction and the instructions and the map were a bit off and I ended up on a road, few hundred feet away from the PCT. This was a bit odd as I thought I was following the PCT signs. I ended up walking about 0.5 miles along the road to where it joined the trail again.

Soon I caught up to a female hiker, and a little later to Derek and Kelley who were eating a snack on a small shade on the trail. I felt strong and pushed onwards but soon, on a small climb, I felt all my energy disappear. I didn't eat enough on the breakfast.

Blü eating at the water source.  

Blü eating at the water source.  

The next water source was only few miles away so I didn't want to stop to eat. I let the others pass me and slowly made my way up to the spring on the mountain side. Kelley and Derek were there, and also Blü, who was waiting for me. We ate more and tried to find shade on the narrow trail on the side of the mountain. One by one we filled our bottles from the slow flowing spring.

Poodle Dog Bush.  

Poodle Dog Bush.  

This whole section was covered in Poodle Dog Bush. It's a nasty bush that grows on burn areas and causes really bad reactions if touched. If clothing or gear touches it, it needs to be washed separately from everything else. As we can't wash anything on the trail, it's just best to avoid the bush at all costs.

The Poodle Dog Bush can sometimes be hard to notice and Blü had sat down right below one at the spring. Not touching it tough.

More Poodle Dog (on the right).  

More Poodle Dog (on the right).  

Our plan from the spring onwards was to take few liters of water to make the next over ten miles to the Mill Creek Water Station, and on the way there, stop where ever Morgan, Laurel, Kristen, and Pig Ben were. Blü left first and I stayed to camel up a liter and filter another one before heading out. It wasn't hot by desert standards, only about 80 degrees (26.7c), but it was still hot enough for me. 

I've learned to pretty well tell how much I need water for different sections. In this kind of heat I can make about 5 miles (8km) with one liter, but I can push it up to 10 miles (16.1km) if needed. Water is the heaviest item we carry so you don't want to carry more than you need.

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While I've honed down my water carries pretty well, same can't be said about my food carries. We're getting to Aqua Dulce in few days and I still have enough food to last another five days. It feels ridiculous to spend all that time, money, and effort to make your gear light, and then stupidly carry almost double the needed food for close to hundred miles.

I met the girls after the climb at a nice, but windy spot. But no sign of Blü. The girls hadn't seen him either. Maybe Blü missed them as they were sitting a bit off trail behind some trees. I stay there for a while but the wind and the shade make it kind of a cold spot to sit.

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Sam shows up and I borrow the roller he's now carrying. This is the same roller we found in the hiker box in Mount Laguna. Blü has been carrying it for close to 350 miles, and now Sam is doing his part. Our plan is to take the roller all the way up to Canada.

I use the roller to unlock my leg muscles while forcing down some more chocolate bars. While I'm not hungry, I know I need the calories and I don't want to run out of fuel again like earlier.

Trail angel sign.  

Trail angel sign.  

Soon the girls head out and I hike after them. It's only seven miles from here to the Fire station and it's all downhill. I put on some Iron Maiden in my headphones and start running down the trail. For a second I had a cell reception and I received new photos of Fire (my dog) from back home. I smile and look at them while hiking down with a smile on my face. I miss my little furball so much.

At the station, chilling by the picnic table.  

At the station, chilling by the picnic table.  

The downhill is pretty quick to hike. I sing out loud and twirl around with my single hiking pole and soon see the Fire Station. Can't believe we've already done close to 20 miles and it's only 4pm? Everyone's sitting around the picnic table and we ponder for a while with Blü whether we should stay at the Fire Station for the night, or push on 2.7 miles to the next possible camp spot. We decide to stay as there's water at the station, and a toilet. That always wins dry camping and digging holes in the desert.

My spot.  

My spot.  

Blü's spot.  

Blü's spot.  

Slowly more hikers arrive and we start to wonder where to sleep. There's a camp ground 200 yards from the Fire Station but it's really noisy thanks to the busy highway close by, and sleeping close to the station is prohibited. I search the area around and soon find a spot behind a parking area where we can all fit and be sheltered from the wind.

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As we're starting to settle in for the night, clouds roll in and we're soon all covered in clouds. Without the shelter from the winds it could get cold at night. Everyone's in bed way before hiker midnight. We plan the strategy for tomorrow from our sleeping bags. It's a bit tricky as there's another fire closure where we can't camp, and there's also a ice cold margarita trail magic rumor going around for Sunday morning. We need to do a long day tomorrow to beat the fire closure, and to make it close enough for the Sunday morning margaritas.

Our scenic camp spot.  

Our scenic camp spot.  

Trail life is sometimes weird :)

Day 26: Rollercoaster of a day

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Date: May 25, 2017
Miles: 14.5 miles (23.3km), from the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell to mile 398.7.
Health: Legs are tired from the climb. Would've needed extra day in Wrightwood to recover. Keep getting new blisters from my shoes.

Note: as my camera is still broken (see day 25), all photos here are from iPhone 7 Plus. 

My view when waking up.  

My view when waking up.  

Today was a quite a mixup of emotions. It started with us all waking up at the summit of Mount Baden-Powell. The sunrise was just epic.

Everyone enjoying the views.  

Everyone enjoying the views.  

We all just sat and walked around the summit marveling the unbelievable beauty opening to every direction. We could see the city of Los Angeles covered in a thick ocean of clouds, the highest mountain tops around us painted with the soft morning light, and the shadow of the Baden-Powell being drawn far below us in the distance. That was quite a way to eat breakfast.

Sun rising on top of Mt. Baden-Powell.  

Sun rising on top of Mt. Baden-Powell.  

We were in no hurry to leave but as the sun rose higher, everyone slowly started to head down and get back on the trail. The PCT goes only few hundred feet from the summit. On the way down we passed the famous, over 1,500 year old tree. I didn't see it yesterday as I passed it in the darkness.

Pig Ben, Kristen, and Laurel eating breakfast.  

Pig Ben, Kristen, and Laurel eating breakfast.  

Our next goal was getting to the next water source. Later in the day Blis's father was rumored to be giving us trail magic along the highway were crossing.

The over 1,500 year old tree.  

The over 1,500 year old tree.  

Sunshine was still in her sleeping bag and looked like she was not going anywhere soon. Blü had already left as far as I could tell. Everyone was just doing their own thing, it was funny.

Clouds over LA.  

Clouds over LA.  

I left the summit with Sam and Trevor but as I was feeling all energetic, I passed them and kept running down the mountain. I had forgotten to look at the elevation profile for the day. So when I hit a large uphill, I was quite surprised. We climbed another, a bit lower peak, but it wasn't that bad.

On the way up I met Morgan and Kristen. They were going fast, and the elevation was affecting my ability to breath properly, so I stayed behind them. It was fun hiking with new people. We've met at many stops and camps during the past few weeks, but never hiked together. So that meant new interesting conversation topics.

Hiking down.  

Hiking down.  

We soon caught up to Wilder and the rest of the group and made our way to the water. It was a spring on the side of the mountain. Blü was already there and we talked about the strategy for today.

I had completely missed that we would be hitting the endangered species closure today. Part of the trail is closed due to endangered frogs that live on the trail. There are few workarounds, but the most common is a couple mile road walk around the closure.

Endangered Species Trail Closure.  

Endangered Species Trail Closure.  

The next water source was a bit iffy due to the closure but we filtered two liters and would just make it work somehow. It was going to be a hot day.

Everyone got on the trail at different times and I was soon walking solo down the mountain. My legs started to hurt from the climb yesterday and I really didn't feel like hiking today. I turned the music louder in my headphones and hoped that would make the miles go faster. It didn't help. The rocky trail and the continues downhill made my feet hurt more and more. Soon I was going about half the speed I usually do. Frustration started to kick in.

I finally made it down the mountain to a rest stop on the highway 2 where few other hikers were having an early lunch. I still had 3 miles to go before the spot where Blis's fathers trail magic would be, but it was too early, so I sat down and made a bagel for myself.

Highway 2 in the distance.  

Highway 2 in the distance.  

I ate as slowly as I could as I didn't feel like getting back on the trail. Soon Sam and Trevor got down too and made a quick lunch. It was time to move again. As I was begrudgingly putting on my backpack, I see Trevor putting on his earphones and heading down the trail. Only problem was, the trail goes up from here. He was heading down. He was on the wrong trail.

We tried yelling after him but he didn't hear us. And of course there was no connection here so we couldn't call him. We looked at the map and the trail would lead him back on the PCT, after a 21 mile (33.7km) detour. Ugh.

The summit.  

The summit.  

Luckily he only made it 0.5 miles down before he noticed he was on a wrong trail. We marked the spot with an arrow so that no other hikers would make the same mistake.

I started hiking up but I just wasn't feeling it. The climb was quite steep and exposed. Some way up I made the mistake of looking at the map and elevation profile. The trail basically goes around a mountain, climbs close to 1300 feet, then drops down the same amount, only to end up at the same elevation we started from. So basically we climb for hour and a half to go down again, only to get to the almost same spot where we started from. I felt super frustrated. The trail made no sense, again.

Cowboy camping on the summit.  

Cowboy camping on the summit.  

I've noticed the same pattern few times before. We do these completely pointless climbs and detours when we could just walk straight from point A to point B. On my way up, I cursed the trail designer.

Once I reached the top I found Blü there. He had the unfortunate luck of having to listen to me bitch and moan about the trail for about 5 minutes. He just kept laughing and pointed out that the PCT is a "national scenic trail", emphasis on the scenic part.

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I apologized for my outburst and started to descent down to where we had started. In the way down I realized what he meant. I was still frustrated with the trail doing pointless loops, but I guess I needed to change my attitude a little bit. I'm so used to hiking somewhere with a purpose that this kind of "let's just pointlessly circle around in the wilderness" hiking feels kind of odd. Now I understand why everyone says you have no use for a compass on the PCT, you're never actually going towards the north.

Blü soon catches up to me and we hike down together. There we find others at the rest stop waiting for Blis and his father. We sit in the shade waiting. Blis arrives but his father is late. We start wondering weather he meant the rest stop 0.7 miles down the road. We have no way of contacting him as there's no connection.

Road hiking with Blis and Blü.  

Road hiking with Blis and Blü.  

We noticed that the next rest stop has a picnic area and it sounds way nicer than the one we're at, so we decide to go there instead. We walk along the highway to get there but no signs of Blis's father. We wait.

It's starting to get late. At one point we hear back from Fyre. She's off trail and in LA. She's resting her ankle as it has been hurting and she's meeting us in few days in Aqua Dulce. It's great that she's getting her ankle some rest but at the same time we didn't get to say bye to her, and it feels like we lost a member of our trail family. Even if for a short while.

As there's no sign of Blis's father, we decide to send Sunshine back up the highway to check the previous rest stops to see if he's there. She gets on the road and catches a ride instantly. We keep waiting.

The wrong rest stop.  

The wrong rest stop.  

After 20 minutes we see a car approaching and it's Sunshine, with Blis's father. We had ended up on a wrong rest stop and he had setup everything on the rest stop before the pointless climb.

We stuff about 15 hikers to his car in two separate rides and get to the correct rest stop. There we have quite a feast waiting for us. Blis's mom and dad had made a huge pot of chili, cornbread, watermelon, and a cooler full of beer. Blis's sister was there to help also.

The right rest stop.  

The right rest stop.  

We eat our stomachs full and enjoy the ice cold beer. What a setup. They had driven two hours from LA just to meet and feed us. Thank you so much for everything!

As it's getting time to leave, Blis tells us he's leaving with his father to LA as his ankle is also busted. We understand but it's really a shame, we're going to miss him so much. And loosing two members of our trail family on the same day, not fun.

The family Blis.  

The family Blis.  

We all wish him well and hope to see him in Aqua Dulce as we arrive there in few days. Hopefully Fyre is also there by then.

Blis's father drives us back to the spot where we were before and we thank him so much for all that he has done. While other hikers climb back up to the PCT, me and Blü decide to do a little sneaky move. Here the PCT follows the highway but pointlessly goes up and down on rocky mountains. It doesn't make much sense. By looking at the map we see that by hiking along the highway we can skip most of this pointless zigzagging and join the PCT little way down.

I don't need to hike every mile of the PCT, I just want to have a continues footpath from Mexico to Canada. And my legs hurt and I'm tired. The road walk is easy and we soon join back on the PCT and start going down. We find a nice spot next to the trail where to camp for the night.

My view when going to bed.  

My view when going to bed.  

Just as I get my cowboy camp all setup I notice I'm on top of an anthill so, as Blü keeps laughing, I move my camp.

I can't wait to get to Aqua Dulce and Hiker Heaven and take two or three zeros. I really need the rest and my feet need to recover. Sierras will wait. Also I need to get my camera fixed.

Tomorrow we'll cross the 400 mile marker.

Day 25: Mount Baden-Powell

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Date: May 24, 2017
Miles: 8.6 miles (13.8km), from Highway 2 to summit of Mount Baden-Powell. 
Health: After long nights sleep feet feel better and blisters are healing. Still very tired.

We sleep late with Blis. I'm up at 8:30am and he gets up at about the same time. Although I'm well rested, my body feels like it would still need more rest. Sadly that has to wait as we're heading out again today to summit the 9,407 feet (2,867m) Mount Baden-Powell.

Mtn Hardware in Wrightwood. 

Mtn Hardware in Wrightwood. 

After slow morning tasks we head out to the town, I need to still do my entire resupply and Blis needs few more things from the store. As our checkout time is at 11 we still have plenty of time.

We loiter our way towards the grocery store while meeting friends at every step. These trail towns are fun as you get to meet all the hikers who would otherwise be spread out along the trail.

Clif bars for PCT hikers.  

Clif bars for PCT hikers.  

I do my resupply, buy a breakfast burrito and eat that outside the store while sitting in the sun. Members of our trail family come and go and there's constantly someone new to hear from. Everyone is slowly going around the small town, trying to get their town chores done before the sun starts setting.

Group photo before our neighbors head out.  

Group photo before our neighbors head out.  

We get back to our room, collect our stuff and move them out on the yard and do our checkout. Blis stays with our gear and I do a quick new round since I forgot some items. Blis found me a jar of petroleum jelly from the hiker box but Sunshine informs me that they sell a smaller jar at the store so I add that to my list.

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I do a quick round in the grocery store and also buy some fresh fruits to eat before leaving the town. I head back to our motel and Fyre and Sunshine have joined us. I crawl under the yard table for a nap while the others eat, talk, and rest.

Soon it's time to leave. Our plan for today is to make it to the top of the Mount Baden-Powell to watch the sunset. Then camp there, or little way down, and come see the sunrise again in the morning.

Breaking my camera

As I'm getting my stuff from the table, I accidentally pull my fanny pack and without noticing my camera underneath it, drop the camera on the rocky floor. The camera hits the floor with a sinister thud and I fear for the worse. I turn on the camera to see if the drop caused any damage. The lights turns on, yes! Wait, the screen is black? Nothing happens. After about a second the camera turns itself off. Oh no. I remove the battery, maybe it's a software thing. Insert the battery and turn the camera back on. Again no luck. I do this few more times but I know the answer, my camera is broken. Right when I'm heading out to the top of a mountain to see an epic sunset and sunrise.

I curse profusely in my head. And I think few f-words escape my lips. No help, I have to use my iPhone until I figure something out. LA is not that far, but that needs to wait.

 Note: all photos from here on are taken with my iPhone 7 Plus.  

Blis, Fyre, Sunshine, and I headed to the main street to try to get a hitch. As soon as we reach the road a car stops over and they tell us they can fit two. Sadly their old WV Beatle only has room for Fyre. While she is getting in, they call their mom and tell us to wait for a second. Not a minute goes by and their mom arrives and picks the rest of us up. Wow!

Fyre and Blis.  

Fyre and Blis.  

Getting rides in and out of Wrightwood has been super easy. We talk with the lovely lady and she tells me about her trip to Finland few years back. She's super nice and soon we're at the trailhead. We offer her gas money but she refuses. We thank her for everything and head on the trail.

Sunshine starting the trail.  

Sunshine starting the trail.  

I was worried that my hiking would be painful but I feel great. Everyone is in a good mood and the first few miles go by fast. Then we start dropping down. Weren't we supposed to climb up? We drop down few hundred feet until I see a big mountain in front of us. There's a small rest area and me, Fyre, Blü, Blis, and Sunshine gather there and start climbing up the trail.

Heading down to climb a mountain.  

Heading down to climb a mountain.  

Restarea and the side of Mt Baden-Powell.  

Restarea and the side of Mt Baden-Powell.  

Baden-Powell

I look at my clock and do some calculations in my head. I think we are out too late and won't make it up to the top before the sun sets. In my head I'm staying at the campsite a mile down from the summit.

As the sun sets the scenery gets more beautiful by every step. Our friends ahead of us must have amazing views from the top.

Hikers gathering at the spring.  

Hikers gathering at the spring.  

About halfway up we stop at a small spring on the mountain side to fill up our water bottles. We need water for the rest of the climb and what ever we consume tomorrow morning before we get to the next source down on the other side.

Blü getting water. 

Blü getting water. 

As we get past 7,000 feet the elevation starts getting to me again. Me breathing gets harder and harder and I have to slow my pace. Blü keeps cheering me up but I can't keep up with his pace.

Sunshine and Fyre resting on a switchback.   

Sunshine and Fyre resting on a switchback.   

It gets darker and darker and by now it's painfully clear for everyone that we won't be making it to the summit to see the sunset. After 8,000 feet we come across some snow that we need to hike over. By now my legs are just screaming for mercy. I keep counting "one - two - one - two ..." in my head to keep my legs moving. I can't wait to get to the campsite before the summit and rest for the night.

Early evening trail up Mt Baden-Powell.  

Early evening trail up Mt Baden-Powell.  

We finally reach the campground and I'm ready to stop. Sunshine, Blü, and an ultralight Australian hiker we met earlier called Baton talk me over to continue all the way to the top. I don't have any energy left but their reasoning is solid so I agree to push to the top.

We continue but soon Blü and Baton push ahead, I'm a bit behind, and I can't see Sunshine behind me anymore. It's getting really dark and I'm getting worried. I look behind on every switchback but no sight of her. She's usually ahead of me on climbs. We cross some questionable spots and snow in the dark.

Finally on one longer switchback I see Sunshine below me. I yell to check that she's okey. She's fine, just going slower. I push up a steep snow face to reach the exposed and narrow ridge line before the actual summit. I can't see a thing except for the city lights down far below. I think that's LA in the distance. The views are amazing but the whirling wind makes me want to get off of the narrow ridge. I throw on my wind jacket and follow the path to where I think the summit is.

Trail in the dark.  

Trail in the dark.  

For a while I can only see dark but then sky appears and I see a shade of a person. That's Blü putting on warmer clothes. We celebrate for a second and then I start putting on my puffy as well. It's cold at the top.

We hear sounds from ahead of us, and see headlamp lights coming from the brushes just down from the summit. I head down there to find everyone else there. I find myself a sheltered spot for the night and then go back to see Sunshine reach the summit.

Almost every single flat spot is used for sleeping as people squeeze between bushes to cowboy camp for the night. The sky is clear and the start are out. I lay in my sleeping bag eating and looking at the sky. I'm happy I pushed all the way to the top.

Day 24: Wrightwood

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Date: May 23, 2017
Miles: 12 miles (19.3km), from mile 357.3 to the Highway 2.
Health: The climb was rough. Both my heels hurt and my feet are swollen. Couple new blisters.

The alarm goes off way too soon, my hurting body needs more sleep. It's still dark and cold outside and every part of my body hurts. I don't want to get out of the warmth of my sleeping bag. But I also know that we still have miles to climb and in few hours it's going to be excruciatingly hot.

Getting ready to leave.  

Getting ready to leave.  

I begrudgingly get out of my bag and start packing my pack. I see no movement in any of the tents yet, but Sunshine is fighting the same battle as I, just a little ways down the dirt road.

The view is just absolutely breathtaking. We didn't see anything when we arrived here at night but now we're rewarded with gorgeous mountains basking in the morning light. I stuff my shorts pockets full of bars, shoulder my pack and follow Sunshine back on the trail.

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The climb starts immediately and my legs haven't fully woken up yet. It feels like I'm climbing at snails pace. What feels like the longest hour and a half, gets us on the top of the mountain. We can see the desert floor far down below us. We stop to breath and enjoy the view for a second. I'm happy that we climbed that far last night, but at the same time I feel bad for all my fellow hikers still behind us, having to do all that climbing in this heat.

7,085 feet (2,160m) elevation climb.  

7,085 feet (2,160m) elevation climb.  

We still have one short very steep uphill and then we get to a campground at the top of the mountain. Man that was a long climb. We stop for water and an early lunch.

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We learn that the water is down a steep hill, on the side of the mountain. We don't feel like doing any more climbing and so we even out all our water and calculate that we can probably do the last five miles with the little water we have. It's mainly downhill.

Before filtering / after filtering.  

Before filtering / after filtering.  

As we climb down we hike past ski-lifts. It's already way too hot to hike but we need to get to the highway to catch a hitch to Wrightwood. I can see the highway in the distance but the trail just keeps twisting and going away from the road. At one point the trail crosses a dirt road and I notice that the dirt road is a quicker path to the highway. As my feet hurt, I hike the last mile along the dirt road.

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Once I reach the highway there are about 15 hikers there already. I haven't seen any cars go along the highway all day. Just as I'm thinking this is going to take forever, a pickup truck drives by and stops. Topo is already onboard and enthusiastically waves at us from the bed of the truck. The driver waves us to jump aboard. As Sunshine and I are the last to arrive, we don't fit. But that was fast.

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We sit down and prepare for a long wait and right then another car drives past, stops, and waves for us to get in. Wow. That was super fast. In less than 10 minutes we all get rides to town.

The ride to Wrightwood takes us down from the mountains and along the way we see the ski resort. The town is small and compact. Everything is a walking distance away. I like it.

Our first priority when we reach the town: get ice cream. The driver leaves us right outside of the best ice cream shop in town and we buy large scoops of our favorite flavors.

Ice cream! 

Ice cream! 

Next is time to go to the post office, I have a package from ZPacks waiting for me. On the way to the post office we pass many hiker friends. It's like everywhere you look, there's someone you know. I love coming into towns and seeing all the friends at the same place and hearing all their trail stories.

Resupply packages at the post office.  

Resupply packages at the post office.  

At the post office all the people inside strike up a conversation and we talk about the PCT for awhile. People in these small towns are so friendly. They all wish us good luck and we continue to the sandwich shop next door.

We leave our packs there and go to the Mountain Hardware shop to register and get our PCT pins.

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The lodging in Wrightwood is a bit bad. There are only expensive options. There's a list of all the trail angels and people have already called them all through. We hear of a place where you can stay for the night for a donation. After hearing the description of the place, we nickname it The Bunker. It's a cheap option for most, but I want to take a proper shower and sleep in a comfy bed. Blis feels the same and we reserve the last two bed room in the Pines Motel.

My swollen and blistery feet.  

My swollen and blistery feet.  

We get to the motel and get our room. It's way too expensive for what it is, but I'm too tired and hurting to care. I immediately hit the shower and start washing the layers of dirt off of me. It seems that no matter how long I scrub, the dirt just keeps coming. My feet look pretty dinged up.

Chilling outside our motel.  

Chilling outside our motel.  

We take our dirty clothes to the laundry and hop on our huge beds to watch TV. It feels so good to just lay down and not do anything.

Mexican.  

Mexican.  

Later in the evening we all gather in the Mexican restaurant next door for 5 cent margarita. The food is good and the margaritas cold. The evening goes by too quick. It's time to go to sleep. It has been really rough few days and I'm happy to not having to wake up early tomorrow.