The Perfect Goonie Family (4 celebrations and a pipe band! Much more fun that 4 Weddings & a Funeral).

One of my favourite all time kids movies. The Goonies and little did I know it was set in Oregon. Astoria to be precise which is indeed a real town and the huge rock in the sea used as part of the map to One Eyed Willies clue, is Haystack Rock which we will pass enroute while walking the Oregon Coastal Trail. The Marsh family are the main (lovely) characters of the movie.

https://youtu.be/Z3XMnEdt_2I

Let me introduce to you Paula and Jack Marsh. The real life Marsh Family. This couple and their family have huge hearts. They met Cory when he was their guide during a Boundless Journeys holiday in Scotland and kindly offered their angel wings as we hiked the PCT.

https://youtu.be/ueCFU6d8QkY

When Cory ventured into the High Sierra, Paula and Jack offered me the refuge of their beautiful home in Folsom and their 'cabin' in Truckee.

A complete stranger to the family I turned up on their doorstep, all smelly and hot after a 5+ hour, triple digit temperature, greyhound bus ride from hell, into the midst of the families Fathers Day BBQ and pool party. (Celebration 1). A few days later, they kindly gave me the use of their gorgeous 'cabin' in Truckee and the use of their trusty Sequoia.


While Cory climbed the High Sierra and swam the wild creeks, I explored Truckee and tried to keep up my walking regime. In the meantime, Paula and Jack became Grandparents again to Baby Lincoln (celebration 2) and earlier than expected Cory came off the mountains due to the treacherous creek crossings.

We visited Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe (Vikings Holm) and (now a local myself) I gave Cory a guided tour of Historic Truckee and Doner Park with it's sad story of the Doner Party.

We had a lovely walk and lunch with Jeanette, another amazing Trail Angel from Cory's National Geographic guiding life. We explored the old Railway Tunnels together, built by the Chinese immigrants.

https://youtu.be/8QF2vgP1sgc

Paula and Jack (Juniper meow and Tucker woof) arrived in Truckee, laden with food and heaps of kindness. Giant steaks, wild salmon and Paula's secret recipe waffles (your secret is safe with us!).

Even their friends opened their homes and hearts to us. We had a wonderful meal with Jan and Rick, with numerous bears stories and 'bear not welcome' electric mats 🙂

We enjoyed a 'small town's' real Fourth of July celebrations. (Celebration 3). We were in downtown Truckee at 8am to get our deck chairs out (almost too late! Cory reckoned the Germans had been down at midnight :-). and then off to the Fire Department for their 4th of July Pancake Breakfast (think lots of squirty cream and super tasty sausages) . The parade was fantastic fun and I had a tear in my eye when I heard the pipes playing.

I felt Remarkably underdressed! For my next 4th of July parade I'll make sure I'm 'red, white and blued up', with sequins and face paints!

Then home to the cabin to chill and watch The Goonies (again) in preparation for the OCT. Paula and Jack (and their now grown kids) nearly know all the lines of the movie !


We went to Lake Tahoe at night for the fireworks and Paula once more ensured our tummies were fit to burst with a gorgeous picnic feast. As we all sat under the showering starlight and tracers of the fireworks, their friends nephew proposed to his girlfriend. Thankfully there was a 'yes' and another big sparkly dancing light on her finger followed by champagne and brownies all round! (Celebration 4!)

https://youtu.be/p3wtsT9n_Wk

Volume control – we didn’t get that lesson ( A little Observation) – SHE

Cultural differences of course we are bound to encounter them but there seems to have been a lesson which we were not a-party too!

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Of course, for the most part, people are hiking the trail alone. They will make friends as they walk. There are also the occasional couples but regardless of this, we missed the voice projection requirement of the PCT.
A hiker will come into a campsite, we may be about a 100 metres away and ‘boom‘ they start to speak. You would be able to hear them way back in Campo. Everyone has a story, we all know that, but the need to ensure that their Grand-mama can hear it way back in Missouri, without using the phone or skype, what is that all about, what need is there which I don’t understand?
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I can understand people’s need to connect, chat and bond, get their words in for the day. Men (2000), Women (10000) but the need for the Sonic Bomb, Blast, to broadcast the story far and wide, it is so strange to me. Or are 90% of those walking the PCT hard of hearing? Decided not to wear their hearing aids?
It does seem to be nationality specific for the most part too. Americans, Canadias, not Brits, older Germans no, younger Germans maybe, especially if they speak with American accents! (A years education in America perhaps?!)

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I find, when I talk, I am shocked at my volume. I sound like I am whispering.

Oregon Coastal Trail Day 1 and Day 2. – First Impressions Do Count 

We arrived at Brookings late in the evening after an early start in Folsom. We headed straight out of town to Harris State Park ( yes named after a Scotsman). There were no camping spaces left so we walked down the beach hoping for a secluded spot on the beach and then the beach ran out! Then we sensibly fished out the new OCT bible and read that there was no other options other than a wild camp. The Day Use area closed at 10 and by 10 our tent was erected snuggly hidden down amongst the picnic benches. It was perfect. 


They locked the loos though! We didn’t get in until 7am in the morning for a wee wash (amongst other things). 
Then we were off, day 1. 
Brookings to (not so) Secret Beach. (About 13 miles but who knows as we got lost so often ). 
First impressions? It’s absolutely gorgeous! In the woods we could be walking in Scotland! Lush, green and verdant. Bracken, brambles, wild raspberries, foxgloves and purple irises. Of course the trees are exotic but so much feels familiar. Although It’s not often in Melvaig though that pelicans fly over head, or a sea lion pops it’s head up to say hello!!
The trail? It’s very poor! Very very poor. Not maintained, misleading, contradictory, no signs or those which do randomly pop up are not at junctions, have no arrows and are frankly, pretty useless. Mostly the track is ‘rabbit track’ when going through the woods and also is very ‘uppy-downy’, tough on shins, Achilles and calfs’. 
Our first day was quite frustrating due to getting lost. Our book was not much help either. To be fair to the author it isn’t specifically a OCT guide but an Oregon Trails Guide and yet it does cover the Oregon Coastal Trail with a section after the ‘day hike section’ for folks like us Thru Hiking!
The mist gathered early in the morning, after our slow start and didn’t burn away until 11:30. Everything is new and beautiful and different from the PCT. We walked over creeks regularly (thus water wasn’t a problem) and managed to miss an entire beach walk (whales-head beach where are you?) due to the abysmal signposting.

  
The trail is essentially Day hikes with sections of trail to join these day hikes into a continuous coast trail. So far the day hikes are of reasonably quality and the ‘link trails’ are mostly very very poor. Today ,day 2 ,we had to bush whack through the ‘trail’ getting scrapped until we bled, with ripping brambles and we both had tingling skin tonight In patches (poison oak or ivy?). .


The views nearly make up for the hard-work trail. The coast so far has been spectacular, misty almost drizzly mornings building up to hot afternoons where the suns heat results in steam rising from shallow pools of sea water. 
The piles and piles of driftwood have been amazing! We don’t have trees that size in Scotland never mind driftwood. White, bleached, smooth and rough, from giant ancient trees to small white rounded twigs. Oh if only I had the energy and space to fill a bag with the beautiful weathered wood!
The trail is quiet (unlike the PCT) perhaps due to Most people walking north to south unlike us. We met a total of 5 SoBos today and met fellow PCT refugees!! 
Our campsite on day 1 was Secret Beach, a beautiful view from our little ledge overlooking the sandy cove and its hanging garden waterfall. I was shattered after my first day back on the trail. Asleep by 7pm,I didn’t awaken until a family noisily traipsed past our tent at 7am to forage giant mussels. The low low tide meant the mussels were exposed. 12 hours, what a part-timer!


We’ve walked from Secret Beach to Cape Sebastian today with a lot More sandy beach walking. This is very hard work when the tide is coming in and much better when it’s receding but at least, unlike the forest, you can’t really get lost (too much). 

We are often Taken onto Route 101,the coastal highway. This is a fast road and lethal. We’ve walked past three stinking carcasses of Mule Deer so far and it’s only day 2. We had 2.5 miles on the hard shoulder today, at least the caber/lumber lorries were fewer (because it’s a Saturday?). 

We’ve seen Mr Osprey catch an eel and also fly over us at our current campsite on Cape Sebastian carrying fish home For his fish supper! (We had a-mash potatoes and little chunks of cheddar, dinner, mmm). 

I like the trail, because it’s so different from the PCT, even if it feels like harder work! 

Oregon son of Aragon!

Cory had 7 days in the Big Scary Mountains and determined that the creek crossings (sometimes 5 feet deep of swift, white water) were simply too dangerous. He got off the High Sierra and has now made it to Truckee where I have been waiting for him. (Courtesy of wonderful Paula and Jack). 
We can see from the PCT facebook page that 100s of people have either skipped the Sierra entirely or gave it a go and decided after a few days, that it was simply too dangerous. 

So what are we to do? It’s not any better further north at present! It’s either very deep snow or worse, impassable raging creeks!


Meet the Oregon Coast Trail! 

382 coastal miles!  We will still be walking to Canada, up through Oregon, just on the coast. 

Then, conditions permitting, we can get back on the PCT at the Bridge of the Gods, and walk through Washington and into Canada! 

Then best laid plans of mice and men…:-) 

 ( we are now on plan C) 

(A) typical day on the trail – SHE

We do have a sort of rhythm to our day. We are up early 5, 5:30, 6 or 6:30. Ideally we like to be on the trail by 6am.

Waking up
Surprisingly Cory is normally first to awake, at first this was probably due to me wearing my Scotrail (eye mask)! But really I’m just comatosed:-)
One of us will have baked or brewed by then. Mandy bakes and Cory for some reason brews. At the very least one of us will be bursting for a peepee (if not our poop).
While one of us hobbles off to a secluded spot. The person left in the tent starts to deflate the Thermarests and stuff the sleeping bags and silkies into their sacks. If it’s me I’ll be wet wiping my hands and face, brushing teeth, inhalers. If it’s Cory he’ll probably have the tent packed away by the time I return!
A quick slug of water and we are off. We will walk for either two hours or until first water (between 4,5,6 miles). Or if we are walking into town we may hike a 7, 8 or 9miles, as the promise of a hot breakfast has amazing powers to lure us to keep walking.
Thus in approximately 2 hours we have breakfast.

Breakfast
We take off our shoes! Let the socks dry (they will be soaking with sweat), let the feet air and reduce their swelling.
We, Cory the Stove Controller, will heat some water if it is Ramen (for Cory), Porridge (for Mandy), or we may just be adding cold water to our Muesli & Powdered milk mix! Breakfast can last from 1/2 an hour to an hour (on average 45 minutes I would say).
Then I try to do 1 hour of my Pimsleur Spanish, now because this definitely does feel like hard work I can come up with many excuses ‘not’ to do it, but I have now completed, the full 30 lessons in Pimsleur Spanish 1! Next I will reward myself, if the iPod has enough charge, with listening to an audio-book. I didn’t start off listening to a book on the trail, but it somehow takes my mind off how hot I am, how sticky I am, how much I smelly, how difficult it is….my monologue with myself…
We will normally have another break in 2 hours, where we will sit again and air our feet. Perhaps having a snack (trail mix or bar).
In the desert (basically all of Southern California) we stopped approximately every 1/2 hour for a standing drink of water.
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Lunchtime
Lunch will be around 12:30 or 13:00 depending on distance covered, fatigue, suitable place to stop. Lunch is rarely something which is warm. Normally we will get the solar charger out, it may have already been out at breakfast, to charge the iDevices. My iPod charges quickly (and empties quickly), Cory’s iPhone needs a lot of iJuice, charges slowly and retains it’s charge very well.
Then we rouse ourselves again for approximately 2 more hours of walking, again stopping again for shoes off, snack if required and available (maybe nuts of a granola type bar, or clif bars if we splurged). We keep walking until we reach our destination.
Each morning we know roughly where we want to reach, the distance we want to cover and camp. Normally the destination will be water and or campsite, which means we have to carry less during the day if we know we will have water to cook our tea. We don’t really ‘cook’ our Tea (dinner) of course. We heat up water and either add it to our Ramen noodles, or our Idahoan Mashed potato. These are the two items we normally have for dinner. Sometimes we might have Knor ‘just add water type pasta or rice’ dish, but these require about 7 minutes of heating and stirring and are and must be economical with the fuel. So yes it is normally tatties or noodle soup, perhaps pimped with salami if we have any!
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Campsite
On reaching our destination for the night, Cory will scout out the best place to put up the tent (we try to be away from others, leaving plenty of space for others). It will mostly be a wild camp, although having access to a picnic bench is heavenly!
Then we start erecting the tent. I get heavier items ready to throw into the tent to hold it down as the PCT is usually or certainly often, windy at night and our free standing TerraNova Tent could easily blow away (until we are in it of course!). Tent erected, we put out the blue mat (Poundlands special!),and we may have to filter water for our Tea (Dinner).
Cory is a control freak about the stove. So mostly he is the Head Cook,I am the bottle washer. I will feebly blow up the two Thermarests while he prepares dinner. We eat from the pots or our Poundland mugs and then I use a wee bit water and a wet wipe if I have one, to clean our pots.
Then it is ablution time. Pretty much as soon as our dinner is finished, perhaps around 7pm, we get tucked up into our tent. We may have a flannel wash if there is water, maybe even put our feet in the creek and have a ‘good old scrub about our bits’ but mostly, due to the water situation, we have a wet wipe. We are sticky, dirty, hot, smelly even after the WetWipe!
I will brush out my Pocahontas hair, if I haven’t done it while the Head Cook was busy, and re-plait my hair again. Then it is teeth, pee etc. Finally we will be tucked into the tent. If Cory is listening to one of my audio-books we might put it on for our bedtime story and set the sleep timer to 1/2 an hour. I rarely last the 1/2 hour…shattered!
We will normally be asleep by 8pm (ish), assuming no noisy neighbours, hurricane winds etc.
Midnight Pee?
I try so hard not to have to leave the warmth of my tent at night. Cory has to water the garden at least once during the night. If I have managed to keep it in all night, then in the morning it is Elephant Pee time!

Climbing Mt Whitney – HE

Thursday, June 22

YouTube video of the day- https://youtu.be/UI39wlQuvu0

Although not directly on the PCT route Mt Whitney is only about 8.5 miles off the trail and is a regular climb for hikers on the PCT trail. 

With the weather set fair with a stable weather system, clear nights and hot days so perfect weather to head up to the summit at 4421m. Highest mountain in the lower 48 states.

After the winter snows I certainly wasn’t sure how much snow would be on the trail but you can only give it a go!

Set off at 5 AM to Crabtree Ranger station along the trail up to the mountain. Not quite first light but twilight enough for there to be an army of mosquitos biting at my heels. 

The valley was beautiful, Ponderosa Pines set against alpine mountains and as I walked higher and the trees diminished the valley opened up into a broad glacial trough with lakes at its base and steep exposed rocky slopes.

Walking steadily up the valley but not gaining much altitude it was hard to imagine how you were going to climb out of the steep rocky amphitheatre.

There was lots of snow in the valley base which was fairly easy to walk on and quite crunchy at this early hour. There were plenty of footprints from those that had gone before so there wasn’t really any route finding problems (good job as I didn’t have a map!).

At the head of the valley the steep back wall turned into a good track but on a long series of zig zags.

The switchbacks were hard work and I started to feel the altitude and slowed down significantly. However it provided a great way to slowly climb and gain altitude.

Once on the top of this stone shoot of switchbacks it was about 1 1/2 miles along a slow ascending ridge to the summit of Whitney. 

It was a beautiful clear morning with around 10 other people enjoying the great 360 views of the whole Sierras from the summit. The summit hut must have had its door blown off during the winter as it was full of snowdrifts.

After about 40 minutes on the summit I started back down the mountain reversing the route up. As always going down hill at altitude you can feel your sucking in more oxygen on the descent which was almost a jog. Came down fairly quickly, final valley snow fields were slightly slushy but no post holing.

Bouncing along. Back at tent by 2:30 PM.

Immortality and river crossings – HE

Today there were quite a few river (creek) crossings. Many of them were just knee to thigh deep wades against the current flow a few of them were in really swift water.

YouTube video of creeks

https://youtu.be/s4bvScrHEEg
I have done plenty of river crossings before, obviously in Scotland and on a infamous trip to the Inylchek Glacier in Kyrgyzstan. In Scotland rivers and burns will spate a few hours after heavy rain or during snow thaw periods. This makes them hazardous to cross but quite often by waiting a few hours ( or overnight) the burns flow will drop significantly to allow them to be forded more safely.

Here in the Sierras many of the creek catchments are quite large and after last winter’s record snow fall and the current heat wave creating maximum thaw, what would normally be fairly easy crossings are wades against thigh to waist high swift water torrents. ​​​​

As a solo hiker I’m very much on my own when it comes to crossing all of these creeks which are swollen with the meltwater from the excessive snow in the mountains. Also it’s not just one creek your going to have to cross, it’s lots. One risky steps may be justifiable but add a few of them together and probabilities start playing on your mind.  ​

It felt a little like being a lead climber when you’re on the crux of a tough route, already above your last piece of gear, which wasn’t that great. The holds you have aren’t great and you know you need to step up to find the next hold.As you step up all your thinking is there better be hold as I reach around this corner if there’s not I’m in big trouble!

When crossing these creeks once you’re in the main flow facing upstream with your walking Pole in front of you to lean on, your pack is on your back but not tied on to you. You know you have to take the next step sideways, and you also know that one slip means you will be in the drink and swimming. 

But you have to take that step or you won’t get across. Today when  crossing one of the creeks I certainly felt pretty nervous as I tried to sidestep my way from one side to the other and came back to the nearside as I felt I could fall in.

There are plenty of dead trees and debris which has been washed down the creeks to get pinned against or under.

After having had a pretty big crack to the head earlier today as well, I think discretion is the better part of valour and I decided it would better to come back and try again another day!

There have been lots of messages from people on the trail, via social media, about the creek crossing conditions. Only a couple of weeks before hand, these creeks had some snow bridges which trekkers used to get across. But now after the heat wave these have all gone. The long days and hot weather meant that snow melt higher up the valleys was massive and peak flows were occurring. Reports of people swimming across creeks didn’t inspire me so dropping out of the Sierras seemed like the best option for the moment.

Pacific Crisp Trail

The Southern California Section of the Pacific Crest Trail is beautiful. I guess my initial surprise was that the ‘desert’ could be so high and have so much life in it.

I though the desert area would be further into the trail, more near the Mojave and that it would be low lying.  This was certainly not the case.  The desert areas we walked through were never simply sand and no vegetation. Instead it was full of flora and because of the drought breaking rains and snow, the desert was stunning. Bursting with life and greenery. The Likes of which have probably not been seen for decades due to the Super Bloom.


It wasn’t just the cacti which were in bloom but the array of wild flowers was amazing. From tiny flowers the size of half a 5pence piece, to lovely poppies and yucca. It was breathtaking. We were, however, normally to tired (hot, sticky, ‘in the zone’) to fumble for our iDevices and take a photo.

Click here for amazing photos of the California Super Bloom 2017 – this will give you an idea of what we were walking through at times. 

What also surprised us was the amount of Burn area. Where wild fires had swept through the area. Many species of plants and trees of Southern California rely on fire to propagate and fires occur naturally but so much of the PCT seems to be a Burn area.

These sections are horrible! Horrible to look at and horrible to walk through. There is no shade and there are no tree or plant roots holding the earth on the land. This makes them very slippy.  Burn areas, where there is nothing left. Are heart breaking.

We started to wonder if there was a correlation between the burn area and the PCT. Was it no surprise that so much of the PCT was a Super Burn area? Were hikers responsible for these Super Burns rather than nature? If you looked at the PCT from space would it be a big black line of sooty burn? Should it be renamed the Pacific Crisp Trail?

In fact we have renamed the PCT quite a few times.

My particular favourite was Cory’s moment of dyslexia. The TCP 🙂 Do you remember the antiseptic liquid of your childhood, dabbed onto your cut knee?

We played with what TCP could stand for… Terribly Circuitous Path! Sounds incredibly British!

View the Super Bloom from Space – click on the link below.

https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/environment/video/2017/apr/26/wildflower-super-bloom-california-visible-from-space-video-report

Heading back to the trail- HE

Our couple of weeks R &R is now over. This was the chance for the snow to melt in the high sierra to clear the trail to make it much more accessible. Tomorrow I am heading back into the mountains.
After doing a great deal of research on Facebook and other Internet channels it appears that many of the PCT hikers that have already taken to the high sierra have had a really tough time.

Double annual snowpack depths, in some places record amounts of snow have meant that even now (almost into July) there is still lots of snow on the high passes and in many of the high valleys. It sounds like the mountain rescue teams have had their hands full dealing with slips, trips, falls and avalanches in the mountains this spring. It’s no surprise when you think that most of the people doing the PCT are hikers and not mountaineers. Lots of the photographs we have been seeing are definitely in the mountaineering category.

The weather forecast for the next 7 to 10 days is for a heat wave so the snow will continue to melt quickly and also the snowpack. This is great for clearing the trail and I’m certainly not worried about getting lost or plodding up and down some big snow slopes.

However what does sound pretty scary is the situation with the river crossings. There are now many accounts on Facebook and other Internet channels from people who have been trying to cross some of the mountain streams and rivers who have had very little experience at dealing with white or Swiftwater crossings. Again this is because most of the people on the trail or hikers and not true outdoorspeople or mountaineers. It appears that a couple of the rivers are totally impossible at the moment – Bear Creek and Evolution Creek. All I can really do is go and take a look at how bad it is.

From Kennedy Meadows I have two weeks to walk north through the Sierra and hopefully climb up Mount Whitney and continue crossing the mountain passes to eventually reach Mammoth Lakes. I’m not sure how much of this is really possible but there are a few alternative tracks to use to avoid using some of the bigger river crossings which I may have to take.

Wish me luck!

In the meantime Mandy will continue to blog from the town of Truckee and avoid getting freezing cold and wet crossing the rivers. We have kindly been offered space in a mountain cabin where she can hang out for a couple of weeks whilst I am crossing the high sierra. As we are splitting up for a couple of weeks Mandy has purchased a new phone, as I will be carry our main phone which is not an I phone!!!! Yes sit down everyone Mandy has bought a Galaxy she is now an android.

Driving in America – HE

After 3000 miles of driving in the US mainland and another thousand also in Baja California I think it is time to reflect on some of the differences between driving here and back home in the UK.One of the main things to get used to his driving an automatic vehicle. The lack of responsiveness of these vehicles makes decision-making whilst driving more challenging than with a manual gearbox.

Roundabouts and junctions

We have only seen half a dozen roundabouts in all of our travels in the US. Back home it’s great because everybody knows how to use them, whilst here in the US they are scary places with stop or yield signs and with other drivers who struggle to know when to give away or not.

Junctions here in the US have been quite challenging for me. When you have no traffic lights on the junctions or just stop lines who has priority? Which side is supposed to give way? I’m sure if you’ve been brought up with this system it’s easy to understand but there has been very little logic to who goes first, second and third.

Also when at a red light you are allowed to turn right as long as the junction is clear, which is so different from being back in the UK. It always seems strange sneaking through a red light when jaywalking is illegal.

Styles of driving are interesting. In the countryside and on small roads everyone is courteous and generally stays just within or just over the speed limits, however on the major interstates particularly around the city is this is not the case!

Driving round the 5 to 7 lane city motorways has proved to be quite scary. Road and lane markings have been incredibly indistinct.

Some people just sit in the outside lane chugging along at 65 miles an hour whilst other people pretend they think they’re in a video game and zip between lanes missing cars ahead or behind them by only a few feet it’s incredible. And they are doing this at around 85 to 90 mph.

It’s no surprise there are a large number of accidents.

Lorries (trucks) don’t seem to have speed limits either they were regularly clocking up 75 to 80 miles an hour and overtaking on the inside of cars.

Still haven’t had an accident yet. Which is a good thing.