PCT SOBO Southern 1/2, Part 22

Day 45

October 7, 2017

RV Camp – Sweet Desert Camp

27 miles/10hrs


We’re up around 6am and proceed to speak very, very loud. Ina nor I are morning people but hell when your camping neighbours keep you up into the wee hours of night/morning with music/talking/being what else can you do but try to wake them up in the morning while you get your shit together to walk. Makes me think back to the Appalachian Trail in 2015 when my hiking buddies Yoyo, Tweet and I had the weirdest night ever with comings and goings and doggies barking all night long. We woke our early usual hour and before leaving, YoYo barked at the dog outside the tent. Loudly. It was so fucking funny. Take that, loud people and barking dogs. I’m sure none of these peeps are bad but come on folks…show a little respect to the rest of the humans out there for a camping/sleeping experience.


Ina was up most of the night not so much due to the noise as much as worry. Sophie the Wonder Doggie was really struggling on the trail and she came to the conclusion sometime in the night that (a) she needs to accept her Super Dog can’t do the big long day after day hikes anymore and (b) their hike is over. I’m grateful to have enjoyed two and a half days on trail with these two. Gonna miss my buddy Ina.


Walking into the rising sun I have trail magic on my mind. Not that I am short of food but I know, yes, I know for certain in ten miles there is food, drinks, water, trash bags…all from my Trail Angel friends JD and Cherokee. They have left a car and have Ina driving them to 16 trail miles south, which they will NOBO back to the car they left. Impressive considering they both work ad ton and hike for fun when they can, knocking out these little sections of the PCT adding up to over 700 miles thus far. I love these two. Ina will go back to the RV camp, hang with Sophie then get dropped off in Wrightwood that night when they are heading home.


I get to carry less water and look forward to mid-morning drinks at the trail magic tree. Yippee. I cruise along feeling light and free and so happy to roam into the Deep Creek Canyon where the hot springs are. Unfortunately, when I do enter the canyon, I begin to see more graffiti than I’ve seen anywhere on this trail. It has been trashed by people doing gawd knows what. Spray paint on rocks, garbage, glass…it is everywhere. This beautiful sacred space of nature that has been abused and scarred by dumb ass partiers. A shame. A crying shame. That the internet allows for these places to be exposed, over-discovered and subsequently abused breaks my backpacking heart. I pass the hot springs and see toilet paper everywhere, more trash, loud music, naked bums. I take no issue with the latter but the rest of it is depressing.


Soon I see Cherokee and JD burning up in the shade. They are worked over and only halfway into the walk and yet they are smiling and enjoying the toil. They are true lovers of the trail and I silently hope this hot breezeless canyon goes easy on them. I imagine them going back into normal work on monday, listening to co-workers talk about their shopping adventures on the weekend, them thinking ‘if you only knew what we did’ likely not sharing because who understands the act of exhaustion and suffering hiking brings, be it for a day, a week, a month or much longer. Hiking is hard. Period. And I am glad they have a personal trail angel today with Ina. She is the best.


I reach another parking area with a cabin of sorts that is some kind of tourist attraction I don’t even go see. Ina has left me water in a crevice in the rocks. It’s obvious to me because Cherokee and JD show me a pic of where the 3 litres of water is. I am free again and can camp where I want because I have water. Better yet I have water I don’t need to filter. Life is grande. I am so rich I feel greedy.


32 mile to Big Bear. But not tonight.


I meet Atlas sitting on a large rock beside the trail soon after. He is hopping all over the trail. NOBO, SOBO, NOBO again, section here, section there. He is hiking his own hike. We chat about things on the trail, things in life. I notice his backpack is duck taped together. We’re a similar age and he questions the sanity of working and slaving away your life. He is recently retired and I suspect thinks I will criticize this decision and these reflections. I offers encouragement and tell him I, too, quit working last year. How I enjoy the freedom of adventure and don’t midst the grind or the ability to fit myself nicely into a slot when someone asks ‘so what do you do for work’. How happy I am to say ‘I do nothing’ with a straight face. Atlas in ways seems a bit down and out but really, I think he’s just tired, and perhaps a little lonely. I try to pump him up and am then on my own way.


It’s so damn beautiful. I am in cougar country for sure with all the massive blonde boulders, the brush, the sand. Hills roll into the distance with the late day sun casting shades of mellow chill all around. The more distant mountains glow pink with the last gasp of sunlight. I find a fantastic flat area, take my water bottle shower, make some hot dinner, drink some fluids and lie down in my little tiny home tarp tent, content with life, grateful for it all.





Day 46

October 8, 2017

Quiet Desert Camp – Camp near Big Bear

24.4 miles/9hrs 20′


“Do you want anything to eat?” is the welcome I receive into the Sisterhood Circle in the middle of the forest mid-morning. Really, I am looking for water, unsure of where the trough is, and stumble onto the scene of great energy gals sitting, laughing, eating. Hell, yes, I will eat anything you throw my way, and will even do tricks for you, is what I think. What I say is more like ‘yes, please, only if you have anything extra…’. I love these women. They are out for a girls camp and enjoy the space they have. They are decolonizing the typical Outside Magazine image of the outdoors (white, heterosexual, middle class or above). They are funny and smart and beautiful. They let me into their little wilderness experience. They tell me they were just saying how they wanted to meet some hiker trash to give trail magic right before I walked up. They make me blueberry banana pancakes with butter (real butter), water, fruit. They chat me up about the trail and make me feel special that I am on it, and hiking in a dress, to boot. They send me on my way loaded with water I don’t have the filter, an avocado and an orange. More than anything I am so utterly stoked to talk and connect with other women outdoors. The best way to come together: in nature. Did I mention I love these women?


The early start gives me an early finish. There are cougar tracks everywhere. Big cats. Roaming their territory. And so they should. I could hike all the way to the highway and hitch into Big Bear, all before dark, but why pass up a grove of piñion-juniper forest and the silence save for the breeze blowing for a loud town and stuffy hotel? Ina plans to meet me on the trail in the morning and hang out in Big Bear. She wants to help me out with her now experienced trail angel capacity haha. The only comment on Guthook’s app for the spot I camp is ‘quiet’. Which is synonymous with ‘perfect’ in my books.







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Hike + Bike Festival, Leitrim, 2018.

June 22 – June 24, 2018

We are at the early and giddy stages of planning a festival of cycling and hiking the wilds of Leitrim in the North West of Ireland.

Dates have been confirmed and venues booked. We’re planning some amazing routes and campout locations. A request for fine weather is pending…

The aim of the hike + bike festival is to celebrate Leitrim for its wonderful walking and cycling routes, to bring people together to learn about the future of hiking and cycling in the area, to build a community that can be involved in developing the area and to have some fun.
Its lining up to be a great weekend. There will be bikes, food, music, workshops, talks, hills, lakes, foraging, boreens, campout, bunting, maps, art, saddle-sores, tan-lines… aaaannnndddd ice-cream!

Keep an eye here for further details.

Below are a few tracks and roads to whet your appetite!

Stay tuned!


C&C_LeitrimHike & Bike Festival Leitrim 2018.Hike & Bike Festival Leitrim 2018.

Hike & Bike Festival Leitrim 2018.Hike & Bike Festival Leitrim 2018.Hike & Bike Festival Leitrim 2018.

Hike & Bike Festival Leitrim 2018.

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Pacific Crest Trail SOBO Southern 1/2, Part 21

October 5, 2017

Day 43

Wrightwood – Dry Creekbed Camp

25.7 miles/8hrs 45′


The sister of Ina’s friend offers to drive us back to the trailhead.  Another wonderful Wrighwood local, born and raised. Mary picks us up just after 6am. We drive into the massive full moon up the two lane highway. Twenty minutes later we are walking South on the PCT. I can hardly believe me friend Ina is here and we are doing this walk together for the next day/week/who knows how long. After all the years of bike racing shared, that we walk so slow with all our gear and no team around us is not lost on us. We both feel happy and lucky to have this opportunity. It’s still a relief after so many years in a sports system to be able to wander about, self-contained, on our own time. As it should be.


Damn, hiking is fun. It’s exhausting but still, so much fun.


We walk up and up on trails blanketed by pine needles. Up and over mom + pop ski hills. I lead the way because Ina is smart enough to know what we both know, we need to pace ourselves or the fun will be gone. Fast. So I walk the consistent pace I’ve built up to over the past 42 days. It’s easy for Ina and I am not surprised. We walk and talk about the things that have happened in our lives the past few years since we’ve seen each other. Sophie the doggie sprints back and forth with Ina warning her she’s gonna be tired. Real tired. But she’s a dog and does what all dogs do when off leash. They roam and run and bark and play. Us, we walk.



We enter a massive burn and smell the skunk-weed smell of poodle dog brush. I laugh when telling Ina how it made me gasp and cower a few days earlier with no light in the morning dark on the trail. The burn is one that came close to reaching the town of Wrightwood, apparently started by the spark from a chain hanging off a rail cart on the track while speeding along. The day heats up nicely making us relieved we started early. It’s a perfect first day for Ina and Sophie. I leave it to them to decide when we’ve walked enough.


The water bottles Ina drove out to cache the night before are tucked into the bush nicely. Soon after we find a massive water cache and laugh because we did not need what she brought out. Still, it’s good not the deplete a cache when you don’t have to, this just means more water for other hikers. Thank you Wrightwood Trail Angels for keeping this cache stocked.



Princess Sophie at camp


We camp less than two miles from a major freeway and a train track rambling loud with carts every twenty minutes.  Thankfully we are just sheltered enough not to hear too much noise. Out come the earplugs which make the difference, as they always do. All I can think about is McDonalds less than 3 miles away for breakfast. We are surrounded by sandstone hills hard packed by the howling winds, full of little caves and tunnels for animals, century plants and, yes, poodle dog brush. Bright red-crimson coloured wildflowers wait for a visit from the many hummingbirds we see buzzing around. We camp in a dry creek bed and feel like it’s just us here on earth, even though the fast-flowing corridors of car and train movement are so close by.




Day 44

October 6, 2017

Arroyo Camp – Hwy 173 – RV Camp with Cherokee + JD

20 miles/7.5hrs


Music blares from the camp next to us at the RV park. The occupants have more ‘camping gear’ than I’ve ever seen and keep bring out another box of something to assemble. They are having a good time. Harmless. Loud. Annoying because of the noise. Yet I feel happy they are ‘out here’ roughing it in the wild. It’s all relative. Though I am happy to be with Cherokee and JD, my Tehachapi Trail Angel friends, I do miss the silence of camping out in most of the places I’ve laid my hear each night of this not 44 day walk. The lake we are camped next to is an unusual bit of nature dubbed the ‘inland oasis’. Seems all of San Bernadino has come out to have their dose of the Great Outdoors, showers, flush toilets and that kind of roughing it All.


We are so happy to be here because poor Sophie had enough. She’s an 11 year old doggie who’s had knee surgery and her leg just gave out. Right when we got close to the place to get water with a spigot that happened to have good cell reception. Which was when I received a text from Cherokee that they were close by and planning on hiking a section the following day. They typically do a drop one car off, hike a long ways to the car from where they start (and leave another car), then pick of said left car at the end of an exhausting hike. They have knocked out a third of the PCT by doing this. Oh, and they ALWAYS leave awesome trail magic somewhere as well for hiker trash passing through. We are invited to camp with them. Soon enough, they are picking us up at a road, taking us back to their camp, and there we are listening to that music trying to fall asleep after beers and sausage and friendship shared with these two.


Long before this noise our day begins with the trek to Mc’D’s. Food. Coffee. People. We are inundated with questions about the trail, how far we’ve gone, what direction we walk, where we are from etc. etc. from so many folks waiting in line to order their egg McMuffins we feel like we just won a big bike race and fans are gathered around. Only we are dirty smelly hikers and they treat us so kind. I don’t know if Ina can quite believe the attention. Sophie is cool as a cucumber about it all, accepting free bacon when it comes her way.


I meet ‘Hamburger Helper’ while waiting in line to order my second breakfast. He’s a trail angel from the Eagle’s Rock area. He has helped hundreds of hikers and used to hike with a pack full of McD hamburgers, passing them out on the trail. Thus, the name. He has kind eyes and listens to my answers as to the above mentioned questions. He is on vacation with his wife, on their way to Oregon. I go to pay for my order when it’s made and the cashier says the man before me has left $10 to help me out. It’s too much. I cannot believe someone who helps so many gives even more. I see him waiting for his grub and thank him as best I can. Which never feels like enough. Wow.


We finally decide we better leave McD’s before we begin the lunch cycle of chow. Which would have been very easy to do. I have to say I think McD’s is gross but on the trail man I could eat my weight in its menu items. We wind our way up a climb, full bellies, burping along, in a state of disbelief that so many people know about the PCT and the variety of folks we got to meet simply because we are hiking.


We leave the roar of the i-15 and walk along a narrow canyon, still moist from a heavy winter of posture. The silence is serene and we feel lucky to leave the hustle and bustle and abundance of fast food behind. The sun warms then heats up the sand below. Poor Sophie has the sprit to triple crown the trails in the USA but her legs start giving out. It’s too much for this doggie and Ina has to, in one of the saddest statements, admit she has to admit her doggie who’s done so many adventures with her just can’t go so long and hard anymore. It happens to us all, dogs and humans, and at least she’s had some epic ones in her short doggie life.


We go down to the lake so that Sophie can cool off in the water. We get the text and connect with our friends. We spend the noisy night and wake up early, me getting dropped off at the place we left the trail the night before; Ina staying with JD and Cherokee to drive them south to their starting point, then drive their car back to the campground while they hike to the car they leave, twenty or so miles north of where they begin. My hike with Ina and Sophie was only two and a half days but what a wonderful time shared. If we only had a day I’d be as grateful.



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Pacific Crest Trail SOBO Southern 1/2, Part 20

Day 41

October 3, 2017

Exposed Ridge Camp – Manzanita Bush Camp just North of Mt.Williamson

10.5hrs/?miles (many miles!)


What a night. What a f**king night. The first time I wake is from the flap-flap-flaping of the tent vestibule that’s come un-staked. I hear this through my very efficient ear plugs. Which is precisely when I realize I am socked in with mist. It feels like I’m camped on the Labrador Coast. I can barely see the hand in front of my face. The wind rages. The mist blows. I am on an exposed ridge. This is not ideal.


It’s 10:45pm.


One thing is certain, this is going to be a long, long night.


I do a quick fix, tying the vestibule off with some cord onto a low and hearty high desert brush. Back to sleep with the earplugs so tight in my ears I’ wondering if I will be able to retrieve them in the morning.


I’m up again at 3:25am. I don’t hear this time, I feel. What do I feel? The tent, half collapsed on me. Who knows how long it’s been this way. I guess the earplugs worked. I guess I might as well get up. There is no hope staking this little tent down with the raging wind having picked up more force as the hours passed. I stay in the tent with it’s damp, moisture laden rain fly drying itself off through the mosquito netting, onto and into my sleeping bag. I am calm through the whole process and take my time. I leave the earplugs in and there is a strange sensation of being underwater as I get out of the tent, collapse the lone remaining side, roll it up before it blows away, pack my bag with the stuff sacks full of everything that is soaking wet from the mist coming from gawd knows where. Before I’m finished packing the sky miraculously clears. Stars twinkle above as if to say good morning, wind rages over my entire being and what feels like the whole earth, the momentum of its force to strong.


I walk.


I take all but five steps and am in darkness save for those twinkling stars who now seem to giggle down at me. The little headlamp that saw me through over half of the Appalachian Trail and 40 days of this southern PCT walk has crapped out. The same one I dropped in the creek before Pinchot Pass when I fell in that early morning, that shone up at me and said ‘hey I’m down here, let me light the way for you’. No. No no no no no….


I change the batteries to brand new ones I always carry. Nothing. I fiddle, tap, shake it some more. I flip the batteries around. I get out my cell phone and use its light to make sure it all makes sense, those batteries, this headlamp. The worst of my concern is not the darkness nor walking in it. It is that the next miles are through some major poodle dog brush, everything I have is soaked from that mist, it is cold and early and there is NO WAY I AM STAYING HERE ANY LONGER in this situation.


There is two more hours to the light of day. What to do? I use my phone as a light. I don’t realize the phone has a flashlight option so all I use is the light of the screen that keeps going out every few minutes. I have gloves on because it’s so cold so have to take them off every time this happens. I don’t carry a spare battery nor a re-charge devise so what this phone has by way of charge since leaving Casa de Luna is all I have. Damn.


I walk with my down jacket+wind jacket+gloves+toque+knee-high-woolen socks+Buff up to my nose. I walk and shriek when I see the dreaded PDB clusters on the trail. I shriek when I see something in the dim light of my phone that sorta-not-really looks like the PDB and have to laugh. I reach the busy highway with all the cars transporting people to work and bolt across when it is barely safe but not going to get any safer to do so. I think about stopping at the Ranger Station to get water from a spigot that is apparently there. I miss the place to enter what seems like a compound but really isn’t it’s just so damn dark and misty again. I walk right by and don’t realize it until over a half mile later. Oh well. Keep walking. I have enough water for coffee/butter/hot chocolate and man am I hungry after rage-shiver-cold-speed-walking the past few hours. Finally, I stop on the trail and have a little boil up as light comes to day.


Soon after this long, long day of walking in which I see only 2 day hikers and two section hikers drags on and on and on. I stop after 6 hours to dry out my tent, my sleeping bag, my stuff in the hot warm sun. I sit and chill then pack up and walk many more miles. More mist and fog and cold enters the afternoon. I’m grateful for the morning reprieve that allowed my gear to dry. I walk the road where there is an endangered species closure of the PCT. The alternate route does not make sense. I feel like I’m in the twighlight zone with little to no traffic and the incessant wind and fog. Yet there is no rain and I’m grateful for this, too.


I stop and make camp with ample light. There’s no way I’m going to set myself up for making camp in the dark with no headlamp and little battery left in the phone.


Like magic, as the sun is setting the sky clears and I see all around the glorious space I call home for the night. Mountains and lighting and Manzanita all around leaves me happy and loved and safe and secure in this natural world.


Tired. Happy. Grateful.



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Pacific Crest Trail SOBO Southern 1/2, Part 19

Day 39

October 1, 2017

Casa de Luna – KOA Campground, Acton

34-35 miles/10hrs 50′


7:30am start is pretty stellar considering I awake at Casa de Luna, have a a nice omelette, toast and ample coffee ℅ Joe, and am now back at the trailhead I left one and a half days ago. Which is funny because it seems like a month ago. Which is just how it goes on the trail. I swear time speeds up when you want it to drag on; slows to a molasses drip when you need it to fly by. I sleep in the spare room of Casa de Luna, at Terry’s invitation, with the window wide open so I feel like I’m outside. It’s a luxury not to set up the tent, then break it down and pack my stuff as I do almost every other day on the trail.


I begin to walk and realize I have so much energy from that little bit of zero walking the day prior. I hammer along at a steady fast-for-me pace and reach Cache 13 in 3hrs 45′. I fill up with some water then hammer on to Agua Dulce. I am there so fast I don’t know what to do with myself. What I am certain of is food. I am hungry and finally stop, 24 miles into the day of walking, to eat something more than the few bars I’ve consumed. The grocery store on the road that is now the trail through town is perfect. Tables and chairs and shade out front piled with 1.5 litre sparkling water ice cold with fresh lime squeezed in, 2 avocados, a massive bag of chips, a cucumber, a can of double shot espresso and cream, 1 banana, 1 apple, 1 strawberry-pineapple popsicle and my massive appetite. I eat and drink it all then head back out into the hot sun to knock out the next 10 miles to the campground where my resupply box has been sent. 34 or 35 miles in 10 hrs and 45 minutes. Nice.


Cache 13


I reach the campground with kitch-y teepees out on the front lawn in the dark. I’m looking around for the entrance because I’ve entered the property from the far side. It seems to take forever and feels oddly abandoned. Then I see some people walking to the showers or getting into the odd RV and know it’s open but just quiet and slow. Finally I find the kiosk at the proper entrance and a friendly man inside. He gives me a hiker rate and even tries to find my resupply box in the closed convenience store. It must be in the back office, which is locked, he says. ‘Would you like to purchase any food?’ I say no, I have so much food I’m carrying and my resupply, I need to dig into what I have. He says I am the least hungry hiker he’s ever met and proceeds to tell me funny stories of mainly NOBO’s coming in desperate for pizza, beer, ice cream. I tell him if only he know what I had already eaten that day.


After a long, hot, all I can shower kind of shower (as opposed to the coin operated showers that are so often not very hot at campgrounds), I make some food, write, set up camp then lie down to sleep. Before I get in the tent I notice this weird sound. I assume it’s the RV sewage pump I heard before when I saw an RV drive in. The nice security man from the kiosk comes by and asks if I heard the lions yet. Lions? Yes, lions. I tell him I heard the sewage pump and he laughs ‘that’s no sewage that’s the old lion’ at the animal rescue place next to the campground. We have a good laugh. He says I must be more tired than I look.


By 11pm I am sound asleep, knowing I will sleep in past my normal 3:30-ish rising because the office doesn’t open until 9am and I need my resupply.





Day 40

October 2, 2017

Acton KOA Campground – Exposed Ridge Mist-Filled Camp

23.1 miles/9hrs


I’m lathering up in 50 SPF sunscreen when Maria, an employee of the KOA Campground, comes by and asks if I’m hiking the trail. She shivers in her long-sleeved shirt, ‘aren’t you cold out there? It’s so cold now…’. I tell her I’m from Canada and it feels like summer. ‘And you’re all alone?’ she asks ‘Aren’t you afraid out there, all alone?’.  Many people cannot fathom being alone yet alone hiking and camping alone. I tell Maria I love it and that it’s more than safe. She shivers again and leaves while saying ‘watch out for those snakes out there.’




The store opens early so I get my box, pack my food and head out just after 9am. Up and up and up some more I walk into the exposed and soon-to-be scorching hot ascent to the National Forest station up in the previously burned hills. Todd, the ranger who has lived there for 20 years, supplies clean, filtered water for the hikers. I get to meet Todd and say thanks for the trail magic. ‘Oh, it’s no big deal, take all you need. Next water is 17.5 miles from here, so camel up.’. What a great guy. There are trash cans and shade and water. I take a little break and look around. There is a campground hikers can use if they want. Todd tells me 5 SOBO’s passed through only yesterday ‘four guys and a girl. They were moving fast and far.’ I know instantly it’s my friends, flying along their way.


The little oasis of not burnt forest is surrounded my torched acre after acre. I walk through so much burn area for the rest of the day it feels like it will never end. The charred landscape mixed with toxic poodle dog brush (PDB) leaves me on edge. Every time I see a bush of PDB I yell out ‘POODLE’ or ‘POODLE PACK’ if it’s a crop of the skunk-smelling weed. Just to keep myself awake, that is. Thankfully I didn’t cross paths with anyone while yelling about the poodle.


It’s not a long day of walking but I’m dragging. Not the most inspiring places to walk through when it’s so devastated. That and the heat. Man is it hot. I do know, however, I need to slow it down a notch. I am not yet fit enough to walk as fast as I am these past few days. Time to let go of this delusional idea of catching the pack of SOBO’s I liked so much. Funny thing is I don’t want to catch them, yet am walking like I want to. Calm down, RedFeather, calm down.


I’m close to where I think I’ll camp (the spot on Guthook’s app that has one ominous comment: I would not advise camping in this spot…), and see a tent pitched right in a pull-off from the dirt road I cross. A familiar head pops out and I see it’s Irish Canuck. Or Irish Knuckles as Per Bear thought his name was. He’s eating his food in his little tent and is happy as can be. He tells me his happenings since we parted ways just north of the Casa de Luna junction and soon I tell him I need to get going, I’m losing light and need to find and set a camp. It’s great to see so many people out having their own experiences. Each person has such a different adventure. As the trail should be.


I end up camping about .1 of a mile south of his roadside perch. The ridge is beautiful with panoramic views of a night sky lighting up and a sun setting. Oddly enough, I notice moisture on my stuff sacks soon after they are out of the backpack. Did I spill something, I wonder? Nope. That is moisture in the air. Which is so weird because it’s so very parched and dry where I am. Little do I know I am in the exact area that Peter warned me about with raging winds blowing in moisture laden air in the middle of the desert mountains. Yup, that’s where I am, I will soon discover.


I get my things under the shelter of my not very well set up tent, rocks piled on top of tent stakes, hoping the thing will stay pitched, hoping the wind doesn’t blow any more than it already is. And it does. I dig out my earplugs so I can get some sleep and soon wake up to a little personal disaster….



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Brewing Coffee in the Wild.

The whole idea behind hiking, cycle touring or bikepacking is moving through the country side at a slow pace, taking time to absorb your surroundings and acknowledging the beauty of it all.

To help you acknowledge this beauty it’s a well known ‘fact’ you become more observant of your surroundings after a cup of good coffee! Vibrant colours pop, your senses are heightened and the tweeting birds are singing to you alone! So just because you’re not sipping a skinny avolatte served to you by a bored tattooed barista doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good brew outdoors.  In fact I’d argue the infusion of earthy outdoor smells improves the  taste of coffee and your more likely to remember sitting on a moss covered rock perched on a hill than a hard seat in an air conditioned cafe!

As a cycle tourer I’m constantly assessing the need and weight of what I carry, the same applies while backpacking.  Carrying a moka pot or french press just isn’t that practical when travelling minimally. One can argue for the tasteless caffeine pills disguised as instant coffee sachets, but lets not…So with that in mind I have chosen the items/methods below.

I used Carrow Coffee, a roasters based in Sligo, Ireland.

For a foraged wild coffee brew check out here:

Coffee_C&C_Carrow_Steaming_Pot_coffee C&C_pot_steaming2

Montbell O.D Coffee Dripper

The Montbell dripper is made of  an extrafine polyester mesh.  It holds it’s shape by using a flexible alloy wire frame and weights less that 10 grams. It’s stored in a durable mesh pocket.  Two little twigs are inserted into the side sleeves and placed over the cup.  Scoop the amount of coffee grinds you want into the filter and pour  a sup of hot water over to steam the grounds and allow to drip into the cup.  Wait about 30 seconds and slowly start pouring more hot water into the filter until you reached your desired amount.

coffee C&C_montbell_cupcoffee C&C_montbell_teapot1coffee C&C_montbell_grindscoffee C&C_montbell_pour

Soto Helix Coffee Maker

The Soto Coffee Maker is made from flexible stainless steel and weighs about 45 grams.   Using it’s prong base it is placed over a cup with a #2 filter paper placed inside the coiled cone, allowing the coffee to drip. It’s stored by collapsing it’s cone shape and clipping the prongs under the widest coils and placed into in a mesh pouch.

coffee C&C_soto_cupcoffee C&C_soto_grindscoffee C&C_soto_grinds_abovecoffee C&C_soto_grinds_bubblescoffee C&C_carrow1


The AeroPress might be a little cumbersome for lightweight hiking/cycle touring and have too many components for my lightweight needs but it makes a pretty good coffee. It comprises of a circular tube, plunger, 350 micro filter papers and filter cap.  If you lose any of these however you’re left with a useless tube of plastic.

Insert the filter paper into the main chamber and place over a cup, add your desired amount of coffee, pour hot water over the coffee, stir for a few seconds, insert the plunger and press downwards for 30 – 40 seconds.

coffee C&C_aeropresscoffee C&C_aeropress longCoffee C&C aeropress press

Paper & String…desperation!

Not as daft as it sounds or looks! Place the coffee grounds into a paper filter ( or muslin/jam strainer would work -the mesh fibres are wider, so double up), wrap and twist the paper and tie with a string or dental floss.  Bring a pot of water to a boil, let it stand for about 20-30 seconds and slowly pour into  the cup with the wrapped up coffee.  Let it brew for a minute or two.  Once you’re happy with the strength of your brew take the wrapped coffee grinds out of your cup and drink!

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My personal favourite is the Montbell Dripper.  The simplicity, weight and size is ideal for travelling light and the coffee it brews is pretty good.  The fact that you don’t need any filter papers and is easily cleaned is a plus.

If you have any suggestions for brewing coffee in the wild I’d love to hear them!

Coffee C&C 4items

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Pacific Crest Trail SOBO Southern 1/2, Part 18

Day 37

September 29, 2017

Horsecamp – Casa de Luna

33.5 miles/11hrs (including the 2 miles EXTRA I did (yes, I did…) when I walked the WRONG WAY at the road junction to Casa de Luna…and then back to the trail to go the RIGHT WAY…)


We all creep out of our little dens or cowboy camping patches of earth early. Very early. The stirring begins at 3:30am (me). One by one, we rise up, pack up, head out. Except Carefree. She is…Carefree after all, and on her own time. Good for her. Headlamps bob up and down along the trail. I have no idea who these people are by the way they move because I haven’t walked hundreds (or thousands) of miles with them. When they speak and get closer (when they pass me) I can tell who it is. It’s a beautiful thing knowing someone other than your partner/spouse in the intimate way of subtle movement. I don’t have this on the trail but can see the others do.


We dip in and out of sight from each other. Pass and re-pass each other. We all search for water and share intel from tanks (or ‘guzzlers’ as they are sometimes referred to as. I love this word.). Per Bear and I were shut out of the peeing-water spring in the morning dark. There was nothing coming out of those holes. In my head, and out loud, I mentioned it’s probably because the cabin the pipe is going to shut off their water pup for the night, leaving no pressure for water to flow or wait to be flowed. It wouldn’t be until the next day I say this out loud at Casa de Luna, when Papa Joe looks at me and says straight faced ‘and who in the hell do you think has a cabin up in the middle of fucking nowhere Angeles National Forest, RedFeather?’ Uh, oh, ya. Duh. I have to laugh when I hear this because my city brain makes so much sense out of this situation with city logic.


But back to the no-water-in-the-morning-spring. Lesson learned. When you are at camp and CAN get water, get AS MUCH as you can (from a flowing source, that is. Caches, if they are there, are a different story).


Light comes to day as I walk the manzanita-lined trail and see a 500ml bottle of water in the bushes to the right. I poke my head in and find a sealed bottle, label faded by the sun. Bingo. What a score. A hiker must have dropped it some time ago because where I find it does not make sense for someone leaving this little gift for someone else. I am free to walk without water worries a little longer now. Sweet.


We pass another hiker named Irish Canuck. I’ve been reading his entries in the registers. I wonder if he’s Canadian or what the story is with the trail name. He is definitely not Canadian. He’s an Irish American New Englander who’s mom’s family was French Canadian. Thus, the name he gave himself. He’s been walking since I believe Ashland, Oregon, and seems shocked to be passed ‘I haven’t seen many hikers and definitely have not been passed by any. Then today all you folks come running my me like I’m standing still’. I tell him I’m not with this crew, I’m just tagging along for the day, but yes they are fast. What I’m doing is basically pretending I have that easy speed you get from walking so damn far. I am not slow but nor am I fast. Today, for awhile, I pretend I’m fast by keeping up with the guys and girl for a little bit. Then I say my quiet ‘uncle’ by stopping for a break for some food. I know if I try to walk with them even for this day I will be destroyed. But it is so much fun. But I know….


So I take that break then walk some more and am treated to a little soft bird lifting off from a low branch on a tree. Before it takes silent flight, I get to look right in its eyes: the Burrowing Owl. What a beauty. This brings a spring into my step that leads me to the seep we all hope has water. I round a turn and see all the awesome Hiker Trash I get to now call friends huddled in the shade, smiling and drinking sweet water that drips its way out of the moss covered rock on the side of the trail. The seep is crowded with ferns, crisp and cool sweet earth juice drip drip dripping into the bottles lined below. Sweet trail magic from the Mother of all Trail Angels: Mamma Nature, herself.


Everyone leaves except me and Irish Canuck who arrive last. Soon I pack my bottles and head south with the welcome load of liquid. Still not sure what I will do. Go to Casa de Luna, keep walking, camp after the road junction? I have no idea. I will know when I know. Go with the flow.


Irish Canuck walks with me and tells me stories about his life, his walk, himself. He’s pretty funny. Soon we begin to climb and I, by the osmosis of walking with the SOBO thru hikers and going faster than my current state of ability, begin to motor. I get into a tempo rhythm that reminds me of many a bike interval I did up mountains training for road cycling endurance racing events. I just start to hammer but am well within my limits. I now know I will be going to Casa de Luna. I also know I will most likely be taking a nero or zero the next day. With this decision, I hammer some more.


I reach the road junction with cars and trucks blowing by, ripping around turns, driving so fast I wonder how safe it is to walk this road. I walk a whole long way – about a mile – and realize I have gone the wrong fucking way. No. Yes, I have. I turn around and walk the mile back to the trail crossing of said highway, then continue along the correct way to Casa de Luna. I am so pissed at myself I don’t even try to hitch. I reach the convenience store and see two hikers getting out of a mini van. They are wearing hawaiian shirts and I wonder are these my new friends? One looks so clean I hardly recognize him. It’s Ohm Boy and Leafy. They smile and say ‘hey RedFeather, you decided to come after all’. I meet Papa Joe, the Patriarch of Casa de Luna, and he says ‘throw your bag in, get some grub, let’s go drink some beers.’ I tell them with a laugh I walked the wrong way and laugh some more at myself because here I am so happy now after this long day and it’s not even four o’clock in the afternoon.


Food. Beer. A hug from Terry that warms me through each cell of my body. Chips. Water. Oranges. More food. More beer. Finally, camping in the backyard at Casa de Luna, a hiker refuge along the Pacific Crest Trail that is first and foremost the home of Terry and Joe Anderson, two wonderful, real and tough as nails humans with the warmth of the morning sunshine pulsing through their veins. I feel lucky to be here within such goodness. Happy. Tired. So very alive.





Day 38

September 30, 2017

Casa de Luna



I am immersed in the vortex of Casa de Luna. Happily sucked into this place. This morning Terry Anderson piloted four of us to the trailhead: me, Ohm Boy, Kirby and Per Bear. The latter two had already begun to drink into the ’24 Challenge’ and thus were committed to walk. The 24 Challenge, you ask? Doesn’t everybody know what this is?? Ok I admit I didn’t so will explain: 24 miles walked drinking 24 beers in 24 hours. How Kirby that small woman who kicks walking ass did this I have no idea. But she is determined and I know she’ll make it. We sit in the car with Terry, wonderful warm and welcoming Terry, saying ‘you know, we’re BBQ-ing today…it’s a good time to zero…no need to leave…You know…you can stay as long as you want….’ and so on and so forth. To which I begin to wonder, why the heck am I leaving? I’m not on a plan, a schedule, I have no limit as to how long I can walk. It’s another realization that the walking is just part of the hiking experience. It’s times like these and people like Terry and Joe and their Casa de Luna experience that make up for the substance of the hike.


I have enrolled for a day at the ‘Hippie Daycare’.


The wonderful Terry (back middle) and Joe (front waving) Anderson of Casa de Luna (beside me is Righteous, Terry, Ohm Boy, Kirby, Per Bear; beside Joe is Leafy. And yes, we all wear the requisite hawaiian shirts)


Kirby, Per Bear and the ’24 Challenge’. Yes, we did send them into the wilds alone.



‘I’m staying.’


To which Ohm Boy says, ‘ya, me too.’


As simple as that. We leave Kirby and Per Bear loaded with beer and smiles and get back in the car with a beaming Terry. She just loves sucking people into the CDL vortex. From her heart she really wanted us to stay. Fun.


We pull into the convenience store and see Righteous and Leafy getting out of Joe’s mini-van. ‘You guys staying?’.




And so a zero (for me) and not even a nero (for Leafy, Righteous and Ohm Boy) begins. Those guys get antsy at about 11am and have to get back on the trail. I’d be the same way if I was walking like them. They’re on a roll and a morning-mid afternoon off is plenty for their massive capacity. By 4pm Joe shuttles them to the trailhead. I discover the next day by the entries that (a) Kirby and Per Bear succeed in the 24 and (b) the other 3 guys hike well into the night and catch up to their two drunk friends, walking 24 miles to Agua Dulce.


I say goodbye to these wonderful young people I’m grateful to have walked some miles with. Even if I wanted to tag along with them (which I could not…there is a BIG difference having walked as far as they have compared to my yet-to-be even 1000 miles of walking…you earn the rhythm and capacity of endurance they have by walking. Far. I would be soon destroyed if I tried to keep up), I know how special a hiking family is. I know you can’t force your way in. In some ways, I know I’m on a different kind of walk. So are they. But damn, am I gonna miss this SOBO hiker trash. Can’t believe I only met them two days prior.


For my part, I hang out, drink a few beers, eat some BBQ, paint a rock, hang out some more, eat some more, meet an awesome lady named ‘Super Classy’ and her boyfriend Mike who is a mystery but from what I gather is retired marine, purple heart, MMA fighter and much much more. They are beyond cool on Mike’s motorbike. Joe has been around thousands of hikers and doesn’t walk with just anyone. Super Classy is Papa Joe’s hiking partner, and has hiked the PCT and more but takes time from hiking now to fight for public land in this strange and frightening time of American politics. She’s a legend as Joe puts it because she and her friends hitch-hiked into Casa de Luna with a bottle of tequila for Cinqo de Mayo, then finished their NOBO thru hike, came back the next year on halloween to walk that 24 mile stretch from Casa de Luna – Agua Dulce in halloween costumes with candy. Something like that. Anyway, I am nowhere near as cool as any and all of these people (Terry, Joe, Super Classy, Mike…) so just hang out and listen. It’s an entertaining day that trickles along in doses of experience. A perfect zero.


My painted rock. Art therapy for the zero.



Oh, and just to mention, anyone who stays at Casa de Luna, the donation should be honoured. Per day. It’s an incredible thing these folks are doing. Do the right thing.





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Pacific Crest Trail SOBO Southern 1/2, Part 17

Day 35

September 27, 2017

Highway 58 – Tylerhorse Canyon Creek

24.8 miles/9 hrs 20′


Wasn’t going to walk this morning but, heck, it’s my Birthday, so let’s go. There’s no way I’m spending this day in a hotel room. Happy to walk. Exposed, hot, dry and lonely, endless windmills and lots of climbing with many miles of washed out trail. Happy Birthday. There is no other place than I’d be.


I cruise along, no pressure to go fast or far. Take it all in with a smile because today is my day, number 45, and nothing makes me feel more gifted, free and alive (with a massive dose of perspective that this is a very privileged place to be). I am loaded with food. Weighted down with water. I am smiling and happy and free. I am 45 years old and I am walking through the desert and laughing out loud.


Me and the windmills on my 45th B-day


Nothing can make this day better. Until I reach Mile 549. I reach this human-made oasis in the desert that is an absolute surprise. A birthday present if I can pretend it is just there for me (which it is not). I approach this other-worldly setting in the middle of parched, torched and desolate land. It is an oasis of sorts with water, treats, humour and garbage disposal. Yes, garbage disposal. It does not get better than this when you’ve been rationing all day and walking in silence. In solitude. As I have already expressed, in absolute joy. This place for the hikers walking the PCT is a very intentional act of kindness. I sit and wonder and laugh some more. I cry when I laugh because these sorts of things restore my faith and hope in humanity. This trail. The people who people it and support it. It’s just too much.






Then the trail degrades and because I had an intentional late start enjoying a breakfast with my trail angel friend JD, the light of day begins to fade and I am grateful, again, to be walking this section with some light. Wash-outs are everywhere from mudslides long hardened. The trail crew in this section must throw up their hands time and again. It would be impossible to keep the ribbon of fine walking in check with the clay-like, powdery ground turning to syrup if and when it does rain. And when it rains, it pours.


Shades of red, orange, ochre and browns paint the slopes all around, made even more vivid with the setting sun. I reach the canyon I think I’ll camp in though wonder if this is a good idea to sleep in a canyon that apparently always has the ribbon of water flowing when cold air descends and makes for frigid nights. I think, however, it’s been so hot, so maybe the cold will feel good.


I hear the gentle trickle of water and see it’s flow down below. It’s a little ribbon of liquid making me jump for joy. You have to see where this is and have walked through parched land for miles to understand fully how impossible this seems. Yet, there it is. Liquid. Life. Any thoughts of continuing on for higher ground are gone. I’m tired and it’s time to stop.


I rinse off behind a tree with my water bottle shower, set up the tent and sit to make some food when I hear footsteps. Footsteps? Yes, it’s another human. He’s SOBO and says hi from above my camp, still on the trail. His name is Ohm Boy and he’s SOBO, flip-flopping in this odd year of ice and fire on the PCT. He began at Burney Falls, NOBO, then flipped back south and is now here, in the canyon, on his SOBO way to complete his hike. I’m happy to meet someone on the trail and a very nice and humble young guy, at that. At first I thought his name was ‘Homeboy’ which seemed really odd because he didn’t seem like the kind of person to be named or name himself that. I learn later, days later, that it’s ‘OHM Boy’, like his pack. Which I did not know was a pack. Which shows how much I know about hiking.


It’s not long after setting up in the tent that I am hot, so hot. Cold air has not and will not descend into this canyon. For the first time on the trail since just north of Belden Town on the very first night out by myself, I am hot. Uncomfortably but not regrettably hot. Shortly after taking some layers off I see headlamps bobbing in the distance. Two more hikers. Then another. Before midnight, I am still in and out of too-hot-but-not-ungrateful-because-I’m-not-cold sleep, and another headlamp in the distance makes it’s way to the canyon. Hard to believe all these SOBO hikers are here after not seeing many people for so long. I wonder if it’s the crew from the brewery in Tehachapi. I will soon find out.





Day 36

September 28, 2017

No-Sleep-Canyon (Tylerhorse Canyon) – HorseCamp with Picnic Table

33.4 miles/10hrs 50′


People coming and going, animals crunching and chewing, acorns falling all night long makes for a crappy sleepless night. Oh well. And, yes, I was hot. Ha.


The 3:30am alarm hurts but still, I answer the call. The thought of walking the infamous dreaded LA Aquaduct in any more blaring sun than I have to gets me up into my dirt clothes, out of the tent, packed up and on the trail by 4:25am. I try to be quiet because my new friend OHM Boy is camped near by. I’m pretty sure I have not made this much noise yet on the trail packing up. Oh well.


Woosh – woosh – woos of the windmills with their blinking red lights in the distance makes the darkness of morning take on an eery tone. I feel like I’m on an alien planet with big windmills as people or animal. I feel like my whole being is buzzing and humming from the energy transmitted from these energy-gathering machines. I’ll take this feeling over the stink of sour gas wells or the plumes of pollution from tar-sand tracking any day.


The wind farms of the trail are welcoming and hiker-friendly. This one in particular seems to be calling out for hikers to visit. Which makes me smile. I continue on my way, water rich and walking in the cool of morning darkness. I can imagine they have a ton of visitors in the springtime bubbles of northbound hikers. Which makes me grateful, again, for this kindness, even if I don’t need it.




My early morning stroll leads me down into the valley of the LA Aqueduct. I reach the northern side where there’s a spigot for hikers, allowing for water filled with sediment straight from the flow below. I had this impression the aqueduct would be a pipe or an open channel of water across this valley but it’s not. It’s a dirt road that reminds me of Baja, Mexico, and many places Peter and I have bike toured. Odd settlements and homesteads occupied by god knows who. There is beautiful desert around and as the sun heats up, my umbrella comes out, and I am comfortable enough. It’s in the 90’s but doesn’t feel too bad. Knowing it could be in the 100’s or 110-120’s makes this downright bearable. I think about the history of this aqueduct, coming from places like the Owen’s Lake south of Lone Pine, which was almost drained and been the subject of endless lawsuits and health issues all around. And that is just one place this water came/comes from. We have yet to realize the most valuable resource we have: water (and air, for that matter). There is nothing like walking through the desert to make you comprehend the very essence of the saying ‘water is life’. Indeed, it is. We will see in the not-so-far future wars waged over this commodity we take for granted.




I walk along in my thoughts when a big pick up truck slows beside me on the dirt road. ‘Want some trail magic?’ an elderly woman asks. Heck, ya. This Grandmother and Grandfather are with their Grandson, Wyatt, who is happily skipping out of pre-school to go up to the cabin in the hills today. They were hoping to see some SOBO hikers to give some treat to. Lucky me. I’m given chips + carrots + celery sticks + homemade sweet tea. Dump my trash and fill up on water. With a big smile I wave to them as they drive away.


I’m sitting on the side of the road in the shade of a Yucca and my umbrella, eating some granola, when OHM Boy passes me by. It’s been 6 hours of walking and time for a break. He keeps going and says ‘see you in Hikertown?’ to which I oblige. He asks if I got trail magic and we both marvel at the chance of this, today, happening. The trail provides. Yes it does.


The walk along the exposed aqueduct when I turn west is long and drawn out. I keep checking the app to make sure I have not missed a turn. Finally, the turn to the highway, and the spur to Hikertown. Infamous Hikertown. I’ve heard this and that about the place. You either love it or think it’s gross. I don’t stay so don’t have an opinion other than it was a fantastic place to take a little break, get some water, eat some ice cream and meet some new trail friends.


Yes, the crew from the brewery is there in full force. As is Ohm Boy. Also, ‘Carefree’, who I know is german and female and SOBO. I’ve read her entries in the registers and have wondered if we should ever meet. There she is. Great energy, like the rest of this crew: Righteous (who has a wicked mullet and looks like a full-on Russian hockey player in the stanley cup finals with his beard…), Kirby (who is quiet and small and who is also a girl who hikes very, very fast), Per Bear (who is Canadian but really Norwegan) and Leafy (who is just a plain wonderful human being). We all laugh and drink water and hang out in the shade. All of us are moving on, likely to the camp spot about 9 miles from Hikertown.


I’m happy to find a little tribe of walkers, if only for the day, to share some stories and learn about their journeys from the Canadian border. They are all humble and encouraging and don’t seem to care that I’ve only walked from the halfway point.


Camping with OHM Boy the night before we get into the whole what you do/what you’ve done etc thing. It’s not weird or intrusive but I do mention I was an athlete. Which he asks some questions about, and I answer. So people know here because of this, and because Per bear sort of recognizes me from the 2010 Olympic time (he lived in vancouver), and Carefree is from Erfurt, a German city I raced in many, many times, which I mention to her I’ve been to and she asks why and…well…I mention the speed skating thing. Which is strange for me because on the Appalachian Trail I didn’t ever talk about sports except to my trail brothers YoYo and Tweet, and that was because we had been together long enough that I was so vague and weird I felt like I was lying and had to tell them my truth. This time I thought I will just say I used to do sports and leave it at that. Most people don’t really ask so I don’t feel like I need to go into things. Anyway, the point is, I’m not on the trail to talk about what I’ve done, nor should anyone be, it’s just better to be in the present enjoying the moments as they’ve come, satisfied with what you’ve been through, looking forward to what lays ahead. It feels good to deflect any talk of sports on the fact that ALL of these fine young people have walked this whole trail to this point, and the wonder and awe I feel and see in this. They are all super respectful and I’m grateful because I just still struggle with talking about this things I’ve done in sports and in life in the context of being on an adventure.


It feels good to say ‘but I have only hiked HALF of this…you guys (and girls) are what we should be talking about.’ I mean it. I really do.


The next 9.1 miles to camp go by fast. There are all sorts of weird compound-looking homes and pockets that make me nervous. At one point I walk by a dead bloated cow, in a fenced-in area, right close to the trail. There are goats and pigs alive and well, then this dead cow near where we all walk. A warning sign? I will never know. Yikes.


The trail winds its way along up and down into the Angeles National Forest. Camp is up high with the luxury of a picnic table. Cicadas chirp and a light breeze blows. There is water close to the camp but it takes some time to find. The few of us who try to find it almost give up, except me and Per Bear. I bush whack through stinging neddles, down a dry creek bed, up and down and all around. Per Bear does the same and finally, we meet, looking at each other thinking ‘we hear the water but what the hell where is it?’. Per Bear says ‘It sounds like a guy is taking a really long pee. Only nobody – I mean nobody – can pee that long.’ Which is the moment I look up to my left and see water squirting from the slope. It actually looks like someone is peeing. We scramble up the grade and find the hose that has literally sprung a leak (or someone has punctured) and do a little water dance.

Soon, we are all asleep, everyone but me and CareFree cowboy camping with that night breeze making for perfect sleeping temperatures. It’s a little trail family I get to be a part of for a day, a night, who knows.



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Pacific Crest Trail SOBO Southern 1/2, Part 16

Day 33

September 25, 2017

Big Rock Camp – Dirt Road Camp After Wind Farm Climb

31.5 miles/11hrs 25′


I’m surprised how cold it is this morning. I walk fast to warm up the body, wearing everything I have. Enter sunshine. Layers are stripped off. I walk and eat my last trail magic apple from Cherokee and JD into the warmth of day. This extra food makes the days hunger tolerable. Back to normal hiker hunger rather than rationing beyond what’s already insatiable. Very exposed burn areas smell like skunk. Skunk? Little do I know, it’s the dreaded Poodle Dog Brush I will see (smell) on a regular basis. What I do know is it’s not a skunk and I’m not touching that thing. Saw one other hiker today, a NOBO section hiker harvesting miles. I wish him good luck.


I am tired.


It’s a long day.


Not much more to say but the camp is awesome, in a grove of trees on a tedious dirt road I can only hope does not have any traffic because of the fine white dust it’s made of, sleep comes easily and I think, just maybe, I might take a zero in Mojave/Tehachapi. We shall see.





Day 34

September 26, 2017

Jeep Road Camp – Highway 58 (Interstate?) to Mojave/Tehachapi

12 miles/3 hrs 50′


A wonderful morning walk on the dreaded jeep road that finally meets trail again. I’m buzzing off a triple Via Espresso/hot chocolate mix/butter coffee. Who needs food when you have fat and caffeine, right? Right. Then I remember I have that one last KIND bar. I devour it in record time. I am officially out of food.


Hwy 58 below this sublime sunrise


I see a burrowing owl on the trail just before dawn. Windmills churn in the distance. The hum of the highway fills the early boring air. Where there was silence for the last number of days, there is now the rumble of the train (EVERY 20 minutes of so) and semi-truck/car engines flying up/down the HWY. The sound doesn’t bother me because soon I will be in town eating A LOT of food. The hunger when I reach the interstate and the mile long or so walk to the trail/hwy junction is intense. I feel like I’m eating my stomach lining. I’m so freaking hungry. Food. All I can think about is FOOD. Oh, and peeing. I walk along the HWY and am so used to peeing wherever and whenever I want, I almost pee my pants because I am now doing the opposite trying to hold it because I am walking right beside the flow of traffic, with no place to bail.


I reach the HWY and see the sign saying no pedestrians past the sign. How am I supposed to hitchhike if I cannot go on the HWY and stick out my thumb? I call the number on another sign that says a bus will stop and pick me up if I call this number. There is no answer. I call Peter. Give him this number. He calls for me but they say call later. He says ‘my wife is on the highway 58 and trying to get the bus to stop…’ They say try later. Thanks.


There is a note taped into the trail register saying how great Mojave is and less spread out than Tehachapi etc. etc. There is a name and a number so I try this. It’s a local trail angel saying ‘come to our town, it’s got everything and more than the other town’.  I need to go to Mojave to get my mail drop but really want to go to Tehachapi. I have learned it’s the ‘better’ hiker town (okay, I admit it, there is a brewery there…and Cherokee and JD…). I call the number and eventually a lady answers. I tell her I’m on HWY 58 and there is a note with her name and number ‘I’m RedFeather and not sure what to do here…’



‘Honey, I’m a long haul trucker, I don’t live in Mojave any more, in fact I’m currently in Massachusetts, explain to me what you are trying to do’. I go through my predicament and my new friend listens. She tells me how she took a year off just to help the hikers. How there is another trail angel in town that will help. She tells me I can walk right up to the sign, stick my thumb out, it is my right to be there, and someone will stop. Everyone knows the hikers. She says if I have any further problems to call her back. She will figure something out.


I walk down to the sign and see a man walking towards me from the overpass of the HWY. He’s waving his hands. I make my way back up the ramp towards him. He asks if I need a ride, where am I going. He’s a trucker, saw me sitting there and apparently wants to help.  He knows nothing of the trail which makes me nervous as we walk. He doesn’t even seem to know where Mojave is (the direction he is driving) and then mentions how ‘pretty’ I am. Oh gawd. I start talking about my husband and that I’ve just called him and let him know someone was going to give me a ride…all the while thinking there is no way in hell I’m getting into this truck with this creep…when a car pulls up beside us, rolls down the window, and a young red-headed woman asks ‘are you on the PCT?’ To which I say yes, that I a trying to get to Mojave, ‘you can give me a ride?’ She gives me a knowing look and I get in the car, leaving the trucker standing there. Creep. Yuck.


I tell my new friend what’s just happened and she said ‘I am glad to help.’ She’s just dropped off her boyfriend who’s hiking a section of the trail. He had too much food and she offers me his leftovers. It’s all expensive organic stuff. I gratefully accept the offer.


I’m dropped off at the Best Western along the road that parallels the train tracks. That is the highway that runs through town. It is loud and strange and a bit rough in Mojave. I see a pretty girl and smile. She smiles back. Soon she comes over with a group of more pretty girls and two handsome guys. They are loading their suitcases into a big white van. They’re on a trip to Yosemite and other scenic places. They have many questions for the trail. I ask where they’re from and they ask me to guess. I have no idea but I wonder if it is an island where everyone is good looking and friendly. ‘We are from Poland. We are Jehovah’s Witnesses, do you know what that is? Here is our card.’ I receive many cards from this crew of JW’s. I’m so hung I’m almost passing out and wonder shouldn’t they be offering a treat of something to the infidels (haha).


All I can think about is food so when I’m out of the grips of these nice folks I make my way over to a deli/doughnut shop. Which is a very dangerous place to be when you have hiker hunger. I order everything that looks good and am already thinking about what else I will order when I sit down at a booth. Old timers are to my left with coffee cups in hand, talking about Trump and how he’s doing a good job, yes he is. To my right are Mexican American blue collar workers. I think they work at the Wind Farm nearby judging from the patch on their uniform. One of them smiles at me and says ‘these sandwiches are too big. Do you want half of this?’. I politely decline with a smile because really, I did order too much food. I eat doughnuts and breakfast sandwiches and more treats until I am mildly stuffed.


I make my way to to post office walking along the big wide streets of this strange town. A woman with a lot of makeup and very tight colourful clothes walks the same direction on the other side of the street. She looks over and smiles ‘Well God Bless You, honey. What a nice day this is.’ I smile back and say yes it is, a nice day for a walk.


Upon entering the PO I’m greeted by a smiling postman ‘Well hello, Clara. Welcome to Mojave. You’re early.’ I wonder how he knows my name and soon learn I am the last package from a thru-hiker they have on hold for the year. He warns me of the ‘mojave green’ snakes and wishes me well on my way.


I walk out to the parking lot with my package in hand, pack on my back and suddenly, without warning am flying through the air. I hit the curb with my left quad muscle and land with the rest of me in the dirt. I think I’ve been shot only nothing hurts as much as I imagine being shot would hurt like. What in the hell has just happened, I wonder, as I lay there. My package is still in the grip of my hands. Hastily, I get up. I look around. The parking lot is empty save for a car. I am alone. I look down, I look back to where I’ve walked from. I see a curb that is in place in every parking spot so that the vehicle stops where it should. I realize this bloody think is the culprit. I was so smitten with my full belly and re-supply package I failed to look where I was walking and tripped over the damn thing. I then sheepishly look around and wonder, did anyone see that, and if so, what did it look like???? I was like SuperWoman flying through the air. Backpack and all. I’ll have a nasty bruise to who for it, that’s for sure. But other than this I think I’m okay. Just a little embarrassed, is all.


I hang out in Mojave at the bus stop then Subway/gas station waiting for the bus that will take me to Tehachapi. Everyone talks to me. Kids. Transients. Workers. Homeless folks. The girls at Subway give me extra-extra goodies in my sandwich. They’ve seen my kind before and one even points out, ‘now pack her sandwich up with lots of napkins. She will eat half now and the other half, later. This woman has already eaten but will be hungry again soon.’ She winks and I smile, thinking how funny it is to be here as a hiker in this rough town waiting for a bus.


I arrive in Tehachapi and am able to check into a hotel at noon. I shower. I eat. I lay around. I am happy and exhausted and think back to this already very full day and it’s only noon. I think about a zero and know I just can’t do it. I have to walk tomorrow even if I’m tired. It’s my birthday after all and there is no other place I’d rather be than on trail to celebrate #45.


I connect with JD and Cherokee and am soon at that brewery drinking some nice local beer. I spot four hikers at the bar and wonder what direction they are walking. I’m too tired to go and say hi and a bit shy, too. It feels weird to walk up to a group of people and say something like ‘hey, I’m hiking the trail, are you?’. I’m certain I’ll see them within a day of two.





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Pacific Crest Trail SOBO Southern 1/2, Part 15

Day 31

September 24, 2017

Peaceful Piñion Camp – Big Rock/Post Trail Magic Camp

29 miles/11hrs 15′


I walk into the darkness looking up now and again from the very dim low battery light of my headlamp, in awe of the blanket of stars above. Every so often I stop and listen to…silence. The burning red glow of the rising sun lights up the eastern horizon. Shapes begin to fill the space darkness has left for the day. I am in another world and it stimulates my senses in every manner. Sight. Sound. Smell. Touch. Oh, right, don’t touch. Everything bites here. Except the pine nuts. I have entered the Mojave Desert and it is so much more than I dreamed it to be. It is wild and vast and so full of life. Even in this time of Autumn and decomposing it is full of vibrance and colours and shapes and beauty. The orange sky softens the hard edges of the plants, settling into early morning light.




Three hours into the day I reach the MASSIVE water cache at Bird Spring Road. Strangely enough, these water caches taste the worst because of sitting in plastic in the hot sun day after day. Not that I’m complaining. No way. This is Trail Magic at it’s best: water in the desert instead of a 40+ mile carry. I’m grateful to have some drink mix + electrolyte fizzy tablets to take the plastic taste away. I make a bottle of mix. Then another. Drink them down, taking my time so as not to get the kidney aches, sitting and enjoying the surrounds, all alone and happy for this solitude. I make another mix to drink over the next three hours of walking. The one thing I have an abundance of is this SKRATCH labs drink mix. I used this in my last two years of bike racing and though it’s expensive, it really is the best. Thought I’d try it on this hike and it’s been superb in terms of lasting energy. Worth the weight to carry.


MASSIVE water cache


I’m hyper aware that my hunger for these few days is nothing compared to what thirst could be. Ask any long-distance hiker ‘if they’d rather’ be hungry or thirsty and I guarantee 100% the former. I’ve pretty much been hungry this whole walk but that’s how it goes when you’re putting in so many miles a day. You just can’t carry enough food. You get used to being hungry. Make peace with this and dream of all the things you’re going to eat in town. Then eat them all and more during town stops. It’s cliché even mentioning hunger because it happens to everyone on a long walk. Part of the adventure. Part of the deal of being out here. And yes, I love it. Gratitude is at it’s maximum for every single little tiny thing. Like sitting down for moment. Listening to the silence. Finding water int he desert. Watching a bird of prey soar.


I leave with 3 litres of water and adjust over the next few miles to the added weight. Not that much but 12 lbs on the back is noticeable. Happy to carry the added burden. I know from the PCT water report updates there is another cache in 15 miles but you never know what can happen so I carry a little more than I think I need.


The sun warms but it’s never as scorching as I know it can be. It’s hot, maybe in the high 80’s, low 90’s F, but I am fully aware it could be so much hotter. Cannot imagine walking through this exposed desert in that scorching sun. Yet I know if I’d chosen that timeline I’d make it work. But I’m here now and it’s awesome. Just awesome with my sun umbrella and the desert plants and rolling hills.


Walking in a desert wonderland


I make a bar last 3 hours nibbling away every half hour or so. It’s seven hours of walking until I stop to eat ‘breakfast’ of granola and powdered full-fat goat milk. I eat half of my normal amount, saving the rest for a little bit later at the next water cache. I see a new bird fluttering about from shrub to shrub. I stop and watch and know immediately what it is: the rufous-sided towhee. Haven’t seen this bird since sitting in a picnic area near the Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico almost 20 years prior. A beauty. Nice to have some companionship out here.


In the distance I see the road where the 5 gallon jogs sit out in the open. Still can’t believe this is here. That people take the time to replenish the bottles. I sit there at the side of the road and drink some more, eat the second half of my breakfast granola. Sit and watch trucks with hunters drive by. Most of them wave. One stops after passing by. He reverses back to the cache, rolls down the window. I approach his truck and am greeted by a smile. ‘You hiking the trail? It’s hunting season. Got any orange?’ I say no, not yet. But I will. Until then ‘I have a pink dress…’ He reaches into the back cab of the truck and passes a bright orange cammo hunting baseball cap, brand new. ‘Wear this. It’s deer hunting season for the next month. Wear it, okay?’ Okay, I say. And, thanks.





I put on my new florescent cap and laugh as what I must look like with the pink dress and orange cap. At least I’m visible now. I begin the climb from this road, up up up. The air cools a little bit. Relatively cools, that is. I climb some more. I am so hungry. I enter another grove of Piñion and gather nuts from the sides of the trail. Where people have likely not walked. I eat them one by one, crunch their soft enough shells in my teeth, using my tongue to work the juicy delicious nut out of the sheath, then spit the shells out and chew the fatty meat. They are so good. I eat the last crumbs of the tortilla chips from Kennedy Meadows.


Finally, I reach the top of the climb to Paiute Mountain Road. I’m almost there and lost in my thoughts and a bit startled when a woman in a bright pink shirt says ‘are you SOBO?’ I look up and see a big smile across her face. Behind my new friend Cherokee is a very tall man with an equally welcoming smile, JD. They are from Tehachapi and have been out hiking. Cherokee grins and says ‘want some trail magic?’


Do I want trail magic….


I walk with them to the jeep parked on the side of the road. They have two coolers filled with sodas, beers, apples…REAL apples from the orchard near their home. I crunch into the sweetest apple I’ve ever had. I drink the best beer I’ve ever had (a coors light, which Cherokee reminds me is a pretty crappy beer, to which I say ‘ok the best trail magic beer I’ve ever had’), some chips, some chocolate. They offer to take my trash. They give me water. Sheepishly I mention after chatting with them awhile I am a little bit short on food ‘take all you want’ is their response. Cherokee offers me her 3 KIND bars left over from their day hike. It’s the first KIND bar I’ve been able to eat since eating way too many of the on the Appalachian Trail thru-hike I did back in 2015. It’s delicious.



Cherokee and JD, my new friends: Trail Angels, Hikers and wonderful human beings. Oh, and my new hat.


They are so wonderful and kind and generous. They are passionate about the trail and have even hiked about 750 miles of it themselves, piecing together sections and day hikes and spreading trail magic all over the place along the way. They said they hoped to meet a SOBO hiker that day ‘you SOBO’s don’t get much magic out here. We were about to leave and then saw you…’ They are genuinely stoked to help a hiker. I’m so grateful I almost cry. Actually, I do cry as I walk away. It’s just too much sometimes, the human kindness you can receive when you don’t expect it. Such fine human beings, my new friends from Tehachapi. I hope I make it to their town to buy them some beers.


I speed hike into the massive burn area that was once pine forest. I remind myself again to know clearly how important it is to clear a patch from forest duff below my cookstove. That a small spark in this dry parched forest can lead to disaster. Still, it’s beautiful, and re-growth is everywhere by way of plants, seedling trees, grasses and shrubs. Darkness comes in phases like dimmer settings on lights in a house. It’s as if someone is setting a nice mood for a dinner party. I spot two massive boulders just after the burn area ends. It’s not windy yet but I know it can howl at any time. The rocks will block the blow if I’m lucky enough to pick the sheltered side. It’s flat enough and I clear a patch of long jeffrey pine needles to set up the tent. The sweet smell of butterscotch pudding from the trees wafts all around. I am so happy. I am home. The waning moon rises high in the eastern sky as the soft pink of the western sky dims.





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