Headed to NTRPGCON, then back to the trail.

The metric is that two weeks after Hart’s Pass melts out one can then hike Washington. Hart’s pass is days away from melting out. Looks like 2-3 more days.

Which means maybe June 14 or 15. Which leaves us with a gap. Or why we went Palm Springs to Las Vegas and 15 dollar hotel rooms. We had pre-Convention time to kill, with no place left that was safe to hike.

The trail being so snowed over has really been a mess, especially for the international hikers. Everyone has been trying to find places to hike.

So many want to flip up to Chester or Ashland — those places are still under wet, melting snow. Others want to do the Sierra section with the avalanche issue and three bridges out and no resupply.

Our plan is to flip up and hike the Oregon Coast Trail. It is supposed to be pretty and should be fun, while we continue to hike. Then the family reunion. Then up to the Northern Terminus and head south, catching all we missed in Washington from last year.

We will also get there before more fires.

Then Timberline (Lionshead) to Elk Lake.

Then Lassen (hopefully) and the Sierra section to finish. I’m thinking we start at Walker Pass and head north, finishing at Mammoth where we got off last time.

Of course the Sierra depends on whether it melts and how bridge repair goes.

Right now I’m flying on Frontier with Win/Happy Six. The flight was only $65 but they charge an extra $65 for a checked bag or a carry-on. All luggage gets measured at the gate.

No peanuts and no water on the flight (though you can purchase them at $3.50 each).

Still cheaper and I’m willing to just not drink or eat.

When we land we can take the rail to our permanent address and get our mail. Then back to the airport and the hotel shuttle. That will consume some time for checking in.

Leaving the airport via rail.

It will be interesting to be back.

Looking forward to being back on trail.

Frontier really is no frills. No in flight entertainment. They charge extra for reclining seats. They charge you extra to use your pre-check with the TSA. Or to talk to a gate agent.

Luckily no charge for the restrooms or we would have had passengers saving money.

Emesis bags appear to be extra (none with the seats). The seats have de minimus padding. Makes me glad I’m short.

But. We saved about $300 or more dollars each on this flight. So yes, I would do it again.

So far she has been brilliant in her suggestions and thoughts on how we should flip or travel or spend time. I could not ask for a better partner.

I’m glad Win found the tickets and that I agreed to this.


Gear adjustments. Washington now requires bear canisters (they’ll accept a good bear bag hang too —if there were trees that were good for that). Chris K advised us to keep the ice axes so we will carry them and crampons.

Will get new water bottles (our old ones were hammered and I’m basically talking buying some smart water at Walmart). Looks like no more 3-5 liter carries. So we will only need two.

My dry sacks are doing ok.

With my bear canister I’ll get my other pants. That will be nice as these are a little torn up. Also my lighter gaiters.

With the change in shoes I expect to need the gaiters.

That pretty much sums it up.

Off Trail updates

Great summary by Happy

Thursday, May 25, 2023

We left the trail yesterday evening. The winds had been so strong that I swear that I was air-born twice. The sand was blowing into our faces and it was a struggle to walk on flat ground. It did not help that we were facing directly into the wind. Having deep and soft sand to walk in made it weirdly hard to push forward.

There was a young woman from Poland who writes travel books in Europe. We first spotted her when she had stopped in a little protected clearing. We could see that she was trying to decide if she could put up her tent. We could tell that she decided that it was not possible. There was just no way a tent would hold in this wind. She got back onto the trail.

At one point, I could see her up in front on me. It was obvious that she could not see the next trail marker. That marker was behind a tree. I could see it from my angle. She could not. She had stopped to try to look up the trail on her phone. The blowing sand was going to make that hard to do. I yelled at her to get her attention and then pointed to where the trail was. She put her phone away and pushed on toward into the wind. Because Steve and I were heading back to our end point, we knew what the end point looked like. That solo hiker was obviously nervous so I hiked next to her until we could both see the underpass.

When we finally reached underpass, we were so excited to be done with the desert section of the trail. The other hikers with us were all headed into Banning to stay with a lady named Nitzy who hosts hikers. We were headed into Palm Springs. We had a rental car waiting at the airport for the next day .. so staying in Palm Springs made better sense for us.

The Uber driver who picked us up kinda looked us up and down and then asked, “You two are gonna to the Courtyard MARRIOTT??” We confirmed. He just looked astounded. To be honest, we did look more than a little rough.

The young woman working the front desk at the hotel did not even flinch when she saw our dirty, dusty and smelly selves approach to check-in. It was obvious that Marriott trains them well.

In the room, I literally scrubbed down about three times before declaring myself clean enough to use the hotel’s white towel. Each of my shoes had a couple tablespoons of sand in them. My legs had been crusty with sand.

We were both so tired that we just collapsed in bed. Laundry would happen in the morning.

We did do laundry this morning and then walked down the street for breakfast. Courtyard Marriott in Palm Springs no longer offers a complimentary breakfast. We were stunned. NO WAFFLES?? I mean, that was why we picked the Marriott.

Eventually we took the hotel shuttle over to the airport and picked up the rental car. Why a rental car in Palm Springs? One way flight from Palm Springs to DFW was going to be $650 each. That same flight from Las Vegas was listed for $91 each. The rental car cost $42 plus a half tank of gas. The price difference was enough for me to want to add Las Vegas to our itinerary. Plus, neither one of us had been to Las Vegas in decades. Literally DECADES. It was time to change that. Who knows .. we might have fun in Vegas.

We checked into the Strat Hotel and Casino. I forgot the name and could only remember that it looked like the word “START”. When Steve asked me the name of the hotel, “SHART” was my first guess. I had to re-check the name and verify that we were not staying at the SHART Hotel. Every time I think about that, I start to laugh. Maybe we were in the trail too long? I dunno. I am still laughing.

Driving across the desert towards Las Vegas was a very different experience from hiking the desert. While hiking, we were mostly in desert mountains. Driving today was through truly desolate areas. There were mountains with literally no vegetation. There were valleys where even the sage brush was struggling. We crossed valleys that were immense and absolutely desiccated. I found myself trying to figure out how much water early explorers had to carry to get through such areas. The very thought of hiking such areas is daunting.

We checked into the hotel, dropped the backpacks and ice axes into our room and then hopped back into the car to go find the local REI.

My shoes were trash. My first pair of Altras lasted 350 miles. This pair was 2 1/2 weeks old and had around 300 miles on them. At around 200 miles, one of the soles started coming off. I had glued the sole on once with LockTite. I used some sort of Shoe Goo to glue that sole on again. Today, I replaced those shoes with Hokas. Hopefully, they will last a few more miles. The REI guy felt like I should be happy to get 300 miles out of a pair of shoes.

At $180 a pair, going through two pair of shoes in 5 weeks seems like a lot. Steve is on his second pair too .. but his shoes look like they might have a couple 100 miles more in them.
When I talk to peolle about backpacking, I often get comments about what an inexpensive thing it is to do. Between the two of us, we have spent $870 on shoes on the last 5 weeks. It is those sort of details of backpacking that people do not really think about.

Tomorrow, we will start exploring Las Vegas. We are not quite sure how long we will stay. We don’t need to be in Dallas until next Wednesday .. so we do have some time.

After the convention in Dallas, we will flip up someplace north of the Sierra and get back onto the PCT. Snow levels are so high right now that we really have no place to hike on the PCT until some snow melts — unless we want to snowshoe. And no, I am not interested in that. It is for that particular reason that we feel like Steve can attend his favorite convention without it stopping our hike in any way. We are absolutely on hold until the snow melts.

May 26. We now have new shoes. As far as I can tell our trail runners have gone from getting 600+ miles of use to about 300 miles.

Still thinking on that.

Gear: Shoes

Happy Six had to glue her Altras together twice to make it to $300 miles.

I’m also replacing my shoes, the trail just ground the soles off. I’m looking at Hoka ATRs 8D size 41 or Moab 3 size 41 (more toe room, but wide enough when I’ve sized up from 40.5).

I’m thinking the Hokas. Realizing I’ll probably need to replace them in 300 miles.

May 25, in Palm Springs

Yesterday we went up from Idlewild to Black Mountain Road to return to the bypass. We left Wasatch Front and Old Geezer at the campground as Grumpy picked us up for a shuttle.

Happy on the trail for May 24

At the trail head there was a bolder climber, Casey, who gave us a ride a few miles up. The road had serious wash outs and needed real four wheel drive.

He got to where he was going and we started hiking, with our thanks.

Then Christian passed us and offered a ride to within about a mile of the trail head.

I had started the day drinking almost three liters and carrying six. By the trail head I had only my standard three.

We started down. First it was Alpine. Beautiful.

We then got to mid-Alpine and then high chaparral.

There was more water on Black Mountain than indicated but as we hit the trail that ended.

On the other hand, it was downhill all the way and the trail wasn’t so bad.

Endless switchbacks down we got into heavier and heavier wind.

We passed the famous water spigot and headed through the flatter parts towards the end point about four miles away.

The gusts were pretty intense and straight into our faces.

We had leapfrogged with some other hikers and we saw them last as we were picked up by our Uber driver.

Win also hiked some with a Polish kid who was pretty overwhelmed by the wind and sand for a while.

But now we are doing laundry in Palm Springs.

Instead of writing this entry last night I just collapsed in bed after a shower.

May 23. Spitler Peak Trail, Idlewild and Black Mountain Road tomorrow

Apple thinks I’ve done about 39k steps today.

Yesterday I thought I had a sinus headache starting up from my allergies. The record setting rain has really created record amounts of flowers and pollen.

So I didn’t think much of a headache all night. But I was going kind of slow and mentally befuddled.

Yep. Altitude sickness.

The melt has resulted in some reports of dangerous conditions. We were going to take a bypass but Win caught I wasn’t doing well so instead of going forward we headed back to Spitler Peak Trail and down to Idlewild—the “official” bypass.

I’ll note some of the side trails are really not advised and messy. There are some advisory warnings since the side trails look good on the maps but desperately need maintenance and repairs.

We had planned to divert to Idlewild so it wasn’t a big change, but we had to hike back to the Apache Spring junction where we had tented (Mile 169.2) and then back to Spitler (mile 168.6).

As we dropped and took a short break suddenly everything cleared up.

It was strange. Usually I’m good to 10k feet without problems and I was having them at 7.5k feet which I’d done a thousand feet higher this week without trouble.

I got somewhat dehydrated though and that could well be the difference.

So we took a different route into Idlewild. A wonderful couple from Arkansas picked us up at the road and we talked about our kids who graduated from Texas A&M.

At the Idlewild campsite we met up with Mariah. She camped next to us last night and we passed going back to Spitler. She had taken 179.4, Devils Slide Trail like we had planned to and got to the campground in Idlewild not too long after we did.

Showers. Laundry. Food. Feeling much better.

190.7 will be Black Mountain Road. Then on to Mile 209.4 and a finished Southern California.

Water at 205.4, a stream at 200, and whatever we bring with us up Black Mountain. 209.4 is I-10 and the finish point (actually the surface street there where you can catch a shuttle).

I’m excited.

Great weather. Still cool in Idlewild.

BTW this clip is 186.4 on Far Out—part of what we are bypassing. Lots of very messy trail reports right now.

17.32 miles + .9 leaving town +.6 for water over 4600 feet in ascent (+500 for the water). May 22 was a day.

If you are on Fitbit that is over 510 flights of stairs climbed. Apple has me at 57,000 steps.

Video of today

We left Paradise Valley before 6:00. Ended up having to walk the full stretch to the trailhead but we did not try to hitch either.

Trail and weather reports look like a hike down to Idlewild then cross town and back up and over. Some people are doing great, others are having to self arrest with their snow axes and having collapsed melting snow.

Otherwise the trail is short on water. Even with half an inch of rain yesterday and some today.

On the other hand, while I had to cross blow downs and .6 miles round trip or so, the boxed spring had water I could carry back to where our tent is.

Bagels and cream cheese for dinner. With water.

Saddle Junction is 10.2 miles ahead and then it is the Devil’s Slide Trail down to Idlewild.

May 21, back to NOBO

We are NOBO and that puts us at Paradise Valley Cafe or mile 151.8 at Richard’s across the street from the cafe.

At some point we will resupply and get back on the trail northbound to do San Jacinto and head to Morongo Nation at 209.5. Just over 58 miles so three days worth of food and we will have finished the Southern California section.

Thinking of what to do next and available water. Excited too.

Had this song running through my mind Ventura Highway

The “alligator lizards in the air” came from another actual memory of living in California. My brother and I used to catch lizards and snakes all the time. There is an actual animal here called an alligator lizard. But this was also referring to a cloud formation, a shape. A long cloud that reminded me of an alligator lizard.

Learned something.

Also this song https://www.songfacts.com/facts/john-denver/rocky-mountain-high

Have three days resupply and buying second breakfast/lunch at Red Kettle in Idlewild. Then back to Richard’s, pack up and hit the trail.

Win’s Reel of the first 600 miles

May 20. Back in cell service.

We now have Morongo Nation 2445.7 to Paradise Valley 2503.4 left.

We finished the slack pack, got all of our gear and hiked to the saddle. Four other tents there. We all got up before four and got early starts.

Up to the saddle video

Quietest at 4:00 am I’ve ever seen an active campsite.

We headed down towards Mission Creek which we completed yesterday. Over thirty water crossings. We camped in the only shade after the last with about sixteen miles left.

Happy’s blog post on Mission Creek

Video to Mission Creek

We got up early again and started packing up. A little lightning then it started raining after we were packed. Raincoats on until we got out of the rain. Six miles in and we got to the Whitewater river.

First crossing was ankle deep but the second (real) crossing was knee deep and moving. We crossed them Win helped some people cross. She crossed five times.

Video including Whitewater River

Happy’s blog post on whitewater river

Then we had ten miles left. What looked like only 500 feet of elevation. Map claims it is only around two thousand. Felt like more.

Up over another saddle then down into the desert.

But we had seventeen miles by 11:30 am.

At I-10 there was an Uber dropping a guy off so we flagged him down, paid him and headed to Paradise Valley and our ice axes for San Jacinto.

Win had Mother’s Day presents waiting at the cafe. Miracle children.

We are now at Richard’s in PVC.

May 18. Some slack packing and some hiking.

Ok. Usually slackpacking is easier than hiking. But we did over sixteen miles at a speed faster than three miles an hour.

Then our ride met us with our pack contents we hadn’t carried and dropped us off at rainbow road again—this time heading south.

Big Bear is 17.9 miles and we are camped with a group of NOBOS at 2407.0 with only 38.7 to our next resupply.

The thunder, lightning and rain we set the tent up in has passed but we are finished for the day. Beautiful clouds and sunshine now.

Tired enough to sleep for a few hours until 8:00 pm and then to go back to sleep after trying to post this blog entry. Sunset was beautiful with a clear and cloudless sky.

Less than a hundred miles to Paradise Valley Cafe.