Trail to 1000...September update

Trail to 1000 update...
as of September 29th,
271 days down
790.5 miles covered
209.5 miles to go
2.92 miles per day average
65+ miles ahead of pace


Cactus to Clouds: trip report

How did you spend your Saturday? 3am. Time to get up (3 hours of sleep). Final check of the gear. Pack the car. Have a quick breakfast. 3:30am. Go pick up my buddy from the AT, Stitch. 4am leave Los Angeles. 6am arrive in Palm Springs, CA. Final gear and food check.

The task. Hike to the peak of San Jacinto. The Cactus to Clouds hike. There is a neat article from Backpacker Magazine here that ranks this as #5 in America's hardest dayhikes.

The stats. Begin at 440 feet elevation, and hike to 10,834 (10,394 foot gain). 18 miles up, 6 miles down to a tram that takes us to a parking lot 6.5 road miles from the car. Temperatures, high of 109F. Hydration, 2.5 gallons of Gatorade for me and 2 gallons of water with electrolyte mix for Stitch. We also had a secret weapon...umbrellas. They are like portable air conditioning in these conditions.

Leaving at the same time as us were three Marines from nearby Twentynine Palms. We spent many hours zig zagging with them up the steep hot rocks. We would only actually see each other every hour or so, but there was clearly one guy that was really struggling. I think he got dehydrated early and was past the point of turning back. The last time we saw him he was almost done with the 12 mile portion up to the tram and ranger station and his friends were not far ahead. I am sure he was not feeling too great Sunday either.

Our secret weapon umbrellas were really amazing and I could not believe how much more pleasurable the experience was due to the 10 ounce wonder. We had one other secret weapon. My homemade Power Pucks. A fruit and nut combination that I created, Each one yields around 1100 calories. We carried two each as well as some traditional hiker junk food.

Stitch shows off the Power Puck on the peak of San Jacinto

kicking back at the peak

Stitch takes in the view around 9000 feet

relaxing at the peak

It was wonderful that as we increased in elevation the temperature got cooler. By the time we were at the peak it was actually pretty comfortable. We even put our wind shirts on for the hike back down, especially since it was getting dark. The last hour or so to the tram was by headlamp. It was awesome night hiking as the terrain is not nearly as gnarly as the lower elevation was. It was also pretty excellent having a couple quarts of liquid weight as opposed to a couple gallons!

enjoying the desert mountain view

Long story short... We got our tickets for the tram and started thinking about the additional 6.5 miles of road, at night, in 85 degree temperatures. We had already put in our 24 miles and were ready to walk if we had to, but not before seeing if we still had our hitch-hiking talents from the Appalachian Trail.

We were successful in securing a ride from another Twentynine Palms Marine and his girlfriend (thank you Hoffman and Sarah!). They took us all the way back to the car and saved us a couple of hours in the process.

The trip was a blast. It was challenging and fun with incredible views and great company. That's all I have to say about that.


Five Fingers for the Feet...

Last night Nicole and I checked out Chandni, a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Santa Monica. It was delicious and the service was outstanding as well as friendly. We will be going back for sure...perhaps for the all you can eat lunch buffet!

Nicole cuts into a stuffed eggplant dish

This morning I rolled out of bed a little after 5am to drive down to Huntington Beach. Why? To participate in a Barefoot Running Workshop put on by one of the best known barefoot runners around, Barefoot Ken Bob. This was a great experience and chance to talk about not only running form but also strengthening feet. Sound crazy? Maybe. More importantly, maybe not.

I mentioned a while back that I started going barefoot while walking the dogs. Since then I also read the wildly popular running-centric book Born to Run. This book is centered around barefoot/minimalist runners in remote canyons of Mexico and was fantastic fun. I admit this book also has something to do with the increasing distance of my weekend post run-run (barefoot on grassy fields).

After the workshop I gave BKB and his dog Herman a ride back to their house a few miles away. They had already run to the park together, and then ran a few miles with everyone at the workshop. Did I mention he puts on these workshops for free? If you live in the area, check out his website for upcoming dates. If you can't make it, his website is a mountain of knowledge based on experience.

my feet after the workshop

So what now? Increasing the amount of barefoot training and I'm going to pick up a pair of Vibram Five Fingers for when barefoot is not an option.

Tonight we are hosting a party with peeps from Nicole's school. Good times, good people, good food. Good bye.


Slow and Steady...

Slow and steady doesn't break records, but it logs the miles.

Today (September 17th) is my birthday. A couple days ago I decided it would be brilliant to run a mile of trail for every year I've been hanging around planet earth. The more I thought about it, the better it sounded. And so, a single person event was born - the 34yr/34mi SaMo Solo. If you have a better name for it I'm listening.

85 degrees in the shade, not a cloud in the sky
8500 feet of elevation gain
34 miles of primarily single track with some fire road

Ironically, all said and done, I spent 9hrs 17min (9/17 of course being today's date) running around the Santa Monica Mountains. This also includes the necessary jaunt back to the car a couple times to resupply nutrition, as well as down to park buildings to get water a few times.

The first 15 miles were toasty. It didn't help that I ran through the hottest part of the day. Not a lot of relief at all from the sun. I kept the pace slow all day in the hopes that I would feel good this weekend to go for a couple runs. Also, I didn't want to blow up and not be able to finish. I was in the dark for the last few miles, but the cool air felt really good. I had brought my headlamp for just such an occasion, but decided to leave it in the car.

No cramps, no real soreness to speak of, just tired legs. Tomorrow might be a different story, but I'm optimistic.

photo below was taken as soon as I got back to the car

this picture does not do justice to the trail dirt and tan line that I acquired today

Anywho, that was my treat to myself for the big day. I really wish I could sleep in tomorrow...


Beyond the Mountain

Nicole and I hit up the Santa Monica Patagonia location for this event Friday night. It was quite cool.

An Evening with Steve House and his new book Beyond the Mountain

Join celebrated alpinist and Patagonia ambassador Steve House for a slide show and readings from his new book Beyond the Mountain. In the foreward, Reinhold Messner says, "[Steve] is at the top of mountaineering. He climbs the right routes on the right mountains in a time when everyone is climbing Everest. He is also a great storyteller: he tells about doing, not about morals or lessons." Don't miss this opportunity to get a rare and personal glimpse into the drive, dedication and focus behind today's light-and-fast alpine ascents.

The rest of the weekend involved running trails and cleaning up and organizing a bit in and around the house. One of the cars got some minor service as well, which seems to have messed up the radio...hmmm...strange.

I might be up to something a little out of the ordinary this Thursday. I'll let you know if it comes to pass. I think it's pretty cool. That should be enough mystery to keep you guessing.


Run, eat, swim, relax, repeat.

It's not even 9pm and I've already had a fantastic day. Kicked it off early this morning with a nice run on a 14-15 mile loop in the mountains and great company. EH and I have been ultrarunning pen pals of sorts for a while now. He was in town for the long weekend so we got together and shared some dust, sun, conversation, and ocean views. He's convincing/helping me to find a 50 miler or maybe even 100 miler to run. 100's are still too scary for now...

Next up was deliciousness from Tacos Por Favor. Then it was off to the beach for a few hours of waves, sand, and relaxation. The line of the day comes from the young ladies Nicole and I observed walking around the beach with a styrofoam cooler. They approached the group of guys next to us and opened with "Do you guys want to buy jello shots? It's to fight cancer." What? Turns out they were trying to raise money for a marathon race entry that cost like $1000 to enter or something like that...hence the $3 shots, or 2 for $5. Okay, well, pass.

Just finished up a nice dinner with Nicole including corn on the cob and a fat spinach salad with pears, blue cheese crumbles, apples, and cranberry walnut dressing. Now time for an evening stroll with the dogs. Hope everyone had a nice weekend. Bye now.


Made in the Shade.

I just got back from an overnight adventure in the San Bernardino National Forest. More specifically, the area surrounding Big Bear Lake just over two hours from home.

Big Bear Lake from the North

Just as I was about to lock up the car and hike to the trail head I was presented with an opportunity to be a trail angel of sorts. A woman and her friend (who happened to be VERY pregnant) had underestimated the heat and distance of their hike and needed a ride back to the their car. It was only a quarter mile by road, and I was happy to be able to help out.

My plan was to take the Cougar Crest trail 2.5 miles to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. From there I would head east (southbound) towards the nearest reliable water source which is about 9 more miles.

Junction of Cougar Crest Trail and Pacific Crest Trail

I made it to the water source and filled up from the spring which came out of a dripping faucet. Dinner would be based on a trail trick I had learned two years previous. As taught to me by fellow Appalachian Trail hiker "Rider", you can buy frozen burritos and carefully pack them to last a day or two before eating. I enjoyed my bean and cheese burrito with the sun setting over my shoulders. Yes I ate it cold, that's the idea. Yes it was delicious. I have pretty much done away with cooking meals on the trail if it's a solo trip and only a day or two. It's just easier that way.

Now that it was getting dark I had to make camp. I had decided to bring the tarp as opposed to the hammock since I thought it would be difficult to find trees to hang from. In retrospect I could have found trees, but they are sparse in the Southern California mountains. The tricky part is that they have to be the right distance apart and able to hold your weight safely. Anywho, I decided to cowboy camp since it was a clear night and full moon.

Sometimes the best shelter is...no shelter at all

My primary nutrition while hiking came from homemade energy bars. This was my third batch of experimental bars and this time I shaped them like huge hockey pucks. Each bar contains dates, dried cranberries, walnuts, and almonds. That's all. Each "energy puck" packed nearly 1100 calories at 9 oz per puck. A few bites per hour and some raisins or dried figs kept me going strong.

Delicious and nutritious...

This hike was the debut of my using a backpacking umbrella. I was lucky enough to get 20% off and free shipping a while back on it. Yeah, I'm the weird guy on the trail in clear sunny weather carrying an umbrella. Think of it this way - people use umbrellas at the beach all the time because they are in the sun for hours at a time. Well, I was hiking desert mountains for hours at a time and the shade makes an incredible difference. Ray Jardine was the first to promote this idea and I have been toying with the idea for years. Now that I have tried it I can say that I really enjoyed it and will likely incorporate it into routine.

The top of the umbrella is a reflective silver color

All said and done I hiked 25 miles. 18 miles were on the Pacific Crest Trail and during this time and a side hike up Bertha's Peak I did not see one person. The Cougar Creek Trail was a different story (being the first couple miles of trail from the parking area). I saw about 25 people in this stretch and the most interesting question/comment I received was "Did you see any cougars?". When I said no the 25ish guy with his girlfriend said "Darn, I want to find one of their dens". Good luck with that.

Leave no trace. Pretty simple. Pack out what you pack in. Whenever I am running or hiking, no matter how far from civilization, occasionally there is trash on the side of the trail. Maybe it's a candy bar wrapper, or an empty water bottle. Often times close to parking areas there are full dog poop bags. Really? You bothered to bag up the poop, but then you left it on the side of the trail? It would have been better not to pick it up at all than to contribute your gift of plastic to the wilderness. Oh, right, maybe they are coming back for it at the end of the walk. I'm sure this does happen, but not when the bag is still there the next day, the next week, or longer.

I found this tucked under a stump about half a mile from the parking lot...which has garbage cans. Contents? An empty soda cup, empty water bottle, and McDonalds bag. I took it with me and threw it out.

Some gear stats. Pack weight (minus food and water) was around 8 lbs maybe a little less. With food and water obviously it varied. Inov8 Roclite 315s and Drymax lite trail socks on the feet, same formula as trail running. GoLite Jam2 pack from the AT, I am making my own (and one for Nicole) from a Jardine kit so should have that ready to go for the next outing. Hiked without poles due to the umbrella, didn't miss them as there was no serious elevation change. That's all for now. Have good adventures.


Get Out.

Nicole is starting school obligations which will consume her weekend. I'm heading out somewhere tomorrow for a solo backpacking trip. At the suggestion of Stitch, I'm thinking Big Bear. Trip report and photos to follow.

I have to steer clear of Angeles National Forest for any hiking or running since the whole place is covered in smoke and flames from an enormous wildfire. It is already the largest in LA County history at over 144,000 acres burned.

Nicole surprised me with delicious deli sandwiches, potato salad, and a trip to the beach tonight for a sunset dinner. We watched surfers by the fading light with the Santa Monica pier just down the way. Not bad at all.

Lastly, I'm going for a run with the Alaskan Assassin Monday morning. Probably somewhere in the smoke free Santa Monica Mountains. Let me know if you want to join us.