Day 1 Hiking PCT Section A SoCal April, 2022

Day 1 Hiking PCT Section A SoCal April, 2022

I hiked Section A of the Pacific Crest Trail in Southern California with my friend Mike in April, 2022. We started at the US-Mexican border on 8 April 2022. We hiked about 110 miles in six days on some interesting desert terrain. Here’s the plan:

  1. Campo to Lake Morena – 20 miles
  2. Lake Morena to Desert View (Mount Laguna) – 22 miles
  3. Desert View (Mount Laguna) to Sunrise Trailhead – 17 miles
  4. Sunrise Trailhead to Scissors Crossing – 18 miles
  5. Scissors Crossing to Montezuma Valley Road 23.5 miles
  6. Montezuma Valley Road to Warner Springs 8 miles (Leg 8)

Mike did our route planning. A book that he used was Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California: Section Hiking from Campo to Tuolumne Meadows by Shawnté Salabert. I found the trip descriptions very useful in this book.

Setting Off
We did a car shuttle every day, leapfrogging up the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We placed my 4Runner at Lake Morena, where the PCT comes out near the state park. We then drove Mike’s rental car back to Campo, parking at the Camp Lockett Event and Equestrian Facility (CLEEF) near the PCT hikers campsite. I used my Garmin InReach to let Mary Ellen know we were starting our hike. It was great to see her respond, it made us both happy we had two-way messaging as needed. I’m new to this technology, it worked well over the six-day trip.

We kibitzed with a couple of hikers then walked about ⅓ of a mile to the monument marking the southern terminus start of the PCT at the US-Mexico border. Fellow hikers snapped a photo of us. I took another photo that shows the border wall stretching into the distance. Next, we talked to two folks from the PCTA – they were handing out tags for thru hikers. Signed the log book and headed north.

Mike and I at the PCT Southern terminus
The US-Mexican border

Hiking was easy in the cool morning. We encounter a number of PCT thru-hikers; they plan to walk the entire 2650 miles (4270 km) of the trail. In comparison to these ultra-hikers, we are sprinters. Mike and I are hiking about 4% of the PCT in the next six days. I realized that only about 1 in 5 of the thru-hikers we see starting near Mexico will make it to Canada. (A range of 14% to 34% of thru-hikers made it, based on a 7 year survey by thru-hiker “Halfway Anywhere”   It’s great to talk to these intrepid souls. There were people from around the US and Europe, especially Germany.

We are heading across rather a green desert chaparral as Mike pointed out to me. So, what is Chaparral? According to the California Chaparral Institute:

“Chaparral is California’s most extensive, native plant community, dominating foothills and mountain slopes throughout most of the state. …. Chaparral is a semi-arid, shrub dominated association of sclerophyllous (hard-leaved), woody plants shaped by a Mediterranean-type climate (summer drought, mild, wet winters), and infrequent fires (with natural intervals between fires being 30 to 150 years or more).”

So, I have a new area of nature to learn about. I’ll try to write up something of my natural observations of the Chaparral I saw along the PCT in a separate post.

I am pleased to see my first yucca coming into bloom.  There’s Mike standing next to a yucca to provide scale. When this species of yucca is in full bloom, the flowering stalk (scape) is about 10 feet tall. It’s covered with cream-colored flowers. We saw many more yuccas in bloom on our next six days of hiking; they never failed to amaze me.

Yucca in bloom

As we sauntered along, we came across many signs telling us how far to the northern terminus (and how far we had journeyed).

We made it 3 miles, only 17 more for today

Manzanita trees made for a nice place for a break. As we moved towards noontime, it started to heat up. We made sure to keep up with our nutrition and hydration.

Mike under a welcoming manzanita tree

I caused us to add a bonus mile and a half as we descended into Hauser Canyon at about 12 miles into our day. We were on a road and I missed an important turn. I was annoyed with myself because I had just checked our location using the FarOut (formerly Guthooks) app of the PCT. 

We had a little challenge near the end of the hike: climbing out of Hauser Canyon on a sunny, warm afternoon. We were climbing over the ridge shown in the photo.

From Hauser Canyon, we climbed up and over this ridge

“The climb out of Hauser Canyon is serious business – you face over 1000 feet of elevation gain in about 1.5 miles. Dehydrated, overheated, and underprepared hikers are rescued near here every single years sadly, one hiker died after making the grueling climb in 2014, Consider timing your ascent for a cooler time of day, make sure you’re hydrated and ensure that you eat enough to keep your motor running.” Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California by Shawnté Salabert

We made it over the ridge. I did have to stop for a rest in some shade part way up. I could see the heat was having an effect on me, my heart rate kept jumping above 150. We found some shade and Mike had good advice to put my feet up. After I felt rested, I gave it five more minutes to be sure I was good. 

We sauntered the remaining four miles or so into Lake Morena State Park. I sent a message to Mary Ellen that we were done with our hike. We dumped our gear in my 4Runner. Next, we had a great meal at the nearby Oak Shores Malt Shop. We headed south to Campo to get Mike’s car and then back to our motel as it got dark.

I recorded our day using Gaia navigation software which indicated we had done 17 miles with about 800 feet of elevation gain. Our distance had to be more than 20 miles and our elevation gain was more than 800 feet. After the hike, I did a route plan using FarOut software. It showed the distance to be 20 miles with over 3000 feet of elevation gain.

I believe these numbers as they  match the guidebook that Mike had. I am not sure what caused the discrepancy with Gaia. I carried my phone in the back of my pack in an outer zippered compartment. Anyway, lesson learned – I need to learn a bit more on how to work with Gaia. I also made a track with the Garmin InReach.

Okay, that’s the end of Day 1. Next post will be Day 2, Lake Morena to Desert View (Mount Laguna) – 22 miles

A Brief review of Underestimated : an autism miracle by J. B. Handley

The heart of this book is the question: How non-speaking people with autism can communicate.The authors detail a potential breakthrough method – Spelling to Communicate (S2C).  A brief summary of S2C:a  non-speaking person with autism answers questions by pointing to one letter at a time on a letterboard held by an assistant. The reported results are amazing; non-speaking people with autism are able to communicate complex thoughts for the first time. The authors of the book are a father-son pair, the son Jamison is a non-speaker. It touched me how deeply the entire family wanted the best for Jamison. Reading the book, I realized that if my son couldn’t speak, I would certainly embrace S2C. 

A major  issue with S2C is that it doesn’t land within the domain of  current speech therapy science. The best science I can find to support S2C (cited in the book) is by V.K. Jaswal and colleagues at the University of Virginia. It would be great to see some additional supporting papers using other measurement techniques in the neuroscience toolbox. If the results can be substantiated, S2C would be a paradigm shift for non-speaking people with autism. Below is a reference to the paper in question, I would urge those who are interested in the science of S2C to read it.

Jaswal, V.K., Wayne, A. & Golino, H. Eye-tracking reveals agency in assisted autistic communicationSci Rep 10, 7882 (2020).

I searched for a paper that would provide a factual counterbalance. This essay by Stuart Vyse provided some cogent discussion of additional experiments that would affirm or deny the usefulness of S2C.

Vyse, S. Of Eye Movements and Autism: The Latest Chapter in a Continuing Controversy.

 I’m an engineer but I have spent a few years educating myself in neuroscience. In particular, I have studied advances in brain-computer research. Locked-in quadriplegic patients regain some movement capabilities using brain-computer systems. The best suggestion I have to validate S2C is to develop a system that takes the human assistant out of the loop after some training.

A Year of Tahoma

A Year of Tahoma

One of my goals for 2022 is to explore Tahoma (Mount Rainier) every month of the year. Why? Because Tahoma is my favorite place to hike and yet I tend to go to the same places over and over. There’s nothing wrong with that: I hope I get to Burroughs Mountain to see the alpine flowers every year I can.

When I did some research, I found an excellent site by Shawn Hargreaves with the handy name of Hiking Tahoma. Shawn is a kindred spirit, he’s laid out a clever interactive map of all the maintained trails on Tahoma. I am now studying what to explore over the year. A few trails that I need to try out: Boundary Trail to Florence Peak, Camp Muir, Eagle Peak, Eastside PCT Loop, Klapatche Park, Northern Loop, South Puyallup Pipe Organ and Tamanos Mountain. I also want to get back to some lesser known trails such as Curtis Ridge. So many hikes, so little time. I feel a need to focus on Tahoma. Along with hiking, I aspire to observe and understand the natural history on each of my hikes.

Meanwhile, I did make it to Tahoma on 27 January, 2022. My friend Mike and I had a great day on the mountain. We snowshoed about 5 km (3 miles) with about 400 meters (1400 ft) of elevation gain. As you can see from the photo, we had nice weather. In fact, it was much nicer up here than in the cold, foggy Puget Trough thanks to a temperature inversion. It was a four volcano day: Tahoma, Adams, Hood, and Mount St Helens were all visible. If you look near the upper right corner, I think you can see the road where we started far below.

I was able to see a few plants and trees along the way. Here are my naturalist observations for 24 January 2022. My plant of the day was a patch of common juniper growing in a rocky, windswept areas at 2000 meter (6600 feet). This was our lunch spot.

We worked pretty hard heading up. Coming down , we were able to get in a couple of glissades ( in other words, slide on our butts in the snow done some steep slopes). After some hard work, I was happy to stop at the Copper Creek Restaurant and see WE HAVE PIES. Specifically, delicious blackberry pie. Hmm, there may have been ice cream as well.

Ten Years of Walking

Ten Years of Walking

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

Warren Buffett

I’ve got a habit. I walk, hike and run a fair amount every day. Perhaps my favorite activity is to hike – at some speed between a trot and a gallop. I also love numbers and have used a pedometer to keep track of my miles walked each day for the last ten years: 2012 to 2021. I made spreadsheets each year and have looked at the data trends over each week and each month of a year. This is an update from my previous post Quantifying Hiking and Running Part 1 with eight years of data.

Thus, I have now accumulated ten years of walking data:

Table 1: Yearly Mileage
Year Miles Age
2021 3001 63
2020 4347 62
2019 3174 61
2018 3387 60
2017 3286 59
2016 2754 58
2015 3117 57
2014 3008 56
2013 2634 55
2012 2470 54

Table 1 shows the sum of my walking (in miles) for each month of the last ten years:

YearJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear Total
Table 1: Miles walked per month, 2012 to 2021

I also like to see the cumulative amount I have walked each month over the course of a year. Table 2 summarizes my walking progress each month over the course of a year:

Table 2: Cumulative Miles Walked per Month, 2012 to 2021

The total over ten years is 31,182 miles or 50,186 km. That’s an average of 260 miles or 418 km a month.

A few things worth pointing out:

First, I had my biggest walking year in 2020 – during the COVID pandemic I walked 4347 miles (6996 km). The reason for this high mileage was I entered the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000K race. In this four month long virtual race, I covered 1907 miles ( 3069 km) from May through August. Another way I covered miles in 2020 was by walking and running every street in my town. One reason I covered many miles was to see what it would be like to hike the Appalachian Trail – a goal of mine that I thought I might do in 2020 or 2021.

Next, for six years I covered was in the 3000 mile (3001-3387 mi; 4829-5451 km) range. I first broke 3000 miles in 2014 and again in 2015. I was able to cover more than 3000 miles again from 2017 to the present. I started trail running in 2017. I was able to complete the Badger Mountain 50 mile race; it was slow and steady. Another 2017 challenge was finishing the Issy Alps 50k, that was far tougher than the Badger Mountain race for me.

In 2018, I tried twice to run 100 mile races: Badger Mountain 100 (69 miles) and Bryce Canyon 100 (81 miles). While I didn’t complete them, I learned much. I still think I may do a 100 mile distance,, however, my current thought would be to walk rather than run. From 2017 to the present, I have had some great hiking, fastpacking and backpacking adventures with my friends.

My favorite year was 2015. I achieved no major milestones in running, backpacking or hiking. What I did accomplish was to recover from surgery on my esophagus to treat achalasia, a rare disease that I have. Achalasia has been a challenge for me. There is no cure or much known about the disease. Thanks to the work of my medical team, lead by thoracic surgeon Dr. Brian Louie, I was able to return to a vigorous life. My view going forward after my January, 2015 surgery has been “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero” (“Seize the day, put very little trust in the future.”) As an achalasia patient, I am grateful to be able to explore the world by covering as many miles as I can.

I had some low mile years. Why? For 2012 and 2013, the answer was full-time work got in the way of walking. I was able to retire from full-time work in September, 2013. I did some part-time work in 2014 and 2015 as well as attending college to learn biology, From 2016 to the present, I have been active in volunteer work at some non-profits but have much more time to spend outdoors.

My worst year was 2016. It wasn’t the lowest mile year but it was the most annoying. I kept injuring my right knee, then my right hip, then my left knee, then my right knee. I think there were two things that caused these problems. I was running a lot on hard surfaces ( I was training to run the Philadelphia Marathon with my brother). More important, the muscles of my right knee were much weaker than my left knee – which I figured out with the help of my doctor in December, 2016. So, after 2016 I minimized running on hard surfaces, started strength training and switched from cushioned shoes to zero drop trail running shoes. The important lesson for me: Avoid injuries if you want to cover miles.

Figure 1: Cumulative monthly miles for selected years 2012, and 2018 to 2021

Figure 1 illustrates how I’ve done over the last ten years. The bottom set of points are from 2012; my lowest mileage year. The top set of points are for 2020; my highest mileage year. There are three sets of data in a range in between the lowest and highest. These are years 2018, 2019, and 2020.

I want to write in the future about my daily tracking methods – many times the fact that I was behind my goal got me motivated to do more miles. What I do every single day is how I cover many miles in a year. Another useful topic is how walking has affected my health; in general it’s been very positive but I ought to write my lessons learned.

Let me close by thanking all my friends and family who have put in miles with me. I always enjoy the company; hopefully you do as well. Of course, sometimes I have an excessive number of words per mile! Well, I have to dash off now; got a few miles to cover today.