Thursday, May 19, 2011

One Week into the PCT

Clover is becoming an excellent mount on the trail.
Pacific Crest Trail  May 15, 2011.

It’s 2:00 in the morning.  I’m sitting by a beautiful fire and Maggie and Clover are grazing nearby.  Magic and Midnight are tied to the highline, and Chance is snoring softly in the tent.

I’m up because Clover is having problems.  His appetite has been off since we started our journey in It  on Friday the 13th.   We only rode 6 miles the first day, after spending most of the day fitting and adjusting gear.  Chance was having trouble controlling Maggie, so we stopped at the feed supply in Campo, and they happened to have one bridle hanging in the store – the perfect size and the perfect bit.  Story of our lives.  The gal working there gave us 20% off and arranged for someone to give us an escort on the highway, 3 miles down the road to the turnoff for Lake Morena.

Eventually the horses settled down that day, and we managed a safe arrival on pavement.  It was 5:30 pm when we finally found a beautiful camp beside the Cottonwood River, about 2 miles from Morena Lake.  Clover seemed to do pretty well that night, tied beside Maggie for warmth and company.

Today we  got up fairly early – 6:30, and repaired the pack saddle again.  Luckily, we had brought an extra leather pack cinch, a hole punch, and a pair of tin snips, and I was able to cut 2 new straps for the breast collar which had broken when Magic fell into the river attempting a steep bank just before we quit for the night.

It was a beautiful day yesterday – clear blue and sunny skies.  The ride from our camp by the Cottonwood took us up over a ridge, where there was an ultramarathon on the PCT in progress, with the first competitors coming in the finish line.  We were like salmon upstream on the trail, encountering many runners along the way.  Most were happy to see our string, but a few in the back of the pack were not doing so well and seemed cranky that they had to move to the side to allow us to pass. 

Chance and Clover did well, and even led Midnight with his pack toward the end of the day.   We ended up riding about 11 miles, and found another beautiful camp right off the PCT, near a creek crossing.  As we set up camp, the last of the ultramarathoners passed by.  We dropped our heavy packs and I brushed out the horses while Chance gathered firewood.  Once that was done, I encouraged him to take Clover and stay with him while he grazed while I fixed some supper and set up the tent. 

After dinner, we noticed that Clover was shivering, and kicking at his belly.  I felt his body and discovered a taut belly and tense muscles all along his spine.  I decided to give him some Bute, cover him with a tarp and my down sleeping bag, and then we massaged his muscles and belly, stretched him out, and walked him until he seemed a bit better.  I also tried to give him an electrolyte solution of potassium, sodium, and glucose, but was only able to get about 100 cc into him.  He finally ate a couple of carrots, and about 10 pm, we went to sleep, exhausted after a long day on the trail.

Around 1:30 am, I woke up to Clover pawing and stamping the ground.  I got up and found him stressed and struggling again.  I gave him another dose of bute and then walked him for a mile down the trail in the moonlight and mist.  When we got back to camp, I gave him a bit more of the electrolyte solution by syringe, and he seemed to want to eat, so I let him start to graze.  He has been at it now for an hour, and at one point, drank a good portion from the stream.  He seems much more relaxed now, and Maggie is grazing beside him, both of them at liberty with their lead ropes around their necks.  They seem to be developing a nice bond, and Clover seems to be quite content in her company.

Tomorrow I think will be an easy day, to allow the horses (and me) to rest, after a tough day for Clover.  There is good grazing here, and it would be good for all of us to chill out a little bit, after all the hard work we’ve done to get here.  We have plenty of feed for now, and more than enough food for the humans.

Plus, it’s time to start my guitar lessons!

Coming back from practicing my first guitar lesson.

May 17, 2011

It seems a lot more time than just two days has passed. 

I slept a couple of hours and then we had some of our usual oatmeal, chia seed, flax meal, and fresh apples for breakfast.  Chance decided to go for a run, and I hung out in  camp.  I guess he ran about 7-8 miles, and had a visit with the ranger.  I stayed with the horses and built a fire and made food, then took a nap.

The horses settled in and did better.  Clover and Maggie fell in love and she is nicer to him than any horse she’s been around.  I think she might feel compassion for him, and wants him to join the herd.  Magic is still jealous and gives him grief – ears back, charging from time to time, but even their relationship is improving.

Midnight is having a great time.  Loves being at liberty – charging through our camp just to check in, and then galloping off to graze the hillside again.

Chance gave me my first guitar lesson, and of course I sucked.  It’s so hard to make my fingers do the right thing.  He’s starting me off with one of my favorite songs – an old Ella Fitzgerald song about a hip cowgirl.  Sure beats Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

After he showed me what he wanted me to do, I took the guitar and walked up the path until I found a rock to sit on.  I would practice there until I couldn’t do it anymore, and then walk a little farther and try it again.  I was probably gone an hour, then went back to camp and got a couple of tips, and went back again.  It’s such a challenge, but I know if I just keep at it, eventually I will be able to play, and I just want to be able to make music for myself so much. 

Chance of course is a great teacher.  Patient, encouraging, funny, and kind.   He’s such a sweet friend – I can’t imagine anyone better to be with out here.  He does so many things right, and lets me be me.  We enjoy each other’s company almost all the time, and can discuss everything without misunderstanding it seems.  Neither one of us would be out here if the other wasn’t here, and we’re both aware of our interdependency.

After a pretty good night’s sleep, we broke camp and loaded up the packs on Magic and Midnight, headed out to make Laguna Mountain Store and Post Office.  All the horses seemed to be feeling good, and Chance rode Clover all day for the first time.  They look so great together, and I’m so happy he’s turning out so well.  We did a lot of climbing and had some enjoyable views from the top.

The packs were riding well, but I did have issues tying on the guitars.  I had to stop 3 times to retie, and never did get it right.  Finally I realized that I have to tie the guitar up like a Christmas package with a basket hitch and then run four lines to opposing sides to keep it from sliding around.  I’ll try that next time, and I think it’s going to work.  So far we have had no sores from the packs, which I’m really happy about.  The new straps are holding well, and I think everything with the packs is looking pretty good. 

At the Post Office, the gal that works there told us about a good place to camp with the horses.  She encouraged us to leave the PCT for a few miles and parallel it to the west, with the intent to camp at the south end of big Laguna Lake, where she promised we would find good grazing and a beautiful setting.

As we rode west from the post office however, a cold wind picked up and our route looked more and more chilling.  Our arrival at the Lake was a disappointment, as the wind was chilling us to the bone, and there was no protected place for a camp.  We headed back north and ended up at La Prada campground, choosing Yerba Santa site.  The campground was deserted, the bathrooms locked, and no body in sight.

We gathered a lot of wood from a pile nearby, using Magic with the panniers to haul back to the cement pad and grill.  We turned the horses loose to graze the tall green grass, and later walked to a small lake to water them.  Magic and Midnight refused to water – didn’t like the footing, but Maggie and Clover drank and drank. 

Beautiful full moon night, but cold and windy when we settled down to sleep.

We awoke to a nasty storm.  Rain and high winds made us change our plans for an early departure.  The day was spent trying to get the horses comfortable enough to eat.  By afternoon, everyone was deeply shivering, and I saddled all four.  Chance and I then moved all our gear into the campsite bathroom, breaking the flimsy lock attachment at the doorjamb.  That allowed us to use the tarps that were covering our gear on the horses instead.  We filled a garbage can with water, and Maggie drank, but nobody else.  It worries me.

Magic has been foaming mucous bubbles intermittently since yesterday.  I find this very disconcerting, but I have no idea what would cause it.  His appetite is good though, and he seems to be doing all right.  We’re worried about all of them, but as I sit here now, at nearly 9:00 pm, Chance has just fed them pellets again and said they all seem to have good appetites and are not shivering anymore.

Chance took a hike this afternoon, which was admirable, considering that all our gear is wet and I was so cold it was all I could do to lay in the tent, shivering under wet sleeping bags.  We removed the zippered vestibule from my Big Agnes Emerald Mountain 3 tent, and forgot to grab the replacement door.  So that means my side is open to the elements.  We are going to have to remedy that situation before we hit the high country.

Running on the PCT.

He came back from his hike with a new attitude and insight.  He did some sort of communing with nature and was in a good mood, declaring that the storm would pass by tomorrow late morning and that we were going to have a great day. 

We made food again with the jet boil.  My usual mix of carrots, potato, sweet potatoe, ginger, saffron, and channa masala foil packet.  Both of us seem to be craving salt, and lime and chili sauce taste wonderful.  Today I also put vegetable protein in the mix.  We also have crackers and other snacks along, and the MRE Joe gave us provided a few chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  Again, Chance is so complimentary and ravenous, that it’s fun to cook.  He always does the clean up without hesitation.

I am really disappointed in my gear.  My rain suit is not waterproof, and neither are the huge boots I found in Sespe campground.  My core temp is low, and I can’t seem to get warm.  I’ve changed my socks three times today, and am now wearing my last pair with my custom boots, which are not very warm either.  I was also soaked through my long merino underwear.  I have on multiple layers of merino wool, and a mountain hardwear fleece, but I still cannot get warm.  My expensive gloves from REI are soaked through as are my other two pairs of leather and neoprene gloves.  I am COLD, and I hate being cold. 

Again, I will have to fix these gear issues before we get to the high Sierra.

We have too much weight, and have to figure out how to download some of that.  I think we’re carrying too much food weight, since we can only carry enough food for the horses for 8 days or so before we need to resupply anyway.  Too much weight in firearms, ammo, cameras, computers, food, clothes, and boots.  But we don’t have other things we need, like more tarps and warm gloves.

But our spirits are good, and we’ll work out the kinks.  Chance is committed to at least 1000 miles, as am I.  Anything can happen and it probably will.

We are both holed up in this filthy bathroom, spiders and mouse droppings the d├ęcor.  We are both writing our story, looking at photos, recharging equipment, and getting ready to go to bed.  I just hope I can get warm enough to sleep.

Chance and my friendship is growing quickly and heading in a good and honest direction of mutual respect, deep friendship, and understanding.  At night, we sleep together under the same sleeping bag, with our two camp beds making a queen size pallet for our tired bodies.  Chance gives off a lot of body heat, and I hope tonight he’s closer than ever, because I am COLD!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We woke to continued stormy weather, the horses shivering, cranky, and hungry.  I dressed immediately upon rising from my rain soaked mattress and sleeping bag, and left Chance to feed and tend the horses and gear while I hiked to the camp host hoping for a ride to town.

The camp hosts live in a tiny trailer, with “retired truck driver” painted out on the rear end.  The trailer has Oklahoma plates and is a permanent installation with panels to the ground to cover the wheels underneath.  An orange extension cord provides these hardy souls with power.  I can smell the cigarette smoke before I knock on the door.  A small dog barks, and a thin fellow with few teeth comes to the door, and steps outside into the miserable rain.

I tell him we’re on the PCT and having some trouble.  I explain that we’re camped in the closed campground and that the Ranger is aware, but that it’s not going well for the horses and I need to get to Laguna Mountain to make phone calls.  He offers me a ride to the store, and quickly grabs a few things from inside while I wait in the driving cold wind and rain.

Before he lets me in his vehicle, he takes a few minutes to remove the newspapers, trash, and some other debris from the passenger side.  When he finally opens the door, there is still not much room for my feet on the floor.  He apologizes, stating “we lost our home in Oklahoma and so we have everything here with us.”  I remark to myself how we probably share similar background in a foreclosure and perhaps even a bankruptcy, but I am in my situation by choice, and he uses his as an excuse.  I vow to myself never to use my life situation as an excuse.  Plain and simple – we are where we are because we choose to be there. 

Anyhow, we drive in silence to the store and he kindly drops me off, although the store won’t be open for another 30 minutes.  I see there is a motel night drop at the back and go around and ring the bell.

The same fellow as yesterday opens the door, and appears irritated with me for disturbing him.  I explain the situation and ask to use his phone.  He reluctantly lets me in, and starts looking through the phone book with me, but he doesn’t seem to have many ideas that would be of help.  Mostly he is negative.  “Do you know anyone here?  Don’t you have anyone supplying you?  There are people here with horses, but they all work, and nobody is around.”  Finally, he produces the phone number for someone who operates a horse riding stable, but when I finally get the woman on the phone, she tells me that her husband is not able to help because he’s at work for 24 hours as a firefighter down the road.

After listening to other hikers and the owner talk about the weather, I learn it is about to clear, and am encouraged to go down the road as soon as I get adequate rain gear when the store down the road opens at 10:00.  I grab a quick snack from the store and wait for the sporting store to open.  He shows up at 10:10.

Dave is the owner, and very kind and helpful.  He knows and loves gear and has a very complete assortment of gear for survival in wild environs.  His other job is supplying Navy Seals, and he mentions several times during my shopping that this or that was tested and liked by them.  I select my items – warm waterproof black diamond gloves, liners, a rainsuit by Helly Hansen, and a Patagonia down jacket.  It’s a big bill, but I should have bought these things before leaving.

Three guys in the store offer to give me a ride back to the campground, and I hop in with them, learning that they are the father, son, and Australian friend the store owner was bitching about trying to help in the middle of the night last night.  Nice guys all of them.  They are planning to hole up with the hiker dad at the motel and then he will continue in a day or two.  The son and friend will then join him in Tehachapi.  I’m sure there will be many meetings with fellow travelers on the PCT.  We exchange phone numbers and they drop me into the rain again, but this time I’m warm and dry and happy to head back to camp.

I find Chance holed up in the rat turded bathroom, wolf spider hanging from the ceiling.  He has the gear more or less packed and organized, and the horses seem alright.  I tell him my idea to pack up and ride 15 miles, but he suggests we get a motel room and dry out first.  I agree and we begin the 2 hour chore of loading all the packs again.  I vow to make sure to down load our weight tonight, and Chance agrees.

We ride finally through a beautiful cold mist over fields of yellow flowers and blue lakes lying in pastures.  It is very beautiful on the Big Laguna Trail, and in a couple of hours we are back at the Post Office again, where we have another conversation with Janine, the postmaster.

I tell her I’m not sure if she wins the prize for best or worst advice ever.  She laughs, and we become friends.  She is off duty in 15 minutes, and offers to help us find a place to put the horses.  She makes a few calls, and then suggests that we use the Forest Service Corrals down the street.  Perfect!

When she is off duty, she leaves me with a cold beer and drives Chance down to check out the corrals while I stay with the horses.  I go to the store and get a room, and then start unloading gear.  They quickly return and Chance goes to pay for the room, and then we head to the gear shop where we buy another tent, a new water filter, several pairs of socks, and Chance picks up another rain jacket and new gloves.  We spend another $1200, but it feels like our lives may depend on it.  Dave couldn’t be more helpful kind or patient.

After that, we trot down to the corrals and Janine provides us with some nice hay, which the horses dive into with great appetite.  We leave all the saddles and tarp well for their overnight stay.   Janine offers us the use of her truck so we can buy more horse feed tomorrow, and invites us into her adorable cabin for a beer on the way back.  I like her a lot – a fellow horsewoman with a great sense of humor and an independent attitude.  My new best friend!  She offers to keep my gun, which I would like to ditch for weight, and I think I will accept her offer.  It’ll be a good reason to come back one day, or perhaps I’ll just give it to her in appreciation of her good deeds today.  She likes guns.

We’ve decided to stay another day to get resupplied, dry our gear and sort through what we need to send home.

I’m so excited to get to this landmark day.  It reminds me of the day on Kennebec pass when I downloaded half my gear on the boys from Farmington.  I know things will be sooooo much better when our load is lighter.  Chance is already asleep after sorting through all his things and making a much lighter pile to keep. 

So another great day, although it was a tough one for all 6 of us, we survived and are the better for it.  A good night sleep awaits in a real bed.  My shower tonight felt fantastic, although I ran out of hot water and then I felt guilty because Chance didn’t have a chance at one.  Oh well, he’ll have his in the morning. 

Planning to spend the day here which may include a trip to Julian for horse feed and fun.  Every day is an adventure – it’s just such a relief to have the horses in a safe place and well fed.  The forecast is for sunshine and warmer weather and that will be a real treat for us after our ordeal.

I enter this blog from a darling cafe in Julian.  I'm having some technology issues, so please check my facebook for more photos.  You can find me under Trish Larson Clayburgh.  It seems easier to upload to Facebook than this blog.  You would think I'd have plenty of time for this, but we have much to do today and are quickly running out of time.

We are planning to head out tomorrow, Friday, for Warner Springs, which lies about 75 miles north on the PCT.  We think we should get in there in about 4 days.

We hear that bad weather is due to arrive in about 48 hours.  We now have a new tent and rain gear and the horses have full bellies and will carry a new supply of food.  Wish us luck on the next challenging mileage.

Thanks for following, and as always, I love to hear from you!