Monday, August 31, 2009

Health Insurance Reform

I spent the weekend in Stockton at an Organizing for America training camp.

If you support Obama's basic principles for health insurance reform then make sure you've pledged your support on his website. If you're further left than the President (like me) and are bummed that Obama seems to have waffled on the public option, you should still sign. If you're on the other side and think it's cool that America spends the most per capita on health care and yet gets only the 37th best results, and that 47 million people have no insurance (but drive up your premiums because they'll end up getting treated at your county hospital when their preventable illness becomes an emergency (and thus super-expensive)), then I guess we'll just have to agree that I think you are lame.

Sign the pledge now, then go look for a congressional sendoff in your area. Basically, OFA is bundling together all these pledges and delivering them to Reps/Senators on their way back to DC now that their vacation is over. I'll be at SF City Hall at 5PM this Wednesday. You should come.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Barefoot Running

I don't buy it. But then again, I pretty much believe in nothing, so the fact that I'm skeptical should be a foregone conclusion.

Also, I enjoyed District 9. It had decent direction from a technical perspective with an enjoyable schlub as the unwitting hero and obvious but not too blunt parallels to important issues.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another Summer Gone


School starts tomorrow. I might be able to get away for a long Labor Day weekend, but the summer's pretty much over. For some dumb reason I'm signed up for a 9:00 AM Spanish class that meets M-F, I'm teaching 3 sections of Econ 100B (Macro), and I'm facilitating a student-taught course on impact evaluation of poverty relief programs. I don't see a lot of research getting done this semester.

On the eve of the death of my freedom, what did I accomplish this summer? Certainly not what I set out to do. I most certainly did not break the Pacific Crest Trail speed record. My friends Scott and Adam did, however. Hearty congratulations to the both of them. They did it without setting foot in a car the entire way, and were only met by their significant others along the trail a couple times over a two-day span. Basically, they summited Everest alpine style with no Sherpas and no supplemental oxygen; they kicked ass in the most environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing way possible. (I'm reminded of this old Mark Jenkins piece from Outside when I think of how much cleaner the unsupported hike is than the supported.)

Anyway, I bailed on the record attempt because, even though I absolutely loved it the first time, I didn't want to do the PCT again, fast or slow. In this instance, life seemed too short to spend more than one day doing something I've done before. (Running the same race over and over is fine, they (mostly) take less than a day.) And it's not just hiking the same trails again, it's the fact that I'm still hiking trails. I realized that, especially on my long trips, I need to be pushing myself to learn new backcountry skills. I learned lightweight backpacking on the AT. I learned desert and snow travel on the PCT, rainy travel on a coastal trip in California, winter travel over a few winter breaks in California, and some glacier and high altitude stuff in Peru, Pakistan, and Tanzania. On the CDT I learned to string together routes of my own creation, and I can't go back to doing less than that without feeling like I'm wasting my time. Increasing my PCT daily mileage from 29 to 41 would indeed have been a challenge, but not the one I was looking for. So instead I made up a short PCT alternate through the San Gorgonio Wilderness, then hiked the Sierra High Route as part of a 450~ mile route of my own construction. I successfully followed Steve Roper's cross-country route. Next time, no more stringing together random trails from the map, and no more following other people's well-described cross-country routes, it's up to me to make up my own cross-country routes. (Or start adding packrafting or winter travel or canyoneering.)

I'm moving into a new place on September 1st, and hopefully then I'll settle down to the routine of teaching, running, and wasting time on the Internet.

Big City Mountaineers

I spent the 16th to the 22nd on a Big City Mountaineers trip to the Lillian/Jackass/Chittendon/Vandenburgh Lakes area in the Ansel Adams Wilderness & Sierra NF. The kids were (mostly) from an Oakland org called What Now America? (the name makes no sense to me either, and I even had the founder try to explain it to me.)

There were 5 adults (one team leader with WFR training, one guy from the org (WNA) that already knew some of the kids, and three regular volunteers) and 4 kids (usually 5, one couldn't come at the last minute). I don't think it was a radically life-altering experience for anybody, but I do think it was definitely a good experience for everyone in terms of character-building. Along those lines, it refreshes my anger that Boy Scouts is a bunch of bigots, because if a week-long trip can help kids out, then imagine how much seven years of this stuff could do for somebody.

Despite the trails being lower, dryer, and dustier than I'd prefer, and despite only hiking 25 miles all week (I did a lot of reading (see last post) and listening to podcasts to fill the time), I had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed moments when the kids emitted spontaneous comments showing they were clearly enjoying it like "Oh my God that lake is beautiful" or when they were scared by a group of grouse taking sudden thunderous flight from right beneath their feet. The trip wasn't rigorously structured, which I thought was good--plenty of time for the kids to try and catch tadpoles or whatever.

I don't get along with small children very well, but these kids were 12-16 and can thus appreciate sarcasm, so we had a good time telling momma jokes, accusing each other of snoring/farting, me telling bear stories, and them telling rough neighborhood stories.

I'd definitely do it again, and I'd definitely recommend it to my hiker-trash friends. Here are some pics (with the kids small enough that they're unrecognizable, since, uh, my blog is public.)

Tenuous life on a boulder

Snowpatch on the way to the pass near Sing Peak--the kids' big hiking challenge

Me from the pass, Minarets, Banner & Ritter on the horizon

Vandenburgh Lake

Monday, August 24, 2009

When the S--- Hits the Fan, Fill the Tub

Got back from a week in the woods with BCM (that'll be my next post). In the meantime, Dan Simmons' The Terror, a historical fiction account of the most disastrous polar exploration ever changed to include something like a killer abominable snowman, was a great entertaining read. Haruki Murakami's What I Talk about when I Talk about Running was a very staid if not robotic and boring account of a novelist that runs marathons. Cormac McCarthy's The Road good. Not great. Style not my thing. Incomplete sentences. Sometimes great, though. For example, when the s--- hits the fan:
What is happening?
I don't know.
Why are you taking a bath?
I'm not.

For some reason, I love that part.

Hurt Locker was good for what it is, an action movie. (500) Days of Summer was cute with a great soundtrack. Rosemary's Baby was not scary but just screwed up, like the director, whose films I try to avoid (except that Chinatown is one of the best ever).

I went with my little brother to an Oakland back-to-school rally. The Cougar Cadet Drumline performed, and they were incredible. I didn't have my camera, but here's an older performance off youtube that doesn't do a live performance justice, although the scraper bike in the first few seconds adds some cool flavor.

The best part was that they did the reject and the jerk while drumming, which I now recognize thanks to the BCM kids.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I'm leaving for a trip to the Sierra National Forest with Big City Mountaineers tomorrow. Back next weekend.

Mokelumne Coast to Crest

I was on EBMUD property near Briones Reservoir the other day and noticed "Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail" signs. Mostly I was ticked off about how little access EBMUD allows, supposedly to protect the watershed but at the same time allowing cattle grazing that I assume produces way more erosion and poop-in-water-itis, but I figured I'd look into this MC2C Trail. From the website, it doesn't look like it's moving along very fast, but it's a nice idea. It'd be a nice way to get to the Sierras from the coast. The American Discovery Trail already does the same thing, but further north and with a lot of pavement and by going through downtown Sacramento. Maybe if the MC2C ever got finished it would be a prettier way to traverse the foothills, although I bet there'd be a million cows.

Map of proposed MC2C.

Tahoe-Yosemite Trail

I ordered a copy of the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail Guidebook from after I got home and just took a look through it this morning. Apparently the TYT, although proposed by the Forest Service, has never been official, and even if you read old Sierra Club Bulletins, there wasn't much info on it, so the author (Thomas Winnett) wrote the guidebook to try and help the process along. The first edition was published in 1970, mine in 1987. The book describes (in a southbound direction) a 180-mile route from Meeks Bay on the western side of Lake Tahoe to Tuolumne Meadows, and my edition includes black, white, and blue topo maps of the whole route, likely the only ones you'd need to hike the trail.

Here are my thoughts on the route (arranged northbound):
From TM to Bond Pass near Dorothy Lake the TYT is the PCT, so nothing new to me there. But here the TYT goes NW through Emigrant Meadow, by Relief Reservoir, and hits highway 108 near Kennedy Meadows (that's the NORTH Kennedy Meadows to anybody familiar with the PCT) then does an 8.5-mile highway walk back east most of the way to Sonora Pass, getting off the highway near St. Mary's Pass. Obviously, it is stupid to walk the highway for 8.5 miles, so the book includes the maps for just taking the PCT from Bond Pass, hitting 108 at Sonora Pass, and walking west maybe a half mile to the St. Mary's Pass trail.

From Highway 108, I unwittingly took part of the TYT by climbing to St. Mary's Pass and bushwhacking down the Clark's Fork of the Stanislaus until the trail starts. I, however, went back up to the PCT after 10 miles or so at Iceberg Meadow via Disaster Creek. The TYT, however, continues down the Clark's Fork via the Clark's Fork road for a couple miles, goes up Arnot Creek and Woods Gulch, down Slaughter Canyon, crosses the North Fork Stanislaus and goes west to Lake Alpine before crossing the Mokelumne River and heading up Summit City Creek and reconnecting with the PCT at Frog Lake just south of Carson Pass. This portion gets down to the 6000' range, so it's much lower than the PCT, but I wish I'd known this before I did my hike, because I was just on the PCT from Wolf Creek Pass (where Disaster Creek brought me) across Ebbett's Pass on Hwy 4 all through the Mokelumne Wilderness to Frog Lake/Carson Pass. That's a decent stretch of trail in terms of cool volcanic knobs, but I always prefer seeing new stuff, even if it was a bunch longer and lower. Oh well.

From Frog Lake/Carson Pass the next 35 miles of the TYT are the PCT--over Echo Summit, through Desolation Wilderness to Phipps Peak, where the last 9 miles of the TYT diverge from the PCT to go NE over Phipps Pass, by Rubicon, Stony Ridge, and Shadow Lakes, and down Meeks Creek to Meeks Bay.

So anyway, that's the TYT. A stupid and avoidable roadwalk along hwy 108, one small cross-country section that I happened to do because my old map incorrectly showed a trail there, and further west and lower than the PCT through the Mokelumne. It seems likely (if not obvious) that the non-PCT portions aren't maintained as well as the PCT, but I'd guess it's a pretty good alternate route for anybody that's already done the PCT.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Just thought I'd ask if anyone out there (excluding annoying touts from guiding companies) has experience doing trekking in Malaysia or Indonesia, preferably as independently as possible. Why? Part of the price of my truck was to visit my sister in Indonesia, so I'll probably do that for three weeks this winter. I'd like to go for a little longer, but Cal is hosting a Wilderness First Responder course in January that I'd like to do so I can start volunteering with Search & Rescue.

Anyway, a cursory reading of Lonely Planet's Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei says Taman Negara or Endau-Rompin might be cool parks to go to, but they might be straight-up closed in Dec/Jan due to monsoons, and you have to hire a guide (which I hate, hate, hate) to climb Gunung Tahan.

Another option is to just surf all day every day in Banda Aceh. I have never gone surfing before, but I've never met a single person that didn't love it, so this seems like a good opportunity to learn.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I'm presently too lazy to make a website with all my photos from this summer, so I decided to temporarily let anybody see the albums I already made on facebook. You don't have to have a facebook account to look at them.

Thirty photos from the first 454 miles of the PCT.
Ninety-eight photos from ~500 miles in the Sierras.

Monday, August 10, 2009


1. This could make for a fascinating dissertation.

2.Holy crap. Nick Kristof knows his stuff when it comes to backpacking. I did not expect that.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Headlands Hundred

I ran the Headlands Hundred in 26:48. It was four times around a 25-mile loop run in alternating directions ("washing machine loops"). The course could have been less loopy, but thanks to California's budget mess, Mt. Tamalpais State Park is closed to special events (econ thought--Couldn't the state just charge enough to make hosting special events profitable?) so the course had to be entirely in the federal Golden Gate National Rec. Area. My 25-mile lap times were 5:09, 6:10, 7:39, and 7:50. I've previously been of the opinion that you can't bank time, so you shouldn't go out fast and should run even splits, but I don't really feel like the fast first loop was a mistake--I just think that until I do a lot more training I'm always going to be slow in the middle of the night after 80-some miles.

The views were great, and the weather was beautiful--foggy and 65 to 70 Saturday, with the fog staying thick until around 2:00 PM then rolling back in at 5:30 PM or so. The night never really got that cold, and then I managed to finish before it got too hot this morning. My goal was 28 hours, so I'm happy with my time. I'm a little bummed that I didn't go sub-24 since it seemed totally possible after 50, but that would obviously require real training to keep up the pace on the last loop. The overall winner was in the under 30 age group, and I thought I was going to pull off second in my age group, which would have been nice. I recognize the eventual under-30 2nd placer from other events and was trying to keep track of where he was, but can't remember where on earth he passed me on the third loop. Oh well.

After the fact I'm glad I did it, but from mile 60 to 92 or so I couldn't stop thinking how much I love 50-milers and think 100-milers would only really be fun if I were doing the entire thing together with a good friend. Very similar to my thoughts during my first and only other 100-miler in '06. Regardless, it was nice to do it so I can put in for Hard Rock again next year.

Thanks to AL for pacing me the last 25.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Sometimes I'm Not Worthless

I'm presently carbo-loading for the 100-miler tomorrow. You can check my times every 25 miles online. It starts at 7AM and I'm shooting for 28 hours. Mostly because that's a nice round number that makes for easy math so I can tell my pacer when to show up for the last 25 miles (Thanks AL). I'll be happy to finish; I think It'll be kind of funny to "run" a 100-miler without having gone running a single time in over two months. Oh, wait. I think I ran like 3 or 4 miles with my friend in Logan July 4. Oh well.

The past few days when I haven't been wasting time on the computer or trying to find a place to live, I've been trying to deck out the camper shell. The windows aren't tinted so it's obvious when I leave things in the back, and since I don't have a room of my own, the bed is presently full of stuff I'd like to have not stolen. So I made drapes. Originally I attached them at the top and thought I'd sew in a dowel rod at the bottom so I could roll them up so I could see while driving, but then I realized putting the rod at the top and making them completely detachable would be easier. So now when you walk by when it's dark out, unless you look closely, it just looks dark and empty, and I feel like I'm not the least-handy person in the world.


Also, I just learned that the cool tunnel near/under Snoqualmie Pass through which I ran in '06 on the Cascade Crest Classic 100 is closed due to potential falling rocks. News Story.

Thoughts on Gear

I thought I'd post some thoughts on my gear for my two ~500-mile trips this summer. I won't do a gear list because it's pretty much the same as it was for the CDT, which is posted on my CDT page: REI Sub-Kilo 20-degree sleeping bag, Tarptent Contrail, whichever ULA pack best fits the circumstances, Patagonia Houdini jacket, plus as little else as possible.

Sleeping bag: I've done the PCT, Peru, Pakistan, Kilimanjaro, CDT yo-yo, and now this 1,000 miles (340+ nights) in my Sub-Kilo. It's about had it, but mostly that's because I hung it on the radiator in Salida, CO and made a portion of it a little crispy/crinkly. Down is coming out near the drawstring grommet. The comparable Marmot of Western Mountaineering is probably better, but for the money, the REI bag is unbeatable.

Tarptent: I don't usually wear gaiters, but I tried some DirtyGirls on this trip, and I guess that although they keep twigs out without over-heating your feet, I regret it since they ripped a big hole in my tarp. (I set up in a really cramped space with horrible mosquitoes. After staking down the tarp in four places I was walking around to the back to prop up the rear struts, my gaiter lace hook caught on a guy-line loop and yanked.) The tarp is so light, but it still lasted the entire CDT yo-yo, and a little duct tape fixed this hole right up. I'm a big fan.

Bear Can: I hate bear cans. But I've got a BearVault 300 (I was told all BV models are still good, you don't have to worry about having one with the newer red-stickered lids), and when a vampire bear went after it the same night I jacked my tarp, the can held. Call me stupid, but do I think the bear would have bothered me had I been using my food as a pillow like normal? No.

Packs: I used a ULA Conduit for miles 0-454 of the PCT and really liked it. (Disclosure:I'm friends with the owner/manufacturer and was given the packs.) This was my first time with a completely frameless pack, but I felt I didn't miss the support/structure all that much--I just slid my gossamer gear Night Light pad down the back and that seemed to work well. When I first tried it on I was worried that the padded portion of the hipbelt was so short it would dig into my stomach or hips, but that wasn't a problem at all. I thought the detachability of the packs EDIT: hip-belt pockets was no great bonus, and I thought you could save an ounce by not doubling the ripstop that makes up the storm-collar, but other than that I was happy.
I used a ULA Circuit for the Sierra 500 portion of the hike. It doesn't accept a bear can horizontally (a Catalyst does), so I put it in vertically with my rolled up tent also put in vertically. At first, with a bear can and generally way too much weight, my new shoulder straps were slipping and required constant adjustment, but once they got broken in and I lowered my weight, even with the off-center bear can, the pack worked very well. My pack is an '07 model, and on newer models everything that I wasn't 100% satisfied (mostly stretchiness of exterior pockets) with has been fixed. I also used this pack for the sobo portion of the CDT yo-yo, and it's got a few holes now, but that happens when your bleach bottle leaks all over stuff or you slide down vertical granite.

Ice Axe: I use an aluminum Camp XLA-210 ice axe. I was glad to have it on the SHR. I used it instead of ULA's Potty Trowel since I didn't know what to expect on the SHR and wanted something substantive, but the Camp was overkill.

Shoes: Brooks hooked me up with a small discount, so I bought 6 pairs. I feel it was a big mistake to do the desert in road running shoes (I was expecting 110+ degree heat), but I can't be 100% sure about this, perhaps my feet would have hated life in any shoes since they weren't used to the pack weight. For the rest I used Adrenaline and Cascadia. The SHR absolutely demolishes running shoes. I was a little disappointed with the Adrenalines, so I replaced them at Tuolumne Meadows (after using them less than 200 miles from KM to TM) but then the La Sportivas I bought at TM were making the bottom of my feet intimate with every rock on trail before I'd gone another 200 miles, so I blame the razor sharp granite, not the shoes. If I were to do it again, I'd go back in time and buy the low-cut Vasque Breeze or the vibram-soled low-cut Asolo from the STP outlet in Reno (which I didn't because I'd just gotten a phone call saying my truck would cost me $650+).

Umbrella: I used Go-Lite's Chrome Dome. I love the built-in mylar, but I hate the complete flimsiness of the struts. I've got an old non-mylar one from '04 and I think it holds up to wind way better than the newer ones do.

Sun hat: I wore a vented TNF wide-brim hat for the first 454, then a vented Columbia baseball cap plus bandana for the Sierra 500. I think all sun hats make you look stupid, but the cap+bandana combo is the best way to go. Wide-brims are very annoying in wind, while your ears can turn to a crisp with just a cap. I think cap+bandana is warmer than I'd like, and you can still get annoying sun glare from the sides, but on the plus side, your shadow on the ground can sort of make you look like Lawrence of Arabia.

Trekking Poles: Not a big fan. Especially when you blow $50 on a pair then leave them in the back of a random dude's truck while hitch-hiking, although I managed to score a replacement hiking stick plus a too-tall ski pole from nice people at Kennedy Meadows. I use them on snow, so they were helpful to have on the SHR, but I ditched them immediately after. From Andrew Skurka I got the idea of using lighter non-adjustable ski-poles and taking off the straps, and I like that, but I don't agree with his suggestion to take off the baskets--they punch way too far down into snow. On trail I feel it's more effort to drag them forward through snagging brush, on talus sometimes they help you avoid crouching down on all fours. On the 454 of the PCT (where I didn't use them at all) I felt I was a little crouched over and thought poles would help with that. They don't.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


My truck is successfully registered, I bought a camper shell off craigslist, I made some drapes for it so I can feel a little safer about leaving stuff in the back overnight, I got a Berkeley parking permit in a sweet close-to-campus location, I signed up for a 100-miler this weekend, and I'm looking for a place to live. If you know of some kayaker/climber/cyclist or otherwise cool folks in the east bay with an extra room, hooks me up. Once I get a place to live, I'm interested in leads on wheat grinders, bread machines, and sewing machines. Evans is mostly a ghost-town, so it doesn't make me regret skipping out on work most of the summer. There's pretty much zero chance I'll finish this year, because I'm pretty tired of my baseball idea and the academic market is rumored to be terrible. I'm working on picking out the best photos from my trip to post, then I'll start posting hike stuff.