Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Contrite Blog Post: Taking Newbs Backpacking

I'm packing up to move today. I'll be moving into probably my seventh place in Berkeley, but it could be more depending on how you count friends' couches or "the woods." Regardless, hopefully this will be the last move until I graduate (hopefully next year). Other than my having been distracted lately, research is going well. I was busy grading exams, I may have to file a FOIA request, bla bla bla.

The cool stuff: I went to Ventana Wilderness for three days. I took two friends from high school, one who lives in SF, and one who's visiting from Chicago.

Here they are at the trailhead on Hwy 1 near Kirk Creek.

We didn't get to the trailhead until 7PM, so we just did three miles or so to the first campsite. We made a big campfire, which was only the third time I have built one in all of my 10,000+ miles of hiking since 2002. I set them up with lightweight gear (we all used ULA packs), and I mostly had enough lightweight non-cotton clothing to outfit all of us. We ate my homemade energy bars (admittedly not the best batch I've ever made, however), lots of dried fruit, and dehydrated beans and corn-chips. The second day we did 7 or 8 miles through Vincente Flat to the Cone Peak lookout and down to Trail Springs campsite. My friends were exhausted when we got there, so we set up camp and I set out to explore, taking off on the North Coast Ridge Trail, then getting my cross-country fix by following a ridge back to Cone Peak. It turned out pretty gnarly and there were a bunch of small rock-slides when I bailed off the ridge.

The ridge and Cone Peak lookout

The last day I suggested we go out via a loop (the Stone Ridge Trail) to avoid repeating what we'd already done. I'd read something online about this trail being "impassable," but the people who wrote it got through, so that means by definition it's not impassible, so I thought it'd be fun. It very well might have been had I been by myself, but my friends were not amused, which pretty much made me feel like crap. The trail was in horrible shape. It burned a few years ago, and is very overgrown, often with poison oak. Eventually we decided to give up on the trail and bomb straight down to the highway. I likely would have done that early on had I been by myself, but I was worried we'd run into a steep dropoff that would make things worse.

In the end everybody ended up OK. I was in the front, so I was the one that stepped over the rattlesnake (of course I've encountered dozens before, but I can't remember having stepped on or over one stretched out across the trail), and when we dropped off the trail, we very quickly found an old roadbed that led all the way to the highway. And so far no one's face is covered in oozing poison oak sores.

I think this is only the second time I've planned a trip to take friends backpacking. Neither have been completely positive experiences. It's hard to find a balance that suits everyone. I don't build campfires, I don't care what I smell like, and I think cold beans and corn chips taste great a million days in a row. Apparently not everyone agrees. There's definitely something to be said for masochism over sadism. If I take a guidebook route that's overgrown and very difficult, I get annoyed, but if I pick the route myself, I feel an awesome sense of exploration. So I'm sure my friends, who were just following me and not paying much attention to the map, were not really getting a great sense of adventure, and I wasn't getting it either since I was worried that my friends were miserable, might get hurt, or might have their eyes swollen shut with poison oak later in the week.

I like this way more than my friends

View from the Cone Peak Lookout

Vincente Flat Campsite

Where we came out on Hwy 1

The start of the old roadbed we found

So that's it. In the end hopefully it'll be type II fun for everyone involved. I definitely liked the Ventana Wilderness itself; the ocean views and wildflowers are beautiful. Some day maybe I'll string together a 75-ish mile route from end to end.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I just learned to roll a kayak. I took a lesson from the UC Aquatic Center, with the same instructor who taught the basic class I took last fall. I assume it will be harder when I (1) go under accidentally instead of deliberately (2) go under in the cold ocean instead of a heated pool, or (3) go under in my gigantic sea kayak instead of a tiny whitewater boat, but for now, I'm pretty stoked about the C to C roll (on my right side, and actually, more just "righting myself" instead of a complete revolution).

Jurek in NYT

Scott Jurek is crazy, awesome, and vegan.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Redwood 50K

Ran the Redwood 50K in 6:03 today. It rained pretty hard for almost the first hour, which made the mud pretty fun and the chafing pretty not-fun. I had hoped to ride my bike the 11 miles there to save carbon and get a better workout, but I slept pretty crappily and I thought it wouldn't be a good idea with the rain. now has a pretty decent results page for every ultra schmoe out there, including me. They show 20 of the 23 I've run. A better person's list to look at is this one.

Let me just end by saying there are few better feelings in life than to have an uplifting episode of Fresh Air end and an amazing rock song [see below] come on your iPod, and all the sudden have the endorphins flowing and all the sudden start running twice as fast when you're 3/5 of the way through an ultra.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

"Wouldn't you go to prison to help end this war?"

Just watched The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsburg and the Pentagon Papers. Great movie.

Somebody put caltrops or nails on the PCT near Tehachapi, so watch your step.

Outside magazine article about the Berkeley grads arrested (and still imprisoned) after accidentally hiking into Iran from Kurdish northern Iraq.

Last weekend in the midst of trying to buy a bicycle I went for a run in the Marin Headlands while the Miwok 100K was going on. Yes, it's pretty over there.

Rodeo Beach

Wolf Ridge

Tennessee Beach

I'm running my first ultra of the year tomorrow, a 50K in Redwood Regional Park. Whatever. Maybe it's the fact that it's 1:30 in the afternoon and I'm still in bed, but mostly I'm excited about riding my bike there.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Last weekend I went down to San Diego (Lake Morena campground, specifically) for ADZPCTKO, AKA, the best weekend of the year.

Thursday was Trail Jeopardy, Friday Nano, Gazelle, and I ran to Boulder Oaks and back. That's not that long a run (11 or so) but it was at a pretty good tempo with some good hills. Then instead of one Class of '09 video (that's typically just a bunch of photos of '09 hikers with way too much Ken Burns effect) as has been the case for the last five years, the organizers showed several short films submitted by hikers. The most memorable was probably Jester's Wizards of the PCT. It was fairly Squatch-esque in that it showed a bunch of silly hikers' exploits while also describing the trail. We just saw the desert portion, the whole thing will be finished later this year. (Also later this year, Squatch is hoping to film some friends going after the current 29-day speed record for the high point in each of the lower 48 states.)

Saturday Ducky (the Wise) and I did some trail work, the entire entourage ganged up on Heinz for some brief political arguing, and then we saw the main presentation: June Mulford (age 82?), who thru-rode the trail in 1959 with her husband, showed us some of her slides. You can read about their ride here. Several of her pics are online there, but I wish I could find the closeup of her and her husband before starting; it was perfect adorable 1950's. For now, this one will have to do: After riding the trail, they went around the country doing slideshows and appeared on TV on Art Linkletter's House Party. Anyway, she was adorable and her story made me cry.

Then we got a sneak preview of National Geographic's America's Wild Spaces: Pacific Crest Trail documentary. (It's from the same series as their AT doc) It won't be shown on TV until this fall, but the crew started filming at Kick-off last year, so they were nice and let us watch it at Kick-off this year.

Good golly it was horrible.

To be honest, while watching it, I realized that majority of the words that were spoken were either (a)inaccurate or (b)horribly, horribly cheesy, but I was overwhelmed by the "Hey I know that guy!" and "Holy crap look at that helicopter shot!" I still enjoyed the subject matter and aerial footage, but the unanimous consensus afterward was that it was not informative, it was horribly cheesy, and they used the word "extreme" a laughably high number of times.

Then Sunday I spent the afternoon with the Ruts in La Jolla.

All in all a good weekend. Old friends (Nitro's entourage had 100% attendance), new friends, acquaintances who I realized have very similar backgrounds (and names) as me and are now friends. Hikers are my people.

Here are some pics:

Marlowe and Gazelle rocking the Dirty Girls
The Entourage
Our shadows looking bad-ass on a beer run
Georgi, downed up for the evening
June Mulford, representing
 Some dude, representing

Here's a nice blog post by Chuckie V about Eric Ryback, who was there again this year and gave money to the PCTA so they could give every thru-hiker a very nice medal.

I just bought a bike.

Behold. It's a beautiful 51cm Lemond Tourmalet. Probably a 2002, which was maybe the last year they made steel frames.

I'd long been considering a Surly Cross-Check or Soma Double-Cross. I test-rode a used Cross-Check yesterday, but the 2x9 setup wouldn't work well for touring. I could have changed that pretty easily myself, but finding the Lemond exactly the way I wanted it for $50 more was easier. I do have to buy some shoes before I can really take this one very far, however.