Friday, May 3, 2013

Steep learning curb!

I'm in Warner Springs, California across from the fire station on road 79 (you can google map it and at 500 ft resolution you can see the Pacific Crest Trail ... and see what terrain I'm crossing with the satellite image)

April 30th … 60 miles
Feeding at TK & Barbara's table ... wonderful!
We've been all alone except for a daily walk and Pascal sleeping in his yellow tent. He had quite a time setting it up. The designers decided to make the Dome 2 larger and a bit shorter than the last one so the foot print tarp mat fits badly. The poles set up is a bit strange but the perpendicular new pole keeping the tent wider is a good idea … once you get the hang of it. Clutzy had to look at the instructions … I counted at least 10 times!
A great lady through hicker ...
Chris, a nice young man who camped with us, was really pleaseant to be with. He even got hired by Dirty Lady Gaiters to make extra pocket money.
No! really GAITERS for HIKERS in all sorts of colors and really well made.
She even gave a couple of pairs to our Clutzy who wears them with panache! I think he really appreciated the woman who owns the shop, a spirit leading a life of will and determination. Just the same type of woman he met this morning at the coffee shop where he glutted eggs, home made sausage and pan fried potatoes … he was full of coffee and food while he left us in a small patch of grass tied to a tree by the highway … but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Another GPS helper!

HalfMile helps us with GPS settings
Anza Borrego Desert landscapes from the trail
So the kick off helped Clutzy, I mean Pascal of course, got the GPS equipped and set up as well as obtaining precious information on water conditions ahead. We are really in desertic lands and nothing is anticipated for horses or noble donkeys … I won't speak of the half breed you call mules.
A lot of people, many came to see us but few were smart enough to bring carrots or apples. Clutzy got friendly with the local store manager Tony and got him to buy specially carrots for us and a salad for him.
As for apples Clutzy only shares the cores … what a selfish guy! Each day at the walks we have to stop every few minutes to get our pictures taken … they didn't care about Clutzy! And I was of course always in front with my beautiful face and smile.
The last day Clutzy (this is why I named him Clutzy this blog) came back and I didn't recognize him! He had no beard or hair! Probably ran under an lawnmower.

So we got up at dawn but Clutzy was so slow that
it took over 90 minutes to have us packed. I must say though, he does it with care and we have neither twisted fur nor any sores at the end of the day. We walked through dry bush country to eventually arrive in a valley with very old oak trees.

We passed under a bridge and I even crossed a streamlet without making a scandal. After all, there was less than an inch of water even if it was runnning. I too thought I was marvelous and brave … Clutzy said so but of course no carrot or something nice for me! A few miles later I got him though. He wanted me to walk in mud and cross a river that came at least to my anckle! Green stuff was growing making you think it was shallow but I have good eyes and I can tell you my pretty ankles are not going to get wet just because the trail goes there.
That nasty guy just ignored my refusal and tied me to a post on the other side. Each time I came just a bit closer he twisted the rope on a stick … Then after an hour in which he only gained 30 inches I think he got hungry and realized Jimmy had shaken off the backpack right after he had offered us stream water (which we refused of course!). He had fixed it poorly since he knew he was going to stop and at last let us eat a bit, relieved of our load. It didn't occur to him at that stop that the backpack was missing so he suddenly got up, left us in a hell of a predicament facing that stream, and ran 2 miles back to recuperate the backpack. I had seen it falling off, but I wasn't going to tell so he could once again load my poor brother with more weight. Oh did I tell you he got the visit at the meeting of so called experts who have been hicking with packmules, they told Pascal that he had been right in making our packsaddles since here they only make them for mules. They also complimented him on the use of straps and using sheepskins as protection. What I appreciated less is that they looked at the weight and said he was fine! Ya you bet! He's not carrying this stuff. Since then he loads me with at least 10lbs more, almost as much as Jimmy. What worries me is that they said that once we got accustomed then he could pack more … no way sister!
Too high! above the knee and we are not jumping Jacks!
So when he finally got back with the backpack, I decided this rigamarole around the crossing had lasted enough and taking my courage by both nails, I simply stepped and jumped to the other side dragging my stupid brother with me. I didn't even get congratulated, what a bore!
We walked all the way to Cibbets flat campground and were greeted by Kathy and Jim, the camp hosts, who told us that our poop would be good for the trees, ancien oaks that majestically provide shade to the campers. They even invited Pascal to share a bottle of wine and absolutely (to die for) delicious 'brunchettas' based on a Jim receipy but marvelously executed by Kathy! They didn't even think of offering us carrots or apples the toads! Toads jump at you but there is nothing but squish when I step on them. We stayed the night and all morning while Pascal was very busy with figuring out the water issues ahead and planning our walk.
Kathy & Jim's home sweet home  .... with birds!
A lady came by, ex army, and she asked him to fix her GPS … as if he knew … but he did get Half Mile's (a really nice guy that provides PCT maps and helps set up GPS for hikers) way-points on her machine. A way-point is a place you cross when you go from point a to point b. Half Mile has over 7000 way points on the PCT! It informs you on distance and landmarks. Did I mention Laurence the WaterMan. He gave Pascal precise information for the next 100 miles on where there was water for us and it's quality. He even found some water juggs as Pascal was trying to replace the 6 gallon container Jimmy had destroyed.
So we left around 4 pm and had to climb 9 miles up into a nice wooded region. Once again there was a stream and he did the short rope thing to me after I absolutely refused to walk over the 10 inch stream. 10 inches may not be important to you but when water is running you can't tell how it might bring a donkey down the ravine. I didn't want to take the chance but finally I did have to jump. My big brother tied by only a stretch rope, not bad when on the trail we need a little distance to get over something, he did not move and it broke. Then he was all panicked since I was on the other side and he couldn't reach me. Finally Pascal brought him to a place where he forgot there was the stream and he walked over the space to join me. What a story! So we keep climbing, meet couples who are setting up for the night in lovely spots with grass and we keep walking. Only at the imminent arrival of night did he consent to park us next to a road under pine trees where the grass was thin compared to what we had passed. I had to spend at least 1hour grazing while I could have done it in 30 minutes in the right field. He finished with his head light our unpacking. He must have eaten cold since he did not light a fire. Probably that rice with mushrooms he had fixed for lunch. But he always has a stash of goodies, nuts and fruits that I'd like to taste. Trail mix I think they call it.
Then at dawn, when we were still asleep he woke us up, gave us half a gallon each of water and then tied us up so he could saddle us. It still took him an hour but there we were off before the sun hit the top of the hills. We walked an hour before we got to a place where we could have a good drink. He finally gave us half his salt shaker yesterday, so we need lots less water … Then he meandered around the campground and got us on the road where an Inn was opening. That's where he got that big breakfast while we stood dumbly near the side of the road tied to a tree. I say dumbly as an attitude, not that I could ever look dumb. When he got out we started down the road and nearly got 300 yards when this wild stallion in his field started running towards us. I got scarred, but really scarred and Jimmy just amplified it so we bolted and ran for our lives. Of course Pascal could not hold us and tore his skin off his hand, but I got tangled up in the lead line and I have rope burns too. Some nice forest firemen tried to help but only Pascal could get under my feet and solve the problem. Wow I was shook up so bad that it took me nearly an hour to calm down.
I litterally walked so fast that Pascal tied us down to a tree to wait until I could take a reasonable pace. Even then, we did the next 8 miles along that road at at least 1/3 faster than usual. But it got us there and we did not meet other animals chasing us. We even had the luck of being able to pass cattle guards on the side where there was an opening. A group of young fire fighters greeted us and would have kept us longer, but I just stopped for courtesy then I walked on and Pascal had to follow. The poor guy not only tore his hand but has an awful sore shoulder which makes his transcriptions of my thoughts difficult. Today, with the shortcut by the road making us gain another 5 miles, we did 18 miles of which half on road and half on the trail. Pascal was going to keep going after 2 hours of pause, but I made myself look so tired that he decided to stay for the night and go down in the valley tomorrow. This is our first desert floor, he has decided to take the California Riding and Hicking trail that goes through old ghost towns to get faster to Warner Springs. The meandering through Anza Borrego back hills in no water country seems not really necessary. The valley floor will be much faster and easier, there is a small section of road but we can do it. I don't know if we can do it in one day, probably 2 days for the 30+ miles of our route (40 by the PCT)
Well the sun is going down and I can't charge via the battery, the Mac adaptor is too low powered … so we'll see about continuing in the sun tomorrow.
May 3rd, over 100 miles
Hello! I'm back … but what a set of events!
Well I left you on the sunset hiway trail head, where grass was so lusch that Jimmy & I couldn't stop eating it. We got up real early and left down the hill on the PCT. 1000 meters down we went almost. At the bottom we turned left, the PCT goes right, and we proudly descended on the ancient trail to all the abandonned gold mines.
Horse pen at Oaks campsite.
 But then what did I see? A immense pond in the middle of the road! At some points it must have been at least 5 inches deep! And at least twice the length of my body. No, really we can't cross THAT! But he did and then tied me to a tree on the other side. I knew I would be in for it, so I really looked the thing over and discovered that if I went into the stream bed below, climbed over a rock, the water size was reduced to a couple of inches. So I dragged my brother and went for it. The problem is that Jimmy did not follow and when I jumped on the rock, my packsaddle cross bars broke. Between my launch and Jimmy's innertia or pulling back there was over a ton of pressure! So we ended having crossed the thing but my packsaddle was barely holding and half a mile later it fell apart.
Pascal was really annoyed (I want to say pissed but sensible readers might object). He parked us on this hot road, unpacked and with straps made it so he could reload me. Much less comfortable on my backbone, but with a sponge he made an acceptable cushion. So we went into the valley under the now scortching sun. It's over 40° centigrade!
Arriving at the road, there was a gate closing the dirt road we had been on. I refused to climb the hillside to go around so he brought us back up a ways and found a slanted but acceptable path above the gate and I gracefully descended the steep return to the road … with a little pulling of course.
There there was a house and Gary accepted to give us water. Interesting guy who finds living in a trailer a good way to see his family over the country, spend time with them and do the things he likes. He and his wife seem to have found a good equilibrium, living “off the grid” for the most part (no in the “normal” context of society).
We camped under an huge oak tree and let the noon day pass. Pascal even cooked his meal and made himself coffee for the next morning.
Around 5 we set off on the road. Narrow, fast cars, I did not like it much but we made the 1.3 miles to the gate where the California Riding & Hiking trail resumed. There Pascal had to undo the barbed wire, strand by strand, make us pass and rebuild it. I must say he did it in 10 minutes really well. I would have laughed if a sheriff or conservation officer had seen us, but not Pascal from what I can read in his mind. It seems so stupid to have closed these historical public roads to people like us who “leave no trace”. This beautiful western style dirt road led us through the pampa of already dry grass for 5 miles until we saw a historical ranch just like in the films.
Of course, this is a place where they make movies all the time! The windmill water pump with the bassin (where I & Jimmy refused to drink, after all I'm used to real clean water, and here it was doubtfull at best … even if Pascal would have drunk it!). I wanted to stop but Pascal wanted to be clear of the ranch so we kept on for another mile. Then we got off the road and walking in the soft sand/dirt like pampa, we camped behind what seemed to be dead bush-trees. How lovely, once unloaded to roll and roll and roll again in this land. I made a huge dust cloud just under the wind of the camp Pascal had set up and he did not like this lovely dust I created. A party pooper I tell you!

It looks like in the movies ...
My feet are really starting to get sore, he doesn't seem to understand that I have delicate feet. Jimmy is doing much better but I'm really starting to suffer. Maybe he understands since he gave me “bute” an anti-inflammatory and pain killer. I felt better all night and ate this strange dry grass. My brother had drunk ¾ of the water last night but this morning I got to have more. We could both have more but it's “acceptable” and after all we carry the stuff. Oh! Yesterday we practically ate the whole salt shaker out of Pascal's hands.
He finally got the idea when Jimmy licked his leggs with the salf of his sweat.
We got off early again and finished the road, where again there was a gate and Pascal had to undo and redo the barbed wire. Then we walked along this road with a very large off road area so we were relaxed as trucks and cars periodically passed. Then Jo showed up. He was going to work and seeing us stopped. Suggested Pascal might stay with Chery & George who are setting up the Mountain Valley Holistic Therapy & Yoga center (a Chery dream ps read her blog it's good) and have us stay in his barn where he has 5 horses and 2 donkeys (animals he recuperated from a guy who left them “temporarily” … WE ARE NOT “ITEMS” YOU CAN JUST JUNK!)
Seeing how I'm hobbling, Pascal finally said yes and we unpacked our gear into JO's truck so we could get there faster and easier. 8 miles to go but it went fast from the time, Pascal seeing a horse in the distance made us cross the road by anticipation, we got concerned by this horse gallopping along the fence so we doubled our pace for at least 5 miles. Then we crossed the PCT and there was a few camping cars with tables set up and offers for hikers of cold drinks, fruits and food. How lovely these people are! Of course, nothing for us poor donkeys, but Pascal did sign the book for the 3 of us and we ate grass under the shade of a tree while MR had himself cold drinks and was the “talk of the town” … about us of course.
But we finally got to the Mountain Valley Holistic Therapy & Yoga center where Cheryl & George greeted us and gave us water, a place to sleep for a couple hours and Pascal got a vision of the dream. A big Yourt, two tepees, a pond area, a tree-house with a sunset viewing plateform and a hobbit's den beneath, a woman's area and in the center the house with it's hot tub. It's all in construction except the house, the beautiful pallissade around the property and the bath house meeting place, presently George's office. George is by the way a glider instructor and guide. He works in a center with a landing field nearby. To bad there is a noisy road nearby, I think they should apply with a roadway building supplies to test out on this stretch anti-noise surfacing, something they are surely working on, and this is an ideal place to test since noises can be isolated from each other and there is a great variety of traffic. For a learning, meditation, peaceful, deconnective space, the road is a real issue.
Jo arrived after work and we got to be taken up to his place 100 yards away. We were ready to eat and be somewhere permanent so we did not even panick when we saw Jo's horses. In the barn we met his two donkeys and I started to let them know who was the boss … so Jo seperated us and let them in with his horses. By the way I think I'm preferring feeding off green grass and bushes rather than this bland “bermuda” dry stuff they feed in barns. Anyhow, Jimmy & I are fine in luxurious stalls with room to move and lots of food. It's good and secure. Pascal of course abandonned us, but I hear him & Jo working in the garage and I believe they rebuilt my packsaddle. Hope it works and fits!
Well, it's not all, Pascal seems to have been real busy with repairs, cleaning up (he stinks and is really full of dirt including in the ears!) analysing food requirements, recharging the batteries, reading mail (a friend wanted him to take a job!), talking to France & US friends & family, preparing the GPS for the next section, studying maps … he did not even kiss us goodnight! But this morning early he brought me a dish of oatmeal (I know he hides the Bute in it!) and gave us both a big hug and more hay. He even treated my rope burn, which I really did not want! But it's clean and well.
So now he's writing my thoughts, eating from food cooked in a microwave oven (no fires possible here) and doing laundry. Meanwhile he'd better think our journey over and see how we can SLOW DOWN so we have a chance to heal our hooves.
Chery & George invited Pascal to diner on our last night. Excellent, not only the food but the spirit, even the next morning as we left Joe's & Lynn's place I could feel the warmth of the fellowship created in this little "heaven on earth" ... of human sharing. Lynn was touching as she had Joe drive her to us on the road to give us a last hug. ... few humans are so generous and with such ease. ...

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