Wednesday, July 17, 2013

... More pictures later ... no time now

FROM RED's MEADOWS near Mamouth California
July 17th, having crossed the highest pass in the Sierras on the PCT 13000ft

We are newly equipped with pack saddles adjusted to each of us and protections for our backs (thank you RED's Meadows team and especially Bobby Tanner). Pascal is going to Mamouth to find new bags as ours are shreds. We plan to leave tomorrow 18th for Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite and be in Lake Tahoe Area at the end of the month.

What a descent into Cajon Pass! Pascal drove us hard and we had quite a stiff about it, but we did manage to get there before sundown, coming down rolling hills, then gullies like ate lands. The trail kept on the crests and at times we had several hundred feet drops of sand dune like material on one side and steep brushy slopes on the other. Finally after crossing dirt roads, and under power lines, we ran into a stream, the trail carved into the side of the hillside and meandered this ever weaving stone chaos to the 15 freeway! There a monument commemorates the Santa Fe and Salt lake City trails that met … once upon a time.
Pascal parked us in the empty lot across from MacDonald's and then went to stuff himself with poor quality food while accessing the internet. There he met a fellow who had ended up there, camping now for over 2 years just down a dirt road he says is much quieter. Life leaves some people stranded on the wayside and they find a niche to survive and lead something of a life. He says he has everything, water, food, wifi … welfare is all he needs to “survive”. Like Guerjo who lives on his $900 of disability … a whole lot of people who “survive” living what they consider 'outside' of the system even if it is 'the system' which is really providing for their survival. No great needs, no apparent desires, just the satisfaction that they'll eat tomorrow and meanwhile do what they like. A real issue for society. Not that it cannot afford it, just a question of what is the meaning of life for a society. Remember, these people come out with novelists, artists of all types, social work that they do 'off the grid', … so they DO contribute … some of them … and YOU can't tell one from the other, no one can.
We got off to an early start, filled up with water while people took pictures, and then went to the stream that passes under the freeway. Long noisy tunnel, but now we are accustomed to these bizarre human creations. The stream flowed a little and while Pascal was insuring our route, we grazed tall grasses and ate some watercress. A heavy fog was on the whole valley, we benefitted from it for the next 4 miles climbing steeply out of the pass. First badlands like on the other side, then slowly up and around hills and crossing valleys going up to 8000 feet. What a spectacular view over the freeway, the two train tracks, and the continuous stream of movement.
In a valley, at the crossing of a road, there stands a couch, a table, a couple of chairs and of course the ever present water jugs. Someone has made a hiker's rest stop … nice of them even if our slave driver did not stop. He did sign the trail book a little further and was thoughtful enough to include us. Then we climbed another 3000 feet before reaching our night's goal which turned out to be another water stop with 2 outdoor chairs. Pascal parked us 500 yards away on a hillside with what he calls grass, I would say dry dirty remains of over cooked stuff … and then spent the evening talking with passing hikers, offering them a cup of hot chocolate and just enjoying relaxing in one of the chairs.
Another day and we are at the crossing of the road that leads to the Love's house. After trying to decipher the maps, the GPS and the reality of the crossing, we finally go down a dirt road and camp at a dry stream-bed crossing where Pascal sleeps on rocks and we eat the few grass stalks that peek behind the rocks. At dawn we're back on the road and going down, down, cross the creek which now has water (and we drink!) two or three times to end up at a paved road where a state prison is built.
Love's house built with adobe
Swimming pool with NO chemicals
and view over the valley

We of course pass by, but this road for another 10 miles is only for getting to the prison it seems. Nice walk down the valley. Then we meet a family on an outing to the river, pictures with the grand-daughter of course, and later with a guy who is camping alone, doing yoga and seeming to take a pause to think about his life of hollywood, music … etc. The sun is now getting high and as we have gone down the heat is over 40° centigrade (100 F you fools!). We navigate from one road to the next, the dirt roads indicated of course are now blocked off on private property and we endure the pavement.
Pascal has of course under estimated the distance, after 15 miles we at last arrive in the vicinity, but it's only 4 miles later and that after crossing hillsides, dumping Jimmy's pack, and crossing on private property … We are lost. Indeed the GPS MAP, the so called indications that he had send to be verified … the street that is supposed to be there is NOT. So Pascal calls Stevie who very kindly takes her car around the block to find us and then leads us through the hillside to her street. We finally get there around 2 pm while we should have arrived at 12. Happily, Stevie has water for us and the hillside, if not lush with grass, has adequate food materials for us.
The man bearing gifts! wonderful
4 days of NOTHING. What a rest! Pascal lets us loose during the day while keeping an eye on us, and then at night hobbles us. Friday night lots of people came over and took pictures, kids rode on our backs and a VERY NICE gentleman brought us Carrots, and a half bale of 4 kinds of grasses … we ate it ALL.
Visit by the friend's kids, J&D gentle and willing

Diner at Love's house

While they had their diner, we just munched away to the very last stem.
Meanwhile Pascal lived the life of luxury. Good times with Stevie, even if they went to re-supply (poor Stevie having to go shopping!) they cooked together, talked a storm, he went swimming almost each day once or twice, took naps, … They even went to Claremont to see painting expositions in the town center where there were lots of people about … a real change of atmosphere for Pascal. Stevie is an active painter in that community, showing several times a year and her studio is full of her next show in September. Pascal did not show us, but he likes the pieces with the abstract perspectives, the stuff with visual illusions from simple patterns, the multi-material layered stuff. Not all, but enough to enjoy pieces that he could live with.
An angel helped us cross the desert
We got into the van all by ourselves, feed helped!
Did I tell you they built the house from the dirt on the property. It's an adobe house with just a little additive to retard the water degradations. Otherwise the adobe as it dries is harder than cement. Using the traditional rounded ends of the house, it's a house cool in the day and warm in the cold nights. Everything is carefully though out, details are everywhere the meeting of the energy of Bruce and the “tender loving care” of Stevie. Simple, low cost for the most part and yet beautiful. A house Pascal felt immediately “at home” in. Both for the way it was conceived and the way it is lived in by Stevie & Bruce. Too bad, Bruce was evangelizing Mayan culture in Mexico and Guatemala so we could not meet him, but life with Stevie was gentle, thoughtful, with real exchanges and listening. Also, the group of friends, a real community with long term relationships, welcomed us and Pascal shared a couple of meals with them. A friend of Stevie's, Ellie the body worker, said her mate, Tracy would be ok with taking us to Kennedy Meadows on tuesday. Wow! We found a ride. Judy Casey, a professional transport person we had met on the side of the road had otherwise proposed to take us and even Michael … but they were both quite a ways off and Tracy had the vehicle and the time while being a neighbor. So, sad to leave such a wonderful haven, we decided the morning of the departure to take a hike of our own. In less than 15 minutes, Jimmy took me down the road half a mile and then into the bush. What a panic! Pascal & Stevie looked for us everywhere without any luck. Then Pascal traced us through our tracks and discovered we were just in a dell where he had not looked. So we gently walked back to our holding place and a few minutes later Tracy showed up to load our gear and us. I even barely made any fuss to get into the trailer, I should say luxurious trailer, and Jimmy after hesitating just followed. I suspect that the hay at the end of the stall helped. In 10 minutes we were ready to go for the 120 miles that took us to the crossing of the 395 and the road to Kennedy Meadows. We unloaded, took a good hour to get ready, I must say Pascal really stocked up and our loads were heavy. Then off we went up the hill. We did almost 15 miles out of the desert floor up to the start of the hills. Nice camp with grass off the side of the road behind trees, we still got the visit of a young couple, she a good looking british black girl and him a typical californian … nice people.
Pascal feeds us the scraps from the kitchen

Next day, we finally got to Kennedy Meadows and this in record time since we covered the 16 or so miles in less than 5 hours! I must say the road is really good and easy. The trailer could have gotten us up all the way, but it was interesting to climb from the desert floor back into the mountains. It gives you a sense of the real size of things. The store where all the hikers were grouped seemed to make a good living feeding hamburgers and providing re-supplies at exorbitant prices. Tom was out fishing but we met his helpers who welcomed us and fed Pascal pancakes. But instead of staying around the “scene” Pascal gave up on the internet and we camped alongside the river a couple of miles up. After our 4 days of luxurious living we had no need for the 'trail' atmosphere, our only regret being that we did not see Tom … we would have liked to thank him for the welcome at the kick off meeting.
At camp, Pascal discovered that Jimmy's pack saddle, both arms are broken. Should he go back to Kennedy meadows and see if with Tom's help he can make new ones? He finally opts for using the Epoxy glue that Joe provided, cleans everything and stirs the 5 minute glue as best he can, then assembles the wooden parts and tapes them. In case it breaks again he still has a last tube of glue … finally one side held, he had to repair the second side 4 days later … it's holding for now but for how long???
----------------------------- THANKS -------------------
So off at dawn to climb out of Kennedy Meadows into the very dry, desert like mountains where water is still an issue. Yet premisses of the high Sierras are here and there.
Trees, streams, and even if there are still swaths of burn hills, the cactus is getting scarce and the air is cooler. Until we get to Forester Pass at 13137 feet (4000 meters almost) we'll be on the 'dry' side of the mountains. But past 11000 ft the lack of vegetation will mask the transition. We climb rapidly to 9000 ft then hover for a couple of days in the 9000 to 11000 ft heights which is good since it allows us to get acclimated with the high mountains. The first day Pascal was feeling a slight dizziness, but since he has had no signs of mountain sickness. The training in the San Jacinto and San Bernardino mountains was certainly useful.
We are in a country of impressive cedars that have been struck by lightning, desiccated by the wind, the sleet, the long winters, the frozen temperatures and the summer sun. They often look like naked bodies sculptured into wood, stylized birds and strange creatures. At times as you pass under a carcass still holding up and bent over the trail, you ask yourself if it will not choose just the time you're under to fall. Often the several hundred year old trees are decapitated with several trunks compensating for the loss of height. Then there are the vistas as you come over a pass looking on one side to highway 395 and the desert landscape 9000 ft or more below or on the other side, the empty valleys where the Los Angeles political powers have decided to drain permanently a natural lake to capture it's water.

The PCT for the most part is winding along side the mountains to avoid steep climbs or descents which is great for us since then we do not have to have our front or back holding straps. But the climbs are impressive. Pascal has us now on a rhythm where we start at dawn and try to reach destination by noon. This allows us to rest all afternoon and night, feed at leisure and take in the beautiful places where we camp. A meadow here, a hillside there, a cosy little stream with a field … the walks are hard, the load heavy … but what a trip! Better than our 7 acres with 90 donkeys we had for 13 years. Pascal is trusting us more and more and letting us free to roam most afternoons.
The grass is good and we are tired from the walk so we roll creating dust clouds, we eat, and eat and … eat, then we lay down and rest, roll again, go drink at the stream or river and just live a donkey's life. Pascal is finding the steep climbs and long walks hard on his old body. He has tried out his new hiking boots, the mountain type that are quite adapted to the rocky landscape, and if there is some adaptation, they are working out. His back is getting a real workout and often at the end of the day all sorts of various pains come out, probably slight nerve pinching from the strenuous workout either uphill or downhill. The high Sierras are quite the test for a human body, he had forgotten how demanding. So the afternoons and nights are used for recuperating physically while the mind keeps quite active either walking or resting.
After a month of 'adaptation' to the life of the trail, the need to care for us and the physical requirements, it is now time to ask the bigger questions. How does it really feel? How is it to be ALONE ALL THE TIME? Are you ready to spend the next 3 years living like this? Are you finding the richness of the creative within you?
Clearly this is a second phase of the journey. Obviously a key element is being alone. Yet it is one of the real goals, alone there is no avoiding of anything. It all comes out. The good and the bad. The trail is interesting in the sense that you can meet people but each one is too much in his own “trip” to pay much attention to the others. It's nice to know that should you have a heart attack, someone would find you and take care of the animals, but beyond this you are really alone in the immensity of the land. The music is slowly getting more satisfying. The real frustration is the solar panels, they just are not providing electrical autonomy.
Straps holding sports bags on the pack-saddle
This issue MUST be solved, hopefully at the Lake Tahoe stop. Is it the controller or the panels … the solution must be identified and provided for. The PC is the issue, if it could be recharged at will then access to writing, listening, working on multimedia would become possible. Depending on recharging at stops is not workable for the journey.
One of the nice things is that as you walk you can let your mind go through various scenario and follow them to where your mind leads you. It's a good way to identify what is an illusion from a need. The waking dreams you can build on reveal issues you have with your relationship to the world, to others, with yourself.
For example, in this gold country the fantasy of finding a nugget of gold, sacks of gold left by some poor miner or an army transport … so where does money lead you? What do you make of that relationship? How does it affect those around you? … your mind leads you into the nooks and crannies of your own illusions, desires and reality. This is an interesting part of this journey. Obviously the same process that applies to money, goes for women, sex, friendships, and the creative acts. You can 'trip' on anything, just let your mind navigate freely … and then to change pace, just let yourself just BE, not THINK. I find that this NO THINK is often the source of the REAL THINK … over time.
Meanwhile, as he types away, we are eating up as much as we can of this delicious mountain stuff that is so rich and varied, with flowers, seeds, tall stems … t'ill we could become FAT! No risk of that with the slave driver … but it is true that our bodies are getting sculptured with muscles that were not there a few months ago. I must say my brother is really a monument of solidity and I confess that my fine muscular profiles are quite the thing! I wish Wyme could see me. And now that Pascal has finally understood how to use the back and front straps, only for climbs or descents, our hair is growing back and in a month of so we should be without any scars.

Why do people when they see water have to get into this wet, cold … dangerous stuff? Whenever there is a stream, and if big enough for immersion then he just jumps in, lathers himself on the shore and rinses then goes back into it! We would much rather roll in nice warm dust. Jimmy is fascinated by the morning and evening ritual of putting a stick in the mouth with hairs and rubbing hard. I think he'd like to try it. As for the other rituals, preening the feet, rubbing them with baby cream and making sure they are regularly washed … no such bother with our hooves.
Did I tell you the water is frozen in the containers in the morning? We are learning to find shelter behind a tree or a rock and if Jimmy was not such a loner, he could keep me warm when at dawn the chill comes in. Well another week or so of very high mountains and then we should get back to reasonable altitudes. Probably then it'll be the mosquitos!
We pause while Pascal takes pictures

----------------------------------------- Thoughts ----------------------------------------------------
You cannot expect to find in others, those things you lack or think you lack within yourself. This is why religion, first started to invent spirits to try to dialogue with the dimensions they wanted to explore or understand within themselves. The mono theism is the prevalent thought that one is all onto himself. Thus you only need one god to dialogue with. Two persons opened the door to the universe of awareness for me (aside from Parents … ) one was an indian, living in a tepee who said “I have two rooms, the one where I receive only persons with whom I am intimate, and the other where all my friends are welcome”, the other is a Buddhist monk who said “ you know Pascal, all these stories are just a way of trying to tell others what you can only understand for yourself”.
Psychology is the modern approach to deism. There is both a use, as in the church, of tools to manipulate masses and up to the individuals by categories (see TV advertising) and the whole field of 'awareness' where from the professional ability to 'understand the other' to the psychoanalyst/therapy … we explore the so called 'internal' self. In church the “word of god” attempts the manipulation while the contemplative, the confession … are all aimed at our 'internal' self.
So what does it speak of relationships?
Obviously we are not seeking what we lack within since we know it does not work to get it from others. We try, have tried … and probably will try again in some way or another. What we lack within must be found from within … But the ever continuous circle of learning has by now convinced us that if you don't learn the lesson the first time, you'll have to make the mistake again.
For me a relationship is an exchange, where one brings to the other the unexpected, the unthought of, the ability to contradict, argue, … make the other discover, share in the discoveries, … and create. Create silence, beauty, touch, feelings, smells, tastes, sounds … contribute in awakening ourselves and the other …
So I'm in a relationship with myself, walking the mountains of California and expecting to have this road lead to Chile. I am “re” discovering myself, or just re-establishing the balances of my life where those things such as the AWE that nature provides are present daily.
Can I be in a relationship with myself and another at the same time? That is what I am trying to understand, become aware of, have insight on … The relationships with my friends while being away, with my children while being far, and I dearly would wish to share my life with a woman who could love me as I could love her and share the life style. I have received a lot from my past companions, yet I've always felt that excepting for a few that were too brief to judge, my relationships have always been unbalanced. Financially, emotionally, intellectually, sexually … I have hungered all my life, I probably expect too much from others since I do so from myself. Hunger that was “built in” by my parents … the story of my life. But hunger that has allowed me to meet fabulous people, to share exceptional times, to live a life of passions, efforts yes but achievements. All that because I was an “abandoned” child. Wow! The stuff of life. No wonder so many people spend their lives trying to understand, teach, preach … lay in a couch or take drugs.
What of this chemistry of love that selects unawarely that individual who's genes are most likely to produce 'diversity'? How come a woman is totally inaccessible for one and totally giving to another? A man the same … just in a different way.
What is nice in these questions is that I've been asking them since puberty … and still have to find any valid answers. What is interesting is to keep asking which means you are still open to an answer. There is the real state of awareness.
Man living 'on the road' with 2 donkeys, presently on the PCT heading north but walking with 2 donkeys to Chile and expecting to arrive within 3 to 5 years, independent financially and emotionally, married with 2 children but obviously living separately, seeks a companion to share the journey's experiences. Laughs, wonderment, making the 6 senses work each day, and joys are the expected program.
Join him for a period and prolong if you like it.

------- to be continued, back to blog life -----------
We have been climbing regularly since Hwy 395 and are now arriving at Forester pass 13475 feet! Pascal the day before pushed us to a lake in the crook of the rocks, so transparent that you could clearly see several meters below the surface as if crystal clear. He of course went for a bath naked in this snow melt. Yes, we are at the level of the last patches of snow. This year apparently there is very little for an 17th of June … thank goodness!

It is also the day he lost his brand new pair of glasses! The pouch at his hip just unzipped and little chance to find them even if we did the 18 mile journey backwards. Too many climbs and descents, times we stopped to breathe off the trail … hopefully someone will find them and Pascal passed the word to hikers going each direction that they belong to the DONKEY MAN. Nice how he identifies with us! But not only that, he also broke the hinge of his dark glasses … so now he has duck tape decorations to hold the branch on. What a day …, we met Laura and Dave her father at the lake. Laura has invited her father for father's day for 11 days in the back country hiking and camping. What a nice gift! She is studying child psychology, I wanted to tell her that it was NOT a coincidence …
So this morning we got up at dawn as usual, got packed and began the final assault out of what I would categorize as the “cactus” country of southern california to the “green” country of the north. We were high at camp, but we climbed another 1000 feet and the final mile was up a rock wall with carved steps into the hillside. What a climb! All around us the rock walls and below the ice melted lakes and a stream rushing down the valley. The old man's heart beat hard and breath was short but he made it up with us keeping a good pace. I can tell you that Jimmy bravely followed my exploits as I often had to rise my full leg height and jump up the steep stairs. I'm not sure a horse could do this. Perhaps a mule since they are half donkeys, but even that, with difficulty. Almost at the top there was this ice slope cutting the trail with people traces in the hard frozen snow. I did not like it at all so I just stepped in the rubble below and went around it, but had a real hard time climbing back up on the trail and the other side was a steep downfall. Jimmy of course followed me and was on his knees coming back on the trail. Looking back at it, at the steep slope, the loose rock … I could have gotten us into REAL trouble. Pascal was furious … and he let us know.
Then incredible, we arrived at the pass, a narrow passage between the mountains with a plaque. There was a hiker there so we did get the “memory” picture.

Why do we go so high only to go down after? This serpentine path is well done but does it go down! Then our second crossing of a frozen snow melt. Pascal checked and thought I could just go up the ice bank 3 yards which is what the hikers do and then you're back on rock and rejoin the trail. So he urged me and I went with energy, almost made it to the top, but I was too deep in the snow and I slipped, rolled on my side and slid down the ice to land almost 100 yards down on the rocks taking Pascal with me. Thank goodness the packs took the chock and I was just stuck, feet uphill, backpack pinning me down and a few scratches on my nose and head. But I COULD NOT MOVE.
Pascal had to undo what he could and then passed behind me and was finally able to undo the belly strap of the pack. Once freed of the pack, after a few tries I managed to get up … a bit shaken for sure. Pascal checked me all over and found that DONKEYS are really strong and sturdy, any horse of even mule, despite their great heritage, would have been out of commission to say the least. ME? Well he just loaded me up and then took me through the jungle of rocks where I slipped miserably and we got around the snow pack. Jimmy was just as shook up as me, he kept standing and looked miserable as I got freed and repacked. Then when he saw I was going through the rock shambles, he came bravely after me and followed me close.
Back on the trail we all took a deep breath, rechecked everything and went on. For the first mile I was still in shock and walked at the pace of a snail. But slowly I got better, and the slave driver would have no excuse anyhow, so we went another 7 miles down into the valley. You can feel the difference, here the vegetation is really of another type. I must say, once again, despite my doubts and the many trials I made to make him stop at really nice meadows, the one where we are camped is impressively beautiful with the hill, the river and several prairies to choose from (apparently marked “not to graze” but we never saw the sign). We just turned left when the site looked good and the GPS said we were reaching the trail junction for tomorrow's climb out of the valley.
We have difficulty choosing the grass as there is so many different kinds. For rolling, the knoll upon which Pascal has put his tent is perfect, and we don't even make dust for him. For the night we are hobbled in a small but very dry meadow where the grass is perfect.
Well, goodnight to you and may you see the mountains we saw today in your dreams.
Hard day! Oh what a day …
Next day, went up the hill, the canyon and then the staircase in zig zags that climbed to the pass. Up to then fine, big steps, steep climb … but ok. Once up there we took the classical picture and then … Oh my! A big patch of iced snow, no trail but many foot prints in different areas depending on what time of day people passed.
Well, you know him … Pascal decided on a course and there we attempted to go. But it's cold, and I step deep at times, less at others and not at all, just on the ice without any grip. So I started panicking and jumped but that either got me deeper or at one point I stayed on the surface and slid … 100 yards down with Pascal trying to hold me but being pulled by my weight. At one point I had a hoof in the air and hit Pascal in the nose, I really didn't do it on purpose! And then we landed, me on my back, or should I say the loaded packsaddle and Pascal managed to hit the rocks feet forward and amortized the shock. But there I was all feet blocked or in the air, the load keeping me down and my head in a bizarre not very comfortable position. Pascal tried to get me to stand but seeing the impossible situation started unpacking.
The trouble is that the cinch was under me … but without cutting, Pascal managed to free me while I patiently stayed still. Once unloaded I managed to twist and get some footing to stand up. There we were 100 yards down from the trail, on large rocks and above just iced snow. Meanwhile Jimmy had stayed still, above the snow pack, on the trail.
Well you know my Pascal, he just loaded me up again and then asked me the impossible task of walking on rocks back to the trail ahead. I valiantly did the 30 yards, but just as I was about to step on the trail again, I slipped and went head over heals into the rocks again. There I got scratched in a couple of places. The hard part is that I was again stuck by the load and feet in the air with no access to the cinch. Pascal finally freed me so I managed to twist while staying on the packsaddle and stand up. Hikers who had been watching the scene came to the rescue and a human chain brought the materials to the trail. Then I managed to bravely get myself on the trail. Upon inspection I had only 2 small scratches and a lot of fear. Pascal talked to me smoothly while rubbing his hands all over my body. It felt good but we were both in shock.
Pascal went to get Jimmy who by now was getting very impatient but did not want to cross that ice field. So Pascal led him by the lead rope while 5 persons with ropes assured that Jimmy would not slip. I don't know if it would have helped him, or did, but he stepped slowly (not like me) and followed Pascal to the next rocks, along them and then the iced over gap to reach the trail once again. OUF! I was anxious, even if a kind lady, a nurse by profession, stayed with me and calmed me while inspecting my whole body. She confirmed to Pascal that I was fine physically. So we loaded me up once again and down the steep slopes we went, but on rocks, not ICE. As soon as we found a place to pitch the tent and have grass for us, alongside a beautiful lake, we stopped and made camp. I'm getting really good with water, the upper lake flows into the lower lake and a rushing stream results from this. Well while Pascal stepped with much peril on the rocks to cross, I just walked into the water up to my chest and did not even slip on the rocks. Jimmy, just followed me as he now has understood is the only possible way.
I can tell you we were, and still are 2 days later, under the shock of these two slides. I feel unable to walk much and Pascal is ruminating about the possibility of my breaking a bone. He just doesn't know donkeys are much sturdier than horses!
A russian lady asked if we were camping there, Pascal asked her if it bothered her, she answered “I guess I have no choice” to which he started to try to explain that we had had a rough day … but she turned her heels and left. Then 1 hour later, just as Pascal was lighting the fire, she came to say that fires were prohibited and probably the grazing of animals near the lake. Pascal mentioned it was his way of life and needed now to rest (due to the “accident”) but she left without listening seeming furious. 10 minutes later we saw her practically running down the trail … No doubt to report us to the ranger since there is a station 100 yards away, but no luck, the station is not manned. Pascal wonders if his 2 minutes naked in the water and then drying on a rock out of the wind is not what got her exited initially … Of course she is right in the absolute, but in view of the circumstances … This is the whole difficulty with establishing rules, they apply always except for exceptions … and this seems to me to be a valid “exception”. After all, we were supposed to do another 7 miles down to where camping, grazing, fires … are allowed but we really could NOT get that far. Is it the new immigrant reaction of the absolutes of law? Interesting to think about.
We have 2 more important passes to go through where there might be snow, or should I say we know there is snow but not how much, in what kind of configuration … can we pass safely?
The days are hot and it's melting fast, possibly by passing around 3 pm, the hottest time of day when it could be mush, sticking to the trail and possibly Pascal tracing the path first … we are concerned.
On top of that since we have joined the John Muir Trail (we are doing so for over 100 miles) the design of the trail has changed. Now it's up and down steeply and it requires much effort to climb or descend … not only has our mileage decreased but we are exhausted. Even the old man who is carrying NOTHING is feeling it. We are of course at around 11000 ft (3000 meters) ranging from 8000 to 12000 or more. But what a spectacle! Each new view is like a painting, a sculpture, a film that speaks of the grandeur of things. Pascal now not only lets Jimmy free as he follows quite well behind me, but his new thing is to leave the lead line around my neck and just walk ahead with hands free. Of course we have a few quibbles about how nice it would be to stop here or there for a nibble, but over all I feel freer to choose my way and he has his hands free which allows him to take more pictures. He really gets mad when I decide to stop, to take the wrong trail, to not stop when he wants to. But even if I did get a few whacks with the walking stick, we are getting to an understanding which is great for the both of us. People are surprised to see him 20 yards ahead of us and Jimmy & I following at our own pace.
We are down to 10 mile days and these still take 5 hours or so, which means we reach camp around 2pm with the pauses. That is short to set up camp and take a bath before 3:30pm when the sun starts to decline. Well that's his problem, I'm not taking any other bath than our dust baths which are so delicious. Not really good dust here though, or at least not all the time. Tomorrow Pincho PASS and the next day the difficult Mather PASS. That one we'll try to hit at 3pm. Then there'll be apparently another difficult one, but aside from the “golden staircase” which might be exposed to the north and thus have ice, there is only Seldom PASS and then Silver PASS a few days north but seeming to be below 11000ft, thus without much snow danger. I'll be glad to be passed Mather PASS. If you don't read about it, just say a prayer for me.
I think we're starting to get a reputation. There are over a dozen hikers each day now on the trail and most have heard of us or know about 2 donkeys taking a man up the trail. Pascal keeps giving out cards and explaining how we get to Chile by going north … People from all over the world, Australia, Europe, Africa … the only ones we rarely see are Asians. Those we do see are true blooded americans (later on the John Muir Trail this was no longer the case). Sometimes we stop, other times not, I don't really know why. Older couples, retired and 4th age on a few days hike, of course young people, as a group, as two buddies, sometimes as a couple and rarely young women, but it happens. The 30's and 40's are least represented … for the present, possibly in July & August when they take vacations. It's early for the high country yet. We know, the nights are cold, yesterday it must have reached -5° celsius, in the high 20s F. All was covered by white frost and the water in the pans was frozen solid. I keep telling him he should give us his porridge, but he is really stingy, wanting to keep it to prove to any ranger that he is able to feed us when grazing is prohibited. Up to now we have not seen a single ranger, I expect them to be more in Yosemite wherever there is a concentration of tourists. Too bad, people really misbehave by letting paper wraps fall along the trail, taking craps about anywhere and most of all not burying them and leaving toilet paper appear! I don't mind camping over a buried shit if it's at least 6” underground so it does not smell nor attract animals, but under a rock with paper sticking out is odious! And we, donkeys, can even want to eat the pulp it represents ….! Thank goodness it smells so bad we don't even think of it …! Can people not understand that if you MUST use toilet paper, then have a zip lock bag and put it in. Then either burn it at camp or take it home and frame it to remember the “good times”. The hikers have this nasty habit of eating an energy bar while walking, so they tear the top and drop it and then eat the bar and feel good because they kept the major part of the wrapping … or the other one is the smokers … Pascal has a pocket dedicated to trash he picks up along the way and then burns it on his campfire each night. Oh! About campfire, with his camp-stove made out of a stove pipe, he now puts it about a yard from the entrance of his tent and the heat generated keeps the inside of the tent warm while he types on the computer … Hopefully no spark will jump to the tent, but so far it works really well. The old instant set up Quechua is now full of holes, the zipper works when it wants to … so Pascal has asked Nathalie to bring him the new model which folds twice as small and is a bit bigger … hopefully she can put it in her luggage, if not then he'll try to have one shipped. It is really great to have a tent to store gear and set up camp that is ready in 2 seconds. Especially when we'll have to start facing rain … after the dry hell the wet hell will come … living outdoors has it's issues, just like having to maintain a home.
We'll soon be out of battery for the PC so no more writing. This is really a problem that has to be solved. Pascal will not make it if he cannot write, listen to music, … have his electronic world with him wherever he is.
So we walked, I should say I was dragged by Jimmy to get there, to the John Muir Ranch where we arrived, our legs full of bruises, having lost quite a bit of weight and my feet hurting bad.

Run by Hilary, this ranch is in a transition phase with a real concern for hikers and a real experience for people wishing to spend time in the high country. Luke her husband looked at me and recommended 5 days of rest while Hilary had her staff give us a quarter sack of rich grain mix and salt licks to pep us up. They have been supportive of us in many ways even if the first contact is rather distant and seems often “unfriendly” to hikers. PAT with her cohort of young women working at the ranch, she is the 'trail angel' of the ranch, has helped us re-supply from the hiker boxes to enable us to stay while I heal. She has a warm “motherly” or “old aunt” caring for each hiker that comes in while insuring the ranch rules are respected. I expect she used to be quite a young woman having a “good time” with hikers in the past ... You get all kinds of hikers, from those trying to take advantage of hiker boxes to those who are here on vacation or a PCT or JMT hike and generally tend to contribute to the well being of all. I think everyone should make a stop at the ranch, enjoy the remarkable Bleiney hot springs and stay a day or two. Eden is rarely so wonderful. Access from Florence lake is easy and only 5 miles from the ranch once you cross it, so accessible for all who are able to walk, or an alternative is to ride in with the ranch. For less than the price of a 3 star hotel in San Francisco, you get a 5 star mountain resort environment with enough of a primitive context to feel you're living a real adventure.
Meanwhile Pascal has been fussing about my feet and bathing them in water he brings from the hot spring across the river and up the hill, cleaning wounds and insuring they are with disinfectant, putting poultices of plants to draw the puss and calm the pain, and finally after hesitating has decided to give me antibiotics to insure no infection gets installed. After 5 days I now walk but still have issues with where the hoof joins the foot, the cracks are deep and not healing yet. Since we have a 10 mile hike to do when we leave here, Pascal wants my feet to be in shape. Possibly another 2 to 3 days … we'll see after the antibiotics kick in. Luke gave us a half can of Corona Phillips Ointment, lanolin enriched antiseptic dressing and lubricant which seems to really work. Meanwhile he puts socks on my feet to keep the wounds clean and the flies out of the wounds. I can tell he is thinking of leg pads using socks and padding to protect my lower legs. I'll look real sophisticated but will it help? Jimmy is bored and tends to wander off but the meadow we are in is so rich that it's a pleasure to graze and we don't need to go anywhere.
Pascal keeps meeting people, some stay in our meadow and share his diners. Once he got invited by Paul Grossman, lawyer from Los Angeles, to diner with his family gathering at the ranch … over all he spends his days in the hot springs across the river or with people he meets who see us from the trail. His days are becoming routines, wake up, release us from our hobbles, check on my feet and clean the wounds, cup of coffee, get dressed, feed me my medicine and food supplement, have breakfast, clean up camp, write, play music, then off to the hot springs to soak for a couple of hours, come back to have lunch, nap time, clean my wounds and test my ability to walk, play music, write, go to the ranch, check on us, go to the hot springs for the sunset while laying in the bath, come back at night fall, cook diner, play music, check on us and hobble us for the night, go to bed. It's now been 6 days and hopefully tomorrow will be our last day here … if I can walk without any pain.
The birds and chipmunks are getting used to our presence and now hovering around the camp to see if they can steal a bite to eat. A bleu jay is particularly insistent and has even gotten into the 'tool box' we use as storage for all breakfast items and any open food.
Progress on our education is on-going, we now recognize it when he calls out our names and know when things are ok, good or NOT authorized. The tone of voice and recognition of our names makes it possible. Pascal climbs now regularly on Jimmy's back but Jimmy still has not the idea that it is to be transported, he usually stands still. But Pascal is trying to teach him commands such as STOP. GO. Right and Left. It will take time as Jimmy is less smart than I am.
10 days later. Well, we got over Silver Pass! It was a long ways and we camped in a delightful meadow at the end of Bear Creek. Just before the big climb into the higher country which leads to the long, meandering trail going to the pass. We crossed a huge forest on top of a hill that only had trees, no grass to speak of, no ground vegetation … a deserted land of huge trees and NO sound since birds probably cannot find any food there. A big up hill to get there and then a very long meandering downhill with switchbacks … finally the rushing river and back up another hill before finding a delightful camp. Two men with their children were hiking and camped near us. I loved to hear the girls giggle, it's nice to have people happy around. Pascal had put up the tarp as we are getting used to a little rain at mid-day, but none came and the sunset on the high rocks are stupendous. We passed to get here Edison Lake, half empty due to the need to cool down a reactor I've been told, a place Pascal had passed in 2006 on a hike to Mono Lake. The cascading water on the way up to the pass on granite carved out slabs makes me think that Adrien would be happy here, climbing during the day and sliding down the granite slabs in the afternoons. Then there is the fishing, anything that looks like a fly seems to catch fish, too bad that it's so fished there are no sizable fish left. Pascal has no license so he just takes advantage of people who catch more than they can eat.
We did 5 miles the first day out of Muir Ranch, 10 the second over the pass and 10 again to arrive on Fish Creek, where we got of the PCT to take the other trail avoiding the steep climb and descent into Reds Meadows. Cascade valley via Fish Creek is a rather easy trail (baring a few down trees we have to get around) and Iva Hot Springs only 7 miles away. Pascal decided to be french and take the 14th of July off and stay at the hot springs which are quite corrosive but how beautiful to be in the warm baths with a view over the valley and NO mosquitos. Yes I'll appreciate and today was again feeling my feet even though he continues to care for them 4 times a day. The rest day is also because we'll arrive anyhow too late to communicate with France, it'll be sunday the 14th, a day either with too much tourists or day when things are shut down … Reds Meadows will be for Monday. Pascal is starting to “live” on the trail. He is no longer pushed by time even if he still likes to progress and he feels at home in this high country. We have passed the 900 mile mark of the PCT and things are starting to settle into a life style. Why hurry if each camp is a wonderful site, each mountain deserves careful observation, nature changes progressively with each mile … the high Sierras are really wonderful in July. The only handicap is not having electricity to recharge the PC and be able to write at leisure, listen to music … use the PC.
Do I have to remind you that we donkeys are totally unpredictable? I crossed very large streams today without even hesitating with water up to my belly, but because of the embankment, a little stream 5 inches high became a nightmare to cross. Yesterday it was Jimmy who refused to take a rock ledge slanting down and finally had to jump … he came out of it with scrapped knees and Pascal broke his belt and lost his precious multifunction tool/knife/plier that a couple of friends camping in Texas had given him. Boy was he upset! Couldn't handle him with pincers … If you have a donkey friend, just remember that he'll amaze you by what he does do as well as what he refuses to do … all in the same day!
Planning --------------- present expected timing for contacts and participations------------------
It looks like we can reasonably do 10 to 15 miles on average 6 days a week. This means 90 miles a week or about 400 miles a month. Possibly we'll keep improving the milage, but our concern is to be able to have time to take advantage of the scenery and at the same time finding a rhythm for our bodies so we are not 'suffering'. Possibly we'll do another skip at some point as it would be really nice to get to Cascade locks early September. But then again, there is NO time issue, just living it … so we'll see. People who did the Mohave desert said it was really tough, but that they really do not regret it. … lessons.
We had to stop 10 days after the passes at the Muir Ranch/Bleiney hot springs & lake (not a bad place to be forced to stop …) so that Daisy could heal her feet and both put back some weight on … we were exhausted.

18th of july – Tuolumne meadows
28th of july – enter Lake Tahoe Area
Here if we could find a person willing to lend us his workshop (basic tools for woodworking/drilling/sanding/cutting) we MUST remake 2 packsaddles (see blog) Expect ½ day to get materials and 2 days to make them. Will need to find a source for hard-woods like oak.
15th of August – cross HWY 80
1st of September in Shasta area
late October Cascade Locks
What does a donkey do on a rest day? He stands and sleeps, he maintains the grasses short and he rolls on his back regularly to show his ability to roll from one side to the other. That's the program unless he gets untied (which Pascal does whenever he is around) and tries to enlarge his horizons when Pascal takes a nap or is not paying attention … but we never get too far.
Well, I'm going to get him to post this. This means we are in Red's Meadows near Mamouth (lake, mountain and city). Next stop will be Tuolumne meadows, the high mountain center of Yosemite Park, only 3 days away. There we hope to be welcome, but being a dense tourist center it is likely that donkeys are not really welcome. Yosemite officially does not allow us to graze … so it's possible we'll only do quick re-supply shopping and move on rapidly. Hopefully we can get Email and possibly post once again.


  1. Bonjour Henri,
    My wife Rachel met you today in the Sierras where she and my two kids Manon and Leo are spending a few days along with my mother in law. She sent me the pointer to your blog.
    Awesome! What an amazing adventure you have embarked on, I love it. I wish you the greatest time on your path to discovery and... living life.
    Bonne chance and keep up the blog, it is a delight to read!

  2. The adventure, no the way of life ... continues ... keep in touch and following it

  3. What an amazing adventure you have embarked on, I love it. I wish you the greatest time on your path to discovery and... living life.