Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Muir Trail Ranch Zero Day on the PCT Trailside Reader

I'm really honored to have my account of my zero day at Muir Trail Ranch posted on the PCT Trailside Reader blog!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

I walked more than 480 miles in 2013. Many of those miles were logged on mountains that were already familiar to me. The experience of becoming more deeply acquainted with these landscapes taught me about the importance of attention. Sameness can breed complacency, but alone on a mountain, the necessity of keeping one's mind engaged in the present is palpable. Things like turning my ankle many miles from a trailhead and sliding on scree to the edge of a trail with hundreds of feet of nothing a couple of inches from my toes proved that a wandering mind can be a dangerous thing. Or put another way, walking with attention can be a means of self-preservation. 

Walking for eleven days on the John Muir Trail put my ability to remain attendant to the test. Every day, I had experiences that reminded me to keep my mind on the task at hand, and I found that my best walking was done when my thoughts and feelings and motions were all one, without distinction. Achieving such harmony and sustaining it over many miles is a kind of meditation I had never experienced before. Now that I have, I endeavor to bring it into the other parts of my life so that I don't have to travel all the way into a remote wilderness to find that grounded, soaring peace. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mount Markham Summit Walk on KCHUNG Radio

For the KCHUNG Radio residency at the Hammer Museum, I produced an hour-long program that aired on December 6, 2013. I conceived of the broadcast as an audio version of the type of notes I post on this journal. To that end, I made a field recording of a short walk to the top of Mount Markham. The broadcast consists of a brief introduction and the unedited audio recording of the walk bookended by two songs, which can be found in order of play here and here in earlier posts. This post is a companion to the KCHUNG broadcast, which can be found on the KCHUNG archive, and includes the two photographs I took during the walk.

Mount Lowe trail marker

Mount Markham summit marker

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I've been out walking...

The other night, I was sitting and talking with some friends at a bar. A really cool girl who was playing records put on Jackson Browne's 1973 recording of his song "These Days", and it cut through everything in the room. It was first recorded by Nico in 1967, and her version is probably more commonly known. Browne's arrangement is on the warmer side, with a flat picked guitar and that perfect pitch of his. A couple of days later, as I climbed six thousand feet in the six miles from Baldy Village to the summit of Mount Baldy, the first three lines played over and over in my mind: "I've been out walking / I don't do too much talking these days / These days... "

I'm leaving soon to start my walk on the John Muir Trail. For the past few of months, I've been dutifully training, walking as much as I can with my full pack. I don't know if it's attributable to the anticipation of what's ahead or the monotony of the training, but I haven't been interested in documenting my walks in words this summer. Maybe things will change once I finish the John Muir Trail. I like the idea of writing about my time there, and I want to write about a few early summer walks that I still have not documented: a foggy morning on the Verdugo Range, a rim to rim to rim traverse of the Grand Canyon, camping and walking on Mount San Jacinto just a few weeks before the big fire up there, and a lovely day on Cucamonga Peak.

I didn't mind so much having "These Days" stuck in my head during such a long walk. The quiet acceptance of hard breaks described in the lyrics is tempered by an interplay between major and minor seventh chords that express melancholy so well: there is joy in this sadness, the acceptance is not resignation. That seems to be about right, these days. My favorite way to be in life is to be open enough to embrace all of its possibilities, emotional and otherwise. Walking seems to alleviate sadness and elevate joy and somehow allows for their perfect commingling, which seems like the most real state of grace. I'm glad I heard that song when I did because it reminded me some things about life and how to live it, and it also reminded me of why I go out walking. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mount Baldy and the Three T's, 26 May 2013

Mount Baldy
Bear Canyon Trail to summit, Devil's Backbone Trail to Baldy Bowl, Gold Ridge, Three T's Trail, to Icehouse Saddle, Icehouse Canyon Trail, Mt. Baldy Road to village
20 miles
5,700 feet of elevation gain

At a little after seven, I left my car next to the Mount Baldy Village Church and walked up Bear Canyon Drive to the Bear Canyon trailhead. It was cold in the canyon. Not far along the trail, I came upon a backpacker coming down in the opposite direction. He asked me if this was the only way to the summit. Thinking he had stayed overnight on the summit and begun his descent at dawn, I was confused. I told him there are several routes to the summit but that this is the only path in Bear Canyon. "Did you pass a few guys along your way?" I'd seen some people on the path following the creek down below a ways back, and their voices rose up to us on the trail, just then. They had taken a path that leads to a cabin on the creek rather than the summit trail. I learned that they were all training for a walk up Mount Whitney in a couple of weeks, and we joked that it might not bode well that they were getting lost only a mile into their last training hike.

Monday, July 15, 2013

San Gorgonio Mountain, 18-19 May 2013

San Gorgonio Mountain
Vivian Creek Trail, out and back
Made camp at High Creek and continued to summit Saturday afternoon; walked to summit again Sunday morning before breaking camp and returning to Forest Falls
30 miles
5,600 feet of elevation gain from Forest Falls to summit

Not even a hundred yards out of the paved picnic grounds at Vivian Falls, and I was lost. I heard footfalls behind me. "Looking for Vivian Creek Trail? I'm headed there, too." As we crossed the rubble in the dry wash, we got acquainted. Mike was a podiatrist in Redlands whose church is San Gorgonio Mountain.

The Vivian Creek Trail is the shortest way to the mountain's summit. The first mile is a homely stretch of desert landscape covered by steep switchbacks made even worse by scree and rocks. At the San Gorgonio Wilderness sign, we found Rob. Without a wilderness permit authorizing him to walk any further, he was resigned to making this his turn-around spot. Mike suggested that Rob continue along with us since both he and I had permits. A retiree and veteran Boy Scout, Rob holds a distance record for peak to peak mirror signaling. Mike stopped to rest at Vivian Creek Camp, and Rob and I continued on, talking over gear selection and the best backpacking spots in southern California.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mount Baldy, 4 May 2013

Mount Baldy
Manker Flat to Ski Hut Trail, Devil's Backbone Trail, Mount Baldy fire roads
12 miles
4,000 feet of elevation gain
4 hours

Manker Flat was almost full by the time I arrived, but I managed to squeeze into a tiny spot near the gated access road, pulled all of my things together, and set out. After winding up the access road, I climbed the steep entry to the Ski Hut Trail (also known as the Baldy Bowl Trail) and started into the tight switchbacks that make quick work of a couple thousand feet of elevation gain. I passed several people with full backpacking kits and chatted with some who were training for upcoming Mount Whitney bids.