Saturday, June 21, 2008
Right now they are off the trail at Bishop, CA getting resupplied. They will be staying in Independence (which is south of Bishop on Hwy 395) for the next two nights and then will pick the trail up again at Kearsarge Pass on Monday.
Their next major mail stop will be at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, arriving approximately July 1. You can mail things to them at:
C/O General Delivery
Yosemite NP, CA 95389
Thursday, June 12, 2008
So that night at Hikertown we slept amongst shelves of old World War II hats, fuzzy Russian bombardier hats, old sheets, and a plethora of old Thrift Store clothes probably once used as props in various movies. It definitely felt like the actor's closet that time forgot. We woke up and said goodbye to the curiously intriguing sites of Hikertown into the winds of a desert filled with incredible Joshua Trees. So, we were off onto the famed aqueduct. Basically it was 20 miles of a flat, almost perfectly straight road walk that traversed the major supply of Los Angeles' water as it ran off the Sierras and was pumped to the suburban, congested metropolis south of us. As I mentioned before, this section was the subject of many a hiker story. In fact, this was supposed to be one of the hardest, hottest sections of trail, which could only be walked by night because that was the only time it was cool enough to pass through the desert safely without risking heat stroke. I recall, even, seeing a picture of some hikers (who had been brave enough to hike it under the full blazing afternoon sun) taking a mid-day nap under the only meager shade available for many miles: a small cement box that was raised above the aqueduct to allow access to the water system. For the small band of shade no bigger than a foot that the box provided, those guys were just plain desperate! Fortunately, everything we had seen and heard about the hot aqueduct walk was totally turned upside down as we sauntered along during a cold front in 70-degree temps with a nice breeze! There was even a guy who drove along on his day off and handed out cold sodas. I suppose he did that thinking that that stretch was going to be hotter than it was. So thank God for the unusual grace. We may very well have been the most spoiled, comfortable hikers to have ever crossed that aqueduct! As we passed the aqueduct and stepped off the flat road back onto the trail, it felt good to get back on a narrow path again. Somehow, walking on a road just feels a little unnatural and its nice to get back into what feels like wilderness again. So we walked along some rolling windswept hills and then bunkered down for a night in a teeny nook of the mountain where the wind wasn't beating us too much. Though the cold front brought with it cooler weather, it also brought pounding 60 mph winds - winds that we'd find over the next week were often hard to walk in as our bodies braced against them to try to maintain our balance without getting blown around like wind sails. So we got up from our niche in the valley the next morn, and from there walked into a mind-blowing section of the trail. Now we knew that the first 700 miles of the trail was desert. But up until this moment the desert had at least had some cactus blooms or Joshua trees or yucca - signs that even in a dry climate that received less than 10 inches of rain a year still gave some hints of green and life around us. But that morning we were walking through an entirely brown landscape. We walked over and through giant sand dunes that had traces of dead, twisted wood lying around that had been burnt and bleached by the hot sun. With not a single trace of green, this was a desolate place that felt like we were walking on an endlessly rolling beach, but there was no water or sea to be found anywhere around us. Only sultry, hot sand. The only trace of life in this area was the mountain bike tracks that ran willy-nilly across the PCT every now and again. Apparently these sand dunes were a playground for dirt bikes that plummeted down the mountainside. In fact, because the dirt bike trails cris-crossed the PCT so many times it was hard to distinguish the actual footpath at times, except that one could see the faint footprints in the loose sand. For this reason we actually came upon a girl who was hiking a section of the PCT and she had been lost for the last 4 or 5 hours all around the dunes. She had spent that morning wondering around the desert, confused and unable to find the trail after she had accidentally taken a path that was not the PCT and had aimlessly walked some 10 miles across these sandy mountains. It was very understandable that she could've gotten a bit turned around because there were no trees or rocks here and the whole place was just a vast expanse of desert that looked exactly the same. This was truly divine providence that we saw our lost friend, Quill. First of all, we had spent a good deal of the day playing around in the san dunes. This was unlike any other thing we'd ever seen and we spent a good deal of time taking photos, writing and drawing in the sand, and taking lots of breaks and naps on the soft sand. So because we spent a lot of time lollygagging around all our friends we were hiking with had gotten several hours behind us. This meant that they had all gotten ahead of Quill, although they thought she was ahead of them. You see, Quill had left camp first that morning trying to get a head start. But when she got lost off the trail all her hiking partners had unknowingly gotten ahead of her. In fact, when they got to the road to hitch into town, there was no sign of Quill and, as we later found out, had called Search And Rescue to go out and find her in the desert expanse. So had we not been taking it slow that day we would have never found Quill wondering near the PCT without even knowing that she was so close to the trail. Literally, had it been 2 minutes earlier or later, Rose and I would have never seen her.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
We heard from Ben and Rosie yesterday after they finished a break at Lake Isabella, CA. Rosie reports that they are both in good shape but that the weather has been a lot colder since they left the desert. They had to hitchike 40 miles off the trail and head west on Route 178 toward Lake Isabella. They said the Lake is awesome and it was a nice break before they head north to the base of the Sierras. Next stop will be Kennedy Meadows, the last stop before they start to climb up the southern tip of the Sierras. They will be up in altitudes as high as 13,000 feet and will also scale Mt. Whitney, the highest point in north America. Many thru-hikers "wait the snow out" at Kennedy Meadows, hoping for some snow melt so the trail is easier to see. Most experience hikers, don't head into the Sierras until after the 15th of June so Rosie and Ben are right on schedule. The expect to arrive at Kennedy Meadows at the end of this week.
Their next mail stop is Bishop, California. If you are planning to send them something, it should be there by June 20th. Mail your cards, letters or packages to:
Ben & Rosie Cubbage
c/o General Delivery
Bishop, CA 93514
We also received a lot of pictures from them and will post them up in the next few days, so check the blog again in a couple of days.
Monday, June 2, 2008
We’ve been very lucky and blessed. Most of the first 500 miles has been desert where we should have encountered 115-degree heat, but it’s been usually cool and comfortable. We had a few hot days, but not as many as we expected. And outside of a few aches and pains, we haven’t sustained any serious injuries that would stop us or slow us down. We also never got into a serious water shortage, where we ran out of water between stops.
We basically hike from “water to water”. We are aware of every stop where we can get water and try to fill up when we can. It’s not practical to carry a lot of water so we have to take just enough to last us until the next stop. Now that we are through the desert, water will be more plentiful.
About 300 “thru hikers” (those doing the whole trail) start out each year. Only about half of them actually finish. Some get injured, have family emergencies or just get tired and stop. After you’ve spent 3 ½ months just getting through California, by the time people get to Oregon, they start to get mentally and physically tired and quit. We generally run into 2 or 3 hikers a day. There are also a lot of “section hikers” (who just do certain parts of the trail) who will come out when the weather and conditions get better.
It’s been incredibly surprising to see how kind, generous and helpful people have been. Two days ago, we we’re trying to hitch a ride into town and this retired Forest Service guy named Rick Strausser picked us up. We struck up a conversation with him and he treated us to dinner at a Chinese buffet. Then he offered us a place to stay (at his house) and the use of his truck even though he was leaving town! We were talking to a lady in the restaurant today and she gave us $20, then there was Eddie and Crystal and Doreen who gave us unbelievable help. All along the way, we have run into wonderful, helpful people. We are truly blessed!
Ben: I usually eat a bagel for breakfast and then I just eat 8-10 energy or candy bars during the day. At the end of the day we cook a meal (generally a pasta of some kind) and that’s about it. Rosie: I try to eat a bagel or some cereal and try to eat healthy during the day. I eat Cliff Bars or vegetables or trail mix throughout the day and then dinner at night.
Generally about 30-40 pounds. It depends on whether we are coming off the trail or starting out on the trail. We each carry different things, but it’s basically our food and water, our tent, sleeping bags, clothes, camping gear and personal items. Sometimes we get to “slackpack,” when someone drives our packs ahead (like Eddie did) and we can hike with just our food and water. That’s a real treat.
Ben: Being at the top of Baden-Powell, covered with snow and not being able to find the trail. It was very steep and scary. Rosie: Getting to the bottom of Baden-Powell and seeing the gate closed and realizing Eddie couldn’t get through to us with our packs.
Rosie: I’ve learned a lot about how Ben and I react to different things. As we talk and learn about each other, I'm more clear about how things are going to be. I'm learning a lot about hiking and how to live completely outdoors. Ben: I'm learning to let things go and not get too worried about things and how to walk with another person because I've done most of my hiking by myself.
We generally pick a place to camp about 7 p.m. We set our tent up and make some dinner. We might hang out for a while, but by the time it’s getting dark, we’re in the tent. I read the Bible to Rosie for about 15 minutes and then it’s lights out by 9.p.m. They say at 9 p.m. is “hiker’s midnight.”
The Sierras are a bit tricky because of the snow. We’ve been taking a pause here in Tehachapi to give the snow some time to melt. Besides the difficulty of hiking through snow, it’s a lot easier to lose the trail when it’s covered by snow. Probably the most dangerous obstacle we face is crossing rivers that might be swollen by all the snowmelt. But it’s a lot easier with two people.
We love the trail and the experience. Even the tough days are really awesome. We send our love to you all and thank you for all your support.