Monday, June 2, 2008

Reunion in Tehachapi

After a quick 24-hour reunion in Tehachapi, Rosie and Ben walk off into the sunset, with just over 2000 miles and 4 months to go.
Ben explains the markings on a Pacific Crest Trail Marker near Mojave, CA, just before they head toward the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Rose gives her "baton twirler" routine before they hit the trail.

Rosie and Ben pause for a picture with Benson before they started out again on Sunday, June 1. They expected to walk 17 miles that day.

Ben, Rosie and Virginia pose for Benson's camera during lunch.

After visiting Benson's relatives in the San Francisco area, we drove south another 5 hours to see Ben and Rosie in Tehachapi, CA, a small town east of Bakersfield. They were resting there for a couple of days after walking over 500 miles through the desert. Outside of a few aches and pains, they looked remarkably strong and fit and ready to tackle another 2000 miles to the Canadian border.

We thought it would be fun to do a "Question and Answer" session with Ben and Rosie so everyone could get a feel for what they are thinking and experiencing.

How has the hike been so far?
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.

How much does water (or the lack of it) determine what you do each day?
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.

How many hikers are doing the whole trail (Mexico to Canada, 2650 miles) and do you see many of them out there?
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.
What’s been the most surprising thing?
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!
What do you eat on a typical day on the trail?
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.
What do your packs weigh? And what do you carry?
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.
What’s been your scariest moment so far?
: 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.
What have learned in the first 550 miles of the hike?
: 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.
What are your nights like?
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.”

Now that you’ve come through the desert and ready to tackle the Sierras, what are your thoughts about what lies ahead?
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.
Whats’ your message to your adoring fans?
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.

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