Sunday, July 6, 2008

Ben & Rosie's Sierra Diary Part II

So we entered VVR. It is a rustic hideaway with tent cabins that are made of the same thick canvas material that Army tents are made of. But the real thing there is that they offer homemade meals and have a professional chef who makes different dishes every night. The meals are a little spendy - to the tune of 15 or 20 dollars each- but to the travelling and weary hiker home cooking is awful tempting. So we decided that we couldn't pass up the food but didn't want to drop more money on a meal so we did a little work for stay. So the guys at VVR put a couple of rakes in our hands and we worked to clean up the property for two hours. So two hours of raking pine cone and pine shats to spruce the place up for the 4th of July bought us a fine pizza and spaghetti dinner that night. So we went to sleep with full bellies and awoke the next morning in our canvas tent. We couldn't resist a nice breakfast the next morning and then afterwards we got to have a Bible study with one of the VVR employees named Phil. Phil was our ferry driver across Edison Lake and was a kind Christian man who had some French heritage. We got to talk alot with him around the campfire the night before and it was neat to share and read the word of God with a new friend. Phil even gave us a few gifts as a rememberance.So we walked out of VVR and climbed a couple thousand feet up Goodale Pass. This was a trail that paralleled the PCT and eventually dropped us back on the PCT and it's conjoined partner, the John Muir Trail. So, we were supposed to take what was called the Fish Creek Trail off the PCT to go soak in some local hot springs and then to again rejoin the PCT, but we missed the turn off. So we skipped the hot speings and just made a good push into Mammoth Lakes, CA. Although we were bummed to miss the hot springs, it was neat because as we were getting up from a lazy morning and about to start late at 10 o'clock in the morningwe saw two celebrities of the trail: Scott Williamson and Tattoo Joe. Now off the PCT those are probably two nobodies, as common as any other Tom, Dick, or Harry. But in the small community of long-distance hiking these men are untouchables. Both men are best friends and are known for setting the speed records on the Pacific Crest Trail. Tattoo Joe is a burly man weighing near 250 pounds with a pretty sizable belly - not exactly what you would think is a man who could walk 2,600 miles in just over two months. But, despite his appearance, he is a tremendous athelete. His long hair and tanned body that is covered with tattoos hint of his past as a surfer on the professional surfing circuit. When asked what drove him to his career as a long distance speed hiker he'd probably say that it was, in fact, his younger days as surfer. At times, he says he had to lose 10 pounds very quickly so he could have the perfect weight to surf and compete at his maximum potential (apparently weight is very important as you are balancing on a pointy board with several thousand pounds of frothy water surging over you). To lose the weight, he'd just take off into the woods ad see how far he could walk. After speed walking through the woods at near-inhuman speeds, he found he had lost the necessary weight from the intensive mountian climbs. I suppose after his surfing career finished he just stuck to the hiking hobby and has never stopped since. What does this mean today? It has lead him to hike the PCT 3 times and establish the incredible time of 79 days as the fastest time to have walked from Mexico to Canada via the PCT. If you do the math, 2,650 miles divided by 80 days le! aves about 34 miles a day. That's hauling! But what the amzing thing is is that while some hikers might do a 30 or a 40 mile day once or twice in an entire through hike as a mere bragging-rights novelty, this is what these guys do every day! It's crazy to think about. These guys carry tiny 8 pound packs and cruise at 3 and 4 mph - which is very quick considering they are charging up some pretty fierce hills. Let's put it this way: Rose and I started on April 20 and, with exception to the many days off we've taken, have hiked at an average pace of about 15 miles a day in the Sierras. We're in shape to do it, but we are still wiped at the end of the day. Scott Williamson and Tattoo Joe hike double this every day. When we were at mile 650 in our hike, celebrating my birthday on June 6, these guys were just about to start in Mexico. They started two months after us and yet at the nine hundred mile mark we were standing in the same place, us getting up to walk 15 miles after 11 a.m. and them having past us having already finished more miles than we'd do in an average day. Legendary, I tell you, legendary!So when I was bumbling around camp and I saw this pair racing by I thought at first they were goofy day hikers because their packs were no bigger than a substatial day pack. But I recognized Tatoo Joe because I had talked with him at the kick off and when I saw Scott Williamson, I just knew it was him. If Tattoo Joe was an excellent athelete with an unexpected form, Scott Willaimson was just the opposite in regards to his appearance. This was what you expected an ultramarathon man to look like. Tall and lankey, not a scrap of fat on his lean body, Scott has a chiseled face and legs that have the most gigantic and oxygen- rich veins protruding from his calf muscles. Scott has hiked the PCT 11 times (which probably is world-record worthy giving him near 30,000 miles of walking, approximately the circumference of the globe at the Equator) and is famous for not only going from Mexico to Canada in ridiculously fast times but then walks back to Mexico. And Scott does all th! is in the same time that a normal thru-hiker has completed the entire PCT once. If we were swimming, the length of an olympic pool, he'd be lapping us! His famous trips from Mexico to Canada to Mexico have earned him several sponsorships and put him in a world-class athelete status. But for all the hoopla about these two speedsters, I was quite honored that they'd stop at our piddly little camp spot riddled with clouds of mosquitoes, and eat a snack and talk to me and Rose for a couple of minutes. It might be like some young aspiring actors meeting Mel Gibson. But what I found out as these two incredible men sat before me on a fallen log in the Sierras was that they were just a bunch of good, kind folks who loved walking and, who like me, valued this tresure we called the PCT. Granted these guys are doing the hike in a radically different way.

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