Friday evening September 21st, me and my buddy Toshi set off on an adventure to travel to the ocean and back again from Rancho San Antonio. We did it fastpacking style. Fastpacking is like backpacking, except the goal is to gain as much distance as possible each day- which usually requires one to go with a very light pack with the bare essentials to get by on in the mountains.
|Ready to begin our hike at the Rhus Ridge trailhead, Rancho San Antonio.|
- Test out my gear and skills to gain confidence in tackling greater challenges.
- Pile 36 miles on top of 36 miles on top of 36 miles of all day hiking to see how my body responds to it all.
- Have a ton of fun and take a lot of pictures.
|View of silicon valley as the sun is setting.|
|Beautiful sunset at the top of Black Mountain.|
|My first attempt at the PCT bear bag hanging method: success- no bears got my food.|
|View of Black Mountain from top of Table Mountain|
- Cook a real meal
- Set out wet stuff to dry in the sun
- Get a nice break from the hike/chill out for a while
|Breakfast at Saratoga Gap.|
|First rock we saw at Castle Rock State Park.|
|Toshi showing us how brave he is.|
|Boulder hopping on top of the world.|
|Multi-talented, yes-that is an ultra-runner.|
|More daredevil stuff.|
|Toshi insisted that he get to perch himself on this stump, whatever...|
Toshi kept doing crazy stuff, and I told him I didn't even want to try because I have kids - in reality it was because we were less than 5 miles away from Big Basin Headquarters(where there was food galore) and I didn't want to waste any calories- I was tired. But perhaps I have become a little more risk averse in my old age...
|Big trees at Big Basin.|
|Toshi told me they would give me superhuman strength and do some other stuff that I can't mention here.|
|Just an act-not tired at all actually. Arrival at Big Basin Headquarters- food - yay.|
|Couldn't really make up our minds about what we wanted to drink, so we got one of each.|
|Very awkward picture of me filtering water from some hole in the ground that Toshi refused to take part in(no drinking- but he took a dip).|
|Fastpacking on the cheap. I think if accounting didn't work out for him he could have been a great engineer. Turns out he got to combine both aptitudes in this exercise.|
Sunset Camp was tough for me. I didn't get any sleep hardly - maybe two hours. The camp was full. There were like twenty people snoring, all sounds bouncing around the redwood cathedral that we were taking shelter in. I was comfortable but I just laid there - staring up at the redwoods and the stars - comfortable - mind racing - and could not sleep. Can't explain why.
So, at 4:30 a.m. I notice that Toshi is up and I ask him how he is doing. He says that he is ready to go, so we go hunting in the dark for our food bag(which we hung in the dark the night before up a hill and through the brush from camp- sometimes it is hard to find the right branch to hang your food from). And we are packed and ready to go by 5:10 a.m. We then proceed to stumble down a precariously steep and technical trail in complete darkness until we reach the STTS(skyline to the sea) and then walk in the dark until we reach the beach.
|Cool Trees as we near the beach.|
|Ocean - yay.|
|Me - not standing on my hands.|
|Toshi - standing on his hands.|
|Toshi insisted we write this in the sand. He then proceeded to pick up the biggest stick he could find(tree branch- twice his size). But then I showed him that you can do the same thing with a smaller stick. He was not impressed.|
|Loaded Oatmeal - breakfast of champions: oatmeal, chia seeds, honey, raisins, almond butter. Delish.|
|Toshi - still trying to prove his big stick hypothesis, eating curry for breakfast. Ha, we will see how that works out for him.|
|Sun coming up at the beach.|
|Berry Creek Falls.|
|Thanks Judy! for letting me borrow your husband for the weekend.|
|Portola State Park: where Toshi gets picked up. He had to go back to work on Monday.|
It was a downer to watch Toshi leave because we were having so much fun, but I also welcomed the solitude and challenge that the solo part of my trip was going to bring. After he left, I did an out an back on the Pomponio Trail to get my mileage for the day and then headed up to Slate Creek camp. This is when the tiredness really hit. I felt like a zombie hiking up to the camp. I arrived just as the sun was setting and picked my camping spot(I was the only hiker in camp- and therefore the only person for miles) and then I picked my tree to hang the food. Three successful food hangings, I think I am getting the hang of it. I felt like passing out at any moment, so I just went to sleep. It was 8 p.m. I woke up at 5 - 9 hours of sleep baby! yeah! I woke up at 5 staring up at the redwoods and stars for half an hour and figured out that that was that, so I got up, packed up, and started hiking.
|Camping setup at Slate Creek Campgrounds.|
|Peter's Creek in the pre-dawn light. I filtered water from here- but filtering was probably totally unnecessary.|
|Back at Slate Creek Campgrounds- pretty place to sleep.|
|Expansive views from Saratoga Long Ridge Open Space Preserve.|
|Some elevenses at Alpine Pond.|
|Ancient Oaks Trail.|
|Black Mountain from Borel Hill.|
I made it back to Rancho San Antonio main parking area at 5:40 p.m. where the stupid pay phone swallowed my quarters when I tried to give Joanne a call to come pick me up(I didn't want to bring a cellphone because of the weight - and I knew it would be useless up in the hills). A kind lady let me use her cell phone. Anyways, I had a blast.
- Olympus T-320 camera: Grade: A. Did it's job and didn't break.
- SOG Flash I Knife: Grade: A. Sharp and light.
- Jetboil Sol Stove: Grade: A-. It was easy to use, easy to pack, and boiled water insanely fast. But with the gas, it ended up being quite heavy. Not quite considered ultra-light. There are lighter options. I brought an extra 100 gram gas canister because I didn't know/trust how long it was going to last. I was pleasantly surprised when one 100 gram canister cooked all of our meals for 3 days. I think about 12 boilings in all, and I don't think it is done.
- Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon: A+. While not a titanium spork- which is obviously the crem-de-la-crem of ultra-light eating utensils, as long as you can recite: "This spoon is made from aircraft-grade 7057-T6 aluminum" to your camp-mates you will get the cred. Toshi was really impressed. Oh, and it is good for eating food out of those freeze-dried food packages.
- REI Minimalist Bivy: B-. I didn't really get to test it out as there was basically no precipitation or noticeable moisture to protect my sleeping bag from, so this isn't fair. But it did leave the foot of my sleeping back wet from condensation(likely because that is the area that is farthest away form the air hole. I am tempted to evaluate other options such as ultra light tarp camps that I can use my hiking poles as the structure- for 9 more ounces I can have a real tent!
- Inertia X-Lite sleeping pad: Grade: C+. It did it's job, which was to pad 3/4 of my body- the important 3/4. But my sore heals kept me thinking that maybe another 2-3 ounces might be worth it to get a full pad...
- Zissou Lite Nautical Long Sleeping Bag: A. It was great. I love it.
- Gossamer Gear Gorilla Pack: B+. Everything packed nice, there was room, it was light, it was pretty comfy, it had pockets in all the right places. The only thing that I wonder about is if they make a pack like this that doesn't bounce when you run. The only way I could get this thing to stay close to my body on the run was to sinch down the shoulder straps all the way which put all of the pack weight on my shoulders- not nice when you want most of it on your hips- which is what the nice big hip belt is for. But for the 60% of the time that you are hiking, it is heaven, you just deal with the running part I guess...
- MSR Hyperflow water filter: A. It worked great for two people, didn't take too long, was light. I backwashed it twice to keep the filter flowing nice, and it was easy.
- Target Bags: F. Epic Fail. I thought I could just use left-over grocery bags as stuff sacks. I was wrong. They pretty much all disintegrated by the end of the trip.
- Headlamp: A. I forgot which brand it was. I have had it for a while, but it is light and cheap and the power lasts forever. This comes at a cost of brightness(lumens), but I didn't need much so it did it's job.
- Adventure Medical Kit UltraLight: A. Only used it twice. Once I used some of the tape to jerry-rig my backpack, and once on the fourth day when I woke up at Slate Creek I decided to cover my sore heels with some moleskin. Don't know if it helped- but I didn't get any blisters!
- Black Diamond Ultra Distance Hiking Poles: A+. This was my first time using hiking poles, and I was suspicious of what exactly they were supposed to do for me. I thought they were for old people or something. Turns out I was very wrong. There is a reason pretty much all of the europeans use hiking poles at UTMB(long race through the alps). The poles made ascending mountains easy! I don't know why God didn't design extendable hiking poles into the ends of our arms, they are awesome. And the Ultra Distance poles lived up to the billing as an incredible light weight, well crafted pole. Every time I gaze at my ultra distance poles I get a warm and fuzzy feeling- yes, they are that good.
- GU: B. If I was going to sacrifice a calorie source, it would be gu, but it is handy and is pretty much considered the jet fuel for when you need it- the fastest way to get energy to your system.
- Cliff Bars: B+. Marginally more appealing to me than GU, but very handy.
- Trail Mix: A-. My wife prepared a home-made concoction of various nuts and dried fruits that we get through our organic co-op. It was yummy.
- Jerky: A. King of Trail Food. These kind of trips actually make me feel not guilty about splurging on it either, but man is it expensive...
- Mountain House Freeze Dried Beef Stew: C. Dog Food. Well, glorified dog food. It does give you something to look forward to though when you want something that seems like a real meal.
- AlpineAire Foods Pepper Steak w/Rice: B. Still Dog Food, but much better dog food. I like AlpineAire better than Mountain House.
- AlpineAire Foods Western Tamale Pie: B. Same as above.
- Loaded Oatmeal: A. I like it, but I think I will need to mix it up next time, I found that putting some variety into the lineup made me look forward to each meal that much more, because there was some curiosity as to what the next thing would taste like. I had oatmeal every morning, bleh.
- We woke up every morning and hit the trail right away to get the systems warmed up. Then at an opportune time we would set up for breakfast cook break.
- I knew all of the trails and water spots going in, so we optimized fill up spots- it would be hard to do this without some intelligence of the terrain that you were facing.
- We ran probably 40% of the time. And running here is a relative term, it was faster than walking. I found that running with that much weight on your back required you to chop up your stride a bit, so it slows you down some.
- We hiked most all of the uphills, and ran most of the downhills, the in-betweens were left up to the situation, how we were feeling, etc.
- Before the sun came up it was mostly just walking. Didn't want to risk trippage, and we were still waking up.
- My pack weight was about 23 lbs: 11.5 pack+gear, and 11.5 water+food. I can get rid of a couple of gear items to make it a little lighter: extra gas cannister, extra headlamp(just bring batteries instead). I brought 10000 calories, or about 3500 a day. This was about right and at the ultra-light standard of 100 calories per ounce of food, was about 6.5 lbs. I ate basically everything.
- We usually got into camp right about as the sun was setting, this was not necessary by plan, but it is how it turned out. Sometimes that meant doing a lot of tasks in the dark, but that was ok.
- We could cover about 10 miles of mountainous terrain(up and down, technical trail) in about 3 hours including a short water filtering stop and some picture taking stops. The time splits which are linked below include things such as cook breaks too, which suck up a lot of time, but were instrumental in allowing us to keep a good pace for while we were actually moving.
- Link to pace chart: