PCT Section I

2006 August 24 to 27

PCT Section I, Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows

Running from Mexico to Canada, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is divided into sections, some up to 200 miles long. The most well known section runs from Tuolumne Meadows south to Kennedy Meadows, coinciding for the most part with the John Muir Trail (JMT). My adventure would be to the north, on PCT section I, which runs 77 miles from Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows. My plan was to complete that stretch in 3 days and then spend a fourth day cruising 22 miles, mostly downhill, to Yosemite Valley where I would catch a bus/train home. To appreciate my trials and tribulations you may want to have the profile pdf open as you read. If I was smarter I would have created the profile before the trip.

  • Map 1 / 2492 KB pdf / 11" x 17"/ Color scan of my marked up map.
  • Map 2 / 2634 KB pdf / 11" x 17" / Color scan of my marked up map.
  • Profile / 56 KB pdf / 8.5" x 11" / B&W tracing of profile created with TOPO!

After driving up to Sonora Pass with me, Em and I hiked together for about 30 minutes before a tearful goodbye, at least for one of us.

Day 1

Thursday morning we woke up at 6 am and were on the road half an hour later. Poobie worked the previous night so she slept most of the way up. Our only stop was at the ranger station where I got a wilderness permit. We made good time and began the hike at 10:30 am, 193 miles from Berkeley. Poobie hiked the first half hour with me, until we could no longer postpone a tearful goodbye, and then I was off.

I'm ready to go but pointed in the wrong direction. I was surprised that the PCT does not have signs where the trail crosses highway 108. Heading south, we had two trails to choose from, with no indication of which one to take. We later discovered they both met a bit further south.

Although the first 2.4 miles were uphill I covered them quickly, arriving at the 10,870-foot pass at 11:40 am. This surprised me very much since I expected to suffer due to the altitude since I was not allowing myself time to acclimate. Reddish crushed volcanic rock dominated the landscape and resulted in straight, smooth trails and a desolated landscape. Walking was easy, the sky was a perfect blue, my pack was light, and the trail was easy to follow. However, it was quite windy. So windy in fact that I could hardly hear myself think and couldn't really walk without compensating for the wind pressure on my body and pack.

What a perfect day to be out for a tramp in the mountains. The trail south of Sonora Pass is quite smooth, as you can see, so you can focus on the great scenery rather than where to place your next footstep.

A little before 12:30 pm I crossed another pass which opened onto a spectacular view of Leavitt Lake with a small glacier behind it. As I proceeded along it became apparent that the trail went straight through the glacier, or vice versa. I could have climbed around and over the snow but instead crossed right through it. It was long enough that I couldn't see the trail on the other side, and steep enough that both of my trekking poles were required, but fun nonetheless. It was the only significant snow crossing of the entire trip.

At first I though the trail passed below Leavitt Lake but it actually went above it, right through the snow. This shot was taken at a pass at elevation 10,520 feet just south of Leavitt Peak.

Here is a view looking north from the middle of the snow field above Leavitt Lake. I could have crossed above it on rocks but had more fun walking through it.

And here is the view looking south, from the same spot as the previous photo. The trail is visible beyond the snow.

10 miles into the trip, at 1:50 pm, I reached a poorly marked junction that confused me terribly. It seemed to be indicating that I should go the opposite direction that my map dictated. Prior to the trip I wasn't worried about bears or breaking an ankle but I did worry about this. Making decisions with incomplete information is much easier if you can discuss it with someone else. I scratched my head, studied the map, and repeated several times; it didn't help.

This damn signpost is at a junction which isn't on my map. It is also very hard to read so just 9 miles into the trip I was very confused. Luckily, this was the only time I encountered a confusing sign, junction, or hard to follow trail.

I wanted, rather I needed to follow the PCT down into Kennedy Canyon whereas the crappy sign seemed to want to send me towards Emigrant Pass. I say I needed to follow my route since I started almost 4 hours ago by: dumping out a liter of water (saving 2.2 pounds off my back) and drinking half of my other full 1 liter bottle at the trailhead. Needless to say, I had run out of water a while back and was now quite thirsty. Streams bounded in the canyon but the pass looked very high and very dry. If I did go over the pass it would eventually rejoin the PCT but I really didn't want to go that way.

After being disoriented by a poorly marked sign post I found myself staring at this ridiculous switchback that didn't seem to be on my map. Sitting at home looking at my map, the switchback is obvious. The trail I'm on, visible in the lower right, was not on my map and avoided the switchback altogether .

But I did head that way, and it all worked out OK. The junction that confused me so much was not marked on my map but when I reached the real junction half an hour later everything was OK. 10 minutes later, at 2:30 pm, I refilled my water for the first time and suddenly I was out of the desolate volcanic rock and below the tree line. For the rest of the day I cruised along, drinking directly from streams and making good time. Most junctions were about 2 miles apart so it was easy to track my progress.

This is real junction, not the one that faked me out. From this point I went east into Kennedy Canyon whereas had I missed this, I would have headed straight over, or around, the mountains in the background. As I was out of water the sign post was most welcome.

My first bridge crossing at 3:50 pm, on the West Fork of the Walker River. I took the opportunity to clean my torso, shirt, and check my feet, in addition to using the timer on my camera.

At 5:55 pm I had a huge shock when I reached Dorothy Lake Pass, elevation 9520 feet. The sign stated that I was entering Yosemite National Park, meaning that I had already gone 20.2 miles in 7.5 hours! How was this possible? I wasn't the least bit tired and didn't appear to be suffering at all from not acclimating to the altitude. So on I went, south in Jack Main Canyon until 8:00 pm, at which point I had walked off of my first of two maps. I didn't stop for the night because I was tired but because it was dark. I'm not exactly sure where I camped that night but I think it was about 1 mile north of the junction to Bond Pass. If that was the case I tramped 27.5 miles in 10.5 hours on my first day.

It's not quite 6 pm and this sign means that I've entered Yosemite and covered 20.2 miles in 7.5 hours! I didn't expect to be able to go this fast this easily.

Dorothy Lake (elevation 9334) is just beyond Dorothy Lake Pass (elevation 9520). The northern shore of the lake has a sandy beach while the trail follows the north/west shore, straight ahead in this picture.

Camp that night was in an open meadow next to a babbling stream with fantastic views of Keyes Peak, beyond the water to the east. It was far too cold for a proper bath in the stream but I did rinse my shirt and scrubbed my face and torso with the bandana that had hitched a ride under my hat, sheltering my ears and neck from the sun, all day. After ringing out my shirt as best I could I put it back on knowing that my body would dry it in several hours. I was ecstatic to find that my access to the water was via a flat slab of glacially polished granite, with the water surface just inches below the slab.

Just add in a babbling stream and this would be very similar to the spot that I camped at my first night.

About half an hour after stopping I was snug in my down quilt, having cleaned myself, erected my shelter (Tarptent Rainbow), and made and chugged a super rich chocolate milk drink (1 Milkman packet with 4 tablespoons of Ovaltine mixed with 0.5 liter water instead of the recommended 1 liter). As I didn't clean my feet I put my sleep socks over my dirty hiking socks to protect my quilt. As I drifted off to sleep I had fantastic views of the stars and granite wall since I had intentionally left the fly open.

Day 2

At some point during the night I woke to hear a creature scurrying outside, presumably near my bear canister which I left 50 feet from the tent, in plain sight. As I endeavored to sit up and growl "get outta here" I found myself unable to move or speak. All I could muster was a twitch and a soft sound from deep within my throat. Subsequent attempts yielded similarly pathetic results. The next morning I decided it must have been a dream, nightmare actually, but didn't give it much thought as I had much bigger problems.

Because I was wary of my first night out alone, I had located my tent in an open meadow next to a stream and because of this the outside of my tent, the inside of my tent, and the outside of my quilt were all covered in ice (frost)! And my poor bear canister was in equally dire straights as ice had frozen the lid on tight. It was 6:00 am and I had a lot of miles to cover so all I could do was stuff everything in my pack and plan to dry it out later in the day. As I walked along that morning I beat myself up since I know that meadows, especially next to water, are a terrible place to camp and if I had moved 50 feet to the trees I would have been in a micro-climate such that I would have woken up ice free.

An action shot in the early morning on day 2. It was cold this morning so I hiked in my rain jacket with the front unzipped. I also appear to have turned on the date and time imprint function.

I'm so confused. By my calculations the valley should be about 75 miles away. I'm pretty sure I haven't gone over 50 miles in less than 24 hours so I guess this sign indicates a shorter route.

After cruising by Wilma (Wilmer) Lake I climbed up to a ridge, descended into a valley, climbed another ridge, descended into another valley, and then began to climb up towards Seavey Pass. As much as I was flying yesterday, today I was really not moving very fast. It seemed as if I was either going up or down, and fairly slow in both directions. The flat stretches of yesterday were not to be found and I didn't have the energy to charge up the hills. I was not hungry, but I expected this as a result of not acclimating to the altitude and not surprisingly I just didn't have any kick on this third climb of the day. As I went up I noted that on my first day I hadn't peed at all during the day, only once before bed, and I seemed to be following the same protocol today. I was drinking all the time, and my pee (at least the previous night) was light yellow so I was not severely dehydrated but probably needed more fluid.

A beautiful sunrise at Wilma Lake. That's what my map calls it at least. If memory serves, the sign posts call it Wilmer Lake.

Twenty four hours into the trip is a cause for celebration, including tying the bandana on my head and making a funny face for the photo.

A view looking up Kerrick Canyon en route to Seavey Pass. By this time I had already gone over two smaller passes (not labeled on my map) and was not feeling my oats.

At 12:50 pm, part of the way up Seavey Pass and after 7 hours of hiking, the trail was following a creek and crossed very close to nice area to dry my frozen gear. I was in a canyon but the sun shone bright and soon everything was baking in the sun, including myself after I submerged myself in the water, the first time so far on this trip. To illustrate how slow I was going relative to yesterday, I had planned on drying my gear at Smedberg Lake around 2 pm and I was at least 9 miles from my goal with only an hour to reach it.

As I was optimizing my tent in the sun, naked as a jay bird, on a large rock above my other gear, the unthinkable happened; a gust of wind blew my quilt right into the river. Aggggghhhhhh! The quilt wasn't in danger of floating downstream but in the 10 seconds it took to pull it out of the water I imagined soggy/clumpy down and cold nights to come. When I arrived at the water I found the quilt floating peacefully with the outside/top on the water and when I pulled it out it appeared to have taken on little to no water at all and after shaking it out most of that water disappeared. After 15 minutes in the sun everything, including the quilt, were bone dry. At 1:25 pm I was back on the trail and reached Seavey Pass 5 minutes later. After a 90-minute descent I reached the junction for Benson Lake then began the long slog up to Smedberg Lake and eventually Benson Pass.

At the time my yellow quilt blew into the river I was perched, naked, on the large rock behind my blue shirt, drying out my tent.

Here we have a spectacular unnamed lake just south of Seavey Pass. Em and I prefer lakes such as this where granite heads right into the water. It's unfortunate that you have to hike so far to get here.

If I suffered while climbing Seavey Pass then, well, Benson Pass was much worse. It was hot, I had no energy, and wasn't hungry. I left the junction to Benson Lake at 3:05 pm and reached Smedberg Lake at 6:00 pm; 3 hours and only 4.5 miles later! I don't know if I've ever gone that slow. During the last bit of the tramp I began to question my health and decision making ability, so I was very glad to find other people camped at the lake (just in case I died that night I suppose, woe is me). I set up my tent near them, went for a brief swim in the lake, chugged another chocolate milk, and was in bed by 7:00 pm feeling like throwing up. I had made my chocolate milk rich, with 1/2 a liter of water instead of a full liter and was paying the price. My body certainly needed the fuel and water, but not in that super rich format. By 8:00 pm I felt better, fell asleep, and didn't get up until 6:00 am the next day.

These not so pearly whites, on display during my climb up Benson Pass, represent the most forced smile ever to cross my lips. The climb, the fourth of the day, seemed to go on forever and all I could do was plod along.

Camp 2 at Smedberg Lake was a much superior campsite than the meadow I slept in my first night. My Tarptent Rainbow suffered zero condensation despite the complete lack of a breeze during the night.

Yesterday I had covered 27.5 miles in 9.5 hours, averaging 2.9 miles per hour but today I only made 21.9 miles in 11.5 hours, or 1.9 miles per hour. I'm also pretty sure that I didn't pee during the day, only at night (light yellow, I think), just like yesterday.

Day 3

At 6:00 am I began to pack up my gear, all of which was bone dry, and was on the trail 15 minutes later. After being horizontal for the past 11 hours I felt much better and looked forward to reaching Tuolumne Meadows in the early afternoon. Additionally, I felt the urge to make a #2 which relieved me, no pun intended, since I had not done so since Wednesday morning owing to my high fat diet and forgoing a morning cup of coffee. To wipe I used, for the first time, paper towels (one sheet cut into 4 pieces) instead of toilet paper and found this to be quite satisfactory (it is certainly easier to determine how much to bring). To complete the transaction I burned the paper, also for the first time, before burying the poo in the hole.

After lightening my load I leave camp 2 at Smedberg Lake and head towards Benson Pass, the final "labeled" pass until Tuolumne Meadows. Knowing that I had a climb ahead of me, I started off in just my tee shirt but had my jacket available, strapped to outside of my pack.

At 7:30 am I reached Benson Pass and began a 90-minute descent into Matterhorn Canyon where I was careless and stepped into the creek, soaking my shoe and sock. This hardly mattered, but was chastised myself nonetheless.

The sun dictated the direction that this picture was taken, looking west, at Benson Pass. Note that my uppers have faded much more than the lowers on my zip-off trousers.

Next I climbed up another ridge to Miller Lake and then dropped back down to Virginia Canyon, arriving a few minutes after noon. Would it be better to write 12:05 pm than a few minutes after noon? Regardless, Miller Lake was quite nice but I was tired, mentally but not physically, of going up and down.

Miller Lake, at elevation 9,550 feet, is at the top of a ridge between Mattherhorn and Virginia Canyons. It is quite beautiful in that it is surrounded by open meadows.

Looking at this picture, I'm not sure that I've ever seen a lake with grass like this in the High Sierras. I almost expect to see a Frisbee flying into the frame and people lounging on big cotton towels with chairs and umbrellas. This lake features a narrow sandy beach, visible in the photo.

It's 10:30 am so do you know what time it is? It's 48 hours or 2 days into the trip. I'm just beyond Miller Lake so I have traveled about 58 miles.

Another short climb of 1 mile followed and soon I reached the junction that was 7 miles from the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. Based on the map, this appeared to be an easy stretch, generally straight and flat, and it was. For the first few miles I followed a dusty trail through the trees and once I began to feel the trail builders had picked an easy but ugly route the trail opened into a spectacular wide open meadow that went on and on for miles.

Dusty trails at the north end of Cold Canyon, about 7 miles from the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. In this photo my pack looks heavy but its mostly full of air, seriously. Click on the 'gear' link at the bottom (or top) of this page to see for yourself.

It was smooth sailing through the trees in the previous picture, now it's smooth sailing through the high meadow. A river flows parallel to the trail, to the left out of the picture, but this late in the year it was reduced to small stagnant pools.

The idiot here is supposed to be further to the left, so you can appreciate the giant boulder (bigger than even Texas size homes) at the edge of the meadow. At this point the meadow is wide open, with only trees at the perimeter, unlike the previous picture.

At 3:00 pm, after a short descent, I arrived at Glen Aulin. Mentally, this marked the end of PCT section I for me since I had previously hiked from Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin so I was now on familiar ground and knew that the remaining 5.7 miles were fairly easy. However, in my haste to reach Glen Aulin I had neglected my body and was now suffering in many ways. As was the case yesterday, I had no energy whatsoever, I was not hungry, I was very thirsty (the last 7 miles were dry), and my feet really hurt. I began to climb the switchbacks at Tuolumne Falls with the intention of cutting over to river at the first water close to the trail. As I moved like a slug up I was passed by clean, happy, and peppy people in day packs who would be staying at the Glen Aulin tent cabins that night.

I made it to Glen Aulin, specifically to the bridge over the Tuolumne River, at 3 pm. I thought that I would be arriving at Tuolumne Meadows at this time.

After finding a spot next to the water I first gulped down a half liter then submerged myself. Next, as I sat with my feet soaking in the water I decided to clean my socks for the first time. Usually I do this a few times a day, alternating between two sets of socks so they can dry, but for some reason I didn't on this trip. As I scrubbed and squeezed the socks I was alarmed at how inky the water became and how long it took for the water to clear. With my socks drying in the sun I inspected my feet and found that my foot pain was due to blisters that had formed under thick skin on the balls of my feet. Actually, I'm not sure what they were as they didn't look like much more than calloused skin and certainly didn't look like conventional blisters. They certainly hurt and made me walk funny, but only when I was feeling sorry for myself.

With my body and clothes cleaned the next order of business was nourishment. I forced down a Trader Joe's chocolate chip granola bar (it seemed especially dry) and then made another rich chocolate milk drink. Surprise, surprise, just like the previous night, after drinking it I felt like throwing up. However, my destination of Tuolumne Meadows loomed large so after a few more minutes I struggled to my feet and began the hike out.

The remaining miles were some of the most spectacular of the entire trip, and despite my sorry state I was able to enjoy the scenery. It was easy to take in since I was going so slow. After a few hours I came to a sign which indicated that the meadows were still 2.2 miles away at which point I mutter "fuckin ay" to no one in particular, however, as those words crossed my lips I was passed by a day hiker.

Paul was his name, and Julie, his wife, was about 20 feet behind him. Julie and I chatted on the way back and thanks to the interaction I was able to cover the remaining distance in half the time I would have taken had I been moping along by myself. Julie and Paul, along with about 5 others who went on shorter day hikes, were visiting from North Carolina and packed quite a lot into their trip. In their weeklong adventure they took a 4-day backpacking trip culminating with a summit of Mount Whitney, then they drove north and day hiked Half Dome, then went up Yosemite Falls the next day, and today they finished off with a long day hike to Waterwheel Falls. Tomorrow they would drive back to Reno for their flight home. Once we reached the parking lot, at 6:00 pm, their friends were waiting with a rented minivan and they gave me a ride to the Tuolumne Meadows Campground where they where staying, dropping me off at the backpacker sites. Thanks!

At the campground I pondered my options and decided to take a shuttle to the valley the following morning, after which I would catch a bus to Modesto (or Merced?, both are available but they leave at different times) then ride the train to Emeryville. Once again, I went to bed with a clean but wet shirt and and empty stomach in accordance with my appetite.

Not really looking forward to spending the following day in busses and trains I tried to hitchhike home but, not surprisingly, no one was leaving for the Bay Area at 7 pm on a Saturday. The 30 minutes I spent sitting on this rock were quite wonderful as I enjoyed watching the sun setting over the meadow and exposed granite to my left.

Day 4

Around 2 am I woke up craving food and, as quietly as I could, got a Snickers bar out to the bear locker and ate it in my tent, being careful not to get crumbs anywhere. Around 8 am I was loitering outside of the Tuolumne Meadows Cafe, waiting for it to open at 9 am for a real breakfast prior to catching the shuttle at 10 am. Instead of twiddling my thumbs I called my parents with the 800 number they still have left over from my college years, gave them the pay phone number, and had them call Emily who then called me on the pay phone. She informed me that Rayneil and Michelle were bouldering that weekend in Yosemite and I had a good chance of getting a ride home with them. To make a long story short, within minutes, Emily had reached them, given them the pay phone number, and I found myself talking to Michelle, arranging to meet at the Wilderness Permit Center, just half a mile up the road, at 10 am.

I ran into Jim and Julie (and the rest of their group) during breakfast at the Tuolumne Cafe. Thanks to Julie the last 2.2 miles of my trip were pleasant.

A superb breakfast consisting of coffee, eggs, potatoes, sausage and a biscuit was consumed within minutes of hanging up the phone and then I strolled along to my rendezvous. I arrived early, and so did they, along with their bouldering friends. The first climbing spot of the day was just few minutes behind the permit center and right next to a river flowing over polished granite and then falling 5 feet into a pool. I couldn't believe my luck. Not only was I getting a ride home but I got to spend the day alternating between: watching them boulder, playing in the water, and eating their great snacks! And that's exactly what I did and that's how this adventure ends.

A view looking south on the southern side of Tuolumne Meadows, between the campground and wilderness permit center.


My food experiment failed miserably. I quickly ran out of energy but was never hungry. A large part of this can be attributed to not giving myself time to acclimate to the altitude, although I knew this would happen and packed fewer calories accordingly. I think the food was way to high in fat content when what I really needed was easily/quickly metabolized carbohydrates, oh well. Even though I allocated 2280 calories per day I only consumed 1760 calories per day. Based on the distances I was covering I was probably burning over 5000 calories per day.

Here is the food I brought for each day, quite frankly it doesn't seem like much.

Calories, Ounces, Unit, Item

  • 360, 3.4, 1 packet, Milkman powdered milk
  • 440, 4.1, 1 packet, Milkman plus 4 tablespoons Ovaltine
  • 140, 1.3, 1 bar, Trader Joe's (TJ's) Blueberry
  • 140, 1.2, 1 bar, TJ's Chocolate Chip Granola
  • 280, 2.1, 1 bar, Snickers
  • 400, 2.5, 1.5 cups, Frito Lay Corn Chips
  • 130, 1.4, 2 tablespoons, Good and Plenty Candy
  • 220, 1.5, 0.25 cups, Peanut M&M's
  • 170, 1.0, 0.25 cups, TJ's Roasted and Salted Almonds

2280, 18.4; total calories and ounces per my food spreadsheet however when I actually weighed all of the items the total was 20.5 ounces per day, including the packaging you see in the photo. Some, but not all, of the extra weight can be attributed to using "heaping" 1/4 cups of M&M's and almonds.


I knew that my pack was light, but it wasn't until early September that I assembled my gear and weighed it. I intentionally didn't weigh it the night before the trip since, at that point, it would have been too late to do anything about it. Drum role please, the weight of my pack and everything in it excluding food and water, per our bathroom scale, was 11 pounds! Note that this included a full size bear canister (2.5 pounds) and a two person (if they are on good terms) shelter. Had I decided to cook the weight would have increased by no more than about 8 ounces thanks to my titanium pot and alcohol stove.

I find it tedious listing the weight of each of my pieces of gear so instead I'll tell you what went where.

  • In the Pack (Gossamer Gear Mariposa)

My Nunatak Arc Alpinist down quilt goes into the bottom of the pack, in a trash compactor bag if wet conditions are expected. The compactor bag is always in my pack, but most of the time it sits folded at the bottom. I do not pack the quilt in any kind of compression sack nor do I smash it into the bottom of the pack with excessive force. My BearVault canister is placed vertically directly on the quilt. To keep it centered in the pack I place my Patagonia Micropuff pullover around it. On top of the bear canister goes my extra clothing, stored in a plastic bag. The extra clothes include: 3M O2 waterproof/breathable jacket and pants, fleece mittens, fleece balaclava, disposable/inflatable pillow, spare socks, and sleep socks. That's it, except for my wallet in a Ziploc bag in the hydration sleeve.

Here are all of the clothes that I brought, except for my spare socks, sleep socks, running shoes, and bandana. On the left is my base layer consisting of synthetic underwear, synthetic shirt and Smartwool running ankle socks. The underwear prevents my thighs from chaffing, a problem I didn't have until recently. Adding the synthetic pants seen in the middle picture, with the legs either on or off, you see my standard backpacking uniform. For warmth we add a fleece balaclava, fleece mittens, and a synthetic pullover; in this case a Patagonia Micropuff purchased at their outlet store in Santa Cruz for an unbelievable $25. The Micropuff is so warm that it is reserved for camp and sleeping, not hiking. For wind, rain, or even cold I wear the yellow waterproof and super breathable raingear by 3M. That's it. Note the lack of long synthetic pants and a long sleeve synthetic shirt. At night, even well after the sun has set, I can jump in a creek or lake wearing the items in the left picture, rinse them off, wring them out, put them back on and get in the sleeping bag with them damp but clean as my body heat will dry them in a few hours. This may be may longest caption to date!

  • Outside of the Pack

In the back panel of the pack I have a Gossamer Gear Torsolite closed cell foam pad. In the right lower pocket (accessed by my right hand) I have a 1 liter water bottle and my Nikon Coolpix 5600 digital camera with an Ultrapod mini tripod. The upper right pocket has my permit, toilet paper (paper towels cut into squares), and a lighter in a Ziploc sandwich bag.

In the left pocket I have another 1 liter soda bottle, Aqua Mira (water treatment which I didn't use), and a small silnylon bag with: chapstick, emergency waterproof matches, ear plugs, a small Swiss Army knife (1.5" blade) with scissors and tweezers, a film container with vitamin I (ibuprofen, I took two 200 mg tablets at least 3 and sometimes 4 times a day), two spare AA lithium batteries, a small vial of Dr. Bronner's soap, a small balm jar of Vaseline (to prevent cheeks from chaffing), and a toothbrush with intact handle. This pocket also had my single tent pole, the tent strut, the tent stakes, and the extensions for my trekking poles that allow the tent to be freestanding. All of the poles/stakes are held to together with an elastic cord. In the big mesh pocket in the front of the pack I kept the food that I would eat during the day stored in a mylar potato chip bag. This bag was covered by my tent, as described below.

The front of the pack has shock cord which I stuffed my tent under. I did not carry a bag for my tent since I think rolling it up and packing it is a waste of time in the wilderness. Keeping it on the outside of my pack also let me strike camp quickly, and exit my tent with my pack fully loaded which can be very useful in the rain. The last item on my pack was a 60" x 19" x 3/8" Gossamer Gear closed cell foam pad, held on the outside of the pack with shock cord. It looks ungainly, but weighs so little you can't tell its there. As an added benefit, it kept my pack from falling over when I set it down. I would put my Torsolite pad on this pad, with the dimples down, so that my butt was just below the Torsolight pad. This created a depression for my rear, or hips if I was sleeping on my side, that was quite comfortable, more so than my Big Agnes Insulated Air Core pad. It also meant that my torso, above my rear, was cushioned by two pads.

  • In my Pockets

Generally I hate carrying anything in my pockets unless they are really light or have a low profile. On this trip I had a mosquito head net and DEET in my left cargo pocket and a map, pen, and compass in my right cargo pocket. I used the map and pen extensively but didn't touch the other items.

  • In my Hand(s)

My homemade trekking poles. I'll post pictures and instructions soon.


When I was younger, in my late teens or early twenties, my ear became clogged with wax so I went to see Dr. Tyler. He filled a syringe with warm water and began shooting it into my ear, displacing the wax. To catch the water, he had me hold a stainless steel bowl below my ear. After 5 minutes of squirting we both heard two clanks and upon inspection, found two rocks the size of sea salt in the bowl. Now fast forward 10 years...

This is one of the shoes I hiked in, purchased from the North Face Outlet store in Berkeley for around $30. The shoe worked great, but as you can see, it has a very open mesh, which let a lot of dust in.

My feet were fine except for this blister which formed under callused skin. I checked my feet a few times each day but didn't notice anything since the blister was forming under the callous. It wasn't until I got to Glen Aulin that my feet really began to bother me.

Wonder why I was having problems? Check out the 6 or 7 rock salt size pebbles that were in my blister. I have only myself to blame as I didn't clean and rotate my socks like I usually do. At camp 1 I also slept with my damp/dirty sock on, underneath my sleep socks so my quilt stayed clean.