Thursday, July 28, 2016

Composting Toilet

What? Here's how this connects to my current situation. But first a bit of history. 
For more than a decade now I have been using a composting system popularized by the book "Humanure Handbook" which is a very low tech and inexpensive way to deal with human excrement. It is simply a bucket system that gets dumped into a dedicated compost pile and is monitored closely to ensure high temperatures are achieved in order to minimize any chance of transmitting disease, etc. This system is incredibly effective and uses no water, other than rinsing out the bucket after dumping the contents. The downsides for me have been finding appropriate sawdust as the cover material (no redwood or eucalyptus allowed) and the effort involved in dumping heavy buckets when the pile gets very high. Like it is now. 

Over the past couple of years I've been looking at commercial composting toilets, aware that at some future point I might not want to be handling heavy buckets.  Most of them are large, use lots of electricity for fans and heating elements and some even use water for flushing. Nothing I would want to get into, especially since my current system uses no water or electricity. 
A while back I came across this system which was originally designed for marine environments. It's small, uses no water and only a minuscule amount of electricity, to run a small computer fan. It is a urine separator, which means the liquids and solids are kept away from each other. This greatly reduces smells and it's way easier to empty a small container of pee than a 5 gallon bucket of mixed materials and cover material.  The main chamber only gets dumped about every month. Or so I'm guessing since I haven't had to dump it yet.
(Update---I empty the lower tank about once every week, or two. Depending on how much I am home🤓.) 

After coming home from my hike I just decided to suck it up and order the above mentioned commercial composting toilet. I realized I wouldn't be able to climb up high to be able to dump those heavy buckets for quite a while at least. It was time. 
In box

Unfortunately I need to do a small remodel in my bathroom before can set it up inside so I've installed it outside on my screened porch until I'm able to set it up inside. It's actually quite nice!

So that's the story of Shelly's Hike and the CompostToilet.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Physical Therapy 101

Here we go. It's been 10 days since I started hobbling and 8 days since I arrived home. I've previously listed the litany of actions I've been taking and four days ago I started taking muscle relaxers, and I am taking 600mg of vitamin I, 3x a day. If it looks like I'm throwing everything at this one, you'd be correct. The next step is physical therapy which starts this afternoon. 

I wish I understood what I did to make this happen. Of course it is also possible that this happened because of something I didn't do. Like stretching😱

It's always good to have people around that remember your previous injuries better than you do. My Chiropractor Pat reminded me that I've had difficulty with this hip before. True enough. My right hip has been stiff and less flexible than my left for decades now. My attempts at addressing this have been half hearted at best, and as soon as the pain would recede, I'd forget all about it and slack off. It's almost as if I think I'm still 30 and can just barrel through a physical weakness with stubborn forward motion and without addressing the weakness in a determined manner. It seems likely this is the case here. 

Dr Pat said to me yesterday, and I am paraphrasing here, If you still want to be able to do long distance backpacking you are probably going to have to figure out how to protect and strengthen your hip. This might be the outcome of not addressing your hip inflexibility and likely muscle imbalance.  Or words to that affect. I guess she is probably correct. But will I do it? I might very well be too lazy. Or stubborn. Or in denial. Well, I hope not. 

Post appointment update

According to my Chiropractor and PT, my femur is not sitting correctly in my hip socket, which is why the muscles spasm when the leg is in some positions but not in others. It also makes sense out of something that made no sense. So I have exercises to do to gently nudge the femur back into its rightful place. No stretching or strengthening until it's back in place. 

No question I'm off the trail for a fair bit of time. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Santa Cruz, four days later

Hello all. It's been a tumultuous last few days, filled with frustration, confusion, sadness and eventually, relief. 

Frustration because of my inability to walk without pain, confusion because I don't really know how to effectively change the situation, sadness because once again I've had to pull off the trail due to injury. I never seem to get this long distance thing right. 

So what have I done? Two chiropractic appointments, MD appointment, X-rays to rule out stress fracture, deep tissue massage and now muscle relaxers to try and loosen up my bound hip. 💰💰💰The good news in all of this is that my bones, hip and lumbar spine are fine, no trouble there. There seems to be consensus that my IT band, if involved, is secondary to the problem. It looks like the muscles surrounding my hip are just spasmodic and don't want to release their grip. 

So what to do? Take muscle relaxers, stretch and apply heat/ice. Hope for the best. Walk as I'm able but on even surfaces without any difficult up/down stuff. Try to loosen up my hips and back. Hope for the best. But, it looks like I won't be back on the trail any time soon. 😟

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Santa Cruz

My friends came through again. Last night I made arrangements with Kat, one of my land mates, for her to drive to Chico and pick me up and take me home. She left home at 5:30ish and got to Chico before 10, throwing my pack in her car and turning around to head home. We stopped for lunch, and still made it home before 3 and afternoon traffic. 

It is amazing to me that yesterday morning I woke up in the wilderness and this afternoon I'm laying in my own bed with my knees up, ice on my hip and a cat on my lap. 

Yesterday I was worried and afraid of what would happen, about how I would get home, and today, by the kindness and goodwill of people, some I didn't even know, I am home safe and sound. I am reminded that most people are kind and generous and that our televisions and/or the media at large make us suspicious and afraid of one another. It doesn't have to be this way. 

Injury Update. I slept wonderfully last night, though when I woke up I was still in pain on putting weight on my leg, but the pain was less acute. And if I placed my weight correctly no shooting pain. So I've been walking very slowly and deliberately.  One of the things I was reminded of last night was to make sure I took the ibuprofen every four hours without fail. (I was being haphazard about taking them) By this afternoon I think they are definitely helping as I'm able to walk (slowly) without major discomfort. Plus the icing and cat😜

This morning I texted my friend Lorna to tell her about my situation. She had planned to meet me in South Lake Tahoe and finish out the last two weeks with me. I was really afraid she had already purchased her plane ticket from Washington but I was pleased, and greatly relieved, to find she hadn't yet bought the ticket. That takes some of the pressure off me to hurry along this treatment. I don't want to be done for the season but I imagine I want to be completely relieved of sx before I get back bout there. 
Last years fun. The morning after the rains. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Day 18 - Chico

What a drag. My leg didn't get better over night, in fact it got worse. I managed to break camp using my sticks as support but when I got ready to walk down to where the water is I realized I did't want to put my pack on and walk on such uneven terrain. Every step is made carefully and if I don't step just right I get shooting pain in my hip. 

Ken, the nice guy with the sat phone, texted Pipers Mom to see about getting some assistance but she is too far away from my location. She gave me another number to call of someone named Casey who is near Belden, which is closer to my location, I think. Ken sent a text to him but when he and his two sons left Cold Springs for parts south, he hadn't received a message back. So I am sitting/standing on the road in the hopes that Casey will come by, or any other human being in a vehicle so I can get a ride to a town somewhere. It's clear I can't walk far with a pack on. 
Around 9:30am a truck drove up that turned out to be four wonderful folks from the Forest Service. They apologized that they couldn't give me a ride (liability issues) but tried to call a Ranger to come and get me to transport me to to Chester. The official on the phone said they would only send an ambulance so I declined. The FS driver was wonderful and said if I still needed a ride after work she'd come back up in her own vehicle and bring me to town. Very kind. So it seems as though I won't be stuck up here for ever. 
Amazingly enough by about 10:30 two vehicles drove up and I flagged them down. To make a very long story short the kind folks driving a camper drove me to Chico, where they were going anyway, along their way to Sacramento to visit family. They had been up in the high country fishing and camping for a week. So they dropped me off at yet another Best Western where I got a room for the night. Now all I have to do is get home. 

Day 17 - Cold Springs

OMG. The Night of the Marauding Deer. Right after dusk last night the salt starved deer came a'calling. Shooing them didn't do much good and all the hikers in camp had to put up tents to keep the deer off of them and their stuff. I, of course, don't have a tent so I was on high alert all night. I had stashed all my gear directly underneath my hammock so a deer would have to come right up to me to grab anything, and I had tucked everything inside my pack I thought would be enticing. I guess I looked like a tent to the deer as they stayed a safe distance away. That didn't stop me from not sleeping though😨
They don't stand still for photographs. 

So that was last night. Today was a horse of a different color. Even though I didn't sleep well last night I still got on the trail at 6:45 (I ignored my alarm). Everything was going along fine. Climbing, dropping down, helloing nobo's. I snacked around 10:30 and got right back on the trail. Around noon I was completing a steep section when my hip started to act up. I took another break at the top but wasn't hungry so I just propped up my legs hoping that would help. After a bit I saddled up and was just about to start walking again when I had a very sudden need to go to the bathroom. And I mean sudden. In fact I didn't make it in time. WHAT? TMI I know but this was a first for me. Fortunately I had another pair of pants I could put on, my sleeping shorts. 

So that was noon. Every half hour, for the next couple of hours, I had to stop and dig a hole, pronto. As if this wasn't quite enough difficulty my right hip and leg became increasingly painful and by the time I covered the last 6 miles into camp I  was leaning on my sticks with each step. Sharp pain with each step. I've never experienced anything quite like this, especially 20 miles from a town. I've set up camp now and taken another 800 mg of Ibuprofen so we will see what happens over night. If it still hurts this bad there is no way I'll be able to walk 10 miles tomorrow, with or without a pack. That being half the distance needed to get to Belden the day after. Help!

My mind is racing of course to try and make a plan. Could I just walk 7-8 miles for three days? I would run out of food on the third day from now but I could conserve. 

How about getting a ride back to town? This spring is right on a road. That would be less painful, assuming I could get a ride. There is no phone reception here but a guy who is hiking with his kids has offered to let me use his sat phone with texting capacity. I could text Pipers Mom and ask for help... I hate that idea😡 

As I got to this spring late in the day I started hobbling up to where the campsites are and along behind me came a thru who cut me off and took the spot I was aiming for. Granted he got there first but it seemed a bit tacky to me, considering that it was pretty clear I wasn't moving very well. As it turns out my site is better for me, just farther from the water. And as its farther out, no one can see me when I'm doing my Festus imitation. 

The clouds came in this afternoon and I decided to put up the tarp before bed, just in case. I would have hated to do it in a hurry, in the rain, given the state I'm in. 

Here's a couple of images from the day while I was still feeling well. 

The last of Lassen in my rear view mirror. 

This is a new one for me. Anyone know what it is?

Oh, and I think this is the name of a bird I saw this morning. My iBird West app is great!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Day 16 - Carter Creek Trail

Hot damn today was a lotta up. All told 14+miles and a couple of thousand feet, or more. Unfortunately I didn't get started hiking till just before 9am which makes it harder for  me to make miles. The wonderful part of starting late was getting to meet Piper's Mom who picked me up at the hotel and delivered me to the trailhead. This marvelous human being maintains a cache of goodies where the trail crosses the road. Including fruit, sodas, water, a trail book to sign and other boxes where people can donate gear or food. I myself left that brand new hat and some salty snacks to the pile. Plus she picks up and delivers folks to town and back. What a gem. 
There are a lot of amazing people out here in the wide world. 

My knees and right foot were giving me fits this morning. I guess, even though I walked all over town yesterday, not carrying a pack for a day made me stiff and sore. 

I stopped for elevensies at a creek and met a young couple just packing it up for the day. They are out for two weeks then have to return to regular life. He is a PhD student at Gallaudet University in DC studying Linguistics. This is the premiere college for Deaf and hard of hearing students in the country. We knew some folks in common, which seems really wild to me. We live in a very small world indeed. 

I've kind of stopped talking about thru hikers, mostly because there are so many now. But this morning I was struck by two that I'll describe. The first guy is from England, Chester England in fact. He said he just had to go into the town named after his own. But he looked bedraggled, skinny and just worn out. He said he needed some inserts for his shoes, but it looked to me like his shoes needed replacing. I told him about the free camping in town and where he could get a shower and wash his clothes. He brightened up at that. I just wonder how short of a thread some of these folks are hanging by. I felt for him. Poor guy is far from home. 

Hiker number two was also skinny and tired looking but he was full of stories of deer stealing his clothes and gear in order to get to the salt from his sweat. His shirt was hanging off his pack and I could see the deer had chewed big holes in it and slobbered it muddy and wet. I told him about the thrift stores in town. He's gonna need a new shirt!

These are just the first of probably 30 or more nobo's I encountered today. Some stopped to chat, exchanging info about what each of us could encounter ahead. Others just hello'ed and walked on by. But all those folks hit a milestone today. The midway mile on the trail. 
There were three celebrating hikers there when I arrived. They're been at the wine and whiskey and were feeling no pain. I'm pretty sure they weren't going to make their miles today. 

I thought tonight I'd be camping alone as I pulled off the PCT and part way down a side trail so I could pick up water for tonight and tomorrow. I had gotten my water and was eating dinner when two hikers came in. Now four more have arrived-I think there will be more. Hopefully they will be asleep by hiker midnight (9pm). My alarm will be going off at 5am. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Day 15 - Chester again

It's very strange to stay in one spot in an unfamiliar place. Chester is a long town with newer buildings in the upper part of town and much older, and more interesting to me, spots "over the river."  But generally speaking, as far as I can tell, it's just a strip of land with businesses and streets of houses paralleling the business area. Of course, as I was walking everywhere I didn't explore widely. It would be fun to return in a vehicle. However even in the areas I explored there were 3 thrift stores. Fabulous!

I was on the lookout for a hat. Not just any hat of course but one with interest and style. I walked up and down the strip looking in the usual spots and found technical floppy hats worth $25 that were boring, high topped billed caps in camo for $20 that looked goofy, but definitely not "the hat." 

I decided thrift stores were my best bet so off I went to the local Hospice store.
The best I could do was a brand new billed cap from Penn State. Hearts and faux diamonds aren't necessarily my style but it was only $2 so I went for it. 
Still, I wasn't sure. A dark hat is less helpful in the sun.  So off I went to the other end of town to
Where I found a different hat, for $1. This one is more interesting so I went with hat #2. 
Once I got that settled I went off to the grocery store to pick up the last little things needed for the next 3.5 trail days. I contacted the gal (Piper's Mom) who takes folks to the trailhead and she will pick me up at 8:15 tomorrow morning. So I'm mostly ready to head back out there. 

Last dinner at The Lockeroom.  
Anyone need a hat? It sports fake diamonds!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Day 13 - North Fork Feather River

Everyone kinda slept in this morning, whether by design or by mistake (I neglected to set my alarm) but it sure was nice not to jump right out of the sack at zero-dark-thirty. We managed to start hiking by 8am and for the first part of the day it wasn't too hot. 

We took an alternate route out of Drakesbad this morning that included some boiling mud pots and a steaming lake. I like the graphic image😜
The lake was sulphur smelling but quite interesting to see. 
Also the mud pots were blopping along. 
Playing around with the B&W settings.  
After that nice morning diversion it was hiking into the sun and rising temps until around 3pm when I crossed the bridge here over the river to hide from the sun. I lost my hat sometime between last night at dinner and this morning so I was hiking most of the day with my umbrella in order to try and keep the sun off my head and the sun out of my eyes. 
I stopped early today because, number one I didn't want to make a 700 foot climb in the heat of the afternoon and two, if I went to the next water source that would get me into Chester too early in the day tomorrow. What this means though is that I had to say goodbye to my new found friends, Trisha and Paul. Very sad for me since they have been wonderful hiking companions. But they have a schedule to meet so we had to part ways. 
I only managed 9.6 miles today. But those miles sure felt harder in the heat. But I'll be up and at'um at first light tomorrow! 9.3 miles to the road to Chester, CA. 

Day 12 - Warner Valley Campground

OMG. It was so cold last night. What happens out here in the woods is that by late night/early morning the cold air sinks into low spots and serves to chill everything there. It's called catabatic air. Last night my hammock was particularly vulnerable to the air flow. I was trying to manage by wearing almost everything I had with me, but I was still cold by 5am when my alarm went off. Burr, burr, burr. 

I managed to get to hiking by 6:20 but I was still super cold. Finally, over the miles, I was able to overcome the chill and focus on getting milage in. I was pretty successful and over the day and afternoon I managed to make my necessary milage. 

Yesterday, and a big part of today, was traveling through a huge area of burned trees. Many miles worth in fact. This is what it looked like. 
In some places the ground was full of wild flowers but with no regeneration of trees as yet. Other places you can see small pine trees making their way into the world. Still, it'll be a long time before the forest recovers. 

The trail builders have made some interesting structures to deal with boggy areas. Which is better for us hikers and protects the delicate areas that we travel through. There was one creek crossing that required getting wet to my mid calves. That water was chilly! But it was soon crossed, though with wet and cooled feet. 

The big goal for today was getting to Drakesbad Guest Ranch for showers and dinner. These folks here are really kind to hikers and give free showers and allowed us to wash our clothes as well. After the regular (paying) guests have eaten a meal then PCT hikers can have the same meal for a bit less money. Tonight was salad and veggie lasagna with garlic bread and desert. A well made meal with great flavors. Yum!
The pool heated by hot springs. 

Tomorrow will be the approach to Chester. I'll get close but delay my going to town for the next morning. 

Day 11 - Cluster Lake Trail Junction

Well, I'm back in the saddle again. We didn't get out of Old Station till noon because the PO doesn't open till 11am. But it felt good to be hiking again, at least for the first couple of hours. Until the sun and steep climbing took affect. The good news is that we rolled into a pretty spot with a babbling brook right near my hang site, not long after 6pm. So we did 10.3 miles in about 5 hours. A pretty good pace for me. 

It's very green here at 6,200 feet...I suspect the snow hasn't been gone for long. 
Amazingly I haven't seen any mosquitos which would be amazing if it turns out to be true. 

We are now in Lassen National Park and that big blooming mountain I've been looking at for at least a week is as near as can be. This image was taken today around 1pm. We've gotten even closer now. Tomorrow we'll get into the heart of the place. 
People often say they want to see images of me but I'm not much into selfies. However tonight after getting into bed it was still light enough to mess around with the camera. So here goes. 
Me thinks it's gonna be a cold one tonight. 

Day 14 - Chester, CA

There is a phrase among fast hikers "10 by 10" meaning you've hiked 10 miles by 10am. I've never been faster than 11 by 11 before but this morning I got pretty close with a 9 by10. For some reason I felt the urge to get to town and get washed up. In addition I'm in serious need of a hat because of the sun, and the mosquitos which have made quite a meal of the blood from my head over the last 24-36 hours. Blisters and oozing. TMI?  

Anyway my alarm went off at 4:30 this morning but I was already awake. Awake and ready to tackle the climb up and out of the river canyon. Here's what the bridge looked like when I took off at 5:15. 
It was dark. 

I got to the top of the first big hill where it was light enough for me to turn off the headlamp
when I was buzzed, really loudly and close to my head, by some kind of bird. It was a kind of screeching, whizzing by kind of sound that seemed almost mechanical. Something I've never heard before for sure. It scared the bejessus out of me and I stood there watching it swoop around me in tight circles. I finally started walking away but with my hiking poles over my head, waving them back and forth. Finally after about 5 minutes the creature stopped following me. It seems I must have disturbed its morning coffee or something. 

The rest of the morning hiking was uneventful and I arrived at the trail head only to see some trail magic in the form of ice boxes and a gear box. 
I got a soda but it was too sweet for that early in the morning. Looking at all the trail angels listed I texted "Pipers Mom" who is a local helper, but at the same time the wife of a guy I had just met, pulled up to take him off the trail for a few days. They offered to take me to Chester and they dropped me off at the Best Western at 11am. I don't remember his wife's name but he is Mr. Burns. He hopes to finish the trail this season. 
My room has a deep, deep tub, which I took full advantage of, and then I washed my clothes at the local laundry, two doors down. Details and town chores... But then I saw this. 
Makes me want to head right back out into the woods. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Day 10 - Still in Old Station

I awoke late this morning, by trail time measurement that is. The roosters started early but I managed to ignore them and stay in the sack until 7am. Bliss. After that it was coffee, french toast and bacon. When a guest in someone's house it is generally best to let them take the lead but my friend is easily distracted so we kinda had to jump in to help or we might not have eaten breakfast till dinner😬 
Any way she drove us to the town of Burney to pick up some last minute items. The only thing necessary for me was excedrin which was soon purchased. After that excursion I resumed the task at hand for a layover day, which is to relax. 

In the afternoon, in a fit of enthusiasm, the three of us decided to slack-pack the 4 miles between where we left the trail yesterday and where we are staying. So we were dropped off and walked, sans packs, back to our home spot. 
It's easier to look around when not carrying a house on your back. 
Cut from two trees, standing side by side. 

We helped get a summer pavilion up then sat around till dinner. 
Thanks Georgi!

Off to bed. This time in a cute trailer. 

Day 5 - Peavine Creek

15 miles today. Fifteen difficult, long, hard miles. Why I cannot say since it wasn't particularly hot and the bugs weren't bad. But by mile 10 I was hurting and ready to be done already! I was, as my friends in the UK would say, totally knackered. I love that word. 

Actually I've been working on not getting blisters but I think I am losing the battle. I don't really understand why since I've used this sock/shoe combo for years with great success. I'll just double tape everything tomorrow and hope for the best. 

I met a bunch of nobo's today. There was Icebox, a young woman who just jumped onto the trail in Truckee. A young guy who was in a spring snow storm near Forester Pass, running out of food, along with another group who was also out of food and they ran into Ned Tibbets, who runs Mountain Education out of Tahoe. Ned was out there with a group of trainees. Ned, who is a search and rescue guy, apparently called in the sheriff who airdropped food to the whole group. Here's my question. What the hell were these hikers doing out there so early?

Anyway I met Professor, Turtle, Half Fast and Mr Illusive over the course of the day, as well as Freight Train, the guy with a big plastic tote strapped to the top of his pack. I asked him what it was for and he said his medicines and the solar panel attached on top. All together an interesting day of meeting people. It takes all kinds - and you'll find all kinds out here for sure. 

I've been worried that my external battery wouldn't last for six days so I've been going easy on it and leaving my phone turned off most of the time. Because if this I only took a few pictures today, plus I was feeling slow and lethargic which makes it harder to summon up the energy to make images. But tonight I'll give a 100% charge and use it willy nilly all day long tomorrow. 

I did do one self portrait pano today
And one of the early morning light.
Tomorrow I finish up section O. After picking up my food box from the camp store at Burney Falls State Park, I'll go into the town of Burney to take a motel break. Shower, laundry (my clothes stink so bad) eat a salad! Fun!

I've had great fun teaming up with Nohawk (Paul) and Fire Woman (Trish) over these last three days. We generally hike separately but have been sharing campsites and laughter. It's nice to have good company. We may team up to hike the next section which is a scary one as there is a 24 miles no water section and it is often brutality hot up there on the Hat Creek Rim. I've been dreading it ever since I first heard about it. But, it seems to be cooling down somewhat and when I get to town I'll be able to get the weather/temp forecast. Remember that nightmare I had about dying of thirst? 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Day 9 - Old Station, CA

Early morning take offs are the very best. I was on the trail by 5:45am, cool and energetic. The dawn and sunrise were stunning with the light...just so. See what you think. 
By the time I walked to the high spot along the rim, the communication towers, the light had reached the bright intensity that can only be found at that time of day. Gotta get up early to see this stuff!
And of course, the clouds help with the drama. 

After that early eye candy the day became one of making miles and trying to keep from turning an ankle on the rocky pathway. I swear 75%, or more, of this section of trail looks like this. 
It's hard underfoot and hard not to go over with the uneven terrain. It takes great concentration to stay upright. Lucky me I must have strong ankles, or I'm being cautious enough, that I managed not to hurt myself. Phew. But I was very tired by the time we walked into town. I had called my friend who lives here to see if she would join us for dinner and we met her at JJ's Cafe at 5pm. Good food, good beer and company was a fitting end to a difficult section, successfully managed. 

My friend invited all of us to stay at her place, which was wonderful. I hung my hammock between some posts that hold up a treehouse. 
The perfect ending to a long day.