Gear Review – Hitorhike Trekking Poles

I started using the Hitorhike trekking poles when I did some training hikes on the Ozark Trail back in April and May. And I was so impressed with them that I took them along with me on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). With more than 1000 miles on these poles, I’m still thrilled with their stability.

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Pros: The poles are adjusted using a great locking mechanism for a telescoping design. Two adjustments from between 100-centimenters high to 125. The adjustments can be fine-tuned while unlocked and then secured into place, much like a vice-grip. The hold is solid and it never slipped. The baskets screw into place.

wn5PerTxRlCkq44ni0bkqg.jpgThe handles/grips are comfortable, made of a hard rubber. I find myself just cupping my hands over the top of the handles just as often as I use the formal grips. Comfort all around. There’s ventilation holes and my hands do not feel sweaty.

While not part of the technical function of the pole, I do like the bright neon green color used as accent. The poles also have catchy phrases; “Enjoy Outdoor Life” and “Never Stop Walking.”

It also comes with a cool carabiner that doubles as a bottle cap opener\. This item has become part of our gear list and we use it all the time. Who wouldn’t like that bonus?

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Cons: This is not the set of trekking poles for a long distance hike. Each pole weighs more than 9-ounces which is well more than other poles in this market space. The shafts are made of aluminum. As a comparison, REI sells their carbon-composite poles weighing only 7.4-ounces each. Also, despite the screw-on nature of the basket, one basket did fall off and was lost within the first 100 miles of hiking.

One last note: These poles do carry some weight, as mentioned above. But if you don’t worry about ounces you carry on the trail, and you feel more comfortable with a more stable pole, these are perfect for that. A solid performer over all terrains, the weight of these poles helped provide a stable gait even over rocks.

Sincere thanks to Sweet Dreams Outdoors for the gear and for the opportunity to be part of their team.

Patti McCarthy

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What Takes 5 Years To Go 1100 Miles & 4 Months To Go 1500? How We Plan to Finish the PCT This Year

When we started hiking small sections of the 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail back in 2012, we told people we were on the 10-year plan. We figured the most we could ever get done any given year would be only 150 miles on average. So, we weren’t really sure when we might actually get to the northern terminus at the Canadian Border.

Mt. Shasta at sunset

Mt. Shasta from the south on Castella to Chester hike, summer 2017.

One of the frustrations of being section hikers is the length of time we spend planning each segment. It’s not always cool to leave your car someplace for two weeks. So, we work hard to find good on and off access points to the trail. We also are captive to the clock, needing always to get back to our jobs. This, of course, plays a huge part in how many days we can stay on trail each outing. And all of this limits the number of miles we get in each year. Once we do get back on trail, we need three or four days to get into our groove, adjust to the altitude, etc. And by the time we start to really feel like we have finally connected with the trail, it’s time to chase off back to the “real world” – a reality, as I’ve written in the past, that is real only if we make it so.

Deer in meadow

Found this deer grazing in a meadow on our Castella to Chester hike last summer, 2017.

We are excited to announce…

…our decision to get back on trail in June. This time, instead of our usual two-weeks, we’ll be taking an extended leave to hike the remaining 1550 miles of the trail, taking us likely into October. We’ll soon start to share posts on our planning, preparation and schedule. We plan to keep up the blog during the hike, posting directly from the trail when possible.

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We are also very excited to introduce Sweet Dreams Outdoors. We’ve partnered with Sweet Dreams to bring you reviews of new products and provide discounts on select gear  offered exclusively to our readers. Stay tuned for more details. Patti and I are both very excited to be part of the Sweet Dreams Outdoors team. Most of what they offer is recommended by staff members. The site features a lot of innovative products and the prices are really fair. It will be a blast to test and review new items as they become available.

As Long As You Are At Peace With Your Experience – aka: Hike Your Own Hike

The further away the stopping place on the trail is, the harder it is to get to. About two years ago it started to require more planning, more time off to hike. (A nine hour drive for a couple days isn’t worth it.) This also means more time between our major hikes. While we were doing at least two or three hikes a year when were hiking closer to home (Southern California), we’re now able to do only one. Our most recent big outing was our hike between Tuolumne Meadows and Taboose Pass.

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Clearly, we lose our hiking legs between our hikes. Not only do we need to readjust to the higher altitude, but also to the pains and blisters and sleeping on the ground. Bottom line, it makes us very slow at first. It’s really not until around day ten before we started feeling a better rhythm to our hiking mojo.

On this last trip, we found ourselves frequently comparing ourselves to our hikers. Many hikers we passed claimed, “I’m a fast hiker.” And indeed, everyone was faster than us. We noted though that in spite of their speed, we all usually ended up within a quarter to half mile of each other. Our response became, “We are slow, but we are steady.”

That said, there was a bit in us that wished we were a little faster. It would be nice to be done a little earlier in the day to just sit and watch the sky. One drawback of section hiking, while still trying to work and pay the mortgage, is that even though we are getting away from time obligations, time still rules us and we can’t lallygag too much to get back in time to go to work.

I’m not sure why we sometimes focused on our speed and compared ourselves to others on the trail. Was this the trail version of keeping up with the Joneses?

It is often said ‘Hike your own hike.” (HYOH) This phrase even came up between the two of us, as Lynn reminded me, again, to “Use your poles!” There are times I like to use the poles and there are times I don’t. And I fall either way. In talking about HYOH, I gently reminded Lynn that I read somewhere, in that definition, it included to use your poles as you wish.

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We started one day early to get over Selden Pass. I hadn’t finished my coffee in my water bottle yet. Anyone that knows me at all knows I am NOT a morning person. Never have been. There was a young man coming up behind us. I could hear him talking to Lynn first behind me. I couldn’t hear what was said but the young hiker sounded chipper. You know those kind of people (George..are you reading this?) that are ridiculously happy in the morning. They wake up that way, whistling, smiling, just too happy, if that is possible to be too happy. This guy was like that. As he passed me he said, “What’s shaking?” I couldn’t help but smile back as I replied, “This hill.”

He responded, “As long as you have that smile on your face!” And he scampered off. By now, Lynn had caught up to hear this and he rolled his eyes. “Good grief!”

We called him the Happy Hiker.

We finally got to the top of Selden Pass. In spite of an elevation of 10,910 feet, it wasn’t that hard of a pass considering other challenging passes like Glen, Forrester or Mather. It was less than a four mile hike to the top. Marie Lake sits to the north side. This lake was just beautiful, and large. It seemed to just keep going and going. Unbelievably clear water. It makes you realize how pristine and virginal these waters are with so little population comparatively near these waters. The view from Selden Pass was of even more lakes. Heart Lake, named so because of the shape was the first lake we saw. Smaller and it’s hard to see the shape from the top. Sallie Keyes Lake is close by which is where we stopped for lunch.

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At the top, we took a pause to take in the scenery. Leaning his back against a large boulder, facing north was Happy Hiker. He gave me a Hang Loose hand sign and had in his other hand, what I am sure of, was a tightly rolled joint he then proceeded to light. As he did he smiled again and said “ As long as you are at peace with your own experience.”

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Words of wisdom from the Happy Hiker that, timely, set the tone for the rest of the hike. Who cares if we’re slow, fast, stop early or hike on to darkness? This was better than HYOH which can sound confrontational at times. Good advice for trail and non-trail, alike.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Numbers

Numbers
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You probably wouldn’t think so, but being a backpacker is a numbers game. We constantly have numbers in our head. Mathematics in action. Always adding, subtracting, calculating and estimating.

Running through our heads is our pack weight. Or, the time we pushed off from the trailhead. It’s what the elevation is and what gain (or loss) we’ll see. Or, how many miles to the next water source? To the next camp site? It’s how many miles it is until the next big ascent.

No numbers are as important, though, as those it takes to know where we are. With the invaluable help of apps like Half-Mile and Guthook, we know where we are within a few feet of the trail. We’re not sure how the pioneers found their way across the Rockies without GPS. We’re just glad that we have the help with all the math.

Gobbler’s Knob to Deep Creek Bridge

11/14 – 11/18/13
58 miles
Southbound
Mileage driven 265

Poodle Dog Paranoia, Lost Hats,

Uninspired Graffiti & Naked People

I approached this hike with a bit of trepidation. Since she had just finished her last round of chemo, I was a little concerned about Patti’s endurance. We had mapped out a 70-mile route but, at the last bit of the planning stage, I insisted we back off and do only 60-miles. Other reasons for my caution were the forecast that called for 20 to 30-degree nights, and my concern over carrying the necessary water to get through some dry sections.

All of those concerns, and any others not mentioned, proved to be unnecessary. We both felt great physically and emotionally. The weather held out and the cold was not as bad as we feared. In the end we had likely our best and most rewarding segment yet.

We started with a hike-in to the trail head, south of, but near Gobbler’s Knob, on Lyttle Creek Road. Anita, our sister-in-law and chauffeur for the day, was generous enough to pick us up at Splinter’s Cabin to the south at Lake Arrowhead, and dropped us off about 2/3rds of a mile in from the highway and about two miles away from the trail head.

Lytle Creek Road

The plan was to complete 58-miles in six days. We managed to complete the entire section in just five days. The route was quite easy, relative to some earlier sections. We started at 8300 feet descending to altitudes ranging between 3000-4000 feet. Shifts were gradual and easy.

We read in advance about Poodle Dog Bush, a poisonous plant which seeds are activated by fire. The 2009 Station Fire created this year’s high risk conditions in this segment. Concentrations of the bush were reported right on the trail. The seeds lay dormant deep inside the soil and then when it feels the heat of fire, it replants and pushes up Poodle Dog.  This is a southern California phenomenon and is largely rare without proper conditions. It just happened that we did see some Poodle Dog when we first got on the trail that lasted about two miles. We were prepared to avoid it by having gloves and by covering everything up. We added hydrocortisone cream to our first aid kit, just in case.

One real bummer on this trip turned into a bit of irony and fun in the end. I noticed as we got to the trail start that my hat wasn’t on my head. I was certain it was gone for good because I recalled putting it on right before helping Patti get her pack on and that’s the last I knew of it. Then, the next day, I see Patti searching through all her stuff and mumbling about a hat. Turns out her “Tis Herself” green hat with the shamrock was nowhere to be found. At least Patti now has hair to cover her head. More than I can say. I was a little concerned about sunburn. Luckily, I had my bandana and wore it like a survivor buff. It worked well. Patti said it made me look bad ass. I think the picture below proves it to be more like: Bad – an ass.

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The missing hat, in case you're looking for it.

The missing hat, in case you’re looking for it.

Anyway, turns out my hat spent the week in Anita’s back seat and I will be getting it back. Patti’s Irish luck is missing along with her hat. Hopefully, someone will find it and enjoy it.

perspective

We felt like true members of the PCT hiking community when we stopped and ate at thru-hiker milestone, McDonald’s at Cajon Pass. While we aren’t thru-hikers the food and the “McCafe” coffee was somehow oddly delicious. We think they made it all special just for us.

At McDonalds

We lucked out with the weather. We knew to expect cold nights. That did happen, though not as low as we feared. On the second day, it looked like we might be getting some rain. However, we hiked out of the cloudy conditions and the day ended with sun overhead.

Clouds breaking

Setting Sun

We noticed graffiti through much of the 58-mile stretch. It seemed to us that it was done mostly by one tagger but we couldn’t be sure. It was annoying. We also found a little bit of trash and a few cigarette butts. We haven’t seen a lot of this on any of the trail since we began in Campo. We were a little surprised and disappointed. Other than that, however, the trail all the way was in excellent condition.

Graffiti

Seriously, is this what we want to see?

On our fourth day, we looked forward to Deep Creek Hot Springs. When we first approached the area we were “greeted” with a “boo!” There stood a 60’s-something, velour robe-wearing, barefoot, drunk guy who, we could tell, decided on his own that he was the Patriarch of the Pools. He did surprise Patti. He cracked himself up when he admitted he had never done that before. The seriously disturbing problem was that we also read this is a clothing-optional gig and that what was under the velour was likely no underwear. I was grateful for “Robe’s”  fatherly guidance when he mentioned the Rangers only swing around in their helicopter once a night and that they usually leave “us” alone as he pointed out other cowboy campers in the area. It kind of looked like a homeless encampment. He also showed us the water source and the pools. The place was kind of hippy. Those there wanted to be away. One naked guy jumped into the pool of hot water and said his trail name was Raithe. Patti asked about that and he said he wasn’t afraid of shadows. Neither of us knew what that meant but we went with it. I was thinking if only he knew Patti’s trail name is Glow in the Dark.

We previously ended a hike at Lake Arrowhead where the Deep Creek Bridge carries the PCT through the region just east of the lake. By starting this section from the north near Gobbler’s Knob and connecting the dots to Lake Arrowhead, we have now completed the entire distance from Campo to Gobbler’s Knob, 356 miles in total, minus just 27-miles closed currently due to the recent Mountain Fire. We’ll have to finish that small portion near Palm Springs, sometime later.

A brief update on our use of technology: We replaced our solar recharger with a new GoalZero system. Patti is not convinced that it worked well. But I believe it will work perfectly once we get better at using it. We’ll report more as we learn.

Silverwood Lake

Silverwood Lake

Lynn