PCT 1 - 6/08 - 6/16 Hitch #1: The Chronicles of "Gnarnia"
Submitted by tcarroll.corps on Fri, 06/24/2011 - 13:40
Hitch #1 for the season. Time to test ourselves, see what we're really made of. The miles have been traveled, the training is done, beards have been braided, and the sleeves are rolled up high so here we go! We met our packers, Bill and George, on the 8th of June and proceeded to load up the mules and horses for the pack in. It was a lot of fun loading the mules, trying to get the weight distributions just right, and making sure we had everything we needed. George kept trying to convince us that his mules were short eared mules vs. the long eared mules that Bill was using. (There are no short eared mules, just horses). Bill and George are both volunteers themselves and take time from their schedules to drive out here to pack us into the work site. The work we're doing truly could not be accomplished without their support. Since there is no water source for our first hitch, all the water had to be packed up the mountain in advance by the mules. We're so thankful for these guys.
The work began with a lot of energy and excitement. After 2 weeks of training and several days of driving down to California, everyone was pumped to be out on the trail getting some work done. We camped at a saddle between Mt. Jenkins and Owens Peak in the Owens Peak Wilderness Area. Spectacular views of the Mojave Desert on one side and gorgeous views of the Southern Sierra's on the other. The work picked up where the previous SCA crew left off during the spring, widening the trail, clearing branches and bushes from the trail corridor, and repairing old stone retaining walls. Our crew was humming right along for the first couple days when we received another visit from our packers Bill and George. They had great compliments for our work as they walked the trail inspecting the hazardous areas that we had worked on. This section of trail has seen stock animal fatalities in years past so they were very pleased to see a wider, more manageable route. They brought a fresh melon up the mountain for us to enjoy and we dominated it in record time.
Throughout the week we saw many thru-hikers (people hiking the entire length of the PCT in one season). Every one of them was thankful for our hard work and we rewarded them for hiking over 600 miles to this point by passing out candy bars. I'm not sure if they were more thankful for the trail work or the chocolate.
Each evening we gathered back at the ridge line saddle for camp dinner and a sunset. The sunsets were colorful, long and peaceful. We spent the evenings laughing, chatting, eating great food, doing yoga, and playing 'ninja'.
George came back up a few days later and joined us in the building of a massive stone retaining wall. He jumped right into the hole and started wrangling massive boulders into place with the enthusiasm of a teenager. He talked to the rocks and made all kinds of noises while he was moving them around. “Ohhhh, hmmmm, yes it looks like it wants to go there. Ahh, oooo, yes that's the place for that rock...”
It was exciting to see his enthusiasm for the trail work and he had yet another surprise for us that day. A watermelon and 2 large pizzas! Are you kidding!! We've been treated like kings by these packers this week.
The week ended with a triumphant sunrise summit of Owens Peak. We scrambled to the top of the mountain just in time to see the sun come up. It was great to get a birds eye view of the trail we had been working on all week and then to look north at the Sierra's were we'll be spending the next several months of our lives. Now for some days off and some R&R at Lake Isabella.