Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's the little things that matter most...

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I admit, I have spent a majority of my weekends in the woods lately.  My daughter never complained that I was hardly home on weekends but I miss her and I wanted to share an adventure with her.

A trip to Henninger Flats had been discussed many times in the past few weeks.  She's seen many photos from my past trips and when I told her that there would be ice-cold drinks after the hike, she was game.  

Friday afternoon, I return home having leaving early from work.  I raid the gear closet and dust-off her pack and ask her to bring items she wanted to bring for the trip.  A Bear beanie, a Hello Kitty beanie, a stuff toy, Sudoku book, Rubber Band Bracelet Kit, and a tablet for movies were all gathered on the floor.  With all the gear packed up, we move on to the kitchen and plan our menu for our weekend mini-adventure.  

Saturday morning, excited for the trip, we haul our packs to the car and we're off.  After short drive to the trailhead, we meet the rest of the group and we start our hike to camp.  

We start our hike at 9:45AM, temperature starting to rise...it was forecasted to be a warm weekend and we were slowly feeling the heat shortly after hiking just a few yards.  Luckily, I decided to bring the umbrella which, as always, proved to be invaluable.

A mile into the hike, her pace slows.  This was the first hike we've done where she actually stopped a few times to drink water.  I could tell the heat was getting to her.  I offered to carry her pack to alleviate the fatigue that I could sense was getting to her.  We stopped a few times on the trail to get some sugars in her system and some salts.  Words of encouragement was also helpful.  "You're doing great baby! A few more turns we're almost there...thank you for coming with me"...I was so proud of her for not giving up.  On the way up, we noticed that we caught up to a group of kids who were ahead of us.  We overheard once of the girls say that she was having cramps...they decided to head back down after hiking only 2 miles.  I point this out to my daughter to give her more fuel that she was doing great...it helped. 

We're close to the end! She made it to the marker indicating that we were only less than a mile from camp.  At this point, one of our friends catch up to us and offers my daughter a sweet treat...thank you Barbara :)

Close to the end, I remind her that there will be cold drinks at camp and she can have as much as she wants.  The prospect of a cold drink excited her and her pace quickens...on the last turn, we see a glimpse of the sign, she carries her pack again and completes the hike.

I cannot express enough how proud I am of this girl.  She completed a tough hike! For those of you who have not hiked to Henninger Flats, it has a good amount of elevation gain...we completed the hike a little over an hour.  

At camp, we finally get to relax, explore, and mingle.  We also get to test a new 2-person tent...we're both excited about this as well.

A full day of activities pretty much tired her out.  With the sun about to set, we have dinner...and popcorn (Thanks Gina and Nick!).  Before going to bed, we head down to the museum and watch the history of Mt. Lowe.

Morning comes, and another adventure, sadly, comes to an end. After having breakfast, we pack up and start our trek back to the car. I always enjoy backpacking with my daughter.  It fills me with great joy when I am able to share the happiness I feel when I'm on the trail. I just hope that she remembers these trips and remembers how much fun we both have.  Another reason why I have this blog...it is something I can share with her as she grows up.  Sometimes photos aren't enough...a simple narrative of events, I believe, help trigger memories.

Another adventure done...hopefully a memory she'll remember for a long time.  If you have the chance to take your kids out on an adventure...do it.  Local trips such as these don't cost much, maybe a tank of gas and the memory you share with your love ones are priceless.

As always, thank you for reading...see you on the trails.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Going Back To Yesterday

(c) Marvin Mateo 2014
More than a personal adventure, this trip to Panamint City was planned to celebrate a young man, his life, and his love of this area. He enjoyed coming here and I feel honored to have shared the same trail he walked on...I only wished that I had the pleasure of hiking with him.  

This is for Kevin...

4:00 AM, Friday morning, I wake up only having slept for a couple of hours.  The excitement of this trip kept me from sleeping a wink.  Still barely awake, I scramble whatever items I needed to pack up.  5:15 AM, Pack in tow, I'm out the door ready to drive to pick up my buddy Pete and meet our group at another friends home.

One last stop on the 15 for a quick breakfast and we're on our way to Death Valley

The drive to Death Valley flew by fast.  Good conversation, a few political and social issues were resolved during this drive - that will be left for another story.  We soon arrive at the Chris Wicht Campground where we meet the rest of our group.

All loaded up, we start our long hike to Panamint City.  Below would be our route from the trail head.

Map Route Courtesy of: G.A.

The trail to Panamint City is quite a tough trail.  The loose rock on the trail, the brush or as we dubbed it "The Hobbit Trail", was low and overgrown.  Don't expect this hike to be quick...this was one of the most difficult hikes I've ever done so far.

Aside from the brush and the rocks, we also climbed a couple water falls to get back to the trail. My buddy Pete reminded me in advance to bring water shoes because a good 60% of the hike would be in and out of water - he wasn't kidding.  Having water shoes helped my feet a lot and made the hike more enjoyable.  Even with trail runners that dry out quick, it was more comfortable to be in shoes that were meant to get wet.

Past the waterfalls, the trail levels for a bit until you reach the old truck...it's amazing to think that at one point there was a road here that led to the city.

We took a breather here to recover from the falls.  I took the time to take any debris out of my shoes to avoid any injury that could make my hike miserable.  After five minutes, we push on through knowing we still had quite a ways to go.

2.86 miles in, we take a lunch break after passing the more difficult ascents.  I only had a few snacks on this stop and decided to hike ahead.  I was getting cold, fatigued, and weak.  I felt that if I took too long of a break that this would work against me.  Not having enough sleep was slowly taking a toll and I could feel it.

A little over 2 miles to go per the groups calculations and we should be nearing the city.  

I must have been really slow at this point because my buddy Tom who was ahead of me disappeared from view.  My legs were really tired at this point and my pace slowed to a crawl.  So slow that Pete actually caught up to me.  The trail felt like it wouldn't end at this point.  I will admit that this trail kicked the crap out of me!

After walking what felt like hours, I hear Pete yelling up ahead "We're here!!!".  I must have caught my second wind because the excitement suddenly had my legs moving again.  Sadly, it was short lived.  Once you pass a couple turns on the canyon north east, the Panamint Smoke Stack comes in to view...don't be fooled, you will be staring at this brick tower for a while.  Something that seems so close can't come any closer.  My head down, endlessly staring at each footstep, at each rock, I muscle through.  Eating whatever I had inside my hipbelt pockets to help me get to camp.

Finally, I arrive at camp.  Dropping my pack immediately upon arriving, I crash on the dirt just to rest my legs for a bit.  Not wanting to move much further, I spot a site good enough where I can setup my shelter for the weekend.

Shelter set and gear exploded inside, I grab my food bag and head to the "Hilton".  The "Hilton" is a cabin used by hikers and scouts in the area. Most cabins in the area are actually stocked with food, fuel, sleeping bags, etc.  However, it is tradition and common courtesy that if you take something, you must replace it with something else.  

I enter the cabin and the group already had the fire going and drinks were available for all to partake.  It felt good to arrive at camp with enough daylight left to soak in the view and to be surrounded by friends, a drink, and a warm fire.  

Our stomachs full and our livers getting a work out...we share stories about the trail and our plans for the following day.  As the evening activities draw to a close, we all retreat to our tents to get some well-deserved rest.

The following morning, everyone was slow to rise...and what's the rush?  We were here for another full day.  I always enjoyed a base camp style trip...free to explore at your pace with no schedules.  

Several splinter groups explored the area throughout the day.  So many things to see and do.  For the adventurous, there are two peaks that you could actually bag in the area.  However, we all decided to just have a nice relaxing weekend.  We explored almost all the cabins and mines in the area.

What a day! I felt like a kid in Disneyland with all these areas to explore.  So much to see and not enough time.  After all the exploration, we all gather for one last night around the fire.  I had so much fun on this trip.  

I have to mention that this weekend was supposed to be a very cold weekend with the chance of rain and snow...none of which came about.  Kevin must have been looking out for us, we had the best weather...

The following morning, everyone seemed to wake up a little earlier this time.  By 9:30 AM, everyone was ready to move out.  

The hike back down to the cars was less painful compared to the hike up.  Oddly enough, there were portions of the trail I didn't even remember going through...I must have been staring at my feet for a while to have missed certain characteristics of the trail.

Once back at the parking lot, we all say our "goodbyes".  Sad to leave but back to reality we all must go. But before we go, Death Valley treats us with one last surprise...we never saw a Burro throughout the whole trip.  Well, we finally saw one on our way out.

This was another adventure to remember. A hard trail but full of rewards...I would want to go back here again.  

Before I go, I wanted to share a short video I created in memory of Kevin - we had the most beautiful sunset on our last night and I was lucky enough to capture it. So I hope you all like it.

Till the next adventure...see you on the trails.