Monday, November 25, 2013


An adventure in Africa was the final item on a bucket list of items I left my job at DreamWorks to pursue. After an IronMan triathlon in New Zealand, a road trip up through California to compete in my 3rd Wildflower half IronMan and visit my best friend in Humboldt, a barrage of training days preparing for a first attempt at a 100 mile trail run at the San Diego 100, a surfing trip to Nicaragua, the ultimately failed attempt at the 100 miler, a trip to Colorado for the Leadville marathon, which I ended up not running for fear of worsening the condition that plagued me at the SD100, hiking the John Muir trail from Yosemite to Whitney Portal, a road trip across the midwest from SoCal to Bishop, through lake Mono to Bridgeport, cycling up Tioga Pass to Toulomne meadows, driving across Nevada and Utah to Moab and Arches National Park, checking out Mesa and Vail, Colorado, Escalante and Bryce, Utah, to Lake Tahoe, CA to volunteer at the first IronMan there, finally a trip to Africa was the last item on my list of to-dos. The plan was to spend 1 month, flying into Nairobi, Kenya, busing to Kilimanjaro to climb the highest mountain in Africa, then relax in the warmth of Zanzibar island, and spend a week on safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro.

On Thursday September 29, 2 days before my best friend’s wedding and 3 days before my scheduled departure to Tanzania for an African mountain climbing and Safari adventure, a simple accident left me in the hospital with two lost teeth, a broken shoulder, a bloodied nose, two black eyes, and an upper body that was shocked into crippling tightness and pain. I was out on an overnight backpacking trip with the upcoming wedding’s groom-to-be and a mutual friend, and his dog. We were en-route to an old camping spot where there was a hot spring in the Sespe wilderness. A beautiful cool night with a nearly full moon, we were more than halfway to the camping sight when I broke into a run ahead of my friends and fell face first into the ground. I didn’t understand what happened to me until I woke up hours later in my sleeping bag right next to the sight of the accident. My friends had helped me get into my bag and we slept it out right there on the trail until sunrise.

At first I was, not without fear, committed to making the trip to Africa at the scheduled time. I had already invested at least $6,000 in the trip. I had purchased an insurance policy on the flight, but not for the mountain expedition or the safari. The latter were both non-refundable and could not be rescheduled (officially).

There were two of us going, myself and Cynthie Cuno. She had also suffered a crippling injury to her ligaments around her ankle at he beginning of the month, but was resolved to suffer through it and make the mountain expedition at the originally scheduled time. I was less willing to take risks with my injuries, so we submitted a claim for the insurance on our flight, bought new tickets, were graciously re-scheduled by G adventures free of charge to change the date of the Kilimanjaro climb to 3 weeks later, skipped going to Kenya, and flew instead right into Kilimanjaro to start the Safari on the originally scheduled date of October 14. I was a little bit relieved to be skipping the sight of the mall shooting in Nairobi only 1 week prior.

On October 12 we were off. A short walk to the subway and a train to Union Station, then a flyaway shuttle to LAX and we embarked on a 28 hour airplane Odyssey that ended with a ride into Kilimanjaro airport where I sat next to a local mountain guide who had been vacationing in the Alps in Germany. His name was Othuman and he said he had completed the Kilimanjaro trek in as few as 17 hours, at the request of two clients he had a while back. I decided that one day I would come back and hire him to get me up and down that mountain in a single day.

Othuman got us a reduced fare ride from the airport into Arusha, where we checked into our hotel. Along the way we noted the proliferation of vodacom and coca cola signs. It’s amazing how Coca Cola has influence everywhere I’ve been in the world. A little bit disheartening how the Western capitalism has infiltrated this place, to the point where it is more prolific than any kind of local business. The unemployment rate is high here at around 70%. There are tons of people walking the streets in the towns, going about their days and trying to make a living. Our guides say this is the way of life they are used to here. It’s not that the people are in famine. In fact, most of them are well dressed and healthy looking. Well fed. The crime rate is reportedly low, and while they will acost tourists with great gusto attempting to sell their goods and services, they don’t seem to pose a theft threat, or any other kind of threat.

The Outpost Lodge was a great hotel with a small pool and a nice restaurant that served delicious food at reasonable prices. The beds were draped in mosquito nets and monkeys could be seen outside.
Ngorongoro Crater

If you haven’t been to the great plains, say Kansas (which I haven’t) then the Serengeti is striking in its expansiveness. It’s the first time I felt like I was in an ocean of land, reaching out as far as the eye could see in all directions. Driving through it, I felt a great sense of satisfaction that I had come to a place worth visiting, vastly different than anyplace I had been before, The land was populated by great herds of zebras and gazelles. Occasionally, families of elephants could be seen lumbering across the great plains far in the distance, like giant boulders crawling along. Giraffe’s stood gracefully and most serenely, chomping on thorny tree brush while birds plucked at their teeth. They are so zen.

The safari included a short stopover into a Masai village and into their homes. The Masai are the largest remaining tribes people in Tanzania, who still hold on to their old way of life, off the grid, living their nomadic, goat herding lifestyles. You can see their villages as you drive the roads between Arusha and the Serengeti. And the young men walking with their walking sticks, garbed in bright blue or red and walking in their sandals made from old car tires,shepherding their herds. They live in mud/straw huts which are built by the wives. They walk long distances to get water, and have very little in the way of possessions, though we did learn that cell phones are becoming popular to have, if for no other reason than the novelty of being able to call a friend.

After safari, we flew from Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar, a quick 1 hour plane ride into warm tropical paradise and one of the world’s greatest sources of spices. I was constantly delighted throughout the trip at how great the food was. I realized why so much of Western Europe’s history has to do with the import of spices from places like Africa. They make food so much more exciting, and in East Africa they have a great selection of spices which they use to delectable effect. We went on tour of one of the spice farms on Zanzibar island, and on the one farm, so no fewer than all of the following: nutmeg, cardamon, jackfruit, coconut, vanilla bean, lemongrass, cacao, ginger, cloves, lipstick, turmeric, iodine, saffron and others. We stayed in stone town, which is the commercial center and capital of the island nation. It was a bustling small town right on the water’s edge, with tons of shops and cafes. We stayed only three nights, but that felt like enough to take in the atmosphere in town, and take a 1-day sailing trip out to one of the smaller surrounding islands, for snorkeling (some of the best I’ve done) and swimming in very warm, clear water.

After 4 days on Zanzibar, we had a longer trip through Dar Es Salaam back to Kilimanjaro airport, and a 35km taxi drive to the town of Moshi, at the foot of Kilimanjaro. We stayed along a rough dirt road across from a German built railway which used to carry coffee from Moshi for export from Dar Es Salaam. The staff at the hotel seemed to outnumber guests and were incredibly friendly and helpful. They wanted us to learn to greet each other in Swahili, so were always greeting us in that way, with big smiles on their faces. We had 2 days to relax and prepare for the central purpose of our trip, which was to climb the highest mountain in Africa. We passed the time walking around town, and enjoying the chocolate covered coconut Bounty bars, and Stoney Tangawizi Coca Cola drink, a strong ginger soda which is delicious and only available in East Africa, and costs only 600 shillings at one location we identified (1600 shillings was $1 in US currency).

We did poorly to understand the trips we had booked before we came, because the safari and the mountain expedition each ended up being 1 day shorter than we expected, so our 8-day Machame route up and down Kilimanjaro ended up being a 7 day trip, but only 6 of those days are spent walking on the mountain. It was the 2nd hardest of several routes up the mountain, and included some climbing that required you to use your hands. The walking begins low underneath dense jungle inhabited by monkeys and ravens. The vegetation becomes alien as you ascend out from the jungle into the alpine forests. You ascend up to and then above cloud level, with the glacier capped peak always towering above you. We stayed behind our guides, who set what sometimes felt like an abysmally slow pace. For days the locals in Moshi had been telling us to Pole Pole (slowly slowly) up the mountain, so I resolved to adhere to their slow pace in hopes it would save me for the highest altitudes. It was my intention to complete the trip without taking any altitude medications.

At some point around 12,000 feet, two days before making the final push for the top, I felt the sense of awe and beauty and satisfaction at being on a high mountain always brings. This is the best time of the trip for me, when you are already there, looking up and seeing how much farther and how unfathomable it looks to get to the top, passed those imposing vertical cliffs on the front side. The air thins, the sunlight burns, and your breathing labors, and you have the excitement of the unknown ahead of you. We had it easy because the porters carried all of our supplies for us on their heads, walking up at 3 times our pace ahead of us to set up our tents and cook us dinner. The only thing I could really complain about was how incredibly dusty it is up there. The volvanic rock polverizes down to a very fine powder that permeates through everything on the mountain, and you can never keep clean while on the mountain.

The final push began after the 4th day of walking. Going to bed at around 6:30pm, at a base camp of around 16,000 feet, it was a fiercely windy night, violently flapping at the walls of your tent that you wake up in at 11pm. After a snack, hiking begins in a long congo line of mountaineers with headlamps on at 12 midnight. With temperatures at 0 F, and a wind chill down to perhaps -15 F, it is very cold while you ascend, ever so slowly, up a very steep mountain, under a blanket of outrageous stars, another ocean of lights in the towns below, and a dark ominous void blacking out the sky in front of you, that is the mountain. It became difficult around 17,000 ft, such that taking 5 steps would have me wanting to stop and take 3 or 4 deep breaths before taking another 5 steps. It was so cold and windy, water in our bottles froze and when we took periodic rest stops, I would begin to shiver even underneath my 3 layers of thermal underwear, polyester base layer and wind proof outer shells. A balaclava covered my mouth and nose. The hours ticked by ever so slowly, we seemed to climb forever in the dark, until the sky finally began to lighten after 5 hours of walking, and I knew the sun was coming. It did so about an hour before we made the summit. It was warmer and strikingly beautiful, but I was getting a slight headache and worrying about the descent. Making the summit itself was like finishing an ultramarathon. I ran the last 100 yards and we cried at the top. It was different from how I felt summiting other mountains like Whitney, but more intense. The descent was the most awesome thing - a loose lava rock covered, 45 degree slope which you could basically ski down with reckless abandon on your boots, kicking up dust, for 2,000 ft. What took 7 hours to go up, was undone in little over 90 minutes.

Due to rapid recovery and the delay in the trip, I pretty much was not bothered at all by my injuries during the climb. Even my gums were healed to the point where I could eat solid food comfortably without use of my false teeth. I was much more concerned for Cynthie, because she wasn’t even close to healed yet in her foot, and was shrieking in pain from time to time just walking short distances in the towns before we even started the mountain trek. The way that the ascent of the mountain is designed, we hike up to a high point during the course of a day, and then descend 1,000 ft or so to a lower camp, where we acclimatize. While Cynthie was handling the uphill very well and keeping up with the group, she was lagging behind on the descents and arriving at camp in great distress. It was incredible to me to think that she would have to descend from 19,300 ft down to less than 4,000 ft on foot. Even my knees and feet hurt making that descent. So, it is with awe and great relief that Cynthie made the summit at the same time I did, and descended the entire mountain with the group on her own 2 feet.

The safari and the mountain trek were group tours organized by G Adventures. I am so grateful for this company’s great work, and that both our groups were composed of such friendly people. The safari and the mountain were both about 12 person groups, with different people each time. We made friends with everybody and the experience in their company was fantastic, I couldn’t imagine doing it without them, they multiplied the enjoyment of it all, with their stories and observations and shared experience. They came from all over, in the UK, Canada, USA, Australia, mainland Europe and Asia, and it so delighted me to make these international friends.
Fresh Nutmeg on Zanzibar

Gendi, a trainee server at the Zara (Springlands) hotel, wrote down for me the lyrics of the Kilimanjaro song:

Jamo, Jambo Brana,
habari gani, nzuri sana
wageni, mwakerishura
kilimanjaro, hakuna matata
ukiende Uhuru, hakuna matata

In the company of lions, and the top of Africa, Kilimanjaro summit at 19,300 feet, it was the journey of a lifetime.

Sun setting on the Serengeti

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Running Injuries

Running injury has been the bane of my ambitions for as long as I can remember. It's a frustrating problem. There are people out there who run 100-200 miles every week and don't run into injury. For some reason I keep running into it, in one form or another. There are those who will say that some people are naturally predisposed to these kinds of problems, while others are born to run without issues. While this certainly may be true, it is counter to the stubborn attitude that makes me an ultra runner to just accept it. I'm determined to find some way to run often and run far and not fall into injury. This feels like a daunting goal, and I struggle to believe in it.

As recently as 10 years ago I never thought about running form. I wore cotton socks and big heeled shoes and heel struck as I ran on pavement with long lumbering stride and developed shin splints. to the days post reading Born to Run, when I was lead to believe and hope that running could be enjoyed injury free by going back to the way we were born to run, barefoot and forefoot striking, with short steps and high cadence and relaxing into it. I was not alone in the misdirection suffered from this dream. So many who bought and tried running in vibram five finger running shoes continued to heel strike in them, or piled on too many miles too soon and developed metatarsal micro fractures and top of foot pain, trading the old shin splints for new kinds of injury. I think we failed to realize that the Tarahumara and African and Greek barefoot runners lived their lives throughout childhood and into adulthood walking and running barefoot, developing a body capable of running long distance in minimal footwear over so many years. To hope that we could get there swiftly by kicking off our modern shoes was perhaps a bit naive.

Even so, I learned that the minimal method was not ideal for speed, especially in running down hill. Running shoes allow me to bomb down steep hills with ease and disregard for so many of the little technical footfalls which slow me way down when running barefoot or in minimal attire. I conceded that shoes and socks were much better in cold and dry winter conditions, when otherwise one's skin would crack and the cold numbness of the feet I think defeated the purpose of barefoot running altogether: that bio-mechanical feedback from all those sensitive nerves in the feet. Frozen or numb feet don’t provide feedback.

So I was willing to strap on the bulky running shoes but I still believed one should be able to run long and run pain and injury free if one ran with the correct form, ate healthy and rested and paid attention to their body and avoided running in pain. Perhaps I was not patient enough in allowing my body to recover completely from the miles I put it through, which of course I did without any kind of structured training regimen. I simply ran as much as I wanted, when and how I wanted. But I believe I did so judiciously, always considering the mantra that I run today in order to run again tomorrow. I do not run to destroy myself.

I ran and I prepared to run 100 miles, running not more than 50-60 miles per week, not less than 20. But I toed the starting line already doomed because I’d developed a knee injury that would trouble me in the first mile and degrade gradually from there. I still have this knee problem, and I think it is a symptom of something I’ve suffered from all throughout my running and cycling life but ignored until now. I feel it and it causes problems on the bike as well. 4 months later I'm still not passed this. I've almost not run at all, a fact that is unbearable considering I left my job at DreamWorks primarily so that I could enjoy a year of running through beautiful places across the States and the world, and I haven't been able to do it.

I've seen my doctor, physical therapist, active release therapy/chiropractor and massage therapists to various degrees of success. I've employed self massage and foam rolling to great lengths, given myself time of, focused on dozens of kinds of stretches and exercises, yet I still suffer from this problem. So far, a massage therapist who worked on me in Moab, Utah had the most success in returning me to a good running condition, where I almost didn't notice my knee, but it hasn't lasted. I'm scared that expensive massage therapy may be the only solution to my problem, but it's no guarantee itself. When my problem returned, I went to another massage therapist but they weren't successful in replicating the magic that I got in Moab.

It's disconcerting that even when I walk I notice the imbalance in my stride. My chiropractor, Dr. Choy, and everyone else I've seen doesn't think I have any problem with my knee, it's simply the site the pain that results in repetitive use while I have some kind of muscle imbalance going on. It could be that my psoas muscles in my ride side pull my right hip up a little higher than the left. It doesn't seem to matter what shoes I'm wearing, or whether I am wearing them at all. I experience the imbalance in walking and running mechanics and the pain in my knee whether I am barefoot or in shoes or my Luna sandals. I'm at the point that I am becoming desperate and considering quitting all running for half a year or so to see if I get back to balanced form. I'm thinking I'll take up nordic skiing in the winter.

Monday, August 12, 2013

John Muir Trail

My John Muir trail experience was 21 days, or 17 days of hiking, from Yosemite Valley to Whitney Portal, with a summit of Mt. Whitney, and zero days at Vermillion Valley Resort during the smoke, and Muir Trail Ranch, between July 17 and August 8, 2013. This was over two hundred miles of trekking that introduced me to life in the high Sierras on a drought year, and led me to cross paths with so many people: Scott and his nephews, Matt Brisbin my DWA coworker, Vince (the Bergschrund guy and his son), Hike Alone Bobby, Snort the PCT girl and Jackass the PCT cook at Vermillion, Fabrienne, Ricky, Gary, Will, Drew, Raleigh Martin the Yahoo JMT group moderator, Jeremy and Chris who gave me food when I was running low and encouraged me to finish when I thought I might quit, Emile the uber fast climber from France and Gerard the dental student and Nordic ski instructor and ultra runner from Andora, who knows Kilian, and Ralph who gave us a ride from Whitney Portal into Lone Pine, and dozens of others.

The trip was originally planned to be a 30 day wilderness adventure with my dad, wherein we would take it slow and have several rest (zero) days where we just relaxed and fished in the winderness. The most difficult issue we anticipated was having to carry 14 days of food over 100 miles between Muir Trail Ranch and the finish. The following is a log I kept on my iphone before going to bed each night.

Day 1 Thursday July 17
Started our hike from Yosemite valley backpackers campground waking at 6 and walking at 7:30 am in warm temps and clear skies. Did 8 miles total to just passed clouds rest junction on the John muir trail. We ended up getting the permit to start the jmt in Yosemite instead of toulomne so this was a change of plans

Day 2 Friday July 19
Did 8 miles from clouds rest junction to the Echo creek diverge point with jmt. Horrendous mosquitos fir first 1.5 miles then it let up in the dry zone. got some real awesome views of meadows surrounded by granite peaks. Saw marmots, deer, green frogs, butterflies but still no bear. mood improved throughout day as promise of creek or lake swim became evident. Dad kept walking but I knew there was a small lake I wanted to camp at and swim. He thought it was dry but I hiked in and found it and put my pack down and ran after him. Lake had too many snakes and strange larvae for my liking, we found the echo creek to be more inviting and had a good bath and found even better camp site. Pleasant conditions but no trout sightings today.

Day 3 July 20
Short 5 mile day mostly down from Sunrise passed Cathedral lakes to the road where we cut about three miles of the trail in favor of a shuttle to resupply point at Tuolomne post office. This helped conserve our weary selves and get valuable recovery time, shower, eat at the cafe and enjoy light showers and thunderstorm while chatting with other hikers and climbers at this major hub. All great people lots of fun and reminds why we are out here. This place is a meca. Ended night with big campfire stories about rock climbing from forest ranger lady. Tomorrow begins the long trek south and our spirits are high if bodies a wee bit sore. 4 days to next resupply at Reds meadow.
Day 4 July 21 Sunday
Late start from Tuolomne after cafe breakfast. Slept in since cafe opened at 8, so hike began at 9 am for 7.5 miles through Lyell Canyon toward Donohue pass. Saw lots of trout but after the pool jump thing and the fact we are la on cooking fuel, didn't try to fish. Had to miss a cool high jump into deep water cause of dads "schedule" ugh. Next time I see one I'm going in, and next time I see a trout the tenkara rod is coming out. I did finally get a quick dip in the frigid swiftwaters when we stopped to lunch and also found the first pine tree i could do pull-ups on. Anyway another pretty day, granite peaks over meadows, snow on peaks, rivers snaking through the meadows. Bugs are bad here and I have dozens of mosquito welts. Also my knee is still not 100% nor my ankle, and I have a blister problem due t what might be bad fit boots. Hoping to buy new boots at mammoth. Dad is in good shape except his swelling legs, which goes up and down very day after hike/sleep. We might get ahead of schedule. Plenty of food I don't think I've let weight yet.
Day 5 July 22 Monday
Rain! Lightning and thunder and rain, oh my! We had a 7:30 am start from Lyell forks bridge up to Donohue pass, our first pass and most beautiful scenery yet. It was a cold morning but pleasant for the climb up Donohue, where we met up with the JMT yahoo group people we hung out with them most of the day. Body started feeling better today and it was the best day so far in every way. The descent down Donohue into Ansel Adam territory was easy and beautiful. By early afternoon a storm rolled in and we were hiking into rain and thunder for several miles. Arrived at Island Pass where we have wonderful camp sites along with yahoo group and almost no bugs. I swam in the tarn then noticed a bunch of scary creatures living in the water, none of which are recognizable to any of us. We are at 10000 feet and t storms and rain still coming at us off and on. Just chilling in the tent and eating goji berries. Not sure what tomorrow will bring but feeling good ready to tackle it.

Day 6 July 23 Tuesday
Woke early after a calm quiet non stormy night but could see dark clouds looming. We wants out of the rain and a reprieve from the mess of camping so as it began to rain again we began a 9 mile exit route to Agnew and bus to Mammoth mountain town and a hotel night. The whole yahoo group was doing the same. We passed two kids out who had started 2 days after us and been rained on all 4 of their days including being caught on top of Donohue Pass during they storm: they had decided to abandon the trip entirely. We did laundry in town and upon going to dinner noticed smoke smell and an orange sun. There was a fire out in the direction we are heading! Before long ash was falling in town. Not sure yet what this means for us.

Day 7 July 24 Wednesday
6 am wake up at the hotel then breakfast and we had a plan to hike in to a nice spot along the jmt for a 2 night layover, if the fire allowed. News was hard to get but there was no indication we wouldn't be allowed to hike out, though smoke was in the air to the point where all but about a 1 mile radius was obscured visually by smoke. It took us from 7:30 til about 10:30 to get down to reds meadow on public transport, where we picked up our resupply and hit the trail at noon. At this point we broke off ahead of our yahoo friends who were staying the night at reds and we hiked through a section that burned some time ago and had broken stumps from 200 mph winds that went through after. It looked like a disaster zone in the smokey haze but there was new growth and flowers. I pass trout in a stream and broke out the tenkara rod and they hit the fly my first 2 casts but no catch, perhaps because i broke the barbs off the hook, or the fact that i couldn't set the hook in the dense vegetation. I didn't want to cook them today anyway. We got to a camp sight and after some exploring around, settled in. I could tell throughout the day something wasn't right with my dad. He announced abruptly that tomorrow he would hike back to mammoth, his trip over. His foot was oozing blood or some kinda fluid. We always knew this was a potential problem. He has always had these bad foot and leg conditions but it seemed so sudden and heart wrenching for both of us. This was a very hard day.
Day 8 July 25 Thursday
I walk alone. This was a dark day the likes of which I could not have anticipated. It was very hard to watch my dad go, he wanted so badly to walk this trail. We transferred things I would need from his backpack to mine and he headed back to mammoth while I cleaned up camp to keep on going by myself. I walked heavy hearted, very sad. I walked to a point where I asked my dad to let the yahoo friends know I would be if he saw them. I thought I would stay and fish there but there were no fish and it was only like 2.6 miles from the previous camp. I drew a note in the ground and walked we two humboldt university students who came by. We went 2.3 miles to Purple Lake and the smoke started filling the air again. We had lunch and swam in the lake then they continued on. I stayed to fish and make camp, but it started to rain. I had realized during the hike that I didn't take the rain fly for the tent from my dad! This was a nightmare. It rained pea size hail. This happened off and on and I sat alone in a semi dry spot underneath a tree as it hailed and thundered and the smoke filled the air. I have never been in such a somber state. A headache developed I think from the smoke which still severely dampens the environment as I write this. I started to eat some things and look around and think about what I could do about sleeping in the rain and trying to stay dry. My best hope was that the storm would dissipate in the evening as they do here. I tied on a new fly and tried some fishing, and got a big one (for up here) on the line and up near me but this being my first tenkara catch I was not sure what to do and the fish  broke free. I got a slightly smaller one 10 minutes later and landed it. I have never killed and cleaned/cooked a fish by myself. It felt sad to hold the fish in my hand knowing it would die. I took a picture of it as it suffocated then got out my knife, cut it up, buried its cuts and rinsed the fillets, cooked them up with some olive oil on my bear can lid and ate it. It was good but needed salt I didn't have. 3 British hikers came by who remembered my dad and I but I couldn't really remember them. They are very nice and I relayed the story about my dad. One later remembered that they had heard one of my yahoo friends calling my name back at duck creek, where my dad was to say that I would be. I hope I will see them in the morning. Then  Scott and his nephews came by while I was sitting on a rock by the lake  near sundown. My dad and I had talked to Scott several days back at Toulomne an I was struck by his mountain man demeanor and wisdom. This was his 5th jmt traverse and he sleeps under a tarp, no tent. He offered his help about my tent predicament but for now I feel safe that any storms have passed until tomorrow, which he said will also bring rain. Je also said he thought he saw my dad today back in mammoth, but wasnt sure. I think he did and my dad must have gotten back to town. I am ok and still focused, but frazzled and sad and not sure about the tent. Hopeful for dry sunny days. Even harder today than yesterday.
Lots of smoke!

Day 9 July 26 Friday
I am writing this two days later due to these last two days being so busy. I woke late and waited for yahoo friends in hopes they would bring news from my dad and maybe the rain fly. They arrived and had seen my dad looking sad and expected to see me at duck creek having never found my sign. We headed off in nice conditions to lake Virginia which was a huge high alpine lake and would have swam but it was too windy/cold. Caught and released a trout, ate snacks and Gary caught up who had a plan to get to Vermillian resort on a shortcut route. This sounded good to me but I do t remember why, other than how it avoided needing to take the shuttle boat on lake Edison, for which I didn't know the schedule. We joined him and became a group of 5 calling ourselves Gary's gang. The smoke thickened as we traveled and soon we had a storm brooding. By mid afternoon we were in the rain. Got as far as pupus lake where I wish we all would have stayed but two of us followed Gary while this British coupled staid put for camp. We continued for Goodale pass in the thunderstorm wet and cold in the direction of the lightning. The pass seemed to climb forever and while I could count to 8 for most lightning/thunder pairs, it got as low as 4 and Fabrienne complained of not being able to go on for feeling sick and lack of energy. I think as soon as we crossed that pass the storm halted and we saw sun. We descended and at this point it was a 13 mile day for me and 15 for them. We ate dinner then decided to find a camp but this proved tricky. All the land was very wet and sloping. We went much farther than we wanted before finding something level enough in what turned out to be called upper graveyard meadows. The smoke was thicker than ever, wet and cold and I felt like I was in the twilight zone. I had slipped into a creek so my boot was soaked and I was miserable going to sleep out there breathing in the smoke and ash. Had no desire to write a log entry. Thank goodness it didn't rain during the night but was damp and dewy and unpleasant. The night was deathly silent except Gary's snoring. The views this day would have been spectacular but i saw only smoke.

Graveyard meadow
Day 11 July 28 Sunday
Zero day at Vermillion. They say you have to lose yourself to find yourself and I think I've sufficiently lost myself on the jmt. I am at the mercy of Mother Nature and am powerless. I don't know what I want now. I don't want to go out into the smoke but there is no sign of it letting up. We thought we had come up with a good plan B this morning but that is up in the air now. Can only wait and see what tomorrow brings. Talked to several PCTers today, they are a peculiar sort but happy and nice people. They have no money but a lot of time on their hands to be rested and hike. One girl (her trail name is Snort) described her pct through hike and said the most stressful days are the zero days when she has to resupply in civilization. The rest is non stressful! I washed dishes in the kitchen for 2.5 hours last night in exchange for free dinner/desert/drink.

Day 12 July 29 Monday
Vamos! The smoke is dissipating the sun color is normal and we have a shuttle to get us to Florence lake and out of the worst of it! This all happened this morning after going to bed without a clue. Onward. And it was a shuttle ride through smoke to Florence lake where there was literally a wall of smoke with shangri la on the other side, like when Dorothy stepped from the world of black and white in Kansas into the vibrant color of the world of oz. muir trail ranch was a five mile hike in and is a paradise in the sierras with natural hot springs and great food, dogs and horses roaming and no Mosquitos! Plus, ran into Matt my former coworker from DreamWorks! didnt know if ever would but knew he was also through hiking the jmt. Happy ranch days then on to evolution valley and the last 100 miles of the trip.

Day 13 July 30 Tuesday
Wow. a day at Muir Trail Ranch. magical. feels so good to be alive. Woke around 7 in cold clear morning and soaked in a hot 106 degree pool before taking on a huge home cooked breakfast. Then the day was filled lazily with unpacking the resupply, meeting hikers, hanging out with yahoo friends and Matt from DreamWorks, playing fetch with the dogs, washing clothes, reading and chatting in the lounge/library, napping, basking in some warm mud pools across the river. some smoke came back and made for
One of the most memorable and picturesque evenings iv ever seen, from sitting below ground level in a hot muddy bubbling pool, gazing over a grassy and flowery meadow at a granite cliff slightly faded by smoke, a crimson sun breaking through from behind thunderhead clouds casting god rays across me and the meadow and the mountain. the temperature was perfect and i could hear the singing of the san juaquin river nearby. No mosquitos or flies. i was living in a painting. I walked passed some shrubs to reveal a small deep lake with Lilly pads. It was warm water. Took a swim across, climbed some rocks and took a high jump in. Fun by oneself on a lazy day in the mountains.

Enjoyed a big communal dinner with chatty hikers. The energy here is calm and peaceful. Finished off the evening with a stroll over to the lounge to pick up a bedtime reading book and peek in on a family play g a game of monopoly under soft amber lamp light in the corner. Imagine the most beautiful picture of a log cabin in the woods you have ever seen. I am there now.
Day 14 July 31 Wednesday
About 9 miles from muir ranch to Evolution Valley, the place my dad most wanted to see. Packs very heavy at around 40 pounds. there was not a wiff of smoke nor a cloud in the sky today. just brilliant blue skies. Walked most of the way with Matt Brisbin but lost him towards the end when I took a nap along the trail. We met a cute girl named Jessica who said she worked for the Ross ranch which i guess is right next to muir ranch. she said you gots to be friend or family to score a great summer job like that. I stopped short of our original destination when I came to a fantastic camp site with views of the peaks and warm water in the river. Spent a good 40 minutes watching the sun set all by myself. I camp alone tonight, nice and quiet. Saw some deer comedown to the creek for an evening drink. I have a space blanket now so I think I sleep warmer tonight :)
Day 15 August 1 Thursday
Long hard day physically and mentally. Got going as early as I could but it was so cold and I had so much todo this meant walking started at 7:45 am. I think I did about 14 miles today which included muir pass and like 4000 ft of climbing. The sun was so strong up near 12000 ft. I mostly hiked alone, then with Drew and caught up with Matt Brisbin at the Muir Hut. The climbing today made me second guess my abilities. I thought I was in good shape but this was tough and I felt exhausted several times. I got a real neat campsite here tonight. Very pretty. We could see the smoke in the distance today from muir pass but it never got near us. Blue sky all day. I think I smell pretty bad.
Day 16 August 2 Friday
If I farted in the forest and no one else is around to hear It, does it make a sound? Another 12 miles or so today between 7:45 and 5:00, from small lake to Palisade lake. It was a long down hill then a long up hill. Really a hard day today. Just getting worked. I have 71 miles to go. This is as hard as any ultra marathon I've done. Caught a rainbow trout today, but just small enough to not be worth cooking. Going to take it easier tomorrow. I have Mather pass and the golden stair case then whatever I feel lik. Want to eat a trout.

Day  17 August 3 Saturday
So just like that I think I need to get out of here. Too many things going against me stacking up now. No rain poncho or rain fly, boots that aren't a good fit, I been worrying about having enough food and I really only have enough for 4 more days tops plus tonight I spilled my dinner on the ground. Huevos rancheros. I ate some of it off the ground. Damn they were good too :( and today was my first full day of truly being alone. No more yahoo friends they are either ahead or behind. No Matt. I have a long way to go and my knee is bugging me, same one that killed me for the San Diego 100. I bought a knee brace in mammoth but even that is failing this new pain. I'm not really sure how to get out of here. Will ask around tomorrow. I think it will take at least three days no matter what. This trail is hard man. I thought being an ultra runner was good enough, but out here it's tough it's hailing and raining on you, it's hot and it's cold and the sun is fierce and the wind blows and there's lightning and the Mosquitos will eat you alive and you got these insane passes with steps built for 10 foot tall people, and the forest is on fire filling the air with smoke and your 40 pound pack follows you the whole way. Holy shits and giggles its hard. I still have like 60 miles and probably like 18000 feet of climbs. Not good for hungry guy with hurt knee all alone with no rain gear. Next time better gear prep and a resupply along this second half stretch, that or make sure can do 20 miles a day. Too much for me with these boots and pack. If I can't get word on a way out I'm going to have to hit Whitney portal skipping the summit. Gonna take at least 4 days.

Day 18 August 4 Sunday
This turns things around. Gorgeous destination today, my favorite area along the trail: Rae Lake area. These mntns are majestic. No man made creation has ever held a candle in comparison. So great. I met Jeremy and Chris foxy whom i saw before. They heard my plight and gave me extra food and encouraged me. I'll make the call at the lets argue exit tomorrow but now thinking I may push on to Whitney. Sleeping without a tent under the stars tonight.

Day 19 August 5 Monday
Just another day. It's all about getting to finish now. Tried to go two passes but glen was tough and got to last camp opportunity below forester  little after 5 and it looks tough and thunderheads loomed above so camped here another cold night at high alt. last night was cold too very cold. I did see biggest shooting star I ever seen last night. Hope I can make Whitney camp tomorrow otherwise might skip the summit. Dunno.
Day 20 August 6 Tuesday
Woo! Now this is cool after like a 18 mile day rising early to cross forester I met Gerard and Emile from Andora and Grenoble respectively and we cruised cause they were fast. Jarard is ultra runner and knows Kilian. We are now at guitar lake the staging ground for Whitney and I ate two dinners and shat in a wag bag. This is the end of the John muir trail.

Day 21 August 7 Wednesday
Summit Whitney. It was the coldest night of the trip, lots of condensation making it wet and icy. We hiked at 6:15 am and summited just before 9:00 I think. No AT&T reception on top, so borrowed a stranger's Verizon phone to call home. Did a little dance video for Emile's movie, descended the nearly 7,000 feet to the portal, stopping to eat the last bag of dehydrated food on the way down. Got a ride from Ralph into tow. He was the first person we asked for a ride. Very easy. Had to use the wallet again! And back to the annoyances of artificial sounds and such but glad to sleep in dry warmth.