Thursday, June 21, 2012


  We woke up early. The sunrise was amazing. Camping up high is the way to go, no bugs, and amazing views. We sang songs the first mile, I was stuck on some great Disney songs, the bear neccessities in particular.
  Forrester Pass was a good workout. Its the highest spot we will ever hit on the PCT, and is really beautiful. Last time I was there, I glissaded down the other side. This time we had one patch of snow, and it was about 10 feet long. No way to get lost, or even off trail. One really nice thing about the lack of snow is the flowers. On the top of Forrester these little blue flowers were intoxicating. I could not get enough of the smell!
  After Forrester was the long, slow decent into the valley below. So beautiful though. Lauren decided about this point that she wanted to hike over Kearsarge Pass, and down into Onion Valley, trying to get to Bishop tonight. We made it too! 22 miles, 2 passes, amazing views all day.
  We caught a ride down to Independance very quickly, there was a car leaving, just as I reached the bottom. Then we caught the 5 PM bus to Bishop. Challenger and Just a Test joined us, and are staying in the same hotel. We ate dinner together and now may all take a zero tomorrow. I love Bishop... cheesebread is amazing. It is so hot down here though, probably close to 100. Time to rest.


  We decided last night that we would take an easy day, not going up Whitney meant we had time to do whatever. So this morning we slept in. Then Lauren went walking down the creek, while I walked up creek for awhile. I was trying to catch some trout with barehands, but no luck. Then I started to look at maps and got anxious. We are doing great, 12-18 miles a day, but its still hard for me to stay still. It will likely be this way for awhile too, waiting for Lauren's flat feet to get stronger. I dont know why I get anxious. It may have to do with all of the other hikers constantly passing us. Not to sound like a jerk, but normally not many hikers pass me.
  We did good though today, 13 miles after noon. We are camped about a mile or so from the top of Forrester Pass, the highest point on the PCT. Views are incredible. Its going to be a cold night though, up here at 12500 feet.
  We only have 20 miles to Onion Valley, where a hitch will take us to Bishop. But we may do it in 2 days, depending on how the feet hold up. Time for rest.


  Woke up many times last night to the wind flapping the tent around. Finally it was so strong it pulled a stake out of the sandy soil, and the tent collapsed on us. It took us awhile to give in, but we finally decided to take the tent down and sleep under the stars. They were beautiful too. Not sure why we didnt do that at first!
  We started late due to the lack of sleep. The trail was beautiful today. I was really surprised that we didnt see anyone else while hiking today. It seems like the PCTers are really spread out this year, likely because of the lack of snow.
  We made it to Crabtree Meadows by 430. Camping really early to let Laurens foot rest. It is beautiful here, I love the Sierras. The view from my tent yields a meadow with stream running through it. Deer are in the meadow, chowing down. The mountains in the background are huge slabs of granite jutting up from the ground. Whitney is one of them. Right now we are considering an easy day  tomorrow, give Lauren time to rest her foot. I may opt to climb Whitney, unsure right now.


Today we hippied it up. We walked 14 miles to a lake and while Lauren swam, I did some stretching (yoga). This lake has some cold water in it. This didnt stop Lauren from swimming to the middle and back, I will tip my hat to that.
  I didnt sleep super well last night. Drank a lot of water before bed, so was forced up a couple times. Sometimes its so hard to get up though. So comfy wrapped up in my down bag. Its also strange to me to be camped near a large group of folks, and several were gone before daybreak. We followed shortly, leaving just after 7 AM.
   The Sierras slowly showed their true colors today. The colors are mostly grey! No snow, except in tiny patches high in the mountains. The meadows are really green still, but I suspect that even the greenest of meadows will die this year as well. It makes me wonder about a few things. Will the bears be more actively searching for food? Will there be fires on the trail further north? And most importantly, will there still be berries up north? These questions and more ran through my head today along the dusty trail, only time will answer them.
   Lauren's feet were a big part of our discussion today. Her feet have bothered her everyday so far, but mostly after yesterday's 18 mile day. I wish we could have trained for this more, hard to get big mileage days in winter, but we should have tried. We debated for awhile if we should go into Lone Pine today so Lauren could find new shoes and rest up her feet, but we opted not to. Instead we will try to hike slower and skip hiking Whitney in a few days. I have done Whitney before, and Lauren says shes ok skiippin it. So we will. I just really hope her feet can handle the beating that our feet are in for. The numbers are freightening. 2000 miles in just over 100 days. But anything can happen. Tonight we will enjoy Chicken Spring Lake.


Slept so well in the tent. Nice and warm with a cool breeze blowing all night. It feels good to be out again. Woke up early and enjoyed listening to the birds sing around the tent. At six, I finally woke up Lauren, and we were hiking by seven AM.
  Nice and cool morning as we worked our way up into the mountains. We walked past several hikers camped out. Actually felt like we got an early start. We passed a spot that I remembered being snow packed in 2006, nothing but dust now. This is going to be a totally different experience than 2006. Will our feet ever get wet I wonder?
  We took a nice break at a creek with Chameleon and Gut Feeling. Then on to Death Canyon and some nasty water.
  We ended up hiking another 6 miles after that for a total of 18 today. It honestly wore me out. I must be carrying 60 pounds now. I am a bit worried about Laurens feet, hope they continue to be ok.. We are camped with a big group, probably 12 of us. Good to be with hikers.


 Today we began hiking. It felt so good, cept for the heavy pack! I had 8 days of food, and 4 beers from Denver. It still does not feel as bad as leaving Hite Marina on the Hayduke Trail with 10 liters of water and 10 days of food! Good times.
  Hiking with Lauren is much diferent than hiking by myself. I was mentally prepared for this too. We both have different hiking styles, and different paces. I think it will work, but for now it is honestly difficult for us to find a pace that works for both of us. This is a tough stretch though too. We are carrying a lot of food and working our way into the high Sierras. I feel it today, but I know Lauren feels it more. Her foot is bothering her today, says her arch feels like its falling. This is likely the most weight she has carried! We are going to redistribute the weight tomorrow, I will take her food and bear canister, she will take the tent. We are in this together, and she will help me out some way along this crazy adventure as well.
   The trail brings back memories of 2006. Missing the folks I hiked with. Also excited to meet new folks. Today we met T-Rex, Sunshine, Jeff, Gut Feeling, and Young Geezer. All great people to spend time with. It makes me feel at home, hikers are truly the best. I once again feel so lucky to be able to do what I am doing. Hard to imagine another 3 months with no work or school, but I am stoked for it.
  The South Fork of the Kern River was the highlight of my day. It feels like the gateway to the Sierras. Its in a meadow, high mountains in the background, and the swallows fly around like jets on a bright blue sky. We spent time here watching the birds, meeting new hikers, and washing off in the river. Hard to beat.
  We made 13 miles today, big climb tomorrow sending us up over 10,000 feet. I cant wait.

6/14/12 on to the PCT!

What an amazing day it has been. I woke up at 3 AM in Denver, could not fall back asleep. So I started to get things done. Packed up all of my stuff to send home after working in Wyoming for 10 days. I also spent some time watching the city slowly wake up, as I did the same.
  I was on a plane by 11. We flew right over the Grand Canyon, and I am pretty sure that I could make out where the Hayduke Trail took us back in April. Hopped off a plane at LAX, with a dream and my backpack. Met up with Lauren at the airport. Our flights got in about an hour apart from each other.
  The travel to Kennedy Meadows went sweetly. We were somehow given VIP treatment at the Avis car rental place. We didnt have to wait in the line of 20+ folks, and were okn our way in no time. The traffic in LA was a bugger, but it moved, just slowly, all 8 lanes of traffic.
  We were in Ridgecrest at 6, and I honestly had my doubts about making it to Kennedy Meadows tonight. We still had a few errands to run and the pct was another hour+ up 3 different roads and one that was super small, leading from the highway, to the middle of nowhere. We started hitching at 7 after dropping the car off. After 30 minutes an Austraiilian firefighter picked us up. Super nice guy, drove out of his way to get us out of town to 395.
   Next hitch was about 30 minutes as well. This couple named Chris and Paige picked us up. They were headed right past Kennedy Meadows and gave us a ride the whole way to the campground. They were a really nice couple, coming up here for some offroading. Chris works for CBS doing lighting for shows in hollywood and Paige works for a magazine. I am still amazed that they gave us a ride all the way to Kennedy Meadows, if it werent for them, we would have slept along the highway most likely.
 Kennedy Meadows really stirs the emotions. In 2006 I was here for 3 nights, along with many others. It was a high snow year and going into the Sierras with an ice axe (that I did not know yet how to use) was scary. But I made it through. Some of my fondest trail memories happened out there that year. I met so many great people. Now here I am again, this time with the girl I love, in a place I love.
  Everything today has worked out great. The stars above us are amazing and the smell of sage brush fills the air. We shared a meal and drank a couple beers from Colorado, and both promptly went to bed. Tomorrow we begin 8 days of hiking towards the high country of the  Sierras. Yee-Haw!

Thursday, June 14, 2012


If you haven't already heard, your unhealthily adventurous friends Lauren and/or Andrew are hiking 2,000 along the mountains of California, Oregon, Washington and Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail...and we hit the trail in only a few days! We'll fly to LA on June 14, drive a rental car two hours north to Ridgecrest, then find a way to Kennedy Meadows and begin our journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. If you're interested in following our tale of joy and suffering, keep reading for more details.
Blogs: Andrew will be updating his journal at and Lauren will be using . We plan to update these journals at every town stop, but that depends on internet availability. We'll also get pictures up when we can, also depending on the technology levels of trail towns. Hope for an update every week!
Care Packages: We're already sending ourselves everything we'll need, so please don't send anything unless you want to. We'd LOVE to get a letter or picture - you have no idea how exciting it is to hear from the "outside". Please remember that we carry EVERYTHING on our backs, and sending things home isn't always an option. Here are some welcome items if you feel like sending goodies: Letters and pictures; current magazines and local news; baked goods; candy; cookies (yes, I already said baked goods, but cookies are in a category all their own),  that's all I can think of but email me if you're not sure about something. Thanks in advance!!
Mailing Instructions: Lauren's parents have generously agreed to send our resupply packages to 6 towns along the way. If anyone feels the urge to send treats, these towns are the places to send to. Please use US Postal Service, Priority mail, that way the package can be re-directed if we have to change plans. Address packages to both of us - "Lauren Balcken or Andrew Rivers" and send them 10-14 days before our estimated arrival date. Write on your package "Hold for Hiker, ETA __/__/__"
The End: We plan to be in Manning Park, Canada around September 25, give or take. It's NE of the Cascades, near the Canadian Skagit Valley. If anyone is up for a road trip let us know! We're still taking suggestions on how to make our exodus from Canada (and no, we don't really want to walk...).
That's it! If you have any other questions, I'd love to hear them - I haven't thought about much else for weeks so I'm chock-full of trail info. We'll miss everyone of course, even more than we'll miss spending a summer in the mountains of Montana. But adventure calls, and those kinds of calls must be answered while we have the chance. Thank you all for your interest, your love and your constant support - we'll need it all!
-Lauren (trail name TBA) and Andrew (Shaggy)

Mail Drops - Deliver hand-outs and happy messages here:
(Hiker Names Here)
Sierra City Country Store   (Send by July 5th)
213 Main St
Sierra City, CA 96125
Please Hold for Hiker!! ETA 7/18/12

(Hiker Names Here)   (Send by July 7th)
General Delivery
Belden, CA 95915
Please Hold for Hiker!! ETA 7/23/12

(Hiker Names Here)
Crater Lake Campstore   (Send by August 3rd)
Mazama Village
Crater Lake, OR 97604
Please Hold for Hiker!! ETA 8/16/12

(Hiker Names Here)
Howard Johnson Inn   (Send by August 29th)
Snoqualmie, WA 98068
Please Hold for Hiker!! ETA 9/18/12

Dinsmore's River Haven
(Hiker Names Here)     (Send by September 1st)
PO Box 374
Skykomish, WA 98288
Please Hold for Hiker!! ETA 9/21/12

(Hiker Names Here)
General Delivery      (Send by September 5th)
Stehekin, WA 98852
Please Hold for Hiker!! ETA 9/26/12