Jun 27, 2009

From the Desert to the High Sierra

In these two posts, Alicia and Alfredo really get into the high country and all it's complications at this time of year. Passing quickly from the hot desert to freezing blizzard conditions, they are now finding themselves in spectacular surroundings and coping with sobering challenges.
June 4th, 2009

hi friends and family,

we are now in Kennedy Meadows. we just went from desert to cold mountains over night and got caught off guard. we did a 30 mile day from Walker Pass then only had 20 togo but had hail in the morning then a rain storm. we were completely wet cold and exhausted. and everything in our pack was wet. not good situation. luckily there was trail angel Tom who gave us a trailer and a heater and some other hikers gave me some dry clothes. we aregoing to wait for the next systemto pass because now weare on our way toclimb Mt Whitney up to 14000 ft. Now the real mountains begin, the high Sierras!!!

June 12, 2009

Dear friends and family,
Well I wanted to write that "we made it" but we didnt. I am referring to climbing Mt Whitney, which is the tallest mountain in the lower 48, at 14,497ft. The weather has just not been cooperating. It is hard to be prepared for everything. Anyway we leave Kennedy Meadows after a 3 day recovery, we had got caught in the terrible rain storm before that. The weather forecast did not look good. Chance of snow all week with highs in the 30s and lows in the teens. Winter advisory was sent out for the Sierras. But of course we set out. The first two days was fair and with donated long johns and a sleeping bag liner, I was quite warm sleeping at 9,600ft. Then we got a major snow fall, within 2 hours there was a whiteout making the trail almost impossible to find. We continued walking to stay warm. What peacefulness. The silence and serenity. We are now walking amongst beautiful mountain scenery that is so spectacular. Sequoia an Kings National Forest and Park. High snow covered peaks and ancient sculptured trees that look like the postcards. Because of the snowfall, we didnt make it to Crabtree Meadows the next day which was where we needed to leave from for the accent up Whitney. We hiked into this incredible meadow seeing a family of deer, marmot, many little chipmunks, and trout in the creek. We left the packs there and headed up the trail to Whitney, we made it as far as Guitar Lake at 11,000ft or so. The weather was moving in and we felt it was prudent to turn back. As soon as we got back to the meadow it began snowing. We would have liked to have waited another day but we didnt have enough food. The trail is all up and down mountains now. For the next 2 nights we camp at 11,000ft, quite cold. It sure felt like winter up there, as I sit here in a nice warm hotel. But the best is still to come. So the next day we had to climb the highest point of the whole PCT trail, Forester Pass, at 13,200ft. It was the most scenic and most difficult day yet. The mountains were all covered in snow and there was no trail to be seen only a few footprints. We have no techinical equipent, no ice axe, and no crampons. We were only hoping the weather would hold and in fact the day was sunny and mostly clear. It was challenging to say the least but it was such a high to reach the top that all the effort was worth it. We didnt stay long on this tiny pass between towering peaks since we still had to get down the other side which had even more snow. Of course there was no trail to be seen but we knew it was down. After hours of trudging through the snow the feet were rather numb so we really didnt stop to eat or drink because I was too cold. After the snow it turned into running rivers of snow melt. We were very happy to find the trail finally. It was a long day and we made it to the Kearasarge Pass Trail which leads us up and over another high pass into the town of Independence. So with almost no food left we start hiking this morning at 5:45am, reach the pass at sunrise, another amazing feat which brings tears to our eyes, and we see the lowlands far far below. Lots more snow on the decent but we catch a hitch into town and are now recovering.Thats is all for now.
Alicia and Alfredo

Jun 22, 2009

Oil Wrestling and Bear Cannisters

Friday, May 29, 2009
Dear friends and family,
We are now in Tehachapi which is about 20 miles west of Mojave, as in the Mojave Desert. Yesterday we arrived at the road in the middle of the day, HOT, and Alfredo stood on one side of the road and I on the other and we decided we could go either way depending on which car picked us up first. Tehachapi bound won. And good thing to. Actually we were hoping for Mojave because it is easier to walk to everything we really didnt want to stand in that heat any longer than necessary.Anyway we had an interesting time since my last email. We ended up staying 3 days in Green Valley. We met Gerardo and his wonderful family and they had us over for lunch. Gerardo is and experienced mountaineer, runs on the trail every day with his wife, and resupplies the water cache twice a day for the hikers. He is also letting us borrow one of his bear canisters, great, we will be legal now and wont have to worry about losing our food in the middle of the night. Later that evening which was Memorial Day weekend sunday more hikers showed up at the Andersons. We had planned to hit the trail again but somehow we got sucked into staying. It was to be the first Oil Wrestling of the year at the Andersons. Terrie is the infamous oil wrestling mamma. Now she needed participants and somehow Alfredo and myself volenteered. It was a once in a life time experience, GREAT FUN!!!!!! Back on the trail was alot of uphill, dry, hot and waterless. I was pretty tired and Afredo started to get some serious blisters. After 40 miles covered in two days we passed the Tejon Ranch and dropped down to the Hwy 138 where Mr. Richard Scaggs opened his house to all the hikers. He opened up his kitchen to me and Alfredo and we made pasta for about 20 hikers. The next morning Richard made pancakes for any late risers. Now we are really in the miserable hot desert and most people left at 4am. We slept in and enjoyed Richards hospitality but payed for it later in the unrelenting heat along the worst stretch of dirt road with NO WATER AND NO SHADE!!!!! Took a break at the only tiny bridge, shade, at 330pm and began walking at 6pm. We walked til dark and cowboy camped on the trail. It was about 18 more miles to the road up the steep Tehchapi mts. with again little shade and water. We arrived under the enormous windgenerator windmills at 1230 to find that someone had set up a shower right on the trail. So we stripped down and washed the worst desert sand we encountered off. How refreshing!!!So as we were sitting at the Albertsons grocery eating large quantities of food and ice cream and couple comes up to us and asks if we would like to stay at their home for the night and take a hot shower. SURE, you bet! So that was Patti and Mike our new trail angels. And again they took such good care of us my mom couldnt have done better. No offence mom.That is all for now.
Much love Alicia and Alfredo

Jun 20, 2009

More From "Sailor" and "Pasta Alfredo"

17 May 2009
dear friends and family,

we are now in Wrightwood after 370 difficult miles in 21 days. it has been hot and mostly a waterless trail. yesterday we did a 33mile day walking from 4am to after midnight. we took a break at the interstat 15 at the mc Doanalds. onward and upward, near the San Andreas fault and toward mt san antonio at 10000ft there was no flat spot to camp so we just put the sleeping bag on the dusty trail and went to sleep. at 530am hikers were walking around me so it was time to get up and start walking up the mountain which was up to 8500ft. we were pretty exhausted so we stopped early and then hitched into town to buy more food. today is alfredos birthday and a lady at the grocery store offered her house to us. again showers laundry and food offered to us. fantastic!!!! next section is to Agua Dulce and on to the Mohave desert. hot and more dry. then onto the Sierras!!!! thats all for now.

love alicia and alfredo

Saturday, May 23
Dear friends and family,

We are now in Green Valley which is actually not far from LA. We just finished the section through the Angeles National Forest with the high mts near Wrightwood slowly working our way down to the low elevation horse country of Agua Dulce. Now this is the area where they have the most trail angels. So in Agua Dulce it was the Saufleys house. This couple has been opening up their house to hikers for 13 years and they are so organized. They have about 50 people every night and have rented tents, cots, and porto potties. Donna does all the hikers laundry and cleans up after us. There is a hiker house with kitchen and hot showers and a great Bbque. Since Alfredo is down to 131 pounds I decided that here was a good place to take the day off an eat, so I made a huge fettucini and steaks and salad and ice cream. Actually with all these hikers we are always eating. Food gets shared and passed around. This was also the place that we had to think about the high Sierras and organize for the section. There are not many places to get food after Kennedy Meadows so you either have to carry 12 days of food or kick many miles off trail and hitchhike into Bishop or Independence. Also we need a bear cannister for the bears. If anyone has one let me know.Only 24 miles away which we did yesterday, it is like we run marathons every day, we arrived to the next trail angel house, the famous Andersons. This feels more like a frat house but they have a great garden and woods in their backyard. Terri makes dinner and breakfast every day for 50 hikers!!!!Last night was taco salad with ALL YOU CAN EAT which for hungry hikers is mounds of food. I am getting a really good appitite.Next section is more desert on to Mojave or Tehachapi.

Alicia and Alfredo

Jun 19, 2009

The Horse Rescue

To properly appreciate this particular episode of Alicia and Alfredo's Pacific Crest Trail adventure, it helps to know that before he set off to sail around the world; Alfredo was the Italian Men's' Senior Equestrian Jumping Champion. Remarkably, that was the same year his son was the Italian Men's Junior Champion.

This email is a follow-up to the previous one, in which, Alicia didn't have time to fill us in on the particulars.. Here then, is "the rest of the story"....

hi again

I forgot to tell the horse story. or maybe I did already and I dont remember.So on the trail we met this lady riding the PCT. She had camped near us one night but left at 400am. We were on a very steep section and there was a large tree on the trail blocking her way. As she was trying to get around the tree she and the horse fell down a ravine. When she tried to get out she fell again. She was lucky not to be injured or squawished under the horse. the horse was terrorized and couldnt be moved. she ran off for help. when we came along we found only the horse and a note that she went for help. Alfredo stayed with the horse while I went after the woman to make sure she was ok. Alfredo spent 45 minutes calming the horse down and rubbing her. Then he tried to get her out but couldnt do it by himself. Soon 2 other girl hikers walked by and he recruited them to help but they didnt have force in them. The ravine was very steep with large crumbling rocks. Two more hikers came by so with their help one guy pulling the horse up and Alfredo getting the horse to move up with a whip in hand and loud commanding voice got the horse up. Then they all had to walk up the steep mountain about an hour. The lady had gone to get a helicopter resuce but since it was mothers day they said not until the following day. When she came back to the trail, she was really amazed to see her horse standing there. She was so happy. it was a happy ending.

alicia and alfredo

Jun 13, 2009

Hiking the PCT

Here's the second installment of Alicia and Alfredo's email updates on hiking the Pacific Coast Trail:

May 12, 2009
Dear friends and family,
we have arrived in Big Bear which is at mile 265 and day 16 on the trail. It has been an interesting section with many trail angels to support us along the way. But I can say the desert is not easy to walk in. There is still no water for most of the trail and dehydration is a big problem. We have met many other hikers along the way and we are all experiencing the same thing so we give each other support. The biggest problem is about half the people have terrible blisters. We are lucky with only minor ones. Our packs become very heavy after 10 hours of walking so we are always trying to lighten the load. I cut the extra straps off my pack while Alfredo wrapped the tent around his walking poles. The scenery has varied from desert scrub and catcus to beautiful tall pines and 9600ft peaks. We have been through the Anza Borrenga Desert Park, the San Juancito National park, San Gorgino park and now the San Bernadino national park. We went from 3500 ft up to 8000ft down to 1000ft up to 9000ft and down again. The cold wasnt the problem but the heat, it reached 107!!!!! I felt like I was roasting in an oven, miserable. We colapsed under the Interstate 10 bridge with cars roaring overhead at high noon. There was no other shade for miles and miles. As for the trail angels, Mike lives a half a mile off the trail and welcomed all hikers to stay at his place, had ribs and chicken on the bque, beer and gatorade in the cooler, etc. Then there was Tarazan at Hwy 74 with food and gatorade. In Idlywild there was Walker who opened his house to us, fed us, shower and laundry and even gave me the car to run to the grocery!!People are amazing! Daddy Dave who made us hamburgers at 9:30 in the morning in the desert heat and filled us with gatorade sport drinks. Magic trail coolers along the way full of candy bars and cold drinks! Then we walked into town yesterday and some lady at the post office offers to take us home and feed us, showers and laundry, etc. Dana and Mike have a beautiful house and they have been wonderful. Dana made us a fantastic pasta dinner and a huge breakfast this morning. I guess we are already losing a few pounds. This all sounds good but there are many long,hot miles between these goodies. Some people have already got off the trail since it is too difficult. But we feel good( at least every morning) and getting stronger everyday. I might also mention that the trail is dusty so that means we are filthy dirty every night and have to get in the sleeping bag with dirty feet and dirty hands. My contacts are a problem.I have to get going so will have to leave it at that but will cont next time about the horse adventure.
Alicia and Alfredo

Jun 8, 2009

Alicia and Alfredo

Friends Alicia and Alfredo on the dock at the Singlar Marina in Puerto Escondido

One of the great joys of cruising is meeting truly interesting people who have some amazing sea stories of their own. Well, at this point, Alicia and Alfredo are right at the top of that list! This is a couple who didn't even speak the same language when they met at the remote Chagos Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean seven years ago. Alicia is an American from New Orleans, and Alfredo is an Italian from Milano.

Their boat, On Verra, was berthed next to me at the Police Dock in San Diego when I stopped on my way south this year. We soon got acquainted, and I found they were also headed for la Paz and some exploring in the Sea of Cortez. In Alicia's case, this was a case of re-visiting, since she had spent some time cruising in this area more than fifteen years earlier. After a couple of evenings over dinner, wine and recollected adventures, I quickly realized this was a truly remarkable couple. Their adventures span the globe, and include famous storms, shipwreck off the coast of South America and an admirable ability to subsist largely from what they are able to take from the sea.

When I met them again in la Paz, and yet again in Escondido, they were finalizing their plan for leaving their boat in Mexico to spend the summer hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada! The plan required that they get the boat to Guaymas, on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez, before the end of April, so they could start the trek the first of May before the southern, desert sections of the trail got too hot for hiking.

Well, the long walk north is now into it's second month, and I've been getting regular emails detailing yet another remarkable Alicia and Alfredo adventure. With their permission, I'm going to copy those emails here, so the next several entrys will detail a little different variation of "sea story."

Here are the first two emails, shortly before and right after they began this hugely ambitious undertaking:

Monday, 4/20/09


As most of you know, we have been planning to walk the PCT, a trail from Mexico to Canada, for some time now. The last worry was trying to get Alfredo back into the US without a visa but all went well. We took the bus from Guaymas to Tucson and simply got a visa waiver at the border. From Tucson we caught a flight to SD and bought the ticket half an hour before boarding. Good price on Southwest.As for On Verra, we left her on the hard in Singlar marina seca in Guaymas totally stripped in case of a hurricane.We are staying with some friends while doing the last minute preparations here in SD. We will start on Thurs. We decided against sending us mail drops of food for the moment, we will just go with the flow of things and scavenger for food when necessary.We will try to keep you posted when we can.Would also love to here from you.Thinking of all of you.

Best wishes,
Alicia and Alfredo

Saturday, 5/2/09

hello to all you couchpotatoes,

we have just walked our first 110 miles and are presently in Warner Springs, Ca. We started on thurs. of last week, thanks to Caryn of Windflower,who gave us a ride out to the trailhead. The first day was a killer, 20 miles of desert hiking with no water, I arrived dehydrated. Alfredo was feeling the beginnings of a cold. On that first day about 60 people were walking. But the surprise came when we arrived at Lake Morena to the kick off party with organized booths and check ins. About 700 people showed up, some who have walked it in previous years and others who just love to help and support us hikers, we call those trail angels. We also happen to meet hikers that we met on the AT 5 years ago. So about 175 people are hiking this year. The PCTA and ADZOPCTKO organizers feed us all weekend. Unfortunately Afredo came down with a bad bug which led to a throat infection and then a fever. With all the trail angels looking after us he recovered quickly. On monday we walked 17 miles. The problem with this section is the lack of water, it is hot and dry. We camped at Long canyon, Pioneer Mail, Scissors Crossings which was a 25 mile day by accident( we missed the water so we had to continue), and then 4th Gate. Highlights: Had a near encounter with a rattlesnake, not smart, got blown out of the tent, and had people who drove up from San Diego looking for us to make sure we were ok. Then we walk into Warner Springs Post Office and a stranger gives us $100 to stay at the fancy ranch with hot springs, I guess he thought we really needed a shower. We were filthy dirty after 6 days on trail, the dirt was caked on us and I know we smelled. So after a wonderful shower and soak and clean clothes we are ready to hit the trail agian this afternoon. This next section is up to 9000 ft mountains and snow. I hope we dont freeze since we dont have any warm clothes. Lastly I want to let people know that this section would almost be impossible to do without the help of trail angels who actually carry gallons of water up mountains to the trail so us hikers dont die of dehydration. We thank them.So far we are having a great time and will send email at next opportunity!!!!!

Alicia and Alfredotrail names sailor and pasta alfredo

For more information on the Pacific Crest Trail, check: http://www.fs.fed.us/pct/

Jun 2, 2009

Jumping Manta Rays

One of the highlights of my Sea of Cortez cruising was an experience with a school of manta rays I encountered in San Evaristo, a well-protected bay adjacent to the coastal village of that name. Tucked into a cozy little cove at the north end of the bay, I was getting ready to toast the sunset when the rays caught my attention. It wasn't just that they were jumping several feet into the air and then slapping back down into the water - you see that often in these waters - it was more attention getting because it was going on so frequently and so continuously. In fact, as I watched what appeared to be a large group of these rays, the group seemed to be slowly proceeding around the cove right toward the boat. As they got closer, it was apparent that the main group of 40 or 50 rays were pretty closely grouped into a tight circle right at the surface of the water. Of course, this isn't all that remarkable, because they are surface feeders who feed on krill they find there. What was remarkable, was the behavior of the jumping rays. As they approached, it was easy to see that the jumps were nearly all performed outside of the closely grouped school, and the jumpers were consistently swimming and jumping in a clockwise circle around the main group! It also appeared that the jumps were concluded with a loud, belly flopping, slap when the rays landed back in the water.
Now, considering that manta rays are closely related to the shark family, some of the most primitive fish in the ocean, this sure looked like the kind of organized group behavior we don't usually attribute to this kind of critter. But a little online research also reveals that krill are stunned and tend to bunch up when they sense an impact nearby. Is it possible that these rays were engaging in some kind of co-operative feeding behavior - the outriding jumpers herding the krill into the circle of their feeding buddies ?! Gotta confess, I'm not enough of a biologist to answer that one, but it sure is an interesting question...

For more interesting information about manta rays, check out the website: http://www.freedive.net/mantas/mantas.htm