Monday, June 3, 2013

Regards


Shadows and Light

     I had a shadow of doubt about completing the 24n24, but that shadow was much smaller than the light of "I can do this." That sort of light animates my life, and keeps me upright. And while the shadow of self-doubt provides some ballast—a sort of counter-weight to unbridled enthusiasm—it has to remain subservient to vision, hope, and faith. It's a life-long dance, isn't it, this play between the certainty of success and possibility we may fail; being sure that something is possible, while at the same time accepting the part of our mystery that cannot tell the future. Truth is, my shadow of doubt foreshadowed what was to come, and I came up short on both of my attempts last week. I'm thankful I kept my doubt in its place, secondary to the larger truth of "going for it." Otherwise, I would not have so publicly shouted "Hey, check this out," nor would I have committed 6 months of free time to training, nor would I have asked everyone to encourage me by donating to the nonprofit I'm so steadfast about supporting, The Wildlands Conservancy.

Snow Plant on Birch Mtn
     My first attempt fell to an unsuspected adversary, my body's metabolism. In hindsight, I realize I should have trained once or twice with an overnight climb, starting up 6000 feet at that same time that my mind and body was expecting to lay down to sleep. If I had done so I would have had some expectation and would have prepared some defense. The overnight lows at the ridge line were in the 30s, colder with wind chill,and this would not have been a problem had I kept up a good strong pace. It should be easy for you to understand how hard it was emotionally to turn around at that early point, when so many were following me, cheering for me. Letting go of a dream is hard…it's something each of us have experienced. This dream of completing an epic course over two ridges and so many peaks, was my own challenge—like any other, like yours, it was personal. In the letting go, I believe we are guided to turn around and see the extraordinary and beautiful path we have taken on the way here. 

Mill Creek Jump Off
     And so, as I made my way back down the mountain, I was certainly sad, but I was also strangely jubilant. I shouted out just how happy I was to have found my way to this chapter in my life, this place where I am learning about giving, and am giving myself to finding just how I can give. I am blessed to have found this important pivot in life with more chapters ahead to write, to read. Concerning my second attempt to tackle the 24n24 course, I may well come up short in the telling, like I fared on the trail. Thanks for hanging in there with me. First, I have no plans to ever again solo traverse the section between Galena and Little San Gorgonio. In fact, I have plans to not do it a third time, so you can assume it won't be me who completes the 24n24 solo, self-supported loop. Someone else could, I still believe complete this challenge. 

     I set out from Bearpaw Reserve at 4:11am on Monday morning, in a counterclockwise direction, and held a good pace until I hit the knife's edge traverse to Galena. I'd traversed this once before in the opposite direction with several good friends: David Myers, Doug Chudy, and Charlie Marquardt. Approaching from the West, it all looked so unfamiliar. And with no one else accompanying me there was no way to compare opinions on best route options—getting around rock cliffs, for example. The traverse requires repeated handholds on unsecured rocks, and plants rooted in loose, sandy, and steep mountainside. Bottom line, I felt much more vulnerable this time. And since I've never been drawn to this kind of danger for challenge or thrill, it was very slow going.
San Jacinto, Pisgah Ridge, Oak Glen

     The sun rose on the way up to Allen, the second peak. It was going to be a hot day—I could tell by the sun's intensity—and I started thinking about my water caches and how they'd been placed with a clockwise loop in mind. The Birch Mountain cache was going to be near the end of the clockwise trek, a gallon to pour over my head and cover my hydration needs for the last few hours. It was more than I needed, but heading the opposite direction I had to consider the long haul over the exposed section of the Yucaipa ridge to the next cache, placed on the far side of the Mill Creek Valley. I knew I'd need every drop of it. As it turned out, I had to stretch it too thinly and I was moderately dehydrated by the time I reached the next gallon water. Now, 14 hours into the hike, I called it once again, and started down the Vivian Creek Trail towards Forest Falls.

Regards

     Once more, I met my limits. Limits! I make their acquaintance, but I never invite them to come live with me. I recognize them by face and form and sound, but it would be foolish to know them too well; I'd be tempted to let them dictate to me what I can and cannot do. When I meet my limits, they often send my shadows' regards. (Remember my shadows of doubt?) Well, I tell my limits to send my own regards right back.

     Now, having once again passed over these extraordinary places, including some seven peaks that The Wildlands Conservancy has saved from development and which are on track to be included in an expanded San Gorgonio Wilderness, I can say I am happy. The experience of my 24n24 epic endeavor "out there" has been matched and even surpassed by the kind thoughts of all who have followed along in some way, and given in spirit and support. I've been moved by it all, and I'm a better person because of it. And if I've provided some inspiration, even a small portion of which has come my way, I will have done right and good.

     In gratitude, Paul

P.S. I'm thinking of running across the Mojave Desert next spring. This next Epic4Epic will be fully supported, with a traveling van, and I think I'll plan it as a non-solo epic (if you know someone who'd enjoy this sort of thing, let me know). For now, though, let's you and I plan a short, simple walk through a beautiful place.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

humbled, part one


       Friends, I just want to say that I'm okay, and will be assessing just what happened as the weekend moves on. Suffice to say, I fell far short of my expectations. I made the decision that it would have been unwise for me to continue on last night and turned around just before the first summit. While this turning point represents a third of the elevation profile and more than a third of the distance, the fact that I did not "bag" the first peak, smarts. The temps were in the 30s, and for reasons I'll have to consider I was slowing down to a such an extent that it was going to be progressively more difficult keeping warm; heading ever further "out there" felt unsafe at that point.

       I am honored by the fact that you all believe—as much as I do—in completing the 24n24, and hope that you see this as just a setback. I may have to put it off until next month, and will likely decide to tackle it in a counterclockwise direction, starting in the morning. There are several advantages to this other direction that I thought were not significant enough to warrant it, but I may indeed have been mistaken. I've no doubt that someone else could tackle the course as I'd laid out, but there are very real challenges in taking the initial 6000 climb while the body is wanting to shut down for the night. (This was one of the contributing factors last night, and made my footsteps less sure than typical, and unsafe for me over the rocks.)

       I am humbled by the limitations I met out there; surprised by them, and frustrated by them since I'd climbed these trails so often before with starkly different results. The temptation is call this a failed attempt and leave it at that. It is all too easy to say this is about one single event—but it is much more than that. In a way, I've been climbing the mountains of this epic for several months, learning how to inspire and be inspired. That I've fallen short, is what it is. I am sorry for this. Especially all the efforts that were poured into the news coverage, were they for naught? I can only hope not.

     I'm feeling a bit lost right now (got back at close to 4 this morning), but should have more to offer later.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

In 24 hours


        In a little over 24 hours hours I'll be setting out on this Mill Creek runaround. Thank you for following along. I will report back within the following 24 hours. What a difference a day makes...and the difference is you. Your support, in your kind thoughts and through your gifts to The Wildlands Conservancy, makes this all worth the extra effort. I will do my best. 
A few last minute details:

Mapping


         Here is the link to the map to track progress in real time (for advanced viewing, see KML Feeds just below). Once the map page is opened, select the Map Filters, then within the "Date and Time Range" dropdown menu select the "Currently tracking" option (that way you can limit the viewing to the 24n24 and exclude any previous hikes I've taken).


        How this tracking unit functions does not necessarily reflect how I'm doing on the 24n24. It is an electronic gadget and as such, may not work as one would expect. The fact that Delorme (the manufacturer) has issued three firmware updates in the past couple of weeks tells me they've been working on some serious bugs having to do with the connection to the Iridium satellite system. And while I expect this latest update will suffice for my trip, keep in mind that this beacon is not something I depend on. It's nice to know it's there—since it has an emergency signal should the extreme need arise—and it's nice to know that you all will be able to track my position en route. But, don't fret if it doesn't work perfectly. I may need to change batteries, for example, in which case the signal will drop for some minutes before reconnecting. I may not be aware that batteries have run low (again, don't fret).

KML Feeds Use these links to view inReach data outside the MapShare page linked above. (Note: This is an advanced feature. Most people just use MapShare.)
KML Loader This feed can be opened in an application, such as Google Earth, for viewing real-time inReach updates.
 https://explore.delorme.com/feed/ShareLoader/PaulMelzer
Raw KML Feed A more advanced option, for scenarios such as loading inReach data into a web site.
 https://explore.delorme.com/feed/Share/PaulMelzer

Saturday gathering

      If you are planning to visit Bearpaw on Saturday afternoon, please let us know you're coming. Call the office 909-797-8507 to confirm you're coming and for directions. No one will be there before about 4:00 pm or so, btw. There's no set time after that for when I get back since I can only guess how long this thing will take overall, but there'll be plenty to enjoy there while you wait: great company, food, beautiful walks, games to play, etc. Weather should be very nice as well. The Reserve is not hard to find, but the turnoff is tricky (you must be careful to slow down well in advance, especially if a car is following behind you). Once on the gravel drive, you will cross the creek (there's a bridge), and on the far side you'll follow the paved drive all the way to the parking at the end (half mile or less).

      There's scant cell coverage (if any), so don't plan on having it. We will have some coverage at the lodge and will (in theory) have a sense of my location as long as electronics are functioning. I will head straight for the lodge to touch the post and mutter "that was easy" (or press one of those buttons if someone has one available).


 See you out there!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Leaving the trail behind


      We each enter this world on our own, and we exit on our own. It's a well-worn cliché, yes, but poignant nonetheless, and it serves as an overlay to the feeling I have sometimes when I step off the trail into the wilderness. It's a cutting of the chord, from the other world to this one, or from this one to the other. Similarly, the interface between tame and wild can be covered in one or two steps. The wilderness (as in San Gorgonio Wilderness) has popular trails, with people weaving their way back and forth. One such path, the Vivian Creek trail, wends its way up from Mill Creek to the highest peak in Southern California. It runs about 9 miles or so from parking lot to rocky top; at a certain point, about 2/3 of the way up, it begins to follow a north/south ridge for the next mile or two before turning eastward to the peak.
     
     I'll be coming down from San Gorgonio [and Dragon's Head], heading off the trail down a thousand foot bushwhacking descent to the Mill Creek Jump Off (sometimes referred to as the Galena Headwall). Each time I do this I feel a sort of sadness, like I'm leaving behind the comfort of the peopled world. Even through the wilderness, when there is a trail that hikers tread, there is a sense of safety even if hours pass before seeing any other person passing. But there's something about leaving the trail in the wilderness that is like cutting the ties that bind. It's a feeling. And I wonder if it's more like the passage of birth or the passage of death. In birth, we enter our human world; in death, we leave it behind. When leaving the trail I enter another world where I'm simply another animal, on my own, without human companionship. I cut the umbilical cord, the human chord fades and nature assumes a royal mantle. (It's always there, of course, but we typically choose to ignore this.)

     I wouldn't choose to be a reclusive, living out in the middle of the northern woods of Canada. I've just too much to learn from the company of others to set aside the peopled world. Yet, from time to time, a fugue into deep nature is the most powerful teacher I can find, with elements of extraordinary beauty and peace, as well as wistfulness and even fear. This coming Saturday morning I'll be heading off down a steep draw covered with bush chinquapin. At the bottom, above the headwaters of the Mill Creek, I'll begin my ascent to Galena Peak and the subsequent traverse over Cuchillo and Wanat peaks. This will be the most remote section of my trek, the furthest removed from my "tribe," and when I arrive at the saddle beneath Little San Gorgonio, and find the human path once again, I will let out a loud whoop—I'll "sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world," as Whitman wrote. 

     As a note, The Wildlands Conservancy presently owns Galena Peak (and Wilshire Peak) and supports the expansion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness to include these as part of the Sand to Snow National Monument (within the California Desert Protection Act). They certainly deserve to be added to the designated Wilderness.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Newspaper online article


    
      In case you want to view this article outside of this blog, click here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Glowing rectangles... or, "Don't look down now."



Ugh!

      I'm carrying electronic contraptions which weigh almost 2 pounds combined! Yikes, I'd not intended this, but here's what they are and why I'm bringing 'em along:

Garmin Trex: I'm bringing a gps, borrowed from friend and TWC ranger Charlie Marquardt, because I want a reliable tracking for the course. The Delorme Inreach, unit below only sends a tracking point every ten minutes so this will not work for the source tracking. I'll put in fresh batteries, turn it on, and forget about it, since I do not like the idea of relying on a gps to find my way (just another way to look down at a glowing rectangle and away from the beauty surrounding.

Delorme InReach: This beacon hooks into and can send messages via the Iridium satellite system. I'd consider ditching this, but ya never know…and it's pretty remote…and this is a solo run…etc. The Inreach also will provide anyone with a link online, to view my progress in real time. Like the Garmin, put in new batteries, turn on, and forget about it (though I might check a couple of times to make sure battery's good).

GoPro: As lightweight as this tiny video camera is, the protective case is not. Nevertheless, the Riverside Press Enterprise offered it to me to carry along and record some images and thoughts, "to bring others along on the journey," and we managed to attach it nicely to one of my pack straps, so I won't have much to fiddle with.

Canon SX280. I want some good quality stills, and the GoPro can't cut it for these, so this point-and-shoot will capture some worthy stills.

ABC watch (altitude, barometer, compass): I plan to take a quick photo of this on top of each peak for added course verification.

      I'll post more on what I'm taking along for the ride, but these doodads are sitting on my desk now so I'm thinking about them [and how much they weigh]!

Ugh!

ETAs


      With an emphasis on "estimated," I submit the following estimated times of arrival for the 24n24, with a departure time of 6:30 pm:

Bearpaw Preserve: 6:30 p.m.
San Bernardino Peak: 11:45 p.m.
East San Bernardino Peak: 12:15 a.m.
Anderson Peak: 1:00 a.m.
Shields Peak: 1:30 a.m.
Alto Diablo Peak: 2:00 a.m.
Charlton Peak: 3:00 a.m.
Little Charleton Peak: 3:15 a.m.
Jepson Peak: 4:15 a.m.*
East Dobbs Peak: 4:45 a.m. *
Dobbs Peak: 5:00 a.m. *
San Gorgonio Mountain: 6:00 a.m.
Bighorn Mountain: 6:30 a.m.
Dragon's Head Peak: 7:00 a.m.
Galena Peak: 9:30 a.m.
Cuchillo Peak: 11:00 a.m.
Wanat Peak: 11:30 a.m.
Little San Gorgonio Peak: 12:15 p.m.
Wilshire Mountain: 12:45 p.m.
Wilshire Peak: 1:15 p.m.
Oak Glen Peak: 1:45 p.m.
Cedar Mountain: 2:30 p.m.
Birch Mountain: 3:00 p.m.
Allen Peak: 4:15 p.m.
Mill Peak: 5:00 p.m.
Bearpaw Preserve: 6:25 p.m.

      Once underway, real-time tracking (ten minute interval tracking points) will be available to follow online HERE.

* The order of Jepson and the two Dobbs may be reversed (east Dobbs, Dobbs, then Jepson).