Author Archives: Wythe

Wythe's career includes a decade as a whitewater raft and canoe guide, fifteen years as a chief financial officer, and his current stint teaching graduate school. Wythe has camped and explored Iceland, the Appalachian mountain chain from New Hampshire to Georgia, the American west including, the Big Bend country of Texas, the Grand Canyon, and the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, and Mojave deserts, he has hiked and photographed the Sierra Nevada and the Central Coast of California.

Big Sur and Pine Ridge Trail

Big Sur and Pine Ridge Trail. When I lived on the Monterey Peninsula the Pine Ridge Trail into the Ventana Wilderness was one of my favorite hikes to quickly get to a remote area. A downside is that trail access is easy, Big Sur is popular, and California trails are notoriously crowded. That means that on weekends, when the weather is good, there will be others on the trail with you. If you have the gear and are willing to brave winter weather the trail could be yours alone.

Big Sur and Pine Ridge Trail, Wythe's Xplorer Journal, XplorMor, Stream, Nature Photography, Big Sur, California, USA

Beauty of Big Sur, California, USA

One recent December I had a weekend without plans and decided to head to Big Sur for a solo hike and camp in Ventana Wilderness. As it turned out, a cold front was predicted to move through on Friday night, with rain, wind, and a drop in temperature. My philosophy with weather is summed up by explorer Ranulph Fiennes who reportedly said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Admittedly, winter in Big Sur is not severe, but I did pack my winter sleeping bag and an extra fleece layer.

Big Sur and Pine Ridge Trail, Wythe's Xplorer Journal, XplorMor, Stream, Nature Photography, Big Sur, California, USA

Big Sur and Pine Ridge Trail, California, USA

I arrived at Big Sur Station in mid-afternoon, packed up, and started to hike in. There were about a dozen younger folks hiking out with dogs, guitars, and ukuleles – I guessed that I had missed a good party. My goal was Barlow Flats which was seven miles in but with my late start and the first rain drops falling through the redwoods at 5:15 PM, I decided to make camp at Terrace Creek. I set camp, ate dinner, and to stay dry, was in my tent at 7:15 PM. The rain really came down from about 8 PM until 1:15 AM and I thought that the worst of it had passed. After a lull in the rain, I heard a big crack, not lightning but a big limb splitting off from a tree, followed by the crashing of the limb through lower branches and then a big thud as it hit the forest floor. I had just been through 5+ hours of rain and wind to relax as I stayed dry and the rain ceased and now I had to think about being crushed by a giant redwood branch. Needless to say, I had a few specific thoughts about my end under a giant redwood but then just gave myself over to thinking that I could not stop a branch from falling and there was no place to move my tent as I was in a redwood grove. The real rain came at 3 AM and lasted an hour. Big Sur hugs the coast, and when the storms roll in off the Pacific they come in fast and hard, the wind whips and the rain falls in sheets. The tent held and I stayed dry through the night.

Big Sur and Pine Ridge Trail, Wythe's Xplorer Journal, XplorMor, Stream, Nature Photography, Big Sur, California, USA

Beauty of the Monterey Peninsula, California, USA

The next morning I covered the two miles to Barlow Flats in under an hour. I washed my tent off, hung it up to dry, set camp, and then was off to try to find Sykes Hot Spring, about three miles further up the trail on the Big Sur River. As it turned out, the river was high because of the rain, the trail crossed the river a number of times and was hard to follow, and I never did find the hot springs. The afternoon was getting on and so I headed back to Barlow Flats. It was a cold night, down to 30 degrees F, but camping close by the Big Sur River I had the noise of water over rocks to help me sleep. On my last day I headed back to the trail head and made the seven miles in about 4 hours. Overall, a quick but relaxing trip; from Friday late afternoon to Sunday late morning I saw no one else in the woods. With the easy trail access at Big Sur Station this is an area worth exploring.

Big Sur and Pine Ridge Trail, Wythe's Xplorer Journal, XplorMor, Stream, Nature Photography, Big Sur, California, USA

Mossy Roots from the Damp Coastal Weather

Packing My Hiking Kit

Let me tell you about my gear, clothing, and food from my recent 7 day section hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, USA. First, I firmly believe in “Hike Your Own Hike” (HYOH) – my way is not the right way, it is just my way. If yours is different, that is all good. As an example, I like to be organized. Everything fits in a stuff sack and then goes in the pack. I know then, if I need my toilet then I grab the red stuff sack, my kitchen – the blue sack, and so on. Others will just cram the tent in, the sleeping bag in, their clothes in, wherever they fit. HYOH.

This trip covered 75 miles, at elevation of 8,500 to 10,800 feet, there was no resupply, and temps ranged from low 70s F in the day to 32 F at night. Packing my hiking kit efficiently was essential. Working clockwise from left, you can see my GoLite Quest backpack; a ziplock bag of one day’s food; the bear can with five days of food; the blue sack (kitchen); horizontal gray sack (tent); gray pillow; compression sack with sleeping bag; two green sacks (first aid and technology/wallet); medium size gray sack (down jacket); lime green sack (inflatable sleeping pad); red sack (toilet); yellow sack (extra clothing); and my hiking poles (note duct tape around one) and in the other ziplock bag my maps, journal and book. With 6 days of food (2 lbs per day) and two liters of water this kit weighed 42 lbs.

Packing your kit, packing a hiking kit, xplorer journal, xplormor, hiking kit, terkking kit, trail kit, Wythe's kit

Wythe’s Kit

First Aid kit. I have hiked with some who carry no first aid and some who actually carry a surgical kit. This is what I carry. A ziplock bag filled with wipes, floss, safety pins, Purell, a small tub of sunscreen, an Ace bandage, tooth-brush and paste, matches and lighter, container of vitamin I (ibuprofen), Neosporin, lip balm, a sewing kit, nail clippers, and a bandage pack. I also had duct tape on my hiking poles which I used for covering blisters. All of that was inside a ziplock, inside of my green stuff sack. I figure this can get me through daily needs and a small emergency. If I need more than this then there is big trouble and someone is running to a trail head for help.

Packing my hiking kit, wythe's xplorer journal, xplormor

Wythe’s Example First-Aid Kit

Extra clothes. This is an area where one can really shed weight from their pack. My routine is to wear the same hiking clothes every day. I did change socks every two days but otherwise I wore the same clothing for 7 days. I would rinse and dry my clothes when I had chance – most times that was daily, but not always. So why carry extra clothes? Well, here you see a black wool shirt in upper left, light blue boxers in the middle, and light gray alpaca socks in lower right – that was my camp wear and sleep wear. I would change out of my hiking gear when in camp which allowed me to get into something kind of clean and offered me a chance to wash my daily clothes. My spare hiking socks are at lower left. And then I had an extra Ex Officio t-shirt and briefs, and a navy blue pair of soccer shorts in case of a shorts blow out. The soccer shorts and clean t-shirt were great when we got off the trail as I had something clean to put on after a shower and before the laundry was done. Again, HYOH – one of my hiking buddies took shorts, two pair of pants, extra t-shirts and two long-sleeved shirts; that worked for him.

Packing my hiking kit, Wythe's xplorer journal, xplormor

Wythe’s Extra Kit Clothes

Food. This will describe a day’s worth of food for me. Our plan was to cover the 75 miles in 6 days – will describe how that turned into 7 days in a later post. You can pick out all of this in the photo. Breakfast: two packs of oatmeal, two Via coffees and creamer, four Fig Newtons. Snacks: Cliff Bar, PayDay candy bar, 4 ounces of almonds. Lunch: 6 Triscuits, two string cheeses; 1/3 of 8 oz of salami. Dinner: Pack It Gourmet Gumbo, Idahoan mashed potatoes. Before bed snack: hot cocoa and 2 oz peanut M&Ms. I ate that with some substitutions (dried fruit for almonds) and an occasional Mountain House meal every day and was never hungry. My mate who didn’t pack lunch and who was eating Pop Tarts instead of nuts hit the wall every afternoon and collapsed into camp exhausted, totally spent.

Packing my hiking kit, Wythe's xplorer journal, xplormor

Wythe’s 6 Day Food Kit

My daily clothing. Same shorts, t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, and hat every day. I did keep my down jacket in the outside pocket of my pack and on two different days it was windy and cool enough that I pulled it out and put it on when we stopped for a break. And on most days I dropped my long-sleeved shirt after 30 minutes of hiking. Take short trips to dial in what clothes, food, and kit work for you. Once you take on longer trips you will then be comfortable with what to pack in your kit. HYOH.

Journaling

I carry a journal along when I backpack or camp and I would suggest that you do so, as well. I do not fool myself into thinking that I will ever compose essays in the manner of Edward Abbey, no matter how witty or profound my thoughts seem while hiking throughout the day. For me, the primary reason behind my journaling is to record the day’s events. This helps me in recounting tales of a specific trip, matching my photographs to my maps, and keeping accurate records of exactly which peak, pass, lake, or stream that I encountered. But when face to face with a blank page where does one begin?

Wythe: Explorer, Writer, Professor, XplorMor Explorer Writer Professor, XplorMor

I cannot claim that ‘my’ format is really even mine. I give all credit to Ed Garvey, who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1970, and wrote about his hike in Appalachian Hiker: Adventure of a Lifetime. Garvey kept notes in a 4×6 inch bound notebook but I find his real genius was in devising a format which captures the critical elements of each day’s hike. Garvey actually had his format printed up on sheets separate from his journaling book; I am not so formal as that but use Garvey’s foundation as the base for what I record. Here is Garvey’s format that I have adopted:

Date and Log Entry

Travel From: (location & time) To: (location & time)

Miles hiked: Trail miles & Cumulative Trail miles; Other miles & Cumulative Other miles

Weather:

Food:

Trail Condition:

Camp:

People:

Flora:

Fauna:

Money Spent:

Incidents:

Trash:

Water:

If I record all of that on a daily basis and combine it with my maps from that trip then I have a fairly comprehensive set of information to draw from as I recount my trip. I generally set aside time in camp before dinner or time in my tent before bed to think on the day and journal. Recently I received a Rite in the Rain Field Book, pen with waterproof ink, and cover which really fit the bill on my last Pacific Crest Trail section hike. Other printed material carried included my maps, sized to about 6×9 inches, and a paperback. The journal, maps, and book all fit in a one gallon zip locking bag and were in my pack cover pocket for easy access. My hiking mates ribbed me about the weight of the book. They would turn in early 8 pm or so and then tell me that they had a miserable night of sleep. I would reflect, journal, read a chapter or two, and then fall asleep around 10 pm and have a much more pleasant night than they. To me the weight of journal and book was well worth carrying. And three days after we finished our latest trip I got the e-mail from my partners asking me for our campsites and elevation changes – oh yeah, I have that.

I encourage you to adopt Ed Garvey’s format and document your trips. This practice will stimulate your journaling, help you recount, with accuracy, your travels, and it is actually fun.