So, as it turned out, these were our savior after some intense hiking. This weekend Seth and I decided to put our newly acquired gear to the test and go backpacking. For those of you who know our camping/vacation record, we always end up having an adventure. Be it a monsoon with hurricane grade wind in Monterrey that shuts down the town, dust storms in the Mojave desert, or deathly heat outside of Phoenix, Arizona in the Tonto National Forest, we always end up with a story to tell.
This time the story takes place in the Sespe Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest. The plan was to make it to Willet Hot Springs, and possibly make our way all the way up to Sespe Hot Springs. We set off with our back packs filled with only what we needed. This wasn't going to be one of our gourmet camping trips with grill pans and beer, we brought boil in bag freeze dried food. Not even tents, we brought our bivy sacks. Anyhoo, we set off on Friday morning into the wilderness in our newly worn in boots, minimalist backpacks, and Mochi. We had a few river crossings where we had to hop across rocks and some where we needed to wade across. Mochi was pretty good at river rock hopping, but wasn't too keen on wading. Seth ended up carrying her, as she paddled in mid air. Pretty funny. We were over half way to the hot springs when Seth's feet started hurting. He was already dealing with a blister when we began so we patched him up with some moleskin and we kept going. Then my feet began to hurt. Like I mentioned to every soul who fit me for boots, I need a big toe box because my feet swell when I do physical activity. My toes were being squished together.
Even so, we were having a good time. The weather was nice and warm with a cool breeze here and there. And Mochi was having a blast. She did not have to look far to find a butterfly or lizard to chase. Eventually I spot something I thought was a bearded dragon. Seth, being the quick and coordinated one, was able to catch it for a closer look. The little critter didn't seem to be bothered and it turned out to be a horny toad. He was super calm and posed nicely for pictures. Pretty cool. We ended up finding a few others along our trip, but this one was the coolest because he was the first.
Speaking of critters, he wasn't the only little guy we ran into. We came across frogs, bats, a California kingsnake, a garter snake, and skinks. Mochi found the skinks. There was a hollowed out log where we ended up camping that was apparently filled with skinks. Mochi nabbed a few of their tails and the wriggling sent her wild!
Back to the adventure. The last 4 miles of the hike to the hot springs was a lot of up and down terrain. By that point our feet were in pretty bad shape. Not a difficult hike, but our feet were causing much difficulty. For Seth, the pain was lessened when we were going downhill, because the pressure was off his heels. For me, the uphill climbs provided a touch of relief because it eased the pressure in my toes. So it was a lose lose situation. We made it to the Willet Campground with a few hours of sunlight left to spare. When we asked some skinny dippers where the hot springs were, she pointed the way, but mentioned that her and her 12 buddies were staying at the sight by the spring. We were in pretty bad shape but we decided to keep going in search of a campsite away from all the people. We made it about a mile or two more over the next ridge and just as I was about to collapse from pain Seth found an awesome campsite. There were makeshift benches of logs on piles of rocks and a fire pit and on top of that it was right by the river. Plus, we were past the hot springs so no one was heading our way.
The first thing I did was take off my boots. That was a surprise. I had blisters on almost all of my toes, with monsters on my pinky toes. To add insult to injury, it looked as though I might lose my left pinky toenail. Gees. I hobbled over to the river to soak my feet while Seth took pictures before we lost all sunlight. The river felt so good.
After a good soak we started a fire and cooked up some delicious Santa Fe Chicken and Peppered Steak and rice in a bag. The Santa Fe Chicken by Backpackers Pantry was pretty good. Then we boiled up some water to drink and basically hit the sack!
The next morning, after very little sleep, we were ready to hike the day away. Mochi was a little worn out. Not only did she over exert herself the day before, but she was up all night keeping watch, barking or growling at anything that moved. After some coffee we taped up my toes and Seth's heels, then headed up to the hot springs. The hot spring was lukewarm at best, and to be completely honest, it was kind of gross looking. Murky like. It wasn't worth us getting all wet to be in tepid water in the heat of the day. So we decided to do some hiking back towards the car and find a cool campsite along the way to spend the night.
We began to hike in a bit of pain, but our spirits were high. Though in a bit of pain, we were still having fun. A little before hitting the halfway point Seth noticed rain clouds heading towards us. So much for our forecast of 0% rain. Thank you to the California weathermen. We decided that staying the night would not be in our cards. At a bit of a hobbler's pace we made it to the first big river crossing and had to/got to take off our boots. The relief was amazing, but what we found was unnerving. We were in pretty bad shape. The cool water of the river felt good on our feet. But, there was no way we were putting those boots back on. We slapped on our flip flops and trudged along.
Flip flops are difficult to walk in when they are wet. They get slippery and this is a precarious situation while carrying packs up and down rocky terrain. But, we were managing. Then, about 4.2 miles to go (we checked) Mochi decided she was done walking. "You go on! Just leave me here!" her eyes told us. Gah! Rather than leave our dog in the wilderness, we arranged the Crazy Creek on the back of Seth's pack so that she was carryable and she started nodding off to the rhythmic beat of Seth's pace.
This was not going to work. 20 extra pounds dangling off the back of Seth's pack was not a good situation. So, what do mothers do with their children? They swaddle them to their chests. This is kinda similar, right?
Then, as if hiking up and down rocky terrain, through rivers, in flip flops, carrying 35+ pounds, and trading off the doggie hammock wasn't enough, the wind began to pick up and the heavens decided to open. With our forecast of 0% chance of rain we hadn't packed rain gear. Now, our feet were in pain from being blistered, and our body was beginning to ache from the situation (i.e. hiking in slippery flip flops with lots of weight). A few more river crossings later, and we finally made it to the car. Luckily we brought extra shirts.
We blasted the heat and headed home. After stopping at Mulberry Street Pizza in Sherman Oaks to say hello to my dad (and grub on some well deserved lasagna pizza) we were in our humble abode. We washed Mochi, then ourselves, tended to our wounds, and hopped into bed. Sleep hurt, and waking up hurt too. We're both pretty stiff and I'm gonna lose one, if not two, of my pinky toe nails.
The moral of this story is, forget the boots. Flip flops will do. Needless to say, we're both returning our boots once we can walk without waddling.
As for the rest of our gear, everything was pretty stellar. Our pants (Seth=Rock Guide from Patagonia, Berkley=Horizon Tempest by North Face) were awesome,drying quickly and super comfortable. Our backpacks (Seth=Baltoro by Gregory, Berkley=ACT Lite SL by Deuter) were comfortable and held all our stuff. Both packs have lots of handy loops to hook things to the outside if needed (like unworn boots and dogs with low morale). The travel towels by McNett were super absorbent once the rain began. Seth's Capilene shirt by Patagonia was light and breathable and dries extremely fast. My Merino Silkweight by Patagonia was a favorite of mine too. I didn't feel it on me, wet or dry. I've decided on two bras (so far). For this trip I used my coolmax travel bra by Travelsmith and it was perfect. I didn't feel it on me and it wicked really well. My underwear by Patagonia were awesome, as usual, and Seth is still liking his Champion skivvies. As you can see, our cameras are rocking the house. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 takes great photos and Seth has been doing a lot of experimenting with exposure time and HDRI, and it's turning out great. And, our Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 is perfect and portable and the GPS feature is awesome. Though we found some pitfalls, it's better to do the testing out here when we have a comfy bed and all the amenities to recuperate. This is why you don't buy new gear for a big trip!