The Hollywood Vine

Top Pacific Crest Trail Packs

One of the most important parts of a thru hike is your backpack. Part of what is considered the big three of backpacking, your shelter, pack and sleep system can truly make or break a long distance hike! So far we’ve seen all types of packs on the PCT, some more popular than others. Here’s what’s on the backs of hikers this year:

ULA Circuit

When I was deciding on my PCT pack, this model was top on my list. Available in a variety of colors, the Circuit has the capacity and accessories needed to complete a thru hike. Ultralight and ultra stylish, it’s no wonder this is the most popular pack of PCT Class of 2017

Mountain Laurel Designs

Another big favorite, MLD produces a plethora of options for every ultralight backpacker. Complete with or without a hipbelt and frame, I’ve seen plenty of hikers toting all types of models around in their various colors. Again, another contender in my search for the perfect PCT pack.

Gossamer Gear

Speaking of perfect PCT pack, Gossamer Gear has created a wonderful line of packs and is also my first and top choice. Currently I’m sporting the 60 liter Mariposa, but I’ve seen hikers carrying anything from their 35 liter Kumo, all the way up. These are well thought out pieces of gear for all types of use, especially long distance hiking!

Granite Gear

Not the ultralightest or the most common, but when I’m not seeing any of the above, it’s almost always a Granite Gear! What I love about this company is the diversity in packs. Some ultralight and minimal, others burly and tough. There’s something for everyone when it comes to Granite Gear.

What it all comes down to at the end of each mile heavy day is that you are comfortable and happy with your pack.  It should fit properly and match your sparkling personality, all while carrying your load of gear!  Happy Trails!

Week Five on the Pacific Crest Trail

Finally, we’re in the mountains where the air is crisp and the views are familiar. Hiking through the San Gabriel Mountains was something I’ve been looking forward to since I moved out of Los Angeles. First, Wrightwood, Mount Baden Powell, Little Jimmy Camp, then to explore beyond any hikes I had done in these magnificent mountains.

My Adidas are still going strong, and I’ve switched out my 10 degree Enlightened Equipment quilt for a 20 degree. Between that and the mountain air, I can finally sleep in my quilt without sweltering. I am supremely satisfied with my Darn Tough Socks that have lasted beyond what I expected. Best part is, when they develop a hole, the company replaces them through a lifetime guarantee!

Mentally and physically I feel better than I have in a while. I am confident in my decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and I quickly recovered from my ankle injury a few weeks back. Truthfully, I would highly recommend a thru hike to anyone with an interest in backpacking and taking some time off.

 

Between stunning vistas and plenty of amazing human beings, a long distance hike allows you become one with nature. You are your own boss, deciding when and where you will eat, sleep, rest and resupply. The rest is just noise, and we all deserve to find the quiet that hiking provides.

Anyway, we’re on the cusp of a major heatwave and considering skipping the next section.  Our options are, hang out in Los Angeles or head to the Eastern Sierra area and fish for some trout.  Check in next post to see what we decide!

PCT SoCal Section – Top Five Highlights

Now that I’m out of the desert, I can look back at the Southern California section of the PCT and appreciate all that I’ve seen. Here’s the top highlights of SoCal:

Campo

Some may think that the border of California and Mexico has nothing to offer but after hiking along some of the best trail I’ve seen I have to recommend this section. From Campo to Mount Laguna, I experienced hiking along with a herd of frogs, lovely Lake Morena and mostly undisturbed, wild land.

San Jacinto

Before the PCT I hadn’t explored the San Jacinto Wilderness except for one attempt to summit the tallest peak. The trail and general area is quite magnificent and well worth a visit. Just miles from the desert, you’re treated with views of Palm Springs and the LA basin, high atop alpine peaks and granite boulders.

Deep Creek

This was one of my favorite sections of the hike so far! Besides the magical hot springs area, Deep Creek has also carved a magnificent canyon that just rings out in tropical music at every sight. The whole trail following the creek is a fantasy land of crystal clear waters and bright green fauna. Best part is, on the way out you’re treated with views of the San Gabriel Mountains, the next wonderful section.

Wrightwood

I highlighted this quaint little mountain town in a past post for it’s character and friendliness to hikers. Just a quick drive up the 2 from Los Angeles or I-15, you’ll find a mountain getaway full of hiking trails, scenic vistas and wonderful people. I loved stopping in this town and look forward to visiting again!

Little Jimmy Campground

This amazing trail camp holds a special place in my heart. I took my very first solo trip to this camp and had a fabulous experience. Complete with a year round, delicious spring surrounded by redwood seating, the forest service maintains this space and it is pristine!

Now, back to hiking so I can report on the next section! Enjoy!

Pacific Crest Trail Kicks

I’ve been talking a lot of trail lately. Namely the ups and downs but not enough about the awesome gear and fashion I’ve had the pleasure of seeing on my journey from Mexico to Canada. When it comes to hiking, functional fashion is key, especially when it comes down to the shoes. Here’s what’s up with trail kicks this year on the PCT:

Altra Lone Peaks

These trail runners are by far the most popular hiking shoe of choice I’ve seen. Made for runners with a zero drop design, backpackers have found that the cushion and lack of heel lift really propels them to the next level. Not to mention they are pretty snazzy! Best part is, Altra has tons of styles available from waterproof to high top, there’s something for everyone.

Nike Wild Horse

I personally love these trail runners and so do many hikers, I’ve noticed. Nike is a trusted brand so they deserve a try, especially with that solid rock plate feature that protects the balls of your feet. Again, size and color are abundant for men and women in this style and I haven’t heard any complaints so far!

Adidas Trail Runners

While I haven’t seen a ton of people sporting them, I have first hand experience with 400-500 miles on each pair I’ve owned! I usually find them on Amazon and would trust all styles from trail runners to hiking boots. Adidas doesn’t get enough love in the thru hiking category so here I am giving them my trail tested praise! At least pick up a pair just for fun, you won’t be disappointed and neither will your wardrobe!

Hoka One One

Big fan of the look of these, though I haven’t tried them myself. I do have to say I met a hiker about 300 miles in who’s beaten down pair looked brand new! Again, great colorways in all styles and really worth a run, or ultra run if that’s what you’re into.

Los Angeles Getaway: Wrightwood

If you’re looking for a closeby getaway in the mountains, look no further than the San Gabriels! Wrightwood is just a short scenic drive up CA Route 2 from Los Angeles, complete with mountain town charm!

I found that this town was extremely friendly to PCT hikers on my way through. I would guess the same goes for out of town visitors who choose to nestle themselves in one of the rustic AirBNB cottages available.

Recommendations for food and drink include the Grizzly Cafe, Wrightwood Brewing Co and Evergreen Cafe. The Village Grind & Wine Cellar is also an interesting spot, coffee shop by day and live jazz filled wine bar by night!

The best part about Wrightwood is it’s prime location in the Angeles National Forest. In just minutes you can find yourself traipsing among granite boulders and some of Southern California’s tallest peaks! If you’re lucky, you may even be treated to views of Catalina Island and Downtown Los Angeles.

If I were you, I’d pack up a pair of Minnetonka Moccasins for sitting by the fire, and Nikes for the mountains. Pick up s’mores materials and prepare for some mountain air relaxation just miles from lovely LA! Enjoy!

Week Four on the Pacific Crest Trail

The past week has been a fantastic daze of places I fondly remember in my hiking history. It has been a delight to hike along trails and destinations I’ve visited in the past. This National Scenic Trail has taken me to heights I’ve I’ve never been and brought me back to those that I love.

I have already met dozens of people in just 300 miles. Not to mention how short each mile feels as we hike further and further from Mexico. Each night under a brilliant Southern California sunset we lay amazed at ourselves and the world around us that just continues to unfold every day.

In terms of gear, everything down to our Adidas trail runners seems to be holding up well. Aside from a few necessary Amazon orders, we haven’t changed much about our thru-hiking setup. The weight in my Gossamer Gear pack seems lighter every day!

Speaking of, I now share a special connection with my Mariposa pack, besides all the places we’ve gone together. I was finally given a trail name, which is a true honor. You can now call me Butterfly! FYI Trail names are a great treat for all hikers and an easy way to identify each other instead of remembering real names.

All in all, just over a tenth of the way in to a couple thousand mile hike, I can honestly say this is what I’m meant to be doing right now. Every night as I pass out exhausted in our Big Agnes tent under my Enlightened Equipment quilt, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than on the PCT.

Los Angeles Getaway: Big Bear

Some may only know Big Bear for the snow sports in such close proximity to Los Angeles. However, if you swing up the mountain after the snow melts you’ll see it truly is a four season getaway! The area offers great options in terms of outdoor activities, accommodations and cuisines all in one small stretch. Not to mention the drive in is an absolute joy! Since it’s summertime, I’ll give a little insight into what’s up in Big Bear Lake when the sun is shining and the living is easy.

Hiking around Big Bear Lake can be done at all difficulty levels and lengths of trail. A couple trails I would suggest that boast lake views include Cougar Crest Trail, complete with viewing benches, and the new Skyline Trail. Best part is, I think the Skyline Trail is mountain bike friendly too! Campgrounds are aplenty as well if that’s something you’re into.

If a warm bed and fireplace is more your getaway style, the Bear has plenty of lodges and hotels to choose from. Personally I’ve AirBNB‘d a few cozy cabins and stayed at the PCT hiker friendly Snow Bear Lodge (they have a pool!). As always I suggest reading reviews on Yelp or something similar before you book!

When it comes to food, it’s surprising how much is available in this small but bustling mountain town. Big Bear Village has favorites like the local bar, Murray’s, offering karaoke and some pretty damn good food! Another awesome find my last time up while hiking the PCT was Masala Craft. Indian food is always a treat especially 8k feet up in Southern California Mountains.

All in all, Big Bear Lake and the neighboring mountain areas are a must visit any time of year. Breathtaking views, hiking, biking and outdoor activities are paired with quaint mountain town charm up there in the San Bernardino Mountains. Enjoy!

Week Three on the Pacific Crest Trail

Since I have been resting a twisted ankle at Big Bear Lake, I figured I would go over what I’ve experienced in the last few weeks.

By now I think I’ve swatted at least a thousand flies, witnessed dozens of scurrying lizards and enjoyed every single sunset and sunrise. I have probably taken my Gossamer Gear pack on and off a minimum of 15 times a day. We have visited three post offices in Southern California and stopped in three towns.

So far, we haven’t consumed that much Ramen, but it’s on my list to increase my noodle intake. Fortunately, we have probably enjoyed around 30 Honey Stingers, which is a necessity. True to our camping nature, we’ve consumed about two dozen eggs when in town. Gotta get that protein!

I lost count of the amount of water I’ve filtered and drank, as well as the number of creeks and faucets we’ve utilized. What I haven’t lost memories of is the beauty of the Pacific Crest Trail and all the precious water crossing it.

We have made local and international friends with every human and dog we pass, and enjoyed a handful of campfires with one another. The one thing I know is, I’m on the right path. Stay tuned!

Pacific Crest Tunes

As you know, all I’ve been doing lately is hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail.  One thing besides food and water that’s getting me by is the access to all this awesome music.  Here’s what I’ve been listening to on the trail:

Little Dragon

I have a special place in my heart for Little Dragon’s mood music. Especially on a trail where besides walking, most of what we’re doing is chilling out. LD is a great addition to wilderness chill zone extremes, or when you want to jazz up your life just a touch. Check out their fifth full length album, Season High for a taste of this bands success in creating some chill af music.

Gorillaz

You can’t deny yourself a new album by a band like Gorillaz. As soon as their latest, Humanz, was released it was on my Google Play queue. It has been seven years since their last release, and this album is chock full of collaborations. I’m sure they weren’t hard pressed for contributors, who wouldn’t want to collab with such creative genius?

Nick Murphy

Fka Chet Faker blessed us with some tunes just in time for my hike! I’m pretty obsessed with this guy and the new tracks have me pretty impressed too! This dude is definitely evolving as an artist and it is a pleasure to watch. Much respect for going back to your roots and using your real name, Nick!

Golden Features

When looking for new tunes, I chose a Flume radio station with lots of hope. My wish was granted when Golden Features came on, and I was hooked. Maybe I’m just really into Australian artists, or maybe I have great taste in music. Either way, this guy’s electronic beats get me up the trail to Canada, what more do I need?

Check any of these artists out on your next hike and you’ll see what I mean. Enjoy!

Pacific Crest Trail, Week 2

As the herd travels along Southern California, I find myself honored to meet fellow thru hikers along the trail. We have already traveled 150+ miles across the desert into the San Jacinto Mountains and we hike on.

Week 2 has been a dramatic improvement in terms of the aches and pains of hiking. Big miles meant it was time to take it easy, so we spent some time at our first resupply town hanging out with our built in friends at the Warner Springs Community Center. The evening and next day found us back on trail along Agua Caliente Creek resting up for the next climb.

It seems as it got hotter the water sources were farther and fewer between. Luckily our Sawyer Squeeze comes in handy every time there’s a chance to fill up. So far we haven’t had any horrible stretches, and we are eternally grateful for the water caches along the way.


From Warner Springs to Paradise Valley Cafe, we traverse what seems to be endless hot, dry canyons. Along the way, we are finally and formally introduced Unicorn Princess and Shade Baby, two strangers who met in Mt. Laguna. I’ve never hiked with so much vigor after avoiding a dead mouse in the water and booking a room at the Silver Pines Lodge in Idyllwild!

After a domesticated evening showering, eating out and sleeping in a bed, we decide to take a Zero the next day. That means, no hiking! Finding camp in San Jacinto State Park, the evening brings a campfire and generous dinner from another thru hiker, Navigator.

As of writing this among the San Jacinto Mountains, I feel no pain of the past 150 miles! We will reach the desert floor soon and again ascend, but this time into Big Bear! Send pizza!