Songs stuck in our heads while hiking

Both Dormouse and I hike without any source of music (mp3s, radio, etc.)  Walking in silence often leaves us to think to ourselves but it also often leads to days of having completely random songs stuck in our heads.  Sometimes the songs are objectionable or annoying;  but sometimes quality songs end up in our heads along the way due to circumstances.  If you have ever had songs stuck in your head you know that knowing most of the words is somewhat of a cure and certainly better than having one phrase repeating in your head.  So here are a few songs stuck on repeat by the DJ in our brains.

Bob Marley- Get up stand up
Usually this song starts our the day.  Having to getting Dormouse out of our tent is always a struggle.  Her name really holds true, she is always more sleepy then me.  Saying “get up!” 4 or 5 times usually leads to this song stuck in my head.

Braid- Hiker Song
Dormouse and I were lucky enough to meet Braid and his friends who provided us and other hikers with an amazing spaghetti dinner at the Birches the night before climbing Mt Katahdin to finish our 2010 thru-hike.  To top the night off he sang this song and it has basically been stuck in our head while hiking ever since. 
Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire
This song comes into play when we start going downhill.  Its really the “down, down, down” lyrics that get in our head.  On the PCT we might find ourselves singing more about the “burning ring of fire.”  Hopefully not too much though.  

Beyonce – to the left
The one is pretty irritating.  Anytime we say “left” in reference to a direction, there it is, stuck in our heads.  Can someone else suggest a song to fill this niche?

Cupid – Cupid Shuffle
I am hoping with all my might that this replaces the Beyonce song.  There are parts that say both “to the right” and “to the left”.  It’s going to take some work to get this one to kick out Beyonce, but I think it’s worth an effort.

The Proclaimers- I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)
The reason this song gets in our heads should not have to be explained after listening to 30 seconds of the song, although 500 is sometimes replaced by 1000 in our version.

Jimmy Cliff- You can do it
We use this song to elevate our spirits and it does a pretty good job of that.

The Beatles- Here comes the sun
Oh,what a great feeling when the sun comes out!

Ace of Base- I saw the Sign (sun)
If you ignore the actual lyrics this song is great for when the sun comes out after a long hiatus.

What songs get stuck in your head while hiking?  Share in the comments section below.  Good luck to everyone at Kick-Off this weekend.  We wish we could be there.  We will probably walk past you in Oregon, see you then.
Dirt Stew

Henry Coe State Park Shakedown Hike

We left late (around 9:30) Saturday morning after a long work week at our desk jobs.

After an hour our of driving we reached the exit off Highway 101 for the park.  It took about 30 minutes to go 8 miles, this is to get to the Headquarters entrance.  The road was very windy and narrow, but the scenery was beautiful already.  We knew we would be in for a treat.
We went to the park with no plan so we were happy to talk to the rangers at the headquarters.  The rangers were very knowledgeable and seemed to know most of the park like the back of their hand.  They seemed to know much more than the average ranger at other parks we’ve been to.  I definitely plan on picking their brain some more the next time we go.
The park is really a gem.  Its like a time capsule.  I feel the park is like hiking in Bay Area like it was before all the roads and people moved in.   Henry Coe State Park is made up of a network of old ranch roads and trails covering 87,000 acres.  It is a great place to have close by because it is the 2nd largest state park in California.
Classic Diablo range oak grassland savannah

Classic Diablo range oak grassland savanna

Our first day we did 13 miles of mellow hiking to Coit Lake.  It was mellow because it was mostly an elevation loss from ranger station.  Large oak trees roamed on large grassy hills.  Blades of grass were dancing in the wind, and the sun was warm on our faces.
Coe doesn't have many sweeping views due to moderately high hills and steep valleys.

Coe doesn’t have many sweeping views due to moderately high hills and steep valleys.  This is great if you are looking for solitude because there is no grand attraction/feature.  We saw 3 people after the first couple hours of hiking in.

An acorn woodpecker is busy with storing acorns in his granary tree.

An acorn woodpecker is busy with storing acorns in his granary tree.

Shooting stars were one of the few types of flowers that were out.  They were out in full display.

Shooting stars were one of the few types of flowers that were out. They were out in full display.

As we arrived at Coit Lake, Dormouse set up tent on her own to gain experience.  Setting the tent up together isn’t a great plan until we both know how to set it up on our own.  We found that our polycro ground sheet already had a tear in it, and we are really bummed about that.  How do people exactly use it for a full thru-hike with one sheet?
We tried one of our go-to cookless meals, good old instant mashed potatoes and stuffing mix, mixed together.  We found it overly salty because potatoes were flavored.  I think in the future we are going to mix stuffing with unflavored potatoes.  We hit the hay shortly after deciding our route for the next day to Mississippi Lake.  We closed our eyes and listened to the sound of croaking frogs and chirping waterfowl.
That night was the night daylights savings changed over.  We set our alarm to wake us up at the crack of dawn.  This was not a good idea.  FYI, Phones even on airplane mode auto reset time set time during the daylight savings change over.  The alarm ended up going off at 4:00 AM.  Not fun waking up two hours before you wanted to.  Somethings you just have to learn the hard way.  We got up early, and started our hike.
A gnarly old sycamore in one of Coe's many valleys.

A gnarly old sycamore in one of Coe’s many valleys.

The hike back was a really difficult roughly 19 miles.  We decided to take old ranch roads back because the trails in the park all go up and down 1000′ between hills.  The old ranch roads reminded us of the “roller coaster” on the Appalachian Trail.  Up and down, up and down, and never flat.  Dormouse’s feet really hurt by the end.  She is experimenting with different ways of changing her gait to hopefully help with this reoccurring problem.  By the time we got back to the car, we were exhausted.
Mistletoe sprouting on dormant oaks

Mistletoe sprouting on dormant oaks.

Dormouse was bummed after this hike and wondered how on earth she was going to average over 20 miles a day if less than 20 miles destroys her feet.  The GPS claimed that the second day was closer to 17 miles, and we wonder if the GPS accounts for vertical gain as well as map miles.  This made Dormouse even more upset.  What if it was only 17 miles, and her feet were dead..?

Backpacking Kauai: Kalalau Trail

Dormouse and I went to Kauai for our 1st wedding anniversary, this past October.  I thought I would share with you our experience so that you can pick the information you might need to plan a future trip to Hawaii’s Garden Island.  Dormouse and I had 10 days to see the island , but this blog post is primarily about our arrival to the island and our 4 day backpacking trip on the Kalalau Trail.

Before departing we packed everything to be brought as carry on.  We didn’t want to have our tent and important equipment lost.   Backpacks (Z55 and Golite Quest) were slightly unpacked to meet the carry on restrictions of the airlines with the remaining belongings going into our “personal items.”  We packed clothes, a couple days’ worth of food, travel snorkeling fins, mask/snorkel, sleeping bags/pads, cameras, steripen, bleach for backup, and our trusty Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 tent.  Our clothes which we over-packed included fleeces, and puffy jacket.  We packed for the lowest temperatures of the year without really knowing when that typically happens.  We could have made due with just a rain jacket, long underwear, and fleece for emergencies even at higher elevations.

Dormouse and I flew in direct from San Francisco to Lihue (LIH), Kauai’s main airport.  From the airport we walked next to a busy Ahukini Rd on a large grass shoulder to a shockingly close Walmart (1.5 miles) to pick up more food, supplies, canister fuel, and odds and ends.  From the Walmart we caught the next bus to Kapaa to go to Honu’ea Internacional Hostel, our accommodations for the night.  The price was right for the hostel and would recommend it because there are no expensive resort fees tacked on top of the price like the cheap hotels on the island.  The hostel was clean and had everything you should expect from a hostel.  Including a locker to store your extra stuff for $20 a week (which is what we should have put our warm clothes).

Walking from the airport in Lihue to Walmart is a breeze

Walking from the airport in Lihue to Walmart is a breeze at 1.5 miles one way.

While we were at the hostel we met many, great people including Jeremy, a surfer from LA who was island hopping, catching waves for a couple weeks.  We told him that Kauai was known for the hiking and were surprised when he hadn’t been out on a trail, yet.  It didn’t take much convincing to get him to join us for the first few miles of the Kalalau Trail to the amazing Hanakapi’ai Falls 4 miles in.  Luckily Jeremy had a car and an awesome attitude for the hike.  He only had some very sturdy flip flops but he seemed in shape and it was only 4 miles.

The first two miles were pretty easy with great views and with dry tread. At two miles you reach a great beach.

One of the view on the way to Hanakapi'ai

One of the views on the way to Hanakapi’ai

At the beach, there are small lava tube caves and a nice place to sit for a snack in the shade.  There were some bushes for stashing our fully loaded backpacks for the 2 mile out and back journey (4 miles total) to the waterfall.

The valley trail walked among many fruiting guava trees that we were happy to gorge ourselves on. Some guava tasted like bananas some more tart.

A guava lined trail on the way to Hanakapi'ai Falls.  Yummy.  FYI Don't eat them off the ground.

A guava lined trail on the way to Hanakapi’ai Falls. Yummy. FYI Don’t eat them off the ground.

After we reached the falls we took no time at all to swim in the enormous pool at the base of the amazing falls.  This place is as close to paradise that I have been. A refreshing dip after a muddy and humid hike in. We played in delight swimming in the torrent falling from 100′ up.  It was surprising to see how few people went in but instead sat confused in the cold waterfall mist.

Swimming in and out of the waterfall was amazing.  Don't miss out if you make it that far.

Swimming in and out of the waterfall was amazing. Don’t miss out if you make it that far.

Hanakapi'ai Falls

Hanakapi’ai Falls

We headed back to the beach to continue on the Kalalau Trail and parted ways with our new friend Jeremy. Going past the beach required a $20 permit/person. Going up the hillside and to the first bend we were greeted with our first amazing view of the Napali Coast. We were amazed that we were going to live among this beauty for 4 nights.

The valley after Hanakapi'ai

The valley after Hanakapi’ai

As you go along, the valleys get more and more breathtaking. The hiking was challenging for our legs which have become accustomed to CA trails. Many, many up and downs were a part of the terrain due to the steep cliffs that we were hiking on. The terrain and swimming from earlier caught up with us. We decided to camp in one of the larger valleys on the trail. We had to retreat quickly to our tent to avoid the mosquitoes.  Like much of Hawaii, below 3,000 feet is overrun with mosquitoes in wet areas, among other non-native species.  One of Kauai’s remote areas was no exception unfortunately.

The next morning we quickly broke down camp to avoid the swarm of mosquitoes.  We made our way to Hanakoa Valley.  At that valley our map and books we had read suggested that there was a trail to a waterfall.  We had decided to try to reach this waterfall, which was only a mile in.  Seemed like a great idea.  We quickly found that the trail was non-existent and decided to turn back.  We weren’t positive that it would be running because of the recent dry weather, so the additional effort didn’t seem worth it.

Heading on we reached the dreaded 7th mile of the trail.  This is where people with acrophobia get their ultimate test.  In this area, the trail is next to a cliff with a narrow tread-way while heading downhill.  There was some great timing also.  We got to this section in time for the parade of helicopters to watch us walk along this precarious section of trail.  At any other point on the trip I felt smug about how great it was that I was in paradise while the people in the helicopter were wishing they were in our shoes.  It’s astonishing that trail is actually there because of how steep the area is.  At this point we were glad we brought our umbrellas to block out the sun.  The shade as you go towards Kalalau Beach becomes more and more rare.  The Kauai heat, even in October was warmer than my San Francisco thinned blood could handle.

The seventh mile of the Kalalau Trail

The seventh mile of the Kalalau Trail

The 7th mile of the Kalalau Trail

The 7th mile of the Kalalau Trail

After the scary part of the trail you pass through even more amazing landscape until you make it to Red Hill.  At Red Hill you get your first good view of the Kalalau Valley.

Kalalau Valley from Red Hill

Kalalau Valley from Red Hill

Going down into Kalalau Valley is a memorable experience because of the stunning scenery. My experience in particular was memorable for a different reason.  After ducking down into the trees and crossing Kalalau Creek I was greeted by a couple “locals,” people who have taken up residence in the valley who mostly are not native Hawaiians.

A man and a woman were shocked to have encountered me at that moment.  The man quickly asked without introduction, “Are you a vegetarian?”  Confused, I answered, no.  He walks past and says, “Okay, good,” dragging a freshly gutted goat.  The woman smiling widely said, “Welcome home!”

If you are used to backpacking into the wilderness you might be disappointed with the experience of coming into the Valley or camping on Kalalau Beach.  But the way I saw it, going to this destination was akin to coming into a town which had no supplies.  Walking through the camps, we were greeted over and over with the same exclamation, “Welcome home.”

As you walk down the beach you pass a privy and there are plenty of spots to camp.  We decided to go further.  If you go to where the trail ends you find the community shower/water source complete with place to put a bar of soap.  Luckily there is no reason to take water from downstream because the stream meets the beach quickly after the area.

Community Shower and water source

Community Shower and water source

We decided to set up camp further away under a palm tree.  And there we spent two nights.

We lived beneath the palm tree in this picture

We lived beneath the palm tree in this picture

While there we learned of trees bearing tangerine-like fruit.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a knife for their thick skin.  Further down the beach there are some caves on the beach worth exploring.  We were told that in the summer when waves are calm on the north side there is a great beach you can swim to if you can swim around some rocks at the west end of Kalalau Beach.  If you aren’t a strong swimmer some fins would help greatly.

Up Kalalau Stream there is a great deal to explore.  We decided to make the small trek up to the Seven Sacred Pools.  It is a great place for a refreshing dip when the surf is rough.  Be careful to closely track your path because there is an extensive network of paths through the valley due to the local population.  We ran into a “local” who was headed out of the valley.  We were lucky to have them guide us out.  She took us via the “Hippy Highway” instead of the Kalalau Valley Trail that is listed in maps and guide books.  She told us that the area had been cleared out of many of the “locals” recently within the past month (these maneuvers apparently happen only every couple years, so the limited number of “locals” we met might be very different from what others may experience.)

Overall our time at Kalalau Beach was relaxing and we watched a couple of beautiful sunsets while making dinner, and attempted to eat as many of the fruit from the local plants on the beach as possible.

After our second night we reluctantly left.  We headed back to Hanakapi’ai Beach to spend the night after going to the falls again.

The next morning we hitchhiked to the closest bus stop in Princeville.  From there we caught a bus to Lihue for our next abode.

– $20 per person/day (a deal for paradise).  You will have a hard time getting a better deal on Kauai
– 11 miles one way with 4 mile side trip to Hanakapi’ai Falls
– Bus trips on the island $2 per leg
-Pack beach clothes and little else for just Kalalau.  Store your warm clothes at a hostel
– Walking in sandals is a great idea given the moist tropical conditions.  Keep your feet dry.  Dirt Stew had a couple of rotten spots on his feet after it rain and he had to deal with wearing his wet shoes that never dried.
– An umbrella is a great comfort in the exposed sections and the area gets a lot of rain.

Super Bowl Hike 2014

I wake up slightly before our alarm goes off to the sound of rain hitting the window.  The excitement and confusion were overwhelming for me.  California in the middle of the greatest drought in recorded history was getting rain?  Then, I thought about all of the slightly damp laundry I had carefully hung outside the day before to dry.  They weren’t slightly damp anymore. I guess it was for a good cause.  I’m glad something finally worked.

Groggy, I lay there waiting for the alarm to go off excited for the hike that we had planned to do in spite of Super Bowl Sunday.  We were going to head to a local open space preserve Purisima Creek Redwoods.   The 20+ mile day hike was scheduled to get into better shape and test our gear for our Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike starting in June.

I was a little nervous about waking up Dormouse, thinking she would want to skip the days hike because of the steady rain outside. I definitely wanted to still go.  If we were going to have an amazing hike on any day it would be on a rainy day with a major television event.  The alarm went off and I let it go for 30 seconds.  Dormouse was still sound asleep despite the beeping.  I woke her up and told her the news.  She was as excited as me because of the cool air, lack of people, and a whole day outside.  We both were especially excited for seeing the creatures that come out of hiding during rain.  Some of our favorite days hiking have been in the rain.

After gobbling up some breakfast and scrounging around for the rain gear we weren’t expecting to use.  We were off for a walk in the park.

Starting out we parked outside the gate we worried that we wouldn’t be back before the gate closed at sunset.  We were happy to see that we were the first and only people there.  It was still coming down pretty hard and in the 40s.  Getting ready for the cold rain another car showed up.  It was a lady with shorts, a thin rain jacket, and an umbrella.  I was happy to see someone use an umbrella for hiking because I am a recent convert to using an umbrella as a way of hiking in the rain.  I didn’t really think she would be comfortable in her shorts though.  I was content that Dormouse and I were properly outfitted for the situation with multiple layers and our wonderful trekking umbrellas.  It wasn’t long before the woman turned around looking cold and defeated.  We knew we had at least 20 more miles to go.  We were headed to the farthest part of the park to see what was there.  We knew a trail went there and roughly how far it was.  That was enough for us.

Something I forgot about walking under an umbrella before adopting one for hiking is that umbrellas are really great for keeping you dry.  Not only that they keep the sun off you when there is no shade.  We walked comfortably, dry, and warm.  Ok, we weren’t completely dry our feet got wet.  There is definitely great benefit to having a dry face and head for moral.  In warmer temperatures you can even keep cool while staying dry not having to wear a restrictive jacket to keep the rain from hitting you, while you sweat inside.

Dormouse use an umbrella to keep warm and dry

Dormouse demonstrates that hiking in the rain all day can be enjoyable with proper gear.

Along the way we saw hundreds of banana slugs.  We were in Purisima the week before and had not seen a single one.  If you know the area, that is a big deal.  Although, given the record drought it is not surprising.  We were glad that they were out in such great numbers.  They bring a certain flare to hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains that we have grown accustom to.

Banana Slugs a pleasent side affect of hiking in the rain

Hiking in the rain lets you discover animals and plants you didn’t know were there all along, like this banana slug.

We even saw California newts.  A few here and there along some streams.  When we finally got to near the end of the trail at Lobitos Creek Trail we stopped for a second to look at the map and found ourselves completely surrounded by newts.  We counted 20 newts while we stood in one spot.  It was unreal the ground was basically moving.  We were careful to move them aside off the trail before we moved on because we were going to come back the same way.  We had to look really closely at each step because of their camouflage.   After reaching the end of the trail we turned back and found that the area full of newts now had none.  We happened to catch a mass migration of newts!

A animal you don't see too often unless you hike during the rain

California Newts and other amphibians are a great example of animals you will see large numbers of if you hike in the rain in their habitat.  Amphibians like newts, salamanders, and frogs can migrate by the 100s or 1000s to breed in the spring during the first rains of spring.  They often migrate to water bodies to mate from their upland home.  Many mushrooms and flowers will also make a great appearance right after a rain.

It reminded me of a day hiking on the Appalachian Trail hiking into Rockfish Gap in Virginia.  On that day, we saw 280 red-spotted newts.  Thru-hiking can be boring at times, so when something like this comes up we actually counted every single newt.  We would never had seen so many newts if we waited to hike on a sunny day.

We would have never seen so many newts if we decided to not hike in the rain. Seeing 280 creatures of any sort is really an exhilarating experience.

Besides happening into a great migration of California newts there also happens to be an impressive redwood tree at the end of Lobitos Creek Trail.


A lone old growth redwood tree near the end of Lobitos Creek Trail in Purisima. A rewarding surprise near the end of a trail that seems to go to nowhere.

Towards the end of our hike back to the car the sky started to clear up and we saw great views of the evolving clouds.

The clouds begin to clear to show the trees breathing out

The clouds begin to clear to show the trees breathing out. The redwood trees have opened their stomata to let out excess water vapor.

Thanks to our umbrellas and warm clothes, we finished up our hike well before sunset in good spirits having spent the whole day in the rain happy to see the world that lives on wet days.  If you haven’t tried hiking in the rain I would highly suggest it.  Try it out in warmer weather first.  Hiking with temperatures in the 40s – 50s can be dangerous due to hypothermia unless you know what you are doing.  This doesn’t mean that hiking in the rain during warm weather is safe.  Be prepared:

1. Be sure to wear and bring synthetic or wool clothing which dries much faster than cotton and is able to insulate while wet.,

2. Put on a layer before you take a break to keep warm.  Keeping warm is easier than warming up.

3. Have a waterproof/windproof layer to keep the rain from cooling you off too much.  An umbrella can help a great deal with keeping your dry and can be used with a lightweight wind breaker to save on weight and allow for greater breathability while active.

When you are all done with your rainy adventure let us know how it goes,

Dirt Stew

Day’s Stats:

Mileage: 21.8 Miles

Time: 8.5 hours