Dave & Barb were hiking the PCT from Mexico to Canada in 2008,
but they are now back home in Warrensburg
The entries from Dave & Barb are listed in the order I receive them, with the newest always being the one at the top.
Fri 7/25/2008 10:55 AM

On monday evening, July 21, we de-trained from Amtrak at the depot in Warrensburg and walked home..........  It is good to be home and enjoy the comforts.  My sister seems happy to have us back.  After the desert, everything appears so lush and green from adequate rain.  Hello humidity!

We have been here for four days unpacking, reading mail, sorting, and re-connecting with regular life.  My Mom seems very glad we are home.  We are anxious to re-connect with our grandchildren.  Old Drum went to a barber in CA for a shave and a "trim" but the trim turned out to be a crew cut.  Melissa reports that Parker (age 3), seeing a picture of Old Drum since the haircut and shave, denies knowing that person.  But Old Drum has had the beard since 2006 and the AT, so Parker has not seen him without it.  Neither has Trey.

After we left the trail for the last day on June 26 we spent some time enjoying southern Ca, de-briefing, recuperating, and visiting.  We are particularly grateful to Glenda for her help and generous hospitality.  We had made our way to Reno and rented a car  (that thankfully got great gas mileage) so did some sight-seeing.  Part of me was not ready to leave such beautiful country and I definitley plan to return to explore more of it when it is not on fire!  From the train we could literally see smoke halfway across Utah!

We returned the car in Reno and boarded Amtrak for the trip home, stopping in Chicago for a couple of days visit with David's sister and brother-in-law.  We enjoyed train travel and will do it again.

David has done some of the stats and reports that I walked a total of 733 miles and he walked 775 miles (I did not hike the burning forest fire and waited for him in Horseshoe Meadows campground as we were entering the High Sierra).   We averaged 15.5 miles per day when hiking -- this figure does not include zero or nero (less than six miles) days.

He is next going to figure the stats on our expenses.  I already know that if the US Postal service is in the black for the last quarter we are personally responsible as we mailed stuff continually.

Thank you so much for your interest, support, and encouragement.  bjc

whispering pine
barbara and david curtis

Thu 7/3/2008 4:16 PM

The continuing saga after 'the fire'............July 3, 2008

When Old Drum (hiking with Photon, Narggles, and Chuck Norris) left Kennedy Meadows (where the desert portion of the trail transitions to the High Sierra) on July 15 with the Park Ranger's assurance that it was safe to hike the PCT through the Clover Fire, I chose to hitch a ride with Tigger to Horseshoe Meadows Campground and wait for them to hike the 44 trail miles to join us.  Enough hikers had gone through the fire with the fire fighter's assistance that I knew it was safe to follow, but I had witnessed how sooty, black, and smelly it was.  YUCK!

I was also coming to the realization that the miracle transformation I had hoped for by the time I had traveled the 702 miles in seven weeks to Kennedy Meadows was not happening.   Experienced through hikers that I visited with before departing told me that the desert portion was the most difficult and if one could do that, the rest of the PCT was not going to be a problem. But, just like on my bike, I am very slow on uphill climbs and in the High Sierra the climbs increase.  We managed to average the 15 miles per day to get to Kennedy Meadows on schedule by walking 12 hour days.  But from there the average needed to increase to 21 mpd and I know that hiking with me is slowing Old Drum way down.

My previous backpacking experience had been two five day trips.  One was to Vermont's Long Trail nine years ago and the other our gear shake-down trip this spring in the Mark Twain National Forest in the Ozarks.  Both were hard!  But, I reasoned, it took some time, effort, and experience to become a touring cyclist (remembering those early MS 150s) and that my "inner backpacker" just needed to really get out there and apply the same lessons I had learned earlier.

I was attracted to this challenge for several reasons:  1) Old Drum had a great time hiking the AT and continues to relish the experience 2) He would be away for five months and I would miss out on the adventure  3) As he prepared for the PCT, I realized that it was not only a tough logistical challenge, but that there were several things about it that I feared and something in me needed to face those fears.

They were:

The heat of the desert    (proved not to be a problem as a cold front moved in)
Scarcity of water in the desert  (every water source on the 'water report' was full)
Crossing the snow and ice in mountain passes of the High Sierra (done! not nearly as difficult as I imagined)
Learning to use an ice ax to cross those passes (most of the snow melted early!)
Crossing waist deep rivers and creeks raging with very cold water from snow melt (done successfully several times!!!!)

I never thought to be afraid of fires or wind.....or earthquake and we walked right over the San Andreas Fault.

Well, Old Drum and the others arrived at Horseshoe Meadows on Tuesday the 17th about 1:00 p.m. and early on Wednesday the 18th we continued hiking into the High Sierra.  It is incredible!!!!  I feel so fortunate to have the health, stamina, and resources to visit an area accessible only by walking, horseback, or helicopter and that such a vast, beautiful space full of surprising qualities has been preserved.  I refer you here to the writings of John Muir for descriptions far beyond what I could offer.  We will ask Charley to put our pictures on the web site soon, though.

On Thursday we turned off the PCT to hike the John Muir Trail to the top of Mt. Whitney from the west.  It is the highest point in the lower 48 states.  We set up a base camp at Guitar Lake and on Friday morning the 20th we 'slack-packed' the final 5.6 miles to the top carrying only our camera, ice ax, water, and light jackets.  Spectacular!  We returned to our base camp and, after a nap, it was my turn to prepare dinner.  I have to say here that the food selections that are high calorie and light weight are limited and not very appetizing yet eating a lot is required for stamina.  It was my desire for a real meal that began the discussion about how much longer I would attempt to be a through hiking backpacker.  The next day we hiked back up to Whitney Portal and over the east side to a delicious restaurant meal...............instead of going back to the PCT.  I know now for certain that I am a day hiker, not a backpacker and that "Iwanna Sherpa" is the perfect trail name for me.

I LOVE:  being in the wilderness, being outdoors 24/7, the people we've met in the hiking community, the walking, my trekking poles, the taste of the water from clear, cold streams, the flowers, observing nature, and Old Drum.  (I have gained a phenomenal respect for his strength, endurance, skills, and abilities)

I DO NOT LOVE:  hiking uphill for hours with 30 pounds in my pack.

One does not "quit" a through hike.  One "leaves the trail" and that is what I am ready to do,  though it has not been an easy decision..........................................

Thank you so much for all the wonderful support and encouragement.  Iwanna Sherpa

 From Old Drum:

On the AT in '06 I met a hiker that I really admire.  His name is Flat Rocks (as in flat "rocks").  He hiked about 700 miles of the AT.  He came to the conclusion that he was not a thru-hiker.  He did not like the climbs.  He spoke of nothing else that he disliked on the trail.  He said that he felt there was no need to continue if he did not like something that was optional in his life.  He chose to go back to Florida to decide what it is that he does enjoy and to pursue that.  What a wise person.

That is the similar conclusion that Iwanna Sherpa reached on the PCT.  She, too, gave it about 700 miles in the toughest conditions that this trail has to offer.  Like Flat Rocks, after giving the trail a sincere try, she has one major issue.  It is the pack on her back.  Isn't it interesting that both had trail names that indicated their obstacles.  I admire this hiker, too.  She really gave backpacking a major try.

When she decided that she would leave the trail, she offered to go home and let me go on to finish the trail.  I believe that I would be able to complete it if I were to continue with no major health or family issues.  However, I have never had such a good time with the lady I married 42 years ago next month.  I choose to go on this summer seeking adventure with her and not alone.  I too will miss the awesome beauty of the mountains and the trail family one encounters.  Our plans are still up in the air, but they will include visiting friends and family, time with our grandchildren, and day hikes (even here in the west).

Thank you for your prayers and thoughts.  Some of you helped by taking care of our home, our mailings, our finances, the election, Barb's Mom, or other issues.  Thank you to all.  For those who pledged to the Vessell scholarship fund, I will have to get home and total the mileage.  I probably won't send anything out until September.  Our blessings to you all, Old Drum
whispering pine
barbara and david curtis

Mon 6/23/2008 1:58 PM

Well, since we last wrote we have definitely had some experiences that are new.  On Saturday (I think the 14th), we hiked out of Kennedy Meadows leaving the desert heading for the High Sierra.  As IS (Iwanna Sherpa) and I hiked smoke on the trail became so unbearable that I wetted down my bandana and put it on over my nose and mouth.  Around the bend came running Beautiful and Gorgeous, two young girls that we first met 600 miles ago.  They were frantic.  They said the trail was ablaze just around the ridge.  We had seen lots of white smoke, but now we were seeing brown and black smoke.  The Forest Service Info Officer at Kennedy Meadows had warned about this fire, but said that they had things under control and we would just behiking through a couple miles of burn area from the past week.  Well, it flared up again and we hiked 8 miles backwards to K.M.   Sunday we got up, had breakfast at the store, attended an outdoor church service and I hiked on again.  This time we got a fire fighter escort through a little portion of the burn area and hiked 3 miles of recent burn with no problems.  The day ended on the banks of the Kern River, where the beauty of the meadow with the mountains in the backgrounds sucked 20 hikers into stopping and swimming.  The next day was climb day as we went from 7000' elevation to 11,000'.  Breathing was getting tougher with the less oxygen.  The High Sierra is beautiful.  I have only 5 more minutes in this library so I will be brief.  On Thursday, we left the PCT to get on the John Muir Trail and hiked to Guitar Lake where we made a base camp.  Friday, IS and I hiked to the top rock on the top of Mount Whitney, the highest spot in the 48 contiguous states.  What a view!  It was a beautiful day.  Climb was hard, but we are OK.  Must go.

whispering pine
barbara and david curtis


Thu 6/12/2008 5:08 PM

Let me start with a few personal notes.  Sorry for those who have to wade through them.

1 - David Vaught, I need Dale Smith's email address.

2 - For all the nice notes and news, births, illnesses, fun things, THANK YOU.

3 - Glenda, everthing has been perfect and on time.  You have no idea how much we appreciate you.

4 - Free and Easy, we miss you too.  We are at KM now.  Hike out probably tomorrow or the next day.

5 - Mapman and Robin, way to go.  We are doing OK, but way slower.  Thank you for all your help and encouragement.

Now for Bird Tales

1 - The temps went back up in the desert, but not to hot, hot, hot, only to hot (90's).  Iwanna Sherpa (google Sherpa if you don't know what a Sherpa is) and I found a tiny piece of shade under a Joshua Tree.  We took a break.  We layed our tyveck on the ground and ate a snake.  Then we laid down and fell asleep.  About an hour later, we awoke to a flock of 16 crows carefully circling over us.  We hate to disappoint them, but we aren't dead yet.

2 - They have a type of quail in the desert.  We were on the side of a desert mountain when we came upon a downed log next to the trail.  Out came 2 adult birds.  We assume Momma and Poppa.  They squawked loudly and ran down the trail just fast enough to stay ahead of us.  As we passed the log, we saw 6 babies under the log in the shade.  Once we were 50 yard aways, the two adult flew up and returned to the log.  It was really sweet to see this style of protection.  The next day we ran into another hiker who got the same show.  They really think they can fool us crazy fools.

3 - I thought winds were really strong as I hiked down off Mt. Madison on the AT.  Many times they have been so very strong out here.  Three times we have hiked through wind farms.  As we left Mojave, last week, we passed through a farm of 4200 wind turbines.  We know this because a mechanic who works on the 6 tallest turbines gave us a ride back to the trail from Mojave.  His turbines have propellors that are 44 yards long.  These things are huge.  As we climbed back up the mountains in this area, the wind begin to get really strong.  Wind earlier in the trail gave me my only time to want to quit and go home.  As we climbed across a ridge, the wind gusted even more and I saw a large bird just 10 feet in front of me take off and land after a 6 foot flight.  This bird is about 5'3" and was wearing a backpack.  YES, Iwanna Sherpa flew for a few feet. It was scary and amazing at the same time.  Using some of her techniques she has learned from Gene Rooney, she simply said, "Let me back out of this."  She got up.  She paused a minute.  She hiked on.  She is amazing.

We are now a place called Kennedy Meadows (doesn't that sound pleasant).  I bet there are 40 hikers sitting around a little store that is .7 miles off the trail.  They have a computer for hikers (free, make a donation).  I was led to believe this is the end of the desert and the start of the high Sierra.  It looks like all the desert to me.  I was told I have 2 more days of desert hiking to go.  Yuck, but we can do it.  We do start the big climbs now.  This is the most dangerous part of the hike.  We have about 500 miles of constantly being over 8000 feet, plus some 12,000 and 13,000 feet.  We also plan to leave the trail and hike to the top of Mt. Whitney.  Don't know if we can, but we will try.  Whitney is the tallest spot in the contiguous 48 states.

Iwanna Sherpa's back is hurting, her feet are hurting and the climbs just hurt her lungs and heart.  She won't quit.  She doesn't like it that Old Drum currently has nothing hurting.  Now and then we hear of a few hikers that have given up the hike.  Most that we have met are still on the trail.  We look forward to this new section (the trail is divided into 5 sections, So Cal, Central Cal, No Cal, Oregon and Washington.  Oregon is susposed to be the easiest.  So Cal and then Central Cal the hardest.  Central Cal is the most dangerous causing deaths from falls in the ice on the high passes or drownings in the swollen streams.  I personally fear the dreaded mosquito most.  For my AT friends, I am told that it make those 2 days in New Jersey seem like a picnic.  Oh, well.  Pray for our safety and good spirits.  We continue to marvel at the beauty and harshness of the desert.  Oh, one last note.  Thanks to my friends who helped with the park issue in Warrensburg.  71% of the voters agreed that this was a good plan.
Trail magic is nothing like the AT, but it comes in strange forms.  Last week we planned to get a mail package at Onyx with 4 days food.  We planned to get to the PO on Sat.  We were early, we got to the road at 6 p.m. on Friday.  PO not open on Sat and closed at 3.  We shifted plan to hitch to that town and take a bus to Lake Isabella which had all services.  Sat we got a hitch from a neat scientist who did his grad work at UMR.  He took us to Onyx.  Once there, someone told us to go to the PO and knock on the back door, they'll give hikers their packages.  We did.  They  did.  Just then the bus pulled up.  Cost to ride 18 miles to the next town 75 cents each (gas here is $4.65 a gallon).  Wow!  We took a motel room at the Kern (it had clean sheets and towels).  We met a bunch of AARP age hikers and got to say goodbye to Blacksnake (an AT 06er) who decided to go home.  On Sunday we went to church at the Methodist Church (they had a potluck after the service and fed us grand).  Then one of the ladies invited us to join her with a group she belonged too for a potluck dinner.  After that she gave us large box filled with energy/protein bars.  Bus ride for $.75 each back to the trail on Monday A.M.  Got let into the same PO 40 minutes before opening so we could mail food forward and caught a hitch to the trail within 10 minutes.  Life is so good.  Take care.  Old Drum

Sat 5/31/2008 3:02 PM

From Old Drum

The first of the 2 really hot, hot, hot sections of the desert.  I remember the misspelling in a letter before hiking where I said "dessert not desert."  I wish it were dessert. We have been blessed with unseasonably cool weather for here.  The last two days it has been in the 80's.  Believe me on the sand of the desert that is plenty hot enough.  Early in the hike we received plenty of water cache's.  There would be a shelving unit built in the middle of nowhere in the desert and it would be filled with bottles of water.  Lately, the stretches of not water have been longer and there have been no cache's.  We learn to read the water reports on the internet when we hit a town and then carry accordingly.  My pack base weight is 23 pounds.  Typically, when you leave town, you carry about 2 pounds of food per day on the trail.  Seven days or 14 pounds more is the most I've carried.  Each day you eat 2 pounds of your load so that as you hike into a town you are at near zero in weight.  Water is a different story.  You carry enough to get you to the next water hole.  That depends on the heat and the climbs.  Lately, the heat has helped us keep our water load down, but even at that, I've carried just under 2 gallons of water.  We have hit stretches of over 30 miles without a reliable source.  We are now down to just under 100 miles of desert left.  Forcasts are for a little warmer, but not super hot.  Iwanna Sherpa is getting much stronger at this hiking thing.  Yesterday, I even think she was enjoying the trail as I listened to her singing Show Tunes hiking in the shadeless sand of the Mojave desert (well if she wasn't enjoying herself, maybe the desert is just getting to her).  It is amazing how some of the paradoxes are.  Two days ago we hiked in the barren desert with no shade, no water for miles and some heat.  We did this atop the Los Angeles Aqueduct.  Yes this famous water source was barried under us in a huge concrete tube.  At times you could hear the rushing water below.  Thanks for all your prayers and support, Old Drum

From Iwanna Sherpa,

We are taking a "zero" in Mojave CA after six days of walking across REAL desert!  Much of it is bereft of vegetation and therefore shade.  Three days ago, just before we landed at a hostel called Hiker Town we walked through an area that the data book said had "over engineered" switchbacks……what an understatement that proved to be!  That section of ten miles (should have been two at most) took so long that I was sure we would come around a bend and meet Moses and the Israelites still wandering.  Anyway, it sure SEEMED like forty of something.

We have, however, lucked out as the weather as it has been unseasonably cool.  The good news here is that means we need carry much less water (water weighs 8 lbs. per gallon) so are able to walk easier (and maybe faster) since we are carrying less weight.  And, we have had adequate water supplies.  I think the furthest we have had to go without a reliable water source is thirty miles so you can see how the cooler temp helps.

That's all for now.  I am sure there is more too tell, but I am too tired to think of it and have yet to re-supply food and do the laundry at the laundro-mat.  Thanks for every little bit of news from home and all the encouraging messages!  I.S.

whispering pine
barbara and david curtis

Sat 5/24/2008 6:23 PM

This report from the trail is from Iwanna Sherpa

Each and every day presents new circumstances and challenges!  I'm dealing with the deprivations fairly well.  And, for me, it is also the necessity of walking uphill a good part of the day!

But then, the biggest one is to dis-obey the "life commandment":  Do NOT take rides from strangers!  (much less ASK for them!)

Our first time to need auto transportation was when the Forest Service closed 28 miles of the trail at Palms to Pines.  We needed to get into Idlywild and felt road walking too dangerous.  Paradise Cafe was 1/2 mile down the highway and even though it was closed on Tuesday we thought it would be a good place to start.  But, just after exiting the trail we stuck out our thumbs a bit self-consciously.  Within a couple of minutes a white SUV pulled to a stop and a young man hopped out and began making room for us in his back seat as we hustled up to his vehicle.  He said, "I usually don't pick up hitch hikers, but one of you is a woman and you look so old!  Are you headed south?"  Disappointed, we said, "No, we're going into Idlywild."  He hopped back into his car and drove away.

Then, a car headed in the opposite direction pulled over and the man driving rolled down his window and said, "I am lost, can you help me?  I am trying to get into Idlywild and I think I took a wrong turn a few miles back!"  Old Drum said, "Well, I have a map and we would be happy to show you!"  So, we did.

The next time we needed a ride was into Big Bear City from Hwy 38.  There were five os us (The Greiatric Hiking Squad) and it wasn't working.  We figured five with packs was too overwhelming a number.  So, David abnd I took a stroll down the trail away from the highway and sure enough, very soon after that a lady in a van stopped for the three.  She told them that God told her to pick them up and if one of them would hold the dog and another would hold her potted begonia she thought everyone would fit.  After they traveled away agreeing that we would meet at the fire station in town,  I said a little prayer for a good-hearted, safe person and David and I stuck out our thumbs.  What followed proves that God does have a sense of humor!  Within a couple of minutes a shiny red extend-a-cab pick up truck with advertising all over it pulled up==the generous driver who offered us not only a ride, but a cold Pepsi, was a professional exterminator!!!!!

Our next transportation experience was yesterday when the snow closed the trail above 6,000 feet altitude.  Old Drum arranged a ride with a contract mail delivery man in the back of his van as he returned to town.  The fumes conbined with the curvy mountain road, slick conditions made me very car sick.  I have not puked since I was 25 (and that's another story) but I grabbed my camera bag in haste and filled it.  YUUUUUCCCCCKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!  It was awful.  Everyone yelled to the driver to stop the van and we all hopped out.  Everyone was queasy and I am sure my issues did not help them.  They put me in the front seat (it didn't relieve me much) and then David got sick.  He held his hand over his mouth and motioned to Yard Sale for help and Yard Sale handed him the only container he could put his hand on........the to-go box that held the lunch he had ordered at the restaurant just before we left. After Old Drum used it he said, "Do you want this back?"  So, they both lost their lunch!!!!  My mother was right.  Never take rides from strangers!
whispering pine
barbara and david curtis

Fri 5/23/2008 10:21 PM

It is Friday night.  Sunday of this week we moaned and groaned to you about the heat of the desert and the lack of water.  So we did our first night hike on Sunday.  Iwana Sherpa, Free, Easy Going (Free's husband) (we have partnered with them the last 200 miles.  They are 62 and 61 our age and are from Puyallup, WA), Flatbread (a 66 year old nurse from Boston.  The 5 of us comprise the Geriatric Hikers), and a young kid, Ricola (a 51 year old retired firefighter/emt).  We ran into a couple of rattlesnakes and cowboy camped on the trail.  Cowboy camping is just laying on the ground without a tent.  Who needs one in this heat and dry.  The next night we arrived in Wrightwood.  We took a zero the next day, ate like pigs, resupplied, bought me new shoes (which took care of the blister issue) and picked up our absentee ballots so that we could VOTE YES, on the Park and Recreation Sales Tax in Warrensburg, MO.  On Wednesday we headed back on the trail toward Baden-Powell Mountain.  This is the tallest mountain in Southern California.  It is still desert based on annual rainfall, but it is covered in Pine Trees.  This is good because trees mean shade.  However, one or more of you must have been praying for cooler weather because the temp dropped and the wind picked up.  About 2/3 the way to the top, we ran into snow still left over from the winter.  At times it was up to 5 feet deep and it covered so much area that we couldn't find the trail.  We had to bushwack our way to the top.  This area had either no or few trees and the sun had melted the snow.  The hike down the other side alternated clear trail and snow, but it was easier to follow.  We camped at 7500 feet and the wind howled and the temp plummeted.  When we awoke the next a.m. it was really cold.  We hiked on and soon it began to snow (YES snow in the desert in late May).  All day it was snow, sleet or hail, but we laughed and hiked on.  By days end, the sun was out and we arrived at a boy scout camp that was not in use.  We found it unlocked and joined to young hikers inside.  Ultimately, Old Drum, Iwana Sherpa, Ricola, Free, Easy Going, Weeble and Yard Sale settled in for the night.  In the middle of the night I awoke, looked out the window and saw a star filled sky.  At 5:30, we awoke to another hiker saying it was snowing again.  We fixed breakfast and hiked on.  It snowed some more.  We hit a road and caught a ride 1.5 miles to a restaurant on the mountain.  It snowed some more.  We finished breakfast.  It snowed some more.  We waited for it to let up.  It snowed some more.  Soon the snow plows drove by.  It snowed some more.  We began to try to figure out where to stay as the restaurant staff let us know we could not stay there.  We explored an abandoned cabin across the road.  It had no roof on two rooms and a leaky roof that looked to be falling down any minute.  The rumor of rattle snakes in it and the large bear foot prints a few feet outside caused us to not choose this option.  As we watched the busboy of the restaurant snowboard on the road down the mountain we talked about our options.  A deliveryman arrived.  I talked him into taking us 30 miles to the bottom of the mountain to a motel.  We rode in the back of the lonnng van, on a very curvy road as the driver pumped his brakes.  Two of us lost it.  Five of the seven felt woozy.  When we got to the motel, it was full.  We then went to the Sheriff's Department.  They let us stay in the lobby to get warm.  Flatbread had a cell phone signal and called 06 AT thru-hiker JohnnyK (Southpaw he says hello).  He arrived in a small RV with two 80 year old friends.  The ten of us took up every square inch of seat, bed and floor space.  We are back on the trail at Hiker Heaven about 50 miles from where we left off.  This is mile 454.  We'll need to go back and pick up the mileage later because we are hiking on from here.  This is the hottest part of the desert and the forcast is 75 for high for the next 4 days.  Eventually there was 8 inches of snow where we were and they have closed that section of trail temporarily.  We are alive.  Our stomachs are healing.  We appreciate your support.  Please don't pray for cooler weather.  Be specific.  We like 75 high, 50 low.  OD and IS

Sun 5/18/2008 12:03 PM
From Old Drum First.
A quick note.  We are still 2 days from Wrightwood, but have access to a computer for a few minutes in a Best Western lobby as we pass by I-15.
The desert just got HOT!  We had been 85-90 in the low desert 1000, 2000 and 3000 foot elevations.  It has been pleasant 60's and 70's in the high desert (6000, 7000 and 8000 foot elevations).  Three days ago a record (for this date) heat wave settled in.  Yesterday, one of the Geriatric Hikers had a thermometer that read 104 in the shade.  It was brutal in the sun.  Up and down all day.  We are going to have to change our style.  More early a.m. hiking with mid day long rest if you can find shade, and then evening hiking.  Yesterday we crowded 7 hikers on my Tyvec footprint for my tent 5' by 7' under a bush next to a tiny stream of water.  When we get to the hot desert (The Mohave) we may hike at night.  Only problem with night hikes is the increase of snakes out.  It is getting to be no big thing to encounter rattlesnakes even hiking in the day.
Our Friend Charley Blackmore has this trip on our class site if you missed any emails or would like to read the story about us from Copley Press by  Glenda Winders

Iwanna Sherpa

Someone is waiting for this computer so just let me say two things.  1) It is hot out here 2) I am dealing with it. Your prayers and messages appreciated and please keep them coming even if we are not able to respond to each and every one!  We love news from home.  bjc
whispering pine
barbara and david curtis

Tue 5/13/2008 4:09 PM
This note begins from Old Drum:

We are now in Big Bear City, CA.  Both of us are healthy and still hanging in there.  We have to at least hike another 100 miles to Wrightwood, CA so we can go to the Post Office and get our absentee ballots so that we can vote YES on the Warrensburg Park and Recreation Sales Tax issue.
Now to the hiking.  The ring toe on my right foot finally split open during the first week of hiking.  IS and I worked hard to heal it and still have me hike on.  The good news is that it has completely healed and all my blisters are now callouses.  I love my callouses.  Three days ago the transition hit me.  Hiking has now changed from the mode that makes every step a tough painful experience to one that just feels normal.  I feel good.  Iwanna Sherpa is not doing as well.  Her shoulders, back and legs are in pain.  Her feet are doing very well as far as blisters, but she does have that deep down pain in her feet.  I suspect she has several more weeks before she hits the state I am currently in.  It takes a while.  HOWEVER, she gives no indication of quiting.
Hiking on this trail is easier that the AT.  The grades are much less steep,  Most of the trail is relatively smooth.  It is the conditions that make things so much harder.  Temperatures swing so very much.  We are at 8000 feet these past three days.  Todays high is in the 60's.  This weekend we will be out of this mountain range and down to about 3000 feet and the temp will be over 100.  Most of the time we hike, we hike to water.  It is so scarce.   There are times that the distance from water hole to water hole is 13, 18, 27 or 30 miles.  However, magic and angels are out west just like back east.  One night we arrived at a water cache (40 one gallon jugs of water under the shade of scrub tree) just as Sam of the ADZPCTKO arrived.  Not only did we get badly needed water, he brought us Taco Bell burritos and fresh apples.  Yesterday, as we hiked in the mountains, we came around a curve and there burried in a snow bank was cans of Pepsi, 7-UP and Fresca.  Gifts from former PCT Thru-hikers.  On May 4 as our day was ending and so was our water, we hit a dirt road.  The instructions at that point said leave the trail and walk .3 miles down the road to the home of Mike Herrara.  He would give is water (not potable, but we could filter it).  When we got there, there were 20-30 other hikers, Mike and Spring Guy.  Mike was grilling ribs and chicken.  He also had a massive salad, black beans, tortillas and a mexican soup I cannot even remember the name of.  It was awesome.  He had beer galore and soft drinks for old folks like me.  What a treat!  As we hike, I often look down the trail and see a tall old man with long flowing white hair and a strange hat that goes up like a 10 gallon cowboy hat and bends down like a chinese cooley hat.  Sometimes he gives me a good word, sometimes a banana, mostly he tells me where the next water is.  I think he is a ghost or maybe a real angel or just a mirage.  IS tells me she sees and talks to him too.  So do all the other hikers.  He says he is just a mirage.  I prefer to believe his is a real angel.  I am running out of time.  It is IS turn.

from Iwanna Sherpa....and, I still do!
The deprivations seem to be getting easier to bear.  I have gotten more used to the dust and dryness.  It is almost impossible to consume enough liquid to stay hydrated and, unless we happen upon a creek, we do not use precious water to bathe!   For two days last week the trail kept us close to a creek so it was a joy to hear and touch water.  We also climbed 4,800 feet in one day on Mother's Day, though.  It was tough!  And, did I ever sleep well that night!

Today we are enjoying (restaurant food, furniture, shower, sheets, bed!) a zero in Big Bear City with three other hikers in our age demographic.  We have dubbed ourselves the Geriatric Hiking Squad.  We only know of three others over 60 who are "out here."  And, they are all ahead of us!

In Idlewild I weighed my pack with food, but no water.  It was 22 pounds.  Water weighs about eight pounds per gallon, so with water about thirty pounds is what I carry.  Sometimes it feels heavier.

We head out tomorrow for Wrightwood where we will pick up our absentee ballots for the June election in Warrensburg (VOTE "YES" on Parks and Recreation issue please) and a re-supply box.  Please pray for us as the weather channel predicts record heat.  Love ot all. I. S.
whispering pine
barbara and david curtis

Date: Sat, 3 May 2008 13:01:07 -0700
Subject: 109.6 miles from the trail

This first part is from Old Drum,
I want to be funny and cute here, but I'm too sore and too tired.  For my AT friends, the hiking part is easier for me.  I have done more miles in my first 7 days on this trail than I did in 2 weeks on the AT.  I've heard the challenges and the stories are accurate.  The heat has been mild for their standards out here, upper 80's to mid 90's in days.  Nights down to 40's.  One thing I was not ready for was the wind.  Two days ago it rivaled my descent from the Presidentials in NH when I had 45 sustained and 65 gusts.  It ripped the rain fly off our tent at night and I had to get out in the dark to fix things.  Not much sleep that night.  The next thing I was not prepared for was the dust.  The desert is so dusty.  I wear long hiking pants and from my toes past my knees I am black each night.  The next thing I did not expect was the flowers.  We must be hitting the desert just right.  There are flowers everywhere.  I was prepared for a rattlesnake and for horny toads.  The horny toads are endangered and we have seen 3.  On our 2nd day we met one angry rattler.  He didn't phase Iwanna Sherpa one bit.  She even went back to take a closer look from a few feet away.  The final surprise is that we will be rerouted in the next few miles for a fire in the moutains ahead.  Most years fires do reroute hikers.  In spite of Mom and Windtalkers special powder, my feet were hamburger after the first day, 20.6 miles.  Most blisters are now calluses.  One toe has no skin, but looks better today (our first zero day, Warner Springs, CA).  Lots of hikers waiting for the computer. Blessing to all, Old Drum

Now from Iwanna Sherpa

Well, the first thing I'll say is that the desert is a hard and prickly place.  Everything about this endeavor is hard.  Basically, we hike from watering hole to watering hole.  The trail angels have been awesome and a very great help by filling water caches in strategic places.  But, before I left home I knew there would be obstacles so I am not complaining....even though I really do Wanna Sherpa!!!  (Hint: one does not even need a green card to apply ....several hikers have encountered what they believe to be illegals sneaking across the border and I figure they come into the US seeking work........)  And, I still miss my wheels, but I do NOT miss the traffic threat and noise.  The quiet, the vistas, and the beauty of the spring flowers make it all worthwhile.  Nature report:  I have seen at least 22 types of flowers in bloom.   Each day there are different ones, probably due to altitude changes (we've hiked to  6,000 feet)  and always several purple ones (remembering what Shug Avery said in Alice Q\Walker's The Color Purple).  Some I recognize from my own garden (like moon flower) and some are completely new.  There is a 6" white one that resembles baby's breath.  It is everywhere and mixed in are purple violets and small yellow ones that look a bit like buttercups.  In some places this mixture covers an entire mountainside.  Breathtaking!  And the cactus flowers are lovely. too.  I know why Georgia O"Keffe moved to the desert!  Birds:  I swear I heard a towhee calling but did not see it.  We had a huge vulture pose for a picture.  There are jays and finches.  I so wish I could carry a bird ID book, but the weight!  The pack is heavy with just enough food and water!  The silence and stars are amazing.  We have camped alone a couple of times just off the trail in a little flat spot.

The deprivations and discomforts:  I miss all things plumbing and furniture, I have never encountered dust to this degree.  I haven't had toe jam since I was a little kid!!!  The wind is sometimes gusting to 40 mph.  My straw hat brim now sports duct tape where the wind tore it.  It is OK, though, as the duct tape touch goes well with the rest of my ensemble!

My love and best wishes to you all.  Iwanna Sherpa.

Date: Tue, 22 Apr 2008 07:21:47 -0800

Subject: It's getting close

This morning begins day 3 in San Diego with our friend Glenda.  Sunday she took to Torry Pines State Park.  We hiked a little, went to the beach, walked in the sand.  The flowers were beautiful.  The views were awesome.  Her home is wonderful.  So calm, fantastic flower garden in her back yard.  You look out her back window at a canyon that is covered in lush green.  It is part of another state park I think.  It has trails through it.  Maybe we'll get to walk them.  I don't know.  Today she is taking us to the San Diego Zoo.  That is a place I have always wanted to see.  In fact this is so nice, she may have trouble getting us to leave on the hike.  Yesterday was spent packing and organizing.  We argued about my one item for three plan (BJ thinks I won't like the fit).  I have a new poncho that replaces my pack rain cover, my rain jacket and our ground cloth.  I loose about a pound that way.  We cut unused pouches and extra length of straps off my pack.  All shopping for food to put in mail drops is done.  BJ has made 52 dinners for us from things she dehydrated this winter.  Most trail breakfasts for us are oatmeal with raisans, brown sugar and powdered milk.  There are some variations on the fruit and occasionally there is a granola instead of the oatmeal.  After playing with Glenda today, she goes back to work on Wednesday while we finalize packing and boxing up mail drops.  Thursday we mail boxes and Glenda takes us to the spot 21 miles from the start of the hike.  This is Lake Morena.  There we will be reunited with several hikers from 2006AT and meet many PCT 2008 hikers, PCT alums, groupies, ADZPCTKO staff and others.  Mapman and Robin will meet us there on Thursday night.  We will camp together for the weekend.  On Friday, the ADZPCTKO people will drive us to the border at Campo where we will begin our hike with a slackpack (pack has only snacks, lunch and water).  Bama and Little Wing does that sound good.  We will hike 21 miles to where our tent waits.  Saturday there are all sorts of activities.  You can google ADZPCTKO.  Choose 2008 and you can see what happens there.  After they feed us breakfast on Sunday, over 100 of us will start walking north.  A few who haven't started yet will be taken to the border.  The rest will catch rides to where they left off hiking.  Some, like 2006AT hiker Jellybean began last week, and is hitching back to the Kick Off.  I am anxious to finally meet her.  I never met her on the AT.  We have corresponded via email this winter and spring.  For those who thought my emails were entertaining, she is really a gifted as a writer.  She is hilarious.
    Now for the real plan.  I don't know if we are going all the way.  We'll make up our minds on August 1.  We won't quit until it is October 1, one of us brakes a leg, or we reach Manning Park in Canada.  Each day we just get up and hike north, no real goals for the day.  We will do what we feel we can.  At least for the first few weeks, we will stop, take off the packs and rest for 5 minutes each hour (later those break gaps will probably lengthen as we get stronger).  Close to once a week, we will take a day off and not hike.  When the temperatures get really hot, we'll stop, make some shade and rest a few hours between Noon and 4.  We'll cook dinner during that time.  We'll hike until just about bed time, camp and do it all over again the next day.  If we don't make it to Canada, that is not important to me at this time.  I cannot speak about I.S.  She will have her own dreams.  I just don't want to quit.  Oh, add a family emergency to what can get us off the trail for a while.  I am calmly excited now.  I'm a little scared, but not close to how scared I was before the AT.  I'm looking forward to eating tastier and healthier on this hike (I.S. has some things dehydrated that smell wonderful).  Jellybean tells me she has been very cold at night.  So far the days are pleasant.  She reports a rattlesnake and a horny toad right away on the trail.  I look forward to that.  She also reports special beauty and awesome flowers.  I think this will be my last report until we have been out there about a week or two or until we can send an email.
   Oh, about that I.S.  BJ has a new name.  My AT friends were expecting something soon on this.  If you did not follow me on the AT, it is hiker tradition to have a different name on the trail.  I took Old Drum with me from my home town.  He resides on our courthouse lawn.  You can google him if you are curious.  I chose that name because it represents my home town, Warrensburg, MO, I performed in play about the Old Drum Trial (if you switch the vowels it makes trail), and it has the word "old" which for a long distance hiker, I am.  Now, back to BJ.  When we did our "shake down" hike with Mapman and Robin on the Ozark Trail, BJ moaned and groaned that this hiking wouldn't be so bad if she didn't have to carry that heavy pack.  Many, many times she expressed the same need.  Mapman took me aside and said he was naming her (if you don't bring your own name like I did, another hiker will name you).  Let me introduce you to making hiking partner, Iwanna Sherpa.
  Take care, our love to you, I will take prayer requests again.  I already have a few myself and I have been given several others.  I'll have a lot of time to walk and talk.
Old Drum and Iwanna Sherpa

Subject: Special date
Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2008 22:10:17 -0500

Two years ago today, Little Wing, Flat Rocks, Lone Star, K'ache, Pi, somebody from Indiana named Dennis and I spent the night together at Stover Creek Shelter, the first shelter on the AT.  Thinking about it brings back such memories of being scared, being excited and wondering how far could I really make it.  One month from today, BJ and I will be on an airplane (tickets are in hand) heading for San Diego and the start of the adventure that the PCT will bring.  How do we feel?  Well we're both scared, we're excited and we wonder how far can we really go.  Maybe that is a good sign.  The TV room is still wall to wall gear.  We have sorted our stuff out.  BJ has a base pack weight of 12 pounds.  That is what she will carry most of the way.  To that she will add her food and water.  For a while the bear can and the ice axe will also be added.  My base weight is 20 pounds.  Typically we will carry 2 pounds of food per day between resupplies and 8 to 12 pounds of water.  Oh my!  BJ has made her second Pepsi Can stove (you can google it).  This one works better than the first.  My latest prize arrived today.  It is my 1 1/3 qt titanium pot.  It weighs just a few ounces.  This week we are walking the streets of Warrensburg for 8 miles per day carrying 20 and 35 pounds.  BJ has some deep muscle soreness.  I have feet with too many blisters to count.  Some are larger than a silver dollar.  We are getting ready.  Today we spent a good 40 minutes on the phone talking with Leslie Brown.  She graduated from the recreation program at Mizzou last spring and headed to the PCT.  She and her hiking partner did the trail all the way hiking from May 1 to September 15.  She answered lots of questions and offered lots of encouragement.  For her, the hard part of the trail was the first 700 miles of the desert and the heat (sorry Jan, no extra s in it for us this time).  We talked about the heat on her feet and almost unbearable mosquitos.  I'm told it is like New Jersey was for us AT hikers only this will last for a month or more.  Yuck!  She talked glowingly of the constant awesome views.  No green tunnel on this hike.  Most of the time one hikes with a 360 view.  Just 10 days until our tune-up hike on the Ozark Trail with Mapman and Robin.  Old Drum and BJ

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This story was written for Copley News Service by my friend Glenda Winders.  bjc

PLANNING AHEAD - David Curtis checks his wife Barbara's backpack prior to their leaving for a five-month trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. CNS Photo by Glenda Winders. 
SUPPLY CHAIN - Barbara Curtis addresses the boxes of food and supplies that a friend will mail to her and her husband as they hike the Pacific Crest Trail. CNS Photo by Glenda Winders. 
A GOOD START - At the kickoff event for Pacific Crest Trail hikers, David Curtis sets up the tent that will be home to him and his wife Barbara for the next five months. CNS Photo by Glenda Winders.

It might not be headline news that Barbara and David Curtis are traveling from Mexico to Canada this year on vacation, but the story gets more interesting when you realize that they're walking the 2,700 miles. And what really makes their situation unusual is that this isn't the first time either of them has set off on such an adventure.
In 1999, Barbara bicycled from Virginia to Oregon, in 2004 she rode with a friend from Florida to California, and in 2007 she and David made their first long-haul cycling trip together, traveling from Washington state to Maine. In 2006 David hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. A few weeks ago they began walking the Pacific Crest Trail.
All of which begs the question: Why? 
Barbara, 61, says her love of bicycling dates to early childhood.
"Since the time I was 7 and very first did a solo on a two-wheeler I recognized the freedom," she said. "I loved to have the wind in my face, and I also realized I could get on my bike and ride away from the dinner dishes and other things my family expected me to do."
David's passion for walking came more recently. After serving in the Vietnam War, he said he never wanted to camp or backpack again. But he changed his mind a couple of years ago.
"I was in transition in my life in a lot of ways," he said. "As I began to approach retirement, my health was cruddy and I was grossly obese. I also realized I was going to have lots of time with this other person whom I perceived to be an adventuresome soul, and I thought I should be a little bit more like her so we could enjoy our time together. Somewhere along the way I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail."
David, who will turn 63 before he finishes the PCT in October, also had another motive.
"I had become estranged from God and was very angry," he said. "I knew the walk would give me plenty of time for prayer as well as being good for me physically."
Despite several injuries and contracting Lyme disease along the way, he emerged in the best physical shape of his adult life. When Barbara joined him to hike part of the trail, he asked her if they could do a bicycling trip together. After that, David started making plans to hike the PCT. At first Barbara didn't plan to go.
"It doesn't make sense to me to put 40 pounds on my back since the wheel has been invented," she said. "I've made jokes about backpackers being dumber than cave-men because cave-men invented the wheel."
As David's departure approached, she changed her mind.
"Real life is one step outside your comfort zone," she said. She also worried that David would be injured or even die alone on the trail. And she had caught his enthusiasm for the idea. She was also inspired by reading "The Art of the Pilgrimage" by Phil Cousineau and "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway" by Susan Jeffers.
"It's very life-giving once you get engulfed in the planning stages," she said. "And I love the audaciousness of it - the very idea that middle-aged people would just walk away from their phone and their responsibilities and say 'I'll be gone for five months. See you later.'"
Once the decision was made, the training and planning consumed their lives. They swam and walked, eventually adding backpacks and later filling them. Then they did a five-day shakedown backpacking trip through the Ozarks near their Missouri home.
The logistics involved in planning for food, water, shelter and clothing for five months were daunting. When they left on the PCT, David carried a 40-pound pack and Barbara's weighed 25 pounds. They left several boxes packed with essentials such as dried food, medications and the warmer clothing they'll need in the mountains with a friend in San Diego to mail to them along the way.
"This is an exercise in recognizing what is truly essential," Barbara said.
While some hikers eschew all creature comforts on the trail, the Curtises plan occasional stops at hotels and restaurants to enjoy a bath, do laundry and eat a hot meal.
"I most worry about the physical discomfort of being dirty," Barbara said.
For the next five months they will wear the same basic clothes and only take baths when it's opportune. Their toiletries will consist mainly of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and cornstarch.
The custom among serious hikers is to adopt a trail name. Before he left for the AT, David selected "Old Drum."
"At age 60 I was in the highest demographic of hikers," he said. "So 'old' is part of who I am."
A statue of Old Drum - immortalized by George Graham Vest as man's best friend in his famous "Tribute to a Dog" speech - stands outside the historic Warrensburg courthouse just blocks from the Curtises home. David once had a role in a play about the events surrounding that speech.
For obvious reasons, Barbara chose "Iwanna Sherpa."
The couple both say they have fears about being on the trail. They'll be exposed to rattlesnakes, bears and mountain lions, and they expect situations neither has faced before - like using an ice ax to secure themselves if they slip on ice, or fording streams swelled by Sierra snowmelt.
What they are leaving behind also haunts them. For five months they will have precious little contact with their four grandchildren, one of them an infant, or Barbara's 91-year-old mother. Their family and friends are tracking them with a global positioning device their children insisted they take along (which they laughingly call a "crib monitor"). They're also carrying a cell phone for emergencies, but it will often be out of the range of service.
"We could die out there," Barbara said. "We have to have that attitude. But I can sit on the sofa and lightning can strike the house or a plane can fall on it or a meteor. Do I want to die sitting in a recliner or do I want to die attempting an adventure? I pick the adventure."
They say their excitement for what they'll experience far outweighs their anxieties.
"We'll see some awesome views," David said. "We'll see places most people don't ever get to see because they'd have to walk to get there."
He has a good idea about what to expect based on his AT experience.
"There was always a different adventure coming up," he said. "One day might be a boring walk, but the next I'd get lost or see a rattlesnake or a bear or there might be trail magic."
Trail magic is what hikers call the serendipitous occurrences that punctuate their trips. Often it is delivered by "trail angels," hikers or locals who offer help and encouragement just when it is needed.
David looks forward to the people they'll meet.
"It's a diverse group of people who do this hike, and the common thread among many of them is transition," he said. "I've met doctors, truck drivers, prison guards, college professors - people I probably would never socialize with in my real life - and I get to know them and accept them as they are."
And they both expect to learn a lot about themselves and life in general. When David finished the AT, he had made a list of 64 things he'd learned along the way, among them "pain is my friend," "God loves me," and his wife's personal favorite, "listen to Barbara."
"I'll be a completely different person when I get there," Barbara said. "It won't be easy and it won't be fun, but it will be joyful. I may not like doing it, but I will love having done it."
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