Paul Nussbaum’s Autism Awareness Expedition
BY Paul Nussbaum, JUNE – AUGUST 2018
After starting this expedition 9 days ago in Tehachapi, CA and 64 miles of trekking north on the PCT I have had many reflections of my past with varying emotions that come and go. Right now I am realizing that I cannot make the 20 miles a day with the heavy water carries and the intense heat. I am now averaging less than 10 miles a day. I am fairly sure that I will be able to up my mileage later on in the expedition as I acclimate to trail conditions, my endurance increases and I figure out exactly what I need to carry to keep my pack as light as possible. Also, making sure that I have enough water in this desert environment with the intense heat, is essential — otherwise you would die of thirst.
I have had no communication with the outside world since I started the expedition 9 days ago. I am more worried about them than myself. With all this said, I will be delayed a few days getting to Kennedy Meadows. I very much want to make contact with my friends and supporters who give me much inspiration and thinking of them helps keep me going in the challenging portions of the expedition.
I am still a little tired, but much more rested and able to do the trek to Kennedy Meadows. It should take me about 3 or 4 days. This next portion is going to be similar to the last one I hiked. It is 50 miles total from Walker Pass to Kennedy Meadows. Kennedy Meadows is my next stop. I forgot to mention, I was really happy to hear from everyone supporting me and to make contact. That really lifted my spirits.
The day after I left Walker Pass after a two-day break from the trail — I trekked about 5 miles yesterday. I felt much better and was able to trek more consistently at a faster speed. So far on this section, north of Walker Pass, the weather has not been hot but mild. I believe now there is a chance to up my mileage.
Reflections — I think one of the major reasons I undertook this journey is to raise awareness about autism issues — as an autism advocacy project. My own life — the many many years (half a lifetime) of social disconnect and the intense struggle of trying to find a niche for myself in the world, and the many (w/ASD) others who are struggling with the same thing or worse… That is what keeps me going through the desert heat — knowing there is a strong purpose in what I am doing.
7/4/2018, Independence Day
I have been at Kennedy Meadows for almost three days recuperating and getting ready for the long trek northward through the Southern Sierra in some very remote and rugged areas. The high Southern Sierra is going to be challenging with its rugged topography and long distance to the next resupply. Fortunately, I have knowledge of the area and experience with the obstacles I may encounter, which will be very helpful. i.e. snow and stream crossings, lightning storms and other hazards, high altitude as well, also hypothermia potential. It’s amazing how appreciative I have become of the simple things we take for granted at home, such as having enough food to eat and water to drink — when it is not so readily available here.
Things didn’t go according to plan. The trek was very rugged and the first 50 miles were hot and dry as well. I had to carry lots of water in addition to the nearly two week supply of food — thus a heavier pack and the ability to do mileage was compromised. Even with the supposedly two weeks of food, I packed it wasn’t enough on a day by day basis. I was finding myself trying to stretch what I had in order to be able to go straight through to Mammoth from Kennedy Meadows (203 miles). The trek took me northward from Kennedy Meadows through the transition zone of hot dry desert to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Southern Sierra Wilderness, Golden Trout Wilderness, Sequoia and finally to Kings Canyon National Park.
During my last trek, I climbed over several passes, one of which was over 13,000 ft, called Forester Pass. Generally speaking, the terrain has been very rugged for the last 50 miles or so of the journey. There have also been stream crossings as well on the last trek. These can be dangerous if not done carefully. Fortunately, it has been a dry year and most of the streams are low.
The people and other hikers that I met along the trek have been friendly and helpful, even to the point of giving me water on a dry stretch when I ran out.
Reflections — This expedition has been a major growing experience for me, not just in how I relate to myself and react to my own thoughts, but also in how I present myself and relate to the world. I may be behind in social development because of my ASD issues, but I am moving forward and catching up, even at my age of 61. I am also moving beyond my past and not letting it define me anymore. I am in a life transition right now and am realizing that things do change in this life with the passage of time.
I did arrive at Red’s Meadow four days after leaving Vermillion Valley Resort. Red’s Meadow is the gateway to Mammoth, where I would rest and resupply for two days, getting ready for the next leg of the journey from Red’s Meadow to Lake Tahoe, 183 miles away. If all goes well, I should be there (Lake Tahoe) by the end of August.
There is another complication in that there are fires raging near a segment of the trail that I would be passing through from Sonora Pass (Hwy 108 crossing) to Ebbetts Pass (Hwy 4 crossing) which is now closed. I have to come up with an alternate route and itinerary to bypass this section unless it reopens in the next few days miraculously.
My plan at this point is to continue my trek Northward on the PCT from Reds Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows on Hwy 120 in Yosemite and re-evaluate the situation then. It should take me about 3 days to get there. Hopefully, that section of PCT will be open by the time I get near it. I am keeping my options open at this point.