Day 1: Campo to Hauser Creek

Miles: 15.4

Cries: 2

Snakes: 0 (1?)
Woke up at 330am and laid in bed feeling surges of adrenaline about starting today. I cried a little thinking about how much I wish my mom were able to be there to send me off, that I would so love one of her hugs. Got up, got dressed, got breakfast. Mark and I were quiet in the car. In a way I don’t think there’s much either of us can say. I’m going. It’s going to be hard. 

Started this morning at around 615. I both didn’t want to stop hugging Mark and my dad goodbye, and I was also desperate to leave. One last hug. And off I went.


The first five or so miles flew by. I was feeling strong and motivated. I chatted with several people. Cathleen. Tommy. Alpo. From the Pacific Northwest. Robert, from Redding. Mike, who was section hiking. Rhino, who has thru-hiked the AT. Jelke from Belgium. Bruce. Amelia. More passed whose names I didn’t catch. I saw a man and a woman both wheeling their backpacks up the mountains on a unicycle-type device. They had dogs. I stopped several times to tend to my feet. By 9am it was warm. There were several streams in the typically dry section. I dunked my shirt, my bandana in the water. I pulled out my umbrella.
I hiked with Mike and he told me about some of his trips to the Sierra, the upcoming terrain. In the heat of the day I started to stop more often. I was chatty. I had to cool off. I stopped and let my body temperature lower. But eventually I stopped and rested for long and invited people to join my “shade party.” From there I hiked with Jelke, whose water filter wasn’t working so I let her borrow mine. 

I got slower and slower – the heat had lifted, but blisters were forming on my pinky toes despite trying three different methods to prevent them, and on top of that I realized I hadn’t done a good job at bringing in calories in the heat. I stopped and ate chocolate hazelnut butter and fig newton type cookies and eventually cooked myself some ramen right on the trail. I am glad to be alone in moments I’m struggling like that. I don’t want to be motivated or encouraged. I want to figure out what I need and then figure out if it’s possible to give it to myself. In that case, it was ramen. So I did.


Still, even after I was no longer bonking, the last miles dragged. At one point I’m pretty sure I heard a rattlesnake but it buzzed several feet after I’d passed it, which was strange. Several reports of snakes on the trail today, but I didn’t see one (I’m happy to keep it that way.) 

My blisters were tender and my spirits were a little low. I’d started the day impressed with my speed and ended the day one of the last people to arrive to Hauser Creek.

At Hauser everyone had already set up tents. There are probably fifteen tents down here. People were sitting in groups and laughing and I felt lonely. Like joining a new school where everyone seems to have all the friends they want. But of course that’s not real. That’s just my brain taking itself in circles. 

Not to mention, once I set up camp I realized I really didn’t want to socialize. I wanted quiet time to myself as I’d run my extroversion to empty earlier, and I had camp chores to do. I filtered water and dug a cathole (it is strange to find a place to poop when there are so many people all in one place) (it was also hard to find a place to pee all day – the space beyond the trail is thick with plants and there were people passing every few minutes.)

What we are doing out here is strange. A singular activity and a group one. Allegiances we abandon regularly. Walking because we can. Going somewhere but far, far away. If I’m honest I’m not thinking about where we’re going. I’m not thinking about how many days it will take or miles there are. I think: I’m gonna go on a 15 mile backpacking trip today. I feel like if I really imagined the scope of what I was doing I wouldn’t be able to go any further.

I’ve touched several things today that might have been poison oak. We’ll find out. 

I’m Hiking the PCT! 12 Things to Know About Me

1. I’m 25. I live in Arizona. I’ve been working as an editor but quit my job to do the PCT.

2. I did not grow up hiking. I went on a handful of hikes and camping trips as a kid. I found hiking arduous and not fun. I’ve been fishing once and managed to hook a fish through its eyeball. That ended it for me. For most of my life I didn’t see the appeal of nature.

3. I’ve been hiking and backpacking for 2 years. I’ve been on a hundred or so hikes, mostly by myself, and 12 backpacking trips total. Two of those backpacking trips were solo.

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4. The longest mileage I’ve done on a backpacking trip is 16 miles.

5. I’ve never seen a rattlesnake, a bear or a mountain lion. I’ve seen two nonvenomous snakes, massive muddy bear prints and heard a bobcat. (They don’t sound like what you think they sound like.)

6. I’ve only ever briefly walked on snow in the Rockies and Chiricahuas. I’ve never used an ice axe or micro spikes. This is one of the highest snow years for the PCT on record. I will have to learn quickly.

7. I am afraid of basically everything. Hiking has, in many ways, been a practice for me of putting my fears in context.

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8. For example, I am afraid of heights. I have spent most of my life avoiding panic-inducing heights because my body tends to freeze. This year I have been actively putting myself in scary, high, scrambling/climbing situations to try to learn my way past it. It’s been working pretty well.

9. I hate bridges and walking on logs.

10. I have wide feet and tried on and tested about 20 pairs of shoes (yes, including Altras) trying to find one that would work for the PCT. I ended up with a pair of Inov8s. We’ll see how that goes.

11. I’ve been married for eight years. My husband is staying home and I’m hiking the trail solo. It’s the first time both of us will be alone.

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12. My biggest fear for the trail is that I’ll let myself get too afraid of the idea of something and I’ll quit. It’s also part of why I’m going out there. I want to show myself that my fears don’t have to steer the ship.

How I cured* my anxiety

I’m pretty sure I’ve had a mild form of anxiety for a decade, but it was only in the last two years that I figured out what it was. For me, anxiety felt like I couldn’t breathe. Sometimes it felt like my chest was compressed. Other times it felt like there was pure adrenaline running through my veins (especially after a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea which explains SO MUCH to me about high school.)

I imagine I had other symptoms, too — racing thoughts, disproportionate worry — but at the time, they just felt like me. My brain was always going 100 miles an hour. I was always planning for the worst-case scenario. But that is just me, man. That is just who I am.

Once I realized parts of this feeling were anxiety it took me a year, and my mother dying, before I saw a doctor.

“It sounds like you’re having mild panic attacks,” my doctor said when I described not being able to get a deep breath for days at a time. I was constantly yawning, like a bored insomniac, trying to take an inhale that would quiet the alarm in my body.

So began the attempts to get rid of my anxiety. I turned to the internet. I read about herbal options, exercise, brain tricks, breathing techniques, anything I could find. I wanted an instant fix so I could focus on the world in front of me, something akin to the Xanax my doctor had offered to prescribe.

“I don’t feel like I have a chemical problem,” I remember telling a friend. “I feel like my life is the problem. My life is giving me anxiety. And I need to figure out why.”

Here, ultimately, is what ended up helping my anxiety.

1. Quitting drinking

I still drink occasionally, but alcohol, at the time, was how I was coping with the anxiety (among other things.) I’d get home from work and feel desperate to turn off my brain and have a glass of wine. And another. And maybe another. But what alcohol was really doing was preventing me from seeing — let alone fixing — everything I was trying to avoid.

2. Quitting caffeine

On a perfectly relaxed, blissful day, I could probably have a cup of coffee. But in my every day life, there were too many stressors that, when combined with caffeine, meant I was much more likely to end up feeling breathless (and not in the chipper The Corrs way.)

3. Yoga

When people said “yoga is good for anxiety,” I thought they meant it’s the physical exercise that is helpful. And it was for about the first five classes. After that, the super-zen state I found myself in afterward disappeared, which was very, very disappointing.

Instead, yoga became helpful because it I was able to put my body into stress under my own control. Yes, Warrior II sent my thoughts racing, my body desperate to stop, but my yoga teacher encouraged us each class to watch the thoughts, to feel the sensations instead of get wrapped up in them. (Me: “The thought says THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE CAN WE STOP NOW?”)

This was a whole new way of looking at feelings I didn’t like. Instead of stress being a thing I tried to control or end, it became a thing to observe.

4. Feeling feelings

If you’re the kind of person who cries at weddings and/or when you’re happy and/or when you’re sad and/or when you see puppy videos, you might not relate to this. But I had gotten really good at not having feelings. I mean, some part of me knew they were there — when my yoga teacher asked what I thought was causing my panic attacks, I told her “I think I’ve buried all of my feelings and the only one that is managing to get out is anxiety?” — but I had gotten very adept at talking myself out of them.

Angry? “Oh, I’m sure they meant well, I bet they were trying to do X, even though it came out like Y, and don’t they deserve a break, and…” or: “You have a RIGHT to be angry because of X, Y, Z, but you must stop FEELING angry so we can get to the real work and come up with a logical strategy to MAKE THEM PAY.”

Sad? “Yes, yes, being sad is a thing, and whatever, you can be sad. But you won’t be sad later, so why bother being sad now? You have stuff to get done.”

Joy? “Don’t get used to this. It’s going to go away soon and you’re going to be sorry.”

The second therapist I went to told me it was important to acknowledge my feelings. “Right, but how do I do that?” I asked her.

“You just… sit with them,” she told me. Which was about as helpful as you can imagine.

She was right, but the problem was I’d managed to place a huge wall between me and my body. I couldn’t feel the physical sensations of feelings. With some help from my yoga teacher, I was able to get back in my body and figure out what feelings felt like again, and once I was able to feel them, I was able to sit with them. Now when I have feelings, I do my best to feel them, to pay attention to them, and maybe even to send them a little love. Which is exactly as hippie-dippie as it sounds, but it also works. At my best, I don’t try to get rid of them. I don’t tell them to hurry up. I don’t ask them to create a lawyer’s case for why the deserve to exist. (“Sadness, please explain to the court why the occurrence on March 3rd has given you the right to take up ALL of our time this beautiful morning?”)

Instead I think: Oh, hey. I see you. (Sometimes I place my hand on my chest.) Life’s rough. I love you. Stick around as long as you need.

At my worst, I think, FUCKING FEELINGS! THE FUCK ARE THESE FOR? I HAVE SHIT TO DO!

5. Starting the day with myself, not work

In practice, this means sometimes I scroll through my phone, but then I always roll out of bed and go meditate. Lately I’ve been lighting candles, pulling a tarot card, sometimes beginning or ending my meditation with a Tibetan singing bowl. (It has gotten really woo-woo over in my world, but I do what works for me.)

Often my brain races the whole time, or only briefly settles down, but it still feels better than jumping out of bed and immediately getting ready for work. When I meditate in the morning, I move a little slower the rest of the day. That might sound like a bad thing, but if you have ever seen me power-walk through a grocery store, you’ll be happy to know I have been shoulder-checking fewer elderly people.

6. Hiking

If I’m really feeling anxiety coming on and all the self-care in the world isn’t working, or I’m unable to take care of myself in the way I’d like to, hiking is a great (temporary) fix. It’s cardio and it’s nature, which are about as fundamental to self-care as anything. BUT, if I run from my feelings too many times, they will catch up with me even in the heart of the Superstitions, even if I went off-trail, turned off my GPS and hid inside a saguaro. The hiking only works if I’m doing the other things. It only makes physical sensation of anxiety calm temporarily. (Although if I could run away and spend all day hiking in the wilderness, I’m pretty sure my anxiety would find a way to chill out.)

7. Meditating/journaling

The meditating is a daily invitation to have a billion thoughts per a second, but a chance to realize I don’t have to believe them, or follow them on the hellish spiral they’re going on. They can just exist, and I can sit back and let them exist, like when someone else’s kid is pulling all of the books off the bookshelf and I know it’s not my place to discipline them or clean up after them. I just get to watch the absolute chaos they’re creating. (I still spiral sometimes. But now I do it knowing I am spiraling, and later I learn a big, important lesson about how I got myself into a spiral. And promptly forget the lesson again. Isn’t this fun!?)

I have also been using meditation as a time to wake my feelings up in the morning. Sometimes they get really cozy and they don’t want to come out for the day. But the thing is, I NEED them. They’re how I figure out what’s good for me and bad for me while my brain is too busy weighing pros and cons. When I meditate, I sit and pay attention to my chest and upper abdomen. And I imagine snapping my fingers and a pilot light lighting. And somehow that makes my emotions go: Oh, right. Jesus, fine, we’re getting up now.

Journaling is so I can put down the feelings (UGH) that I’m having, which sometimes I don’t understand until I start trying to put words around them.

8. Being honest/telling other people how I’m feeling/setting up boundaries

This is the worst part of the whole thing (and probably the reason I was so averse to having feelings in the first place) and the thing I struggle with the most. Learn all about myself? Fine! Embrace feelings? If I must! Change my behaviors into a person 16-year-old-me would have scoffed at? Whatever! She was kind of an asshole anyway!

But tell a person** that I don’t actually want to do the thing they want to do even though it would be super nice of me if I did?

Or tell someone** that I’m upset about something and I’m not sure how they can fix it, or if it’s even their job? (Uhhhh… Can’t I just wait until the feeling expires? Like a very sweet, well-meaning puppy that you don’t feed and then it dies?)

Or telling them that I can tell that they’re not really present*** in the moment and I would rather wait until they’re energetically*** available while trying to not sound patronizing?

Because here’s the thing… I have spent my whole life thinking that the way you get people to like you is to 1) change yourself into what they like and 2) become irreplaceably useful. If I am “too loud” for a person, that’s not a cue that we’re not destined to be best friends — it just means I need to be quieter! If a friend (or wannabe friend) is having an issue? Give me 30 minutes and I will have solved it for you as well as picked up your favorite drink at Starbucks!

I want people to like me. Being honest/telling people how I’m actually feeling/setting up boundaries sounds like a terrible recipe to do that. But you know what causes a massive amount of anxiety? Not being who I actually am. It’s exhausting. Constantly doing what I think other people want from me, rather than what I actually want to do, is soul-sucking. I know this, because it’s what I was doing when I couldn’t breathe for five days in a row.

(Cheryl Strayed who is, in my mind, a demi-god, said in her podcast: “Being yourself allows the right people to love you more.” This made me LITERALLY cry (feelings!) so I am working on believing her.)

If this sounds like a shit ton of work, well, it is. I’m spending 1.5-2.5 hours every day on what one might call ‘self care’ — meditating, yoga, journaling. And it’s susceptible to failure. When I got the flu a month ago, I could feel the anxiety crawling it’s way toward me because many of my techniques weren’t available to me with a delirious fever. The second I could move, I went on a hike. Hiking with the flu is the worst. But it calmed the anxiety until I could get back to my regularly scheduled programming.

It also means there is less time for other things — TV, cooking, social media, reading, telling everyone how to live their life…

I would really like to say I’d found a pill, or a two minute practice, or a mantra that made my anxiety go away. That is a story I would much rather be telling you, because it would be easier, and I wouldn’t have outed myself as a meditating, yoga-ing, bowl-playing hippie. Instead, what is working for me is: I am making an entirely different life.

But I like this life much better****.

(*anxiety is a feeling you can’t cure it also I write clicky headlines for a living please don’t sue me)
(**my husband)
(***WHO AM I)
(****ask me again tomorrow)

This is the only ‘cool’ yoga pose I can do

I’ve been practicing yoga regularly (3x and more a week) for six months, but this is the only cool yoga pose I can do*.

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I am grateful for that.

I’ve tried yoga a million times. I’ve managed to go regularly for a couple of weeks at a time. Each time I went to yoga, I was going because it was exercise. Because me and my body were at war with each other, and I was ready to fight it into submission. I went to yoga when I was thin, determined not only to control what I was eating, but also how I was moving.

I went to yoga when I gained weight, determined to shrink myself back into a size I could comfortably present to the world. (I gained more weight.) I liked the idea of having stamina other people didn’t have, of twisting my body into shapes that took other people’s breath away. They also took my breath away, because I had no idea how to breathe.

Unlike the other times I tried yoga, six months ago I joined a studio because I was desperate for a solution to my anxiety.

(I still have anxiety.)

The first few classes were so physically challenging that I left them feeling zen-like, completely physically spent, all of my excess energy gone. That was blissful and wonderful.

After a few classes, my body was already ready for the challenge. I stopped huffing and puffing and started slowing down my breath. I was finally learning how to breathe. Instead of the challenge being getting into a pose, the challenge became staying there and not freaking myself out. The challenge became being there, in my body, with all of the physical sensations that came with it.

(Kind of like anxiety.)

That, if I’m honest, is way less blissful. But it’s the best thing that yoga has given me. To be uncomfortable, to be in discomfort, and to feel it anyway — rather than to immediately try to shut it down. To know that discomfort is not the same as pain. To know that I am capable of feeling all kinds of things and still be OK.

It’s also why I don’t know — and haven’t really attempted — many cool poses.

Because the focus is on me, in me, on how I’m feeling rather than how I look. I’m still learning in the basic poses. I’m still learning something every time I go through a chatturanga, even as they become (slightly) more reliable.

I’m finally reaching a point where trying more intermediate poses sounds like a fun way to explore my own edge rather than something I’m determined to master for external approval. Cue many incomplete attempts at inversions. Kind of like my attempt at grasshopper:

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(Here’s what it actually looks like.)

But I also wanted to put a little blip out into the world, in case you’re a yogi and wondering if you’re alone in not practicing handstands. The basic, fundamental poses are beautiful. They are teaching me so much. Even if they aren’t as exciting on Instagram.

*For like 2 seconds. Nobody’s saying it’s perfect.

Dietland by Sarai Walker

Dietland by Sarai Walker

Dietland was recommended to me by a colleague, Eve Vawter (she ended up doing an amaaazing interview with Walker, too.) “You are going to love this book,” she said. I’ve been pickier than usual with my reading lately, opting for fast-paced plot-driven books over the meandering literary stuff I sometimes enjoy.

“Is it a pretty easy read?” I asked

“Uh. I read it in one sitting.”

Well, that makes two of us. Sarai Walker has managed to blend fat positivity, anti-diet manifesto with a fun (radical?) feminist adventure.

Read this if you want a page turner that isn’t light on subject matter, if you’re over the diet industry machine, or if sometimes you fantasize about justice served with explosions. 

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson


So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

I like Ronson’s writing style and previously really enjoyed The Psychopath Test. Shame – how we process it, how we use it on each other – has been on my mind a lot, and it was interesting to see a handful of public shamings explored in-depth.

There have been some really brilliant critiques of the book, too – namely that Ronson failed to recognize that women got a disproportionate amount of punishment to even the most shamed men and generally that he’s examining, and choosing, the selected shamings from a place of incredible privilege.

I thought the book was a good read. It got me thinking, as did the conversation supporting and critiquing it. Pick it up if you’re equally interested in what internet and other public shamings do to a person personally and professionally. It won’t tell you the magic solution to global harmony, but it will give you some food for thought.