Hippie Daycare РDay 39: Hilltop to Casa de Luna 

pacific crest trail

Cowboy camping went well, although I didn’t find packing up in the morning to be much faster than usual. I got an early start while Mountain and Tallboy continued to sleep. It was already warm and muggy at 6am and only continued to get warmer. Flies were everywhere, flying into my face and buzzing in my ears. If I ever really hated someone and had magical powers, I would come back as a biting fly and buzz around them incessantly. 

Mountain mentioned yesterday that I was limping and today I noticed that my left foot is hurting a little bit, like there are some tense muscles particularly in the heel. I want to pull over and massage them but when I try I’m swarmed by flies, so I pick up my pack and keep moving. I try to stop two more times in the shade but the flies don’t give me any relief. 

When I reach the road I hear there is a shuttle moving hikers to Casa de Luna so I sit near the fire station to catch it – I don’t want to walk the 2 extra miles to the house. Within minutes a volunteer is back with a mini van. Her car smells amazing. We pile in and she tells us where the cafe and convenience store is before pulling up to Casa de Luna, also known as Hippie Daycare, also known as the Andersons. The Andersons have been hosting hikers for 18 years. A group of them are sitting out front on beds, couches and chairs. A band is playing guitars and bongo drums. It smells distinctly of weed. The volunteer tells us where to go and I walk past bucket laundry, hammocks, an outdoor shower and into a “forest” of manzanita trees in the back that is decorated with painted rocks from previous hikers. 

I find a place to camp and set up my tent and then go hang out with the hikers up front. Nirvana is there, as are Roadshow, Sprite, Soulshine and several others. I change into a Hawaiian dress – everyone has to wear a Hawaiian shirt when they arrive. There’s a nail painting party going on but I don’t join. Instead I realize I’m tired and go find a hammock and fall asleep. 

When I wake up I’m hungry and get a group of hikers together to go to the cafe. Patrick and Manuel (of The Swiss Boys) come along and when I forget to order fries with my BLT they let me have some of theirs. I drink a massive pina colada milkshake and waddle back to the house and just hang out. 

At 7 or so, the famous Taco Salad is ready to be served. Terrie makes all of us wash our hands and has strict rules about not holding our plates over the serving dishes and several hikers get smacked with a wooden stick to remind them. It’s simple but delicious and I go back for seconds. After dinner Terrie makes us dance for our class bandanas which is fun and kind of hilarious. 

At 8 or so, Rawhide walks in! She hiked 24 miles to get there. I walk her back to where I’m camped and shine a light as she sets up and then show her to taco salad. 

We stay up and chat with a member of the band who is really interested in hiking named Gemini. Around 930 I’m sleepy and head to bed. Despite the noise up front, the forest is quiet and I fall asleep.

Farther than Anticipated – Day 34: Sulphur Springs Campground to Roadside Burn Area

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Pct miles: 406.6 to 427
Miles: 20.4

I got a late start out of camp because we got in late and I was tired.  And I also hadn’t taken the time to get water the night before so I went to do that, but didn’t bring my scoop cup, so that took an immense amount of time for little return. Lynn ended up giving me some of her extra unfiltered water.

Once I finally got going I took a detour to the pit toilet and finally got to poop in a toilet (rather than in a cathole a mile away from a toilet.)

Not long after I left Yoav and Dean came up behind me. I stepped aside to let them pass but they insisted I hike between them and Yoav preceded to rant about the trail and some of the attitudes on it. He was clearly upset by the way some hikers had treated him (it can get cliquey out here.) We chatted a little and I ended up hiking with them for most of the morning. They also told me they’re trying to go to Six Flags for the weekend. Their pace kept me moving and we got through a lot more miles than I would have otherwise. It tends to be hard for me to get myself moving in the morning.

Yoav and Dean ended up pulling aside to call home since they had service and I continued on. 

I was headed for the fire station and bumped into a day hiker who talked a little bit about the area. When we reached the fire station he got me a cold water out of his car. Trail magic! So nice. 

Lynn was there and walked me down to where everyone was sitting – in front of a bathroom. It didn’t look too shady and I was hot and Yoav and Dean were sitting under some trees so I sat with them instead. Yoav gave me some tortilla chips because I’d run out of salty snacks and I gave Dean a Snickers bar. I stayed until the wind started making me cold and another male hiker joined and the conversation took a turn for the lewd. I got my pack together and sat with Lynn, Scissors, Tarantino, Mousetrap, Tallboy and Mountain. The vibe is a little weird in this group, to be honest, and although we keep bumping into each other it often doesn’t feel especially friendly. I don’t know. They’re funny. So there is that. We were literally laying in front of the pit toilets and making jokes about how bad the people in the cars must need to poop to come and ask us to move for them to go to the bathroom. 

Slowly everyone started making moves to do the final miles of the day. I was trying to figure out our water/camp plan with Scissors and Lynn but I guess they’d already discussed it at length because as I was confirming Lynn said, “you’re really stressing me out” and Scissors agreed. It hurt my feelings even though I knew it was just a moment of frustration. 

I excused myself and started hiking and the comment fueled me up the mountain. Normally Lynn is faster than me but she didn’t catch me. Instead I ran into Mousetrap and Tarantino and realized there wasn’t water where we’d expected though there were tent spaces, so went another mile to find water but then no camping. I probably would have cried if they hadn’t been there – instead we checked the map and filtered water and kept going, anticipating a flatter area that might have camping spaces. At one point, about a mile later, we noticed several little trails going steeply up the mountain we were walking along. “Is there something up there?” “There has to be, who wants to check it out?” So Tarantino took off his pack and walked with his pole straight up the hill. He got out of hearing range and Mousetrap and I started guessing – “there has to be something there” “I bet he’s scouting out his spot.” 

Instead he came back a few minutes later. “No flat spots.” He got back to the bottom and took of his wind jacket. “I have never been this sweaty in my life.” But then as soon as we rounded the corner we were pounded with wind and he started freezing.
 We rounded a few more corners and Mousetrap was standing there: “I see a tent.” As we got closer we saw that there were even more tents above us – a campsite! We climbed up. The wind was blowing and a cloud was climbing over the mountain. I set my tent up quickly and realized I’d set up next to an old power line – we were camping in a burned area with lots of remnants of the fire. It probably would have been creepy but all of the hikers there just made it feel like camp. 

It was super cold so I went pee and then climbed in my tent. It was too windy to cook, I was low on no-cook food, and it was the first time I’d had cell service in days. So… I didn’t cook dinner. I didn’t eat. I updated my blog and texted my friends and fell asleep. 

Back to Trail, Sort Of – Day 31: Wrightwood to Grassy Hollow Visitor Center

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I woke up this morning thinking I was sleeping in my tent on a cliff – only to realize I was just off the floor, on a bed. I laid in bed a while before getting my things together. As I did that, I realized I’d lost my credit card at some point the day before. Crap. I figured I would try to retrace my steps and hope I would find it. I said goodbye to Lynn and figured I’d see her for breakfast a little later.

Good news – my first stop was Jensen’s, the grocery store, and they had my card. So incredibly lucky. People can be really amazing. 
I bought an extra dinner and picked up some new Tyvek from the hardware store (I’d somehow gotten some really thin, cloth-like Tyvek that kept getting tons of cheatgrass and other bits and pieces stuck to it and was tired of carrying half the desert around with me.) As I was doing errands, Karma invited me to breakfast at the Airbnb that Twerk had rented so I headed over there. They made a massive feast and it was a house full of people and it was chaotic and pretty lovely. 

After we’d finished cleaning after breakfast Rawhide and I got our packs together and started heading to town. I saw Caddy, Hobo, Mike and Cate sitting outside the bakery and joined them and caught up. It was getting clearer that Rawhide and I weren’t quite ready to leave town. I’d been craving a burrito for days so I suggested we go get some Mexican food for lunch and we did. Afterward I was really full and really sleepy so I took my pack across the street and took a nap in a little park that was swarming with lady bugs.
After my nap Rawhide was ready to hitch out. We hadn’t really decided how far we wanted to go – there was a place to camp one mile in, two miles in, or seven miles in and halfway up the climb to Baden-Powell.  
We got a ride from a local who gives a lot of people rides. We hadn’t even stuck our thumbs out yet and he was telling us to throw our bags in the back. It’s interesting to be a woman out here because I feel like my spidey senses are always on trying to assess whether the person I’m accepting help from is safe. I’ve gotten lucky that a lot of the help I’ve received has been from other women, or a sheriff, or in large groups. I didn’t feel unsafe with this driver but there were a few comments made that were a little questionable but probably harmless. It was interesting to see the ways that Rawhide and I tried to take them in stride.
We got to the trail and walked for about 15 minutes and were at the first potential campsite, where we found Mountain and Tallboy sitting. They’d decided to camp for the night and after some hemming and hawing we decided to join them. 

Soon more of our friends – Tarantino, Mousetrap, Rachel, etc – joined us. Twerk and Karma and Nirvana continued on. 
We sat around and chatted and tried not to eat our entire food bags and watched the sunset. Tomorrow it’s back to the trail for real – I’m hopeful I won’t have the leaving-town blues since we’re already out here. I’m excited to get up bright and early and summit Baden-Powell and enjoy the last of the cool high altitude air while I can – the real desert awaits us below. 
Today is my one month trail anniversary. It’s both hard to believe and not at all. I am getting used to walking for hours and hours. I am getting used to sleeping on the ground. Carrying the things that will keep me alive. Forgetting about things like jobs and bills and what it was that I used to spend all my time doing, spend all my time thinking about. 
It is still difficult. I can only imagine the hardest parts are still to come, when the mental challenge of the trail starts to overtake the physical challenges. But there’s nothing I can really do about that now. All I can do is walk. 

Town Got Weird – Day 30: Guffy Campground to Wrightwood

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Miles: 5

Woke up to a really gorgeous sunrise and watched it from inside my tent. Started packing up but wasn’t in too big of a hurry because I knew it was a short walk to town. I decided to make myself hot oatmeal for breakfast (normally I would never break out my stove in the morning, too much of a hassle) and ended up boiling too much water and putting 3 packets of oatmeal in and let me say, my hiker hunger is just not that intense yet. I threw half of it away, luckily there was a trash can at the campground so I didn’t need to carry it out.

It was a pretty nonchalant 5 miles. I set off on my own and Lynn caught up to me, but I didn’t hear her because hikers are actually pretty quiet when they don’t have trekking poles, so she whispered my name – “colleeeeeeen” – and I whipped my head around and about died of fright. 

“I’m not sure what would have been scarier,” I said, catching my breath, “if there was someone standing there or if there wasn’t.”

We hiked near each other the rest of the way. There were some ski lifts that we passed and wished would take us down the mountain. There were some pretty steep (though short) ups and downs which we complained about (hikers are whiners) but eventually we got to the highway where we were supposed to hitch. 

Lynn was a bit ahead of me and went across the street to the bathroom and a woman was standing near an RV yelled out to me, “watermelon?” It was a trail angel with fresh slices of watermelon! I happily ate a piece and she told me her husband was hiking the trail and expected to arrive tonight. She’s been meeting him every few days on his way to Canada – how lovely is that?

She told us where to stand and we stuck our thumbs out but really the thing that got us a ride was Lynn seeing a car with other hikers being dropped off and waving it down to see if they could give us a ride. It was a woman who had been on her way to go hiking with her dogs so I felt a little bad, but she was super nice and gave us a ride into town.

We got to town and got an overview from the local hardware store. They have Tyvek so I’m going to buy some tomorrow because the stuff I have is too thin and cloth like – I’m carrying half the desert around with me because it’s stuck to it. We took pictures of the info for places to stay and eat and headed over to the Evergreen Cafe for breakfast (which apparently has bigger portions than the other breakfast places, which was good because I ate all of my food.) 

From there I called a few trail angel “host families” but they didn’t seem to be answering, so we decided to try something more official instead.

Here’s where I’m not sure how to keep telling you the honest truth about my experience because I don’t want to start anything, especially since part of the problem with where we tried to spend the night was that my expectations (based on their website) were entirely different from the reality.

So, pardon the vagueness, even though I would love to give you all the truly epic details I made note of, I’m going to keep it top-level so that other hikers are free to have whatever experience they want to have, and maybe they’ll have a perfectly pleasant time (my issue with the place wasn’t about safety – I don’t think anything bad would have happened to us – it was just weird, not as advertised, and not what I wanted out of a Nero.)

We call one of the lodging options in the area and it sounds really lovely and relaxing. They charge a small fee and I expect that we sleep on the floor, which is fine because they have laundry and showers (the two essentials of any town stay) – but when I call, the man who answers (who I never meet) says they actually have private room options for a slightly bigger per-person fee and Lynn and I agree we’d rather do that. He tells us his “manager” will pick us up. 

We’re picked up 20 minutes later than expected (but whatever, mountain time). The woman who picks us up is very nice but also extremely chatty and a little loud and I don’t know what to say but to say that her vibe was a little “off” – she wasn’t scary or intimidating or anything like that, she just seemed like… someone whose version of reality was very different from mine. Oh well, I think, maybe this is just a person who takes care of the place and mostly minds her own business once we get there. 

We get there and from the outside the place looks as charming as the website, which made it seem like a pretty peaceful getaway. Once we walk inside it’s clear there was some fancy footwork done and it isn’t the business it supposes itself to be. The first two “private rooms” we are shown are not at all private, nor are they really rooms meant for guests – one is a room filled with non-bedroom equipment, an unfinished non-usable shower, unfinished flooring (plywood) and a refrigerator for other guests, who we could expect to be coming in and out of the room until we wanted to go to bed, then we could tell them to leave. Another “private room” was essentially a living room with no doors and a sectional couch (no bed.) All of these rooms were filled to the brim with stuff. There were two legitimate rooms upstairs but both were occupied by other hikers – one becoming available later in the day. 

But really the most perplexing thing was the manager, who clearly lived there. She told us all kinds of stories and things about herself that seemed like they were missing some key information. She was perplexed people often wanted to sleep outside, which was not perplexing to me at all. It also seemed that she would likely be popping in to tell us more stories throughout the stay, and I found myself getting stressed out by the possibility of staying there. As we’re getting ready to pay and choose our “room” I ask if she has an option to just do laundry and shower because a friend has just texted to say they have a place for us to stay (untrue). She says yes and that’s what we do. To her credit, after that she mostly leaves us to ourselves to sort out our laundry and shower. 

At breakfast I had run into Chris, the doctor who had told me what to do about my blisters in day 2, and he had told me his sister was in town and we could probably stay there, but I’d told him we’d already organized plans. I had gotten his number anyway. So I texted him the most fascinating parts about the place we were staying and said if his sister was down to let us stay, we’d be grateful. He got back to me shortly after and said yes and gave us his sister’s contact info. She’d be around after 7pm. So Lynn and I caught a ride back to town and had lunch and it took me about an hour to un-stress myself. Rawhide came by and I told her the story and her reaction wasn’t nearly what I wanted it to be. 

From there we went to the store for resupply and I almost accidentally spent $10 on grapes – no wonder my resupplies have been so expensive – and outside I saw David. I told him the story and he was laughing and laughing. “I kind of want to go there just for the story!” He said. But he ended up going elsewhere.

Also, another hiker, Marvel, came by as we were sitting outside the grocery store and said there was chanting happening at the yoga studio and that we could just walk in and join, and that sounded like exactly the relaxing experience I’d been hoping for, so I ran over and joined. I wasn’t there for very long before it was over but it was still nice to do something different. 

I called my best friend Sarah and told her about the experience and she laughed with me. We didn’t get to talk as long as I wanted because we had to meet up with Chris’s sister. So Lynn and I started to walk over there when one of the women from the yoga studio saw us and gave us a ride the .4 miles to her house. It was actually one of Chris’s other sisters who also lives in the area who met us, because the other sister was picking up some hikers from the airport. She was extremely nice and we chatted with her for a while before I stepped away to call Mark. As I was on the phone with Mark, Chris’s sister got back with the hikers and who was it but Karma and Nirvana!! I was so thrilled to see them. It’s Karma’s birthday but I was feeling too tired to go to the party Tommy was throwing for her (it was already 830!) so I was sad that I might miss them, but then there they were. 

So anyway, that was the very long winded town stay so far. That was my first experience learning just how interesting the characters around the PCT can be. 

It sounds like everyone is headed back to the trail today, me included, although I’m not sure yet how many miles I want to do. I’m excited that one of the most exciting trail angels, the Saufley’s at Hiker Heaven, is coming up in the next section. I am not so excited that I’m pretty sure the desert is about to get really real. 

The Hot Springs Were Everything I Wanted Them To Be – Day 26: Splinters Cabin to Deep Creek Dam Offshoot

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Miles: 15.3

Woke up this morning around 530 but stayed cuddled in my tent. It was a little cold out, and also on easy terrain days without the hot heat Rawhide and I haven’t found it necessary to get up super early. Eventually I started getting my pack together and went to the bathroom – ah, the simple pleasures of being able to poop in total privacy and throw the TP away. I was on the road briefly before Rawhide at 7am but I quickly stopped in the middle of the trail because I had cell service and proceeded to click around the internet.

In under an hour we hit mile 300. I tried to take a selfie of both of us with my SticPic but the sun wasn’t cooperating so I have a few goofy photos of both of us and then a decent one of just me. We didn’t pause to reflect on our accomplishment because we had one goal in mind: Hot Springs. 

We reached the Hot Springs at around 11am and saw a bunch of people there, thruhikers and dayhikers, and many of them were naked. We ate lunch and then I kept bugging Rawhide until she came with me to get in the Springs. I went in in my underwear and my bra and shirt, not so much for modesty as sun protection (although I am not quite up to nudity around a bunch of hikers I will likely see down the trail yet). The Hot Springs were amazing. Shipwreck and Iguana joined us and a girl named Helen I’ve seen a few times was there too. I got hot quickly and climbed out and laid in the sand and took a nap while other hikers filtered – we saw Mousetrap, Rachel, Twerk, Hobo and Catty and many others. Hobo and Catty says Scissors wasn’t far behind but we waited and didn’t see her.

But the Hot Springs were magical and a wonderful treat. It’s one of the first days I lounged for the sake of lounging and took my time and got to hang out somewhere really beautiful. I think I need to try to incorporate a “Hot Springs moment” into as many days as possible so I have something to look forward to and enjoy other than collapsing in my tent at night. 

Eventually Rawhide and I got our things together and set off for the next 4.5 mile stretch to water. We continued to walk the ridge line on basically flat ground the whole way. 

Rawhide was feeling pretty tired and we decided to try to camp near the water source. But once we got there she said, what do you want to do? And I said I don’t care, we can try to find a place to camp (our maps suggested there was no camping) or we can go to the campground in another 5 miles. I think she thought I wanted to push so she said let’s keep going, but she was clearly tired and kept saying she was feeling grumpy, especially because her phone was dead and not charging, and as soon as we started moving I could feel how unmotivated I was and how sad my body was to be moving again. She pulled off the trail to grab some water and the area was flat and sandy so I said – let’s just camp here. And she said okay. So we did. It’s 730 and I’m already laying on my back in my tent and the sun isn’t even down yet. Some hikers kept going because they heard you could order pizza at the road a half mile up. I made a gross dinner (Parmesan couscous and tuna) that was super disappointing and I packed half of it away. But luckily it’s only a day and a half to Cajon Pass where there’s a McDonald’s and therefore a trash can. 

I’m really liking my new shoes, though I do have to cut open the pinky toe area yesterday. My ankles are still stiff in the morning but they don’t seem to hurt as bad warming up with the new shoes, and I’m going to try to stretch even more to hopefully get them to calm down. 

I had an interesting moment of clarity on the trail today where I felt really strongly that I didn’t want to go back to a “career” type job when I go home. In fact, part of what motivates me not to quit is how little I want to go back to “real” life. But who knows how I’ll feel at the end of the trail, or even a week from now. 

I also spent about 45 minutes arguing with Mark in my head about something that hadn’t happened, so my brain isn’t super reliable is what I’m saying. 

Friends + Family of Hikers: Some Questions to Ask When They Call Home

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I’ve heard of a few instances where hikers call home or friends and the conversation has been less than encouraging. I think part of the reason that happens is because people imagine that we’re out here having the time of our lives and maybe even need to be brought back down to earth, or think the things we want to talk about are the itinerary of our days. 

That may be true for some hikers, but it seems to me a lot of us are trying to process some of the negative thoughts patterns we have out here (and back home, too) and emotions that come up. I’ve also heard that one of the hardest things about eventually leaving the trail is that people at home don’t understand at all what you’ve been through. I’m hoping this list of ideas will help bridge the gap and help make hikers still feel connected and understood by their support people back home. (Keep in mind this is from the perspective of someone who’s only been out here for 3 weeks.)

How are you feeling today?

What was the last section like?

What was the hardest part about it?

What was your favorite part about it?

How are your feet/back/new shoes/stomach problems/whatever small thing they’ve told you has changed?

How are you feeling about the trip so far?

What are you looking forward to?

What’s it like when you get to town?

Are you being nice to yourself?

Are you hiking with people? What do you think of them?

How much time are you spending alone? Is it too little? Too much?

What have you been thinking about as you hike?

Have you had any really upsetting moments?

Have you had any moments where you were afraid?

How many miles are you doing? Does it feel like the right amount?
Hikers, feel free to add more questions in the comments!

Up Up Up, Burgers and Overwhelm – Day 13: Desert Climb to Wooded Overlook

pacific crest trail

PCT mile: 144 to 159.7
Miles: 15 (almost 16)

Snakes: 2

Rattlesnakes: 1! My first! Kind of

Today I let myself not wake up to an alarm and started waking up to the campers around me around 515. It felt good to let myself sleep. 

I got walking with Karma and Rawhide and they quickly passed me. Amelia had kept going the night before in order to get to Paradise Cafe earlier in the day. 

Karma and Rawhide zoomed past me pretty quick. I kept bumping into Rawhide and Rick and sitting to take breaks with them. Rick is dead set on hitching to Idyllwild. Rawhide and I were talking about doing the alternate and she was pretty set on hitching to Idyllwild from the cafe, which would have put us in town tonight (Thursday) and let us zero, and then she wanted to try to get to Mt San Jacinto and Fuller Ridge before the snow storm that’s supposed to hit on Sunday. I started letting myself accept that I wouldn’t be hiking the alternate, even though I’d planned to and wanted to. 

As I’m hiking, I’m realizing that I feel pretty overwhelmed by the social dynamics of the group. I love my trail family, but I couldn’t stop thinking about having several hours of relaxation and quiet. I texted Mark (who is better at introversion than me) and he said it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to get my own hotel room in Idyllwild. 

The idea of relaxing in a big bed and only doing what I wanted to do sounded so appealing. I think it’s because our miles have been such a negotiation lately and I can tell they want to do bigger miles. They get to camp hours before I do and I huff and puff in and get there at the last minute. A couple of days ago Karma literally went on a run after we hit camp. I don’t want to be the person holding everyone back, and it’s hard not to feel that that’s exactly what I’m doing. 

So I’m climbing this mountain and it’s hot and I’m fueled almost entirely by my anxiety about the social dynamics of the trail and how desperate I am to be alone (never mind that I’ve literally been alone for hours in the middle of the wilderness.) I’m dreading the idea of figuring out how to say i don’t want to share a room with four people. And then I get a text from Amelia saying that her, Karma, Nirvana and Rachel are planning to hike the alternate and they’re leaving to do it now, with plans to do all 30 miles by the next day (Friday). “Not sure if we’ll catch you,” she writes.

Well, that solves that! I feel relieved that they’re feeling a similar pull and have taken the step to go do what they want to do. 

I take a break a mile from the road to Paradise Cafe and try to let myself stay there as long as I want, without worrying about catching anybody. When I get up I move quickly down the mountain and there waiting for me are Rick, Rawhide, and a trail angel named Herk who was waiting to give us all a hitch to the cafe which is a mile down the road. I almost wanted to cry I was so grateful.

We get to the cafe and in their bathroom I rinse my hands in cold water and then my face and then my underarms and shirt. I feel like a new person. I go outside and change into my sunshirt and leave my wool shirt to dry and order a turkey burger and fries and a rootbeer. 

Applejuice finally got his apple juice 

The people who work at the cafe are incredibly hiker friendly and make us feel welcome and watch our waters like hawks and keep filling them again and again. Slowly other hikers start trickling in – Scissors and Toby (recently named Applejuice, because he’d been craving it on the trail and was the first thing he ordered at the cafe) and others I have met. Twerk is there when I arrive but quickly hitches with a group to Idyllwild. 

Rawhide and I talk and start leaning toward doing the alternate again. It’s 30 miles, we’ve heard it’s beautiful, there’s a camp store on the highway that serves quesadillas, there doesn’t seem to be much of any road walking… and if we let ourselves take til Saturday, we can zero Sunday and wait out the storm. Rawhide got left by her group last week when her blisters got bad from pushing too fast to keep up with her last group, so we share a desire to not do too much too fast.

Rawhide talks to her boyfriend and he says, “how will you feel at mile 200 if you skip the alternate?” and that seals the deal: we’re going to hike it. 

I order an apple pie ala mode, eat it even though I’m uncomfortably full, and then go take a nap under a shady tree right next to the cafe. 

When I wake up, Rachel is still sitting with us (she hadn’t left with the group earlier because the heat really bothers her) and Rawhide is chatting in the phone and there are two new hikers in the shade, women, A-Game and Gushers. They’re planning to hike the alternate and camp at the same spot we are later.

I look back at the cafe and who do I see: Bruce! I haven’t seen him since Warner Springs. I am happy to see him and he gives me a hug and we catch up a little. He’s planning to do the alternate but not go as far as we are tonight. We’ll likely both get to Idyllwild Saturday. 

Around 430 Rawhide, Rachel and I get our things together (with fresh, delicious water from the cafe) and start trying to get a hitch back to the trail. Who should pull up again but Herk! This time I sit in the front (Rick sat there last time) and chat with Herk. He’s been giving hikers rides in the area for 17 years. I asked him what the heaviest pack he’d seen was. He said 70 or 80lbs. I asked him what the smallest he’d seen was. “Not much smaller than you all,” he said.

“So I guess we’re doing good?”

“If you can carry it you’re doing good.”


We start hiking and the terrain is really lovely. Clouds are blocking the sun and there is a ton of shade on the trail. It’s still a little hot and Rachel falls behind – she tells me later she literally laid down in the middle of the trail. She was planning to night hike anyway and go past where we were going to camp to catch the group from earlier. I figure she’ll pass us later.

We knew we had a climb to do but it didn’t start off too bad. I hike with A-Game for a while as she’s waiting for her partner to catch up (they are both much faster than me) and she tells me about her work as an outdoor guide. Eventually she passes me and the trail gets steeper and I pull some jelly beans that Karen, a woman in my book club back home, had put in my going away card. I make a game out of it: hike a few steps, eat a jelly bean, try to guess the flavor. I hike alone until I see Rawhide, who is waiting for me at the side trail that will take us to the water resupply. 

The trail down to the water is incredibly steep and our feet scream at us. We fill up our water and just as we’re headed back up, we bump into Rachel. Her knee is bothering her and she’s decided to camp with us for the night. Rawhide and I trudge back up the trail and I say several curse words. My body is especially tired and pissed now. It’s now dark and Rachel gets to the top and we decide to night hike as a group to the campsite 1.3 miles away. It’s all uphill and often steep and almost immediately my flashlight starts dimming. Low battery. Rawhide takes the lead and between my dimmed flashlight and her headlamp we are able to make our way to camp. The trail is tough and we’re tired and then Rawhide sees A-Game and Gusher sitting in the trail eating dinner – they wanted to make sure we didn’t accidentally pass the campsite. Hikers are the best. 

We set up camp quick and I probably won’t eat dinner because I’m too tired. 

A few other things of note:

I saw my first rattlesnake. It was about a foot long, a baby with a tiny little rattle. He was just trying to get across the trail so I let him and then kept hiking. I’m also pretty sure I saw a little tortoise?? If not it was a very fat horny toad.

On a physical level, I’m feeling pretty good, but I do have some chafe going on. I went commando today to try to give myself some breathing room which worked for the morning hike, but the hike to camp the chafe intensified. Also my ankles are always pretty tight in the mornings. And I have about a dozen bug bites. And my feet are dirty and I have a little blister between my big toe and the second toe. 

The plan is to get to Idyllwild Saturday and zero Sunday. Rawhide and I got a hotel together and we both agreed we want at least a few hours of basically complete silence. I. Am. Stoked. 

View from where I wiped my crotch chafe in the middle of the trail. The PCT is all about class

Day 8: Valley Overlook to Roadside Campground

pacific crest trail

Snakes: 2
Rattlesnakes: 0

Tears: 0

PCT mile 85 to 101

We let ourselves sleep in this morning. Karma and I both had alarms go off this morning at 5am and decided to ignore them. We ended up getting started around 645 and the morning flew by pretty quickly. We had to get some water at the Third Gate Water Cache, an incredibly generous cache in the middle of nowhere that trail angels hand carry in. Several hikers were already sitting there – Tom, Wiz Kid, and Heidi. We chatted for a while and then Amelia and Karma got started and I got some water. And then – Twerk arrived! It was good to see him again but I had to hit the road so I kept walking. He and a handful of other hikers, including Nirvana, Rachel and Tarantino decided to sit out the heat of the day, but it was only 10 and with the breeze I thought I could handle a few more miles before needing a break. 

I pushed on and ended up hiking by myself for the rest of the day. I ran into Dorothy, a man who had to get off trail a few weeks prior because his tent blew away with his phone in it. He’s doing 5-10 miles a day. I ended up helping him reconnect his solar panel after it had gotten lose from his battery pack and giving him some Gatorade. 

I kept thinking I’d catch up to Karma and Amelia because I was cruising pretty well, but I never did. But Karma still left me trail encouragement.

Around 1230 I sat down for an extended break in the shade and chatted with Mark for a little while and texted my best friend Sarah and looked at Facebook. It’s not a total disconnect out here and I’m grateful for that. 

After that I continued to slowly make my way toward camp. We had planned to do 12 today since we’re in no rush to get to Warner Springs since the post office isn’t open on Sundays and we wouldn’t be able to make it before it closed at 130 on Saturday. But there weren’t any campsites large enough for the three of us around mile 12, so instead we decided to go 16 miles. Even when you try to be gentle, the trail has different plans I guess. 

At one point in the trail we could see the little town of Ranchita. I’m pretty sure when my mom was buying our first house she looked at a property there. From what I remember it was a shack with an outhouse and a windmill. I didn’t realize at the time how hard she was trying to give us a home and security with very little money. Sometimes I wonder what she’d think of being out here. I think she’d like it. I think she’d like how intensely it makes you focus on the most important things – friendships, beauty, kindness. 

At camp, there were trail angels at the road nearby, Glow in the Dark and Three Guy(?). They had soda and clementines. Glow in the Dark got her name because she section hike the PCT while going through cancer radiation treatment and said she felt like a miniature Chernobyl. It’s really incredible how many people come together to make thruhikes both possible and more pleasant. 

I sat and chatted with the group of hikes who arrived before me. We talked about our best and worst parts of the day and made plans to try to see the latest Guardians of the Galaxy in Idyllwild if the timing works out.

My calves seem to be coping better. They’re still a little stiff, especially in the morning, but they haven’t cramped up again. I asked my yoga teacher for a flow that would be good for after hiking so I’ve been trying to do at least part of that before climbing into my tent, as well as a few calf stretches Karma showed me. 

I’ve been wearing my shoes and socks without any kind of tape around my pinky toes and haven’t gotten any more blisters! I’m grateful my body seems to be adapting. I do need to be better about giving myself longer breaks at my leisure, even if I’m close to camp. The hardest part of the day was the last 3 miles or so, because I was so close, but my legs really wanted a break and I really didn’t want to give them one and kept cutting it short.

Also: I reached mile 100 today! This means this backpacking trip is currently twice as long as any I’ve been on before. 

Tomorrow we’ll be in Warner Springs. I’ve got a resupply box there and my dad is going to be bringing me some of the supplies I left at his condo in San Diego, as well as some fresh fruit and even pizza (!!). We have to stay in Warner Springs until at least late Monday morning. I’m not sure how far we’ll try to go Monday. Leaving there will be my longest food carry yet – 5 days. Woof. It’s going to be heavy. 

Day 5: Boulder Field to Canyon Campsite

pacific crest trail

Miles: 7.5

Snakes: 1

Rattlesnakes: 0
Tears: 0

Well, we finally took the short day we intended to take. 7.5 pretty easy miles, which puts us about 14 miles outside of Scissors Crossing aka our method to get to Julian. 

I slept super well last night, waking up around 6. I stayed in my tent and made myself tea outside my door while I slowly made my way through chores – tending to my feet, organizing my gear, etc. I also woke up and realized I was supposed to get my period and, lo and behold, it had arrived. I put in my luna cup and realized I had bled all over my air mattress. Lovely. I popped an ibuprofen to ward off any cramps and got on with the day. 

Our original trail group has split up – Farkle, Cathleen and Alpo had seemingly all gone past our intended stop, so Karma, Twerk (formerly known as Tommy, name so given because he leads us all in “twerk” circles where we all stretch to music at the end of the day), Amelia and I slowly got packed up. I left shortly behind the group around 845 and hiked much of the morning by myself. My ankle didn’t bother me all day and I was actually pretty energetic – I’m not sure how much of that is me and how much was the ibuprofen. I can tell my calves are still feeling it but I was able to move pretty steady today. It’s so nice to not have blisters screaming at me.

TMI, but I also had one of the best poops of the trail. Shaded, private, non-emergency. I wish every one could be like that. Later in the day we were talking about poop on the trail and Tommy said having to take a shit in the hot sun was the worst and he almost got renamed Hot Shit. (I just laughed writing that and the whole tent site got disturbed. “I’m gonna take a hot shit in your tent right now,” Twerk says. Oops.)

I got water 1/2 mile off trail at a horse trough that had a tank with clean water. Karma, Amelia and Twerk were there eating lunch. We got the last of the water, everybody else had to drink trough water unfortunately. Shortly thereafter Jeff (hereby known as Roadshow, because he does his own thing and is his own “road show”) stopped and chatted with us. We only had five miles to our intended camp so rhe rest of the group headed out and I got my stuff together to follow a few minutes later. As I was headed back to the trail, a trail angel, Tom, was setting up for the day. Tom drove all the way from Kennedy Meadows to hand out beer, sodas and burgers. It was early so I didn’t take one, but he said weekends are awesome for trail magic and that early every road crossing will have one, so we have that to look forward to.

Since I was talking to Tom, Roadshow ended up catching up with me. I set the pace and we ended up trucking it for 4 miles until we spotted Soulshine and Sprite sitting under Sprite’s tarp with Amelia. They invited us to the shade and we sat there chatting for a half an hour or so. Nirvana and Rachel showed up and joined the party and I told Nirvana about the blister trick. Right now, Karma, Amelia, Twerk and I are going to get a room in Julian if we can and if they’ll allow 6, Spirit and Soulshine will join us. 

After the break I hiked with Amelia for the final mile to camp where Twerk and Karma were waiting for us. Rachel and Nirvana caught up and decided to spend the night there too. We noticed a sign saying there was water .75 miles down a side road so Twerk and Karma went in search of water while Amelia and I ate lunch. We were in luck: water! Twerk said while they were walking he and Karma thought of two potential trail names for me, Miss Information (I’ve had a lot of information for the beginning of the trail but my knowledge starts to run dry after Warner Springs) or Goddammit (I assume I say this a lot?) I kind of like the double meaning of Miss Information but I don’t think I’ll keep either of them. It’s fun to get insight into how people see you though. 

Karma and Twerk started setting up camp and the four of us hiked down pack-free to fill up for the relatively dry hike down to Scissors Crossing. We had some pretty fun conversations. We realize all four of us had been homeschooled for part of our lives and three of us had also been to Montessori school. We talked about trail romances and spirituality and it was really cool. 

When we got back to camp we ate dinner and chatted and laughed and Twerk led us through some stretching to Thong Song and now I’m here writing this. We’re getting up real early to try to make miles before the sun gets too hot and get our butts to Julian for some real food and free pie. We’re not sure if we’re going to take a zero in Julian or just enjoy what the town has to offer in the afternoon tomorrow and the next morning and then get back to trail. We shall see!

So Much for a Shorter Day -Day 4: Mt Laguna to Boulder Fields (mile 57) 

pacific crest trail

Miles today: 14.5
Rattlesnakes: 0
Snakes: 1 

Tears: 0

Woke up around 530 and went and took a warm shower at the Laguna campground and then spent a big chunk of time in the women’s bathroom because 1) it was cold outside and my hair was wet and 2) because there was an electrical outlet and I could charge my phone and my charger, which was low. Tip: I read that you should bring a charger that can take multiple USBs and didn’t listen and ended up buying one at the gear shop in Laguna. Do it! Charging took forever and the group of hikers in there ended up taking it in shifts so we could go get other things done – Rachel, a hiker I’ve bumped into a handful of times, ended up watching my phone while I went and packed up my gear. 

At 9, I headed to Mount Laguna’a store so I could resupply. I grabbed peanut butter out of a hiker box (it weighs a ton so I get why they dropped it) and split some tortillas with another hiker. The store is fairly priced considering how remote it is. I paid $14 for a dehydrated backpacker meal (it has vegetables in it! I couldn’t resist!) but only got one and made my other dinners ramens. I also stopped by the gear shop for the charger and some blister supplies. My blisters haven’t been bothering me at all!

I had planned to get a meal at the restaurant but accidentally bought an extra breakfast at the grocery store and kind of wanted to hit the road, so Karma and I headed out of town around 11 with another hiker named Whisper. I almost left my trekking pole behind but Karma found it – she had to save it again for me later, too. Whisper got ahead of us pretty quickly, but Karma and I managed to stay together for quite a big chunk of the day. At one point Karma was behind me a ways and I saw a snake – it was skinny with black and grayish stripes down the length of its body. When it slithered away, it slithered up a tree. So now snakes can climb.

The views were stunning today and I have a feeling they won’t really translate to photos – but to try to paint a picture, Mount Laguna is filled with pine trees. We hiked through that a while, then saw some manzanita and lilac in full bloom (a south bound section hiker filled us in on what the plants were), and then we turned a corner and could see some 6 or 7000 feet down into the desert. It was amazing. It was also windy and when we edged closer to the side of the mountain I almost got blown off my feet.

Karma and me

We took a break and met two other hikers, a guy who was doing big miles whose name I forgot, and a woman from China whose trail name is Tree. Tree is awesome. She’s in finance but loves hiking and writing. She started a day after us so she’s pulling pretty big miles too. 

We passed the 50 mile mark! There wasn’t a trail sign so Karma made one.

The whole group I’ve been traveling with had planned to camp at a picnic site that was listed on both Guthooks and Halfmile as a campsite and water source, Pioneer Mall, but when we got there there was a very clear sign saying day use only. Bummer. Karma was waiting for me and making herself minestrone so I quickly made myself some ramen. The doctor (his name is Josh) and his brother Kelsey were there, as well as Jazzi and Dan. We were all pretty bummed we couldn’t camp. Tree came in a few minutes later and made herself dinner and then came over to show us – noodles, tomatoes, spices and tuna. It looked amazing. 

Karma and I pushed on, debating whether to try to get to the next listed camp site some 3.5 miles in or to find something early. For a while there weren’t many options as we were hiking right on the ridge. Karma texted Tommy (who just got the trail name Twerk) and he told us he was at the Boulder Field, so we mustered the energy to go a few more miles, even though we spotted some other hikers camped in a wash that looked really nice. They even left an invitation. 

We got to the Boulder Field and set up our tents and now here I am. It’s pretty breezy up here so I hope I get some decent sleep – I need it. My ankle was bothering me for the last five miles, some muscle is a little pissed at me for all the walking. Thruhiking is fun like this – there’s always something a little off. But we’re about 20 miles out of town and then Karma, Amelia and I have plans to take a zero in a lodge. Til the I’m gonna try to be real nice to my body, she’s working hard.