Climbing – Day 3: Boulder Oaks to Mt Laguna

pacific crest trail

Miles: 15.6
Tears: 0

Snakes: 2

Rattlesnakes: 0

Started off bright and early at 530 this morning. Our group quickly dispersed. I hiked with Karma and Tommy to start, then Karma got ahead of us, then Tommy and I leapfrogged each other a few times before he powered on ahead of me. The air was cool and breezy and I watched some fog roll in until we were walking in it. 

It was a long day of uphill, but I found it surprisingly pleasant. The doctor seems to have been right and my feet are feeling a lot better. It also helped that I cut open the pinky toe area of my shoe with Alpo’s knife. 

I spent most of the day hiking alone which was lovely. I like knowing there are people around but being able to totally make my own decisions on breaks and pace and such is what I’m used to. Like at lunch I laid down on my tyvek tarp and pulled my umbrella over my face and took a nap and then woke up and ate a hot meal. 

It also means I have fewer stories to tell. But! One of my favorite things about today was that, as I was hiking, I kept seeing little designs made on the trail out of rocks – “U (rock)”, a peace sign, a happy face. I figured someone up the trail had left them days prior for fun, but every time I saw one I felt like it was just for me and it brightened my day. 

Cut to when I got to camp later, Karma says, did you see my messages for you? They really were left for me! Thank you Karma!

I saw two snakes, neither of which were rattlers. One slithered away quickly and the other didn’t want to move from his sunny spot, so I had to get closer to it to make it move along. 

I got to camp with only some gummy bears and jerky left, which means I planned well as far as food, but also meant I had to high tail it to the store to get food for dinner. That’s right – I hiked from 530 to 430 to make 16 miles. Tenacity over speed.

I should also mention my least favorite part of the trail today – warning, poop talk. So far on trail there doesn’t seem to be any kind of routine or even warning system for bowel movements. Every single poop has been a downright emergency. Today there were two emergencies, and I was walking a ridge line the whole day. Made for some very unpleasant walking. I will think twice before taking spicy pasta from a hiker box again. 

Plan for tomorrow isn’t finalized yet, but I think I’m gonna try for a shower and I have other chores to do, so it’ll be a late start for me. It’s supposed to be pretty mellow terrain until Julian. Hopefully my blisters are okay with that. They actually preferred the uphill today.

Blisters Galore! Day 2: Hauser Creek to Boulder Oaks

pacific crest trail

Miles: 12
Rattlesnakes: 0

Tears: 0

We’re doing an early morning hike tomorrow so I really should be trying to sleep.

Warning: Blister talk. Just spent the last hour trying to patch up my blisters. There’s a hiker on trail who is an expedition doctor in real life and brought a massive medical kit who told me that stringing a piece of thread through a blister to drain it and then leaving it (what I’d been doing per usual thru hiker advice) doesn’t quite work because the dry piece of skin just keeps rubbing away at the skin underneath and grows bigger – which is what has been happening to me. He said instead to cut away the blistered skin, neosporin, cover with a bandaid and then the stretchy stuff they put on your arm when you give blood. And that’s what he did with his massive heel blisters today. He gave me the necessary items so I’m gonna try his advice because my blisters really slowed me down today. I ended up hiking the last mile in flip flops. 

We climbed out of Hauser this morning which was hard but good. At the main top a group of us stopped and had a snack and chatted before continuing on. It took a while to get to Hauser. I came up with a theory that I’ve been working on – I’ve noticed that there is a balance between going slower and too slow. Too slow and every pain comes to the forefront of your mind and every step is a little harder. A good pace erases a lot of the minutiae of trail pain – muscles loosen, blisters hurt less, etc. This pace isn’t so much about going faster but (this is the theory) going happier – it has a bounce to it. It’s your play pace. It’s the pace you’d be going if you were having a little fun. I seem to do a decent job of finding this pace at the beginning of the day, but at the end I struggle.

We got our first trail magic today. There was an unofficial kickoff at Lake Morena and Who’s Your Daddy and several other trail angels were there with coffee, bagels, fruit. They were giving shakedowns and several hikers left with lighter packs, and I left with some pretty cool stuff from the hiker box, including a resupply on medical kit stuff (which I have used extensively thanks to blisters), some flip flops for camp shoes (which are the flip flops I hiked in) and my dinner tonight, a spicy Italian pasta. I didn’t do a shakedown because I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my pack weight – in part because the desert has been so plentiful with water. I also grabbed lunch at the Lake Morena store and a few extra treats for the hike later. I went with Jelke and learned a little more about her – she was a civil engineer back home. 

Jelke took off a little earlier than me and I hiked with Tommy, Chris, Cathleen, Alpo and Annie until my blisters slowed me down and I hiked on my own for a while. Not long after, Bruce came up behind me and I hiked with him, which took my mind off my feet and got me moving again. We talked about what motivated us to do the trail. Also, even though we’d split up by then, at camp later Bruce came to find me and asked how my feet were and then told me to talk to the expedition doctor and went with me, which was so incredibly sweet. 

We’d read about ticks online being a problem this year. Amelia said she’d seen one on her toilet paper when she went to the bathroom in Hauser. Today when I was swapping into flip flops I swear I saw a bunch on the grass I was sitting in, so now I’m paranoid about ticks. 

At one point before we got to camp we were all sat under a bridge with other hikers named Jeff, Rachel and Rachel’s friend whose name I didn’t catch. We ended up naming her friend Nirvana (it was a group effort) because he and Kurt Cobain have something in common (wearing mismatched socks? My sleepy brain can’t remember.)

We also named Annie today. Annie had found a can of green beans on the trail day one and like a badass, picked it up and has been carrying it. Her, Tommy and Cathleen have had plans all day to cook them with Tommy’s dried miso, so that’s what they did. Everyone’s been telling Annie that she’ll have good karma for picking up the green beans. Yeah, well, as soon as she took a bite, a bird shit on her head. So now Annie is Karma.

After we’d been sitting a while a hiker named Amelia joined our campsite. I think she’s the youngest person I’ve met on trail yet at 18.

Also, it’s creepy, but I realized I’d already been following a ton of hikers I’ve met on trail on Instagram. I just don’t want to get the trail name Stalker.

Tomorrow we’re getting up early early to try to push for Mount Laguna. It’s 16 miles all uphill.

Day 1: Campo to Hauser Creek

hiking, pacific crest trail, Uncategorized

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.