Day 37: Zero at Hiker Heaven

pacific crest trail

I wake up and sit with Mermaid and a hiker named Outlaw and we talk about the trail and it’s a really refreshing, honest and polite conversation. I jump in the truck and go to breakfast with a large group and we chat nicely. Twerk is live Instagramming our experience for the Trek. He takes a photo of me with my French toast. 

I catch a ride back to Hiker Heaven and pack up my things and talk with Rawhide. We think we’ll head out around 4. I get my laundry done, including my down jacket, which I don’t even know how to wash. There are several puppies running around and I spend a lot of time petting them and cuddling them.

The other day at breakfast the group said they wanted to name me Bing, because I pop up everywhere, like “bing!” I thought it was a cute concept and accepted the name but later I realized it was a good name, but not for me. So I had to tell everyone at Hiker Heaven that I’d rescinded my acceptance. Nirvana said he really wanted me to have a name, which was sweet, and proceeded to try some out – Mrs. Information? He suggested. What about Informash-ma’am? That one made me laugh a lot. Still not my name, but hilarious. 

It’s not long before I’m hungry again and head back to town. The food here is really good for such a small place. Who do I see sitting at the restaurant but Bruce! We high five and after he finishes lunch with his group he comes and catches up with me.
I head back to Hiker Heaven. It’s hot now and I go inside the trailer and take a nap with Rawhide. When we get up it’s already 330 and Rawhide realizes her phone has shut itself off, which it’s been doing. It doesn’t take long before we’ve decided not to leave today after all, which I am thrilled for – my body isn’t injured but it is tired and it wants a break. We make a plan to leave early the next day, which means we’d have to do 25 miles to get to Casa de Luna. But that’s a problem for tomorrow’s Colleen.
I call my brothers and Mark and it’s hard to know what to talk about but I also want to talk to them, these people who really know me, these people who have decided to like me anyway. 
I get off the phone with Mark and hop on yet another trip to town and get pizza and the pizza guy gives me and four other hikers a ride back to Hiker Heaven. As I eat dinner I chat with a hiker, Rachelle, who is hiking with her husband. She’s earnest about her motivations for hiking which is nice. Then I hear hikers having a sing along so I join briefly before the guitarist runs out of songs we known and I go inside the trailer for bed so I don’t have to unpack my pack and set up my tent. 

Motivated by Camp – Day 35: Roadside Burn Area to Acton KOA

pacific crest trail

PCT miles: 427 to 444.3
Miles: 17

I woke in a cloud and didn’t want to get up so searched the internet and then realized: oh shit, I need to get my act together and send stuff to Kennedy Meadows, which I will be approaching in approximately 3 weeks (!!!)

I got up and hiking on my own, but everyone quickly passed me – I had no energy because I didn’t eat dinner. I stopped at the first flat spot, about a mile in, and ate some chicken noodle soup now that it wasn’t so windy. My dad had brought it to me in Big Bear but I’d almost not packed it, now I was glad I had – it saved my hike. It was a mistake not bringing enough salty snacks, I’ve been craving them like crazy, more than sweet treats. It’s hard to keep up with how my tastes change. Things that I like the best (Snickers) become something I absolutely don’t want to eat. 

It was windy all day, which was a little annoying but mostly was helpful from keeping the heat from being too hot. The first goal of the day was the forest ranger station, about 8 miles from camp. When I got there Tarantino, Mousetrap, Mountain, and Tallboy were sitting in the shade out of the wind in front of the pit toilet. I sat near them and dried out my tent, which was wet from a night of being in a cloud, and got myself a soda which cost a dollar (donated to a group of some kind.) Lynn caught up to me shortly later. I tried to lay down for a bit but the wind made it uncomfortable.

I got going again. I was making pretty good time even though downhill really makes my feet pound. I took a break in the shade when they started to really bother me and people passed me. The spot wasn’t that comfortable so I continued and found a better spot and laid down. After about 15 minutes I was trucking again with a purpose – I was less than 5 miles from the Acton KOA, where I was stopping for the night. In the last mile I met two hikers, Pika and Laundrymat. And when I got there Lynn had bought my camping pass and gave me the run down of where everything was. I went to the camp store and bought some snacks and a frozen pizza and sat and ate and drank a Snapple and a Sprite.

Afterward I set up my tent and took a shower and did laundry for Lynn and I. It makes a big difference to have someone to tag team with – being able to make plans and handle chores with another person. As I waited for the laundry to dry Lynn and Tarantino chatted with me. We were there until about 930 and then went to bed.

Pre-shower legs 

I’m not sure what I’m going to do – am I going to go to REI at Hiker Heaven and try to make my Sierra plans there? Do I order everything online? I’ve got some planning to do. 

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

pacific crest trail

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. 

Downhill Means Big Miles – Day 25: Big Bear Overlook to Splinters Cabin

pacific crest trail

PCT miles: 279.2 to 298.5
Miles: 19.3

It’s cold in the morning and I’m reluctant to get going. Around 6 I will myself to start getting my pack together. I decide to pack it differently because it had been pulling on my shoulders yesterday. So now food is going near the bottom, instead of at the top. There’s frost on my rainfly that I try to shake off, but I have to pack it away wet anyway. 

When I get out of my tent I see that all the other hikers are gone except for Scissors, Mousetrap and Rawhide. Rawhide packs quickly and I leave only a few minutes before her. We make plans to camp under 15 miles.

My mood is better today. I’m not kicking my heels in the air but my brain isn’t as much of a downer. I’m enjoying going my own pace and not worrying about who is ahead or behind me. 

Still, a few miles in and I’m fantasizing about different things that could get me off the trail. I find a small bug that might be a tick on my shirt and think, Lyme Disease would be a worthy reason to quit…

I see a group of people sitting around and I assume it’s a bunch of thruhikers so go to sit with them only to realize they all look like they’re in high school. I sit anyway and find out it’s a school on a 5 day backpacking trip. They’re cooking pancakes and I eat a muffin and then move on. Later, I hear them come up behind me and I see that they’re hiking in a tight line and it makes me laugh a little, because even thruhikers who are hiking together don’t hike that close. 

I catch up to Rawhide sitting in the sun drying out her sleeping bag so I pull out my tent to let it dry. We realize there’s a campsite at 19 miles and it’s mostly downhill, so we change our plans to go for it. I tell her about my quitting fantasies and she says she does the same thing, today hers was about a bear tearing apart all her gear searching for food and not having enough money to replace it.

Another train of thought that lasts a while is: If I were doing the Camino, I’d almost be done by now. I’d have delicious dinners every night. I probably could have convinced Mark to come with me. I wouldn’t have to carry 10lbs of food…

I catch Rawhide again at the water source, where she is sitting with Agnes and Francois. The school group is there and they’ve met up with a second school group headed the opposite direction. Maybe its a key swap? A man who is part of the school holds my hand as I cross a log on the river. I sit with Rawhide and we chat a little and then Agnes and Francois go to find a place to take a nap and I lay out my Tyvek and take a nap where they’d been sitting while Rawhide reads her book. I hear Rawhide start to put on her shoes so I get up and leave a few minutes after her.

I’m debating how to cross the river further down the trail when Mousetrap arrives. He figures out a way to cross on some rocks and then we hike together for a little ways until he decides to stop at a camp site. 

A mile before camp, I see Rawhide sitting on a rock with her feet up. She’s having trouble motivating herself for the last stretch. I sit for a minute but then get up and keep hiking. She catches me just as we get to our proposed campsite, under the Deep Creek bridge. We look around and some other hikers tell us there are more people at Splinters Cabin just up the trail, not to mention there are bathrooms. We decide to hike there and find a large group playing charades. But we’re all business and we set up our tents and eat dinner. The school group approaches a little while later and they’re going to camp in their parking lot. We can still smell their hot dogs cooking when we climb in our tents. 

Determined to Thrive – Day 22 + Day 23 (Nero and Zero in Big Bear)

pacific crest trail

PCT miles: 256 to 266

Miles: 10

I woke up around 530 knowing I had a 10 mile walk to the hitching road for Big Bear, but it was chilly out and I stayed in bed for a little while longer. Rawhide and Tarantino seemed to have a similar desire and none of us really got on our way until around 7. My slowness was even more pronounced because my Achilles were really stiff and sore and taking quite a while to get going.

But eventually then I did get moving only to quickly pull off the trail to dig a cathole and then continued on. The terrain was so gradual most of the way, and the temperature so nice, that I kept a pretty good pace. I stopped on a saddle to see if I had cell service and I did, so I started looking for hotel rooms. I was leaning pretty heavily toward wanting to get my own. I called the hostel to ask about private rooms and Sarge was honest that his prices weren’t the best for single people, so I decided to keep looking once I got to town.

I was just about to cross a dirt road when I heard the telltale buzz of a rattlesnake right next to me. I jumped forward a bit and then got a look at it looking at me, shaking its rattle, slithering off the trail. It was only about 3 feet long. It’s the first real “encounter” I have, and I have to say it was a pretty good one – it wasn’t aggressive and it was clear the rattle was defensive and it didn’t want to hurt me. I took a pretty bad and distant picture and kept moving.
It’s in there 

When I got to the road I could see about 10 hikers waiting for a hitch. Some were seated near a cooler filled with Mountain Dew and cola, which I decided to skip, and a group we’ve been calling “the Swiss Boys” were on the road with their thumbs out, and Rawhide, Tarantino, Mixed Bag and Samson and Agnes were sitting down. The Swiss Boys had been trying to get a hitch for an hour, with people slowing down and then saying they don’t have room. About 15 minutes after I arrived someone who’d driven by earlier came back and offered them a ride. Samson had called a taxi and Agnes decided to split it with him. I had a text from my dad and we figured he was about 30 minutes from where we were, so I asked him to come get us and he did. 

We piled into the car with our packs on our laps and headed straight for a Mexican Restaurant. We ate a ton and then dropped Tarantino, Mixed Bag and Rawhide off to look for where they were going to stay, and my dad and I went driving around to the different gear stores in the area looking for a few things I needed, namely some new shoes. 

I wanted new shoes because I’m pretty sure (though I could be wrong) part of the problem with my Achilles is that 1) the shoes hold onto my Achilles in a way that seems to irritate it a little (I’d never had Achilles issues til I wore these on a short backpacking trip) and 2) the shoes I was wearing had very little cushion and a 4mm drop, and I heard another hiker saying minimalist shoes weren’t recommended for people with high arches, which I have. All of this could be bogus but they’re so sore in the morning that I’m willing to give it a shot. 

We went to all the gear stores without any luck before going to Big Bear Sporting Goods, where a man named Steve spent quite a while giving me different options to try. I ended up getting a pair of Merrels that I still think I’ll need to cut the pinky toe open on, but that offer more cushion and a higher heel and feel good on my feet. We’ll see. Shoes are a hell of a gamble out here. And expensive. But also the #1 thing worth investing in.

After that my dad took me and Amelia, who I’d texted, to the grocery store to resupply. I went a little nuts on food but my hunger has started making an appearance on trail and it really freaked me out that I had to borrow food from Rawhide – having enough and the right type of foods out here is the difference between being able to sustain a pace all day or crash early and drag yourself through the trail. 

Too much food for 100 miles? Hard maybe. 

Then my dad and I looked at prices for hotels and thought we found the best deal for our own rooms at the Knights Inn at $69. We checked in and it was clear it was a pretty run down little place. Still, I was happy to have my own room and I stayed there for the rest of the night, taking a shower and calling my brother Matthew and my husband and getting lost in the internet. 

Pre-shower selfie 

The next morning I woke around 530 and laid there for a while before texting my dad and seeing if he wanted to go to breakfast. He lent me a pair of his swim trunks from his car and I wore my rain jacket so I could do all of my laundry and I looked.. uh… fashionable. 

 I got my laundry together and we got breakfast at the Teddy Bear restaurant, which was tasty, and then I washed my clothes at the laundromat (Big Bear Hostel has laundry service if you stay there.) We went back to our rooms and I called my brother Alec while repackaging all my resupply foods and then I called Mark again while I packed my pack and then it was time to check out… and time for lunch. 

Rawhide had texted saying that the Robinhood Inn had good prices so before we hit lunch I went and got a room there – $59 for a single King bed (hiker price) and oh my gosh, this place is so much nicer. Huge upgrade. I wish I’d known it last night, too.

Lunch was delicious at Peppercorn and my dad and I chatted. He’s been trying to understand what it’s like to really be out here. Does it feel like an adventure? He asked. No, not really. It’s like I wake up and I’m in the middle of nowhere and the only thing to do is walk, so I do. So does it feel like a job? No, not really. Well, does it feel fun? Maybe? It just is. I can see the gap between how people see this trip, something full of wonder and amazement and adventure, and the way it actually feels, which is something remarkably less breathtaking (except in the very literal way) and something more understated and humming. 

I told him – the thing is, I don’t think anyone can like hiking this much. It’s hard. It hurts. It’s too much. So I don’t think the people who are still hiking are hiking it because they like hiking. I’m not. But also anyone can do this. I heard some hikers saying they can’t imagine how fat hikers hike this trail. But I can. They hike it the same way I do, with their own set of physical challenges that may or may not be related to their size, and with the same mental bullshit all of us have to tackle. I don’t know how people with bad knees and backs do this hike, but they do. I don’t know how people without hiking experience do this hike, but they do. Anyone who tries this walk has exactly as much of a chance of getting through it as I do. I don’t have a special hiking gene. I don’t have insurmountable will power or the perfect gear. I am just out here, waking up in the middle of nowhere, needing to get someplace before my food runs out, trying not to let the negative stories in my head get too loud.

I should also say, whether it’s because it’s Mothers Day weekend or because I’ve now hiked 10% of the trail or just because grief shows up whenever it wants to, I’ve been missing my mom. I listened to an On Being episode with Sheryl Sandberg talking about losing her husband and I cried my way down the trail. An old friend of my moms sent us photos of her at my age and I cried when I got back to my hotel room. I looked at photos of her from the year before she died and cried. I cried about how the photos of her looking young and thin looked so much like the image in my head of her when she was sick. I cried looking at some photos of myself where people said I look like her. I cry because she spent much of her life trying to get thin in the way she was in those photos, so much so that she ignored her disappearing hunger like it was a blessing. I want to hike her down this trail and remind her of the power of her hunger, how it is the very thing to keep us alive.

These are not big heaving sobs, though if they were that would be okay. I cry because I need to and then I stop, and I move on. It’s all there is to do. 

I am trying to articulate to myself the best way to be on this trail. It is not tough, because the toughness is unkind. It’s not soft, because the softness won’t push you through. So I think of my mother’s favorite flower, Black Eyed Susan’s, a flower I’d only ever seen growing along the highway. Beautiful but hardy. Determined to thrive. 

My First 20 Mile Day – Day 21: Seasonal Creekside to Arrastre Trail Camp

pacific crest trail

PCT miles: 235.5 to 256.2
Miles: 20.7

Well. It happened. My first 20 mile day. I’ve been saying I didn’t think I’d do a 20 for a while, and not til I had a good reason to, and I guess I had good reason today – I had the choice of two campsites, one that made a 13 mile day and one that made a 20+ mile day. For a minute the group thought we could camp at around a 18 mile day, but no luck. So nearly 3 more miles it was.

Today started with a steep, rough climb gaining around 2000 feet. 4 miles took me about 3 hours. Luckily I ate a big pasta dinner with tuna last night and I woke up feeling well-rested — too early to say for sure that that’s the magic trick, but I’m hopeful. My body was sore but my brain was thinking it might be able to make a 20 mile day today. 

We got our first glimpses of poodle dog bush (maybe – I have a feeling we’re all pointing at pointy green plants and calling it poodle dog when it’s probably something else) which is supposed to be worse than poison oak, so I stepped carefully when I thought I saw it on trail.

Once that was over, though, we were above 8000 feet and in the pine trees and the temperature never got too bad, so I was able to hike through pretty much the whole day. The terrain reminded me a lot of Flagstaff.

I continued listening to podcasts which has been a great distraction tactic on the trail. They also helped me feel less anxious about how far ahead my group was or if everyone was going to pass me – instead my brain was distracted with new ideas. I’ll be downloading more in town and maybe some audiobooks too. 

Around mile 11 for the day I reached Coon Creek Cabin, which was an interesting (and a little creepy) place. David and Julia caught up to me after Rawhide, Tarantino and some other hikers had already headed out and we chatted for a while, Julia confirming some of my high school German phrases, until I got my things together and continued on. 

I moved relatively quickly and caught up to Mixed Bag, who was staring at the Private Zoo that cages a bear, a lion and a tiger right next to the trail. It was honestly really sad.

Last I’d heard Tarantino, Rawhide, Mixed Bag and several other hikers were aiming for a couch that had been placed on the trail by a trail angel. There was supposed to be camping nearby and would have been a 17 mile day for us. When we got there, no campsites. I hiked on while the others enjoyed the couch because I was feeling pretty good and no campsites meant that I no longer had a choice in my 20 mile day. 

It was 7pm and I wanted to make it before dark around 8pm. That’s a 3 mph pace, but it was downhill, so I was feeling like it might happen. Not long after, I started getting some wicked crotch chafe. I stopped and took off my pants and went commando again thinking it might help, but it didn’t. I precariously held my pants so that they wouldn’t irritate the chafe with one hand and my trekking pole in the other and moved quickly down the trail. I stopped to put antibiotic on it hoping it would act as anti-friction like vaseline, but no luck. That shit stung. 

Still – I pulled up to camp just as it got too dark to see, at 8pm. Rawhide was excited I’d made it and even offered to hold a light for me as I set up, but I clipped my flashlight onto my hat and got it done in my own. I was sore, my chafe hurt, but I set up my tent and forced myself to eat dinner. I met a few new hikers, Samson (because of his long hair and sobriety) and Rainbow Snake. I had no snacks to power me through the next day so Rawhide gave me some oatmeal and some bars which I was extremely grateful for. 

Tomorrow I’ll be in Big Bear. I think I want a room to myself. I’ve been surprised how social the trail is, how any restful moment is surrounded by people and it’s hard to escape or to allow yourself to escape (because I also desperately don’t want to be alone out here.) So I may try to spend some time by myself in town. Recharge a little. We’ll see. 

Hot Hot Heat – Day 11: Agua Caliente to just past Mike’s PlaceĀ 

pacific crest trail, Uncategorized

Snakes: 1

Rattlesnakes: 0

Miles: 14

PCT miles: 115 to 129

We didn’t get up as early as we would have liked. We got walking around 630 or 7. It was already hot at 8am. I had planned to try to push out as many miles as I could in the morning and then rest during the hottest part of the day, but instead every time I tried to rest I was surrounded by some truly terrible horse flies. They were only a little irritating until one bit me through my pant leg – after that I was too grumpy to even try to relax anymore and instead tried to hike on, moving slow reveling in the shade when there was some. 

There was more shade than I had any right to expect the whole way, and for that I was super grateful. But it was still hot – in the 90s from what I could tell – with little breeze and it also felt slightly humid. It was the sweatiest I’ve been on trail so far and I had to take off my long sleeve shirt and just wear my short sleeve and used my umbrella to protect my arms. 

Early on I got some shade and some water with Tarantino, Rick, and some other hikers. Rick was in the military for 20 years and was chatting with two other hikers about the service. There seem to be a lot of ex military out here. Tarantino headed out before me and I didn’t see him the rest of the day. 

Eventually I grabbed some shade with some other hikers, Ashleen, Aaron and Rick again. Since there were four of us the flies had more people to spread their attention to so they didn’t seem as bad. I stayed there for a good 20 or 40 minutes before taking on the heat.

I have a new backpacking snack/meal that I’m enjoying, which is tuna with Fritos. I had it for an early lunch and it was very satisfying, although I never would have considered it before.

I also met a hiker named Lionheart who I’ve been following on Instagram. I think she does 20s every day and she started days after me and is already past me. I doubt I’ll see much of her but she’s awesome. Very nice and she’s hiked the PCT twice before as well as some other long trails. 

After 12 miles in the sun, taking only a few breaks, I finally arrived to a trail angel’s house called Mike’s Place. It’s also the only place with water for a pretty long stretch. A ton of hikers were there resting in the shade of Mike’s porch and there were banana pancakes that had been made earlier. 

I laid on my air mattress and tried to rest but couldn’t sleep. I was super hungry so I had a pancake, then some pasta with dried pesto and Parmesan, and then I was still hungry so I ate some ramen. I sat and chatted with Karma, Amelia, Jesus, Nirvana and Roadshow. Eventually around 530 we decided it was time to leave and find a new camp spot – Karma was especially antsy to go. She doesn’t like to sit in one place very long before the day is done. 

So we got walking… and so did all the other hikers, around 10. We were all headed to a camp spot either 2 or 4 miles away, both of which said they only had room for 1 tent. It was the first time the PCT felt like a competition — who would get the campsite first?!

All that pasta I ate made me pretty nauseated on the hike that went up up up. Lionheart and Scissors chatted behind me which was kind of like listening to a podcast and took my mind off my stomach. I’m never gonna be the Olympic runner to secure a campsite so I let the faster people in my group – in this case, Amelia. 

But no rush was necessary – that “one” person campsite had room for all of us. And the sunset there was gorgeous. I was absolutely exhausted and set up my tent and chatted a little and the crawled in my tent. We wanted to get an early start to try to beat the hot hot heat tomorrow so I gave up on writing this post and passed out.

Bucket Showers Are Amazing – Day 9: Roadside Campsite to Warner Springs

pacific crest trail

 Snakes: 1 (garter snake)Tears: 1 (missing my mom while writing this)

PCT miles: 101 to 109

This morning we didn’t really want to get out of our tents, and there was no real hurry anyway, because we only had 8 miles to cover to Warner Springs, our stop for the day.

A funny moment from the day: Karma and I were talking about the bucket showers at Warner Springs and said, “you know what I realized? I could wear my buff as a skirt and then I could wash my shorts.”

Me: “I… could not wear a buff as a skirt. That would be a very stuffed buff.”

Me: “… but maybe I could wear two buffs, one on each thigh, and then safety pin them together…?”

Karma: “Oh god. That would be like a reverse thong.”

(I laughed until my belly hurt.)

The hike out was pretty uneventful to start. We were walking through big open meadows of cheat grass that was pretty gorgeous (for now.)

Eventually we reached Eagle Rock. There were about 15 day hikers standing around taking pictures. I whipped out my umbrella and was thankful for shade while we waited for a chance to take our pictures. That’s what we get for hitting a major hiking destination on a Sunday, though. I tried to stand over Mousetrap, who was laying on the ground so he could have some shade. Then Karma was eating a snack so I shaded her instead. Or I creeped on them. Whichever!

The hike out from Eagle Rock was hot. Even with my umbrella, the ground reflected the heat at us. We stopped in the shade a few times and Karma and I spent a good chunk of the hike chatting to keep our minds busy. 

Rachel cooling down by a stream

We got to Warner Springs and sat down for a few minutes before figuring out how the place worked. They gave us towels, showed us where we could get loaner clothes and told us where the bucket showers were. 

It’s funny, I’ve come to rely on Karma’s opinion for a lot of things. “Are you going to wash your clothes or shower first?” “Should we hang out inside or outside?” I think that happens out here where everything is new, we end up relying on the opinions of the people around us. We want to make sure we’re moving as a unit. 

My dad came by as our clothes were drying. My loaner clothes were ridiculous and I looked like I was in some kind of fundamentalist cult. 

My dad brought pizza, Gatorade, and fresh fruit and it was much appreciated. Anything we didn’t eat we passed off to other hikers and they were grateful. He hung out for a few hours and met a lot of the people I’ve been hiking with as well as some people I hadn’t met yet. I think he had fun with them. He said he was jealous of what I was doing and I keep trying to tell him he should try it himself. 

Now I’m in my tent. I called and caught up with Mark. It’s 9pm and I am totally exhausted. The party is still alive out there but I’m going to put in my headphones and get to bed. That’s enough socializing for one day for me. Although Karma and I are texting about being the only “old ladies” or here curled up and ready for bed.

I had a dream last night my mom was alive but dying, and we were trying to handle her dying better this time. In the dream I was crying and crying and crying. I woke up and turned over on my sleeping pad but went back to the dream. It’s hard to not want to see my mom, no matter how sad it is. Karma spent some of the hike talking about her aunt Barbara – my moms name – who was full of love and light and adventure. It made me miss my mom. I wish I could call her. I wish I could laugh with her. I try to turn my wishes into footsteps. May they take me all the way to Canada. 

Tomorrow we get our resupply boxes from the post office and start making our way toward Idyllwild.

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. 

It Gets a Little Sad Out Here – Day 7: Scissors Crossing to Valley Overlook

pacific crest trail

PCT mile start: 77
PCT mile end: 85.1

Miles today: 8

Snakes: 1

Rattlesnakes: (1?)

This is the first night I haven’t especially looked forward to writing. I’m feeling kind of down. But here we go.

Started the day fresh and well rested. I’d fallen asleep writing my blog and so woke up and went downstairs to sit in the breakfast area and write. A man was setting up the continental breakfast and said they didn’t open until 730 (it was 630) but let me sit down anyway. We chatted a little about the trail and he said how smart and friendly the hikers were (he didn’t mention how dirty.)

An hour or so later the group came down to join me. We ate fresh fruit and I drank tea and decaf coffee. My brother called so went back to the room and chatted with him for a little while. Then all of us slowly got our things together and checked out. Karma and I ate the leftover food we hadn’t finished from last night after hearing it up in the hotel’s microwave. Karma went looking for a postcard and I went hunting for the rest of my resupply, enough to last me 2.5 days. I stopped by Carmen’s first and a hiker named Tarentino walked with me looking for his own resupply. The group made a plan to head down to Scissor’s Crossing early to hang out by the water cache until the sun was less intense and try to do around 8 miles, but then Twerk decided to stay in Julian until a little later.

We got a hitch almost immediately from a man and woman who were on vacation. The man had section hiked several parts of the PCT. They were sweet and allowed all three of us (Karma, Amelia and me) to squeeze in the backseat. 

We sat under the underpass with some other hikers until around 330 and then headed up the hill. Amelia and Karma both managed to get some trail magic from some people who are hiking the trail next year but I managed to miss it. Amelia and Karma got ahead of me and stayed that way for about 5 miles. Most of the time I would turn a corner and see them across the way on the farther ridge or above me on a switchback, but around mile 5 I couldn’t see them and worried they’d gotten really far ahead. I started telling myself that even if they felt good and went past our planned 8 miles, I was sticking to 8. My body was asking for it. But they hadn’t gotten ahead. The were waiting for me and snacking around the corner. 

After the break, we started talking about Twerk who, to the best of our knowledge, was still in town. It felt weird not to have him in the group, and I started saying things like, yeah, it’s weird, that’s the nature of the trail, etc. Karma and Amelia started to talk a little about wanting to do 20 mile days in the near future, but Amelia said she was in no rush to get to Warner Springs. “You’ll have me for at least a couple more days,” she said.

After that, we got kind of quiet, and I realized I was feeling sad. Sad because I really like the people I’m hiking with and it’s sort of inevitable we’ll go our separate ways. Sad because my body won’t allow me to hike as fast as them (my calves and ankles still seem generally tight and I don’t want to push too hard to injury). Sad because the trail in general seems to be getting less populated and people we’ve hiked with are getting farther ahead of us. Cathleen passed mile 100 already, as did Sprite and Soulfire. 

I didn’t say anything to Karma, who was hiking right behind me. I kept waiting for her to ask to pass me because I’m slower than her, but she didn’t. We just hiked like that silently with Amelia up ahead. Then Amelia pulled aside to dig a cathole and Karma and I kept going, wanting to find the campsite before dark. “See you in a few,” I said to Amelia.

About 100 feet past where we left Amelia, we heard a rattlesnake buzz on the rocks to our right. It buzzed after we already passed and it made us paranoid around the rest of the rocks. The trail curved beside the mountain so we ended up parallel to where we’d left Amelia and called across the rivet to tell her to be on the lookout for the snake. She said okay. Then we kept walking.

We continued to walk in the mostly quiet, occasionally making a remark about being nervous about snakes. Finally we got to the campsite and I pulled out my phone to confirm we were at the right one when o saw a series of texts from Amelia.

By the time I called her some other hikers had come up behind her and so she wasn’t alone. “You don’t need to come back,” she said. 

Karma and I got to work setting up camp. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if they’d made it around the snake. Eventually, right before the sun went fully down, I saw Amelia walking toward us. Karma and I called out woohoos and helped her set up her tent (“I’m not cowboy camping tonight,” she said. No kidding!) She and the hikers behind her had descended off the trail and done some scrambling to get past the snake. 

We wanted to eat hot food but the wind was blowing pretty rough so we ate in our tents instead. I had a tortilla with cream cheese, a tuna packet and pretzels, and afterward a snickers. 

But I still felt kind of sad. When I finished eating, I called out, “I’m feeling weirdly bummed right now.”

“Me too,” Amelia said.

“Yeah, I’m feeling sad too,” Karma said. We mused that it is probably not being here with Twerk and slowly seeing our group disband, Karma mentioned hiking at sundown always seemed kind of somber to her, Amelia said she’d felt sad when we were talking about splitting up later in the trail, I said we’d always had a big group to welcome us at the end of the day before. 

It could be that we were hungry and extra tired, too. But really it is kind of hard out here to be a human. A lot seems to happen every day, simple human things, and the world doesn’t quite work the way we’re used to, and we can’t hold onto people the way we might prefer. We have to live knowing we’ll have to let each other go.

Tonight I’m grateful for clean – like really clean – underwear. That the wind has calmed as I write this. To not be alone on a mountain tonight. For friendships, however long they may last.