Monthly Archives: April 2017

Morning People

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Lovely field of flowing grass

Let’s get serious for a moment. I had a discussion with a fellow hiker about how life before 8 a.m. should not exist. And times like 3, 4, and 5 a.m. actually do not exist. When I told him someone started hiking at 5am, his reply was, “He was lying to you, because that time does not really exist.” I liked this guy. He gets me.DSC01467

Last night I was up most of the night in winds so strong, I thought surely there would be a house on me by morning, the only things remaining being my striped socks. After all that, I heard people getting up and packing before the sun was up. Birds weren’t even chirping yet! Seriously!? In the secrecy of my tent, I flipped off each and every person that walked by before 6:30. It’s not that I dislike morning people…it’s just that we’re different breeds.

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One of many horny toads keeping me company

After Julian, everything was hot and uphill. The trail zigzagged in an insane manner up the hills while there was the view of the straight road below. I just wanted to get further but spent 2 days looking at that road. This trail makes me angry sometimes.

When I finally started to get away from the road, a rattlesnake scared the hell out of me. He was hiding in a bush and I stepped so close to him, I could have reached down and pet him. I think back to playing Xbox Kinect Wipeout with my family and how I could never jump high enough. I guess I never really had the motivation until the snake incident. I have never jumped so high in my life.

There are many motivators on the trail. Water and food top my list. I hiked 14 miles one day just because that was the only water source. It seems that is my biggest motivator. Water. Nothing else matters. A cache of pallets of unopened Crystal Geyser is like seeing a pile of gold. When it is hot and you just ran out of disgusting water you filtered from some questionable green creek, that cool fresh bottle is the best thing you’ve ever tasted.

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Reaching the 100 mile mark

I was feeling ready for a change in terrain. The flowers are gorgeous, the cacti are awesome, but I was ready for something new. Just then, the plants grew tall until I was surrounded by huge oaks. I made it to the next water source. It was paradise. After that, I was walking through tall oaks and fields of flowing grass. I stopped several times just to listen to the grass. I bet you’ve never done that. I hope you get a chance sometime in your life.

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Beautiful oak

I happily walked along a creek with the tall oaks the rest of the day until I got to my meeting point. I was sitting in a chair, waiting for my dad. When he pulled up, a couple of guys walked over to say hello. These were the guys that stayed at our campsite a week earlier, that I suspect hang around to see what else my family will bring.

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Another oak because I can’t get enough of them

My dad and I checked into a little cabin and we were the first customers of theirs…ever. It is funny being the only people at a resort, but the place is nice and the water is hot. Which is good because it takes so long to clean myself these days. He took me out to do laundry and eat Mexican food. I just needed a pile of melted cheese, I didn’t care what was under it. That was such a satisfying meal. I feel like every meal I have on the trail is the most satisfying meal I’ve ever had. We topped it off with margaritas. This is hiking in style. God knows I’ll need it for the next uphill stretch into Idyllwild.

Down and Dirty

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Buttercup-looking flowers while hiking with mom 

It has been an eventful few days. It’s now getting to the point where everyone is getting gross together. It’s funny how on the trail, people begin to lose any form of ettiquite. The other day, I was in a group of guys who were talking about chaffing and one hands the other an ointment and the one guy drops his pants, and reaches up his shorts to apply it. We were 10 feet from a bathroom. The other guy and I just slowly looked away.

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Steep cliff walking through Anza Borrego

Everyone is not as pretty as when we started. We now carry a layer of grit that doesn’t come off in the first wash. Finally at a hotel, I had to wash my feet in stages. It is almost impossible to get under your toenails clean. I won’t even get started on the smell. Eew. So today is a day of cleanliness and I really don’t want to leave the bed.

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Gorgeous desert view

I’m​ taking a zero day. In hiker-speak that means I’m doing zero miles today, or resting as the rest of the world would put it. It has been an eventful past few days and I need a break. I was feeling awesome when my parents came out to meet me over the weekend. They​ surprised me by making tacos and my mom made strawberry pie. And we had picked up a few other hikers who didn’t have a place to stay, so they got tacos and pie too. It made everyone’s day. I’m starting to wonder if people actually like me, or they’re hearing about my setup with my parents and want in on that. Either way, it’s nice to see everyone happy. I keep running in to those hikers as I go.

I was feeling pretty bummed after my parents left. I have so much fun when they’re here. Then topping that with wind, I was not in a good place. The last 2-3 days were marked by insane winds. The kind that just wear you out and slow you down with gusts that throw you off-balance. When you’re carrying 30-35 lbs in your pack, that is not good. That ankle that I keep tripping over is aching after so long in that damn wind. Give me rain. Give me snow. Anything but wind! I have been miserable. It sounds like a hurricane at night trying to rip through your tent. I had even put a rock over a stake I put in the ground. The wind still ripped it out. I didn’t sleep that night.

The trail tends to not make any sense. You can see your destination in the distance, but it makes you walk to the side 8 miles before going in the direction you really need to be going. 16 miles walking in wind yesterday on a part of the trail that doesn’t make sense and I was ready for town. It was a 12 mile hitch into Julian. I’ve never hitched before. So I held up money in one hand and my thumb on the other. I was so tired, when the first few cars sped past, I had to stop and cry. Finally, someone passed and then pulled over up ahead. I ran in the most pathetic limping fashion to get up to them. What an awesome couple. I was thrilled! And they wouldn’t even accept my money. We talked the whole time about travels and college, where their son is going to school. It was wonderful.

I checked into a hotel, had dinner with my hiker friends, spent forever cleaning myself and my clothes, then passed out. After breakfast this morning, I’m glancing out at the beautiful sunny day. Although all I want is to be under the covers and rest my ankle. Tomorrow, I can be motivated.

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My favorite shot of the day

Siestas

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Beautiful trees where I twisted my ankle

I am finally to a place where I have both a cell signal and a place to charge. In case you were wondering, solar chargers suck and they’re heavy. If I didn’t think it would start a fire, I would have thrown it out 20 miles ago…which it wouldn’t have because it didn’t harvest that much energy.

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Passing under the 8 freeway

I am all snuggled into my chilly tent for the night, absolutely thrilled that it isn’t windy tonight. I thought surely there was a hurricane coming through last night. Now that I’m settled after a short day, I’m ready to reflect. Though it is difficult when I’m listening to 2 people snore, 3 people cough, someone talking or moaning in his sleep, and one person blowing something up with very labored breaths. I don’t blame the last person. That’s how I sounded the last 15 miles at least.

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Camping at the top of a rise after running out of water

The past couple of days have been an adventure. I left Lake Morena in the highest of hopes, smiling up and the trees, when I stumbled over a hidden rock and twisted my ankle, screaming, “Really, Tawny!?” I feel much of the trip was like that. Great and painful. There was a 2500 ft or so elevation gain over 20 miles and I am worn out. I have been extremely dehydrated and stopped to rest at every bend in the trail. I ended up having to camp at a random spot at the top of a rise, nowhere near anything. What I was near, though, was another camper. I am not-so-secretly afraid to sleep alone outside. I was thrilled they were 100 feet away in case I freaked out or something equally ridiculous. That evening, I ran out of water. The next water supply was a mile and a half up the trail but there was no way my dehydrated body could do anymore.

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Drinking to my heart’s content

Morning brought more hope and I immediately met a hiker with an irresistible Scottish brogue that made me forget about thirst and hunger until I reached my destination. After food and drink, I carried on in the heat of the day, trudging along the desert portion of the hills, stopping only to lie in the cracks of rocks to hide from the sun. I met a nice naked man in his late 60’s who assured me I would find solace 15 minutes up the trail. What I found was a shaded haven with a tiny creek with ice cold water. I filtered 3 bottles worth. Thank you, naked man.

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Desert area 

At that point, it was even hotter and the  uphill part wouldn’t ease up. A hiker I had seen twice earlier gave up his spot under a tree to give me shade while he went on his way. I sat down and fell asleep for half an hour. After that, I continued to trudge ahead. I made it 9.5 miles that day, which is a big deal for me. It was amazing how in 200 yards, it went from desert to mountain scenery. I found a little spot among some “dodgy trees” as my camp mates put it, had a lovely dinner of fiesta rice (thank you, mom) with my new friends from down under, and had an absolutely sleepless night in freezing wind. I was happy I packed a luxury item–hand warmers.

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Dodgy trees

Today I only did 4 miles to pacify the blister forming on the ball of my left foot. I went into town, ate a mound of mac n’ cheese, then took it easy. I made friends and laughed as the moths only wanted to attack one person. Shared a beer, and called it a night. Tomorrow, I will take it easy too. My parents are coming to see me. 🙂

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The most wonderfully helpful sign

Breaking in My Feet

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Filling out the register at the Southern Terminus

Starting something new is bound to have small mishaps. The beginning of this journey began late and ended late, but there were a lot of things to see.
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When reading about the desert portion of the PCT (basically everything from the Mexican border until mile 700,  Kennedy Meadows) I hear about how much everyone hated that part. “There was nothing to look at,” “everything is dry and dead,” “it’s hot.” It makes me feel sorry for those people. What I experienced these past couple of days was amazing. I saw a lush area with flowing springs and wildflowers in every color. It saddens me that people concentrate on the heat and the mileage and don’t take the time to see what is actually there. This is my perspective:
As we walked along the trail, shoes crunching the ground beneath us, the breeze played with the tall grass that glistened in the afternoon sun. The earth was vibrant with color. The wildflowers making recent fires a distant memory. On the breeze was the faint smell of the ocean. You could almost taste the sea air. The birds were alive with the blooming of Spring; singing to one another, aflutter with joy. Tiny springs worked to erode the hills, babbling as they went. All around life was blossoming and allowed us to take part in the celebration.
How can anyone walk through all that and not see it? Was it hot? Yes! But if that’s all it takes to ruin your sight, go home now. I had an amazing time easing in to my journey. My mom and I wore day packs and wanted to make it just 5 miles the first day before my dad picked us up. We underestimated how far it was until the next road and ended up walking 11 miles. It was dark by the time we got to camp. It was tiring, but my dad spoiled us by finding us and bringing lunch. We were so tired by the end of the day, we scarfed down Subway sandwiches and went straight to sleep.
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Walking with my mom

Day 2 was a lot like this. I was brought tea in the morning, lunch on the trail (where we shared beer and water with other hikers), and my parents even drove to get me fish tacos. I ended the day with homemade cake (I shared that too… it was his birthday after all). I don’t mind if I’m spoiled. My family loves me and they want to do this with me.
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View from my tent

Tonight is my first night alone and I’m trying not to be nervous about it. I’m glad I broke bread (or cake) with other hikers. It’s nice to feel like I have someone around if I need help. But I have weather on my mind. Those carefree cirus clouds we saw yesterday are usually a warning and the clouds tonight make me worry. I hope I can sleep.
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This picture was taken when it was pitch black outside

Packing

Packing for a longer trip than I’ve ever been on in my life is difficult. I’ve never done this before. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve backpacked before, but it was splitting tent poles, pots, and food among a few different people. That was easy and brainless. Packing for one person, for a variety of scenarios that could come up over the next 5-6 months is not easy or brainless. I have now packed and repacked my backpack at least 20 times. I am tired, I am cranky, and the damn thing still weights 30.5 pounds. That’s with water, but still. Still! I have taken things out each time I repacked, and when I thought nothing else could be removed, I sat down with my brother and removed a pile of stuff. Granted, that pile weighed in at about a pound, but it was still a pile. I’m even sitting here asking myself if I really need those wipes for all my naughty bits. I don’t want to leave out my lady wipes, and now I’m thinking about how I can make them lighter.

I don’t know how people can get their pack weight down so low. I have purchased the lightest, tiniest version of everything that I could find. I even found the tiniest Vaseline ever made. Seriously, if I start chaffing, there’s enough Vaseline in this thing for one swipe up my crack and that is it! I have reduced my food supply from a week down to 4 days, and my parents (oh wonderful, loving parents) are going to drive 1-3 hours each way, every weekend while I’m in Southern California, to resupply me. I hope that when they’re no longer within a short drive, I’ll have gained some strength, and figured out what I’ll never use.

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My pack and the pile of stuff removed on the final round.

 

The Countdown

DSC00997With less than two weeks to go, the countdown begins. My food is purchased but not assembled. My drop boxes aren’t packed or labeled. My backpack is not packed or organized. But I made progress and downloaded music. Woo. I am getting restless and I just want to go. There is a point where planning and prep becomes tedious and exhausting. After all of these little headaches, I can tackle anything on the trail.

Right now, I am just passing out my blog address and getting everyone excited about my trip. I’m still getting unsolicited advice as if I haven’t been planning for an entire year. People are still telling me that the snow in the Sierras is terrible this year and trying to freak me out.  As my mom and I were sitting in a flowery field in the lower Sierras this past weekend, drinking a beer, she gave me advice that will help me through my entire hike. She said, “Whatever. You’ll deal with that when you come to it.” When I laughed, she elaborated. “You have common sense, you grew up in the mountains, and you’re not a city kid. You can do this.” That was it. That’s all I needed.