Tag Archives: Human kindness

Fall

DSC04825

Crossing Bridge of the Gods into Washington

The weather is changing and the cold is settling in. The air has a new crispness and the leaves are turning. Nature’s gentle reminder that Fall is near.

DSC04903

Lush, hot rainforest

Other parts of our journey are fighting the change in weather. The ever-present snow is still melting and the rivers from the glaciers are still flowing in the summer sun. The birds are still aflutter while feasting on sun-kissed huckleberries. But I feel the change. Where I once avoided the sun, I now finding myself drawn to patches of light peeking through the trees, thawing out my chilled skin.

DSC04947

Labyrinth at the Buddhist Abbey

This section has been both exhausting and miraculous. Beginning at Cascade Locks, the heat of summer was upon us. With 100°+ days and daunting climbs, the days were rough.

DSC04957

Pretty flowers at Buddhist Abbey

Smoke from fires in Cascade Locks crept in, making breathing difficult. After only 35 miles, we were chased from the trail again as another fire broke out and the trail was closed ahead. It was an exhausting time, emotionally and mentally, jumping around fires, only to find solace at a Buddhist Abbey.

DSC05025

Huckleberries!

DSC04998

More huckleberries!

DSC04997

Did I mention huckleberries?

DSC05007

Huckleberries, melted white chocolate, and toasted tortilla!

When I started this trail, I would never have thought I would be picked up from the trail by a Buddhist nun or taken back to the trail by a monk. They were such wonderful people and they treated us as equals, whereas everyone else on the trail treated us like hiker trash. It was a perfect place to clear your mind and partake in meditation lead by a monk. One of my top five meals on the trail was the vegan Vietnamese spring rolls that a monk made us for dinner. One experience I won’t soon forget.

DSC05043

Posing in front of Mt. Adams after hitting 1,000 miles. 

I watched a hiker video before I started this and they interviewed a girl who said that you can’t be so bent on making miles that you end up passing by the huckleberries. She reiterated, “you have to stop and pick the huckleberries!” I have since been applying the metaphor to life.

DSC05063

Our first river crossing in many moons

But alas, back on the trail, I was able to actually stop and pick the huckleberries…not just metaphorically. And let me tell you about huckleberries! They look like blueberries but taste like a cherry…although better. They just may be my favorite berry. To top it off, we were drinking water straight from a glacier. You could see the snow melting, flowing down the mountain and into your cup.

DSC05100

Glaciers on Mt. Adams 

The smoke finally cleared and we had breathtaking views of Mt. Adams, St. Helens, and Rainier. We made our way through glaciers, rivers, sparkling meadows, and moss-covered trees. The most interesting day involved climbing and climbing up mountains, seeing views of glacier lakes and stunning peaks, maneuvering across fields of snow, navigating over volcanic rocks while walking along cliffsides, balancing in the wind while crossing the “Knife’s Edge,” saying hello to mountain goats grazing below the cliffs, and ending the day drinking the best water on the trail.

DSC05106

Waterfall from Mt. Adams 

At one point, on the skinniest part of the trail, next to a 250′ cliff, I slipped and fell hard on my butt. I let out of stream of curses, having landed just inches from the edge. I was very awake after that.

DSC05141

Sparkling morning dew 

It was an amazing week leading up to White Pass where we knew we had to get off the trail again because of yet another fire.

DSC05205

Yakima Indian Reservation

An amazing couple, their daughter, and her friend drove us down the mountain and we all spent the afternoon together. They even treated us to our first hot meal in a week (we ran out of fuel for our stoves). We are constantly reminded of the generosity and kindness of strangers out here. It’s humbling. I wish everyone would attempt this hike.

DSC05195

Stunning views on Yakima reservation 

DSC05223

Western anemones in Yakima 

DSC05220

This tribe knows how to pick land!

DSC05281

Walking through snow on the best day

DSC05348

The tiniest switchbacks on the Knife’s Edge 

DSC05342

Still a bit of snow at 7,000 feet. Knife’s Edge 

DSC05350

Cliffside on the Knife’s Edge 

DSC05353

Knife’s Edge, Mt. Rainier, and fires in the distance 

 

Zeros and Nearos

DSC03664

Sunset on day 100, at Dead Falls Lake 

I’m finding myself living from zero day to zero day. Looking for any excuse to hike less miles each day. This is fine, but when my body forces me into a zero, it’s not so much fun. It’s been a long couple of weeks and I haven’t written because an entire week was spent recovering.

Shasta was a nice little vacation; staying at a resort with a hot tub in the room and eating hot pear salads. When we got back on the trail, I felt weak and was sweating more than usual when climbing. The next evening, Scott and I were night hiking when I needed to rest. Really, I needed to sit down before I fell down. My body was shutting down. Scott rushed to set up camp as I laid on the ground in the middle of the trail. The next day, I felt nauseated and dizzy all day, so we made our way back down the mountain in the evening. Scott even carried my pack to town.

DSC03482

Ice cold water on a hot day in Castle Crags

We got a ride back to Shasta, which didn’t welcome us back (please don’t stay at the Evergreen Motel). That being said, we caught a bus to Redding where we stayed for four nights while I saw the doctor and recovered (I won’t go into details). We had a date night and saw a college production of Sweeney Todd at the recommendation of the nice girl at Marriott. This girl was so sweet that she upgraded our room, wrote an entire itinerary for a date, and left us wine and chocolate in our room. We bought her a whole cheesecake.

DSC03479

Castle Crags

DSC03495

Curious little grouse hanging out around the tent

Back on the trail, I was still slow, doing only seven miles per day while recovering. We took a nearo (near zero miles) day and on another day, after a hard climb, we took a zero at the most gorgeous lake that we had all to ourselves. We spent all day swimming.

DSC03528

The most perfect lake on the trail. Upper 7 Lake. 

After that, we continued on with high spirits. We stopped and talked to several locals. One spent the last 40 years searching for a certain aster that was burgundy and he found it this week. He informed me where I would see the best wildflowers…it was conveniently next to the best water.

DSC03526

Sunrise at Upper 7 Lake 

This has been the most gorgeous part of the trail. Every day we woke up, planning on going 15- to 20-miles, and each day we stopped to talk to too many people or found a place that was so gorgeous that we wanted to wake up to it. On this stretch, there have been more wildflowers, more springs, more lakes, and more wildlife than on any other part of the trail. There were 4 bears, including a mother and her two cubs that we saw twice. A family dog scared one out of our campsite.

DSC03512

Can’t get away from Shasta 

DSC03504

Pitcher Plants

We have found so much kindness in this section too. Because we were going so slow, we were running low on food. One of our 10-mile days, we came upon some car campers who invited us over for some beers, then asked us to stay and they would make us breakfast. We were the envy of all other hikers when we told them we had French toast and bacon for breakfast. Then, these wonderful people gave us the bacon grease, potatoes, and carrots to cook for dinner.

DSC03794

Boiling potatoes and carrots for dinner

They replaced our Sawyer filter bags, filled our salt and pepper shaker, gave us butter and brown sugar. I know these sound like weird things, but we were dying to find calories in this section. And Scott’s blood sugar was dangerously low one day and the brown sugar came in handy.

DSC03548

With Scott above Upper 7 Lake 

We spent much of the week laughing at silly things. One day I sat down to patch a blister forming on my foot. Scott set his pack down and went to move it so it wouldn’t smash a wildflower. The pack toppled over and rolled 70 feet down a hill, smashing every flower on the way down. We both watched it roll the whole way. Scott chuckled so I started cracking up. He just looked at it then said a drawn out, “Well, shit.” I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Later that week, we got caught on a ridge, in a thunder storm, and set up camp next to the tallest tree. We simply laughed at our own stupidity.

DSC03557

Two of many tiny lakes in my journey

We did our first 19-mile day and it had the biggest climbs of this section. We were excited exhausted and running low on food. The next day, we were passed by several trail runners who went in and back to the car. When we reached the parking lot, they gave us beer and snacks, then were nice enough to drive us the 11 miles into town. We’ve spent the evening bonding with other hikers.

DSC03497

Another day of bushwhacking

It’s been a long, difficult stretch, but I’ve been on the trail over 100 days, hiked 831 miles and lost over 26 pounds. After a couple days of rest, it’s back to the trail. In a couple of weeks, I will be saying goodbye to California.
DSC03618

Evening storm in the mountains

DSC03651

Evening mountains at Dead Fall Lake 

DSC03805

Stepping around road blocks on the side of a cliff on the Russian Wilderness. 

DSC03825

Beautiful lake with our destination in the distance

DSC03827

Rock steps on the way down the mountain

 

Distractions

DSC03221_2

Burney Falls

Distractions are common on the trail. They range from things like pretty flowers and butterflies to food and people. I have been the most distracted in this section because it was probably one of the more difficult sections. I set out each day ready for adventure, ready to hike, and then something happens after a couple of miles hiking that just makes me want to stop and find a milkshake. Or anything cold. Or anything that isn’t hiking. I left Old Town and was feeling low.

I detoured to walk through lava caves and then camped alongside a small grand canyon. I had a hot day of crying for no apparent reason.

IMAG0021.jpg

Trail angels and their trail magic

Then, as I was walking along, feeling pretty glum, I turned a corner to a welcoming face who invited me over to a sun shade. It was a group of women from the Burney area who were trail angels . My eyes started tearing up when I saw what they did for hikers. They had chairs set up in the shade; an ice chest of cold drinks; an ice chest of delicious salad and pasta salads, fruit, and cheese; and an ice chest full of beer donated graciously by Fall River Brewing Company. These ladies even took enough care to wrap the forks in napkins and tie colorful ribbons around them. They also had a phone charger for us. To top it off, they made us strawberry shortcake. Needless to say, I stayed there for 5 hours. I left feeling amazing and humbled by their kindness. And they started this because one of their daughters did trail angeling as her senior project in high school.

DSC03189

Lava beds on the way to Burney 

I’ve been distracted by friends, family, food, attractions, food, showers, food, soft beds, and food. I’ve woken up late nearly every day, but I’m enjoying myself.

DSC03191

Northern California making sure we knew where the trail crossed

I met some great people and random strangers who were nice enough to cart me to and from the trail. Then, my sneaky mom called asked my room number when I got to Burney “in case she needed to call.” That afternoon, my brother and his girlfriend showed up at my room to surprise me with shaved ice!

It was a great weekend! We explored, ate, and watched fireworks.

DSC03238_2

Evening sun at Lake Britton 

DSC03333

Last view of Lake Britton

With Lassen a distant memory, and Mt. Shasta as my new neighbor, I’m feeling good. This past week has been filled with good and bad days and a lot of happy surprises. I’ve made some great relationships, and have hiked with people. I’ve even gotten to the point where I have passed people on the trail. Maybe I’m getting my trail legs after all.

DSC03264

A wonderful person leaving ice-cold drinks on the trail

My hair is getting lighter and my skin is getting darker. My waist has gotten smaller and my feet have grown bigger. Everything that worried me or stressed me out at home really doesn’t matter anymore. It’s amazing that I struggle every day out here and I feel more alive and at peace than I ever have.

The journey from Burney has been fun, exciting, and exhausting. I’ve been hiking with my friend, Scott. This is nice because I can walk at night when it’s cool outside because no one is going to mess with a guy that’s 6’4″. We’ve had our share of adventures as well.

DSC03421

Moonrise in the middle of our evening hike

One in particular is because the Pacific Crest Trail association wasn’t clear with their signage about a detour, and I assure you they will be receiving a strongly-worded letter. Getting lost at 1 a.m. in the mountains is totally my favorite thing to do. We walked 3 miles in wrong direction down a fire road and finally gave up at 2 a.m. and camped. The adventure wasn’t over.

DSC03356

Scott enjoying the view outside of Burney 

The next morning, we followed the GPS on our phones and got as close to the trail as we could on the road. Then we bushwhacked our way down a canyon, up the other side, down another canyon, and up another. It was utterly defeating. The both of us fell several times, we were bruised, Scott was bleeding, and it was the first (or second) time in my life that I hated nature. I recall falling and exclaiming, “F@*% you, nature!” When I made it up the second hill and stepped foot on the trail, I got emotional. It took us 5 hours to go 2 miles that morning. We made it to a water source and slept until evening.

DSC03412

Beautiful view of where we’ve been

That entire day turned around when we woke up. I ran into a girl I had met in June who was having a bad day. We chatted until she felt better. She ended up camping next to Reed and Nicole (who helped rescue my dog). I think some people are meant to be in my life. That night, we hiked until 2 a.m. and then a wonderful couple gave us a ride into Mt. Shasta the next day.

DSC03404

Getting close to Mt. Shasta 

Time in Shasta has been all about food, sleep, and time to forgive nature. We’ve also had some wonderful memories with other hikers while breaking bread. I may not make it the whole way to Canada at this rate, but a hiker named “Necktie” put it eloquently. “I may not be a thru hiker, but I’m a MYTH. A multi-year thru hiker.” That may just have to be the case.

DSC03399

Mt. Shasta 

 

Settling into Third Class

DSC02993

Looking at Mount Lassen 

There are a number of hazards on the trail at any given time. Some are small, like loose rocks, things to trip over, slippery sections. Some are larger, like branches, larger rocks, etc. Today has been snow, fallen trees, rivers, and large creeks. Let me describe this in more detail. It’s not just a dead tree, stripped of branches, laying by its lonesome on the forest floor. No. This is an enormous tree, still green, branches everywhere, and it decided to take down several other trees in the process of falling. The kind of mess that obscures the trail so bad, you have to spend several minutes maneuvering around it to try to find the trail again. At one point today, this occurred every 50 feet or so. When there weren’t trees, there was snow. Several feet deep and and melting enough to fall through.

DSC03008

One of many marshy meadows

What’s fun about the snow is that it makes the trail completely disappear, making you compulsively check your phone, search frantically for footprints, walk in blind faith, or follow the deer tracks because they seem to know where they’re going. The majority of the time, the deer is correct.

DSC03020

Storm clouds dissipating for the evening

Now, put the snow and the fallen trees together and the real adventure begins. Luckily, nature mixes it up by adding a water crossing. The small ones or still ones are no problem since my brother bought me some awesome, waterproof shoes, but the issue is the raging ones that will knock you off your feet. Sometimes you have to walk a quarter of a mile up the river, clawing your way along a muddy mountain side, in order to find a slippery-looking log that might pass as a bridge. Then hope that you’re steady enough to cross without falling. All this makes for a very interesting, very tiring workout that no amount of stair-stepping can train you for. 

Welcome to Lassen. I think it has been a tough winter for this forest and no one (besides thru-hikers) is dumb enough to go into the forest to clean it up. It has been another challenging week. The heat and humidity coupled with walking over piles of snow. What a strange year. Northern California has left an impression on me…mostly in the form of mosquito bites.

DSC03041

Coming up on Terminal Geyser 

Lassen is amazing. I walked down a side trail to “Terminal Geyser,” which boiled the cold water coming into it and everything running out of it was soup-cooking water. I also saw a boiling lake.

DSC03043

Terminal Geyser 

DSC03047

The steamy creek flowing out of Terminal Geyser 

I saw several deer and a fawn, which I was really excited about because I have never seen one in nature. The whole day felt like vacation. To top off vacation mode, I stopped at Drakesbad Guest Ranch for lunch and chatted with a hiker I camped with the night before.

DSC03049

Another snow plant because I love them so much

A couple other hikers showed up and we all hung out. The funny thing about this place is that they are hiker-friendly, but they make it perfectly clear that the other guests come first.

DSC03060

Boiling Lake 

I understand this. The other guests pay a lot of money to stay there. We get everything half price. I imagine if the other guests knew this, they would be upset. So the place keeps us separate from the guests. I felt like the hired help and it made me laugh the whole time. We couldn’t eat until the guests were done, we couldn’t shower in same showers the guests use, and we could use the pool only when the guests were at dinner. It was hilarious.

DSC03064

A deer 15 feet from me. 

One guy got pretty upset about it, but that’s just the way it is. If we paid full price, we’d get full price treatment. Honestly, I was happy as a clam in my podunk, outdoor shower. I was really excited to have the pool all to myself which was neat because it was heated by geothermal energy beneath the ground (something something…my brother would know). The pool was kept at a comfortable temperature by the ice-cold stream water flowing into it (which is why the water is a bit brown). I came back to the table in such a good mood, they started calling me “Pool Maiden.” Trail name? I haven’t decided yet.

DSC03067

A tiny fawn, 12 feet from me, running after momma. The first I’ve ever seen. 

I guess my experience there goes back to the issue of perspective. If you choose to be upset about the way things are done, of course you’ll have a bad time. But if you take it as it comes and enjoy the moment, you’ll me much better off. I slept amazing that night. Which is great, because the next day was the difficult day of obstacles.

DSC03070

Boardwalk to Drakesbad 

I am now at a strange little store with camping out back. It wasn’t good enough for other people, but the grass is maintained, there’s privacy fences, running water, and a flush toilet. What else do you need? Michelle, the woman who helped me out after hours was also really sweet and showed me around. I’m happily sitting on a bench by the road, using their internet and outlets.

I’m not sure what the trail will bring next, I’m hoping this is the end of my skipping around. I hope the snow is over, but I also hope the heat isn’t atrocious. For now, I am content treating this like a vacation. Tomorrow, I will go through a lava cave!

DSC03077

The shower stall around the back of the bath house.

 

DSC03094

One of many tree/snow disasters on the trail 

 

DSC03098

River Crossings with Lazarus 

 

DSC03104

Can you find the trail? The deer did. 

 

DSC03116

Determined little fungi 

 

DSC03120

Lower Twin Lake in Lassen. Was so close to jumping in. I should have…



DSC03129

Camping with Double and Lazarus at the end of a long day 



DSC03148

Final pic of Lassen before moving on to Shasta. 






























Continue reading

Tahoe Detour

DSC02944

Looking east across Lake Tahoe

When my parents dropped me off on the bike path, I was pretty sad. I maybe did 6 miles of walking that day and spent most of my time calling friends to tell them I am alive since I had gone so long without service. I luckily only had to do a half mile of road-walking since the bike path was so long. I came upon a campground and was excited to see $7 hiker rates. Woot! I talked on the phone all evening with friends so that I went to sleep, feeling great.

DSC02882

26 sightings at one campground in one week 

I almost forgot about bear problems in the area, even though I secretly wanted to see one because the rangers fill out a bear card for you. I want a bear card. The next day was the most spectacular scene off the trail. I followed a path that went beside the lake. I could have easily been walking in Switzerland for how gorgeous it was.

DSC02880

The PCT is up there

Clear, turquoise waters, flowing creeks, lush greenery, and raging waterfalls. I would have been sad to miss it. The locals say this is the most water they’ve ever seen at Eagle Falls. My heart was soaring, it was so amazing.

DSC02871

Beautiful aspen grove

The people were wonderful, too. First thing in the morning, I talked to a ranger who teared up when I told her what I’m doing. She wanted to shake my hand, and told me I’m an inspiration. I met two different mothers who were inspired by my hike, one of them plans to backpack in the near future.

DSC02875

View of Tahoe 

I talked to a dad hiking with his daughter who told me I was his hero for going out and doing this alone. It was really sweet. It went on like this for most of the day. I stopped and talked to one dad-and-daughter duo for at least 20 minutes because they were so excited to hear my stories.

DSC02887

First Glimpse of Emerald Bay 

It was a good day. A beautiful day. I also did only 6 miles and found another campground with hiker rates.

DSC02891

Emerald Bay with a small glimpse of Eagle Falls 

DSC02916

The lower part of Lower Eagle Falls 

DSC02926

This waterfall was massive. You can see a tiny glimpse of the upper falls in the top right corner. I had to clean my lens in between shots because of the mist.

The next day was road-walking all day. And goodness, people drive fast. The heat and the humidity was getting to me. I met a couple hikers who were telling me conditions of where I was going next, and it is still deep snow.

DSC02898

Emerald Bay

I heard it from another hiker too. So I found a convenience store, bought an 8% beer, sat on a rock, and thought about what to do next.

DSC02940

The woman I talked to for 20 minutes loved this shot so much, she said I needed to have it. 

I made the decision to jump again, so I called a friend who planned on skipping up there, and he came to pick me up the next day.

DSC02945

Perfect waters just past Emerald Bay

We enjoyed the last of Tahoe with some margaritas, then were on our way. He still had things to do at home, so he dropped me off in Chester, near Lassen. In Lassen? More adventures.

DSC02968

A wild storm passing through on my last evening in Tahoe

 

DSC02972

Ending Tahoe with a Margarita

 

Gettin’ in the Groove

DSC02852

Storm brewing over the Sierras

It has been an eventful and awesome week or two. I now have a signal for a quick moment to tell you about it. I am officially out of Southern California!

DSC02548

First Sunset in the Sierras

I started my hike at Walker Pass and it was an immediate and unrelenting climb for the day. I was nervous camping alone because I was reading about bear problems in the area. Luckily, each night, I’ve been able to camp with someone. The water sources here taste infinitely better than in Southern California. The weather is more intense, though.

DSC02550

Beginning the Climb from Walker Pass

I haven’t been feeling all that well, and of course I’m worried that it’s giardia or something equally unpleasant. On my absolute worst day feeling sick, I was about to make another 1000 ft climb in the afternoon but I couldn’t get my body to do it. Whatever the sickness was, sapped my energy and made me nauseated. The wind was insane and I was about to camp for the night. One of the hikers, stopped to talk to me and then was nice enough to come back and check on me once I set up camp. Between the sickness, exhaustion, and wind, I was going to have a panic attack. And I did. Not my proudest moment on the trail.

DSC02613

Celebrating with an Eclair Cake 

The next day, I made my way back down the trail, down a hill, across a creek, through some bushes while crawling uphill, then to a small dirt road I had seen the day before. That is where my family met me for my birthday. I turned 31 on Sunday, the 11th, and my whole family showed up to celebrate! It was awesome! I just wish I were feeling better. My mom made me the best cake ever and I blew out candles in the tent. My parents got me a new cell phone (that I’m way too excited about) so that I’m able to update my blog and everything else, they also got me new trekking poles.

DSC02620

Fancy Waters

My brother cracked me up by buying every type of fancy water on the shelf. Other hikers kept commenting on them which made me smile more. He also got me fancy hiking shoes.

That weekend, we were able to get solid answers from a very helpful and wonderful ranger about the snow and water conditions in the Sierras. It isn’t looking good. So my parents met me again to drive me farther. Another section I will have to complete later. I’m a hiker, not a mountaineer, and I don’t possess the skills necessary to do the high Sierras right now. What really worries me are the dangerous river crossings.

When my family left, I bonded with a few other hikers around a fire then went to bed. The next day was more climbing, followed by an incredible view of several of the stow-covered peaks of the Sierras, followed by 5 miles of downhill. Everything was absolutely gorgeous. On the way down, I ran into Scott, the hiker that checked on me a few days earlier, and we hiked together to the next water source, where we were both planning on camping. Other hikers had the same idea and soon, several of us were sitting in a round, eating dinner.

DSC02668_1

Bear Just Before Kennedy Meadows

One hiker walked away to do something and we all heard him casually say, “Oh hey, bear.” We all thought he was talking to a friend or just messing with us until he said, “No, really. There’s a bear over there and I think he’s stealing someone’s food.” We all jumped up to see. I got a blurry picture of the bear running off with a food bag. There were 6-8 of us and the guys were all shouting and trying to scare him off. It didn’t work. The bear gave a “yeah, right” look, sat down on the other side of the creek (about 40-50 feet from my tent) and happily ate until morning. “Double,” the hiker whose bag was stolen, was distraught so we all gave him food, but he stored the food in my and Scott’s bear canisters. Several of the other hikers continued on, not wanting to be bear meat, but 4 of us stayed and diligently went through our packs to rid them of anything scented. I slept surprisingly well.

DSC02678

700 Mark. This was 500 miles for me.

The 4 of us ate breakfast and made the shortish walk to the Kennedy Meadows General Store. When we arrived, all the other hikers clapped and cheered. This is one of my favorite customs of the trail. At this store, everyone claps for hikers that walk up, because it means you officially made it through the desert portion of the trail. For me, it meant I completed 500 miles! I’ve been waiting over a year for that moment. We celebrated by going out to dinner and eating more than was necessary or smart. I didn’t need breakfast or lunch the next day.

DSC02690

South Fork Kern River After Kennedy Meadows

The majority of people hit Kennedy Meadows and quit before the Sierras, others are jumping ship to flip flop (start farther up the trail and come back when the rivers aren’t so dangerous), and the minority (tough Europeans) are going to try to traverse the Sierras. I am a flip-flopper. But I did do the 4000+ foot climb up to Cottonwood Pass, and I was glad I did.

DSC02727

Gorgeous Meadow at 8,000 ft 

The 45 miles from Kennedy Meadows was exactly the reason I wanted to do this trail. Where every moment is inspiring. I got to the top of a pass, and the trees opened up into an enormous meadow surrounded by tree-covered mountains. Streams and rivers cut through the meadow, fed by the snow on the top of the hills. It was a perfect scene. It was a perfect day.

DSC02731

Another View of the Meadow 

DSC02736

Steel Bridge over Kern

DSC02738

Kern River

DSC02740

Perfect Platform for my Tent 

The next two days were filled with streams, rivers, snow, marmots, deer, grouse, wildflowers of every shape and color. I was practically floating, I was so happy. Then I came upon a “though European.” He told me he was quitting. I asked why. He told me he went to the top of the peak I was climbing, took pictures, and turned around. He replied, “One peak? Okay. Two peak? Eh. Okay. Three peak? Pfff. Snow, too much.” I told him I’m going around and lot of hikers are too. He said, “This I know. My feet are walking, but my mind, not. I have longing for home.” I completely understood. We wished each other luck on our journeys.

DSC02739_1

Showing off my lovely legs at the end of the day

An hour later, at 10,000 feet, I was walking over piles of snow, some 8 feet deep. I postholed (fell through the snow) and banged my knee hard against the edge of a log. I cursed more in that moment than I did the entire previous two weeks, and hobbled my way out and over to a rock to assess the damage. I’m going to live. Just bruised and really stiff every time I start moving again.

DSC02754

Green Hills Next to Spring

DSC02750

Mountain Spring

DSC02757_1

Being Stared Down by a Yellow Belly Marmot

My parents met me on the trail and we took adorable backpacking selfies after camping. I was glad they got to see how amazing it is up here. And I’m glad we got to do something fun for Father’s Day.

We hiked back to the car, up hills, through meadows, taking shoes off and crossing flowing creeks. Then we talked to another ranger about where to start and they suggested Tahoe. So here I am at lovely South Lake Tahoe. I’m glad we jumped off the trail when we did. A huge storm brewed in the afternoon and we would have been stuck in it. Upon being here, we talked to another ranger that said the trail is still too difficult. I am now just going to follow trails along the lake so I can at least make miles adjacent to the PCT.

DSC02771

Walking through snow at 10,000 feet

Parting with my parents was tough because this was the last time I will see them until August when they come up to Oregon for the eclipse. I was feeling pretty down, but I’m feeling excited and nervous about tackling this on my own. The adventure continues.

DSC02820

Backpacking Selfie 

DSC02812

Dad carrying our little, old dog 

DSC02834

Crossing Slimy Creeks

DSC02827

Horseshoe Meadows and Cottonwood Pass

DSC02840

The first time I’ve seen snow on the Sierras from Hwy 395 in summer 

Adventures and Misadventures

DSC02329

The Sierras of Southern California

I saw a cartoon strip on Pinterest where a zombie was pictured smiling up at a red balloon in his hand. In the next scene, the zombie was sad as his arm had ripped off and was floating away with the balloon. At the bottom was the caption, “Happiness is fleeting.” I laughed and laughed, then took a screenshot and continue to laugh each time I see it. But isn’t it the truth? A few days ago was the longest and hardest (or possibly a close second) climb I’ve done. It took hours upon hours to do a 2,400 elevation gain. It very nearly defeated me. As I hobbled my way over the crest and could, alas, see the canyon on the other side, I raised my trekking poles to the sky in triumph. I did it! I conquered that mountain! I was smiling to myself as I made my way down the other side for no more than 5 minutes when a spindly man in his early 70’s, wearing a full backpack, jogged past me. He wasn’t even sweating. As I stared at his skinny little legs kicking dust at me as he passed, my face settled back into a frown. Happiness is fleeting.

DSC02339

Ending the day with a cold evening and a great view

It has been a challenging week or two to say the least, but I have had a lot of moments of feeling good. I have climbed mountains, sometimes more than once. I have been frustrated and exhausted. I have also spent quality time with my family. Last week was the end of my slackpacking (leaving my pack at home and being picked up each night). My mom walked with me out of Wrightwood and we had fun walking to Devil’s Punchbowl where my dad barbecued tri-tip for dinner. Hiking out of there was the most difficult, and I apparently was the only one who chose that detour around an endangered species closure. No one was around, water was scarce, and the bugs were relentless. Even the ladybugs bit! Back on the mountain was gorgeous and there was wonderfully cold, flowing water. It was like snow melted straight into my mouth.

From there, it was a huge fire area. I stopped at the Mill Creek Fire Station and met several awesome people moving at my pace and feeling somewhat discouraged. We all vented and had a little therapy session. My brother, Brent, met me there on Friday and we hiked the next day.

Now, I must preface this story by telling you that Darlings are notorious for adventures… or misadventures. Trips with us tend to be exhausting, because things just have a tendency to go awry. Our hike was supposed to be an easy 12 miles to a campground where our parents would meet us with our stuff. Naturally, we left all but food and water in my brother’s car with the assumption that our plan would work out. It was a hot day and we were working through our water. Along the way, Brent was realizing the things he left behind, such as lunch, or fuel to cook food later. He ended up cold-cooking his food and it didn’t come out that great. We walked along an abandoned road because the PCT is often an illogical path.

We walked through what was once a conservation camp but is now nothing but untouched, charred remains of buildings where people died. It was unsettling. On the top of the mountain, the only things with much life were the abundant lupines growing in the burn. We looked down at our meeting point and found it to be closed. We were running low on food and water and knew the next water source was another 6 miles away. In contacting our parents, we found that they couldn’t find any roads open to the area, so we made the decision to continue to the water. A couple miles later, we were both out of water. Saving energy, we switched back and forth from trail to road, sometimes having to bushwhack our way. We rested often in the shade until finally making it to the water cache. There was also a cooler of cold sodas for sale. That was the best Sprite I’ve ever had. We talked to our parents again to find the roads were still closed to where we were. It was windy and the sun was going down. If we had our things, we would have camped, but that was all in the car. We were out of food, but did fill up on water. I told a girl I met the day before what was going on and someone at the table donated a couple of Clifbars to us. We were about to do another 8 miles.

DSC02461

400 mark that someone made out of pinecones

The sun was setting as we tried to get a little rest, but there was no point. We left the comfort of other people and made our way down the mountain with already sore bodies. The trail seemed to go on forever. We stopped on a ridge to eat Clifbars and get out our flashlights. We calculated that we would get there by midnight and continued our journey by the light of our flashlights. We could eventually see lights of the valley below. When we reached the valley floor, we thought we had less than a mile to go. We were wrong. The PCT sent us back up into the hills and we were both angry about it. It was at least another 3 miles. At each parked car below, we flashed our lights until one finally flashed back. We found our parents and made our way to the base of the mountain where dad set up chairs and mom made quesadillas. It was 11:30p.m. when we arrived and we had been hiking since 7:30 that morning. We did 26 miles and we were exhausted and slept right there in the parking lot. All in all, I had a great day bonding with my brother, even if we felt beat-up afterward.

DSC02498

Top of Mount Gleason with Brent

The next day, mom made burritos and Brent got ready to leave. My parents fed every hiker that passed by, giving them either a burrito or beer. Everyone was really excited. The rest of the day was filled with errands and resupplying. I had a breakdown. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and told my mom about it. We both cried as they left that night.

DSC02503

Strange flowers

It has come time to make a tough decision. Stay or go? I made it 454 miles to Agua Dulce and the heat was too much for me. I called my mom at the end of another hot day and told her I want to jump (move ahead). Tomorrow, I will be jumping 200 miles to Walker Pass and will return in fall to complete the section I didn’t do. Of course I would love to do this in order but I underestimated the heat and overestimated my speed. I expected to be past the desert before June, but it didn’t happen. Jumping ahead will mean I’m closer to making my goal date and I won’t die of heat stroke in the desert. Now I will be tackling the extreme snow conditions in the Sierras. This has been the biggest snow year since 2011. Some places are impassable right now. Some places that are usually tiny creeks are now raging rivers. The adventure continues… just farther up the road.