Tag Archives: Night hiking

Somebody’s Got A Case of the “Monday’s”

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Remaining patches of snow in the Marble Wilderness

“Office Space,” a movie from the 90’s that is dear to my heart, depicts an office scene where the guy is having a crappy day. A woman coworker approaches him, recognizing his foul disposition. Instead of steering clear, she says to him in an obnoxiously chipper voice, “Somebody’s got a case of the Monday’s.” Anyone who has ever worked around anyone knows someone like this. Mine happens to be my diabetic hiking partner when his blood sugar is low. Let me tell you about MY Monday.


I woke up cranky because he woke me at 2 a.m. because he was low. He was cranky because… who really knows. I didn’t ask because I was tired. He left me in his dust as he flew down the trail. We were intending to walk 21 miles that day which was reasonable because it was mostly downhill.

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View in the morning once the smoke cleared

Everyone we met was angry that we were dropping from 6,500 in elevation to 1,700, knowing full well that we would have to climb right back up to 6,000 after town. It was a long day. Even though the terrain was fine, it was hot and muggy.

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Fire Belly Newt

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Newt holding onto my fingers

I caught up to Scott some time around 2 p.m. and we broke for lunch. We had our normal tuna and tortillas (with some delicious seasoning salt we found in a hiker box), then followed it with some blackberries and thimbleberries we picked from a hillside.

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Awesome triple tree

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Watching smoke from one of the fires

Immediately after the berries, he plows by me, saying he needed TO GO. Ten minutes later, he returned and felt the need to describe, explicitly, the details of each moment of his projectile diarrhea.

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Walking through a mountain paradise

We walked together after that but he wasn’t feeling well because his blood sugar was high…and the aforementioned bowel movement. The day was getting hotter and I was getting tired because we’d already done 9 miles. He told me to go ahead while he dealt with it. I was more than happy…I can handle low, but high is scary.

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The bluest alpine lake yet, fed by waterfalls of snow melt

My feet and knees were hurting, so I stopped to filter water and rest. Scott came up and wasn’t looking good. He had gone low again. I gave him half of my remaining Mike & Ikes (since he already had half of my bag the night before). It wasn’t enough. We made a meal. It wasn’t enough. He finished off the Gatorade and it got his number up just high enough to hike. 45 minutes later, we had to do it all again.

The funny thing about diabetics when they’re low, is it’s kind of like dealing with a drunk person. They say silly things and aren’t much help. So, as I’m making dinner, he’s commenting on how I am preparing things (in a chipper coworker fashion). Eventually, I asked him not to speak anymore.

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Giant wall of marble

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A marble cave

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Hillside of berries 

When I was at the end of my rope, the sky opened up and it started pouring rain. There I was, covering all our stuff with the rain fly of my tent. Then we got under it and ate our meal. When the rain subsided, I wrapped my rainfly around my pack, and hiked on. The evening was hot and humid.

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Rainfly-covered pack

I was having flashbacks of hiking in the rainforest in southern China. To top it off, the trail was covered in poison oak. You can only unsuccessfully avoid it so many times before giving up. I just walked straight through it. We only made it 14 miles. The only highlights were setting up camp before dark and scrubbing thoroughly with soap specifically for poison oak.

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Grider Creek during the descent

Aside from that long day, it was a lovely week. There are fires raging all around and I haven’t had to change plans yet. The smoke was pretty bad a few days but nothing terrible. The walk through the Marble Wilderness has been amazing. Absolutely breathtaking. Passing one alpine lake after another. At perfect swimming lake, I made friends with some curious little newts that held onto my fingers in the water. Those tiny creatures were the highlight of my week.

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The Klamath River during a 7-mile road walk to town

Upon finally making it to town, I had a hardy breakfast and spent the day doing chores until a thunder storm blew through. Lightning struck all around in the mountains. A woman from the forest service ran up to all of us hikers and was frantic. The lightning caused a fire 6 miles north of here and she was afraid one of us would start hiking and get caught in it. Now, we all wait to hear what the status of the fire is in the morning. There are more fire closures in Oregon, which is my next stop on the trail. This time next week, I’ll be out of California.

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Hiker parking outside the cafe and general store in Seiad Valley

 

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Receiving love from home

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The beginning of an evening storm that started several fires. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zeros and Nearos

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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.

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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.

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Castle Crags

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Can’t get away from Shasta 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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Evening storm in the mountains

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Evening mountains at Dead Fall Lake 

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

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Beautiful lake with our destination in the distance

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Rock steps on the way down the mountain

 

Distractions

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Evening sun at Lake Britton 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mt. Shasta 

 

Adventures and Misadventures

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

My Cup Runneth Over (A Mother’s Day Tale)

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Beautiful morning after a nightmare evening

This is going to be a long one.

The trail is tough. I don’t care how the robots are doing, completely unfazed by a climb. I am a real person. One who has never been athletic in my entire life. I am doing this hike at my own pace, because I don’t intend to die on this trail. Also, I don’t want to hate the trail, which is kind of how I felt on this stretch. When I tell other hikers that I do 8-11 miles per day, they all feel the need to comment on how I’m taking it slow. For a while, that comment upset me. I’m not taking it slow. I’m just not a robot. Therefore, I’m going at human speeds. I listen to my body when it’s in pain and I go at MY speed. Eventually I’ll get faster, but it’s no one’s business but mine.

That being said, I did 14 miles yesterday. 14! On the hardest part of the trail so far. I climbed a mountain and did 7,000 feet in elevation gain. The past few days have been interesting. There was more desert, lots of heat, but happily, there was water this time. I hiked with people for the first time and I could almost keep up with them. Almost.

I met some great trail angels who devote half of their year to helping us out. It’s so awesome to even have someone willing to drive you to or from the trail, and having the ones at home figuring out where you are and where you should be. I am lucky to have the best trail angels of all in my life. I’ll get to that story in a bit. It’s just so great to be walking all day in the heat and have a total stranger be there at your stopping point for the day who just wants to make you a heaping plate of spaghetti. Or even ones who set up a water fountain in the middle of nowhere for you. Or the ones who let you hang out in their break room and help yourself to the Gatorade and cushy chairs. There are great people out there and they understand what we are putting ourselves through on the trail. No one understands more than my parents.

Let me tell you a story. It’s a little long, but an important lesson. Yesterday I walked from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. I stopped for a siesta in the afternoon then began my assent up to Onyx Summit. It was hell. This section has been difficult. A lot of up and down in an intense way. Walking through areas filled with mud. Dry areas without water. Then, of course, mountains. This is the steepest part of the trail, and once you start, you can’t stop to camp because it’s just a cliff the whole way. Once it levels out, you can’t camp because it’s a burn area. I pushed and pushed myself. There were many steps made out of rocks, but these weren’t steps for normal people. If I were 2 feet taller, I might be okay with these steps. Toward the end of the day I was getting to the point where my body was shutting down. I know I needed to get through the burn area and I desperately wanted to be home with my family. I didn’t have a cell signal, so I sent my family a message from my spot tracker with my location. I was trying to make it to Heart Bar because it was a dirt road where I have been before with my family. I sent another message saying that is where I was going because it said on my map that the PCT connected to a 4×4 road that lead there (this is the first time Half Mile maps failed me in a major way). It was dark at this point.

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White Water Preserve

Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate being outside alone at night. God knows I’m trying to conquer that fear, but I’m just not there yet. I set off with my cellphone light, thinking it would be a quick walk to the road and I wouldn’t​ use up much battery. There wasn’t a road! I kept going, kept searching. Pushing forward on only adrenaline because I was starting to freak out. I kept checking the maps and checking the location on my GPS. It should have been there, but there was no road to be found. I kept going. I was starting to worry about my cell battery, so I switched to the only flashlight I had, my taser (thanks Rob). I didn’t carry a headlamp or anything because I hate the dark and was always snug in my tent before sundown.

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Thick, shoe-stealing mud

I wasn’t getting replies from my parents. I didn’t even know if they were in the area. I was just trying to find that damn road that wasn’t there. Eventually, messages came through at 9:30 p.m. I sent my coordinates of where I was. My parents were looking for me but we had no idea how to find each other. At 10 p.m. I saw a tent. When you are alone for several hours and are freaking out, it is a warm feeling to see another hiker. Even if you only see their tent. I stopped there to look at the maps and the GPS. It said I passed it! But how?! I started crying for probably the 5th time that evening.DSC02020

I was freezing and the wind was relentless. My hands were shaking and I could not warm up because everything I was wearing, including my jacket, was soaked with sweat. I texted them that I needed to set up camp or I’d freeze. They said they would keep looking, but I texted them to go home and we’d figure it out in the morning. I didn’t know that they never got that message.

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The steep climb

I set up my tent, changed into dry clothes, opened up several hand-warmers (not a luxury now), and tried to get warm. I was shaking uncontrollably for the next three hours. Hour 4, I was finally warm but couldn’t sleep because the wind was trying its best to tear through my tent. My cell phone was dead, and I kept the tracker next to me in the sleeping bag in case there was word from my parents.

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Walking through the burn area

Morning came and I packed up. I was ready to leave that mountain in the past. I walked a mile and got a message from my parents, asking how I was doing. I told them where I was and which road I was turning on. Within 20 minutes, I heard their truck even before I saw them. When they pulled up, my mom and I both cried. I didn’t know that their night was worse than mine.

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Fog rolling in was the last thing I could see

They had gone to the original place I sent a message from but the road was closed, so they had to walk to get there. Then they backtracked on the trail because the GPS coordinates made it look like I was down the canyon I had come up earlier that day. They didn’t have shelter or anything to keep them warm. They walked all night trying to find me just because I sounded sad. Eighteen miles is what their phones said they did. My mom hurt her knee and my dad’s leg was hurting. They tried to lay down to sleep because they were so tired, but it was too cold. I thought it was in the 40’s, but looking at the weather now, it was 31°F. So they kept walking. They got back to the truck at 9 a.m. and that’s when I got their message.

We agreed that if this happens again, they are to go home and I’ll figure it out until morning. Even though I’m alone, I have all of my emergency stuff. They didn’t. I wouldn’t have died that night, but they could have. We will never let this happen again.

This year for Mother’s Day, we all laid around the house, groaning painfully any time we had to stand up. And when we finally did, we went to REI and bought new hiking shoes. I have the best parents in the world.