The Desert Goes Up in Flames & The Kennedy Meadows Experience

Day: 66

Location: Mammoth Lakes Library, CA

Cumulative Miles: 906.6

Avocados Consumed: 33

Showers Taken: 16 (yikes)

Rewinddddddddddddd….

The last 50 miles of desert. 2.5 more days. The snowy Sierra await us at the end of this week. We ended a great Memorial Day Weekend with an American BBQ at the campground with the Brit Family Robinson. The kids (Captain Obvious and Pippy) challenged me to a game of horseshoes. I would like to say I kicked their little hiker butts, but that was not the case. They won. That’s all I’d like to say about THAT.

When two families merge!

When two families merge!

The Brits named all their water bottles after us, I got the Mt. Dew one! hah!

The Brits named all their water bottles after us, I got the Mt. Dew one! hah!

The following morning, Centerfold and I hitched the 38 miles back up to the trail at Walker Pass. Being a tough hitch, we did really well. A lady in a beat-up 1980’s Honda picked us up within 10 minutes. When we loaded her trunk with our packs and our bodies, I thought we were going to bottom out. Her 6-year-old daughter was in the back, so we became buds. We talked about life, played “Pet Rescue,” and she told me how beautiful I was. Automatic Best Friend. She drove us as far as she had time for, then dropped us on the side of the road. It was probably 90 degrees out, and we stood at this pull-out for about 20 minutes before someone else stopped to take us the final 10 miles. In that time, the owner of the land we were standing in front of came out with cold water and Gatorade. Such a nice guy, and within the next 5 minutes a professional mountain biker picked us up in his ‘suped-up’ extremely nice truck. He told us some crazy stories about how he got shot and lost a lung, which is why he had to retire so early. But it’s okay, because things happen for a reason and now he has a rad little kid who races bikes. He dropped us off and BAM we began climbing for the next 2.5 days. It was the last section of desert and it was brutally rewarding. I fell back in love with it. Super hot, dry, and mountainous.

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For our last night in the desert, I wanted to find a really sweet spot. I wanted to watch the sunset, make dinner, journal, and keep my rain-fly in its bag and stare at the desert stars until my eyes were forced shut. It took a few extra miles of hiking, but I finally found the perfect spot on a ridge. All goals accomplished (with an added surprise swig of whiskey from a group of hikers who stopped by) and I slept like a baby under the brightest, clearest, most beautifully calm sky. The perfect send-off.

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Chuckles, Spoon, and I hiked the last 10 miles into Kennedy Meadows together the next morning. I was definitely struggling a bit from dehydration, just couldn’t get my mind right. I fought it so hard because I knew how big of a milestone it is to walk into the iconic Kennedy Meadows (and how excited Chuckles and Spoon were, so I was trying realllyyyy hard not to be a debbie).  My spirits rocketed the second we touched the parking lot. Kennedy Meadows is a “town” of 200, basically it’s just a general store with a big deck hikers drink and eat burgers on. It’s the Gateway to the Sierra, so it’s filled with very excitable hikers, the energy being completely contagious. WELL, as new hikers arrive, the fellow hikers hangin’ on the deck start clapping for them! So we walked up to probably 30 hikers applauding us in. I couldn’t stop myself, I ate it up. I bet everyone who knows me well is NOT surprised by this. I started doing my toe-touch dance and yelling “ohhh stop it! just stop it! noooo YOU guys! it’s all YOU guys! awww shucks!” We got up to the deck and a few guys were like “holy sh*t! she’s got a f$#kin signature move man! that’s awesome!” I introduced myself as Toe Touch, said screw this dehydration thing, and we got beers and burgers and became part of the crowd clapping in other hikers. Such a silly, stupid, weird life. I love it.

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Good friends send cheap whiskey you can't possibly fit in a backpack

Good friends send cheap whiskey you can’t possibly fit in a back-pack

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We all had several packages waiting for us. Ice axes, micro-spikes, warmer clothes, tons of food, letters from friends etc. My favorite was a box of MRS. HACK cookie squares! Growing up she always made our soccer team cookie squares, and then continued to bake me them every time I was home from college. I’ve been in contact with them and knew they were coming, I was SO excited. They were as fresh as if she just took them out of the oven in NY. I ate a ton, packed up 8 (one for dessert every night, what a treat! except the last 4 days were sad), and then gave the rest to the Brit Family Robinson. Hysterically, Anya (the mom) took a bite and ran over to me on the other side of the deck, mouth full of cookie exclaiming “what IS this, it’s NOT a cookie, it’s NOT cake, what IS IT?!?” Smiling and equipped with a arm swing I yelled, “it’s a cookie square!” So proud of them, I was so proud of those cookie squares, as if we just bridged a huge cultural gap. The little things. So THANK YOU HACK family, for always being such a great support system for me, and for putting huge smiles on our faces.

We felt really, really lucky. As we sat on the deck that night, we watched a cloud of smoke fill the area we just hiked in from. There was a fire at a campground just a mile off the PCT, and it shut down the trail to Kennedy Meadows. The next day hikers were getting dropped off at Kennedy Meadows, and they didn’t get an applause. I felt really bad for them, they had to miss the last 50 miles of desert, and then get driven into Kennedy Meadows, nothing any hiker wants to happen. That also sealed it for us, we were getting out of there. We sat and drank whiskey, sang songs, made fun of each other, swigged wine with Beyonce, and watched the desert burn behind us. It was surreal, the desert literally went up in flames the day after we completed it. And in that moment, I found Jesus.

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After a very casual effort of organization and consolidation (aka putting all items into sandwich bags), I had managed to fit 12 days worth of food into my newly purchased bear canister (required for the next 400ish miles). The others only had to fit 6 days worth, which was even difficult for them. Good thing I have a healthy relationship with hunger (kidding), because as it seems, I eat half as much as they do. But if I didn’t, if I didn’t train my body to do A LOT on a little (to put it simply) then I wouldn’t be able to have been in the Sierra for 12 days straight, and give it all my focus and energy. We all make choices, and mine seem to be on the higher spectrum of masochism. I’m aware. And I’ve embraced it.

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My pack weighed around 35lbs with no water

So that was it, our final farewell to the desert, to Kennedy Meadows, and to hikers we were very uncertain we’d ever see again. After a cuppa tea with the Brits, and finally SHOVING everything into every area of our packs, we set out for the mountains. We hiked a huge 2 miles that night, ate snacks for dinner, and lay awake excited for the next chapter. The chapter that is most talked about. The chapter that would surely change us in the most beneficial ways. The chapter that would challenge even the most poised hiker. The chapter entitled, The Sierra Nevada. DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN

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The Desert Crazies

Day: 48

Location: Neldas Diner, Lake Isabela, CA

Cumulative Miles: 652

Avocados Consumed: 32

Showers Taken: 13

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I cracked. The desert broke me. It was only a matter of time, but the weird part is that it wasn’t the exposure or extreme temperature. It happened on a cold, windy, and rainy freakin’ day. Don’t get me wrong, the desert has been extremely gorgeous and rewarding, but it’s safe to say, “I’m over it.” GAHHHH

We started our hike on Sunday afternoon. Camel hiked out a day earlier so we were down to 4. If I were in high school I would have called us the “Fab 4” all week, but I’m not, so it obviously never even crossed my mind.

Brand loyal.

Brand loyal.

We had a short week on our hands, about 86 miles to the next town. All I knew about this stretch was that it’s desert-like, and there would be very little water along the way. If my preparation hasn’t impressed you so far, I feel like that last sentence MUST of got you there. Again, just wingin’ it.

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It was so cold. The first couple of days were very pleasant, but the nights provided the shivers and I laid awake making lists of more layers needed for the High Sierra. Why sleep when you can make lists? We did a lot of initial climbing, so we hiked and slept around 6,000 ft. throughout the week. The roaring wind didn’t help matters either. My goodness I am so sick of the wind. If I can pinpoint my craziness to one element it’d be the wind. For sure. GAHHHHH

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Two days BEFORE the desert made me crazy, I saw a bear. Confusing for me, because I thought I was in the Mojave desert. And because I thought “it must be a squirrel.” It wasn’t. It was a big brown bear and it scared the shit out of me. There was a stretch of forest in between more desert, it lasted about 6 miles and that is where the Mojave Brown Bear lives. Mile 595.4.

The bear stopped in the sunny part of the trail to stare me down

The bear stopped in the sunny part of the trail to stare me down

I’ve seen bears before, but never that close, and never alone. We stared at eachother in a frozen silence. I would have made a lot of noise and went bonkers, but it didn’t feel right. Instead, I did absolutely nothing. Except pray, yeah, I prayed quite a bit in those 20 seconds. It eventually huffed and charged down the right side of the trail into the woods, PHEW. I continued to do nothing for 10 minutes and hoped someone would show up behind me, no such luck.

It was 6:30 at this point, I was ahead of the pack and looking for a campsite. I couldn’t find any suitable flat ground for 3 tents, AND I wanted to get out of that bear forest, so I ended up hiking another 4 miles. I sang loudly, yelled made up words and phrases, and swung my trekking poles around. I really, really didn’t want to see that bear again.

I ended up camping alone that night, 3 miles ahead of everyone. I don’t blame them, I pulled out a big day and they hiked farther than they wanted to trying to find me. I spent all night (seriously) wondering if the bear ate Maggie (chuckles). I was genuinely concerned that someone was dead, and then I woke up to an awfully depressing fog and that confirmed my prediction. This fog, yes, this fog, means the bear killed someone. And it was probably Maggie.

breakfast with an alive and well, Chuckles

breakfast with an alive and well, Chuckles

An hour later I found everyone. Alive. WELL THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE. Everyone was shocked that I saw a bear, so now everytime I tell the tale of the Mojave Brown Bear, I get really into it, campfire style.

Dinner in the Cabana, a favorite!

Dinner in the Cabana, a favorite!

The day the desert broke me was total bullshit. That’s the only way to describe it. I expected this first 700 miles to be FLAT, HOT, and super EXPOSED. It’s been all those things probably 50% of the time. After a very long and sandy climb up a stupid hill of some sort, it started to hail. I finally get to the top, and I just get pounded with rain, and then hail. I gingerly searched for my poncho and umbrella. Why wasn’t I frantic? Why wasn’t I rushing? Why didn’t I care that I was under complete weather annihilation? I couldn’t stop laughing. I didn’t give a shit anymore. I knew it would pass, and I would eventually dry off. I let it mess with me as it pleased. I eventually threw on my poncho over a SOAKED toe touch, hiked for 5 minutes, and then took it off.

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At the bottom of the mountain was a water cache where I waited for Spoon and Chuckles. It was really windy and cold, but I took off my clothes to dry anyway. It didn’t work. So I put them back on, did a few somersaults with my pack on, laughed, yelled, screamed at the top of my lungs how badly I wanted to lay naked on hot pavement, and then we climbed up another mountain. Against the wind. At the top I looked out over the dark and stormy valley and said, In a very low tone, “I’m so fuckin’ sick of you.” I shook my head and then laughed at myself, my life, these circumstances, and remembered quickly how easy we have it out here. Gratitude gave me a swift attitude adjustment REAL QUICK.

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These lupines are quite nice though

These lupines are quite nice though

We raced into town the following day, a mostly downhill 13 miles. We stayed at the Weldon KOA and did the normal routine: beer, food, shower, laundry, beer, pretend to sleep. We hitched 35 miles with a really nice guy who had a Rolling Rock beer in his center console, he claims it was his first beer of the day. We didn’t mind. Later I hitched to the supermarket with a guy who had a 12 pack of Natty Light in his center console, he offered no explanation.

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We took the dollar bus into Lake Isabela the next day, spending one night at the Motel and the following 2 nights camped at a grassy corner in a trailer park. I met as many locals as I could, I really wanted to hear stories that didn’t involve hiking and pretend I actually lived here. It worked out well because everyone I met was super friendly. Even attended a Hawaiin Luau at the Moose Lodge!

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Drinks with Larry and Gary!

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Drinks with Keith and Dawn!

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There is plenty of snow and cold temperatures awaiting us in the Sierra (50 more miles), so we took our time in Lake Isabela to get things sorted for the long stretches in the mountains. My friends are packing up for 5 days and then hitching into Lone Pine, 88 miles down the trail. I thought about doing that as well, but then realized I love the thought of hiking straight through the first 200 miles of the Sierra. It will be about 12-14 days, because it includes a summit side trip up Mt. Whitney (highest peak in the lower 48!). Our daily mileage will also lower in the Sierra due to elevation, snow, ice, and overall beauty.

When I think about backpacking in the High Sierra, I envisioned it with some solo time. This is the perfect opportunity to see how well I can do on my own, and face all the challenges that come my way. I’m a bit nervous, but way more excited. I haven’t slept all week, my entire body is on fire with the anticipation of these mountains.

I’m oddly not stressed out about having good enough gear or enough food. My plan is to stuff my pack with food and clothes, and hike north. One step at a time, keeping it simple and letting the magic of the landscape wash over me.

Sierra ready.

Sierra ready.

My next maildrop will be in Tuolomne Meadows, looking to be there around June 15th! But first, 200 miles in the Sierra, a reboot at the Mammoth Lakes Motel 6, and then 42 miles.

Time to go see for myself what all this fuss is about. 👍😀✌️🏔🏔🏔🏔🏔🏔

 

 


 

Earning the Sierra

Day: 40

Location: Motel 6, Mojave, CA

Cumulative Miles: 566

Avocados Consumed: 29

Showers Taken: 11

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This week was a doozy. A majority of Mile 55 members labeled this the toughest hitch. I think I might agree.

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“I smell like hot dog water” said Centerfold as we hit the trail on a Saturday afternoon. With just showering and laundering the day prior — this was sad, but true. We all smelled like hot dog water. The truth is, we stink. Although, our group does take good care when it comes to hygiene, other people definitely smell worse out here. We no longer smell eachother, but we do get whiffs of ourselves everytime we adjust a backpack strap or reach across our bodies. Sure, you get used to it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s found a home in all our stuff, never to be washed out again. The worst part is showering, feeling amazingly clean, then sniffing your armpits 2 hours later and BAM, ya still stink.

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I had a moment of major fear because if I can’t scrub the stank now, how am I gonna get rid of it in 4 months for my sisters wedding? Is this ridiculous? Yes, yes it is. Chuckles, in her ever so patient way of dealing with my shit, laughed and told me all I have to do is go home in September and sit in the sauna for 3 hours. That shut me up and I went on my merry way, embracing that solution and not giving the stank any further concern.

On 3 everyone look as trashy as possible...or, actually, just stay as is. Yeah, yeah that's perfect.

Okay on THREE everyone look as trashy as possible…or, actually, just stay as is. Yeah, yeah that’s perfect.

So, right, back on trail Saturday afternoon…we were all together, rested, “clean,” and caffeinated. Spirits and levels were at an all-time high. We stopped for water about 8 miles in and the pipe was barely producing a trickle. It was so unimpressive that Camel quickly named it “Splash Mountain.” It was the last water for awhile so we spent an embarrassing amount of time there, but it was evening and we all had the giggles and the crazies, so Splash Mountain proved to be a solid start to the week. Looking back, it was a big foreshadowing moment in terms of really unreliable water to come.

It's fun to stop suddenly, turn and shoot. You capture everybody's best side

It’s fun to stop suddenly, turn, and shoot. You capture everybody’s best side

As the sun was setting, we found flat ground to set-up camp. The view was gorgeous, and the laughs were abundant.

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We had the pleasure of hiking/camping with Zucchini (real-name unknown) that night (she is since long gone). Zucchini is 19 and has already hiked the Appalacchian Trail, and now she is doing the PCT solo. You want to know what I was doing when I was 19?

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Basically, everyone thru-hiking under the age of 25 and figuring this all out on their own has my vote for president. Hi zucchs!!

The next day I woke up last and had a nice little morning. Our plan was to stay at another trail angels house that night. I was really excited to meet the Andersons, heard great things about them, but something was pulling me away from there. As everyone arrived at the Andersons, I continued to hike another 10 miles. I ended up in Lake Hughes, at a biker bar, in a bedroom fit for a child upstairs. It was kind of an awesome day, that ended with a baked potato (my only real craving so far).

The Rock Inn!

The Rock Inn!

A good pair-a-shoes lasts about 500 miles, so it was time to pick up my first new pair-a-shoes…in lake Hughes! I’ve been really excited about it, partly because my current pair-a-shoes were so chewed up and giving me many issues I could spend an insurmountable time bitching about, but mostly because SHOES and HUGHES rhyme and I’ve been jazzed about that connection.

I've never gone through a pair-a-shoes so fast! Is anyone sick of me referring to them as "pair-a-shoes" yet? Fand?

I’ve never gone through a pair-a-shoes so fast! Is anyone sick of me referring to them as “pair-a-shoes” yet? Fand?

Fine, I started with one pair-a-undies (kidding ?) and I lost them weeks ago. I asked my mom to throw in one pair for me. She, like many others, can’t fathom a life without underpants, so she sent me 2 pairs of black silk granny panties. She also sent me a tube of 100+ SPF sunblock. Spoon said it best, “wow, Claire really knows how to keep both the melonoma AND men away in one small package.”

I thought about keeping the extra pair and using it as a ground cloth for my tent, you know, for both an extra layer of insulation and to preserve the life of the tent floor. But, unfortunately, a sacrifice had to be made.

Note reads: "What! No underwear?? You'll get a bad rash!"

Note reads: “No underwear?? You will get a bad rash!” ? Thanks for the laugh momma!

Oh, right, hiking. The next couple days were light and fun. We hit the 500 Mile mark!!! I had a vision of making a music video, told the crew about it the night prior, and we executed it in one take the next day at the site. I’ve never been so proud.

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In the middle of the week we upped our game a bit. How many miles we do a day is mostly based on where the water sites are. It’s not uncommon in this section to go 20+ miles with no water. On Wednesday, we dedicated ourselves to our biggest mileage day yet, 27 big ones. The first 9 were rolling and lovely, then, well, I don’t know what happened. The next thing I remember is Centerfold offering everyone delicious vegan protein birthday cake cookies his mom (Hi Kit!) sent him. I then crawled into my tent (conveniently located in the middle of a Wind Farm) and fell asleep to gentle lull of my rain-fly slapping all over the place.

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I wish. No, it really wasn’t that bad, just really flat, exposed, hot, and super dry. Did I mention we are hiking through a wind farm? Pretty cool for a mile, then you realize how God-forsakingly windy WIND FARMS are, and the appeal is lost and gone FOREVER. First we walked along an aqueduct, then a pipeline, then a half paved/half dirt-road. I felt like a runaway kid from Stand By Me. I knew it’d be a mental toughness kind of day. I felt good for most of it, luckily my inner millennial surfaced and I listened to a fascinating podcast of the nutritional benefits of Algae, and then a lot of Whitney Houston. Made up some sweet new trekking pole dance moves as well.The corridor was wide open, a lot of space to get a little reckless with the poles.

Aqueduct pampering

Aqueduct pampering

Aqueduct facts or puns? Puns, for sure

Aqueduct facts or puns? Puns, for sure

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Good times had by all!

Good times had by all!

The funniest part of the day was that we planned to camp at the water source. What’s so funny you ask? Well we had no idea if the faucet was on or not. LA has been really kind to us with every so often turning off faucets only hikers really have access to. Some days they are on, others they are off. Drought? Wait, what? California is in a DROUGHT?!? Don’t worry guys, the water was on thankfully.

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We followed that day with a 23 mile climb back up to the high desert. It was fantastic. At the top of the mountain was a hiker hangout with CHAIRS and COLD WATER. There is this older gentlemen named Rocco that we’ve been around a lot lately. No one has actually seen him hike though, we just see him in towns, yet, he is somehow always ahead of us. Really nice and interesting guy, but always blowing our minds where he pops up. For instance, when I got to the water cache at the top of the mountain, there was Rocco, shirtless and reclined in the Adirondack lawn chair. Mirage? I thought so too, but nope, just Rocco hangin out in the desert. It’s always so good.

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The trivial week ended, as it should, at the Motel 6 in Mojave. PCT hiker discount! After apologizing for our all-around smell/dust pile, the manager exclaimed “don’t be silly, hikers are our FAVORITE, you guys don’t complain about a THING!” It was really nice to hear, and it is true. Most hikers I’ve come across are super gracious and polite people. We rely a lot on the kindness of strangers, and we always, always, pay it back. Look at us, changing the world! One Motel 6 at a time!  ?☀️?

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TGIF

Speaking of kindness, I have benefitted immensely from the kindness of two amazing friends this weekend. My friend Lisa sent me a huge box of goodies. This box was STACKED with all the hiker essentials. It was as if she has done a thru-hike herself? Wait, have you? Now THAT’D be something! The best gift was the 5 tshirts she made for the Mile 55 crew. All of us could not love them more, we feel like the coolest camp counsellors on the trail. We are over the moon excited to hike in these, thank you SO much Lisa! A friend I haven’t seen in years, so amazing to have your support.

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My other friend, Michelle, drove an hour, picked up my friends and I, took us to the post office, bought us lunch, laughed along with us, and then brought me back to her home in Bakersfield. It was unbelievable, Mich works full-time, has 3 ((adorableeeeee)) kids under the age of 6, an awesome husband, and she still found time to get her kitchen ready for my arrival: “okay I got avocados, honey, bananas, wine, and because I pretty much grew up with you McCloskeys, pizza and cookies n’ cream ice cream.” She even let me use the master bath and I sank into the most amazing lavender Epsom salt (thank you Lisa!) bubble bath. I couldn’t believe how incredible today has been. You wake up in a Mo-6 and end the day at a best friends house. Undeniably, the best part of this visit was the slice of home Michelle gave me, talking about our families memories together and current hot topics was exactly what I needed to reset and get ready for this last stretch of the desert. Thank you both so much! I really, really, don’t want to leave this bed.

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Pizza Party!

Sisters! ?

Sisters! ?

150 more miles, bring it on, Mojave.

Trail Names, Trail Magic, Spoiled Hikers

Cumulative Miles: 151.9 Location: Idyllwild, CA

Closing out our second week on the trail in an amazing little mountain town called Idyllwild. Reminds me of a small-scale Jackson Hole, and described by Shaughn Dugan as “a little slice of Oregon in Southern California.” Log cabins, cafes, small organic market, friendly people, it’s been a delightful morning. Although last night I had a taco salad and threw that up rather quickly. The diet is changing, and the body can’t handle a little fiesta I suppose.

Backpack on and tire swingin' my life away, lush life

Backpack on and tire swingin’ my life away, lush life

Several times a day I ask myself 2 questions: “Where are we?” and “What’s the rush?”

The answer to “Where are we?” is never answered. I don’t get it. I am really bad at geography and had no idea we’d be cruising through so many mountains in this so-called “desert.” I’m a moron. I like to go into adventures blindly because I don’t want my opinions to be biased or previously formulated by other people. I only like to know where the next water is, I feel that is important. This being said, the scenery has been unbelievable, and always being surprised at each switchback keeps my spirits and curiosity high.

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What’s the rush? There is none. But I’ve gotten into this weird rhythm that whenever there is a long climb and unrelenting sun baking me alive, I speed up. My legs detach from my body and before I know it 2 hours have gone by, and I’m sitting in a patch of shade with my shoes off. It might be my favorite part of the day. When I meet up with everyone later I tell them how much fun I had on that climb, they give me looks of confusion and Mark says “Julie, I’m a bigger fan of type 2 fun.” I love the challenge sunny exposed inclines bring, and it’s always welcoming to find your flow on the trail, but don’t worry, I do stop a lot to take it all in. It is way too gorgeous not to.

Eagle Rock!

Eagle Rock!

Trail Names! As stated in the previous post, our trail group name is “Mile 55.” We now all have individual trail names as well. Maggie and Mark, Chuckles and Little Spoon, have thru-hiked the Appalachian trail and already had nicknames. Maggie is “Chuckles” because she laughs at everything really loudly with a great contagious rhythm. And because she’s an evil clown. Mark is “Little Spoon,” because they are married and Maggie is the dominant sleeper. We like to just call him Spoon. Jon has been named “Centerfold” because he is very set on his opinion (fact) of the worst song ever written and recorded. The question has one answer, and one answer only. All other answers are invalid and will not even be considered. The worst song ever is Centerfold, by the J. Geils Band. End of discussion. Shaughn has been named “The Camel of Corvallis” after a story he swears he will tell us one day, but we all have a very good feeling he is making it all up. There is no story. But he promises one. We just call him Camel which is great because he does a great Camel impression. I have been named “Toe Touch” because I start and end everyday with a TOE TOUCH. Why? Because it’s a MOOD BOOSTER.

The couple who picked me up hitchhiking bought us a round of drinks at the wine bar later that night! Thanks again Jim&Marti, you're amazing!

The couple who picked me up hitchhiking bought us a round of drinks at the wine bar later that night! Thanks again Jim&Marti, you’re amazing!

All in all, this last week has been amazing. It’s been high 80’s during the day, and low 40’s at night. We are sleeping a bit better, and have been smelling worse than every wet dog you’ve ever had, combined, in a landfill. We end each day with bandanna sponge baths, eat supper at sunset, and retire to our tents before 8PM. We take a 2 hour break in the midday heat and try to get a little siesta in. We begin hiking at different times, and all catch up around lunch and hike most of the afternoons together. We understand everyone’s desire for a little personal space, but really enjoy being together. We make friends with new hikers and then scare them away after 8 minutes with uproarious laughter and cult-like tendencies. No, but seriously, we’ve met a lot of incredible hikers and trail angels out here so far. My favorite being a British family of 4, Ma, Pa, and a 10-year-old girl (Pippy) and an 8-year-old boy, (Captain Obvious). Camel gave them the family trail name of “Britt Family Robinson” and it stuck. They are the cutest thing going and I am trying really hard to ditch Mile 55 and enter into their family. It hasn’t been working.

Trail Magic at Mike's Place!

Trail Magic at Mike’s Place!

Not a drop of rain yet!

Not a drop of rain yet!

Free Beer at Carmen's!

Free Beer at Carmen’s!

 

No Sleep till Canada!

Team!

Team!

Day: 5 Cumulative Mileage: 77 Location: Granny’s Kitchen Coffee Shop: Julian, CA

WoooooWEE! Just hitched a ride into the town of Julian 13 miles from the trail. Not the easiest hitch, but found 2 great guys who wouldnt accept any money and gave a lot of well wishes. I’m here for the WORLD FAMOUS Julian apple pie! There is a pie place called Moms pies who gives thru-hikers a free slice of pie, so I was very committed on getting here. But first, this huge salad and iced almond milk latte…

The first 5 days of the trail could not have gone any better. We have done nothing but laugh and sing and mock each other. The first two days we crushed 20 miles, then followed up with two 15 mile days, then an easy 7 this morning before our first showers and laundry session of the summer. Maggie and I occupied shower stalls 1 and 3 and sang loudly as we guiltily took 30 minute showers in the desert. Remorseful, we are.

Little Spoon celebrates day 1

Little Spoon celebrates day 1

The theme thus far seems to be “No sleep till Canada”…none of us have been sleeping well, we are exhausting ourselves everyday but still can’t seem to get a good nights rest. This leaves us completely out of control in the morning. We collectively wake up yelling, grunting, and then aggressively stretching and flinging our limbs around. People may think sleep deprivation breaks you, but I think it brings out everyone’s true character. So many toe touches.

Going stoveless till the mountains, so basically, a different type of "mush" for dinners

Going stoveless till the mountains, so basically, a different type of “mush” for dinners

The weather has been great, hot during the day but once the sun goes down my fingers go numb and I throw on every layer I have. The craziest day was the 3rd day, when we hiked through 65 (I wish I was exaggerating) MPH winds on a ridge all day. We couldn’t find a place to camp with ANY coverage so we had to backtrack a mile to a huge drainage dip and set up our tents pretty much in the bushes for the littlest of protection. Jon and Dugan both said eff it and cowboy camped. No tents, no protection, no sleep. During all of this we sang the worst songs you could think of and hoped none of us flew away. Lots of shouting, and more toe touching. We were crazed, out of our minds, and downright maniacs. Since we had to hike the 55th mile 3 times (once in the dark), our team name will likely be “Mile 55”, but it is still on the voting board. This way, whenever we are called our team name, we will remember the most miserable day of the first week, and the strongest most self-destructing winds we’ve ever experienced. And laugh.

Mile 55, the second time.

Mile 55, the second time.

The desert has been amazingly beautiful. Lots of elevation gain and ridges. The views have been incredible and I definitely did not give it enough credit beforehand. We’ve met so many great people on and off the trail who are always more than willing to give you a hand with anything. We are all in good health, and no one has thrown Maggie off a cliff, yet.

Trail magic, cooler of free beer!

Trail magic, cooler of free beer!

The Camel from Corvallis searches for lost hikers

The Camel from Corvallis searches for lost hikers

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