Enter:Canada

Mile: 2,658

Day: 160

Location: Ella’s Bellas Bakery, Beacon, NY

Avocados: 57

Showers: 36

I completed the trail on September 18th, and as of then those are the final numbers. Since then I’ve showered everyday. I don’t love it, but I feel as though it’s something I should do.

This is my nephew William. He showers more than I do.

This is my nephew William. He showers more than I do.

Before I go into a concluding post about my experience on the PCT, you should know how it ended. Because it ended in style. A very bad and miserable style, but as I found out, not all style is shimmery and glamorous.

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I last left off in Stehekin, remember the bakery I mentioned 19 times? I loved that place. Anyways, I was off to take on the last 89 miles: 4 days, 3 nights till Canada.

The forecast told us Thursday/Friday would be gorgeous, then the weather is turning ON and probably staying on until next June, good luck, hikers. Welcome to winter.

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I had an incredible breakfast and hopped on the bus with Polaris to the trailhead. We hiked together that morning talking about it all. The end is near, how do we feel? How do we explain this? Will we do another thru-hike? Does he use tons of commas in his blog posts as well? Maybe I can get his thoughts on the proper use of a casual semi-colon.

"Hey Polaris the colors are really pretty so I just took a creepy picture of you from behind, you don't mind do you?"

“Hey Polaris the colors are really pretty so I just took a creepy picture of you from behind, you don’t mind do you?”

It was a great morning, we’ve only met once but you’d think we’ve been friends for a lifetime. It happens often, hikers instantly clicking with each other and never looking back. Slinging jokes left and right, completely at ease with one another. They say those who endure a lot of suffering together form incredibly strong and unique bonds. This, I would have to say, is very true. (Too many commas? Polaris?)

It was a beautiful autumn day and the colors were out and about. It was a weird, dry, desert-like feel for several miles, so many little critters scurrying in the dry brush as you walked by — very reminiscint of Southern California. I thought back to those desert lizards running all over the place, and remembered the day I saw that dreaded “Mojave Brown Bear.” Remember that tale? I made it up.

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Kidding! Boy that would have been good though. BUT there is a reason to this, not a good reason, but something I feel like sharing with everyone. I am also about to tell this story because when Maggie (Chuckles) gets around to reading this she’ll want to throw up again, and that makes me laugh.

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WELL, back in May, after telling Chuckles and Spoon about my terrifying bear encounter, Chuckles thought to tell me her terrifying wildlife encounter of the day in efforts to make me feel better. She started to tell the story and then stopped, almost ralphing in her mouth. She couldn’t finish the story so Spoon excitedly finished it for her. As I was eye to eye with the “Mojave Brown Bear,” Chuckles’ eyes were 4 miles behind me, staring at the ground, at one medium sized lizard swallowing a smaller lizard. The lizard being eaten was still alive and healthy. It’s awful. It’s gross. It worked. I’m glad I went toe to toe with my “Mojave Brown Bear” instead of seeing an act of such malice. Point being, I was never fond of those lizards. I mean could you imagine walking down the street and seeing a human swallowing another live human? OH THE HUMANITY!

So where am I? The desert? Oh, no, the Northern Cascades. Close, jules. Hey I’m allowed to ramble, it’s my second to last blog post, this is going to come nowhere CLOSE to making sense.

Here's a picture of an apple cider donut in a sandwich bag to further confuse you

Here’s a picture of an apple cider donut in a sandwich bag to further confuse you

About 20 miles into the day I reached Rainy Pass and saw two old hiker friends! Proton (he’s always positive) and Dream-Catcher! I met them in Trout Lake and we got lunch at the cafe. It was here when Laura told me she booked her flight to Vancouver, and here where I started to slow down my hike. Proton and DC got back to the trail after lunch and I never saw them again. UNTIL NOW!

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They finished the trail just the morning before this! They found a way to Seattle, picked up Protons car, hit the grocery store, and drove to Rainy Pass for the day to provide trail magic for us. It was incredible. One day after their thru-hike and they began to give back. After receiving so much love and support from trail angels this summer, it was so cool to see hiker friends immediately dishing it back out. I’ve yet to meet one unappreciative hiker, I’m actually not sure if they exist.

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A few more miles up the trail I set up camp at the aptly named, wait for it….”Trail Camp.” Looking at the map I thought hey, this sounds good! But before getting there I hiked over TWO post-it warnings from “The Germans” about aggressive hornets in the area. I couldn’t believe someone who undoubtably got attacked by these things had the courage to run back and place warning post-its for the rest of us. Heroes.

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It was a lovely night at “Trail Camp.” It provided everything I needed, access to the trail AND a place to camp. It got chilly at night but I knew I was in for a sunny day, always helpful. I slept in, left trail camp around 8:45. Really chilly in the morning, couldn’t WAIT to get over the ridge and into the sun.

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At the top of Cutthroat Pass, my jaw dropped with the beautiful vista that came before me. It was unbelievable. Then I heard some music, and the rustling of potato chip bags, lots of them. Then I saw a guy who could easily be mistaken for Forrest Gump. He had great energy, even though he had just woken up from a rough night on the rocks. He said his name was “Chips” and in order to really EARN his trail name, he hitched into town and bought 15 bags of Kettle Chips, and a bottle of Champagne. This was ALL he had for fuel for the last 70 miles of the trail. He literally just ate an entire bag of NY Cheddar for breakfast. He immediately became my hero, and gave me such a good boost of energy. I love these people.

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The rest of the day was sunny and gorgeous. Ridges, forests, climbs, more ridges. It was on this day, Friday, that we had our last major climb. Of course I had no idea, but at the top of the switchbacks Polaris stopped and looked at me. He was pretty emotional telling me that was the last climb of the trail. He said something I’ll never forgot…”How are we ever going to make sense of all of this? How do we explain this? Month, after month, after month. We’ve been doing this for MONTHS.” True. These climbs have been going on for months. They’ve become part of our daily lives, they’ve become routine. Climbs we’d lose sleep over in SoCal we were now conquering, at altitude, without breaking a sweat. How do we explain this? How have we done this?

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After another really enriching conversation with Polaris, he hiked on to let me have a moment up top to soak it all in. I thought mostly of the Sierra. Mountain Pass after Mountain Pass after Mountain Pass. So much snow, so much technicality. So much experience. Could I do it again? Would I WANT to? I don’t have an answer for that yet. But what I do know is how I felt in THAT moment. I felt lighter, I felt freer, I felt like a complete badass. My legs have powered me up and down so many insane mountains, through so many intense river fords, and across so many flat and windy forests. I’ve seen so much this summer, all on my own two feet. All powered by a positive mindset. The hard part was over, it was time to coast into Canada. Or so I naively thought.

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I hiked along a ridge before I descended into where I decided to camp. The clouds were moving in, and as the sun set behind the mountains I could of swore it was saying goodbye to me. So, being 5 months into this life, I said goodbye back, shedding a tear. I had 1.5 days left, and I knew that was the last time I’d see the sun. Damnit.

The coolest clouds

The coolest clouds

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I camped by a dirt road that night, surrounded  by hunters (it’s okay guys, my jacket is ORANGE). I got my tent up, my dinner cooked, and the moment I laid down to read it began to rain. Sounds peaceful doesn’t it? Well, it was. I slept great. At sunrise a van full of hunters (none of which spoke English) caused a ruckus and then finally dispersed into the woods. I should of just asked them to shoot me, pleading to kill me now! Hah!

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No, no, I did not wake up with a bad attitude. It was my last FULL DAY in the woods, and it was a Saturday! This means nothing, but sometimes I get excited about it. My goal was the usual marathon, there was a lake about 27 miles away with camping. All I had to do was keep my head down, and keep one foot in front of the other. I would get there eventually, just going for a walk in the woods, shouldn’t be too bad! Right?! Right?!

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Worst day of my existence. Terrible horrible no good very bad day. Where’d those hunters go?

Also in my positive mindset corner, a rain jacket! It has a rip in it and I’ve had it for over 5 years and it doesn’t work well. But it’s labeled a rain jacket so it’s GOT to be better than nothing, right? I bundled up. I lost a glove 200 miles ago so I didn’t even bother wearing my other one. Rain pants would have been a good investment. Next time.

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I took down my sopping tent, stuffed it in a garbage bag and stuffed that in the outside pocket of my pack. Time to get moving or I am going to freeze. 2 miles until Harts Pass, where they’re are drop toilets and maybe car campers offering up hot coffee? Hey, a girl can dream. I got to Harts Pass, used the toilet, threw away some garbage (the BEST feeling) and tried to look as miserable as possible. No one felt bad for me. No one offered coffee. Bitches.

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Hiking on! After Harts Pass it stopped raining for 25 minutes and it filled me with SO much hope. Turns out the clouds were just filling up so it could dump on us for the next 24 hours straight. Head down, one foot in front of the other. I put my poles in my backpack for the first time all summer. My hands needed to be free so I could stuff them in my pants and shirt to warm up. It sucked not being able to hike with my poles, my ankles were turning all over the place and there were some steep climbs towards the end of the day. My joints saw 100% pressure on the very last day of the trail, kind of funny.

I stopped once around 3:00 because there was a spot the size of my body that a tree was sheltering from the rain. I had 2 scoops of PB left so I hoped to be able to open my pack and devour it. It took a minute, but I was able to figure out a way to unclick my pack buckle. It was a moment. Me, pouring rain, peanut butter, misery. It was a moment.

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The rest of the day was spent battling the inner turmoil. Hands clenched tightly around my umbrella, held captive to my own mind. A prisoner. Just me, the weather, inaccessible food, and a whole buncha rocks. I saw only 2 others. I spent the afternoon hiking on the edge of my breaking point, going back and forth. I’d go over the edge and yell at the PCT, asking why it was so relentless. Then I’d somehow find a way to bring myself back and apologize for being so crazy. Then I’d yell at it again. Then maybe cry a little bit. Then laugh a little bit. Then clench my fists and tell myself “one last test, one last test.” This whole summer I self-motivated myself to get up, get out, and get it done. I had to dig down deep to see if any of that toughness was left, and I found some, thank god.

The last few miles I was above 7,000′ so it wasn’t raining, it was just ridiculously windy and cold. This worked out well, because there’s nothing like a good wind-storm when you’re soaking wet! I had a heated debate in my head whether I’d rather be hiking in the wind or the rain. I dismissed my own rules to the debate and chose the sun.

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Last morning in my tent, selfie!

The hardest part about the tenacity of the weather is the fear that comes with it. People ask me all the time…”aren’t you scared out there alone?” On the fair weather days, not so much, I’ve adapted to the change and have gotten used to the elements. But when the weather is as frightening and dangerous as it was on that Saturday, and as it was in the High Sierra, the answer is yes. I’m terrified of everything when the weather is bad. But I’d also still be on the couch if I let fear decide.

Fear. Stress. Imagine them intertwined into a huge ball resting in your gut. It’s just sitting there. You can feel it. You try and try to unravel it, figure out how to make it disappear. But eventually, you must accept that it’s there and that it is going to be part of you until you make it out. It’s this ball of fear that exhausts me the most. It weighs so heavily on my mind. What if nothing is dry? Will I make it through the night? Will I have to keep hiking to stay warm? What if my tent collapses in the storm? So many unknowns. I was so tired from 5+ months of unknowns. My mind needed a vacation from this vacation. Like a Kardashian type vacation. Maybe I’ll book with Sandals.

I made it to the lake, somewhere between 6-7:00. 10 hours of nonstop hiking. 27 miles. The wind was whipping my tent around, and the rain came in heavy bursts. I was sort of dry. My tent door zippers broke again 100 miles ago, so I tried to configure a garbage bag/burger bandana makeshift door to keep the draftiness at bay. It sort of worked. Actually, for the first time ever, I slept with my head away from the door, where my feet should be. It was weird and I didn’t like it, but I felt warmer down there.

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I read for awhile, afraid to surrender to the efforts of falling asleep. Luckily, I fell asleep, but only for a little bit. I woke up a couple hours later to boil water, my lower half was insanely uncomfortable. I filled up a water bottle of hot water and threw it in my sleeping bag. Also for the first time, I peed in my tent. I didn’t want to disturb my garbage bag/burger bandana door set-up. You know Talenti Gelato? Delicious, delicious gelato. I had a pint jar for a few weeks now, using it as a jar for certain drinks or for protecting fragile fruits. Tonight, I used it as my toilet. I peed in it 3 times, emptying it outside my tent each time just in case it spilled. I wish I did that all summer!

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Anyways, I couldn’t sleep, so I read and I read, oddly at peace. The worst part was over, my tent seemed to be holding up and sure I could see my breath and was a bit damp, but things could certaintly be worse. Besides, tomorrow night I’d be inside! I’d have to take my time, but I’d be out of here and in a car around 4:00 tomorrow. I was going to be okay. This is a blessing, now I won’t miss the PCT too badly. This is a blessing. A traumatic blessing. Maybe one day I can laugh at this, but probably not.

I left camp at 10:00, this was the plan. I had 6 miles to the border and then another 9 miles to the parking lot at Manning Park. I figured I’d spend 1-2 hours at the border taking photos and hanging out. When I left my tent that Sunday morning and saw fresh snow on the mountain tops, I knew it was my time to end this hike. This is it, the time is right. Let’s go to Canada, Toe Touch, let’s get the F out of here!

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I got to the Monument and there were at least 10 people there already. Pretty loud group. I thought a lot about what it would feel like to see the monument. I envisioned it often on my boring days in Northern California and Oregon. When I did, I would tear up. Surely the same would happen on the actual day. Nope.

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The rain had stopped, and it wasn’t a bad morning at all once I got moving. I got to the Monument and really didn’t feel much of anything. The crowd of people and fair weather definitely dimmed any deep emotion I thought I’d have, but I didn’t even feel heavy joy. It felt like another goal achieved, like I had made it to my next resupply point. “Time for pizza and a stop at the market, then back to the trail!” I sat staring at the monument, smiling and boiling water for a celebratory vodka hot chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, I was HAPPY. Very much so. But I’ve had more joyful moments on the trail. This realization made me even happier…

What I’ve come up with is this: the reason I didn’t feel such an overwhelming amount of accomplishment in reaching the border is because I celebrated everyday as such. Every night before bed I’d reflect on the day and give myself a huge high-five, almost not believing where I started that morning. Each morning felt like a lifetime ago. Each day I stayed present and enjoyed all of the little things, and by the time I was ready to camp, I was so fulfilled and felt so accomplished. Each morning I woke up with purpose, with excitement, with gratitude.

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Its cliche, but it’s worth noting, the joy is in the journey. If my only motivation to do the PCT was to reach Canada, I would have quit long ago. Most did. You need more than an extrinsic motivator. I reached Canada having fun the whole way because my primary goals were in the process and learning experiences of the trail. Canada was secondary. I enjoyed the little things along the way, I enjoyed the physical abuse, I enjoyed the self-development, I enjoyed mastering my own mind, I enjoyed the connections, I enjoyed the scenery, I enjoyed the simple life. And damnit, I enjoyed the weather. And if I didn’t enjoy it, I learned from it. I spent the summer investing in myself, and I came out of it a much better version of myself. The joy is in the journey.

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Emotionally charged post coming soon.

 

 

 

September.

Day: 147

Mile: 2,390.6

Location: Snoqualmie Pass, Washington

Avocados: 54 (they’re expensive up here!)

Showers: 33

“It’s the hard parts that make it so great.” Right? RIGHT?!?!

Could have used a rain jacket. Could have used some rain paints. Could have used an extra set of extremities.

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When buying gear for this hike I looked into many rain jackets and noticed a theme: the more expensive the jacket, the worse the reviews. I gave up and told myself I’d buy a rain jacket when I got closer to the Northwest. Never got around to it. Oops.

I joined the Warriors for pizza on our last night in Packwood and I listened to their stories on the lovely topic of “the coldest you’ve ever been.” This proved to be an extremely helpful pizza party because this week I was really cold, but not even close to what those guys have been through, thus telling myself “you’ll be fine” more easily and actually believing it. I got back on trail Tuesday around noon. A trail angel named Holly gave me a ride back to the trailhead. Holly was in town shuttling hikers back and forth and thus gaining first-hand info from us to use towards her thruhike next year (excellent research strategy). Tons of enthusiasm that Holly, she was awesome.

How many thruhikers does it take to perform a common household chore?

How many thruhikers does it take to perform a common household chore? SOMEONE CLOSE THE BLIND, I CANT SEEEEE

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I had quite a heavy pack this time. I had 100 miles to hike and with the increasing elevation gain, colder temps, and bad weather, I needed more food. I also wasn’t sure how fast I was going to go, so instead of packing for 3 nights, I grabbed some pathetic looking oats from the hiker box in case I needed 4 nights to get to Snoqualmie. Unfortunately my pack didn’t get much lighter as I ate the food because with the rainy weather all my gear became water-logged.

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Anybody lose their frying pans?

It was cloudy out, but it stayed dry as I hiked 20 miles to camp. As I set up my tent in a tiny opening in a cluster of trees, it began to rain. Got really lucky with that one! It rained the rest of the night but all my stuff stayed dry so the morning wasn’t too terrible.

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I left a few notes on the trees outside my tent for the Warriors to see in the morning. As I was shuffling around my tent I heard Rant and so he came over to chat for a bit. He hiked ahead as I finally got myself to get out of my tent and take it down. There is nothing worse than taking down a wet tent when you can’t feel your hands. Nothing.

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I caught up to Rant a few miles later and we hiked to Chinook Pass together. He and the Warriors are on the Combat War Vets sponsored hike so they had a meeting at the VFW in a town off Chinook Pass. At this point it was wet, cold, and really hopeless looking. I considered hitching into a town and waiting out the worst of the rain, and then realized if I did that I wouldn’t finish this trail until 2017. So as Rant hitched into town for a hot cocoa, burger, and shelter, I hiked up Crystal Mountain and was rewarded with no view. But first, I took a picture of Rant taking his weekly selfie.

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The rest of the day was actually pretty okay. Intermittent showers. Whenever it WASN’T raining I was so hopeful. I was so happy. I was so confident. Hiking was fun! Then it would start raining 5 minutes later and I would consider eating the red berries for a quicker death. Sounds extreme, but don’t say the weather hasn’t ever had an immediate impact on your mood.

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The last 2 hours of the day it stopped raining and I was so grateful. I hiked until 7, pulled my wet tent out of my outside pocket, and set it up. Bad news, the whole tent was soaked. In a frenzy that morning I rolled the wetness into itself, now the whole inside was drenched. I didn’t have anything dry to wipe it down with (I forgot to pack out my beach towel) so I took a semi-dry bandana and gave it my all. I then laid out a garbage bag and a few other semi-dry items and topped it with my sleeping pad. I mistakenly threw in my soaking wet backpack inside my tent down towards my feet (like I always do, because it’s always been dry). It was a rough night. It didn’t rain tooooo badly, but it was so damp inside my tent that in the middle of the night I woke up to boil water. Another phrase I’ll never use lightly again is “chilled to the bone.” I was chilled to the bone. I wasn’t surprised though, I was sleeping inside a wet tent, in a damp sleeping bag, with my feet resting on a soaking wet pack. I also had to watch every movement because everything surrounding my sleeping pad was wet, there was no time for trail nightmares tonight toe touch! If you even as much as SKIM the wall of your tent you’ll die of hypothermia! Die!

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So where are we? Oh yes, 2:30Am. I boiled water, poured it into my water bottle, and threw it in my sleeping bag for my feet to play around with. It was heaven. I had a handful of almonds to aid in the warming process and fell back asleep. I woke up, stared at my wet ceiling, and geared myself up for another day. You know what the worst sequence of events is?

1. Sitting up

2. Changing from dry clothes into wet clothes

3. Putting on heavy, sopping socks

4. Putting on soaked sneaks

5. Taking the first step in your wet gear

6. Unbuckling your rain fly when you can’t feel your hands (I’ll save you the rant)

7. Handling your metal tent poles when you can’t feel your hands

8. Shoving your wet tent in your wet bag

9. Realizing you haven’t even pooped yet

The most difficult part of the week was knowing it was projected to get worse and worse. Wednesday was not suppose to rain until the evening. Thursday was suppose to be on and off. But Friday? Friday was suppose to rain, and then rain some more. Saturday was the light at the end of the tunnel, cold and rainy morning, but possible sun if you stick it out that long to experience it.

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Back to sleeping like a mummy!

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I woke up Friday ready and excited for a wet n’ wild day! Woooo! Whatcha got Washington! It was really cold, but didn’t start raining until 5 miles in (right around the time I start to gain strength back in my hands). I hiked the morning with a young married couple from South Africa, Hiccup and Flapjack and we stopped at a really random cabin in the woods. I first met these guys early on in the desert so it was great to see them. They mistakenly bumped up their cold weather gear so I’m not sure how they made it through that section in shorts. Insane. Once it stopped pouring I began to hike again and 5 minutes later it started raining again. Oh well, I tried.

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Friday, oh, Friday. Rain, cold, climbing. You know who was MVP of Friday? Roger. After hiking at an incredibly consistent pace (the grade didn’t matter, I actually probably hiked faster up the mountains than down) for nearly 6 hours, I stopped suddenly in my tracks. I crossed an unpaved forest service road and there was a big truck and canopy set up. I couldn’t see people, but I saw hiker poles laid out in the rain, good indicator. I peaked my head around the wall and saw 4 hikers huddled around a fire and then a guy named Roger. “Want a hot drink?” He laughs, as if it’s not even a question. Who would deny a hot drink? I don’t even need flavor Roger! Gimme hot water! First I’ll pour it all over my body, then I’ll chug it. I mean, hot cocoa please!image

He had a table of fresh fruit and was making hot drinks for us. He kept the fire going and it took a lot of discipline not to throw myself in it. I knew Gumby and Indie, 2 females hiking together since the Sierra, and then I met 2 new guys, Lawless and Crafty. Gumby and Indie decided to spend the night there by the fire and under the tarp, but the guys headed out for more miles, and I followed suit. Roger is an engineer living in the Seattle area and was out here because it was “something he’s always wanted to do.” We told stories around the fire, thanked Roger incessantly, and I watched as Indie lit a hole in her sock drying by the fire and laughing about it. “Ohhhh welp there goes that!” Laughter is the best way out of misery.

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I went another 6 miles and set up camp around 7 again. I did a better job packing up my tent that morning so it wasn’t completely soaked. The bad part was that I gathered water and decided to hike another 2 miles. I didn’t realize it’d be up a mountain. It was good to get my blood flowing again, but bad because I was now looking to spend the night 1,000 feet higher up than I should have been. Cold. It was windy, dark, rainy, and I pitched my tent on what I prayed was an “abandoned” unpaved rocky forest service road. Everything about it was dangerous and creepy. The last line in my journal entry reads..”I’m scared.” Hahaha. Another solid end of the day by Toe Touch.

Doom&Gloom

Doom&Gloom

I slept warmer that night because I stuffed myself in a garbage bag before stuffing myself in my damp sleeping bag: success! I also had a weird quinoa Mac n’ Cheese for dinner, so my tummy was warm and happy. Oh, and a pink frosted sugar cookie! Gas station special!

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I woke up on Saturday having 26 miles until my resupply point: Snoqualmie Pass, a ski resort with a motel and gas station. I decided that if I stayed dry, I would take it easy and camp a few miles from “town.” If I remained soaked, I was high tailing it to town. Luckily, 6 miles into my morning, I crossed another unpaved road and found Brian. Brian’s wife, ALTA (an acronym for “At Least Till Ashland”) is thru-hiking and since he just retired, is driving the camper up the country and making her dinner every 3-4 days when they meet-up. It’s adorable. It was a really cold morning, I tried eating an apple but I kept dropping it. My grip strength was pathetically low. When I saw Brian he said the sweetest of phrases “Coffee Bars Open!” I started cheering, I don’t care how embarrassing I looked, I was so happy. It was good coffee too, I even grinded up the beans in his Java Mill. Best on trail coffee, hands down.

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Naturally, after Brian told me it was going to 100% rain all day, the sun came out. I hung around for over an hour, dried out my tent and jacket, and we listened to a baseball game on his satellite radio. Pals. As he handed me my coffee he so carefully made, he said “oh! And one more thing….BISCOTTI!” He whipped it out from behind his back with such enthusiasm I began cheering again. Boy did we have a great time. His wife is a day behind me and unfortunately I haven’t met her yet, but with her being so close I hope to see them both again! As I packed up my stuff I asked if I could do anything for him for such an amazing cup of coffee, biscotti, and sleeve of Oreos, and he said yes, yes I could. “I do this for the same reasons I worked as an Emergency Room Nurse for over 30 years, I do it to help people, and the only payment I take is a smile.” So I smiled as big as I could and jetted off! Before I was out of ear shot he said hey Toe touch! You smell that? “No Brian, what’s that smell?” “CANADA!” haha, and I disappeared into the woods, continuing North into the patch of sunshine.

Using Brian's truck as a drying line

Using Brian’s truck as a drying line

I stayed dry the rest of the day. I hiked slow because I didn’t want to get too close to civilization too early, because then I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation. In an incredible act of self-restraint, I set up camp early, only 3 miles from the pass. I took my time hiking, I actually stopped and picked berries and put them in a bag. Usually I just do a drive-by trying to pick them without ever slowing my perpetual motion. I sat on a rock and took a few deep breathes and enjoyed the quiet. I set up camp, made oatmeal, broke my spoon, and laid there so comfortably. I was warm, I was fed, I was so grateful for Roger and Brian helping me through this miserable weather, and I had plans to meet Camel for Breakfast at the Pancake House in the morning. I wasn’t scared anymore, I made it! What an incredible week to look back on, it’s been awhile since I did 4 nights without a resupply. Also kind of crazy that doing a marathon day after day weighted down constitutes my version of “taking it easy.” How normal this life has become.

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Sad day. I found this spoon in the hiker box at the most questionable “Trail Angels” compound in early May. RIP.

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I feel like getting to Snoqualmie Pass is a big accomplishment for Northbounders. We are about halfway through Washington, and the next 270 miles are said to be stunning (and thus extremely difficult). We are entering the Northern Cascades. The weather has turned on, so we will continue to do our best to co-exist with the low temps and rain, hoping to be granted as many views as the clouds will allow. As I hiked down to the Pass I felt such a large feeling of achievement, and I realized that from here on out I will be getting snippets of what Canada will feel like. Getting so close.

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Sucker cloud

Sucker cloud

The overall motivation level here amongst the hikers is low. Camel said it best, “I feel like a super-senior, doing whatever I can to stay in towns longer, like failing bowling 101.” Again, motivation is low. The weather is making things much tougher on us. Sure, we expected this, but it doesn’t make it easier. The positive I draw from it is how much easier it will make the end. I surely won’t miss it as much as I would if I glided to the finish amongst the soft sun and butterflies. It’s always an easier break-up when your boyfriend is an asshole towards the end, right? So thank you, Washington, for making it easier on us, in the long-term at least.

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To be honest, there were plenty of times I loved the misery of the weather. I felt pretty wild as I hiked through it and really strong as I tried to figure out ways to stay warm. I wouldn’t last longer than 5 minutes on one of those survivor shows, but I was really proud of myself for how I stuck it out. I didn’t even shed  a tear, just laughter. When things get really bad, laughter is my only way out. Yeah, I wouldn’t last very long on those survivor shows, mostly because I wouldn’t pass the psych test.

One reason I wanted to do the PCT, and a motivating component in which keeps me going, is delayed gratification. I love going a long time without daily occurrences. The gratification for these things is tripled when you are cold and wet for 4 days. Hands wrapped around a hot mug of coffee after a 100 mile stretch like that one? No greater feeling.

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Rumor has it we have one more storm and then a dry couple of weeks. I’ll take it. If you are a meteorologist or psychic and want to tell me otherwise, go for it. For once I am choosing to 100% believe in this rumor. After a shower, laundry, and a quality burger, my world has been turned around. I am excited to get back out there and hike with the elements again. I know I’ll get wet and my hands will be frozen to my trekking poles once more, but my confidence is high and this stretch is only 70 miles. 70 miles! A breeze!

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Goat Rocks: Photo Gallery

The Goat Rocks Wilderness area is so beautiful that it’s getting its own platform. As I traveled through the 30+ mile stretch I quickly realized how influential each mile would be. I was left speechless for the first time since the Sierra. I paused several times per minute allowing myself to breathe it all in – my eyes and smile wider than Washington. I was awe struck. I felt really small again, really insignificant, and really humbled. I wanted to experience it all; I never wanted it to end. The Goat Rocks are a magical place and I want to take everyone for a hike there, I want everyone to be impacted by the emotion I felt all day, I want everyone to smile that wide. Christmas morning, it was like Christmas morning.

Note: I saw no goats, but did see tons of rocks. Not the outcome I was hoping for but 1 outta 2 aint bad!

My next section is 100 miles to Snoqualmie Pass and it is looking quite wet. Washington is also entirely uphill. I feel good besides soreness in my feet each morning and the tingling of my nerves in my back. I just bought one of those stupid emergency ponchos and the cook at the pizza place gave me a trash bag. I may or may not be back after 100 miles. In the meantime, enjoy the photos! Toe Touch: out.

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This is Half-ass, he asked me to sign his flag. He started off my day

This is Half-ass, he asked me to sign his flag. He started off my day

Mt. Adams shooting off laser beams

Mt. Adams shooting off laser beams

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Eating some goldfish, staring at Mount St. Helens

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I took this same photo 5 years ago

I took this same photo 5 years ago

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The Knifes Edge

The Knifes Edge

Rainier

Rainier

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Camped on the windy rocky ridge

Camped on the windy rocky ridge

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Sunset

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Sunrise

Morning light

Sunrise

Sunrise

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Snakes, Creeks, and ‘The Smiley Face Mystery’

Location: Grizzly Cafe, Wrightwood, CA

Day: 25 

Cumulative Miles: 369

Showers Taken: 7

Avocados Consumed: 19

On-Trail Happy Hours: 1

So picture this: short little brunette, mid-20’s, portland, tight central top bun, red bandana knotted on top of forehead, dark-rimmed eye-glasses, barefoot, big smile. Her name is Penny, and she is in charge of the MILES OF SMILES.

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For 2 days we kept seeing smiley faces in the dirt. Now I’m going to be frank here, it started to agitate me. I’m not proud to admit that, but enough was enough! We had never met Penny, and we weren’t sure who was ahead that could be responsible for these miles of smiles. The rumors began, the mystery grew…

One morning, I emerged from my tent and began to hike (weird right?). I began seeing smiley faces, and I told myself Jules — you have NOTHING pressing on the to-do list today, so during these 20 miles you will solve this, and solve it you will, TODAY. I gave myself a sweet high-five, toe touched it up, and went full-on detective.

It didn’t take much. Early on I passed Penny and her mate, Austin. A mile later I stopped to pee behind a big boulder, but left my pack on the side of the trail (this way, in case of a tragic peeing accident, someone would know my whereabouts.) Being Detective Toe-Touch, I never took my eyes off the trail. I saw Penny scurry by, stop at my pack, do a full 360, then scurry away. Remember she’s barefoot, and she actually is scurrying, it’s not quite a run but definitely not a walk, the stride is just the right length to be a confirmed scurry, trust me.

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Little did she know I was on to her. Instances like this happened the rest of the day as we played leap frog. The next morning she stopped to say hello as we were packing up our tents. Chuckles first asked her if she knew the plot to the Oscar Winning “Wild Wild West” Will Smith film. She did not, and I couldn’t stop myself and spit out immediately “SO WHAT’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH SMILEY FACES??” BAM! Got her, she doesn’t want anyone else to know, but she confessed. She is just spreading the love on the trail, all good intentions. I’ve decided to start leaving her some now that we are ahead. Wow, I can’t believe I just turned that into a huge story, sorry about that. Well I guess you now see where we get our entertainment from on the trail, we turn the little things into big things and then spread tons of rumors.

Can't imagine anyone purposely leaving this svelt jacket behind..

Can’t imagine anyone purposely leaving this svelt jacket behind..

Okay, for whatever reason that was a pressing event. The week in whole was amazing. We left Sunday morning with 6 days of food and 100 miles to cover. My resupply strategy is part snob part “wing it.” I go up and down every aisle in the grocery store at the pace of a senior citizen. I go for nutrients rather than calories, and clearly weight doesn’t matter to me. I tend to pack in avocados, bananas, almond butter, coconut oil, tins of sardines, jars of olives, a ridiculously heavy spice kit, etc. I then get frustrated that real food costs way more than fake food, but accept that’s just how it is. Totally backwards and screwed up, but I will continue to vote with my dollars. I plan on being in debt by week 5 and thus eating pop-tarts all day. Get ready for THAT post!

An array of snacks for meals

An array of snacks for meals

The most predictable and most consumed "hiker food"

The most predictable and most consumed “hiker food”

The first night we camped under a huge rainbow and then shivered in our tents all night. We had great weather the next few days, clear and hot. Centerfold woke up one day and decided that sleeves were extra weight and a thing of the past! So we went from hiker trash to white trash realllll quick.

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Had a lot of good lunchtime naps this week. On one particular day, Little Spoon decided to sit in the creek in this underwear. The leeches attacked, and I do believe he learned a tough, tough lesson that day.

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Gimme yo best hair flip gurlll!

Gimme yo best hair flip gurlll!

One of the weirder days was when we hiked into Deep Creek Hot Springs. Don’t get me wrong, hot springs are great on a cold day and  when there’s an outhouse. This was a very hot day, and there was neither an outhouse nor trash can. It’s a popular day use area so the place was trashed. Toilet paper in the bushes and under rocks, beer cans, food wrappers and a variety of litter everywhere you looked. It was a bit discouraging that people trash such remote and beautiful places. Such potential, now an area with very high fecal content, way to go, America!

"It's too early in the trip to get naked in front of you guys"

“It’s too early in the trip to get naked in front of you guys”

Also, at one point, we looked to our right and there was a women, naked, with dread locks, slack lining 20 feet above the main lake. Just another day, I suppose.

We passed mile 300! I had a nip of vodka for this moment (thank you, Fand) and I passed it around to celebrate! It was the first of undoubtably many, on-trail happy hours. Nothing I look forward to more.

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Guys, I’ve gone THREE WEEKS without seeing a snake (my biggest fear) and yesterday I saw THREE. They were all different too. Probably all deadly and stupid. All just hanging out across the trail giving me heart attacks. Anyone want to know how I handle the situation? Anyone? WELL LET ME TELL YA. I wait for my heart rate to lower, I stamp my feet, smack my poles, and hope for any movement, ANY movement at all! When they don’t move I figure they’re dead. So I throw rocks at their faces. The first two rocks I don’t try for contact, it’s just a scare tactic. When they don’t even FLINCH, I call them an “idiot” (in a really pathetic shaky voice) pick up my third rock and aim for their face. I usually hit them (not too hard) and they still don’t move. I start stamping again and this proves successful for the first 2 encounters.

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Here’s a sunset, not a snake.

On the third encounter of the day I’ve just about had it. This guy was a total idiot. After 15 minutes of using all my skillful well researched tactics, I look up and see Centerfold not too far down the trail looking at a map. Phew. I call him to my rescue. He does his stamping routine and has the same frustrating outcome: nothin’. Alas he has a great idea, go AROUND it. I do. I don’t like it, but I take a detour behind the snake. I thought many times of running and jumping over it, and every time I vomitted in my mouth. Much too big of a pansy. Maybe next time.

Here's a rainbow bridge, not a snake

Here’s a rainbow bridge, not a snake.

The week ended with a quick stop at an off-trail McDonalds, lots of climbing, beautiful views, windy afternoons, snowy mornings, and a day-off in Wrightwood. Little Spoon has an ankle injury that he barreled through, and we also have time to kill before we can safely cross the Sierras, so the day 1/2 off in town is a good call.

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I was the first one in town and I showed up so cold that I decided to treat myself to a room. The original plan was to camp or stay at a trail angels house. I wanted my own space, and it’s not good for the budget but it’s really good for the mind. I’m surrounded by hikers all day and night, and they are amazing, amazing people, but I do definitely need some space to reset and refresh, you know, so I don’t turn into a total isolated betch.

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The only cabin available was a big one. I took it. I told mile 55 to come stay if they wanted, and it’s been grand. We started drinking in the evening, got Mexican food, and of course, had trouble sleeping all night. It’s a basic cabin, the beds are wooden planks, there’s no television, and laundry costed me $6 and took 16 hours. I wore a strangers XXL frog togs rain jacket to dinner/bed and a pair of clean shorts I keep around. Oh, and a pair of chuckles socks. But I was showered! And I used shampoo! I felt like a million BUX

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Burrito mania!

Anyone order a gall of milk? No? Okay, how about beer then!

Anyone order a gall of milk? No? Okay, how about beer then!

Tomorrow we set out again. The worst of the storm has passed and we are hoping to get another 6 days and 100ish miles in. My health is excellent and I have definitely found my hiker legs. I roll my ankle pretty badly every 3rd day, but I rehab it back to strength pretty quickly. I have very weak ankles from previous injuries and accepted the fact that they will be an issue all summer. Just really hoping not TOO big of an issue. I suppose I also still have that weird foot tumor, which is just a squishy circle on top of my foot. Everything squishy I automatically assume is a calcium build-up. I don’t even think that is a thing, but it eases my mind.

Barely noticeable anymore!

Barely noticeable anymore!

The crew is feeling good, and I’m pushing essential oils on Spoons busted ankle to expedite the healing process. When I heard they were behind on account of injury, my heart broke a bit. I thought it was worse than it was and thought they might not be able to catch up, this causing a major drift. I left him a note and my peppermint essential oil under a rock on the trail for him the next day. He’s a tough one, and we will continue north tomorrow! Phew!

What??!? Yassss!!!

What??!? Yassss!!!

Welp, time to go to the grocery store, probably buy some unreasonably priced and packaged grass-fed yogurt for the trail! Hell, might even splurge and pack out a watermelon! Clearly I know what I’m doing.

ALSO, HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to all the mommas, but especially the ClaireBear, the most generous and craziest one of all. I love you! Thanks for always taking care of your baby girl! ???? and sorry for stripping away all your potentially restful nights ???

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Very foggy morning

Very foggy morning

Currently at 7,000 ft.

Currently at 7,000 ft.

Oh, that's IT?? #easy

Oh, that’s IT?? #easy

Also, Chuckles (Maggie) is a freelance writer and has a killer blog: check it out!

http://appalachiantrials.com/author/maggie-wallace/

 


 

Summits, Hail, and Fire Closures

Cumulative Miles: 252

Location: Moonridge Coffee Shop, Big Bear Lake, CA

I can and will speak for all of my friends, we are SO happy to be north of the fire closure! A logistical nightmare, a loss of control, and a mentally trying “out and back,” woof.

We get laughed at everywhere we go. It's wonderful.

We get laughed at everywhere we go. It’s wonderful.

The week started on a beautiful Sunday morning. We had a 2.5 mile road walk to get to the Devils Slide (not exactly a good omen for a Sunday) trailhead. About a mile into our road walk, a trail angel named David pulled over and picked us up. He gave us all a stick of Lifesavers (wild cherry) and provided well wishes and an escape from another 1.5 miles on a windy uphill backroad. Thanks for being a trail angel David!

Snow up high

Snow up high

We climbed up the trail and summitted Mt. San Jacinto (yah-sinto). To summit you have to leave the PCT for a few miles, but I’m not sure how hikers resist the urge to summit a mountain when it’s literally right there. Right next to you! Bonus miles! Centerfold and I cruised up the mountain but then struggled a bit with the high elevation and steepness of the last mile. We climbed 5,000′ in just a few hours and snacked on the summit of 10,800′. Always the best feeling in the world, always.

Life photo: avo, vodka, mountain summit

Life photo: avo, vodka, mountain summit

It was clear, sunny, and filled with day hikers who were so impressed by our speed with our packs. They all thought we were camping at the top, in which I had a few smart-ass comments. I mean really? What is this, our first day? Yep we can’t wait to camp up here in the wind and hailstorm that is surely coming, we love complete exposure! Hell, we might not even set up our tents since it’s so certain to be a delightfully gentle night at 11,000 feet! Cripes, SoCal, cripes.

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As we began to descend, I remembered how much I hate going downhill. There was a lot of snow and debris that made it painfully slow, and the weather was starting to get moody. The goal was to camp at mile 190, at 7,700 ft. We quickly realized that was still too high for our sissy-ass “we don’t want to be cold” legion. (I’m the leader of that club by the way, don’t you worry, I will do ANYTHING for a shot at sleeping even a degree warmer than projected).

yep, cold. But manageable!

yep, cold. But manageable!

It was getting dark, but we decided we all had at least 3 more miles in us. We raced down the mountain in efforts to find a campsite as low as possible before complete darkness.

Toe touching my way to Canada!

Perspective.

At mile 193 we found a spot and threw up our tents as quickly and gingerly as the wind advisory let us. It was brisk. I found a bush, and decided to squeeze my tent in it for extra protection. It proved to be ineffective.

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We all ate dinner in our tents that night, and I snuggled up to my new book, The Boxcar Children: THE PIZZA MYSTERY. #33. Can you think of anything more comforting while camping in a wind/hailstorm? Me neither, it proved effective.

We took down our tents in the hail (I was the last to leave by far, I was convinced the sun was going to come out as long as I laid there not moving). I knew today was going to be no fun (great attitude, Jules), 20 miles of steep downhill. My calves were in knots from the climb yesterday and my knee was stiff from the descent yesterday afternoon. I went into batshit crazy mode and decided to race down the mountain. The storm, I decided, was out to get me, and I wouldn’t let it catch me. Besides, I couldn’t feel my hands, and needed to warm up fast. So many switchbacks, so much muscle cramping. The storm subsided and ended up being sunny once a couple thousand feet lower. Felt really, really, lucky about that. The wind still threatened to push me off the cliff, but it’s been doing that all month, so I’m done taking that crap seriously. (I’m so tough).

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Once getting down to sea-level, we all took the death trudge through the sandy desert towards HWY I-10, the highway we saw all day, the highway we were yearning for.

Little spoon finds comfort in the luxuries provided by the I-10 underpass

Little spoon finds comfort in the luxuries provided by the I-10 underpass

Oh the changes an hour can make. So many environments in one day, my body is so confused. I dragged my trekking poles behind me through the sand and am pretty sure I blacked out for 4 miles. Luckily, Camels old landlord came to get us in the evening and we stayed the night with him. His name is Jerry and he is a SAINT. We went in his pool/hot-tub, and slept on his floor. He went to clown college and turned off the lights, lit a candle, and told us ghost stories as we fell asleep. Big kid slumber party! Longest day ever? Yes, yes it was, but with the most terrific unexpected ending. Couldn’t have thought up anything weirder, glory.

Woke up to hail, ending the day with a stroll under palm trees towards a hot tub. Life makes no sense.

Woke up to hail and then ending the day with a stroll under palm trees towards a hot tub. Life makes no sense.

There is an unfortunate 16 mile fire closure on the next section, so we decided to make up those miles by doing an “out and back” in the beautiful Mission Creek area. Jerry dropped us off and Camel, Centerfold and I busted out a quick 14 miles that afternoon. (We got a late start because we woke up to Jerry making eggs and coffee, thus providing the single greatest moment of my life. Thanks again Jerry!). We left behind little spoon and chuckles because they were annoying us. OR because they had lunch plans and met us later that night. Whichever.

We spent 3 days in Mission Creek. Three.long.days. The second day was the toughest for me. I felt really low-energy the previous day, and knew for sure it was an iron deficiency. I didnt feel any better the next morning, but tried to power through it. I was a little behind the pack and got lost in a swampy area. The trail hasn’t been used in a year, so we bushwhacked through a lot of overgrowth, providing tons of bloodshed and bruises. And a weird foot tumor, to be discussed at a later date. Anyways, during my time in the swamp, I lost most of my composure, got really frustrated, internalized it, and whimpered quietly for the next few miles. It was pathetic. I was also convinced I got bit by a snake (fine, was probably stinging nettle or poodle-dog bush, but felt like venom I tell ya!) my leg went numb and tingled all day, like a million little spiders were crawling around under my skin, it was a delight.

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Maggie (chuckles) felt my struggle and did what any best friend would do –> start up a conversation about Mooses. I don’t know where it came from, but it was perfect. Moose are my spirit animal, I’m kind of obsessed with them. Mooses make life better. It took a few more miles but I eventually pulled myself out of my mind-funk. Thank you Chuckles, for somehow knowing exactly what I needed.

We all had an off-day. I just took the morning shift. After many miles of analysis, my emotions came from just a complete loss of control. To get around this fire closure we had to rely on so many different people and things to work it out. The beauty of this trail is that it’s A –> B. No back-tracking, no bus-taking, no reliance on anyone other than to get into towns to resupply. Progress, everyday with each step, we make progress. It’s a very self-sufficient independent venture. But when faced with a fire-closure, it became a logistical nightmare. We all felt it at different levels. Combine it with pure exhaustion and negative iron levels, and you have one emotional Toe Touch.

A luxurious bfast

A luxurious breakfast to help any mood.

I’d like to thank the Mile 55 team for helping me out of my funk. Thank you, Camel, for half of your snickers bar. Thank you, Spoon, for giving me your take on every presidential candidate and completely taking my mind off of hiking for a couple miles. Thank you, Chuckles, for staying in the back with me and discussing the Moose of Maine, buttery cookies, and Catholicism. And for the pack of olives. And thank you, Centerfold, for taking your “I’m losing my mind” shift at the end of the day, choosing not to camp with us (or at all), hiking through the night, and rejoining us the next afternoon looking completely crazy and confirming how badly we all lost it that day.

Where we found Centerfold the next day, alone, passed out on a urine-scented wet carpet. Don't ask questions.

Where we found Centerfold the next day, alone, passed out on a urine-scented wet carpet. Don’t ask questions.

We all learned a lot of stuff in Mission Creek. My biggest takeaway was to remember to stay present. Take it day by day, even mile by mile. The task ahead is daunting, but if I keep my focus on each day, I’ll be much more mentally stable (hopefully). ????

What? I'M LOW-IRON ?

What? I’M LOW-IRON ?

 

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!

 

PCT 2016!

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Back at it! Last year I went on a 4 month trip abroad to Southeast Asia and New Zealand, and it was incredible. Last May I moved back to Jackson Hole and worked/played really hard for 11 months (personal employment record). In January I woke up and felt one of those callings people talk about all the time. My heart was being pulled towards the trail, I decided (rather on the spot) that I was going to attempt to thru-hike the PACIFIC CREST TRAIL. 2,650 + miles of grandeur. Holy shit. And it will be done startingggggggg…tomorrow (dawn, april 12th)

Wyoming!

Wyoming!

With the help of so many good friends, I was able to plan and research the trail in 2 months. Lots of logistical planning for the PCT, it’s much more remote than its east coast pal, the Appalachian Trail, so organizing 10-20 boxes of food/gear for a stable/settled/reliable family member (thanks dad!) or friend to mail out at different dates over 5 months is very common. I’m going as light as possible, but I of course still think I packed too much.

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The trail spans from Mexico to Canada, the first 700 miles is desert, then the Sierras (yippee!), then some NORCAL action. We will cross over into Oregon where we will be soaked for 3 weeks, and then the final push through Washington where the views and hunger will be unbelievable.

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Why? Well that’s easy, because I enjoy hiking. It’s the combination of my passion for physical endurance, the great outdoors, and the simple life. I also really love people, and hikers are always the most interesting, kindest, most generous people I meet.

THE CREW: no, I’m not alone, exhale! I am teamed up with 4 badass crazy humans who enjoy self-inflicted pain and mosquitoes as much as I do. The dream started 5 years ago when I met Maggie. We both volunteered for AmeriCorps on a trail crew in the Northwest. We maintained sections of the PCT and although vastly different, we became best buds (she’s an asshole, too).

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Her cat-loving New Hampshire obsessed husband Mark is also joining us (couple alert! Just kidding, guys), along with their best friend Jon (he’s got (had) a real job, like a career, but he quit it to hike the trail and that makes him a hero). Then we have Shaugn Dugan, a fellow friend from the Northwest trail crew days, and a complete victim to Maggie’s bullying (he’s skinny and kindaaaa has red hair, that’s all the ammo Maggie needs for years worth of jokes and puns). But he’s a badass, and mocks my NY accent and tendencies to what he feels is perfection. “GOOD MAWNIN’ JOOOLIEEE”, we also only speak and write to eachother in all caps, if anyone is seeking peace and solace on the trail, stay far, far away. It’s a funny little group, I’ll probably get sick of them after 3 days and bail, which will be longer than any of them expect me to stick around. Oh my gosh kidding! I’m so lucky to have them, it’s going to be all laughs and banter, okay, all banter, some laughs, mostly tears.

Ill be in touch as much as I feel appropriate, might be weekly, might be monthly, but life is all about sharing and I know how interested (concerned) people are about this adventure! I’ll do the most uploading on my Instagram @jtmcc272 but will try to blog when I find the time. Thanks for all your support to get me to this point, I’m off!

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“Pursue some path, however narrow or crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence” – Henry David Thoreau

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