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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One-Thousand.

Day: 90

Location: Cup of Cherries Coffee House, South Lake Tahoe

Mile: 1090

Showers Taken: 19

Avocado Count: 36

Note: this blog post is all over the place, I will be having less and less time in towns to post, so pictures will continue to be upside down and stories will continue to not make any sense. I appreciate your patience and understandings. Care about you.

Why can’t I sleep indoors? There’s no blood on the walls, I can spread my body out, I can control the climate, I can wipe with toilet paper, I don’t have to sleep on a smelly piece of rolled up clothing, I don’t lose feeling in my major muscle groups, I don’t have to sleep on rocks, and I don’t have to search for scary beady eyes when I get up to pee. You’d think I’d get to this bed and pass right out. I sure thought so too, but that hasn’t been the case this summer.

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What it comes down to is this: I replace writing in my journal with watching the Kardashians, I replace eating sprouted Mung Beans with eating pizza and ice cream, I replace the sound of a swiftly flowing creek with the sound of 18-wheelers, I replace staring at the stars to shoving my face in a suffocating (always too thick) pillow, I replace dinner-time jokes with again, the Kardashians. It’s no wonder. Why did it take me so long to hash this out? The luxuries of sleeping in a bed, indoors, and with a television will always reach for me, and will always be a treat. But damnit after 10 minutes in this bed I get restless and pathetically realize that even though I have no access to a TV, I’ve somehow already seen this episode of the Kardashians. Twice. And that POM is the most obnoxious sponsor of American Ninja Warrior.

The best ice cream in a carton. Fact.

The best ice cream in a carton. Fact.

Two things, we heard two things about this past section: The mosquitoes are at their worst, and it is the toughest physically. I brushed aside the mosquito part and got really amped up about how difficult it was going to be — after spending a week in Mammoth living like a member of American society, I needed to get my ass kicked, I WANTED to get my ass kicked. Fortunately, the trail kicked my ass. Unfortunately, the trail also bit my ass, several different times, by several different inhabitants. Whyyy I ouuuttttaaa. But seriously, who’s got the calamine lotion?!?

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Bugnet selfie after our first 30 mile day!

Alright, let’s address the elephant in the room here, the mosquitoes weren’t THAT bad, right? I mean I’m just laying here in a comfortable bed for the first time in 10 days and for the last time for much longer, and I can’t stop frantically itching my WHOLE body (have they no shame?). I’m using every body part as a scratching device but still thinking about how lucky we were that they weren’t, again, THAT bad. Why am I so full of it sometimes? Here I go about to put a positive spin on how the mosquitoes could have been WAY worse, while my skin crawls in agony (what are they injecting into my bloodstream?) This coming from a girl who spent the last part of her prayer cycle one night asking God why he created mosquitoes. As I drifted away during this particular prayer I decided that no, God, you do not believe in peace on earth, because you created mosquitoes. And that was probably my most monumental thought of the whole day. I then woke up to dozens of them attached to my tent screen waiting for me to reach for that zipper. Deserved that one. Little did they know that I purposely dehydrated myself the past few days so I wouldn’t have to pee at night OR until fully dressed in my flesh-covering attire in the morning, thus, never really having to leave my tent and subjecting myself to their ugly little bodies. Don’t worry, I don’t consider that a victory, but it does make me feel like I’m smarter than them, which I mean, I’ll take what I can give myself.

You know it's next level when even a smoky fire doesn't keep them away

You know it’s next level when even a smoky fire doesn’t keep them away

On the hiking side of things, this past section was breathtaking. We hiked into Yosemite and past its Northern boundary. We hiked over incredibly impressive rock work, more snow, past gorgeous alpine lakes, through muddy meadows, up and around and down sharp ridge lines, and through soft soiled forests. There was so much to see, so many smiles to erupt.

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The physically challenging part came with the extreme elevation gain/loss. We averaged between 3500-5000′ of gain each day, and usually with an equal amount of descent. Yep, you guessed it, straight UP, straight DOWN, one mile in the valley to stretch out the legs before another 1500′ straight UP, straight eh, you get it. Whenever we were blessed with flat terrain we kicked it up several notches to make up time. We were still in the Sierra but wanted to push our daily mileage, so we went kind of hard you can say.

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The last 3 days of the 9-day stretch were 25, 25, then a “what the hay” let’s end it with a bang, our first 30-miler! We had a group bet going early on who would hike the first 30-mile day. You should know ALL of our bets throughout the summer have been under the terms of Dairy Queen Blizzards. They are called “Blizzard Bets” and probably a new one gets betted on everyday between 2 of us. So many bets that we lost count because we have yet to see a DQ near the trail to cash in on. Now we just all owe each other a whole bunch-a-blizzards.

Blizzard betting support group

Blizzard betting support group

Point being, it was pretty special to reach the 30-mile milestone with Camel and Centerfold, in the Sierra, on the last day of the toughest section, in garbage shoes. Also, on the last day of us hiking together (they’ll catch me soon enough, but I’m leaving a day earlier than them from town). To be honest, I felt great, it was a feeling of euphoria for the last few miles as I swooped into camp right before 9pm. One of those banner days that won’t ever be forgotten.

Pushed these shoes 200 miles too long

Pushed these shoes 200 miles too long

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At this point in the trek, after a few days and reaching the 1,000 mile mark (woot woot!) I was with the boys, Centerfold and Camel. Spoon and Chuckles had to hitch into a town for a resupply, and the boys and I planned for a longer jaunt, and did the last 150 miles together. We are both best of friends and worst of enemies. Best of friends because we’ve been hiking together for so long that our connection and communication is almost at a point of effortlessness. We have each other dialed in, we are no longer surprised if someone says “I’ll be right back” and not see them till morning. We are 3 very independent creatures, who fortunately enough, make one heck of a team. I’m always the last to leave camp, except one particular morning last week when, to both our surprise, I walked past Centerfold with his tent still up. No “Good morning Toe Touch! How’d you sleep? How the feet feelin?” Nope, I got a look of astonishment and an “aw man I’m the last to leave? This sucks.” This made me laugh for the whole first mile of the day, Centerfold is the most organized and efficient member of Mile 55 (he’s the type of guy who actually uses the dresser drawers in motel rooms) and has NEVER been the last to leave camp in over 1,000 miles. Chuckles and I used to joke and say we should all leave incredibly early one morning just to mess with him.

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Welp, time for a snack!

Welp, time for a snack!

The boys and I would leap-frog eachother most of the days, taking breaks at different times, performing camp and hygiene chores in different streams and rivers. Every night one of them made a campfire to keep the mosquitoes away so we didn’t have to eat in the solitude of our tents. I’ll admit it, I played the “girl card” and tended to my feet and bug bites in my tent while they gathered logs and sticks for the fire. I would then magically appear once the fire was ablaze and THEN ask if I could help in any way. Admitting this doesn’t get me off the hook, but it’s not like they didn’t know what I was doing anyways. Again, we’re a great team! Hah (sorry guys).

Sleeping on a bed of rocks

Sleeping on a bed of rocks

We would hike our minimum mileage set for ourselves (22ish) and then add bonus miles until we found a campsite with a fire ring. We were each others worst enemies because we all have this thing where we don’t like to be outdone by other people, we are constantly striving for more. This similar trait in all of us came in handy as we all need to increase our mileage if we want to be home for Christmas. As Spoon and Centerfold would say in their daily satirical morning pump-ups “alright guys lets PUSH THE ENVELOPE TODAY.” Basically, we hiked into the late evening hours, laughed in misery about the mosquitoes, told each other how “pretty” we looked in our bug headnets, discussed our favorite climb of the day, threw out some jokes on Chuckles and Spoons behalf because remember, they weren’t there, and tallied up how many times we slipped and fell on our butts that day. Camel would then whip out the elevation profile for the the next day, tell us how flat it was going to be, then Centerfold would look at the map and label it in one quick word: “easy,” and then we’d hike up several mountains right outta the gates and repeat the same process. It was my favorite section thus far.

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Three days, THREE days in a row we received trail magic. I didn’t realize we would cross a  paved road once each day. Turns out, trail angels like to set up camp there and feed us! It was unbelievable, the last 3 days and the highest mileage ones, we hiked right into picnic tables of food in the middle of the day. Two days in a row I had a bowl of cereal, Chipmunk even had almond milk for it!

IPODS picnic table of trail magic at Sonora Pass!

IPODS picnic table of trail magic at Sonora Pass!

"I bought 149 bananas, if you want one, check the banana cooler" - Chipmunk

“I bought 149 bananas, if you want one, check the banana cooler” – Chipmunk

The pattern with trail magic food spreads (that I am really, really enjoying) is that it is all my favorite foods from growing up. Captain Crunch, packaged pastries, soda, Oreos, Nacho chips, American cheese, 4th of July mini cupcakes, and of course, DUPLEX COOKIES.

Most fulfilling of days, these people are so amazing

Most fulfilling of days, these people are so amazing

It’s amazing, comforting, and so familiar. As Chuckles pointed out in her recent blog post (which made us all cry, by the way) we have reached a point where homesickness is inevitable. The excitement of the start is long gone, the excitement for the Sierra is over, and the excitement for Canada is far too out of reach. We all miss our friends, families, and kitchens. You give up a lot of freedoms to be out here, and I wouldn’t trade this life for anything, so it is just another challenge to overcome. Letters, texts, and packages from friends and family help immensely. I can’t think of a better pick-me-up. In Tuolomne I received a “vintage” (still think it’s a top thrifty find but she’ll never confess) Moose, Wyoming tee from my coffee obsessed, happy houring roomie in Jackson. Halez has become my personal fashion designer for the trail, basically everything I wear she made, it’s pretty freakin awesome. I also got package of yummy foods (and Finding Dory) band-AIDS from my beautiful friend Maureen whom I met in Australia what? 8 years ago? Incredible friend, heart of gold and so incredibly thoughtful. (She made me say that if I want more Scooby Snacks).

Hangin' in Tuolomne!

Hangin’ in Tuolomne!

Friends that become family, I have felt this way about Chuckles (Maggie), Spoon (Mark), Centerfold (Jon) and Camel (Dugan) since April 12th. They’ve been my trail family, they are the 4 people I am so proud to tell people “no, you don’t get it, we STARTED together, we were friends before this, crazy right?” Well, today is the day we split. I left 3 notes along the trail last week for Chuckles and Spoon, the last one being a classic Toe Touch love letter, left under a rock at their trail exit point. I am afraid those are the 2 I won’t see until MAYBE Washington, and so that goodbye was really hard for me. They have been so incredible, and I’m so glad Chuckles has a blog so I can follow along more closely. I am so excited for them. I am also so very hopeful they will literally pop out of nowhere in the next 1,000 miles. I just don’t know what I’m gonna do at night without Chuckles obnoxious royal blue #downhat and without Spoon telling me how many hours of daylight we have left. Gosh, I’m gonna miss them.

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Camel and Centerfold will for sure catch me sooner than later, so after a few beers last night I said goodbye. Those guys have been my brothers out here, and I look forward to being their “carrot” as Camel would say (he’s still working on the proper metaphor, stay tuned) and to trip and have a smartass comment “walk much” come from Centerfold. For now, I’m off to “melt some miles.” I sent home 5lbs of winter gear yesterday. I sent it all home in my bear canister, I told my dad there was a note inside for him. I can’t wait to hear how bad he struggles trying to open it, I can hear Kyle laughing next to him as Bob gives up and chucks it at him. Ah, the little things, the little things.

No one better mess with my favorite sticker...HOT LAPS!

No one better mess with my favorite sticker…HOT LAPS!

Mile 55, I love you! Mission Creek: never forget*

ADIOS!

 

First Week of the Sierra — Best Buds & Whitney

Day: 67

Location: Black Velvet Coffee Shop, Mammoth Lakes, CA

Cumulative Miles: 906.6

Showers Taken: 17

Avocados Consumed: 34

First day of Sierra School Photo!

First day of Sierra School Photo!

The most talked about section of the Pacific Crest Trail: The Sierra Nevada. For 1.5 months you hear trail rumors of sky-high snow levels,
blistering cold temperatures, deadly river crossings, monster bear attacks,
and word of Big Foot himself. Trail rumors, they are a funny, funny thing. It didn’t take us long to ignore every.single.one. of them. The only way to know what is coming up next on the trail is to put your boots on and go see
for yourself. There is always a fear in the unknown, but how one handles
that fear is what makes up the character in each of us. What I am getting at here is this: the PCT tries hard to kill us everyday. It’s a love/hate relationship, I love the PCT,
the PCT hates me. Everyday something terrifying happens, and boy is it
toughening us up to no end. They say the trail changes you, you don’t quite notice while it’s happening, but it does change you. We are not even halfway done yet, but I can say with complete conviction, I am not the same person who started on April 12th. I’m way prettier

Without a doubt in my mind, the first 12 days in the Sierra were the most mentally and physically challenging of my life. Even though the toughest terrain on the PCT (I had no idea this was the case when I decided to do all 12 days straight) what was really tough was keeping my head on straight. Towards the end of the hitch I started getting frustrated more easily, and almost, ALMOST threw my poles in a hissy fit. Talking with other hikers, I was not alone in this, everyone was challenged in that regard. We all agreed it was the most amazing section, but boy were we tested in every way imaginable.

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It’s June 3rd, we begin our hike towards the mountains. The first couple days are spent climbing up to 11,000+ ft. and getting acclimated with the elevation. It’s hot, dry, and gorgeous. Lots of climbing, lots of phenomenal sunsets and prime campsites right where we needed them. Everything was picture perfect, we averaged 24 miles each day through the weekend. This is way more than most people do, but we were excited and hit the ground running. We all felt good with the high altitude, living in Wyoming for 3 years gave me a good base to work off of, and even the sea-level New Hampshire enthusiasts exceeded my expectations with their adaptation skills.

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New National Parks!

New National Parks!

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We also needed to hike that many miles because we planned to summit Mt. Whitney, a 17 mile round-trip hike off the PCT.  Can you say “DAYYYY TRIPPPPPP” woot woot! We were all so excited for Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48, 14,508ft. I have never been above 14,000 feet, so a little nervous with how it was gonna go, but so excited to reach a new height.

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Spoon and Chuckles put their winter hiking experience into effect

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We all started at different times that morning, somewhere between 4-5AM. We felt really lucky again with the weather window, just a week earlier no thru-hiker (well, I’m sure the extremely badass ones did it) was able to summit Whitney because of the snow and ice. It melted a lot since then and we were golden. It was such a nice hike, few miles of an easy approach, then up an ice wall, then conquering a bunch of dry switchbacks with the occasional snowy ridge, then to the snow-covered ridge line that led to a scramble of boulders to the summit. I was feelin’ good, so I kept my momentum and went ahead. I was .8 from the summit, at 14,000 ft when I realized I didn’t want to summit alone. I hung out on a rock really hoping one of them would turn the corner before I got too cold. 20 minutes later Centrefold popped out of nowhere and off we went. He said Spoon and Chuckles were behind quite a bit, so as much as we wanted to summit all together, we decided to keep moving and wait at the top.

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Centrefold contemplating life at 14,000ft.

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Mountain buddy!

The views up top were incredible. I will say this, the top 2 moments of this achievement came from Jon and Maggie. Jon is an amazing athlete and hiker, but he’ll be the first to tell you he gets bad anxiety and panic attacks when it comes to heights/altitude/ridges, so he was a bit concerned with how he’d react when he got so high up. He crushed it. I don’t even think he knew how deep his doubts ran because as we reached the summit I saw the biggest smile radiate from him exclaiming “I never thought I’d do this!” It was such a cool moment to witness, climbing mountains has to be the most rewarding endeavor out there.

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I love this picture because if people thought we were couples, they'd have it allll wrong haha

I love this picture because if people thought we were couples, they’d have it allll wrong haha

Maggie has the toughest time with altitude. Being a chain-smoker throughout her youth, she deserves it.

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Hah kidding, I just wrote that because I know it’ll make her mad at me for a second and that makes me laugh. Maggie is a complete badass, she definitely struggles with high elevation, which makes summiting Whitney an unreal accomplishment. Way more impressive than any one else’s summit, in my opinion. I’m really annoying and had a great time going up, just making it obnoxiously obvious how much oxygen my muscles were getting, if this were Maggie’s blog she’d probably describe it like this “ohhh look at me look at me, such a tall blonde sprinting up this mountain! I’ve never done anything easier! No water, no food, who needs calories! The last time I had a sip of water was in ’97, I’m fine!” (that was me, making fun of me, Maggie, hope you enjoyed it.) ANYWAYS, Maggie and her iron-horse she calls a husband (most supportive and encouraging husband I’ve ever seen, it’s also really obnoxious how nice they are to eachother, tough to be around for sure.) make it to the top and a clearly exhausted Maggie exclaims “I really didn’t think I could do this.” She almost called it quits I imagine, several times. She didn’t though, she kept pushing it. That is way more badass to me than anything else that has happened so far on this hike. I was so proud of her, I wrote allll about it in my journal that night, totally taking away precious time I like to spend journaling about MYSELF…betch.

Final steps!

Final steps!

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We were the last people down the mountain, but it wasn’t too bad. The reason why you don’t want to hike in the snow too late in the day is because it softens up and you begin to post-hole (when you are walking on top of what you think is stable snow, and then your leg disappears). Post-holing sucks. It’s not only dangerous (sometimes you’re hiking over large fast-flowing creeks, or sharp rocks) but it’s also incredibly exhausting constantly pulling your lower half out of the snow. I got stuck once, and it wasn’t fun – it was funny, but not fun. It’s also the main reason people run out of food in the Sierra and have to adjust their plans. You need a lot of calories with all the climbs, cold temperatures, and because you use a lot of different muscle groups hiking in the snow. One guy told me there was a very low chance I’d make it to Mammoth with what lie ahead, that a lot of thru-hikers had to hitch into a town halfway through. After careful thought, I labeled him a fear-monger and kept my head up. I will make this food last, and I will get my butt out of my sleeping bag at 4am to avoid any unnecessary exertion of soft snow. I will hike on ice, and make it to Mammoth, damnit.

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The day after Whitney was the toughest day for me. We again started at different times and I found myself alone for most of the day. I got lost several times trying to navigate the endless snowfields leading up to a climb of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT (13,200′). It’s really cute because the trail makes you start the day with a few miles of descent, so all the while you want to MAKE IT STOP, because you know you’ll need to make all this back up in a couple hours. It was a really sunny hot day on Forester, and the reflection of the sun was so bad that my lips blistered up, and are still severely blistered, 10 days later. I have to cut up my food and hope no spice hits my lips, it’s been dreadful, they keep me up at night throbbing. The bottom of my nose got burnt bad that day too, it’s peeling now, so that’s a positive!

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Finally, the day was done. It was our last night together for awhile, they were heading into town in the morning, and I was heading up another mountain pass, continuing my hike. We camped next to a lake and snow and then were surprised when we woke up freezing and soaking wet with condensation? Hah, worth it though, it was gorgeous. Before they left they gave me any extra food they had so I didn’t die. It was super nice of them, I know I was a bit crazy to take this on, but their support gave me such a huge boost going into the second week alone. I missed them before they left.

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"Hey guys is this how we stash our bear canisters??" #nailedit

“Hey guys is this how we stash our bear canisters??” #nailedit

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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