Category Archives: forest time

Hot hot and hot: photome (to mile 560 and tehachapi!)

Internet is limited as I have absconded to the coast for a few days to let a sore foot heal from back to back 40 k days on hard road and wait out a forest fire that is threatening to close the next section of trail. Its also 104 degrees out there and I am a wimp. Monday looks cooler, so then I will hike.

For now, here is a snapshot of the last 150 or so miles. Wispy grass oak to giant pines to the hot and windy desert; night hiking in starlight to shadows of joshua trees; dehydration to hippie parties in the magical manzanita forest. There was one crazy night across the broad mohave where we started at 3am, watched sunrise break and walked somemore. We hid all day under a bridge like trolls, walked again at 5 till 10, crashed into wind storm laden bed, but it never relented. Due to crazy wind and a quickly breaking tent we ran away for cover at 3am to a burrito style sleep in a rocky ditch 2 miles away. Eesh. We woke too late due to being protected in shade by this sandy windy stupor. We paid for our mistake with a hot hike and a dry mouth. 70k in 36 hours, holy shit. I spent the last hour or two to tehachapi promising myself that “if i didn’t cry from feet and fatigue i got town!food! but if i did cry:well i had to watch ghis eat up his delicious delicious noodles while i didnt so don’t be a softy.” Im easily motivated by food these days so at least that mantra worked! Getting off that damn mountain man, you have no choice so you just better go. Its getting funny to think about that day now, but it took a lot of ice cream to make the memory foggy. The trail provides, even if it its not always what you think you are looking for.

What we hikers call trail magic was everywhere this section. Cold cokes in coolers in the middle of nowhere; hiker hostels ranging from hyper organized to taco salad shambles; water caches just when the thirst was getting real; instant rides to the all you can eat chinese buffet from a bernie sanders sticker sporting clunky old car driving trail angel who picked us up before we even stuck out our thumb; root beer floats; rumours of free chicken salad sandwiches given out by valley dwelling desert rats (which we missed due to sheer lazyness of not wanting to walk 200 extra yards  so instead just huddled under a joshua tree);  ice cream; hiker box scores of siriracha and a nail clipper, both of which i have been hoping for for a week. There was a friendly hello and gift of dried fruit  from a fellow hiker just when the grump was starting: too much walking on the sharp pain of an angry tendon that has no choice but to be walked on until the next road and water 20 miles out.  Helped the new mantra of “you better hurry even though the suck is now real.” Apples and chairs (chairs!) at mile 459 in barren waterless hills when i needed relief most. The joy of total collapse and taking off of packs when the miles end and the hotel discount for us hikers is real and cheap so the shower I feel guilty dreaming about can become solid reality. Free milkshakes. Our collective trail economy of hiker boxes where one can score now staple life items like dried beans and trade coffee for bags of nuts. This trail society; its free and equal and gift-oriented. Something in me thinks maybe this is real life and the rest is a bad vacation where capitalism somehow won but this is how it should be. No status, no money, all generous and kind. Just forward momentum somehow supported by strangers you may never meet. I am so grateful.

Southern california is almost complete; kennedy meadows and the snowy sierra are so close. I can’t stop imagining what it will be to reach their granitic shadows and cool breezy creeks. Desert, its been nice, but im pretty much over you.


Yesyesyes! (Mile 370)

 

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Weve made it 370 miles and the flow has arrived. We move up and down mountain ranges, across landscape, through blistered feet to the bliss of hiking into sunset and setting up camp in dusk because its just too hard to stop.

This last section from Idyllwild to Wrightwood took us eight days from over 10,000 feet down to 1230  to the oven- hot valley floor and them back up again. Endless up and downs. There was one memorable day-long descent of 9300 meters from the peak of jan jacinto pine rock to the dusty blooming creosote that somehow survives 42 degree heat. Ouch. The three mile sandy walk to shade at the bottom was the hottest and most fatigued i remember: who knew that a smelly underpass would provide such sweet shade relief ? I can only imagine what the mojave will bring, especially as i have ditched my umbrella in a “my pack is too heavy” low blood sugar induced purge. Whoops.

We skipped 30 miles after cabazon due to a fire closure. While i was sad to miss miles, we made it up by hosting a memorable fruit buffet party for hiker friends on the shuttle bus. This almost felt better than walking those hot burnt miles even though everyone was torn about following the rules with rumours the trail was actually in perfect shape. Alas, with 2000 hikers this season its good to be a sensitive member of the herd instead of pushing my own singular goals.

Big bear to here was wordlessly perfect despite my feet growing  out of my shoes. You would think this was impossible after thirty years of feet, but i live to tell the truth: my toes are a blistered shred and rei express is the best friend a hiker can have. New shoes, please be kind. But the feet didnt matter once one got past the initial five minute hobble and various kinds of tape. Almost.This section was cruisy. There was water! Glorious water to camp with night after night! Swimming in the creek! The lake! I could drink as much as i wanted and not worry i was over my share! There was perfection among the hippies and hot springs where the pools were large enough to cliff jump into and a pair of bay area artists left a gift of a wine bag and snickers bars. There was trail magic of root beer floats delivered at a dusty roadside. Be still my heart.

The miles fly by now; somehow its often lunch and 10 passed already in quiet contemplation or impassioned debated bliss. Walking becomes fast if its all you do 10 hours a day. Up and down and up and down. Sometimes i think about work or life but often justdaydream about much beloved hiker things like picnic tables or ice.

Add in another 9000 foot waterless climb and we’ve reached now: pinyon pines, gusty winds, and the distant lights of los angeles which im happy to avoid. Forest time, its an easy way to get home.

 

Varied desert song (mile 180)


Ive discovered that you have to rest. This should come as no surprise but its a lesson i probably should have learned years ago. Trail life quickly teaches you to simplify your life and hike your own hike. I got to town faster than planned and my body needs a day or two to catch up- I shed some tears at the thought of getting “behind” the herd of forward moving animals but then laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. Behind in what? Walking? Its all so silly, the notion of a pure perfect hike when we are all just pawns on a made up map. Thanks pct, i knew you would be more than just a pretty piece of trail.


We are holed up in an adorable mountain town avoiding a snowstorm at 10,ooo feet. We are both nursing colds and sore knees. Idyllwild is full of excellent ways to spend all my money, and discover that yes, i can accidently eat an entire pizza and then want a panini please yes right now. I now understand why hiker talk revolves around town food: the need to eat to keep moving is so primal it takes over the parts of my brain that worry about work, finances, and dealings of my tender heart.

The last stretch of trail was all granite boulders, endless climbs and descents, and included four episodes of rattlesnack dodging, a marmot spotting, and over twenty new to me tree species. There were trail angel beers left in coolers at lonely road crossings, a library at mile 142, and a strange early morning free pancake zone at a bizarre ranch in the middle of nowhere where all were stoned but that was ok. Everyday many things and nothing happens all at once.

The bird call wakes us up and beds us down; my sleep is slowly aligning with the sun. Im itching to get back out there with a reset and a more patient state, to make slow and now my new goal.

 

And, go.

 

So far, major sponsors of the PCT include ziplocks, dirty shirts, and sunburnt knuckles. Supports vying for top marks include cheese, the sawyer squeeze filtration system, nuun tabs, and trail magic soda-pop. Fails are the adorable straw hat that disintegrated immediately, my previous assumptions about what I would and would not care about, and all desire to be anywhere but here. I am enamored with everything-especially the baby desert plants and multiple kinds of adorable cactus- even though the weather has ranged from blazing hot to blisteringly cold with ice bombs to 80 km hour winds and rain on top of a mountain with fog obscured views. The desert isn’t acting quite like the desert, but that is the nature of this hike: nothing is as I thought it would be, and that is a good thing. Today I finished section A- 109 miles (!!) and arrived (almost not limping) in Warner Springs. Here is a community festival of mini tents, free mashed potatoes, hot dogs, and saucy beans. People are hiking from all around the world and water is hard to find; we hikers cluster for snack breaks and it feels collegial. It is as if I have entered an entire undiscovered continent of meshed up humanity, not simply a trail.

At dinner there was no salad, but I have been continuing my love affair for vegetables by sneaking zucchini and peppers into my pack so my hankering for town food is shockingly low. Ghislain, my desert hiking partner and i both love old school heavyweight backpack eating. We have so far avoided staples like ramen in favour of cabbage and polenta and as such been affectionately deemed “team buffet” for our glorious explosion of dinner. I am a happy woman but am getting hungry so the days of vitamins over snickers are low.

The landscape is more broad and varied than I expected and I need more adjectives for pretty- we hiked up 12,000 feet in two days and saw everything from giant manzanita trees to obscene pinecones larger than my head to massive dry washes filled with blossoming flowers pink, yellow, burnt orange. I have taken to tucking bouquets in my pack hip belt for good cheer: but honestly at this point its not even necessary. I am sore, but so content.

Next up are the San Jacinto mountains and with them: garborater style appetite, continued rumination on the value of paper vs electronic maps, and the debate every solo-ish hiker runs into: where to stay, and where to go?

on january bread (roasted chicken sandwich with lemony mayo)

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This January there has been not enough shredding and just enough bread. The snowpack is terrible and low but at least my kitchen is cozy-full. This makes my heart happy. While January is typically the month to espouse low-carb resolutions, green eating, and clean food, this year something deep inside me loves and wants only the pleasure of a perfect sandwich when i sneak home for lunch, a pile of bread pudding on a quiet day off, and afternoon snacks of homemade cheese jauntily set beside garlicky olives, summer-canned chutney, and a piece of crunchy toast. I feel an interesting sense of guilt towards these beautiful, homemade, albeit carb-laden choices- shouldn’t I be encouraging juice cleanses? avocado smears? smoothie overdrive? I love vegetables and exercise and want to be the kind of women who cultivates a living whole food diet and manages to eat cold healthy things in winter; but right now it is january and as usual I am drowning in stews. Braises. Pot-pies. I am snacking on yummy whole-spelt berry muffins between clinic appointments. Ensconced in faron’s lovely sourdough. The raw food from my garden consists of slug-eaten baby turnips. The kale looks sad. The seasonal choices are yams and cauliflower.  I am tired of all of these things and don’t want to keep buying lettuce driven all the way from california. While calls for dietary change ring left -right -and centre, choosing warm carbs feels right in this season of slowing down, letting the quiet in, for fuelling ski-days, and soothing my poor ears from the horror that is myself learning the beginner violin.

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It does make me wonder: when did healthy eating become about rules instead of instinct ? Why did bread become so loaded? When did the internet fill with encouragement to find yourself through sparsity and elimination in the darkest, loneliest month of the year? When did weight loss become about food guilt instead of fostering love of movement and spirit in our bodies? Why do we put such pressure on ourselves to make anew when its cold outside and we just want to knit? Why not set goals in July when the sun is high and one can’t help feel enough with the chance to run in the woods and float in rivers all of the time? Goals formed in those kind of moments might make more sense: july hopes are for barbecues and hiking trips not clean-photo-shoot living and the pursuit of unrealistic perfect health.

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This year I am hoping to finally shed the mantra of “good enough is not good enough,” set in my overachieving little grade six heart by a well meaning childhood teacher. I was a seriously nerdy kid who loved to do things extra-well. I remember when the cut out letters of that mantra appeared on our class room board and how I was like, yep, got that. For sure. I can over-achieve not letting anything be good enough! I will win at math, studying, and life!

Ive carried that elementary school motivation around so hard now for decades that good enough really doesn’t feel good enough. Great advice for spelling review and dutifully finishing my medical charting: but crappy words for diets and life. In this vein Ive spent the last three weeks quietly miserable trying to meet my annual goals of winter austerity, chilly drinks, and the challenge to chipperly “build myself my best life.” The thing is, building my “best life” just makes me feel gross.

Why? Because the good enough best life is already here. I already built it by waking up in the morning and by being alive. The best life lives in little things- goose down duvets, braised tacos, slow cooker oatmeal mornings chatting with faron about what happened in dream world last night, and coffee in front of the wood stove. Its in the magic of night-mountain bike riding and winter-camping in the van. It’s in this most-perfect roasted chicken sandwich. Maybe instead of yet another 30-day challenge, I just need to bring on the bread.

Ps: What do you think? Are january cleanses helpful? A useful re-boot? A guilt-laden exercise? Necessary evils?

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