Tag Archives: PCT

foraginghere

June 25, 2016

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These days isolation and slow internet is the name of the game. This is bad for this space but good for my heart, so a real update will have to wait until I get to town again in a couple of weeks and can upload all the decent photos from my gorgeous new camera. For now, shoddy photography and bad lighting will have to tide us along. Sorry about that.

But to start, the sierra is here! Its now! We left tehachapi and the last hundred miles or so of desert with a bang. Dropped off by a snake- loving truck- driving construction worker that was kind enough to give us a ride very late in the day, we began night hiking after a quiet week off exploring the fog and sea animals of big sur. Leaving the trail always feels wrong, but I was ahead of schedule, my tendon was squeaky and screaming, and forward progress was blocked by a fire ahead on trail. So i was particularly happy to get back on trail. And what a start to the last section of hot dusty desert! We left the safety of town and easy access to water and wove straight up among the wind farms into a gale warning. As the sun set pink the wind took off: we climbed higher and higher on dark ridges and  the wind barreled forcing us to take each switchback corner on our knees. I felt like such a wild thing in the dark and screaming brush yet couldn’t stop hollering and laughing at the hilarity of it all. A life lived choosing to walk treeless hillside in starlight in winds that would normally urge one to batten down the hatches and go to bed.

After this, nothing in the next section could get us down. Not 40 mile water carries, not foot pain, not sharp prickly desert plants and exceptional mid-day heat. Every step pushed us closer to the mountains and away from the desert! Towards new plant life, new climbs, new ways of approaching landscape. Away from the beginning and the wondering if we were going to be among the lucky few who would make it this far. Away from worry and fear that hiking was a crazy choice, and towards the calm (and sometimes boredom) of a long expedition with its own particular set of life chores. The desert that, while stunning and beautiful, felt by the end like a high school relationship that went on too long- quaint, adorable, but something it was far time to move past. I was done with the first time and ready to go to college. And college is now. The magical sierra. Its everything I ever hoped for and more- I wish I could accurately describe the feeling of walking into a mountain range of light and granite when you started in the dust of near Mexico, but its amazing. Nothing else quite tops this. I will never take the presence of shade trees or water for granted again.

Our bags are weighted with bear canisters and extra food and the passes and elevation makes us loopy, lightheaded and high, but the last five weeks of walking have made us strong and fast. We move quick past day hikers with their perfume and boom boxes, and i feel lucky to be part of the secret tribe of PCT walkers living in the forest moving forward 20 miles or so day after day.

This said, the contradiction of travel Ive struggled with on earlier sojourns across the globe is apparent everywhere these days. Walking from town to town, we clearly feel the deep effect of the california drought, of the recession, of the rural poverty of this part of America. Small towns are suffering and each hitch we get tells a story of struggle and hard times. Talking to folks who pick us up I don’t empathize, but have begun to understand why people want to vote for nationalistic and sensationalist candidates like trump. The promise of an easier life, of a “great” america would be so tempting amongst all the prickles and hard living of this desert life. All this poverty and poor sanitation makes me extra grateful for being here; for the luck of moving past injuries to my current pain- free state, for new hiker pals and for the chance and privilege of economic chance and upbringing that I don’t have to work for awhile and instead find deep peace from swimming naked in alpine lakes, in glissading off steep passes at 12,7000 feet to iceburg lakes below. For the gift to have my biggest life worries turn into those focused on basic needs of food and cleanliness and human connection. Its a privilege we have in these rare times of life with space to walk and think about contradictions and my own ease of current life when its hard for so many. For simply being grateful for mountains and water, just because they are there.

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.


From here to here (mile 460)

Ive reached hiker heaven, a beautiful refuge house for us smelly hikers. It has free laundry, hot showers, a kitchen for cooking real food, and a collection of all our friends met over the past month that miraculously ended up here at the same time. It also has a saguero cactus in the yard which is creating all kinds of pleasureable feelings. A cute cactus that doesn’t want to reach out and poke my delicate sleeping pad! Yes! Ive been waiting for you.

All this is good, but I want to get back to the woods asap so won’t write much today. Here are some photos instead: over the last hundred miles we circled around the coast and the smog of LA, through pinyon to massive california red cedar and pine, between burn zones and its poisonous poodle bush. This section was spectacular; my favourite so far. Surrounded by eager eight year old boy scouts we climbed mt baden powell in the fog and cold. There were no views, but saw the massive 2000 year old limber pine which made the spooky summit special and worth the extra meters of extra steep climb.

After the solitude of the trail, town time feels overwhelmingly loud. The desert floor is calling. Sitting feels odd today and my stomach is growling as if I was hiking, but we are only doing five miles today instead of the usual 18 or 20. The last week was cold. So, damn, cold. The temperatures hovered around freezing and the wind was whippy and harsh. Two mornings there was ice on the tarp! And they call this the desert. That said, it was perfect walking weather so we flew up the hills.With the frosty stretch behind us the flat hot mojave section up next is sounding mighty appealing. Away I go; please bring on the heat. But not too much. Desert life, never a moment of moderation.



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.