Campo (0.0) to Warner Springs (109.5)

DAY 1: CAMPO (0.0) TO LAKE MORENA (20.0)

05/13/17
20.0 Miles

 A pair of doves outside of the camper trailer at Scout & Frodo's woke me up before my alarm went off at 5. It was much colder than I imagined Southern California, so I put on my new puffy jacket for the first time, packed my bag and went inside for a quick breakfast of eggs with salsa and some fruit. Still couldn’t shake the feeling that I was maybe in over my head and it was hard to force anything down but coffee.

All the hikers piled into two cars and hit the road at 5:45am. It took about an hour to get to the border and I spent most of the drive talking with an experienced AT hiker, who was giving me tips on just about everything from food resupply to pole swinging techniques. It felt a little patronizing but actually helped calm me down and I tried to absorb as much as I could while wondering if I was going to have heart palpitations from the nerves. 

Close to the border we left the highway and went down a small road lined by ranches with Spanish names and border patrol cars around every corner. Upon seeing the starting monument, I was still wondering how the heck I got myself into this. We piled back out of the car and walked up a little hill to the monument. (which rather worryingly put me out of breath fuuuuuu-)

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After all the planning and imagining, actually getting here didn’t feel real, and was a little underwhelming. The border was stretched out in behind a barbed fence and we stopped for group and individual pictures, and signed our names in the trail register.

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After that there was nothing to do but start walking so I took my first few steps on the trail. Everyone spread out to hike their own pace and it was surprisingly isolated for how many people started at the same time. As soon as I started walking, my nerves eased up a little. The trail followed alongside a road, and the hiking was easy. Passed the mile marker for mile 1, only 2649 to go!  I passed by "Crazy 71" who presumably got his name because he's actually 71 (!)... I'll be happy if I can walk myself to the fridge at 71, nevermind down a long distance trail carrying a heavy pack.

I've never been farther south than Colorado and the "desert" is very grassy and green and nothing like the old west movie set I'd been picturing (to be fair, it is an extremely high rain year and I'm catching the very late end of a superbloom).  Definitely carried far too much water, but better safe than sorry.

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For the most part I didn’t really see anyone else, but after 15 miles I stopped at Hauser Creek-a flowing stream complete with shady trees, just before a notoriously steep & hot climb. My feet were forming hot spots on the heel and instep but nothing too painful yet. Took a long lunch break consisting of trail mix and used my filter for the first time. Sara and Joe showed up shortly after while I was napping in the shade. Sara accidentally cut her finger open with a pocket knife (spoiler alert this is the first of many bad luck injuries) but she bandaged it up fine. Joe seems very typically Southern and was telling us all about his adventures crocodile hunting back home in Georgia while eating a sandwich of peanut butter and hot sauce in between two sheets of raw ramen.  

The last 5 miles from Hauser Creek to Lake Morena included an intimidating looking climb straight up and over a mountain that had been baking all day in the sun, the switchbacks were visible from where we were sitting and it did not look fun. I was debating just staying at Hauser Creek for the night since it was the hottest part of the day but chose to make the climb and get to Morena for my first night.

Even though it was only about two miles, the climb was long and slow and very very hot. Uphill is going to be far more challenging than I anticipated and that's what I get for living in a city so flat you can see downtown from 20 miles away. I was also plagued by a chatty hiker who clearly couldn't tell I was struggling to get enough air to not fall over, and kept asking open ended questions while bounding happily up the trail just in front of me. Finally I had to pretend to get something from my pack and dropped behind while cursing myself for not doing more training.

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It felt like hours but when I got to the top the high outweighed the misery of the hot climb. The view down to Lake Morena was gorgeous and there were tons of trees and wildflowers. For the first time all day I felt like maybe I can do this? 

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Descended down to the campsite at Lake Morena around sunset, and the park ranger directed me to the PCT section, which was a small field with a concrete pavilion. Most of the crew I met at Scout and Frodo's had made it in tonight as well. Sara and I were starving so we set up our tents, which took me way longer than I would’ve liked, and walked a half mile to the little convenience store for a burger (veggie for Sara) and a milkshake. I had been starving all afternoon but couldn’t even finish half of dinner. Sara seems typically west-coast and I'm not sure we’d be interested in each other off trail but it’s really nice to have a familiar face to talk with. 

Back at the site there was a campfire and a couple hikers were sitting around chatting, but I didn't last long before crawling into my tent. I have a few blisters but my shoes fit well and I'm not limping around nearly as badly as some of the hikers tonight. Feeling pretty good for doing 20 miles on my very first day. Inflatable sleeping pad is comfortable but sounds like a bag of chips every time I make even the slightest movements. I’m using my extra clothes as a pillow. A little bit wired from the day so hopefully I can get some sleep. Tomorrow, hopefully pushing another 20 miles to get to Mt. Laguna. 

 First night camping at Lake Morena. 

First night camping at Lake Morena. 

 

DAY 2: LAKE MORENA (20.0) TO MT. LAGUNA (41.5)

05/14/17
21.5 miles

Woke up around 6, which I thought was early but everyone else was already up and packing when I got out of my bag. Took down the tent and put on warm layer because despite being only 20 miles from Mexico, the night got cold as heck and the morning wasn’t much warmer.

When I was heading across the field to get to trail, Brian caught up to me right away, and we walked together for a bit comparing our first day experiences. I was feeling pretty sore from yesterday and it was slow going for a while. Ankles felt pretty tight and I was getting some twinges in my left knee which is not a good start. Brian could maybe tell and stopped often to take pictures which was appreciated, intentional or not. After forcing myself to eat a couple bars, I felt a little better, definitely have to break my at-home habit of not eating breakfast. 

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Around midday, we made a steep descent off trail to Kitchen Creek, a clear stream at the bottom of a canyon. It was hard work getting down (and harder getting back up) but so worth it, the water was warm enough to swim in, although I settled for pouring a couple bottles over my head. We sat around in the sun for about an hour and then made the scramble climb back up to trail, calves on fiiiiiiire.

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Late afternoon, the wind picked up and it got pretty chilly so I got to break out my wind shell and gloves. I lost track of Brian at some point but I like walking alone, it feels a lot less pressured to keep up a certain speed.  Rolled into Burnt Rancheria campground at Mt Laguna around 5pm, another 20 mile day! The campground was a confusing network of trail and there wasn't a single other person there. Finally ran into Brian and a new hiker Aaron wandering around as lost as I was. We found the PCT spot (almost no one else here tonight) and set our tents up as fast as we could before literally running to the local restaurant before it closed. I’d been chilled all afternoon and it was great walking into the warm cozy bar (timberframe, A+). Had another burger with salad and fries and beer, again couldn't finish. No sign of hiker hunger yet.

Sat with a couple hikers I didn't know and chatted with Keith who worked at the Laguna gear store(?) and restaurant. Hit bed right after dinner, kind of looks like rain. I’m having a hard time falling asleep right away again tonight but I expect that won’t last long with how physically exhausting the days are.

 

Day 3: Mt Laguna Zero (Sort of)

05/15/17
0.4 miles and back

Woke up absolutely frozen, it definitely got down below zero last night. May have to start sleeping with my water filter, the plastic will crack if any water inside freezes. Brian was waiting for a package but the post office didn’t open until 3pm (the heck Mt Laguna?) and I decided to wait with him and hopefully have Sara catch up today. After pushing out two big days it's probably good to give my body some sort of a break.

We went to warm up at the restaurant and had coffee and frittatas for breakfast. Keith, who we met last night, was there and he talked w/ us about his own time hiking the PCT. At one point I mentioned how inexperienced I felt and my doubts about even making it to the Sierras, never mind through them in a record snow year. Keith told me that he sees tons of hikers pass through every day, and that he’s sure that Brian and I could make it the whole way if we wanted to. It was surprisingly a good confidence booster and really stuck with me for the rest of the day. (Post trail edit: sticks with you the rest of the trip too, cheers!)

While waiting for the post office to open, we went to browse the outfitters, a tiny trailer sized room jam packed with anything and everything you would need for hiking the PCT. The staff also offered pack shakedowns, I was considering it until watching a couple other hikers go through it...the staff members were absolutely ruthless and I chickened out. 

Sara showed up later on in the day with two french Canadians (the first other Canadians I've met!) and Tony and Joe from Scout and Frodo's. We all started hiking out together around 4pm but the weather was terrible-windy and wet and we heard there was snow up ahead. Brian, Aaron and I opted to stay at Laguna for another night. Wasn't planning to take a zero this early in the hike but I guess sticking to plans is pretty much futile out here.

The restaurant was closed but we bought some snacks from the store and headed back to the campsite. It was too cold to sit outside and have dinner, and too windy to use the stoves to cook, so I ended up in the concrete bathroom with Brian and a few other new hikers-Ed (Smokebeard?), Aaron, Rob, and Charlie. Hanging out in the mens campsite bathroom and freezing my ass off with a bunch of strangers is not how I imagined trail but it was still pretty fun. ARE YOU PROUD OF ME MOM?

Back to trail tomorrow no matter the weather.

 The only picture I bothered taking today to capture the really excellent experience of eating ramen right next to a camp toilet with four strange men.  #livingthedream. 

The only picture I bothered taking today to capture the really excellent experience of eating ramen right next to a camp toilet with four strange men.  #livingthedream. 

DAY 4: MT. LAGUNA (40.5) TO CHARIOT CANYON CAMPSITE (63.6)

05/16/17
23.1 miles

Got up early to make up for the lack of walking yesterday and hiked out with Brian. Tons of mist/cloud and light rain this morning, all my gear was wet and cold within minutes. Broke out the gloves and wind jacket, so far the wind jacket could be my favourite piece of gear. I enjoy walking in the cold weather and move a lot quicker than in the heat.

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The morning took us through a pine forest and then a burn zone, the mist made everything feel really eerie, and at some point you couldn’t see anything past the ridge, it felt like hiking through a cloud.

 Spooksville, California

Spooksville, California

Weather didn’t clear all day and it was long and cold and wet. The wind really picked up and I got blown sideways off trail a couple times. Didn’t want to stop for lunch, stopping=stiffness today, so just ate bars every few hours. 

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I finally had to stop for water resupply at a trough on the side of a highway at Sunrise trailhead, my gloves were soaked through and my fingers froze trying to use the filter. The sun came out briefly so I got my tent out to try and dry it but not sure how much it helped and the fly nearly got blown away twice. 

Thankfully there were two unlocked cement bathrooms that I used to get a break from the wind and warm up with some ramen. Ed, Brian and Aaron caught up and we had our second bathroom party in two days. We were joking around that my trail name should be toilet soup and my journal should include a rating system for the bathrooms along trail and their suitability for cooking dinner. Potential trail name from Ed-Red Shift, due to some bursts in speed I get when feeling high energy. I kind of like Toilet Soup.

We pushed a few more miles to a low campsite that was still windy as hell but less exposed than the ridges. Joe was there too, as well as Rob and a couple girls whose names I didn’t catch. Setting my tent up made me want to light it on fire, and the guylines blowing in the wind almost took my eye out. Ed gave me some tips for setting up my tent but I’m still scared it won’t stay up with this wind+ my mediocre pitching skills. It’s going to be a long night.

 So currently typing up my journal post trail and adding pictures. I grabbed this one from Ed's instagram account (@edthesmokebeard) and I just can't stop laughing at myself. I remember being so done with my tent and didn't even realize I was setting it up wide side against the wind. Ah the learning curve.

So currently typing up my journal post trail and adding pictures. I grabbed this one from Ed's instagram account (@edthesmokebeard) and I just can't stop laughing at myself. I remember being so done with my tent and didn't even realize I was setting it up wide side against the wind. Ah the learning curve.

 

DAY 5: CHARIOT CANYON (63.6) TO SCISSOR'S CROSSING/JULIAN (77.3)

5/17/17
13.7 miles. Still windy as heck.

Another early morning. My tent did stay up all night but there were some touch and go moments where I was pushing the wall back out against the wind. Got up twice to add rocks to keep the guylines tight and the flapping rainfly kept me up a good part of the night. As I climbed out of my tent in the morning, exhausted and a little grumpy, Ed informed me that the bush I was standing almost knee deep in was poison oak. F A N T A S T I C. Never been susceptible to poison ivy at home so I'm hoping that holds true now. No sign of irritation yet.

We had to hitch into Julian for resupply today and hitching alone is one thing I really don't want to do if I can avoid it. Planned to meet Joe and Brian at Scissor's crossing and go together. 

It was windy as hell again all morning which got frustrating, although I still find I hike faster in the cooler weather, and there were great views after the mist cleared. Walked along a ridge all morning watching clouds rolling over the mountains and down across the valley floor.

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Dropped way down for a long, flat, WINDY, walk to highway 78. Lots of large,  weird-looking cacti down there, and although we missed the height of the superbloom by a few weeks, there were flowers all over the place.

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I was hiking slanted over against the wind which was driving me nuts and the last 4 miles seemed to take forever. Reached the highway to wait for Brian and Joe and tried to get a wind break by hiding under a cactus. They showed up pretty soon and we tried our luck hitching, probably didn't help that Joe would hike his shorts up suggestively when a car came by. Waited about half an hour and got picked up by "The Professor", a trail angel who maintains the water cache at Scissor's crossing. He had a tiny old car and drove like a bat out of hell up the winding mountain road the entire way to Julian while we white knuckled the grab bars. According to the Professor, the elevation is enough that the cold weather we're getting now isn't uncommon and a week earlier the entire area got hit with a substantial snow storm, hikers cramming in with whoever would take them.

 Stop your kids lettin go of their mylar balloons! We passed 5 of them in the middle of nowhere today, grabbed what we could

Stop your kids lettin go of their mylar balloons! We passed 5 of them in the middle of nowhere today, grabbed what we could

Joe, Brian and I went straight to Buffalo Bill's, a tiny diner that served half pound bison burgers. While we were there, lots of locals stopped by our table to ask us how the hike was going and educate us (with pictures) on which kinds of rattlesnakes were the most likely to be fatal. Thanks! 
Julian itself is charming, very hiker-friendly and I'd love to live here. Got a free slice of pie at Mom's place (cherry, always.) and they also comped our coffees.

After lunch, we went to a restaurant run by a trail angel- Carmen-for a free hiker beer. (Julian is just killing it with generosity.) Carmen herself wasn't even there, just left the door unlocked with the expectations that hikers wouldn't trash it and use the honour system to pay for more rounds of drinks. So much of the hiker/angel community is based on trust and it's incredible how many people have big enough hearts to just let complete strangers into their homes. We could've stayed on the floor for the night, but opted to split a room with Joe and Brian at the lodge. The lodge gave us "special" towels which I guess means we're too dirty for the regular ones. Tony was staying next door and we all had pizza and beer. (Bank account is depleting way faster than I anticipated, yikes.) Washed our clothes in the bathtub, mine were absolutely filthy already. Very strange to watch the news on TV, it feels like I've been in my own little desert world for ages, even though it's only been four days. A couple hikers called it quits today at Carmen's, but I have no intention of calling it anytime soon.

In an actual bed and struggling to stay awake right now...the boys are both Southern gentlemen and insisted I take the queen sized bed to myself which seemed a little ridiculous, but I am not complaining. About to be out like a light.

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DAY 6: SCISSOR'S CROSSING (77.3) TO BARREL SPRING (101.1)

5/18/17
23.8 miles

Woke up in the hotel room a little bit disoriented after dreaming about being in my bed at home. Packed out the leftover pizza, finished off the beer and hit the road. 

First challenge of the day was finding a ride 14 miles back to the trailhead, and there were a lot of hikers on the road doing the same thing. Not much luck, tons of parents driving their kids to school, which must put a damper on picking up dirty strangers. I might've had a better time without the guys, but still not feeling comfortable with hitching alone. Finally a van stopped for us, when we got in, Sara was in the backseat w/ another new hiker named Eris-she's only 18. Can't imagine trying to tackle this at 18.

Back at Scissor's crossing ran into the two french Canadians again-Francis and Yves. I'm not brave enough to try conversing with them in french just yet. Hiking started with a hot switchback up, and it only got hotter. Had to stop often to reapply sunscreen that would just get sweat off minutes later. I forgot about the back of my neck and it fried, very sore and tender tonight so it's going to be bad tomorrow.  Lots of succulents that look like the ones I have in pots at home, but ten times bigger. Haven’t seen any snakes but there are quick little lizards that go darting across trail or up rocks. Their skittering often startles me on trail, the first thing my brain jumps to at sudden movement is "rattlesnake!"

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We had one of the longest stretches so far without water and I ran low for the first time and had to start thinking about rationing. I knew there was a water cache coming up but still saved carried water to get through without it...just in case. Thankfully the cache was well maintained and even though the water was hot as hell, I still knocked back two litres in one go. Joe, Tony and Brian were there and we had a two hour break to escape the heat of day and eat our leftover pizza from last night (A+). As a group, we're getting more comfortable with each other and I'm happy to have found people that I get along with so well. 

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 Joe, Tony and Brian getting after the leftover pizza ft. Joe's ever-present bottle of hot sauce.

Joe, Tony and Brian getting after the leftover pizza ft. Joe's ever-present bottle of hot sauce.

It was still pretty early in the day when we got moving again, so we decided to do 10 more miles to the next reliable water source and avoid dry camping. It's a good group to hike with-we push each other to do more miles than I would likely do if I was alone, and we hike around the same speed, and I'm surprised by how well I'm able to keep up.

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Beautiful sunset coming down through the San Felipe hills and we reached the 100 mile marker together, although it didn't really feel like anything special. Only have to do the same thing 26 more times!

When we got to Barrel Spring, Charlie and Aaron were there w/two girls they've started hiking with, Lani (Larry?) and Kim. Tomorrow we hit Warner Springs and my first box from home. 

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DAY 7: BARREL SPRING (101.1) TO WARNER SPRING (109.5)

5/19/17
8.4 miles

Great day. This morning, the trail took me through Warner Spring meadows- a gorgeous open section of pasture fields that reminded me of home. Blisters on my left foot made things a little slower but the terrain was easy.

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Around 10am I got to Eagle rock-an aptly named rock formation that looks astoundingly like an eagle with it’s wings spread. Met up with Brian and Joe there for a photo shoot and snacks. Relaxed in the rocks while Joe told us more ridiculous Georgia wildlife hunting stories. It’s funny that I’ve known them for only a week but it feels like we’ve been friends for a lot longer than that. 

Rolled into Warner Springs pretty early, hikers camp out at the community centre, which has an area out back for showers and setting up tents. They also have laundry, hiker clothes and enough outlets to support a small city. The town itself is only a few houses and gas stations, a resort golf course and a high school. Was absolutely starving so ditched my stuff and went to the fancy golf course restaurant with Brian, Joe and Aaron for a burger and amazing potato salad. Scared they wouldn’t let us in since we were so dirty but they seemed used to hikers. Francis and Yves were there, along with Ramsay and Tony, it's fun to keep running into familiar faces. 

After lunch, picked up first resupply box from the post office, I packed way too much food. Received birthday pack from the fam but I’m waiting until tomorrow to open it. Grabbed a couple Coors banquets from convenience store and had them under a tree with Brian and Joe. I need to be a careful- it’s easy to get tipsy off a couple beers now, to sure if that’s due to a change in metabolism or just after walking all day.

Back at Warner springs, the campsite is packed and loud right now with lots of hikers.

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Warner Springs (109.5) to Cabazon/I-10 (209.5)

DAY 8: WARNER SPRINGS (109.5) TO MIKE'S PLACE (127.3)

5/20/17
17.8 miles

Hiked out of Warner Springs after sending a bounce box with excess gear (rain jacket, gloves, base layer etc.) ahead from the post office, I don't need them now and even a couple pounds seems to have made a big difference after hiking all day.

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Joe hiked out ahead of us, had a short road walk with Brian. A couple older day hiker ladies stopped us and asked us questions about the trip and asked for our picture. They were amused that I was Canadian and Brian was from the Marines: one kept saying “the boy scout is bringing her home to Canada” …c'mon lady, I'm bringing me home to Canada.   

Had a pretty good morning and powered through without any breaks, since there were trail rumours of homemade pizza at Mike’s place...a strong motivator. Probably the hottest day I’ve had so far and this is one of our longest stretches without reliable water. I ran into Eris who I think definitely had a touch of heat exhaustion. We had some water and sugar which seemed to help us both feel a little better. Shortly after we got to a trail junction to get water, but the source was way downhill off trail. Eris headed down to avoid dying probably but I chose to push on, which was a stupid idea... ran out of water about four miles out from Mike's, and it felt really shitty. It wasn't at all life threatening, but thirst seems 10x more unbearable when you know there’s nothing you can do about it. Also hadn't eaten much all day so I was grumpy and just wanted to get to camp and sit down. It would've been really easy to stop and rest/eat but I was being stubborn, which just turned into a feedback loop of irritation. 

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 Finally got to the water tank on Mike's property, it was my first water since mid-morning and I stood there for 15 minutes drinking straight from the filter. Mike's Place is a house in the middle of nowhere, he very kindly lets hikers drink his water and camp in the yard. When I arrived it was full of familiar faces- Joe, Sara, Eris, Ramsay, Francis and Yves, plus many more that were new. The best part was homemade grilled chicken and watermelon and beer, after my miserable afternoon, I nearly cried when the food was offered and the beer was probably the best tasting I’ve ever had, even though it was just shitty Budweiser. A little later homemade pizza was made for us in a wood oven and it was the best birthday present I could've asked for.

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At nightfall, Joe and I were a little concerned since there was still no sign of Brian, and he's usually faster than I am. Sara and Eris hadn’t seen him all day even though I passed them shortly after leaving Brian at the creek this morning. Figure he either turned back to Warner Springs or made camp somewhere in the middle.  

A day of ups and downs, happy birthday Jack!

 

DAY 9: MIKE'S PLACE (127.3) TO CAMPSITE (149.9)

5/21/17
22.6 miles

A good start to the day with homemade coffee (huge thanks again Mike's place!) and Brian caught up after having to turn back to Warner Springs yesterday to retrieve forgotten poles at the PO.

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Desert was putting on a show today, tons more of my favourite pink and yellow flowers and the sky was bluer than I've ever seen-not even a hint of a cloud all afternoon. There were great views of mountain ridge after mountain ridge and I'm surprised by how much I love the desert, I was dreading it a little bit before starting due to my intense dislike of heat.

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Got to a well maintained water cache around dinner time, a unique stop managed by a trail angel named Mary...there was a small library and life sized cut outs of Thoreau and Whitman. The library included lots of paper print outs of Walden, although I didn’t take any books- unnecessary weight! 

We had dinner there at a picnic table but weren’t feeling particularly tired so we decided to hike a few more miles with headlamps to shorten our morning hike to breakfast-we were only about 6 miles from Pines to Palms highway and the trail famous Paradise Cafe. The three of us hit the trail just as the sun was setting and it was really nice to be hiking though the sunset glow, plus it was a lot cooler than during the day. When it got too dark to see we put on our headlamps and stuck close together. I could get used to evening hiking.

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Found a decent camping spot which was supposed to have a beautiful view but it was too dark to appreciate. We cowboy camped for the first time and set up our sleep pads right next to each other. The view of the stars inspired lots of conversation about our lives and plans for the future. Tomorrow we’re going to hitch into Idyllwild from highway 74 since there’s a fire closure after the highway and none of us feel like road walking. The PCT purists would look down on this but none of us are too concerned about walking every single mile.  

 

DAY 10: CAMPSITE (149.9) TO PARADISE CAFE/HIGHWAY 74 (151.8)

05/22/17
Less than 2 miles, great job guys. Nero in Idyllwild.

Not sure what caused it but I had a hell of a nosebleed in the middle of the night and now my bandana is pretty gory-looking. Up with Joe and Brian at 7, skipped breakfast to push the quick couple miles down to the highway for breakfast at Paradise Cafe. It wasn’t open yet when we got there but we hung out on the patio while the staff arrived. I had a breakfast burrito that was the size of a small baby. The menu had a section dedicated to “breakfast beer” which was much appreciated.

Met an Australian hiker (Bill) that was hiking the PCT in sections. Him and Joe compared old school paper maps vs GPS, and he ended up giving Joe a ton of food since his buddies had bailed and his resupply was enough for four people.

 Generational discussion on GPS vs paper maps with Bill and Joe

Generational discussion on GPS vs paper maps with Bill and Joe

After breakfast we got an easy hitch to Idyllwild with the French Canadians, Ramsay, Sara and Tony. We decided to split a rental cabin since it was dirt cheap split 8 ways. Dropped off our stuff and then went to the Lumber mill for lunch and drinks-met One 11 at the bar, a thru hiker that got snowed out last year and is back for round 2 this year. His name comes from a poorly played round of bullshit. We had some questionable drinks (The hell is a trashy Texan? Still not sure but it was an electric shade of blue) and beer and then explored the town.

 The most beautiful trail town and this was the only picture I got. Good excuse to go back? 

The most beautiful trail town and this was the only picture I got. Good excuse to go back? 

Idyllwild a beautiful town, lots of quaint little log buildings and the mayor is a golden retriever. Views of the mountains outside of town are incredible, it looks like a town set straight out of a movie. Back at the cabin now, I’m splitting a room with Sara and managed to talk to the fam at home, although the wifi is the slowest I’ve ever experienced. The bathroom is a hot commodity when split between 8 dirty people. 

Went back to the Lumber mill for dinner again, joined by Eris and Caroline who are staying in another cabin. It was really fun to be out with a large group of friends, felt like at home. Back to the cabin for a few more beers and popped my heel blisters with a needle and lighter. We’re planning for a zero day in Idyllwild tomorrow but we’ll see, the group is pretty split on this.

 

DAY 11: IDYLLWILD/DEVIL’S SLIDE TRAIL (179.4ISH) AND DETOUR TO SUMMIT OF SAN JACINTO

05/23/17

We had a pretty lazy morning, got breakfast at the Red Kettle in Idyllwild, one of the best breakfasts so far on trail. Did resupply shopping in town and went to pharmacy to get some painkillers and tape for blisters. After checking out, Sara, Brian, Joe, Ramsay and hitched to Devil’s Slide trail and summit Mt San Jacinto in the evening and stay in the hut at the summit for the night.

We started hiking around three in the afternoon and although the views were great, I had a really rough time on the uphill and found it hard to breathe the closer we got to the summit. Nearing the top we ran into One 11 and another hiker named Chad (trail name W, pronounced George W style). They were intending to skip the summit but had taken the wrong trail and so decided to come with us.

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Just before sunset, we heard someone yelling way down in the valley behind us. It was hard to make out what they were saying but we were eventually able to piece together that it was a lost day hiker who was way off trail due to snow patches that had obscured large chunks of trail. Chad and One 11 turned around to help him out since it was almost night time and freaking cold. The rest of us kept going towards the summit, but I felt a little on edge wondering what was happening down the mountain.

Near the top, there was still quite a bit of snow and I was feeling awful, just absolutely wiped out. Had to stop to breathe every few steps, no exaggeration. Dragged myself to the summit just after sunset, took one whole picture, had a quick dinner and crashed in the cabin at the summit. It’s an emergency shelter made of stone with two sets of bunk beds-managed to snag a spot on the bottom.

 I look happy but I'm secretly wondering if I'm going to be able to stand back up due to physical exhaustion.

I look happy but I'm secretly wondering if I'm going to be able to stand back up due to physical exhaustion.

One 11 and Chad showed up just in time for dinner-the day hiker had found the trail again and yelled up to them that he was okay. After we had all crawled into our sleeping bags and were drifting off, heard footsteps and the door of the hut being pushed open. It was the day hiker... showed up around 10 pm, absolutely unprepared for a hike to the summit. no warm clothes, sleeping gear or food, just water. Luckily the shelter had an extra sleeping bag and the boys gave him some layers to keep warm.

Head is hurting from altitude but One 11 gave me some tips on breathing which seems to have helped a little. Squishy but warm inside the hut, and I can hear all the different sounds of people breathing (some snoring).

 Home for the night. Next time I'm sleeping at lower elevation.

Home for the night. Next time I'm sleeping at lower elevation.

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DAY 12: JACINTO SUMMIT TO WATER FAUCET (205.7)

05/24/17
24(ish) miles of just straight down.
 A tough morning of hiking, Fuller ridge was a surprise uphill my legs were not happy dealing with after going up Jacinto yesterday. Thankfully the snow has mostly melted and it wasn’t as challenging as had been rumoured online. We got lost a couple times trying to find trail and spiky bushes scratched my legs up pretty bad.

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The whole day was a series of mile long switchbacks down San Jacinto, our elevation went from 9000 feet down to 1200 which was absolutely insane, we don’t even have elevation change close to that in the Sierra. All afternoon I was staring down at the same valley with the same wind turbines and the same highway and it got really frustrating in the afternoon because it never seemed to get any closer.

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Saw a couple rattlesnakes on the way down, which terrified Brian and fascinated Joe. I’m pretty neutral, they give you a good warning before you get anywhere close.

 The first snake picture! This guy wanted nothing to do with us and booked it across trail and up the rocks in a hurry.

The first snake picture! This guy wanted nothing to do with us and booked it across trail and up the rocks in a hurry.

Was getting a touch of hiker rage nearing the bottom of the mountain but fiiiiiinally reached the rusty pipe (check the reviews on GutHooks app for a good laugh) and water fountain just as the  sun was setting. There were more hikers camped there then I’ve seen on trail yet, didn’t socialize outside my group due to being a hungry grump. Getting water from the faucet was a challenge, we had to design a system to protect the light flow of water from the wind, otherwise it would blow everywhere except for into the bottle, while also simultaneously avoiding a half dozen wasps that were hanging around the base of the tap. Only had patience for the minimum amount of water to drink and make my macaroni, which was probably the (figurative) high point of the day. Ate with Sara, One 11 and Chad and waited for Joe and Brian.  

Currently cowboy camped but I'm set up way too close to the faucet and the wind is blowing water on me every time a hiker turns on the tap. Windy af, jacket and water bottles keep blowing away, gonna be a long night. 

 We were way the heck up there this morning, I'm so sorry knees.

We were way the heck up there this morning, I'm so sorry knees.

 

DAY 13: WATER FAUCET (205.7) TO I-10/CABAZON (209.5)

05/25/17
4.2 miles

Not rough terrain this morning but 4 miles of sandy exposed WIND. It was so strong everyone was walking slanted and sometimes it would push you a couple steps off trail. The sand was whipping onto my legs and it was a long slog to get to the underpass at I-10.

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Another hiker quit when we got to the highway after his hat got blown off his head and across four lanes of traffic, he booked his plane ticket home right in front of us.

We didn't quit but decided to head into Cabazon for In-N-Out burgers, it's on my American food bucket list. We caught a ride from trail angel Hillbilly, who lives in Cabazon, and piled into the back of his truck and went to In-n-Out. It was pretty good but I think A&W is better. 

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We had planned to go back to trail but we somehow ended up back at Hillbilly’s place to hang out in his garage to get out of the wind. He had a beautiful old Ford pickup in the driveway and a few very old dogs in the yard. Definitely one of the most interesting people I've met in my life. His wife passed away last year and now he trail angels for hikers on the PCT. Some of his stories from the military and as a narcotics agent are clearly meant to shock ("see this scar here? I killed the guy that gave it to me") but they were also fascinating, and we spent most of the afternoon listening and drinking beer. Hillbilly is also an expert on local bugs and flowers and passed around a jar with a preserved Tarantula Hawk, a large wasp which kills FUCKING TARANTULAS by injecting a paralyzing venom into their unlucky prey. Hillbilly also informed us that a sting from this thing would have us on our backs screaming in pain for hours... 10x more painful than a bite from a fire ant. Damn nature, u scary.

We were solidly vortexed when Hillbilly mentioned he was making steak fajitas for any hikers that were spending the night and it didn't help that he had been coming around with a bottle of everclear and a shotglass every half hour or so insisting on us drinking. I couldn't do more than one, but he was throwing them back with ease, never appearing to be even the slightest bit affected by the alcohol. Most of us were out of our league trying to keep up and I think there are going to be some serious hangovers tomorrow morning.

Crashing in a back room filled floor to ceiling with M&M memorabilia with Joe and Sara. Hillbilly's has been one of the most interesting (slightly uncomfortable stops) but I'm excited to get back to trail tomorrow.

Cabazon/I-10 (209.5) to Cajon Pass/1-15 (342.0)

 

DAY 14: I-10 (209.5) TO MISSION CREEK CAMPSITE (226.2)

05/26/17
16.7 miles

 Hitched back out to the highway with the crew. Still really windy out and I’m feeling either tired or hungover from yesterday.

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Stopped at the Mesa wind farm after seeing a sign for "shade and water”- the workers at the wind plant then invited us in for Gatorade and coffee. I think everyone was feeling pretty rough from drinking last night, but the gatorade helped a lot, and the wind farm workers were great to chat with. After leaving the wind farm, ran into Yves and Francis again! Yves got the trail name Festus since he apparently looks like a movie character from an old western film I’m not familiar with.

 Reunited avec les boys!

Reunited avec les boys!

There was a steep uphill climb and I fell behind the main group a bit, although they shouted helpful (so they thought) encouragement at me while I came up the last steep stretch with calves burning.

 Looking down towards beautiful Whitewater preserve.

Looking down towards beautiful Whitewater preserve.

Coming down a ridge we got to Whitewater preserve for a two hour break. There was a cold, clear stream so we took a few hours to nap and ate in the sun. As everyone else was leaving, I stayed behind to pull off the big toenail on my right foot-kicked a rock or something on day one and it’s been clinging on at the very bottom. The last few days it's started to dig back into my skin, it had to go. It took a long time and definitely hurt. I’d love to say I ripped it off like a badass but mostly just worked at it little by little while trying not to cry. After that was taken care of I had a great afternoon, feeling really good. Stayed along Mission Creek for a while and then climbed up hill into the San Gorgonio wilderness.

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We had planned to hike further than we currently are, but the campsite we’re at now is so beautiful we decided to stay and have early dinner. A small snake in camp caused some disturbance and Brian immediately went to go set up his tent. 

Big toe isn’t bothering me at all, although it looks like a chunk of raw meat. Put on lots of polysporin and taped it up. Also running pretty low on food, planning to do a 26 mile day tomorrow to get to Onyx Summit trailhead. From there I can hitch to Big Bear City early for pizza and beer tomorrow night and then get back on trail to hike the last 14 miles into Big Bear again the next day.

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DAY 15: MISSION CREEK SITE (226.2) TO ONYX SUMMIT TRAILHEAD (252.1)

05/27/17
26 miles

Hiked mostly alone today with a couple overlaps with One 11. We had all planned to get to Onyx summit but the morning was rough, the whole day felt uphill and I had loooow energy. Thankfully the trail crossed Mission Creek often so there was no need to carry a ton of water.

By 10am I was really tired and already sore. For some reason I also couldn’t stop kicking rocks with my abused big toe, expletive count today was probably a record breaker. Stopped for early lunch and took the time to cook ramen with extra dehydrated potatoes and that made me feel a lot better mentally and physically. Didn’t think I would make it to Onyx but then the last 5 or 6 miles flattened out and were easy hiking.

Can't imagine what the superbloom height must've been like, there are still so many flowers alongside trail.

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When I got to Onyx Summit, tired and hungry, there was a little sign from Chad. He and Brian were the only ones that made it and I caught them trying to hitch at the highway. We caught a very sketchy ride with a hippy and his girlfriend, the driver had an uncomfortable habit of looking at us in the rearview while talking and the van would drift slowly to the shoulder of the road before he’d jerk back to the middle. His girlfriend offered us shrooms and would hit a little gong every few minutes. The drive itself was pretty, setting sun over scenic hills and mountains in the background.

Big Bear City seems like a pretty cool ski town, the three of us went to fire rock grill for burgers, salad and beer. The waitress from the restaurant (Lauren) was really friendly and gave us a ride back to the trail when her shift was over. When we got back to trail One 11 heard our voices and came to find us, he’s the only other that made it here from our group. There was a raccoon at the camp and it managed to get Chad’s bag of Fritos and also my lip chap as we were setting up the tents. Demon.

 

DAY 16: ONYX SUMMIT (252.1) TO HWY 18/BIG BEAR CITY (266.1)

05/28/17
14 miles

Woke up late late late and had the leftover packed out pizza while waiting for the rest of the crew to show up. Kept going back to sleep.

Finally dragged myself up and back to the trail. Everyone else opted to hitch back to town for a nero from Onyx summit. Brian and I decided to knock out the 14 miles to Highway 18 and meet them in Big Bear City that night. Got started around noon and we caught up Festus and Francis. My pack was really light from lack of food and the terrain was easy-mostly flat and downhill so we had an average hiking speed over 3.5 mph, finished early afternoon.

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At Highway 18 got a ride from a trail angel, Papa Smurf, a happy coincidence since the rest of our group was already staying with him for the night. When we got there, met up with our group, and there were quite a few hikers I didn't know. Had a fire in the grill pit outside. Met two fellow Canadian girls from the GTA area, Kaylyn and Kristen (trail name Overload, due to an overpacked bag?) Did laundry and got to take a shower, slept on the driveway with Joe and Brian. Zero day tomorrow in Big Bear while the rest of the trail fam goes back and hikes the 14 miles we did today. 

 

DAY 17: ZERO IN BIG BEAR

05/29/17

Had breakfast of delicious egg and hash brown mix at Papa Smurf's. Trail angels are the most incredible people, constantly amazed by their generosity towards hikers. Hitched to town with Brian, Joe and Tony. We decided to stay in the hostel since they had a cheap "private" room for 8. We had time to kill before check in so went to the brewery for an omelet and beer. The two beers here were the best I’ve had yet on trail. One11, Chad and Sara joined for breakfast but then headed back to the trail to do the 14 miles from Onyx summit that we did yesterday and planned meet us that night for dinner. Did resupply shopping at dollar tree, bought way too much so decided send some food ahead to Wrightwood and Agua Dulce. Picked up my bounce box from the post office. Eating a lot of junk food, dehydrated potatoes and Kraft Dinner as my core staples. Veggies are a thing of the past.

After resupply, game one of Stanley cup finals was on and we managed to find one channel on the TV that was playing it. Watched in the hostel room. Felt weird to be  watching hockey again, but definitely missed it. After the second period the Americans had lost interest so ditched hockey and went for dinner at the Sonora cantina, great food here. Sara, One11 and Chad showed up during dinner so we had the whole trail fam together and caught Tony up on all the stories that had happened the last few days- new trail names, the lost hiker on Jacinto, me pulling the toenail. Now back to the hostel and everyone's outside so get a tiny bit of quiet time to write.

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Day 18: Big Bear (266.1) to Caribou Creek (275.0)

05/30/17
9 miles

 Woke up just after 4am and didn’t really get back to sleep. Finally dragged out of bed at 7:30 for a quick shower (skin gets so out of whack after showers now, my legs are scalier than a lizard) and we were out by 9. Went to the post office to mail the two resupply boxes to Agua Dulce and Wrightwood- bouncing my base layers, rain coat, gloves, and notebook so journalling is going to happen on the phone for a while. Everyone was running around town doing chores but met back at the hostel to rally for breakfast. I met a new hiker named Eric who is absolutely flying down trail, he started four days after us. Went for breakfast at the Teddy Bear cafe with Brian, Tony, Francis and Yves...huge breakfast for $5, Big Bear restaurants are killing it.

We didn't end up back on the trail until about 1:30 so opted for a slower 9 mile day to the first water source at Caribou creek. Beautiful afternoon hiking through lots of pine and fir trees and the weather was perfect-warm but not too hot. Still at about 7000 feet. We took a break two miles in and I had a nice nap on a log tree, I can sleep anywhere when tired enough. After 45 minutes we hit the trail again- I was listening to really low key music and went nice and slow.  Sunlight was at that golden afternoon angle and it was probably the best day of hiking I've had yet. It's really nice to have some days without pressure to put in big miles and can just enjoy walking.

Set up camp with Festus/Yves, Francis, Tony and Brian. We didn't catch the rest of our group so big day tomorrow. Dinner in a nice campsite, Brian is using a weird electrical pulse machine on his legs right now that makes me laugh, he looks ridiculous. I'm happy to be cowboy camping outside again while being warm and cozy in my sleeping bag. 

 

Day 19: Caribou Creek (275.0) to Deep Creek Bridge (298.5)

05/31/17
23.5 miles

Up early, possibly went down to freezing last night. Took a lot of self encouragement to get out of my sleeping bag. Pop tarts for breakfast, packed up and got water, my fingers went numb trying to filter it. Left camp around 6, warmed up as the sun came out. Beautiful views of Big Bear City with lake, town and mountains in the background. Hiking through pines, could easily be in NW Ontario area if not for elevation. Body feeling good today. Currently at mile 286 (Holcomb creek) for lunch and nap break with Francis, Tony, Festus and Brian. I feel ready to go. 

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Was definitely ready to go. After our break we hiked another four miles to our planned campsite and since it was still early and the weather was cool, we decided to add another 4.7 miles to get to Deep Creek bridge. We also had a friendly competition to see who could get there fastest so set timers on phones as we left. I was in front and ended up jogging to keep ahead. Looked back at one point to see Yves and Tony and Brian running down the hill for the last mile so that put me in full sprint mode. Probably stupid to run so fast on trail but definitely exhilarating and I can see the appeal of trail running without a heavy pack slowing you down. I ended up doing the 4.7 in a just over an hour, Yves and Tony beat me by two minutes. The campsite we’re at is beautiful, next to a river that has crystal clear shallow water and a small waterfall downstream. There's a small beach area where we set up tents and had dinner. All of it is underneath a wooden bridge. The rest of the group is three miles ahead of us so hopefully we'll all meet up tomorrow. Face and legs are pretty sunburned since I didn't wear a hat due to clouds. Forgot that sun still comes through anyways, ass. 

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Day 20: Deep Creek Bridge (298.5) to (318.0)

06/01/17
19.5 miles. Best desert day probably

Late morning getting out of camp because it was just so beautiful. Took a million pictures but none really could capture the scene properly. 

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Lots of ridge hiking in the morning, and it was getting pretty hot. The hiker fam had planned to meet at Deep Creek hot springs-a natural source spring that was an easy 9 miles and I arrived a little before lunch. The springs are only accessible via trail but are a walkable distance from the highway so it's used by a lot of very free spirited locals... before I had even gotten off the trail, I had seen no less than six (very confidently) naked old men. 

After getting over the initial shock of seeing dicks in every direction, the springs were fantastic. The water comes in hot over the rocks and creates tiered pools that vary in temperature from scalding to ice cold. I hadn't intended to stay long, but swimming is a game changer for me and it was probably the best feeling I’ve had on trail so far being able to get fully immersed in cold water. 

We ran into the waitress from Fire Rock Grill that had given us a lift back to Onyx Summit (Lauren), small world.  Ended up staying all day since it was so hot out, napped on the grass, had lunch, swam, more napping. An old Russian man gave us a few Heineken in exchange for a bit of conversation, made the day that much better although it was hard to ignore that he was completely naked.

 Honestly feels like we do more of this than actual hiking.

Honestly feels like we do more of this than actual hiking.

It was hard to leave the springs and go uphill, but around 6 pm, finally decided to put in some miles and I spent the evening hiked through a canyon with the setting sun. Arrived at the Mojave dam with Brian, Chad and Joe. We stayed to watch the sunset and the boys messed around throwing rocks down the long cement dam and listening to the echoes. After the sun went down, we got out the headlamps and night hiked another few miles through forest, saw a beaver which I didn’t think lived this far South but there you have it, a touch of Canada in SoCal.

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The terrain got very exposed, minimal vegetation, and went uphill. I’m so happy we did it at night because it would’ve been hell during the heat of day. Was getting pretty exhausted at this point and started tripping over my own feet. Stopped at a rather nondescript campsite and I just threw down my footprint and cowboy camped. Chad wants to wake up and get started at 5 am so we can make it to Cajon Pass (and MCDONALDS) early tomorrow, but I don’t think there’s any way in hell that’s actually going to happen.

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Day 21: Campsite (318.0) to I-15/Cajon Pass (342.0)

06/02/17
24 miles

As predicted, the early start was not a go. Woke up around four to find that my sleeping bag was absolutely soaked with condensation, but since it was a pretty mild night temperature-wise, I decided it was a problem to deal with in the morning and went back to sleep. Chad was obviously of the same mindset when the alarm went off at five, and made the executive decision that we would wait for the sun to rise and dry out the bags. Any excuse to sleep in is accepted, no matter how unsubstantial, so we caught a couple more hours of shut eye. 

At seven, Sara rolled through camp, obviously not suffering from the same morning laziness the rest of us were. It was already starting to heat up so we got moving and continued on through the unremarkable burn zone. Unexpectedly, we caught the rest of our group a few miles ahead- Tony, Francis and Festus had hiked until 3am to catch up with us and made it a few miles further than our campsite. So the whole family is surprisingly intact, and we all planned to meet at McDonalds in Cajon Pass for dinner later that day.

Around 11, it started to really heat up and between the temperature, the less than scenic highway views and a mild but persistent headache, I was getting pretty grumpy. But perfect timing...trail magic! Rounded a corner to see Joe at a cooler with cold water and strawberries. Fresh fruit after three days of ramen and Clif bars was a much needed surprise-big thanks to the trail angels at mile 324! 

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Back to walking through the heat...could feel it radiating up from the ground, and my shirt was soaked in sweat. Heard loud rattling just off trail which caused me to jump sideways into some scrub bush but I never saw the snake.

Was getting pretty fed up with the day and the desert, rounded a corner and suddenly there was this massive blue lake stretched out in front of me, the most unexpected thing...almost a system shock, like I couldn't comprehend what was seeing. Hiked around Silverwood Lake for about half an hour and then stopped for lunch down by the water with Joe, Brian and Sara. We tried to hitch a ride from boaters to take us across the lake, no success. I wanted to swim but the water looked pretty gross and there were signs advising against it. 

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The trail went up and circled above the lake which was a whole new form of torture-watching swimmers and jet-skis far below while I was drowning in my own sweat made the heat seem that much worse. After about two hours of this, finally left it behind. It only got hotter after leaving Silverwood and the thought that there was a McFlurry at the end of the road was the one thing that kept me going.

I skipped wearing my gaiters in the morning and my shoes were full of sand and rocks, but I was too stubborn to stop so I could feel new blisters forming on my heels where the rocks were rubbing. Only water source of the afternoon was scummy and surrounded by biting flies. Grumpiness was back in full force and there were no more strawberries to counterbalance it. Descending the last few miles towards I-15 offered up some incredible views but at that point my sole focus was getting to chicken nuggets. 

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It's sad to say, but seeing the sign McDonalds .4 ➞ after the long, hot, 24 miles brought up one of the biggest rushes of emotion I've had so far on trail. There was already a line of packs leaning against the wall outside, and a clear hiker section in the restaurant that the other patrons were avoiding, probably because of how dirty we looked (and smelled). After a double quarter pounder, two McChickens, nuggets, fries and a milkshake, I decided to call it a day and just hope my body won't hate me too much tomorrow. 

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The local Best Western had cheap rates with a pool and hot tub, so we set off across the interstate with our packs to see how many hikers they would let into one room. Amazingly, they let ten of us split one huge room (the smell!) and there was a scramble for outlets, sleeping space and the one bathroom.

After her shower, Sara discovered she had a wicked, wicked blister burn from our day in the sun at Deep Creek hot springs. It was all across her back with one especially massive palm-sized blister right where her pack strap was rubbing her shoulder...she'd hiked all day with it. A retired army doctor staying at the hotel is going to check it out tomorrow and hopefully she'll be good to keep hiking after a day or two off, I still think she should be going to the hospital.

 We start calling her Tough Stuff after this

We start calling her Tough Stuff after this

 RIP shower drain

RIP shower drain

It is now 2:38 in the morning and everyone's gone for dinner round two at the Del Taco across the road, and I've been writing for the past two hours. There's been a lot of beer consumed and card games played and although it's definitely not the scene I pictured when I imagined hiking the PCT, I'm pretty okay with it. 

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I-15/Cajon Pass (342.0) to Casa de Luna (478.2)

Day 22: I-15/Cajon Pass (342.0) to Campsite (356.2)

06/03/17
14.2 miles (night-hiked)

No one really felt like getting up early after the late night and the day was hot af so hung around the Best Western all day waiting for it to cool down.

Sara had her shoulder treated by retired army medic hiker, he literally scrubbed it off her whie she bit a towel. Trail name is now Tough Stuff. She's gonna take another zero to let it heal, if it was me I'd probably be packing my bag to go home. Joe also has a really nasty blister on his foot so he’s going to stay another night as well, I'm sure they'll catch up no problem since I won't be putting in too many miles tonight. The Best Western staff are super chill about letting a dozen or so hikers hang out by their pool, but I managed to snag a prime nap spot in the room that Joe and Sara got for tonight.

Brian, Chad, Tony and I opted to head out in the evening. No sign of Festus and Francis, wasn't sure if we’d catch up to them today. Started around 7pm, a steep climb up out of Cajon Pass, yo-yoing with a couple other hikers I don’t know. It was pretty cool to look back across the hills at Cajon Pass and see the car headlights snaking up and away around the mountains. We ran into One 11, Kaylyn and Kristen, stopped for a watermelon beer that Brian had packed out. A+.

A little later on I started getting grumpy and tired from not eating dinner, but used that to rage hike miles up the hill, red shift all the way. Around 1am got to a campsite on top of the last climb that Brian and I decided to stop at, the others kept going. While we were setting up in the dark, found Festus and Francis already camped there! Cowboy camping away from everyone else close to a ridge overlooking what will hopefully be a nice sunrise. 

 Downside to night hiking is that there isn't a lot of time for pictures.

Downside to night hiking is that there isn't a lot of time for pictures.

 

DAY 23: CAMPSITE (356.2) TO HIGHWAY 2/WRIGHTWOOD (369.3)

06/04/17
13.1 miles

 Sunrise ☺️

Canadiens woke me up as they were packing up and leaving at 5 am. We agreed to meet up in Wrightwood later on and maybe split a room. I was going to go back to sleep but instead I had a long breakfast watching the sunrise. It was beautiful and the pictures I took couldn’t quite capture it. I think if I hiked the trail again I would definitely carry a proper camera as a luxury item. I packed up and Brian was still sleeping so took off alone. 

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Quiet morning hike through the pine forest. Elevation kept going up but it was a gentle enough grade it wasn't anything difficult. Didn't see anyone else for a long time, passed through an abandoned ski resort. Got the feeling I was the only person in the world. I was tempted to take an early shortcut trail (Acorn trail?) into Wrightwood, but the reviews on Guthooks said that it was really, really steep downhill and it was still so early in the day it seemed stupid to miss miles for no reason. I got cell service a little later-Chad already in town and Brian texted that we’d meet at the highway to hitch together. I waited for him and we caught an easy hitch into Wrightwood-guy had an adorable dog. 

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When we got to Wrightwood, went to a bar while waiting to hear from Chad or French Canadians. The bar was full of motorcyclists and kind of sketchy but they were replaying the Stanley Cup final on one of the TVs in the corner so I got at least a little dose of hockey. We didn't hear back from the others so opted to airbnb a cabin right in the middle of town and hope that they would show up later. Great idea. Picked up Tony, Chad, T-bone, and new hikers Vanessa (lunchbox) and Nick (Trailblazer, for exactly the reason you’d expect.) Spent the night drinking on the porch and chatting. Wrightwood is a great little town and could be my favourite stop so far. Slept on bottom bunk in one of the bedrooms.

 

DAY 24: ZERO IN WRIGHTWOOD

06/05/17

 TOWN TRAP. Waking up in a bed is always fantastic. Went for breakfast at Cinnamons down the road, had quiche and coffee and a massive cinnamon bun. Back to air bnb place, Brian opted to rent it agin so I got sucked in for a zero. No regrets, Wrightwood is great.  

A pretty low key day, got some chores done and then went to the Mexican restaurant next door for margaritas and more food then I could ever hope to eat. Our neighbour brought over a case of craft beer, just to be nice. May have to move here. Met new hiker Ocelot at the restaurant. Sara and Joe rolled in a little later and Yves and Francis showed up as well so we all sat around having deck beers. Really great day in general, back to trail tomorrow. 

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 Sexy town food ft. sexy Chad

Sexy town food ft. sexy Chad

Day 25: Wrightwood (369.3) to Campsite (389.0)

06/06/17
19.7 miles

 Left town around ten after another breakfast at Cinnamons and check out. Wrightwood is currently holding the position of favourite trail town, closely followed by Julian.

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Major uphill elevation today to summit Baden Powell at about 8000 ft. Having a hard time still on uphills and it was slow going. Almost stepped on a small rattlesnake on the way up, moved it very carefully off trail with my pole. The interesting thing I've learned about rattlesnakes is that it's actually the smaller baby ones that are more dangerous. It takes a lot of energy for the snake to produce venom and the larger ones have some degree of control over how much venom is used when they bite...they're more to rely on the bite itself to kill prey, and expend less venom . The smaller ones have no control yet, so any bite is going to be full dose. The more you know! Anyways, last mile to the summit was especially rough (calves on fiiiiiire) but the views along the last knife edged ridge were great.

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At the summit, caught T-Bone, Sara, Chad and Brian for lunch, Joe had continued on. We had packed out summit beers which made me feel sleepy. Shortly after the summit there was somehow more fucking uphill which seemed like a joke, my legs and lungs were not up for it.

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Finally got down to Jimmy spring for probably the best water on trail so far and then down to the highway. We had originally planned to camp there, but wasn't much space for five of us, so we made dinner there and decided to push out six more miles of night hiking which I wasn’t thrilled about, but once we got going it wasn’t so bad. I'm really enjoying hiking during the golden sunset hour, and today we all stuck close together and talked, which passed the time. 

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Once the sun set we split up and hiked alone. The moon was so bright that I didn’t need to use a headlamp. Had one scare when I came across Sara sitting beside the trail, without my light I thought she was a small, but perhaps rabid, animal and almost kicked her right off the ridge. Cowboy camped at a nice sheltered spot in the trees with Brian, Chad and Sara, hopefully Joe should be showing up any minute. Feels like I’m actually getting pretty good at this hiking thing, but going to be sore tomorrow after all the climbing today.

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DAY 26: CAMPSITE (389) TO FOUNTAINHEAD CAMPSITE (411.7)

06/07/17
22.7 miles

 Woke up around 7 to the snore train. After everyone was up and packed we hiked to another trail closure due to endangered frogs. There was a 2.7 mile road walk along a narrow highway with not much of a shoulder, ironically probably the least safe I've felt on trail.

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Hiked through a massive car campsite and rejoined the trail. Still a lot of uphill which is rough after yesterday. We had been looking forward to hitching to a Cafe two miles off trail at a highway crossing but discovered it’s closed on Wednesday’s-a crushing blow. 

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Stopped at Camp Glenwood for the hottest piped water on trail, and had a quick power nap with the fam.  Trail went gradually downhill, through lots of sandy ravines. Stopped for dinner at Sulphur Springs camp, nice pines with setting sun. 

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Poodle dog bush showing up, a ridiculous looking plant that smells strongly of pot and apparently causes a poison oak type rash. Night hiked 5 more miles from Sulphur Springs to get to Fountainhead campsite, I think we'll have great views here tomorrow morning, can see city lights far below (Lancaster?). Cowboy camping. Hit the 400 mile mark today

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DAY 27: 411.7 TO 427

06/08/17
15.3 miles

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Our campsite was even more amazing this morning with the sunrise view, and Brian had gotten up early to make us a fire since there was a fire ring set up on a bit of exposed rock-a rare luxury. We had a long breakfast, didn’t start hiking until about 9:30.

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The morning started to really heat up and there was no shade. Saw the biggest rattlesnake so far on trail, it was as thick as my leg and curled up beside the trail. Opposite the snake was a large patch of poodle dog bush and I had a hard time deciding which was the lesser evil. Ended up going with the snake, edged around him very slowly and he never even rattled. The bigger ones seem to be a lot more relaxed than the babies, like we aren't worth their time.

Met with Yves, Francis and Tony at Mill Creek ranger station for lunch. I got stuck there for about two hours reading the trail register and lying in the shade of the picnic table. The longer I sit, the less I want to get started. Hiked a few more miles after it cooled down around 4, now in camp. One of my lowest motivation days so far and I can't keep my eyes open right now even though it's barely 7pm. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. 

 

DAY 28: 427 TO SOLEDAD CANYON RD/ACTON KOA (444.3)

06/09/17
17.3 miles

Started today much better since I got a decent sleep last night. Hiked alone for most of the morning, walked with a German hiker for a while, although he was keen on having long conversation and stuck close for a while, whereas I prefer to hike alone and not talk so I can actually breathe.

Stopped for lunch at ranger station, bought two pops for a dollar each. I crave soda so much on trail, second only to beer. I find that really odd because at home I never drink it at all. Hot dry hike through hills, but was way higher energy than yesterday and had a good time running on the downhill stretch to the highway. Brian and Chad and One 11 had made a stop at Acton KOA and I was planning to push on until I heard that there was a pool there, changed my mind real quick. 

The Canadian girls Kaylyn and Kristen were also there, Kaylyn’s ankle has been bugging her and they’ve been there a couple days waiting for it to heal up.  We’d been planning to do another 10 miles to Agua Dulce but after my swim and lounging in the sun I decided to stay with the Canadian’s and Chad and One 11. Brian hiked on and Joe and Sara didn't stop here so hoping to catch up with them tomorrow. Cowboy camped waiting for my laundry to finish. 

 

DAY 29: ACTON KOA (444.3) TO AGUA DULCE/HIKER HEAVEN (454)

6/10/17
10 miles

Woke up to condensation covered sleeping bag. Left Acton around 8am to try and catch the crew, said bye to Kaylyn and Kristen, they're going to stay another day. One 11 and Chad hiked out behind me.

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Big uphill out of Acton but the weather was cool enough that it wasn't so bad and felt pretty good after the half day off yesterday. Hiked alone all day, saw literally no one else. Went through a sketchy tunnel underneath highway 14, I texted trail fam during a brief bit of cell service and they were in Agua Dulce for a zero day today.

Passed through Vasquez rocks, really cool place...they've been used as a movie set for countless shows and movies, including Star Trek and my all time fave film, Holes. The State Park was crowded with tourists, probably could’ve stayed a little longer to check them out the formations, but I just wanted to get to Agua Dulce right away and meet the trail fam.

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 n i f t y 

n i f t y 

Agua Dulce is one of the few towns that trail goes right through so no detour needed. Went straight to the grocery store right away to handle resupply. One 11 was hiking in and we planned to grab a margarita at the Mexican restaurant in town, the rest of the trail fam came to meet us and we wiped the place clean out of their supply of coconut tequila. Waaaay too much to drink tonight considering how lame my metabolism is at processing alcohol on trail, tomorrow is going to be rough.

Crashed at Hiker Heaven, a trail angel house run by the Jeff and Donna Saufley. Lots of space to set up tents, and their are facilities for laundry and showers. Again, they don't charge hikers for use of their services and are another fantastic example of the generosity on trail.

 

DAY 30: HIKER HEAVEN/AGUA DULCE (454) TO SAN FRANCISQUITO VALLEY RD/CASA DE LUNA (478.2)

06/11/17
24.2 miles

Hit the store with the crew for last minute resupply and a quick breakfast. Things were quiet, I think everyone was a little hungover, but nothing like hiking all day to clear up feeling shitty.

Started with a long road walk through town to get back to trail, got caught in weird convo with a self-promoting “trail angel” that didn't really do much angel-ing other than talking our ear off about the book he’s writing for a solid half hour. Big climb, it was really, really windy and cold, probably the coldest day since the foggy hike out of Laguna. Stopped for lunch at Bear Spring and changed into wind gear, of course got too hot on the descent so took everything off again.

A power hiking day, I was feeling really good and running down the downhill then crushing uphill’s back up with the motivation of taco salad ahead. Didn’t really see anyone after lunch, and the hiking completely cleared up whatever remainder of a hangover I had. The section between Agua Dulce and Casa de Luna has been a favourite so far. Some opt to do the 24x24x24 challenge-24 beers in 24 hours in 24 miles. Not a chance I’d be able to make it.

Dropped down to road in the evening and started highway walking towards Casa de Luna. Heard a shout of "HEY HIKER TRASH" and a van rolled to a stop beside me, it was Terry Anderson herself. Terry runs Casa de Luna (named for a couple reasons, but mainly the fact that it typically takes a month on trail to get there). It’s an amazing place: upon arriving I was greeted by a motley crew of hikers hanging out on sofas on the driveway and encouraged to change into a Hawaiian shirt. Taco salad is served every night. There’s a small manzanita forest behind the house with paths and spots for camping, and there are painted rocks scattered around the property. Love it already.

 Desert family portrait, missing Brian who's heading back to SF and One 11 who stayed an extra night at Agua Dulce

Desert family portrait, missing Brian who's heading back to SF and One 11 who stayed an extra night at Agua Dulce

 

DAY 31 & 32: DOUBLE ZERO AT CASA DE LUNA

06/12-13/17

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Zero I
Slept for 12 hours last night and still woke up feeling really groggy-I think my body needed the rest. Made a couple trips to the local gas station to pick up resupply snacks and (of course) some beer. Cornhole seems to be the biggest attraction here, I spent almost all day lounging in the shade and watching hikers throw bean bags across the yard. Doesn’t take much to entertain us.  

Zero II
Getting vortexed…I kind of want to stay here forever. Spent the day with Chad, Joe and Sara, we painted our hiker rock and had a mini-barbecue in between runs to the store. We also played a solid three hours of cornhole, Sara is terrible, Chad is great, I’m somewhere in the middle. Tons of new hikers arriving today, met Brother (who plays amazing guitar) and Bearfoot (named literally because a bear bit her foot), Tasmanian Tom, Tank, Hey Girl, Bloody Smooches, Lukas, Eric and Cy. Apparently I met Cy and Lukas already at hiker heaven, but no recollection on my end probably due to the coconut tequila, whoops. Everyone seems really fun, hopefully we can run into them down the trail. Hiking out tomorrow no matter what!

 Chad rockin the mandatory Hawaiian shirt

Chad rockin the mandatory Hawaiian shirt

 Home sweet home <3 

Home sweet home <3 

Casa de Luna (478.2) to Tehachapi (558.5)

 

DAY 33: CASA DE LUNA (478.2) TO UPPER SHAKE CAMPGROUND (493.4)

06/14/17
15.2 miles

Finally escaped the vortex! Joe, Sara and I packed up first thing in the morning so we wouldn’t be tempted to stay another night. Spent most of the day waiting on the UPS truck with Sara’s insoles. When they arrived we hit the road, got a hitch back to trail. It was about 5pm but still very hot, and the uphill out of the valley was rough. Definitely lost my trail legs after almost three days off. Beautiful sunset views, and once it was dark it cooled off right away.

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Our end goal for the day (night) was Upper Shake Campground. Trail had lots of overgrowth across it and the soft sand was difficult to walk on. It was pitch black by the time I got to the trail junction down to Upper Shake, and the trail to get there was frustrating, tripped a couple times on the uneven ground and then the campground was very difficult to find in the dark.

When I got there,  there was a bunch of hikers I don’t know already sleeping, I had a quiet-as-you-can dinner. Sara showed up shortly after. The hikers in camp had seen Chad but I couldn’t find him and we figured he had hiked on. The two of us waited for Joe while Sara ate, but no sign. We ended up running into him a little later while trying to find a quiet site. Probably could’ve set up tent due to bugs but didn’t have patience to do it in the dark, so cowboy camped. Met hiker Mark (later named Invisible Man)

     

 

 

DAY 34: UPPER SHAKE CAMPGROUND (493.4) TO HIGHWAY 138/HIKERTOWN (517.6)

06/15/17
24.2 miles

Definitely least favourite morning on trail so far. To get down to the water at Upper shake there was a steep hill scramble, and the water was murky and still. A half mile of climbing after that to get back to trail and legs were sore from yesterday. Started with a pretty nice walk through some trees but then came the F L I E S. I had my own personal black cloud that kept trying to get into my ears/eyes/nose and the buzzing noise was incessant and distractingly loud. Headphones helped a bit with the noise, but still had to endure bugs bouncing off my face and arms. No point in trying to kill them, it was a waste of energy since there were too many and they never seemed to land long enough to be swatted. They were also mixed in with these large, bright yellow flies that BIT and took enough flesh out to make me bleed, but thankfully these were so slow it was almost satisfying to watch them land knowing I was about to get an easy kill. Came across Joe and Sara sitting miserably on the side of the trail. They had collected so many flies between them I kept my distance and hiked on hoping that maybe some of my flies would offload to them, no luck.  

We had planned to meet for lunch at the only reliable water source today, an underground guzzler. I completely misread guthooks and ended up on an old footpath that tapered off and put me smack in the middle of tall thorny bushes, which became so impassable I had to double back and crawl beneath the thickest part of the shrubs. My hair and pack kept snagging, and the flies were still going strong. Got back to trail and realized I had completely missed the nice easy dirt road leading to the guzzler, nice one jack. But problems didn’t end there. The guzzler was covered by a tin roof a few feet off the ground, and to get the water I had to lie on my stomach and scoop it out of the below-ground trough. The flies took full advantage of my exposed legs and I couldn’t turn around to swat them away. 

I never ran into Joe and Sara after my off trail adventure, so wasn’t sure if they were ahead or behind. My tuna wrap made the flies go extra crazy and I ended up eating it while wrapped up burrito style in my tent, which helped with bugs but was hot and sweaty, and I definitely angry-cried a bit out of frustration. After my sad lunch I didn’t bother stopping the rest of the afternoon. Hit the mile 500 marker for one brief photo, bugs were driving me nuts and I was seriously questioning what I was doing out here.

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Late afternoon the flies thankfully let up a bit and I took a quick break at Horse Trail camp, just before the descent to Hikertown. Ran into Brother & Bearfoot and Mark and Tasmanian Tom. I was tempted to stop for the day but Hikertown was only a few miles ahead, and there was apparently a 6pm shuttle to the nearby convenience store I wanted to catch. The hills going down to the valley floor were quite beautiful and I did end up doing a little bit of running on the downhill, not smart but sometimes I just can’t help it. Trail took a wide arc through some hilly desert and I ended up doing 3-4 miles extra than I figured would get me to the road. I was tired and hungry and just wanted to get to food, but it was pretty fun finally getting to a hill above the last flat walk to the highway. I could see Mark way in the distance heading for the road. Really typical Western movie-style desert with tumbleweeds and all. Was a little apprehensive about getting to Hikertown alone, I had heard some not-so-stellar reviews, especially from women. Made it there just in time for the 6pm shuttle to convenience store for a quesadilla.

Greeted by a volunteer (?) hiker Gandhi. The place itself was a collection of old buildings styled like an old western town, a couple bunk houses and private sleeping cabins. The bunk houses were all full, which was unfortunate because I wasn't too keen on sleeping alone, but I got a little wooden shack with a bed and the backseat of a van. Chad arrived, not sure how I got ahead of him. He claimed the car seat in my little shack which made me a lot more comfortable. No sign of Joe and Sara, I’m guessing they’re stopped at Horse trail camp at the top of the hill, so I’ll wait here for them tomorrow morning. Even now at 8pm it’s uncomfortably warm, although the wind is really picking up.

 

Day 35: Hikertown (517.6) to Cottonwood Creek (534.9)

06/16/17
17.3 miles. AQUEDUCT DAY

Woke up hot as balls in the tiny shack with Chad, it was already sweltering at 7am. The winds last night were strong enough to make me wonder whether the roof would blow off, and kept me up most of the night. Despite the lack of sleep it was way too hot to stay inside, so we went for a breakfast run to the convenience store on the 8am shuttle for coffee, a breakfast quesadilla and air conditioning.

Back at Hikertown, Joe and Sara had arrived, they did stay at Horse Trail camp last night. They hiked through the midmorning heat to get here which sounded absolutely miserable, I’m glad I got in yesterday evening when it was slightly cooler. Every single hiker opted to wait out the heat and do a night walk along the aqueduct. Spent the afternoon doing bucket laundry and napping in preparation for a late night.

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After dinner, I hit the trail with Joe, Sara and Chad around 6pm. We got to the aqueduct right away-it starts as an open tunnel of water (very tempted to swim in the heat but pretty sure that would get me kicked out of the States) which becomes a covered metal pipe running along a paved road. The walk was completely flat, but the hard road made the arches of my feet ache pretty badly right away. We had beautiful weather during the sunset, not too hot and not too windy, and the road passed by an incredible forest of Joshua trees, the first ones I’ve seen in my life. After the sun went down we picked up a new hiker Eowyn, her and Joe bonded over being wildlife majors. We didn’t need headlights since the road was so flat, and the stars looked incredible. I was getting pretty tired after our midnight snack break, but tried not to complain since Joe and Sara had hiked all morning already and Eowyn was knocking out a 30 mile day.

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Finally made it to the water source (Cottonwood Creek) in the middle of a wind farm full of turbines. There’s no actual creek but there is a faucet down the hill, and a bridge that we can use for shade. It’s now 2am and I'm tired as heck, we’re planning to night hike tomorrow as well because it’s reaching unbearable temperatures during the day. Tehachapi soon, hopefully will catch Tony, Yves and Francis. Cowboy camped with Sara, Joe and Chad, looking forward to a lazy day tomorrow.

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Day 36: Cottonwood Cr (534.9) to Campsite (549.0)

07/17/17
14.1 miles

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Spent most of the day under the bridge with Sara, Joe and Chad to beat the heat. When we packed up all our stuff to go down to the bridge this morning, Eric, Cy and Lukas were already there underneath one of the bridge supports. Others showed up pretty soon after, I don't think anyone would be able to hike during this heat. It was miserable just to lie still in the shade.

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Lazed around all day trying not to move and napped. The sand was so hot it burned my feet when I went up to get water, shoes stayed on after that. Left around 5:30pm and as soon as we got to the road again, trail magic! It was actually the same guy that had picked up Brian and I in Wrightwood, I remembered his cute dog. He gave us a beer and fruit and Cosmic brownies (yaaas), great way to start the night.

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No commentary on scenery since it was dark, but lots of little scorpions, one big ass tarantula (is it a tarantula? Do they have those here? I miss google) and kangaroo mice that seem either stupid or suicidal, they run right under where you’re about to step and then stop in the headlight beam.

Got to a campground at the bottom of a huge ravine around 10pm where a bunch of hikers were staying, but I opted to keep pushing and get the next big climb out of the way while it was cool. Hard uphill, glad to be doing it at night. Cy, Lukas and Eric were just behind me and stubborn, competitive me wanted to stay ahead so was pushing really hard. Eric did end up catching me but it took a long time, and he is fucking fast. Really happy to get through the uphill during the cool night weather. 

Good trail magic at the register at 544.5, the angel had built a little stand with fruit and juice and cookies, and there were chairs and an umbrella, which I’m sure would’ve been a heavenly oasis for any hikers crazy enough to walk through the heat of day. Got there around midnight, Eric and new hiker Stake were there munching on cookies and fruit. Lukas and Cy caught up soon after but no sign of Sara and Joe, those two are slacking in the keep-up-to-our-campsite plans. Did another half mile to get to a less crowded spot, saw a coiled up rattlesnake that blended in with the dirt almost perfectly, would’ve stepped right over it had Eric not pointed it out to me. Cowboy camped in a nice little sandy spot in the trees just off trail. Not sure where Joe and Sara are, we’ll meet tomorrow in Tehachapi.

 Spot the snake becuase I sure didn't

Spot the snake becuase I sure didn't

 

DAY 37: CAMPSITE (549.0) SITE TO TEHACHAPI WILLOW SPRINGS RD/TEHACHAPI (558.5)

06/18/17
9.5 miles

Up around 7, Eric was already packed up and leaving. Lukas and Cy passed me while I was getting ready, waited in camp for a bit but still no sign of Sara and Joe and it was heating up so hit the trail. Easy terrain down through another wind farm, very hot early on and my right shin was bothering me again with sharp shooting pain every step, please don’t be shin splints.

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I had originally planned to go to Highway 58, 8 miles further but in this heat, not a chance. Shirt was literally soaked through with sweat. When I got to the road, Cy was there already trying to catch a hitch, Lukas and Eric had pushed on to the next highway junction. It took a little while but finally got a ride from a friendly (but probably either tripping or coming down) couple, and got dropped at the Tehachapi airport, which has a nice green park for camping. A few unfamiliar hikers already staying there. (Later note: Chia and Six Toes!) I had probably my best trail shower in a repurposed port a potty, there was obviously no hot water but that was perfect for today.

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Lukas texted that him and Eric had arrived and gotten a hotel room so Cy and I started walking to the Best Western, although a nice local picked us up right away and drove us the half mile through town. In the room, it was pretty crowded with hikers, had a few beers with the gang and then got a message from Tony that he was staying at the same hotel with Yves and Francis! Went down a floor and just had to follow the smell of weed to be reunited and catch up on each other’s past week. So nice to see them, it’s been a while.

A little later went for pizza with Eric, Cy and Lukas and Mark. Locals bought a couple rounds of beer for us and got a little tipsy. Joe and Sara arrived after hiking through heat of day, crazies. They were looking rough, I don’t think I could’ve done the section this morning during the peak heat of the afternoon. Zero day tomorrow.

 

DAY 38 & 39: DOUBLE ZERO IN TEHACHAPI

06/19-20/17
Zero I in Tehachapi

Not much to report, the Yves, Francis and Tony hiked out today but I rented the same room again with Sara and Joe. Where’s Chad?

We had amazing luck with trail angels while trying to hitch to the supermarket, an elderly couple named Eddy and Doll. They were a cop and firefighter back in the day and so well-traveled, Eddy told us a great story about how they met when his car broke down and he used the phone at Doll’s house but also fell in love with her. They took us to the post office and took us for dinner at a quaint little restaurant, paid for everything. They also offered to pick us up in the morning to take us to their favourite donut shop, such kind people on trail and in the hiking community.

 The awesomest people on trail, plus Joe and Sara

The awesomest people on trail, plus Joe and Sara

Zero II in Tehachapi

Wasn’t planning to stay again but there’s a heat advisory for this whole area, temperatures are 107+ degrees which I gather is unreasonably hot. Had a very lazy day hanging around the hotel watching trashy TV and eating.

Went to the pizza place again for dinner and had a chat about skipping up a bit due to the heat advisory, Chad went ahead to Lake Isabella this morning after coming for breakfast with us and Eddy and Doll. We initially decided to skip this morning but changed our minds at dinner, doesn’t feel right. We’ll head out tomorrow evening, night hike until it cools down and hopefully not die of heat exhaustion. Get to switch the Guthooks map from Southern California to Sierras, although it’s still 200 miles to Kennedy Meadows. 

Sara is happy to almost be out of the desert, but it hasn’t been so bad, I’ve handled the heat way better than I expected to.

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Tehachapi (558.5) to Kennedy Meadows (702.2)

DAY 40: TEHACHAPI/HIGHWAY 58 (566.4) TO GOLDEN OAKS SPRING (583.3)

06/21/17
16.9 miles (night hiked)

Slow morning waiting for heat to go away. Had lunch at the Shed- a great Southern comfort food joint, probably the best meal I’ve had on trail so far. Caught a ride to trail from trail angel Kirk, hope to see him later on JMT. He gave us a ride to Highway 58, started hiking around 7 pm at the place Cheryl strayed started. (I think). Still surprisingly hot late in the evening but not unbearably so.

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Beautiful Joshua trees coming up out of canyon in the dusk. The headlights from the highway looked really cool as they slowly got smaller. A long uphill, but feeling well rested from our double zero so moved quick. At the top of the hill, met up with Joe for a snack break but there were ants everywhere, and they were biting, so I pushed on. Him and Sara ended up staying there the night but I wouldn’t figure that out until later.

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Saw lots more little scorpions and a palm-sized spider crossing the path in my headlamp beam. Zoned out a bit, long part of tonight was along a rocky dirt road and no scenery to look at while night hiking. I'm ahead of Joe and Sara, so it's my first night camping alone at Golden Oak spring, a rather unimpressive spring and trough. Not the best place to camp but gotta stay close to water. A little jumpy about being alone but its 2am and I'm just mostly just tired. It's a dry, hot section and there's still a heat advisory so probably will hike a bit early tomorrow morning then find a place to sleep in shade if possible.

 

DAY 41: GOLDEN OAK SPRING (583.3) TO ROBIN BIRD SPRING (602.1)

06/22/17
18.8 miles

Didn't sleep much last night, hikers were coming through and getting water all night. There were a couple people I don’t know camped when I woke up around 6. Was planning to stay and wait for Joe and Sara but bugs were bad so left at 7 and hiked to a shady campsite 10 miles away around mile 593. Not the best idea…since there was no water source at the campsite I couldn’t drink any of my packed water because had to save it for hiking. Not my smartest move.

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Definitely the hottest day so far, miserable even just to lie in the shade. My sunscreen bottle got all warped from being left in half sun and I kept having to move everything to follow the shade as the day progressed. Met up with James (Brother) and Marissa (Bearfoot) also waiting out the heat nearby. As the sun started to set, we hiked 9 miles through a pine and oak stand to get to Robin Bird spring in the evening.

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It was about 10pm by the time we arrived and the water tasted amazing after all day of rationing. Lots of hikers already sleeping around the spring so we tried to be quiet as we could while making dinner. I intended to keep going but the lack of sleep and water got to me today and I opted to stay there for the night. James and Marissa hiked on, I set up next to trail and am about to crash, still no sign of Joe and Sara. 

 

Day 42: ROBIN BIRD SPRING (602.1) TO DOVE SPRING CANYON ROAD (621.9)

06/23/17
19.8 miles

Joe and Sara came in around 11:30 last night so we’re reunited! Mosquitos were terrible in the morning, had to hide out in my sleeping bag. We left the spring and did an easy 7 miles through pine woods to get to Landers campground. Really beautiful trees, not too hot due to the shade, lots of water crossing landers creek and I had a much better time than yesterday.

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Met up with Marissa and James at Landers and hung out in the shade all afternoon. Lots of weekend campers, kind of creepy vibe from three dirt bikers who offered margaritas if we came to their camp. Didn't take them up on it. Lots of sleep to make up for the past couple night hikes and I ate tons and tons of food. Still hungry.

Finally got our butts into gear around 6:30pm even though it wasn't too hot this afternoon. Hiked up and out through more pine, had a beautiful sunset. Trail cut through rolling hills, lots of Joshua trees and chaparral, not much shade. We had to carry 6 litres (the most I’ve carried so far) because this stretch has nothing coming up reliably for 42 miles. We’re kind of depending on two upcoming caches which is sketchy but I’m never going to make it that far with my capacity being so small. If the caches weren’t stocked I’d have learned that lesson the hard way but thankfully, the first was fully stocked.

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We arrived around 9pm, drank as much as I could, refilled and hiked 6 more miles with Marissa to take advantage of the cool night, could still feel the heat of day coming up from the ground when it was pitch black. Everyone else stayed behind at the cache. Best view of stars so far with no light pollution, could see dark outlines of mountains and Joshua trees, no headlamp needed.

 Joe with our new friends Bearfoot (Marissa) and Brother (James)

Joe with our new friends Bearfoot (Marissa) and Brother (James)

Feeling pretty good after the rest at Landers. Marissa and I stopped at Dove Spring Canyon road and set up in a little patch of sand surrounded by chaparral. Hopefully the other will catch up tomorrow morning, there’s no water here so we can’t stay long to wait for them.

 

DAY 43: DOVE SPRING CANYON ROAD (621.9) TO MCIVERS CABIN (643.8)

06/24/17
21.9 miles

Woke to fucking red ants everywhere so packed up ASAP. Got bit on the toe, stung all day.

Lounged under a Joshua tree waiting for Joe, Sara and James, enjoyed that while listening to chill music. When they showed up around 9 we all left together.

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Hot as heck all morning, uphill and the soft sand was hard to walk on, a trifecta of desert misery. Since this is such a dry section we unfortunately can’t wait out the heat all day, and still unsure about next cache so didn't want to drink as much as I should've been. Had to get shade under Joshua trees every chance I could and on the last big push uphill I waited with Joe and Sara under a particularly large tree for a long lunch break.

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Clouds started rolling in out of nowhere so we finished the climb in shade. Then came thunder and lightning, it started raining and also hailing. What the hell desert? Ran downhill to the thankfully full water cache at Bird Spring Pass, tons of water and a solar charger. Just like that the storm went away, sun came out and it got hot again. Odd weather.

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Had dinner at the cache, listened to Brother play guitar and Joe drumming on empty water container. I should've enjoyed it but I was irritated with everything and everyone after the hot day and in general just grumpy. Around 6 I started the long climb out of the valley alone and although it was four miles of uphill switchbacks, I felt way better after I got going. It cooled off enough to be manageable, there were beautiful views, the climb wasn't too graded and I actually really enjoyed it, which I can’t really say about any of our other big uphills so far.

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Reached the top just as the sun disappeared, there were a few nice campsites but I decided to keep going to the spring at McIver’s cabin since it was mostly downhill and it’s always nice to not dry-camp. Crushed miles and hiked until 1am listening to music and singing to not get freaked out about night hiking alone. It doesn't scare me if I don't get inside my own head, although I find my imagination goes into overdrive in the dark without anything to distract me.  Excellent views of stars again tonight with no light pollution. 

The exhaustion caught up to me and the last couple miles felt long and tiring, especially since the cabin and spring are a good half mile off trail.  Seemed like every time I would check gut hooks expecting to have gone at least a mile, it would only be 0.10 since the last time I checked. Finally arrived at the cabin in the dark, it looked rundown and creepy in my headlamp light.  Lots of tents around, but I found a semi secluded spot and set up as quietly as I could in the dark, will be crashing right away. Definitely not eating enough during night hikes. Walker pass tomorrow, option to go to town, although I think I have enough food to push past.

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DAY 44: MCIVER’S (643.8) TO WALKER PASS/LAKE ISABELLA (652.1)

06/25/17
8.3 miles

Woke up around 6:30, definitely not enough sleep since I went to bed around 1, but wanted to get to Walker Pass early. Not sure where Joe and Sara are but I imagine they’ll get here later today. Packed up and did an easy downhill through lots of shady trees (thank god) and hills to get to Walker Pass, it only took a couple hours. There was an awesome cache set up in the campground, with a hiker box, chairs, water and donuts! A little stale but still delicious. Lounged there to wait for Joe and Sara, there was a trashy WWII thriller in the hiker box so read that for a few hours. Talked to a hiker from Brazil, and he mentioned that Lake Isabella had a Taco Bell and Subway, so that ruined my plan to keep hiking on. Joe showed up around 11, and he was also down to go to town so we decided to hitch to Lake Isabella. 

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Took a while to get a ride, hot af on the road. Everyone was going on wrong direction away from the lake as it was Sunday. Finally got picked up in a nice BMW I had guaranteed wouldn't stop for us. The driver just rents nice cars and goes on 3 day road trips across the desert so that made for some interesting conversation. He drove us to Lake Isabella and the three of us had Subway. Checked in with family at home, hung out at Subway charging our stuff until Sara showed up. The Subway served beer and the owner was very friendly and gave me extra cheese slices, heck yeah America.

Resupplied at the local grocery store and went to the slightly sketchy cash-only Kern motel. AC stopped working, one bed, not a great place but we had fun. Lake Isabella is kind of a crappy town but we’ll be gone tomorrow. Not worth the detour in my opinion but it’s nice to eat pizza and have a beer in town.

DAY 45: LAKE ISABELLA/WALKER PASS (652.1) TO CAMPSITE (665.2)

06/26/17
13.1 miles

Slept until 10am after a late night. Packed up and went to Burger King for “breakfast". Intended to catch the 5pm bus back to trail, Chad texted from Kennedy Meadows that Kristen had left two packages at the Lake Isabella motel so we went and picked them up for her. At the motel, a trail angel offered to give us a ride to Walker Pass so we changed plans and went back to trail at noon. Hung out under the tarp there for a few hours waiting out heat. Really windy. Of Mice and Men was in the hiker box so I read that while waiting. 

Hot ranger intern came by in a truck to ask about trail conditions etc. 10/10, definitely would've banged. Also met an elderly couple driving to KM to start a section hike, super tempted when they offered a ride and skip the last 50 miles of desert but held strong. 

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Finally left around 4, low motivation as always when leaving town late in the day. Went straight uphill into Owens Peak wilderness. So much wind but that helped with the heat. Climbed to 7000 ft and the views were great, especially around sunset.

We had all three planned to meet at a spring, but Joe has no regard for sticking to the plan, he wasn’t there when Sara and I arrived. The camping wasn’t great so we went another mile and found a spot that was very flat but exposed to wind, had to pile rocks on all our gear to keep it from blowing away. 

We’re 35 miles from KM, so tomorrow will be the last full day of Southern California/the desert! Nervous for the Sierras and snow but hopefully we can hike with a big group- I think almost everyone we’ve spent time hiking with should be just ahead of us at Kennedy Meadows, but we’ll see when we get there

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DAY 46: (665.2) TO (687.2)

06/27/17
22 miles. Last day of SoCal!

Woke up with Sara and hit the trail to try and catch Joe. Ups and down climbing today, good practice for next 400 miles. As Sara predicted last night, we found Joe sleeping just off trail about halfway up our second climb. 

Was pretty tired and sore late morning, stopped under a pine tree and stayed a long time to eat and nap which helped a lot with energy levels. Last climb was the longest but had gentle incline and it really cooled off as the sun went down. We stopped at the very top and made camp. Probably could’ve pushed on to KM, but it’s out last night in SoCal and the views were great so we stayed there for early sunset dinner.

 Your desert dream team. Met these guys at Scout and Frodo's in SD and now we're done with the desert

Your desert dream team. Met these guys at Scout and Frodo's in SD and now we're done with the desert

Tomorrow, Kennedy Meadows and on to the Sierras!

 So long, SoCal sunsets

So long, SoCal sunsets

DAY 47: CAMP (687.2) TO SHERMAN PASS ROAD/KENNEDY MEADOWS (702.2)

06/28/17
15 miles

Cold and windy night, didn't sleep very well. Stars looked fantastic every time I woke up though.

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Got  going at 5:45, no breakfast, just headed out while Joe and Sara were waking up. Long downhill, feeling good but impatient to get to KM. Good sunrise views. At bottom of the descent, started feeling the effects of no food or water but pushed on stubbornly, 700 miles in and I’ve still learned nothing. There was a stream somewhere just off trail but it was tricky to find and I didn’t want to waste any time.

Came across the Kern River, the first proper sized river I’ve seen in a long, long time...it was almost shocking to see so much moving water. The rock and mountain and sand turned into meadows, which I should’ve been enjoying, but again, impatient. Seemed like forever to get to the Sherman Pass Rd, but finally hit it at about 10:30 and had a mile road walk along hot pavement.

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Everyone on the porch at Kennedy Meadows claps for you as you come in, which I excepted to be cheesy but actually felt amazing and I’m really proud of myself, this place feels like a big milestone. At KM, everyone is here, old and new. Saw Chad, Aaron, Ramsay, Festus, Francis, Tony, T-Bone, Charlie, Smooches, Eric, Cy, Tank, Lukas, the Canadian girls etc etc etc.

Kennedy Meadows is an interesting spot, consists of a store with a porch for hikers to hang out on and a large area out back for camping. Spent afternoon drinking beer with old trail fam and the Canadian girls, Joe and Sara rolled in after lunch. Went down to the river with a big group, hung out in the water with group of girls which is nice change for once-Shade baby, Bloody smooches, tank, the Canadian girls, Sara.

Back to KM for more drinking, hung out with Lukas, Eric, Cy and Tank (and Tank’s husband? not sure. Q?) Nice to be done with the desert but I’m surprised by how much I loved it.

 Caught up to all our old friends: Chad, Francis, Yves, Tony, Kaylyn and Kristen!

Caught up to all our old friends: Chad, Francis, Yves, Tony, Kaylyn and Kristen!

 

DAY 48: ZERO IN KENNEDY MEADOWS

06/29/17

Good long sleep. Went to Grumpy Bear’s with the Festus, Francis, Tony and Chad for breakfast and to catch up on the past couple weeks. Had a massive, massive pancake I couldn't finish.

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Went to outfitters run by Yogi -made the switch to more convenient but less comfy Z-Lite foam pad since my inflatable seems to have a leak and I don’t feel like dealing with the repair on trail, I’ll mail it home. Hung out with Chad for a bit at the cafe and then went back to KM to handle resupply. I have so much food here as well as my extra Sierra’s gear-bear canister, warm clothes.

 Bout to play some hiker tetris and try to fit 8 days of food in my bear can

Bout to play some hiker tetris and try to fit 8 days of food in my bear can

KM is an interesting place, lots of tension between the store owners/Grumpy Bear owners/local angels. Hoping to get out of here tomorrow with Sara.

 New section, new shoes!

New section, new shoes!

Kennedy Meadows (702.2) to Bishop (788.5)

DAY 49: KENNEDY MEADOWS (702.2) TO CAMPSITE (709.5)

06/30/17
7.3 miles

Last day at KM, said bye to Festus and Francis who left really early this morning. Again had breakfast at Grumpy’s with Sara and Eric-couldn’t finish the pancake this morning either. Picked up a mosquito head net at Yogis and went back to KM to hang around. To avoid a trip to Lone Pine, Sara and I ordered microspikes from REI via a girl driving from San Diego to meet up with her boyfriend here, so we’re waiting for the spikes all day.

Getting anxious to leave but did laundry and mail and packing. Played casino with Cy and Lukas-good game, lost by a point. Hoping to hike with these guys and Jade in the Sierras. Joe, Chad and the Canadian girls all left yesterday.

Finally got spikes around 5:30 and they seem to fit fine. Packed up and hit the trail with Sara and we convinced Tony to come with us. We only did 7 miles out of KM until it started to get dark, bag is way heavier with bear canister and extra clothes and much harder to pack. At least we don't have to carry much more than a litre of water at a time.

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DAY 50: CAMPSITE (709.5) TO DEATH CANYON CREEK (730.8)

07/01/17
21.3 miles. Why called Death Canyon??

Packed my bag a little differently this morning to try and balance the bear can weight. Tent and quilt at the bottom, with the bear can wrapped in my extra clothing. Snacks and lunch for the day need to come out before I start hiking, otherwise it’s annoying as heck to unlock the canister. Kind of regretting not going with the standard, screw top BV500.

About an hour into hiking, came into a beautiful green meadow with snow capped mountains in the distance. It literally stopped me in my tracks when I rounded the corner, it’s so foreign from the desert landscape I’ve lived in for the past month and a half and this day has felt like a brand new hike. I loved the desert, much more than I anticipated I would, but the Sara’s excitement about the Sierra section has been contagious and I just want to get into the mountains!

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There’s water everywhere, I’m not carrying any more than a litre at a time which is great to offset the extra gear weight. I had a snack break beside a small stream that crossed the meadow, Sara caught up to me just as pumped about the beauty as I was. A couple small airplanes were showing off for us, flying low over the fields, dad would love it.

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Carried on through the meadows and crossed the South Fork of the Kern River via a wooden bridge. Very tempted to stop for a swim but pushed on through more hilly meadow. Had a big 2000ft climb, slow going but the new scenery made it much more fun than I normally have on the uphill. Near the top a hiker had altitude sickness, talked with his buddy for a bit to make sure everything was okay and carried on. I feel alright but definitely had to take more breathers and the highest I went today was about 10,600ft so I’ll need to be ready to go a lot higher in the coming weeks. A fire nearby was causing a little bit of smokiness, unfortunately obscuring the views but the hazy light made the sunset extra beautiful.

Dropped back down to Gomez Meadow, bugs are starting to get annoying and I’m happy that I invested in the headnet from Yogi’s.

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Current campsite with Sara (where’s Tony?)  is next to a stream and the bugs came out in full force after the sun set, so had to put up my tent for the first time in ages. Hopefully the bugs calm down after sunup tomorrow. New shoes I got in KM fit well, no sign of blisters. Arch of foot has been aching the past week.
 

DAY 51: DEATH CANYON CREEK (730.8) TO CHICKEN SPRING LAKE (750.8)

07/02/17
20 miles

Got cold as heck last night, put on all my layers and I was still chilly. I adore the quality and feel of my quilt but 30F is NOT the temperature rating I need in my life right now. Neither Sara or myself wanted to get out of our warm bags, so we said that we’d wait in bed until Tony showed up and of course he rolled in two minutes later. Layered up, packed and hit the trail, it was too cold to stay still, so breakfast on the go.

Started with uphill so moving pretty slow. Legs and back were stiff, either from the cold night or from getting used to the much less comfortable foam sleeping pad. Elevation again went up to about 10600ft. Very rocky and exposed at the top of the climb and I had a great view down to Owen’s valley. I was feeling lightheaded at the top of the climb, not sure if it was the altitude but eating more food seemed to help and after a quick break the dizziness went away.

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Went a quarter mile off trail to get water and then took a break for lunch and nap. Felt very dazed and sleepy after waking up during the next three or four miles. Met hikers Reptar and Hiccup who I’ve been following on Instagram since before I started, it was cool to meet them in person. Had double coffee mixed with hot chocolate and that was a game changer, didn’t feel hazy anymore and crushed miles on a gradual uphill to Cottonwood pass. Sara had arrived there before me and to my surprise we’ve also caught up with a few familiar faces-Cy, Lukas, Tank (Jade) as well as some new ones-Austrian hiker Puff, Ty and Connor (Two cups? Two cones?)

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Had delicious dehydrated noodles with chicken while enjoying the lake at sunset. It’s one of the most scenic places I’ve ever camped, the lake is circled by sheer granite cliffs covered in snow, it would be a great spot for an on-trail zero. Only thing is that there are tons and tons of mosquitos, but cowboy camping anyways. Moon is really bright on the bowl that surrounds the lake right now and I don’t need a headlamp to see what I’m doing.

This is my first “oh shit here we go” moment in regards to hiking through the Sierra range in a high snow year and I’m having trouble sleeping tonight. A little nervous about tackling Whitney and Forester pass, we’re only at 11,000 feet and there's already been lots of snow on trail. Despite living in a city that’s covered in snow half the year I barely have any experience with it in a mountain environment, and the actual danger isn’t even the snow, but the stream and river crossings from all the extra melt water. Fortunately the plan is for Sara and I to team up with the hikers camped with us now and we’ll all do Whitney as a bigger group for safety. A lot of hikers ahead of us have skipped ahead to Northern California to come back when the rivers are less swollen and the passes are less snowy. People have died in the Sierra this year and I’ve promised to myself (and to my parents) that if I ever feel uncomfortable with trail conditions I’ll leave this section for later, safety first.

DAY 52: CHICKEN SPRING LAKE (750.8) TO CRABTREE RANGER JUNCTION (767.0 +0.8)

07/03/17
16.2 miles

Didn't sleep well due to mosquitos last night (stubborn me, set up your gd tent next time) but got to sleep in since we’re only planning to get to the Whitney trail junction today. Made breakfast with the new crew-I had a package of mountain house eggs and despite loving everything else I’ve eaten from MH so far, their consistency is pretty gross, hot or cold. Solution was to drown them in hot sauce and that was a considerable improvement. Tony got to camp before we left and told us he was going to Lone Pine today but hopefully will catch up tonight/tomorrow morning at the Whitney junction. Six Toes, Chia and Sage/Greg also came into camp early and had breakfast with us, I think we’ve all merged into a Whitney superfam.

 Breakfast club with the new squad

Breakfast club with the new squad

Left Chicken Spring lake around 9am with Sara after a quick snowball fight started by Jade. Felt really good physically and pulled ahead for the morning, mostly downhill (probably why I was feeling good). Hiking in the woods is a new novelty after the desert and the shade was much appreciated. Met Chia and Six Toes at a steam around 1, had lunch while everyone else caught up. The rest of the Chicken Spring crew arrived in a convoy and we all had lunch together. I really enjoy hiking alone but it’s nice to have a big group to have break and camp with, makes the day much more fun. Almost everyone I’m with lives on the West Coast (minus Puff who’s Austrian and Chia and Six Toes who’re from Connecticut).

 Spot Jade just about to instigate the first of her many snowball fights

Spot Jade just about to instigate the first of her many snowball fights

Was first to leave after lunch, a bit more downhill to fast moving Rock Creek. It was my first water crossing and I was trying to figure out how best to handle it, when I saw Lukas standing on opposite bank, he pointed out a log a ways back on trail that I’d completely missed, nice one Jack. No issue crossing.

After that the trail went STRAIGHT UPHILL and gained 2000ft in about 2.5 miles, a lot of which was large rock steps that were exhausting on the legs. I was getting wiped, probably the most physically challenged I’ve been so far this summer. Didn’t see anyone else which is probably good because I was alternating between bending over to catch my breath and muttering swears just about every step. I’m going to have to suck up my dislike of elevation gain because gonna be doing it every day for the next month. Fortunately I think it was one of the steepest climbs I’ll face. 

Nearer to the top, things flattened out and got my wind back. Ran into Eowyn who we hiked the LA aqueduct with! She was coming the other way, turning back to go to Lone Pine after finding Whitney to be too snowy. Uh oh, that’s not a good sign for what’s to come. I did get really lucky with timing, despite the misery of hiking through the heat advisory in the days after Tehachapi, it made an impact here too and we’re missing the peak height of snowmelt by about a week. We’ll see if that was enough to make me feel comfortable enough to get through the next 400 miles safely, there have been many, many hikers I follow on social media up ahead that have skipped this section after finding the conditions too dangerous. 

After the rough uphill, the downhill was also hard on the knees (lol fuck me what am I doing here) but excellent scenery. I’m already in love with the mountain views. The snow offers great contrast with the blue sky and granite, and I saw my first couple of marmots, they look like really fat, football sized prairie dogs.

 Ah, California. Next stop, those snowy, snowy peaks.

Ah, California. Next stop, those snowy, snowy peaks.

Caught up with Lukas taking a break at a creek and we made our way up the Whitney trail junction to an open flat spot near Crabtree ranger station. The crew had planned to camp at Guitar Lake this morning, but there was tons of space with river access so we decided to make camp there instead.  Saw Eric and Bloody Smooches who summited Whitney today no problem. They’re not staying here tonight so hopefully can catch them in Bishop.

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Made dinner as everyone arrived in camp. There’s plenty of space without being crowded, even though there are many hikers here tonight. It was nice getting to know our new friends a little better, everyone sat in a circle on our bear cans (the only good thing about them so far) and got way too entertained throwing a lighter around on the backs of our hands. Trail has not improved my dexterity. Yves and Francis passed through, they also summited today no problem.

Whitney crew: Sara, Jade, Lukas, Cy, Puff, Chia, Six Toes, Greg, Connor. Ty is somewhere just ahead of us, probably guitar lake. Tony will arrive tomorrow morning hopefully.

DAY 53: WHITNEY!

07/04/17

Slept amazing last night but still feeling groggy this morning. Made my new coffee/hot chocolate combo and had almonds, nothing else seemed appealing. Left the tents up and packed our bags lightly for Whitney with food and warm clothes and left about 8:30am. 

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Couldn’t stop taking photos straight out of camp, the scenery is incredible. Feet got wet early in the morning crossing stream after stream and stayed wet though the day. The trail wasn’t clearly defined on the way up and there was a ton of snow so it was sometimes difficult to follow but we stayed in a pretty tight group.

 Notice me gearing up for a a stream clearing leap

Notice me gearing up for a a stream clearing leap

When we got to established trail, switchbacks took us up steeply. Passed guitar lake which is still covered in ice around the edges. I started getting tired really quickly due to the altitude and uphill, slowed way down and had to stop often to breathe, and sometimes needed to sit down from how dizzy I was getting. Fortunately the small breaks gave me plenty of time to get some photos of the cliffs and peaks surrounding the mountain. Sometimes it was a little scary to look down, but nothing that posed a serious threat. The only sketchy time part of the climb was a snowfield that was crossed by switchbacks twice. It was very steep and slippery but I took it slow and as long as you didn’t look down, it was the same as regular old Winnipeg winter walking.

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It was slow going for me but finally the summit hut was in view and I gave it everything to push to the top. Felt really good to get up there, everyone was on their phone taking pictures and calling home, somehow had service for the first time in days. I had lunch and water which really helped with the dizziness, felt fine on the way down.

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We passed a JMT hiker that had altitude sickness in a bad way and was probably going to need a heli vac out, we took her pack for her and agreed to leave it at Guitar Lake for her friend to pick up later. Jade ended up carrying most of the extra weight.

On the sketchy snow crossing from earlier, the sun had warmed it up and made the snow much more slushy and slippery. When I got to it, the guys were doing a rock scramble down rather than walk across the snow, but Jade, Sara and I decided to give it a shot and stuck close together. Sara had a misstep and slid about 50 feet down, managed to stop herself with her poles, but then slid again while trying to get back to the trail, stopped herself a second time. My heart was in my throat but she handled it well and we met her a little ways down the trail. She’s really living up to her trail name, Tough Stuff, she didn’t even seem phased in the least.

 Most badass trail friend

Most badass trail friend

 Got to do our first glissade on this snowy slope which saved a bit of trekking down, really fun although my shorts rode way up and now my butt is pretty snow chafed.

Got to do our first glissade on this snowy slope which saved a bit of trekking down, really fun although my shorts rode way up and now my butt is pretty snow chafed.

Back at Guitar Lake, decided to jump in. The lake had mostly been frozen that morning and it was ICY, way colder than LOTW in spring. Couldn’t get words out while I was in the water, it knocked the wind right out of me. So of course I jumped in a second time. 

Returned to our camp, had dinner with everyone, joined by Aaron and Kim from the early desert days, haven’t seen them in ages. They’re still hiking with Larry and Charlie and planning to summit Whitney tomorrow. Tony also showed up after the trip to Lone Pine with Joe, Kaylyn and Kristen. Which means everyone I know is pretty much within a three day span, it’s crazy how close we’ve all stuck together since Campo.

The climb wiped me out and giving it my all to stay awake and write. Tomorrow we hit Forester pass-highest point on the PCT so it’s not like I get a break from the elevation. Took almost 200 pictures, WHAT A GREAT DAY, I'm in love with this place already,

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 Although it's not technically part of the PCT, I don't know why anyone would skip summitting Whitney.&nbsp;

Although it's not technically part of the PCT, I don't know why anyone would skip summitting Whitney. 

 

DAY 54: WHITNEY JUNCTION (767.0) TO BUBBS CREEK CAMPSITE (785.4)

07/05/17
18.4 miles. Forester pass

Probably my favourite day on trail so far.

Woke up not feeling well, tired and a bad headache. Like yesterday morning, nothing seemed appealing so skipped breakfast, which I know is not a smart move with how physically grueling the elevation changes are.

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We all left camp together-Sara, Jade, Cy, Lukas Puff, Greg, Connor and Ty, plus Chia and Six Toes up ahead of us. We slowly split into two smaller groups. Despite liking to hike alone, there are some major water crossings today and it’s safer to do it with others so I sucked it up and stuck close with Jade, Cy and Lukas. Gradual gravelly uphill was exhausting after doing Whitney yesterday, the grade wasn’t extremely steep but it was relentless enough that my legs never felt like they got a break. A couple cold morning stream crossings, just walked on through and accepted that feet will probably be soaked through for the next couple weeks. Picked up a section hiker Squirrel.

Then came my first real experience with strong river crossings. The current was so strong, every time I lifted a foot, it felt like I was about to be swept away. The toughest part is trying not to rush because the water is so cold, and often there are tons of mosquitos, but you have to ignore all that and just focus on where you place your next step. Everything in my pack should be okay if I fall since it’s lined with a trash compacter bag, but phone definitely goes into a ziplock every time. The worst crossing was done with Jade Cy and Lukas in a diamond formation with the boys slightly up current, got across slowly but made it without incident. We had gone so far downstream trying to find a good place to get across the river we lost the rest of the group. Stopped on the bank for a lunch break and enjoyed the bit of sun we got through the clouds to try and dry off.

Back on trail, got above the tree line and hit a mile-long flat plateau of snow. A hiker who had been ahead of us took a great shot of our whole crew in a long string across the snowfield and was kind enough to air drop it while having a snack break, thanks friend!

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Looking up at Forester pass from the bottom was pretty intimidating, it was a steep face of loose rock and most of the trail was still snow covered. I put on my microspikes but I actually found pretty quickly that I prefer the familiar feeling of the snow without them. They’re also slippy when on bare rock, not sure I’ll use them as much as expected. For being so steep, I really had fun getting up Forester, the last bit of the pass was almost a straight scramble up loose rock to the top, but it made things kind of fun, more mountaineering than hiking.

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Got to the top and stopped for a quick picture with Jade and Ty, then we had a great time glissading down the north face of the pass. Getting better at holding my shorts so that my legs and ass don’t get cut to ribbons on the snow during the slides down. 

 Views from the top

Views from the top

We came across a hiker with a tiny backpack in the middle of nowhere at the top of the pass, climbing towards us with two dogs in tow. It was Jade’s husband Q who I met at KM, he’s following her with a truck and their dogs, and hikes out of town to meet Jade and hike back in with her. I like him a lot, he’s funny and seems down to earth. (Selfish reason to stick with them-it would mean a lot less hitchhiking from trailheads to town…)

 Ty gettin ready for a glissade with a tyvek sled

Ty gettin ready for a glissade with a tyvek sled

The sun reflection off the snow coming down the pass absolutely fried my face, I haven’t used sunscreen since the early desert and figured I was done with sunburn. NOPE. After we got down past the worst of the snow, we found a beautiful campsite next to a river. Had a great view of mountains in the back and the bugs weren’t bad at all. Set up tents since it looked like rain and that was a good plan as we got sprinkled on during dinner and we all scrambled to get inside and ate in our tents. After the rain cleared up everyone sat in a circle trying to dry our socks and shoes and enjoyed the sunset across the river.

It’s so strange how quickly bonds are formed, I’ve only been hiking with this group (minus Sara) for a couple days, but already feels like I’ve known them for ages. The last two days have been exhausting, but feels really good at the end of the day looking back at what we accomplished. Great day, great night.

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DAY 55: BUBBS CREEK (785.4) TO ONION VALLEY TRAILHEAD/BISHOP (MILE 788.5)

07/06/17
3 Miles. Plus an extra six(?) up and down Kearsarge pass and get to the parking lot at Onion Valley.

Long uphill out of camp, feeling tired on switchbacks and low energy, legs were not having it today. Terrain wasn’t that bad, but probably the worst my lungs/legs have felt, maybe just overworked from the last two days. Getting over Kearsarge pass took a long time, I was going so slowly but couldn’t force myself to move any quicker. Was at the back of the pack and took a break for a triple coffee and that helped to push me up the rest of the pass. 

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We had a couple options to get over Kearsarge, took the Bullfrog lakes trail which was probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, highly recommend coming back, future me.

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Downhill past gorgeous lake after gorgeous lake. Stopped for a couple pictures, but town was calling. While heading down towards the visible but distant parking lot, passed lots of day hikers and PCT hikers going back to trail. When we got down to the campground and parking lot, Cody picked us up in Q’s truck, I’m waiting here now with Q and the dogs while the rest were driven to Independence. They’ll hitch from there and meet us in Bishop. Q started the trail with Jade, but didn’t like the long hiking so picked up their truck and dogs and meets her close to town. 

 Jade &amp; Q's trooper full of trash

Jade & Q's trooper full of trash

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Cody came back to pick us up and we went to Bishop, Greg and Squirrel also caught a ride. It was weird driving down the mountain, we lost all the elevation we had gained hiking and got way hotter and back to desert scenery. Stopped at the hostel in Bishop to meet up with everyone-saw One 11! It's been a while. The hostel was full so checked in at red roof inn with Sara, Cy and Lukas-had a few beers, a shower and then went for Mexican with the rest of the gang. Went to the brewery after for more beers, every one I tried was great, could be better than Bir Bear which has been #1 brewery up to now. Loving Bishop so far, and we’re planning to take a zero tomorrow, possibly two.

Definitely a little drunk, wtf trail tolerance.

 During the Sierra &amp; NorCal section, we all airdropped our photos to each other. A lot of pictures on here (including this one, my favourite photo from trail), were taken by Jade. You can check out her trail-specific instagram account  @thesewildbones

During the Sierra & NorCal section, we all airdropped our photos to each other. A lot of pictures on here (including this one, my favourite photo from trail), were taken by Jade. You can check out her trail-specific instagram account @thesewildbones

DAY 56 & 57 & 58: TRIPLE ZERO IN BISHOP, WHOOPS

Zero in Bishop I: Woke up hungover as shit in hotel bed. Didn’t drink nearly as much last night as I would a regular weekend night at home but my metabolism is completely different and it only takes a few beers to get tipsy. Hopefully that goes away after trail, but in the meantime can definitely party for cheaper. Squad went for bakery breakfast, and had a relax day in the hotel, I think my body really needs it after all the new elevation changes. Iced my bad knee most of the day, it’s really been bothering me when there are long downhills. An early night tonight and another zero tomorrow for chores.

Zero in Bishop II: Chores day… laundromat, Vons for resupply. Q let us use his truck which makes town chores a million times easier. Saw the Canadian girls and Joe and Tony! Went to the bowling alley, rented a cheap room with Sara, Cy and Lukas while Q and Jade had a couples night. Not much to report but it’s been nice to have a break, back to trail tomorrow afternoon.

Bishop to Onion Valley trailhead. No trail miles, so technically Bishop zero III, jfc: Woke up before Cy, Lukas and Sara so I walked to Schat’s bakery to pick up pastries for breakfast. (I think the Schat family owns all of Bishop, the name is everywhere.) The bakery was a little overwhelming, it was a tourist trap and crazy busy. Despite all that the cinnamon buns were delicious, also got a much needed coffee for myself at McDs.

Went to the hostel to wait for Q to get a ride back to trail, we weren’t sure how easy it would be to hitch. Saw Chad, much of the desert fam has rolled through lately! Napped on the lawn for an hour. I think everyone was anxious to get out of town, although it was getting so late we discussed just staying at the trailhead instead of tackling Kearsarge pass after sunset. Finally got picked up at 4:45 and crammed into truck with Cy, Lukas, Sara, Six toes and chia. We saw Tony walking down a road literally in the middle of nowhere and managed to fit him in too somehow. Cowboy camped. Hit the trail tomorrow to rejoin PCT. Going to be shitty with heavy pack and long climb back up.

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Bishop (788.5) to Mammoth (895.7)

DAY 59: ONION VALLEY TO WOODS CREEK BRIDGE SITE (799.8)

07/10/2017
10.7 trail miles plus the 7-8 to get back to trail. Glen Pass.

Woke up later than planned but got ready quickly, knocked back a 5 hour energy in anticipation of the climb up and over Kearsarge. Rob’s not hiking due to a posthole injury, stayed behind with Q. Said bye to them and dogs, started hiking with Cody, Jess, Jade, Sara, Cy and Lukas. Chia and Six Toes were out of camp before we were up, as usual.

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Feeling okay on the uphill back to trail, not as dreadful as I imagined it would be yesterday. Took a different junction back to the PCT, lots of good views and kept more elevation than the trail we took coming into town.

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Back on the PCT everyone regrouped for snack break, and then started up Glen Pass with Sara. Hard and steep, lots of snow and a couple times it was tricky to get around all the exposed rock due to the unstable snow that had melted away from the rock edges, leaving pretty sizeable gaps to navigate around. At the top of the pass we put on the microspikes and went down a steep north face. Had a short glissade, tore my wind pants right on the ass cheek darnit. (They’ve patched up nicely with a bit of duct tape)

When we got to Rae Lakes we ran into One 11 having a snack break, had coffee and candy and watched the ice moving around the lake below. Another ideal place for an on trail zero, I may need to do the JMT next summer. We waited there for Cy, Lukas, Cody and Jade, Jess turned back to Bishop.

 The squad waiting for my slow ass so we can tackle the next crossing together

The squad waiting for my slow ass so we can tackle the next crossing together

The trail was snowy and slushy all downhill but I don’t even notice the wet socks anymore, it’s almost nice to step in a new stream and “refresh” the feeling. Had the coldest stream crossing so far, it was almost waist-high and it was so cold it actually felt like burning. Had to go slow anyways though and make sure each step was planted firmly before taking the next.

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Got to a campsite with a suspension bridge over Woods creek, lots of JMT? hikers camped here but found a secluded spot. There was a fire ring and bear boxes, made fire to dry socks and shoes, had mac and cheese for dinner. My shoulder is really tight from heavy bag(?), need to readjust tomorrow since I can’t lift my arm above my head right now. Cowboy camped, I’m going to be out like a light in about a minute.

While waiting to start hiking this morning, Sara chopped off most of my hair, it’s been too much to handle lately. Hopefully it doesn’t look terrible, feels amazing to have short hair again.

 Does this count as lowering my base weight

Does this count as lowering my base weight

 

DAY 60: WOODS CREEK BRIDGE (799.8) TO KINGS RIVER JUNCTION (811.3)

07/11/17
11.5 miles, Pinchot pass

Slept pretty well but woke up a few times during the night due to stiffness, moon being too bright, and Cy elbowing me in the spine. Made coffee and breakfast essentials combo and also made maple oatmeal for first time on trail-delicious. Hit 800 mile marker right away.

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Started uphill, Jade was hurting too so we had a sad, slow morning together. Had a river crossing during first mile, so there was no point in drying out shoes by the fire last night. The river was ICY. Feet going numb during long crossings and my skin was burning after getting out.

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7 mile gradual but steady uphill towards Pinchot pass. I lost the trail a couple times on the snow but footprints would always help get me back on track. It’s pretty funny that I easily recognize shoeprints from my squad, guess I’ve spent enough time being the last one up the passes. Caught up to group taking a break at a stream, had snack and picked up a knee brace from Cody, mines been bugging me and I’m worried I’m pushing it a little too much. More uphill. Couple miles away from pass had lots of snow crossing and the final push up Pinchot. Sara Jade, Cy and Lukas at top so we had a lunch break and watched Cody, Chia and Six Toes climb the pass below us.

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Headed down-snowy and steep but I’m a lot quicker when not going uphill. Beautiful scenery, more river crossing. (My notes are so repetitive…beautiful scenery, uphill, downhill, water crossing….)

Ditching the sternum strap on my pack seems to help with shoulder pain. Got down to Kings river, the water is really high, moving very fast and too sketchy to cross this late in the day so made camp in woods a little ways off trail. Nice sun through pine trees. Had big potato/ramen dinner followed by more oatmeal and hot chocolate, seems like I can’t eat enough to stay full lately. Six Toes and Chia joined the crew for dinner. Cowboy camped next to river and fire pit, crossing first thing in the morning. Really tired. Jade chafed her leg during the glissade back on Forester and now it looks terrible, it’s bright yellow which is mildly concerning.

 The picture of Jade's leg wound was way to gross in high definition so here's an alternate scenery shot she took instead

The picture of Jade's leg wound was way to gross in high definition so here's an alternate scenery shot she took instead

 Just kidding...fuckn yikes

Just kidding...fuckn yikes

 

DAY 61: KING’S RIVER (811.3) TO CAMPSITE AT GLACIER CREEK (823.5)

07/12/17
12.2 miles. Mather pass.

Got really cold last night, kept waking up to readjust and make sure my quilt was tucked around as snugly as possible. Broke out the gloves, toque and even my rain jacket as an extra blanket around 3am. Seriously considering picking up a warmer quilt, I fucked up ordering such a light quilt knowing that I sleep cold. Was still very chilly when I woke up a little after six thirty, damp socks are miserable on normal days but this morning it was so cold they were painful to put on. The river looked no lower than it did last night and was moving so fast none of us felt comfortable crossing where we were. Chia and Six Toes managed to get across a little ways downstream but Six Toes is like 6 foot something and Chia is built like a brick wall. The rest of us discussed our options and decided to hike upstream to try and find a better place to cross, I have no idea how people got across this in the peak melt time in the last couple weeks.

It warmed up when the sun came up as we hiked down the riverbank. There were rapids upstream from camp and I was getting worried that we were never going to find a place to get across safely but after a couple miles the river thinned, the water was very deep but it became a series of narrow tributaries we were able to jump, although of course I missed the bank and soaked one leg. After getting back on trail we started up towards Mather pass right away. Very open and exposed snowfield, a lot of postholing this morning.

 Squad making our way towards Mather pass

Squad making our way towards Mather pass

Although we were well above the treeline, a huge buck went walking across our path, completely unbothered by the five of us. We saw Chia and Six Toes as little black specks way at the top of Mathers, it was incredibly steep and the trail was nothing but a set of tracks in the snow that cut sideways along the bowl’s face. Although it would be easy to misstep or slide down the face, there wasn’t any real danger of hitting anything and there were a couple places where it was clear hikers had slid down to a frozen lake far below. Probably not at all life threatening but it would be inconvenient as hell to make the climb straight back up to the track in deep snow.  

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Jade was a little apprehensive about the steepness and I listened to Sara giving her a crash course in self arresting, hoping that none of us would have to use it. My pole did that annoying thing where the top half pulls off the bottom when stuck in deep snow so ditched them about halfway up and pulled out the axe for the first time on trail. Went “stupid ultralight” with the decision to get the lightest, hollow poles which is the second piece of gear I’ve messed up with, ffs.

 Bonus points if you can spot me busy not looking down

Bonus points if you can spot me busy not looking down

Didn't use my micro spikes (still feel more comfortable without them) and I got across the steep pass without issue. The only difficulties were trying to climb up and around some exposed chunks of rock face, but slow and steady did trick and it took us about an hour to collectively make it about 200 feet to the top of the pass. Jade handled it very well, I know the height and steepness made it hard for her. She still was all smiles and high fives at the top, most positive person I know, and it’s really nice to have that on trail, especially on rough days. Napped while the group ate lunch. I'm getting sunburned again despite my desert deep tan-must be the elevation.

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 Sara finishing strong on Mather

Sara finishing strong on Mather

 I'm having no fun at all

I'm having no fun at all

Coming off Mather led us into a beautiful downhill section with lots of exposed rock and glacier-blue frozen lakes but it was impossible to find the trail in the snow-we got all split up which I was kind of grateful for, I needed some hiking alone time after staying in a group train all day long. Off trail for a while going in the general direction of down, but back on track just in time to cross the last snow foot paths and find the trail again. I figured I was alone since I’d seen no one in hours and belting out some Springsteen when I got surprised by a SOBO hiker rounding the corner. I thought maybe he’d missed my singing but after we had passed each other with a nod he yelled back “I LOVE BRUCE TOO” before disappearing around the bend.

 None of my pictures do it justice, but one of my favourite views on trail

None of my pictures do it justice, but one of my favourite views on trail

Got to the "golden staircase” descent-an incredible bit of rock work with possibly the best view on trail of the valley and mountains below. There were lots of waterfalls and in some spots the trail was almost completely flooded, but in a fun splashing way.

 Shoutout to the group that maintains this excellent section of trail.

Shoutout to the group that maintains this excellent section of trail.

Dark clouds were rolling in pretty quick and it seemed like a bad place to be caught in a thunder storm so booked it down and cruised until a perfect little site just as the rain started. Got tent up in a hurry-Sara, Cy, Jade and Lukas rolled in just as I finished. The rain let up after half an hour and we had dinner together before calling it an early night. Despite the cold start, one of my favourite days.

 

DAY 62: GLACIER CREEK SITE (823.5) TO EVOLUTION LAKE (843.3)

07/13/17 - Happy two months on trail!
20.5 miles. Muir Pass.

Woke up just before 7, made oatmealx2 with crumbled poptart topping and coffee. Definitely hungrier ALL THE TIME in the Sierra and I’m still noticeably losing weight despite eating more. (I would kill for this metabolism back in regular life).

Had to put on wet shoes and socks but thankfully it was much warmer than yesterday morning. Hit the trail, splashing through endless streams and obstacle coursing over/under fallen logs. Downhill for a while, crushed miles and cruising at desert speeds. Doing 30 mile days in flat Oregon doesn’t sound so crazy to me anymore now that our days consist of so much work going up and down. Lots of gorgeous waterfalls, still not bothering to carry water at all and I haven’t filtered since Whitney due to the fact that my filter was a victim of a glissade, probably on Forester. Also great trail maintenance in this section with some impressive rock stairs, really A+ job trail crews.

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We’re passing a lot of JMTers now, most coming from the opposite direction. PCT hikers kind of low-key make fun of them for their larger packs/slow pace but I think it’s pretty impressive they’re tackling the Sierra straight up with no desert to prepare them, I honestly don’t think I could do it. Definitely want to give the JMT a shot in the future, every day since Whitney has been awesome.

Snow field started 5 miles out from Muir pass, wasn't challenging terrain but loooooong slog through snow. It got slushier in the afternoon sun and I kind of ended up doing a half walk/ half cross-country ski minus the skis. Stopped for a late lunch with Lukas on a little patch of bare rock while the Sara, Cy, Cody and Jade caught up, then finished last mile or so to the top together.

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Took a few quick pictures at the famous Muir hut (smelled strongly like cigarettes and pee) and headed back down to try and get to a non-snowy campsite before the sun set. 5 more miles of snow, this has been the longest stretch of straight snow so far and my feet were getting a little numb. 

 Squad portrait at Muir hut. Myself, Cody, Sara, Cy, Lukas, Jade

Squad portrait at Muir hut. Myself, Cody, Sara, Cy, Lukas, Jade

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Planned to stop at Evolution lake after a chilly crossing at the outlet-you could see a “trail” of higher rocks that I guess are normally above water level but they were completely submerged and the water came to about mid-thigh. It was I C Y and very wide with a strong current, skin was burning trying to go slow and steady. Everyone got across okay and we made camp high above the lake.

 Evolution Lake...coldest but one the most scenic campsites.

Evolution Lake...coldest but one the most scenic campsites.

 Trying to dry off after a very icy bath. I missed towels so much on trail.

Trying to dry off after a very icy bath. I missed towels so much on trail.

Beautiful spot and we caught the tail end of the sunset, but very exposed and still above 10000 feet, so it’s gonna be another cold night. Jumped in lake real quick then changed into base layer cosies. My leg tan is so ridiculous when going barefoot, it looks like I’m wearing a pair of dark brown leggings. Had mac and cheese for dinner and sardined our sleeping bags to try and stay warm.

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 I adore these goofballs

I adore these goofballs

 

DAY 63: EVOLUTION LAKE (843.3) TO MUIR TRAIL RANCH (857.7)

07/14/17
 14.4 trail miles + 1 off trail

Tried to sleep in, kind of a rough night with our sardine style sleep. Jade yelled good morning at about 6am to passing Chia and Six Toes which the rest of us did not appreciate. I hiked out of camp last, one of the most beautiful mornings and I enjoyed the solitude. Trail went around some reflective lakes that I couldn’t stop taking pictures of, there was no wind and the water was perfectly still. I guarantee I will be back to do the JMT at least once more, I can’t get enough of this place.

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Caught up to everyone just before large river crossing across Evolution creek. We’d heard rumours that it was neck deep and there was even a detour this year which we took to an easier spot to cross, where the creek had flooded a meadow. It really wasn’t so bad, the water came to just above the waist but there was almost no current and not nearly as cold as some of the last few have been.

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We hadn’t been planning to stop at Muir Trail Ranch, (about 1 mile off trail) but passed a massive group of JMT hikers coming the other direction that told us the hiker boxes at the ranch were insanely full, and they had just dumped tons of their own food, including Mountain House. We changed our minds about MTR, skipped lunch and crushed miles. Mostly downhill, followed the river for a good part of the day. Cy gave us riddle after riddle to pass the time- one I still can't get: man is at work and afraid to go home because there's a masked man waiting for him. Still thinking. 

Hiked with Jade and Sara at the PCT junction to Muir trail ranch. We really didn’t need to stop here but it’s where JMT hikers get their first resupply and tend to leave a lot of good food, so there was a ring of PCT hikers (most whom I’ve never seen before) sitting around not-so-patiently waiting for a chance to upgrade their snack inventory. Really cool place, come back here for a vacation sometime? We weren’t allowed to stay overnight on the property but the owners directed us to a camp space with river access a few hundred meters away from the ranch. Cody caught up and Chia and Six Toes were already there, plus lots of other hikers we don’t know but fortunately there’s also a ton of space so we have our own little camp area. There was a fire ring so we took advantage of that luxury and stayed up late talking, it’s past 11 and I’m still sitting here trying to motivate myself to get up to put the embers out and go to bed. Really great day, can’t believe how much I lucked out to have this experience and be hiking with this crew, feels like we’ve known each other for years, not weeks. 

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DAY 64: MUIR TRAIL RANCH CAMPSITE (859.5) TO CAMPSITE (870.9)

07/15/17
11.4 miles plus 2-3 extra because we’re idiots. Selden Pass.

Slept in until 7 since we were planning to revisit the hiker box at MTR. Lazy morning consisting of oatmeal and a sponge (bandana) bath beside the river. Chia and Six toes left early, the rest of us packed up and went to the ranch around 9 to wait for potential opportunities to get free food. Not many new JMT hikers this morning, but one got his bucket and announced to us that his friend had already quit so he had a ton of extra food... we were circling hard. Felt like a vulture. The prize for waiting was tons of candy and a mountain house chili mac, heck yes. 

Hit trail to get back on the PCT, whole crew went about a mile the wrong way which is frustrating and then the actual trail to rejoin PCT was straight uphill for half a mile. Very hot on the way up to Selden Pass. My legs and calves were achy today, and although I’m finding it easier as the days pass, I’m still by far the slowest of our group on the uphill. It’s such a big part of the trail I’m trying to embrace the physical challenge instead of being apprehensive every time the elevation profile on guthooks shoots upwards. Beautiful lakes today, and there wasn’t much snow at all which was unusual, but nice change to have dry feet.  

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The squad was leaving just as I arrived at the top so skipped lunch in order to keep up with them, which I know makes me grumpy. (Why do I do this?) The views on the North side of Selden were very great coming down, although the trail was less a dirt track and more just exposed rock. Another very icy stream crossing to get around a lake that had flooded across the trail. Way up ahead, I saw Lukas stop to talk to a stranger which I thought was odd since we hadn’t seen anyone else all day. It was Q with the dogs! The squad speculates that we get excited to see him since it means were a couple days from town. (Plus he’s just awesome to have around and sometimes brings small treats.)

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Had a few more river crossings back below the tree line, with the sketchiest being Bear Creek. Even though we hike alone, the group waits for everyone to arrive before wide or fast moving water. Went slow and steady and all was fine, although I’m not sure I trust putting my full weight on my hiking poles, I need to get proper heavier ones I can rely on.

 Suri showing Cy how it's done

Suri showing Cy how it's done

While waiting for Q to get the dogs across Bear Creek, the mosquitoes came out in swarms. Fuck. Just so many, more than I’ve ever seen in my life and there was no stopping them from biting every bit of exposed skin. At one point I slapped my arm and skilled 5 bugs in one go. Put on wind pants, jacket and headnet for last few miles to camp, sweating profusely is much preferable to the bug bites.

Got the tent up as fast as I could, I’m counting about 50 mosquitos sitting on the mesh right now. Dreading having to get out and go to the bathroom, I’m starting to understand the hikers that carry a jar to go pee inside their tent. 29 miles to Mammoth, probably won't do it all tomorrow but try to arrive early the morning after. Cy and I are discussing taking a snowboard day in Mammoth, the resort is still open since there’s been so much snow this winter.

I have way too much food with the unplanned resupply at MTR but nice to not be worried about rationing and treated myself to double snickers. No idea where everyone else is: Festus, Francis, Tony and Eric ahead, Joe, Chad and Canadian girls behind. Lips are chapped and legs getting really sunburned and dry. Cut on bottom crease of 4th toe not healing due to constant wetness. 

3:30am- was awake and saw lightning, felt a couple rain drops. Threw up the rain fly in record time, now raining slightly. Whole squad is up and scrambling about trying to get tents and rainflys set up. The mosquitoes feasted and now there’s 4 buzzing around inside my tent ffs.

 

DAY 65: Mosquito CAMPSITE (870.9) TO CAMPSITE (890.9)

07/16/17
20 miles. Silver pass.

Highs and lows today, both literally and figuratively. 

Double breakfast burrito-egg and potato hiker box special with hot sauce and wraps, plus a coffee/hot chocolate/powdered milk combo. I’m eating more calories during one meal than I normally would all day at home. Uphill to start, but what else is new. Probably in the best shape of my life right now, I only have to stop for breathers like every five minutes now.

Lots of trail junctions with confusing signage and unsure I was going the right way, but committed to it anyways. Still tons of mosquitos but borrowed some DEET from Cody in camp which worked pretty well. At the top of the first climb, the trail went through a pine forest that was eerily quiet, I think it’s the most silent I’ve ever heard in nature. Ran into Cy so figured I had opted to go the right way or we were both lost. I think he was having a moment so cruised on the downhill alone, found Lukas and Sara, we all had lunch near the junction to get to VVR. No need to go there with MTR yesterday and Mammoth tomorrow.

The climb up to Silver pass was the second big climb of the day but I had a great time. Had the coolest water crossing which was really just wading through a stream beside a waterfall and getting hit in the face with spray.

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Once I was up on snow, moved a lot quicker, I secretly prefer hiking in the snow to the dirt switchbacks up the passes, my feet are wet all the time anyways. Haven’t really felt like I needed the spikes at all this trip, +1 for living in a city that’s snow covered at least half of the year. Big packs of JMTers coming the other direction which led to a couple traffic jams since we were all trying to use the same track. Also saw the SNOW FROG in the middle of gd nowhere waddling it's way up the pass.

Near the top, I got tricked by a false peak at Silver pass but finally reached the actual top and found a little snow-free space for a lunch break with the squad. Views were great, I think Silver has been my favourite pass so far. Despite all the snow, air temperatures are still hot in the sun, it’s ideal hiking weather for me.

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On the way down, we came across a set of three defined glissade tracks so of course we raced, Sara beat Q and I by a long shot. We picked up a dropped ice axe that ended up belonging to Six Toes, he came running back along the trail looking for it. Down some more snow field with more gorgeous views and then dropped a knee shattering two thousand feet. The only thing I dislike more than hiking steeply uphill is hiking steeply downhill (why am I on the pct lol)

We had planned to stop at the bottom of the drop before tackling the next straight up climb tomorrow morning, and I was looking forward to making camp because despite having a great time today, it was a lot of elevation change and feeling pretty sore and tired. When we got to the planned campsite however, it was crowded with what looked like a family camping trip. The next campsite was the same situation so our only option was another climb up a straight hill face with switchbacks, gained 1000ft over 1.1 miles. After already doing two big climbs today, my knee was acting up, feet were aching and I’ve never been so wiped. Had to stop and rest multiple times on the way up and definitely would’ve had hiker rage had I not been so exhausted. Chia powered up like a god damn machine, to quote Lukas, "Our group was collectively at 15% battery life and it was all in chia".

Even though I’m incredibly happy that the climb is over with and we don’t have to do it tomorrow morning as planned, I’m committed to being a bit grumpy and don’t want to admit I’m being stubborn and ridiculous.

Campsite here has no water so had to walk .3 in flip flops to water the squad, should’ve just gone the extra distance but no one wanted to do anymore hiking once we hit the top of the climb. Kicked a stick right on the half regrown toenail I pulled at Mission Creek, and it’s quite bloody, might lose what’s grown back so far. Mosquitos are everywhere so tent is set up again. Mountain house chili mac from the MTR hiker box was a high point of the week for sure.

9 miles out from Duck Lake and the junction to Mammoth. Definitely overdid it on food, could probably go another three days with what I have left. This evening was physically and mentally one of the roughest I’ve had yet, but we’re not doing this because it’s easy.

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DAY 66: CAMPSITE (890.0) TO DUCK PASS JUNCTION (895.7)

07/17/17
5.7 trail miles, plus about 5 more to get to the trailhead.

Slept in as the squad does, but woken by the loudest passing hiker with a voice like a foghorn who could clearly see we were sleeping, thanks for that. A quick day into Mammoth for a nero, so no one was rushing and we didn’t make it out of camp until after 9. 

Chia and Six Toes left while we breakfasted and tried to ignore the morning mosquitos. Met some new hikers that had done the desert section with Cy and Lukas; a couple from Austria named Val (Needles, for her on trail stick n pokes) and Hendrik, plus their dog Suta whom Hendrik adopted when she was going to be put down at the end of her sled-dog career. 

Hiked past beautiful Virginia lake then on to Duck pass. Beautiful area, there’s another exit to Mammoth in another 10 miles but I think this pass was worth taking. It was still quite snow-covered, so the downhill took a while to navigate and there was a lot of postholing on my part. Lots of day hikers as we made our way down the pass. Around lunch, finally arrived at massive car campsite with Cy, Lukas and Sara. It was crazy busy, does no one work on a Monday in Mammoth?

Q and Jade were still on their way down so we got a hitch right away from a lady staying in the camp, she’d hiked the JMT a couple times so lots to talk about on the way into town. Went straight to brewery, beer is hands down my number one craving on trail. Mammoth seems like a cool resort town and so beautiful, I’d love to live here. We’re cramming everyone into a hotel room, the shower seems to have held out successfully. Zero day tomorrow

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DAY 67 & 68: DOUBLE ZERO IN MAMMoth

7/18-19/17

Slept pretty well, woke up decently early. Went for breakfast at The Stove-saw Festis Francis and Tony! They’re hiking out today unfortunately but hopefully catch them down the trail. Delicious breakfast burrito and fruit, all of us were piled into a tiny booth. The place we were staying at had a hot tub and pool so it was a pretty relaxed day and no one got chores done.

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Hit the hot springs just outside of Mammoth, well worth the trip. Gorgeous sunset on the drive out and really spectacular views of the mountains. Q shuttled us out in the Trooper and then we had a long walk across flat desert. (God I miss the desert, didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.) 

There was no light pollution and the stars were incredible/ At one point there was a meteor that was so bright it was like someone had turned on a headlamp behind us, never seen anything like it, the whole sky was lit up. We stayed in the water for a good four hours which is going to do serious damage to our feet when we get back on trail, but that’s a later problem.

Day 2: Chores day! Mammoth has a free trolley system which makes getting around much easier, this has definitely been one of my favourite stops and I have no issues with the double zero we’re taking. Not much to report, we’re staying at a campsite just outside of town and we found Joe, One 11, Kaylyn and Kristen! We’ve seen almost the entire desert fam at some point in Mammoth. Had hot dogs and smores but called it an early night since back to trail tomorrow.

 Moving to Mammoth probably

Moving to Mammoth probably

Mammoth Pass (903.3) to Sonora Pass/Bridgeport (1016.9)

DAY 69: MAMMOTH PASS Junction (903.3) TO CAMPSITE (915.9)

07/20/17
12.6 miles plus a few extra back to trail up Mammoth pass.

Woken up early by Canadians, Joe and One 11 (did they sleep? We’re not sure). Packed up right away and waited for Jade and Q to pick us up. Went to post office to mail our ice axes and my microspikes to Seattle- they wouldn’t fit in a regular mail box so we packaged them up in a frankenstein of two large boxes and an entire roll of tape.

Drove back to trailhead with the squad, although we’re swapping out Cody (ankle injury) for Greg (recovered from hip injury). Instead of going back up 6 miles at Duck Pass we’re jumping up a few miles to Mammoth Pass, which is an easier climb back to trail. Said bye to Q. Really tired from all the questionable Mammoth sleeps, we partied a little too hard and I’m low energy.

 At least the flowers are gorgeous

At least the flowers are gorgeous

The hike went uphill right away through a burn zone, Mammoth pass is much less scenic than where we came down at Duck Lake and I kind of wish we had gone back to see the lakes again today. Lots of day hikers at the start of trail but their numbers lessened further we went into Ansel Adams wilderness, saw no one else after lunch. Near Devil's postpile, stopped for an early lunch and watched Lukas & Cy drive pinecones with a whippet. 

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After lunch, stayed behind to hike alone, passed a trail crew which is the first I’ve seen so far. Really appreciate the work that goes into maintaining the trail.

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Uphill climb, but pleasant with lots of pine trees and wildflowers. Listening to podcast Serial and lost in my own world, almost walked by squad at a campsite at the top of a cliff. Very scenic, but smoky and mosquitos came out in full force after the sun set. Watched a smoky sunset and then sardined with the squad.

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DAY 70: CAMPSITE (915.9) TO (932.4)

07/21/17
16.5 miles. Donahue Pass.

Bad sleep due to endless attacks from mosquitos and cowboy camping. Woken AGAIN by a loud hiker walking by. Puff and Chia and Six Toes came across us at breakfast and hung out for a while, it’s funny how often our trail fam sub-groups keep leapfrogging. 

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Mosquitos drove us back to trail pretty quickly, started with a slight uphill with nice views of meadows on one side and mountains on other. Lots of beautiful wildflowers growing beside the trail especially around streams, most are yellow, purple and red. Kind of low energy due to bad sleeps the last four nights but powered through until lunch.

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After that back into snow and frozen lakes, did a mini pass (Island pass?) which I didn’t even realize was a pass until I checked guthooks. Downhill and then up Donahue pass which also wasn't too bad but a lot of snow to slide through on the way up. I was caught behind a pack of JMTers, but they gave me a couple extra snickers while stopping for a break. Win!

 I spent an hour and a half sitting here fantasizing about living off grid next to that little hidden lake and now I sit in my office cubicle doing the same thing... This photo isn't anything special but it's one of my favourites, even on stressful days I can look at it and instantly feel better.

I spent an hour and a half sitting here fantasizing about living off grid next to that little hidden lake and now I sit in my office cubicle doing the same thing... This photo isn't anything special but it's one of my favourites, even on stressful days I can look at it and instantly feel better.

Caught up with the squad at the top of Donahue pass. Had some gummy worms to power me through and then headed back down. Snow is getting pretty sketchy for postholing, especially hitting the pass so late in the day. You can hear rivers flowing underneath the snow you’re walking on which freaks me out, but thankfully the thinner snow is a bright, light blue which is easily identified and avoided. Marmots everywhere today.

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 North side of Donahue pass has been one my fave places so far. Might be worth taking some of our town double zeros and making them on-trail zeros instead.  Both photos above by Jade (insta: @jadetstell or @thesewildbones)

North side of Donahue pass has been one my fave places so far. Might be worth taking some of our town double zeros and making them on-trail zeros instead.
Both photos above by Jade (insta: @jadetstell or @thesewildbones)

After getting below the snow line, there were steep, rough, steps on the downhill and a river crossing to end the day with wet shoes. Knee was getting sore, thankfully we stopped at a large campsite pretty early in the evening.

Lots of tent sites at this spot, and a fire pit. Set up tent so I can get a sleep worry free from mosquitos. Greg caught up with us and we're joined by a PCT hiker that got split from her group, Emma from New Hampshire. Squad shares everything now-candy, solar charger, sriracha, camp shoes, boiled water, herbs & spices etc. In bed pretty early, ready for a good sleep. Next few days should be pretty relaxed elevation-wise compared to the last two weeks so hopefully can get some big miles in. Coming up on 1000 miles soon. 

Camped currently with the squad of six and Emma. Austrians are ahead, Chia and Six Toes behind. Feeling a little stiff, should really be stretching more

 Gonna have an early morning visitor hanging out right where I'm sitting..

Gonna have an early morning visitor hanging out right where I'm sitting..

----

About 5:30 am groggily heard something rummaging around our bear canisters (which were beside the log I'm sitting on in the above picture). Figured it was one of the squad getting early breakfast and ignored it in favour of sleep. Next thing I know, Jade's pot (with heavy ass fuel canister and stove inside) hit me right in the temple...hard. Sat up and turned around to start bitching at whoever thought that was a funny way to wake me up and was face to face with a bear, he was pretty good size for a black bear.
When I sat up, it started wandering away very slowly and I yelled to the squad. During all my encounters back home, the bears ran away at the slightest movement/noise but this guy was just hanging around on the edge of the campsite...the fact that he was not at all concerned by my yelling or weird waving hop-dance made me pretty nervous. I went to go wake up the boys for backup. Cy didn’t bother to get out of his bag (I don't even think he woke up, thanks bud), but when Lukas and I were both out of the tents, the bear finally booked it away into the woods, pausing occasionally to stop and watch us from behind a tree. Had an adrenaline rush for sure but no panic, proud of myself for not freaking out too badly. We’re very close to Yosemite NP so this could be a common thing in the upcoming days. Tourists=tourist food.
There's now bear drool all over my flip flops and rain jacket and the bump on my head hurts to touch. I'm going back to bed.

 Best effort at documenting the situation. I'm still a little #bitter my trail name isn't pothead

Best effort at documenting the situation. I'm still a little #bitter my trail name isn't pothead

DAY 71: Bear capmsite (932.4) TO (951.1)

07/22/17
18.6 miles

Big sleep in after the bear incident. Finally hit trail at 8:45, and walked all of 7 minutes until I came down into the most beautiful meadow I've ever seen. A river curved through a flat green meadow with lots of yellow flowers all set in front of the snowcapped mountains we came through yesterday. Chia and Six Toes were napping near the river so I stopped to chill with them. Cy passed by and rolled his eyes at my break so early in the day and carried on but the river was so beautiful I couldn’t not stop there. Six Toes, Jade and I jumped in, really cold but not as bad as guitar lake. The river was bright turquoise in the sun and perfectly clear. There were deep cut outs at the bottom that were darker blue and green. I was only able to go for a short swim, it was freezing and the current was strong, but I enjoyed it none the less. Warmed up a little in the sun and hiked on. COME BACK HERE LATER IN LIFE.

 This is a real place guys.

This is a real place guys.

Lots more JMTers, kept getting caught at the back of their hiker trains. I’m still too shy to ask people to let me pass them so I tend to just kind of passive aggressively click my poles around and hope they move for me. Flat ground for almost all of today, the first in a long time. Got to the first road on trail since Kennedy Meadows, 230 miles ago. Since then there hasn’t been any sign of modern life which is pretty incredible when you think how close we are to civilization at most points on this hike. 

As we got close to Tuolumne Meadows, passed many day hikers, more people than we’d seen in a long, long time. When we got to the ranger station and parking lot, Q was there with the dogs and Cody and Puff! Cody’s ankle is only lightly sprained so he'll be back on trail soon. Chia and Six toes showed up while we were having break so the full sierras squad was there.

 GANG'S ALL HERE. I think this is the only time we were all in the same place.

GANG'S ALL HERE. I think this is the only time we were all in the same place.

Since everyone was together we had a long break at the picnic tables outside the ranger station and a full cook lunch. Low motivation to keep hiking after eating two ramens and mashed potatoes but the amount of people and cars was a little overwhelming so we hit the trail again. Cody, Chia and Six Toes left with Q to go on an adventure to Yosemite Valley. It’s kind of a shame we aren’t heading down with them, but I can’t imagine how busy it must be down there and I already found the parking lot at Tuolumne to be too crowded. Farther away we got the less people there were.

Soon after, came across the most beautiful waterfall I've ever seen (apparently a common theme today) near Glen Aulin (Tuolumne Falls). There was even a rainbow in the spray and all of it was backdropped by a great view down river to the cliffs across the valley.

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Sat with Cy and Lukas and Sara for probably two hours watching the water pool around the rocks below the falls, and then the sunset. Probably would’ve stayed longer if we could but Jade and Greg were up ahead and there was nowhere to camp legally nearby.

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Finally got going around 5, then came the mosquitos. So bad, almost as many as Bear Creek. Literally had to run up three miles of uphill to the shittiest campsite we've had in a while, there was no water and nothing to pitch tents on but slanted bare rock, but there weren’t any other options for miles and the mosquitos were driving us crazy. Had a no cook dinner due to lack of water and got into our tents right away. We’re chatting through our screens now and I’ve counted 28 mosquitos on my tent net. Didn't catch up to Greg after the waterfall break, so only five of us tonight. Too bad we have such an awful campsite, the rest of today was spectacular.

DAY 72: CAMPSITE (951.1) TO SMEDBERG LAKE CAMPSITE (968.5)

7/23/17
17.4 miles. Benson Pass.

Had an excellent sleep and a triple breakfast essential shake mixed with oatmeal using the last of my water...l really dislike dry camping. The mosquitos were much more bearable once the sun hit our campsite. Started the trail feeling awesome, hiked alone for a while without music which was a nice change, I should be doing that more often. I always get into a rhythm hearing my own footsteps and my mind wanders a lot more than when I have music to focus on.

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Went through another meadow that was very nice but had nothing on yesterday. Downhill steeply to McCabe creek (looked like a river) and found Greg there waiting for us. Waited for the rest so we make sure everyone got across safely. After the river, went straight back uphill then downhill then back uphill ffs but arrived at Miller Lake after the second climb.

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The lake was clear and cold but very bearable, and it had a little strip of beach next to the water. It was amazing to actually swim and stay in the water without being worried about hypothermia, I didn’t get out for a good 20 minutes. Back on the beach to dry off, made mac and cheese for lunch, probably a high point in my life. Lakes definitely recharge me in terms of energy and mood, and it made me miss getting to swim everyday like I usually do in summer at LOTW.

 best beach day ever

best beach day ever

Napped with squad then got stuff together and headed back uphill to do Benson pass. Slow going uphill and it was pretty steep, but uphill doesn’t cause me the instant misery it used to. 

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No much snow on Benson pass at all which was a nice change although shoes are still wet always from the snowmelt streams crossing over the path. Watched the sun start to set on top of the pass and then back down for two miles to Smedberg lake for camping. It’s very rocky and exposed but the sunset across the lake was beautiful and Jade surprised us with s'mores stuff that she had packed out from Mammoth. Joined by Kristy, a Sierras section hiker. Mosquitos are bad again this evening so tents are up and hoping it doesn't rain since we're on bare rock and it'll be tricky to stake down the rainfly.

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DAY 73: SMEDBERG LAKE (968.5) TO WILMA LAKE (986.9)

07/24/17
18.4 miles. Seavey Pass

Started and ended the day with a swim in the lake and crazy elevation gains and losses in between.

We had to do another midnight scramble to get the rain flys on tents after it started raining around 2 last night. Mosquitos wrecked me during the 3 minutes I was outside. Apart from that, slept really well, almost ten hours total. Upon waking up, everyone was still sleeping so took the opportunity to jump in Smedberg lake. It was really cold so didn't stay in long. Definitely flashed our temporary travel member Kristy, whoops sorry.

All our gear was wet from the rain so laid everything out on the rocks and used the time to make actual hot oatmeal for once. Had another breakfast essential as well, they’re a surprise favourite, especially when mixed with coffee.

Downhill through rough terrain first thing in the morning, my knee was already twinging within an hour of starting. It was hard to keep track of the trail. The downhill continued for a long time, short switchbacks and loose rocks everywhere. Got pretty lost at the bottom in a tangle of rivers and jungle-like plants which was frustrating and put me in a bad mood, especially since I was already behind everyone. I ended up doing an completely unnecessary river crossing and then had to make my way back again once I’d realized my mistake. Would’ve been easy to just check guthooks but my phone was at the bottom of my pack and I was being stubborn as usual about stopping. Tree trunks were fallen everywhere and climbing over them in a hurry scratched up my legs up pretty bad, lots of shallow scrapes that drew blood. In retrospect, it seems so often that my problems could easily be solved by calming down and taking a break. Maybe I’ll learn that by the end of the trail.

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After finally finding my way back to the path, there was a steep uphill to Seavey pass, slipped a couple times on icy snow and got a touch of hiker rage near the top. I was still in a stubborn bad mood during lunch and then another tough downhill, it was almost a vertical cliff and the trail was nowhere to be found under the snow. On the way down, came across a very sketchy stretch along the side of a slippery snow bank that slid straight down into a rushing river, but there was no other option to take, caught between rock and river. I was going very slowly and placing each foot exactly in the tracks of the last hiker before me. Had the axe out just in case a self-arrest was needed, thankfully it was not.

 Me capturing Jade capturing the beautiful shot below. @thesewildbones check her out

Me capturing Jade capturing the beautiful shot below. @thesewildbones check her out

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Continued on the downhill, not good for my knee but I still cheered up a little bit. (Was probably just hungry, that puts me in a bad mood every time.) Today was a massive vertical zigzag, after coming down Seavey went right back up 700 feet which I found exhausting, moving very slow and then down 1000 feet again. RIP knee, I’m so sorry. Pretty sketchy river crossing (or sketchier than the few we've had lately, the current was strong and the rocks at the bottom were very unstable) and then right back up 1200 feet. On the way up, hit a second wind energy burst that happens after I get absolutely wiped and tore past the entire squad at the top of the climb and was nearly running on the way back down. I love when these energy bursts happen, I feel like I could do anything, and my mind really focuses so it’s easy to navigate down tricky rock scrambles. A nice parallel between the physical ups and downs on trail and my emotional range today.

 Greg w the balancing act

Greg w the balancing act

Got to Wilma lake before everyone else so jumped in which felt amazing after the long day. It was the warmest lake I've swam in yet so stayed in a bit longer than I normally would while being naked, than got out to set up camp. Mosquitos are bad here, but what else is new so we ate a quick dinner (really excellent combo of KD and applewood smoked bacon potatoes) and got into our tents. Traded Jade a package of potatoes for a snickers bar (win) so feeling pretty content food wise. Today felt really good pushing the body on so many up and downs, but we'll see how it feels tomorrow. Kristy camping with us again.

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DAY 74: WILMA LAKE (986.9) TO KENNEDY CANYON CREEK (1005.9)

07/25/17
19 miles

Slept haaaaaard after all the elevation change yesterday. Woke up late and tried to avoid mosquitos while eating breakfast. Left camp after Jade, ran into Lunchbox/Vanessa who stayed with us at the cabin in Wrightwood, haven’t seen her since then. Hiked with Lukas and pushing to keep up, had to keep asking open ended questions so he could talk and I could focus on breathing. The whole trail was mud and water all morning, there was no hope of keeping the shoes dry and I gave up pretty early.

We arrived at Dorothy lake for a lunch break, dove in right away. Pretty cold so didn't stay in long but it was nice to lie in the sun and dry off. Squad swam and lounged for a couple hours since there were no mosquitos, a nice break from the last three days of non-stop biting. Definitely sunburned stomach and tops of feet, I should have sunscreen but it’s a compromise to be able to swim without worrying about getting chemicals in the water. Jade uses a natural homemade sunscreen…I’m not sure how legitimate the actual sun protection is but definitely worth looking into. 

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Finally got going way later than planned and did another 9 miles to get to camp at the base of a climb to Sonora pass. We passed the 1000 mile marker today, which was a little underwhelming, but proud of myself. Jade insisted on hiking together all day so that we could get a group photo at the marker. The seven of us were hiker train-ing but I dropped behind after a while to get some music time in. Hiked the evening through trees and my favourite golden sunlight but definitely low energy. I think I need to be eating more filling food and relying less on candy bars and sugar spikes for energy.

 1000 miles and having no fun at all...

1000 miles and having no fun at all...

Not passing as many JMTers and we haven't really seen any other north bounders (other than Kristy) in a couple days. It's weird, sometimes feels like we're the only people out here. There are still a few weekend warriors, and they seem so inexperienced to me now which is odd since I still consider myself inexperienced. I passed a couple guys today throwing their boots and bags across an easy creek crossing, it's definitely satisfying to go splashing through with my tiny pack while they try and figure out how to cross without getting their feet wet. Really light bag right now, finally managed to time the resupply almost perfectly.

Got to camp later than usual due to my slow afternoon, set up tent although could probably cowboy camp since the mosquitos still aren’t that bad, thank god. We were eating dinner together and I saw a couple dogs running through the trees. It's Q! Jade was getting worried he hadn't hiked out to meet us yet. As always, it’s great to see him and have the dogs for company. Lukas speculates that he’s positive reinforcement, since seeing him means we’re getting close to town and town food.

11 miles to Bridgeport tomorrow for a resupply and nero. It's the coldest night we’ve had in a while and feeling quite sore which is odd, we didn’t do anything too strenuous today. In my tent with everyone close by and a nice view of stars. V happy. 

 Cy doubting Lukas' shaving technique

Cy doubting Lukas' shaving technique

 Vanessa/Lunchbox and Jader looking like a coupla trail models

Vanessa/Lunchbox and Jader looking like a coupla trail models

 

DAY 75: KENNEDY CANYON CREEK (1005.9) TO HWY 108/BRIDGEPORT (1016.9)

07/26/17
11 miles. Sonora Pass

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Out of camp decently early for once to try and get to Bridgeport before the post office closed this afternoon, although our decently early would still be very late for most PCT hikers. The uphill out of camp was long and exhausting (do I ever have anything else to say?) and my calves burned the whole time but it warmed me up and legs felt good as long as I didn’t push too fast.

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Really different scenery once we reached the top of the climb, lots of black granite(?), no trees at all. Beautiful views in all directions, but really windy and chilly. The group stopped for a quick round of pictures with the background looking the way it did. 

Two miles out from town on our last pass and Sierras are still getting us… we thought the 11 miles today would be quick and easy but going down Sonora was the scariest time for me so far on trail and ended up taking us hours longer than expected. The face felt steeper than Mathers and the soft snow was hard to walk on, very unstable and slushy. There were muddy runoffs crossing the foot trail that gave way under your feet and cause me to start sliding downhill a couple times. I think I’m probably the most confidant of us on the snow and I still wished that I had my ice axe, although it may have been too soft for that to be an option anyways. We were moving very, very slow and going one at a time, making sure no one was underneath anyone else at any point in case of a fall. 

 We were all to busy shitting ourselves to get pics of the way down so here's one from the top

We were all to busy shitting ourselves to get pics of the way down so here's one from the top

Despite the slow moving, Cy slipped and slid down the face until hitting an exposed rock face and shortly after that Vanessa had a terrifying slide over top of an exposed space where snow had melted away from the rock. She didn’t fall into the crevasse but still slid down fast and hit some exposed rock hard. I couldn’t watch. I know there was nothing I could do but I’m still really disappointed in myself for turning away.

Thankfully they’re both fine, just a little scratched up. We went even slower the rest of the way, probably took us an hour to get down about 100 feet, but we eventually made it across the face to an established glissade track and slid down without any trouble. During that time, Kristy and another section hiker got caught in a different spot and were having a hard time getting down. We waited for them to get to a safer spot and then once we figured they’d be okay, went to the highway where Q had parked the trooper. Vanessa had been planning to hike on but after her fall I think she was shaken up and came to town with us.

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Squished 8 hikers, packs and two dogs into car and made the 45 minute drive to Bridgeport. Love this town-cool little western style buildings on the main strip, drove through fields of cattle and pasture with mountains in the back. Went to post office to mail away bear canisters, good riddance! 

Got burgers at local bar, really good service and the waitress wrote us each a little encouragement note which is now in my ziplock bag wallet. Stayed at a little family resort outside town, split two cabins between all of us. Vanessa, Jade and Q went to a local hot spring, Greg, Sara, Cy and Lukas and I stayed behind doing laundry and playing beer pong on a picnic table. We developed an interesting drink of beer mixed with some grape flavoured Mio, it was surprisingly tasty although Greg hates it. There’s no wifi or service here, had to use a payphone to call home. I’d love to come here as a vacation. Go Bridgeport!

 Moving to Bridgeport in the fall for sure

Moving to Bridgeport in the fall for sure

DAY 76: HIGHWAY 108/BRIDGEPORT (1016.9) TO CAMPSITE (1017.9)

07/27/17
1 mile wow

Up around 8, packed up and crammed back into the car. Waited for Greg to finish taking the longest shower of all time and then went back to same restaurant in Bridgeport for breakfast, another amazing waitress, heck yeah Bridgeport, I’m moving here and getting a ranch or something. 

Went to a little coffee shop called 1881 for wifi to do some resupply planning. Kate here is amazing, we had great smoothies and she's driving us back to trail once they close. Catching up now on social media and downloaded a ton of new music. Any PCT hikers planning to make a stop in Bridgeport should make a stop at 1881!!!

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Kate drove us back to the trail around 3:30, the winding road and hangover combo wasn't pleasant for the squad. We ended up lying around for an hour at the trailhead eating watermelon that Q had brought along. I was strongly against hiking at all today but we finally started at about 6pm and went a whopping 1 mile to a beautiful campsite for an early dinner.

 Looking back at our last big pass, Sonora. Crossing the big snowy section in the middle yesterday was the scariest part of the entire Sierra.

Looking back at our last big pass, Sonora. Crossing the big snowy section in the middle yesterday was the scariest part of the entire Sierra.

Cowboy camping for the first time in a while. This is for sure one of my favourite campsites on trail so far, amazing view of Sonora pass and surrounding mountains, could see our sketchy glissade path in the snow from across the valley. Great sunset and beautiful clouds.

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Time to get back to schedule and hoping to do bigger miles now that we're out of the "real" Sierras. On to NorCal!

Sonora Pass (1017) to Sierra City (1198)

DAY 77: (1017.9) TO (1044.1)

07/28/17
26.2 miles

Sleepy wake up, made an excellent combo of vanilla breakfast essential and French vanilla latte powder. Plus oatmeal. I actually like the oatmeal packets better with cold water vs. hot, and haven’t yet gotten sick of it. Said bye to Q and the dogs, climbed up and over the cool rock formation we were admiring last night. Hiked mostly on my own for the morning, lots of flowers today. Puff showed up out of nowhere looking rough, he’s been crushing 30 mile days to catch us.

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We had planned to camp at the top of the saddle above Noble lake and I was really low energy getting to the top, and not in the greatest of moods. When Puff and I got to the top, there was only one campsite and it had already been taken by another hiker so we went over and down, even though we were losing sun and it was about 8:30, way later than we usually stop for camp. The way down did nothing to decrease my bad mood, we lost the trail and there was thick mud after we got off the snow, shoe got stuck and pulled right off twice, socks are in a bad state.

Thankfully we happened to run into Cy and Lukas and Greg at the campsite they had stopped at but it wasn’t in the best spot and it was hard to find a good place to set up for sleeping. Jade and Sara also showed up as I was making dinner, surprising we all found each other since I don’t think we’re anywhere close to the actual PCT. Had rehydrated veggies and beef for dinner in the dark and at that point I was too tired to set up my tent so just cowboy camped and hoping for no rain. Not my favourite day on trail, knee felt really bad even though we had two neros the last two days...slightly worrying.

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DAY 78: CAMPSITE (1044.1) TO HIGHWAY 4/TAHOE NERO (1048.3)

07/29/17
4.2 miles

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Jades ankle was really bad today so she planned to meet Q at Highway 4 to take a few days off to rest and hopefully heal up. We ran into Q about two miles out and hiked all together to the road where the Trooper was. It wasn’t where I was planning to get off trail but I went with Jade and Q and Puff into Tahoe to see a couple friends from home and give my knee a chance to (hopefully) calm down.

Tahoe is busy and expensive, I prefer Mammoth. Got food and met up with Val and Hendrick who just got into town. We’re staying in nearby Markleeville because Tahoe is ridiculously expensive…the cheapest room we could find was 350 a night at a two star hotel, yikes. Much needed break but it’s odd not to be with Cy and Lukas and Sara, we’ve been together 24/7 since Chicken Spring Lake.

 Hit up the local goodwill with Puff....just becuase we could doesn't mean we should

Hit up the local goodwill with Puff....just becuase we could doesn't mean we should

DOUBLE ZERO IN LAKE TAHOE

07/30/17-07/31/17

Zero I in Tahoe
Great zero, Jade wanted to celebrate Q’s birthday with a surprise cake so I helped her get everything organized, we left Q at the coffee shop and picked up a cake, shout out to Chris the cake guy for hooking us up with everything we needed.

 Happy belated Q! He's our favourite trail angel and we're so spoiled getting to have him and the dogs with us this summer

Happy belated Q! He's our favourite trail angel and we're so spoiled getting to have him and the dogs with us this summer

Grabbed a six pack and went to go pick up Cy, Lukas, Sara and Greg at the trailhead around 2, it was so fun getting to drive. Forgot how much I missed it. Caught the squad right as they arrived at the trailhead, had beer I brought them and waited for Greg. Vanessa arrived but she’s pushing ahead since she needs to get off trail for a wedding soon, we sent her off with some extra fruit and a beer. Drove back to Tahoe, resupplied and went to an Airbnb Q had rented for the squad: cool little house with a hot tub on the front porch. Had frozen pizza for dinner. The cake place had written “Happy birthday Clinton” but close enough, and it was delicious. Ate about 6 pieces of cake with Jade and then a fuck ton of rainbow ice cream, I’m so sorry body. 

Slept in a bedroom upstairs with Cy, Lukas and Sara. Also here are Puff, Jade, Q, Val, Hendrick, Greg and Cody who we haven't seen in a while. Sleeping on the floor but I have a real pillow. Great zero.

 The cake place wrote "Happy Birthday Clinton" instead of Quinton but it was still delicious.

The cake place wrote "Happy Birthday Clinton" instead of Quinton but it was still delicious.

Zero II in Tahoe
Chores day, went to goodwill for books-carrying a paperback since weight seems like nothing after getting rid of the bear canister. I also got a new T-shirt since I’m sick of my black button down. Grocery store again for resupply, didn't need much since my last mail drop was insane. Back to trail tomorrow.

 Our next door neighbour in Tahoe. Just smack in the middle of town.

Our next door neighbour in Tahoe. Just smack in the middle of town.

 

DAY 81: ECHO LAKE TRAILHEAD/TAHOE (1092.1) TO MIDDLE VELMA LAKE (1109.9)

08/01/17
17.8 miles

Again got up pretty early to check out, did the dishes which was oddly comforting.

Packed up and left around 10:30 for the Echo lake trailhead, I’m skipping about 40 miles from where I got off. Knee is still achey so I’m not sure if I need more time off but after two days I definitely wanted to be back on trail.

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At the trailhead, there were a lot of tourists and a small store. The trail took us around the lake all day, and it was very popular, lots of day hikers and locals that have cottages in the area.  Reminded me of the cabin back home. Low motivation, hot and rocky and so many people, it was tough to not get caught behind trains of tourists taking group pictures. After a couple hours of this I finally left most of the crowd behind when the trail deviated away from the lake.

Started raining pretty hard as I caught up to squad at Aloha lake, which is really the first time we've been rained on while hiking. Good to know my rain jacket will get at least some use this trip. Into Desolation wilderness. Went up Dicks pass which wasn’t our brightest move as there was lightning and thunder up ahead of us, although the rain didn't last much longer. Long downhill, caught up to Val and Hendrick and Suta!

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I’m not sure what got to me but I felt like crying about the smallest things this afternoon-kicking a rock, stumbling over a tree root. Bad moments on trail but never bad day.

DAY 82: MIDDLE VELMA LAKE (1109.9) TO FIVE LAKES CREEK CAMPSITE (1135.9)

08/02/17
26 miles

Woke up to condensation all over everything. Sunrise looked sick over the lake where we were camped, but I slept through most of it, darn. Dried our stuff in the minimal sunlight but it didn’t help too much, hiked out at 9 behind the squad.

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Never found Cody last night, must've hiked ahead of where we had stopped. Mosquitos were awful in the morning, kill count must've been in the hundreds, but it kept me moving fast. Day mostly flat, listened to music, very easy hiking and my knee has felt better than it has in days. Passed a campsite I’d like to visit in the future: Richardson Lake, mile 1118.6, it looks like there is car access. Caught up with squad for lunch beside a creek, dried out our bags and tents since the sun finally came out. Afternoon was full of meadows and it smelled strongly of wild flowers and sap, lovely.

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Around 3, I was hiking along a knife ridge with great views on either side, and watched a wall of rain start moving closer and closer. Was trying to move as fast as possible because the last place I wanted to be in a thunderstorm was a high exposed ridge. Didn’t make it to cover in time and got rained and then hailed on. Ran about a quarter mile to get out of it and sheltered under pine trees when I could.

I caught Sara, Cy and Lukas waiting out the rain under some thick trees. After the storm cleared we finished the windy ridge walk and passed through the a closed ski resort. Easy downhill after that through mossy green trees and got out of the wind. Caught up with Cody, Hendrik and Val making camp near Five Lakes Creek. There are other hikers here but we have our own little opening in the trees. Knee feeling alright after a bigger mile day.  

DAY 83: FIVE LAKES CK (1135.9) TO DONNER PASS/TRUCKEE (1153.4)

08/03/17
17.5 miles

Woke up again to condensation on everything, and it’s still damp and chilly so no way it was drying. Packed up slow and hit the trail at 8. Val and Hendrik already leaving when we got up. Slow starting but the cool weather was nice for walking. Passed a bunch of other PCT hikers I've never met before, it’s strange to think we’ve probably been hiking close for months but rare to actually meet new people.

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A long uphill, had an easy time of it, my knee is feeling so much better today, I don’t know what’s causing it to act up (or not). Got a little lost on the way down on some steep faces, but found Lukas and Sara taking a break in a patch of sun. Took everything out of our bags to dry and waited for Cy. Sara's getting off trail for a day tomorrow to stay in Truckee with a family friend, I’m invited as well. The boys are pushing ahead. Jade’s still in town with Q and the dogs to let her leg rest up. 

Back downhill after our break and then up another steep, steep climb up to the really excellently named Tinker’s Knob. High energy for the uphill and then waited for a long time at the top while squad went down, it was fun watching them get smaller and smaller as they ridge walked down below, I could still see them from a mile away.

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Ran a bit on the way down from Tinker’s Knob but the loose rock made footing a little tricky and put a stop to the running real quick. Beautiful rock formations alongside the trail. Got a trail magic PBR from a day hiker-Dave from Reno- which was very enjoyable in the afternoon heat. Got to Donner pass of the infamous cannabalism history, took advantage of the phone service to read the Wikipedia page.

Drove back trail to camp and navigated a treacherous rocky descent in flip flops to sleep on shitty rocky campsite next to an old train tunnel that was giving off serious homeless vibes. The Austrians are also here with Suta, so we’ve got a big pack of seven hikers and three dogs. 

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DAY 84 & 85: ZERO IN TRUCKEE/SIERRA CITY

08/04-05/17

Was up late nerding out on Wikipedia reading about the railway tunnels we’re sleeping next to-between them and the Donner party this area is just overflowing in American history.

Decided to go with Sara, Jade, Val and Q to stay with Sara's family friends in Truckee while the boys hiked on. Got breakfast potatoes at a local eatery, really cool spot. Cabins here have lots of character and are a mix between mountain chalet and rustic backwoods cottage. A+, would live here, probably one of my favourite trail towns for atmosphere. Would have great ski options in the winter too. May have to look for jobs in NorCal after trail.

After breakfast picked up some food in town and then on to cabin. Sara’s friends Dan and Ruth have a beautiful place and we have plenty of sleeping space in actual bed. They wanted to take us to the nearby lake for an afternoon of swimming and canoeing, unfortunately when loading truck to go to the lake, Sara stepped on a rusty nail, went right through her shoe into her foot. As usual she was cool as a cucumber while I tried not to feel nauseous while she held the bloody nail next to her foot, which was bleeding everywhere.

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Drove into town to urgent care with her and Dan for a tetanus shot. Insurance system here is whack. It didn’t take long and we made a stop after to pick up bandages and swing by the local outfitters (Mountain sports?) for Sara to get new Altras. The store was having an event before a long trail run competition, so got free beer and cookies while shopping-trail magic everywhere!

Considering picking up another water filter, but saved that for another time, I’ll continue to live on the edge without water treatment a little longer. Dan gave us a cool little Donner/Truckee history tour on the way back, may have to move to this town. We had an homemade dinner plus brownies and ice cream. First time on trail eating a proper home cooked meal at a table with music and wine-didn't realize how much I missed it, especially after eating dinner in the dirt for months. Sharing a room with Sara and Val, although I have a bed to myself. Basically passed out right after dinner and going to sleep hard.

 Wine night with Sara, Jade and Val. Sara gets antibiotics instead of wine

Wine night with Sara, Jade and Val. Sara gets antibiotics instead of wine

Zero II
Woke up later than usual due to sleeping in an actual bed with actual pillows. Had homemade waffles from Ruth and Dan with coffee and berries and syrup, this stop was definitely worth it, although I can see why it would be dangerous to get off trail for a while, makes me wonder why it is we choose to live in the woods for months at a time away from modern comforts.

Said goodbye to Dan and Ruth, and went to Sierra City and meet up with the guys. The one bar we stopped at didn’t want us to come in, apparently there was a large group of hikers that came through last night that were rude/smelly/didn’t tip. Unfortunate, but shows how important it is for hikers to make a good impression in town.

Finally back to trail tomorrow, a little bit of regret about doing the skipping from Truckee, it was never a priority at the start of trail to walk every mile, but I’m starting to understand the drive to want to not miss any at all. Oh well, it’s a good excuse to come back and give this another shot in the future so I can claim to have hiked the whole PCT.

 My favourite goofs &lt;3

My favourite goofs <3

Sierra City (1198) to Belden (1284)

DAY 86: SIERRA CITY (1198) TO CAMPSITE (1209.2)

08/06/17
11.2 miles

Saw Festus and Tony in town this morning while we were getting ready to head back to trail! Francis is up ahead somewhere. Love running into old friends.

Jade’s foot is still giving her grief so she stayed behind with Q. Hiked out with Cy, Lukas and Sara. Got a quick hitch the mile and a half back to trail, started just after lunch. Switchbacks went on for a long time, but were pretty gradual. My legs were tight, unused to hiking after so many town days, yikes. 

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I’ve heard so much crap about NorCal being a boring section, but it’s still beautiful in it's own low-key way, we hiked through pine forest most of today. Gradual climb stretched over a few miles and at the top the trail curved around rocky ledges and ridges with great views down in the valley. Not as much water now that we’re out of the Sierra and I should probably get a water filter again. Hit mile 1200, had a quick break and then more miles to make camp in a quiet, sparsely wooded pine forest. Set up tent and fly because it looked like rain earlier but it’s since cleared up. I don’t like having the rainfly on unless absolutely necessary, much nicer being in the open air and see the sky.

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DAY 87: 1209.2 TO spooky camp (1234.4)

08/07/17
25.2 miles

My immediate thought upon waking up this morning was that I was about to puke, got out of my tent in record time and but as soon as I was standing the feeling started to pass. Ate one oatmeal and had water. Felt normal about ten minutes into hiking, very strange.

Lots of valley views with lakes scattered at the bottom and the trees are getting much taller and mossier, it gives the light a green filter. Elevation changes are not huge but never ending- up and down climbs today. Right hip was really bothering me which has never happened before on trail. Loosening hip belt in the afternoon seems to have cleared it up.

Hot but windy all day and there has been much less water which I'm not used to. It sucks having to check Guthooks again and have to plan how much water is needed until the next source, the Sierras spoiled us. Apparently I don’t remember how to ration, ran out of water 4 miles short of campsite, but once I got there it had a spring and the water tasted amazing. Got to our planned campsite around 4 so had lots of time for a double dinner since I still haven’t learned how to calculate my resupply properly...not sure I ever will. I guess better too much than not enough. Cowboy camped with Sara, Cy and Lukas listening to the birds around our campsite.

3am- There are some WEIRD NOISES going on in the woods around camp, something of pretty significant size is crashing through in the bushes, moving quick. I'm thinking (hoping) it's a deer but they're usually so quiet moving through trees and brush and these foot falls are really irregular and I do not like it. I've already woken a couple times earlier tonight (11pm, 2:30am) and heard it in different spots, it's like it's been doing wide circles around us all night. I'm not terrified enough just yet to wake up anyone else. Happy not to be alone tonight for sure and my go-to solution is probably going to be throwing in the headphones and ignore the problem until it's actually a problem...if something is going to eat me I'd rather it just be a surprise. 

 

DAY 88: Spooky Camp (1234.4) TO Lookout campsite (1257.6)

08/08/17
23.2 miles

What a daaaaaay.

Didn't get eaten last night so that's a plus, and no one else woke up or heard anything...pretty sure it wasn't in my head? Had double oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, actually took the time to make everything hot for once. Left camp last as usual and took an early break to look look out over smoky vista and listen to music, saw an enormous grey owl in a tree, it didn’t move once the entire hour I watched it. 

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Finally had to get going to make miles to our campsite, mostly flat down for about 10 miles, ultra chill day after yesterday’s up and downs. In the green tunnel for a good part of the day. No water on trail and I went about 10 miles without but I don’t drink much when it’s cooler/no climbs. There was a slight detour down a rocky 4x4 road since a massive tree had fallen on trail and crews hadn’t had a chance to clear it yet. The road was lined with huge trees and it was shady and cool, prefect hiking conditions. 

Biiiig descent to middle fork of Feather river. The switchbacks down were through thick green forest, the sun barely came through the foliage at all, gave everything a weird green glow. I was really starting to feel the lack of water and after 10 dry miles, a little piped spring was very welcome, drank about 4 litres on the side of trail. When I got down to the river, Cy, Lukas and Sara were already drying off after lunch and a swim. Thankfully there was a footbridge high above, no way we'd be crossing this one safely.

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Went for a “swim” which was essentially just sitting in the shallows and holding onto a rock since the current was so strong. Dried off in the sun and rinsed out the hiking clothes. Dragonflies everywhere like how mom loves at the lake. I think we were all having a pretty good time relaxing by the water, our usual half hour lunch break stretched almost three hours. Lunch since the Sierras consists of peanut butter and Nutella wraps, sometimes with trail mix thrown in if I’m feeling adventurous. Still not sick of it.

Got going again after the long lunch, slow moving and a gradual 10 mile uphill but I absolutely loved it, just zoned out and powered up. It’s nice to be back in proper pine trees, I missed it and I like them far more than the Joshua trees in desert and the few scraggly pines in the Sierras. This is full green on green, mountains beyond mountains of pine which reminds me of the PNW, can’t wait for OR/WA. 

At the end of a ten mile uphill at Lookout peak, Cy and Lukas had found a nice perch to watch the sunset, Sara was headed to camp just ahead. Watched clouds until the sun set then headed .2 miles to camp. Hit double ramen and potatoes dinner hard plus snickers and a cosmic brownie. Cowboy camped, hitting Quincy briefly tomorrow for a resupply and a meetup with Jade and Q. Could be on of my best day on trail rivalling Whitney and Forester.

 Almost got that insta-worthy shot, thanks Cy

Almost got that insta-worthy shot, thanks Cy

DAY 89: 1257.6 TO 1267.8

08/09/17
10.2 miles, Quincy nero

Woke up super early because for some reason Lukas told Jade we'd be at the trailhead for pickup by 9am. I actually didn't mind being up so early once we got moving, it might be time to reinstate the old desert 10x10. (10 miles by 10 am)

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Amazing sunrise coming out of camp. Trail was covered in cobwebs, and since I was out front, I managed to walk through them all. Saw two young bucks on the trail just before aptly named Buck Lake road where we were meeting Jade. She showed up in the Trooper to pick us up with fresh picked blackberries which tasted amazing on the road to town.

Got chores done pretty quickly, went to post office and then straight to breakfast at Mountain Thunder and had an omelet with best ever breakfast potatoes. Charged up, did resupply at Safeway. Everyone in Quincy is incredibly friendly, had several ride offers and people stopping by to ask about our hike. The whole town is covered in posters thanking firefighters staying in town right now, there are multiple forest fires in the area.

 Not a typical PCT stop, but Quincy has been 10/10 and I'm probably moving here&nbsp;

Not a typical PCT stop, but Quincy has been 10/10 and I'm probably moving here 

Got a ride back to the trail late afternoon and hiked two and a half miles through gentle uphill. Feeling good. Jade and Q and dogs came out with us and are camped here tonight, Jade is going to evaluate how her leg feels tomorrow and decide whether or not to get back on trail with us, I really hope she does. Ran into our old Sierra camping buddy Kristy at camp, haven't seen her since Sonora pass. She's finishing her Sierra section hike tomorrow in Belden, happy we ran into her before she gets off trail.

DAY 90: (1267.8) TO BELDEN (1284)

08/10/17
16.2 miles

Woke up early again to a beautiful sunrise with breakfast. 

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Another green tunnel day with a little bit of road walking, feeling good going my own pace. After the forest opened up there were great views down into the river valley, but it was incredibly hot and exposed. Had a long drop down into Belden, I think it was something like 6000 feet which is the most extreme we’ve had since Jacinto in the desert.

Switchbacks made my legs hurt but finally got down to the road and into Belden, which ended up being a one building town next to the highway, population 22. At the bottom, Kristy was there with her family since that was the end of her section hike, they invited us to stay for a trail angel barbecue, with full on burgers, chips and beer. Thanks Kristy's fam!

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For some reason there were tons of port a potties lining the road even though there was no one there -turned out that there was a funk festival happening that weekend. I really wanted to stay, but Lukas was pretty dead set on hiking out, Sara and Cy were pretty neutral. Thankfully this amazing lady Tracey was there in her pickup setting up for the weekend, and she managed to convince Lukas that staying was a good idea and he caved on the condition we only stay one night (spoiler alert that did not happen).

We set up camp below the road in a sandy spot under a tree and watched people start to trickle in for the festival. Went for dinner at the bar in Belden (in the same building as the hotel and general store) for another burger and beer. A lot of hikers here, people have skipped up or jumped back in order to hit this festival, I’m pretty excited for some live music.

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Found out that Joe, Kaylyn and Kristen have gotten off trail. Chad went home to Seattle, so of the desert core, only Sara and I are left. Makes me sad to think we likely won’t see most of these people ever again.

My head was hurting pretty bad so I didn’t get to enjoy the first night of the festival and instead took a nap in camp. Rallied a little later to meet everyone back on the main grounds, the festival doesn’t officially start until tomorrow but a band was playing for the volunteers and early arrivals, so we danced a little and then called it a night.  Head is pounding still, not sure what caused it so suddenly. Squished all four of us under Cy and Lukas’ rain fly, Jade and Q are going to drive in and meet us tomorrow night.

 Belden: population 22, except on weekends.&nbsp;

Belden: population 22, except on weekends.