September 21, 2010
I put my pictures up on facebook, which I didn’t really want to do, but did anyway. For people not on facebook you should be able to access the pictures through these links:
Southern California, parts 1-3
The Sierra, parts 1 and 2
Let me know if you have trouble with the links, but hopefully they should work.
I’ve been back for about a week and a half now and it has been strange. It is tough to think about things other than sleeping, walking, and eating. I definitely didn’t figure out what I wanted to do with my life on the trail. In fact everyday I would think of something different.
I did definitely form thoughts on thru-hiking though. Thru-hiking is an extreme mental, emotional, and physical challenge. It was hard to wrap my mind around going 25-30 miles everyday, that is a long way! Also, I felt that sometimes we were just cruising through these gorgeous sections of trail that in any other circumstance I would love to stop and lounge at or even camp at. As one hiker said, “the PCT is like the freeway of hiking.” While at times this was frustrating, most of the time I understood that it was just the way it was. I know that I am definitely going to be back to Northern Washington someday, it was too pretty to never revisit it. It helped to think that the PCT was a sort of scouting mission to seek out places that I might want to come back to or even live near someday.
Some things I learned on the PCT:
My proudest probably had to be learning to pee standing up with a pack on, that was great. My knee joints didn’t really hurt after that.
I learned that to unfreeze frozen shoes, pour water on them.
I learned how to blow snot rockets really well, something I didn’t even really learn how to do when I ran all the time.
I learned to not be afraid of bears, but to watch out for rodents.
I learned that I loved trekking poles! And they helped a ton in the Sierra and fording rivers and to use as crutches when my feet hurt.
I learned that while I like to hike alone sometimes it is really nice to have people around too.
My favorite piece of gear was my sunglasses, I loved those things so much. I will buy cheap solar shield sunglasses forever.
My worst piece of gear was my pack, but this is my own darn fault. As I shrank the pack fit worse and worse. In South Lake Tahoe I started noticing it and it just got worse. My hip belt was pulled completely tight at the end and still too loose and the pack just had too much to it. If I were to do it again I would get a smaller pack with less to it, meaning less adjustment straps and back padding. Maybe even make it myself. There were a lot of days when that pack made me completely and totally miserable.
The most uncomfortable ailment I had was definitely the foot rot in Northern California. It not only smelled terrible, but my feet ached and ached. It was pretty gross. Worse than the parasites and shin splints.
The worst hitch we had was out of Mt. Shasta. I had just gone on medicine for the parasite, was feeling bad, and we had to hitch for 2 hours in the heat to no avail. Then we ended up having to pay someone to bring us back to the trailhead. If I were to do that over I would have just gone to the nearest town to the trail even though it was small.
We had mostly great hitches, one of the best was probably to Ashland with a mom and her two sons. The kids were cute and they brought us right to a delicious Italian place. They were the second people to go by us too. Oregon hitching was a delight. The day into Lake Isabella was a pretty great string of hitches from the RV to the firefighter to the girl that fit 5 of us in her Saturn with packs.
The longest I went without a shower or doing laundry was 13 days, which was from Cascade Locks, OR to Skykomish, WA. A shower never felt so good after that, and I don’t think I’ve ever smelled so bad. It was pretty special.
I am still holding that I am a one trip wonder and won’t do anymore long thru-hikes, but who knows. I would definitely look into doing shorter trails. I would love to do the JMT when there is no snow, it will look so different! I would maybe like to do the Colorado Trail too. Maybe one day in the far distant future the CDT, but for now potentially sections of the Montana CDT if I’m still here.
Thanks for reading!
September 12, 2010
Well, we made it. On September 9 at about 7:15 pm we rolled up on Monument 78. It was after a 31 mile day through snow, sleet, rain, snow, and rainbows, so we were just kind of tired. I felt so relieved. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a bigger sense of relief ever. Crow Dog saw the monument first, we both saw the clear cut that the US chops at the border and I was excited, but more relieved. I hugged the monument, wondered where we were going to camp, took a few pictures, took a few more pictures, cooked dinner, and read the register and signed it.
Turns out… the monument was a terrible place to camp! Rampant with mice! For probably the third time on this trip I had a mouse run over my head. I shot up screaming, Crow Dog shot up yelling because I was screaming, what a fiasco! Coffee was made in the morning for the last eight miles in. It was a little sad that we were both pretty exhausted for the eight mile hike in the next morning, but it was only eight miles. And it finally didn’t rain down on us. It was a quiet last morning.
The last stretch into the border was quite lovely when it wasn’t raining. I still loved the state of Washington the most. The clouds provided some crazy dramatic landscapes. I wish we had seen a little bit more of the North Cascades, I could tell they were horribly beautiful from the little we saw through the clouds.
Glacier Peak wilderness was also spectacular. Most of the bridges were repaired and the blown down trees cut in half. The old growth was really eerie, but neat. The crossing of the Sciuattle River was exciting, on a wet, small, upward sloping tree with rushing glacial water below. Something my mind kept saying no to, but I made myself do it.
We also had an encounter with a ranger as Crow Dog was pooping 10 feet off the trail on a steep switchback. It was perhaps one of the most hilarious moments of the entire trail. The ranger said hi to him and then started talking at me. Once Crow Dog finished and came back on the trail he was being ridiculous behind the ranger, I busted out laughing, the ranger turned around, and reminded us of the ‘leave no trace’ policy. I laughed about that for the rest of the day.
Now I’m back in Bozeman. And there is SNOW in the mountains! What in tarnation?! The weather is very nice in the valley though. We had a good drive back through Canada. We went through Canadian wine and fruit country. I had this vision of picking apples in Washington and apparently you can just as easily do that in Canada, but I was too tired. Instead I just drank a raspberry milkshake and ate fruit.
What a trip though. I still haven’t really formulated too many thoughts on it. It was really epic. It was amazing, terrible, phenomenal, beautiful, scary, euphoric, hard, I guess the list could go on and on. It is incredibly bizarre to function around lots of people, to wear cotton clothes, to put on deodorant, to sleep in a bed, to change my clothes, to think about things I have to do besides eat, hike, sleep. Things definitely feel a little foreign right now. I’ll probably do a wrap up post soon and get pictures up hopefully soon, I’ll link to those when I get them up somewhere.
Thank you to everyone who helped, sent boxes, sent cards, gave words of encouragement, picked me up on the highway, housed me, lifted my spirits. It meant a lot and helped me keep on going. I couldn’t have done this without support.
September 1, 2010
So here I am chilling out at the Dinsmore’s in the sun. The past few days have been very rainy and cold. Last night was probably the worst of the rain. I haven’t posted all of Washington. I guess I haven’t posted that much at all. Let me start by saying… I LOVE Washington! It is beautiful and spectacular. It is also more hilly than Oregon, but gosh is it pretty. I made the claim that I loved Washington 10 hours into hiking out of Cascade Locks, but I’m not going back on it, I love it still. It is lush and green and filled with water. It is gorgeous!
Three days ago we hit Snoqualmie, I-90, the closest I was to Bozeman on the trail. I told Crow Dog I was going to hitch for 10 minutes and see what happened, but I didn’t. That was a coolish day. We hiked out of there with clouds descending. That night we camped on a not-so-abandoned trail. A bunch of people walked around our camping get up, oh well. The next day was on and off rain, not terrible. Yesterday was rain all day long. Into the evening it rained, including while setting up camp. Everything was wet and it was pouring. That was tough. Thankfully we had town to look forward to and as we descended it got warmer and sunnier. Now it is nice out, and everything is drying off and hopefully the weather pattern will hold until we finish. Getting excited about finishing!
A more upbeat story… on Saturday morning a group of 5 people out trail running informed us that we were going to be in the middle of a 100 mile trail race, the Cascade Crest. We would have 200 runners passing us by. This also meant… aide stations! These runners were running a station at Tacoma Pass. They offered us food. We got there just after lunch and snacked on some turkey sandwiches and watermelon. Only 5 runners had passed us at that point and they were running fast! We got cheered on by the people at the station waiting for family members or friends running. Crow Dog was embarassed, I was taking it in. Why not get cheered on for walking 2350 miles? The next aide station was 7 miles on, we hiked to that, while cheering on more runners and eating huckleberries while they passed. The next station was put on by a local high school cross country team. They were great and more food. We heard that the big aide station was a mere 4 miles on, so we hiked to that. Tomato soup! Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Candy! String cheese! What an inspirational day! The runners provided so much positive energy for our hike, it made it one of the best days of hiking yet.
Well with the end in sight I have mixed feelings, some days happy about it, some days sad. See you all on the flip side! Thanks for all your support.
August 18, 2010
Holy Cow! I can’t believe that it is time to trek through Washington! Currently I am at the border of Oregon/Washington. Oregon was awesome. All the awesome things about Oregon that I can remember at the moment:
Crater Lake was spectacular. I hope to make it back there some day.
Three Sisters — it was raining when we went through and I was really full from food, but it was really pretty anyway.
Mt. Thielson was pretty neat too, really picturesque. Maybe not the biggest mountain that we passed, well definitely not the biggest, but we got pretty close to it and it was cool looking.
Eagle Creek was really nice, but, but, but lots and lots of critters. At 3 in the morning I woke up to something in my food bag! Then I moved the bag and it crawled over to where Crow Dog was sleeping and walked on him. It would not leave us alone, so we got up and hiked at 3:30 am until about 4:15 am. We realized it was kind of ridiculous to night hike the section that we wanted to see, so we reset up camp at 4:15 am and slept for another couple of hours.
I’ve really enjoyed hiking around the Orange Hats and also Dave and Danielle. It has been nice to see some other thru hikers around. We missed the buffet at the Timberline Lodge by 10 minutes (10 minutes!) and they wouldn’t let us in. The Orange Hats did make it and just gave us sorry looks. Oh well, good pizza instead, but still a little sad about that one.
I can’t believe that it is time for Washington. This trip, and especially the last month has flown by. The front pack is getting ready to finish. Lakewood is going to finish in a week and I hiked with him through the Sierra. But there are still 500 incredible miles to go before the end and I am excited for it all. I’ve heard only good things about Washington.
August 2, 2010
Well I’m in Oregon! Finally. The past few weeks have been a little rough. I had shin splints and then my stomach went south. I took antibiotics for parasites, that made me feel bad still, but we were still doing 30 mile days. Now things are starting to look better. Oregon has been amazing so far. The people are nice, the land is flat. There is going to be some good swimming in rivers and lakes hopefully too.
The rest of Cali was kind of hot and kind of buggy. Highlights:
Saw a baby bear, 4 feet from me sleeping at the base of a tree, the mama probably abandoned it, it looked scraggly.
Watching awesome salamanders that had red bellies in the water. Those were awesome! We lost a few miles that day from looking at the salamanders in the lake.
Saw a fire being fought not so far away by helicopters.
Hoping to finish up Oregon pretty quick, then on to Washington and Canada. Sorry the updates haven’t been that frequent, computers have been sparse.
July 16, 2010
Well we went from snow to sun and bugs, quickly! After Truckee there was only a little bit of snow. I went through with Bird, Salty, and Leisure Boy. In Sierra City we joined up with the Disraeli Gears, Zorro, Orange Hats, Andrew, and Digger. We watched the semifinals of the world cup, which was fun because Zorro is from Spain and loves soccer. Then we decided to all make the pilgrimage to Belden (93 miles away) for the final. Away we went.
We made it to Belden as a group of 12 in 3 days. It was fun! I have always hiked around these guys, but never with them so it was good to get to know them. We made it to Belden right before the game and of course Spain won. I’m pretty sure we overwhelmed the trail angels in Belden, but they were really nice. The breakfast the next morning was the best yet on the trail. We spent the rest of the hot day chilling by the river at the Belden store before leaving later for the really, really, really hot hike up the hill. That was a hot climb.
Other things of note: We hit the halfway point the other day! Exciting! Crazy! Also kind of sad because we are only halfway there, it must get easier though, we don’t have the Sierra, we have Oregon. Lassen National Park and National Forest have been neat to walk through. Drakesbad ranch took such good care of us. We were only going to eat breakfast and go at Drakesbad, but they hooked us up! They did our laundry, let us sit in the hot springs for hours and hours and hours and then we ate lunch too. It was so relaxing and amazing and a lot of food. Unfortunately, I have been battling something in my stomach and a shin splint on my shin due to not changing shoes forever. I love me my Mizuno’s, but they are no super wonder shoe and 1000 miles including the Sierra has done them in. So now I’m happier in my new shoes or at least I hope to be. I’m going to rest the swollen shin for a day and hopefully head off sooner rather than later, but Old Station seems to be a nice place to chill. The trail angels are great! And it is hot, so no need to really rush. It is about 100 degrees out right now and the next section is hot and waterless and dry. Night hike?
July 4, 2010
After two glorious double zeros in Tahoe we ventured out for Truckee. The beginning of the hike was spectacular. Justin and I went by lake after unfrozen lake. It was wonderous to see water and not ice. We pulled 12 miles that afternoon. That day we also saw a mama and baby cub. It was pretty neat to see. We camped just before Dick’s Pass. Justin said he heard a bear that night, but apparently I told him to go back to sleep. It was fine.
Dick’s Pass was snowy on the side we crossed over to, which we expected, but nothing too bad. We had some snow that day, but still pulled 20 miles. I was impressed!
The next day we hit more snow and ended up camping on the trail in the Squaw Valley Ski Resort. We got lost in the ski resort. We ended up on the wrong trail after failing to see the sign, which was down. That was somewhat frustrating. Then we continued on and had some really nice sections of trail for the afternoon.
We finished at Donner Summit that night and called into Pooh Corner, a trail angel on Donner Lake. We arrived and got situated and heard that there is more snow ahead, of course. We are all getting sick of the snow. Maybe by Oregon it will be gone?
We spent today, the fourth resupplying and watching the Truckee Parade! Exciting! I got my picture with Smokey the Bear, yes! Pooh Corner has been good and pleasant and we spent the afternoon on the dock by the lake and listening to Bob Dylan.
Tomorrow I set out with some hikers I haven’t met before Truckee, but are real nice. I’m real happy to not venture solo into the snow. This section has been really nice to do at a chill pace, I’ve felt like I’ve taken in lots of the vistas and mountains. It has been really nice to have a partner in crime this past section too and will be sad to see him off tomorrow, well he’ll see me off a little before he sets off.
I’m going to try to stay positive about the snow, but it is getting so tiring! I will miss using it as toilet paper once it is gone though, so there is something positive.
June 29, 2010
I think we were technically out of the Sierra after Tuolumne, but I’m not sure, but it still definitely felt like it. We left Tuolumne after taking a ‘zero’ in the valley, which was more like running around like crazy amongst a million tourists, and we had nice hiking for some miles and then… SNOW! Again! We were trying to pull bigger miles as Crow Dog is heading off to a wedding soon. We did 25 long miles the first day and ended right before Benson Pass. We spent the night in the cold snow. The next day was crazy so it deserves a new paragraph.
We hiked up, down, and all around. We hiked through narrow canyons with snow down to the river. We forded rivers like pros and more times than necessary. We raced down waterfall chutes. I felt like we were in an action movie jumping up on snow banks and between trees. At one point we crossed a river on a tree that didn’t even make it to the other side so we kind of had to straddle it the whole time. It made for some good pictures. We ended the day by looking at a PCT marker on one side of a big river and a PCT marker on the other side of the river and laughing, not going to happen that night. We also met up with Bojangles who was leaving amazing prints for us, but they ended then.
The next day we had to ford the river. We walked up the river on the wrong side for awhile looking for a good place to ford. We attempted the ford twice. Then another river came into the river that was just as big. So we had to ford! Crow Dog suggested swimming, Lakewood suggested his neoair thermarest, which is like a raft. He blew it up and floated across at 6 am in the cold. I did not think it was a good idea, but what choice was there really? So I packed up and shrieked my way across the whole darned thing and got really cold. That day we took a kazillion breaks. We were exhausted. The day warmed up pretty good and we weren’t cold for long.
We ended up heading into Bridgeport for some extra food and half a day of rest. The next few days were not totally filled with snow and quite pleasant. Crow Dog took off to make some bigger miles and Lakewood kept me company as we navigated through the snow. It was overall good. We only got lost big time right before town, which was mostly due to the trees. Not a huge deal, just a loss of time and frustrating to be so close to town, but not able to get there quickly.
Now I’m taking a few days to relax and hang out with Justin in South Lake Tahoe before we tackle the next section, which will probably have more of this delightful white stuff. I’m excited to be out of it, hopefully soon!
And I finally have a trail name, which happened awhile ago but didn’t post about it. Since I shriek everytime I fall or posthole or am distressed I am named Beaker after the muppet that shrieks. So there is that.
June 24, 2010
Well, the Sierra. I went into the second part of the Sierra well rested after 2 days in Bishop and a better mental attitude about the snow, basically that we would be in it for the next 6 days. I shopped real well and had great food to eat and was excited for the next days. We also estimated our miles conservatively. It was a splendid section because of all these things. We did about a pass-a-day, which was expected.
The first pass, after Kearsarge, which was the pass we took out to get back to the trail was Glen. It wasn’t bad. There was a steep up, but not for very long. I was with a big group and we all summitted together.
The next day we did Pinchot, which was a long, gradual climb up, but also not so terrible.
The next day was Mather! Mather! Mather wasn’t physically that difficult, but it was very mentally difficult for me. It was all, all, all snow and in a big bowl. On the left side of the bowl was avalanche run out, splendid! We went around the right. The right side was long and sprinkled with boulders. My pack was still heavy with food and I felt a little off kilter as I bouldered across. Crow Dog was severely patient and I made it to the top. Lakewood played Sarah McLachlan at the pass while I layed on a rock and decompressed. Then we glissaded down. The phrase then we glissaded down can be added after any pass because that’s what we do. After Mather and between the next pass, Muir, was a beautiful wooded section of TRAIL. Dear sweet glorious trail that we haven’t seen in days! We even cleaned up in a river, or I cleaned up in a river while Crow Dog swam and I guess Lakewood cleaned too.
The next day we did Muir, which was also snowbound, but had a sweet hut at the top. Muir marked the end of the 4 big passes over 11000 feet or something like that. We have still continued to do passes, but they are littler.
The snow has definitely taken a lot of energy to get through, but I was pretty happy with that section. It was beautiful. Most of the lakes were frozen, but it was so still and serene. Anyway.
The other difficult part was the river crossings. They have been interesting and quite cold. Sometimes the cold has moved me to tears, especially in the early morning hours when my feet are already cold and wet. We have seen some amazingly powerful water though, which has been so aweinspiring. I can’t even put into words how crazy powerful the water has been and how pheonomenal it is to see so much rushing water.
Things I’ve learned in the Sierra:
To get frozen shoes unfrozen in the morning, pour water on them! It is darned cold though.
Walking can be emotional.
The Sierra are delightful and I must come back when they are unfrozen!
Sorry if this is rambling. Dinner is here. Thanks for all your support. I will have more of an idea of where I will be later for those of you who have asked about packages, when the hiking becomes more predictable. Thank you for all your encouragement!
June 10, 2010
We left Kennedy Meadows for the first part of the Sierra a week ago now. The first day out I got lost when the trail crossed over a creek a bunch of times. I missed a crossing or something. I ended up eventually navigating it with the Mayor, but not before I was wandering around for about an hour or so wondering where I was. It created some anxiety. We pulled a real big day out of Kennedy Meadows, about 26 miles. The next day we hit snow for the first time. It was tough and we got lost. We got to a completely frozen Chicken Spring Lake. There were some spots underneath trees where it was decent to camp so we didn’t have to camp on snow.
The next day was a good one. We went through some snow, some not snow. We had one burlyish river crossing, but overall it was a good day. We had Lakewood’s GPS to get through some of the stickier parts of snow. We made it to Whitney base camp, Crabtree Meadows. We didn’t want to go up further because it was late in the afternoon and the snow made for some great postholes.
Mt Whitney was tough, it claimed my blood, sweat, and tears. It was a very overwhelming experience. Lakewood, Crow Dog and I started out real early in the morning, around 4:30AM. The sunrise hit around the first lake, Timberline maybe? The sunrise was very beautiful and the surrounding area so magestic it was heartbreaking. We continued up past Guitar Lake and then began the switchbacks. Or what was supposed to be switchbacks, but ended up being more of a bunch of snow and a free for all getting up the side of Whitney. It involved total body rock climbing, scary traverses across snow and a rock got my knee. It was hard! Then we made it to the ridge and the rest was a decent hike up, but left me scared about coming down. At the top of Whitney it was very scenic, but I was really overwhelmed with the entire hike up. It was really satisfying to have made it though. 14,500 feet didn’t feel that bad on the lungs though. The hike down was scary too, we stuck to the rocks most of the way and involved more than a little coaxing to get me to hop down. It didn’t take too much time and wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We made it back to camp, I was beat. We packed up ate, and carried on to get back on the PCT. End Whitney, long, tired, good day. We hiked to Wright Creek, but it was too high to ford at the time so we would have to do it in the morning…
Forrester Pass Day
The very next day after Whitney we hit the highest point on the PCT. Crow Dog and I got up early and hit the trail by 5AM but first had to cross the still very high river. I don’t really mind river crossings so far, I think they are highly exhilerating instead of completely terrifying. We made it across quickly, Crow Dog blocking the current of the largest rapid. I like to think that the golden trout are keeping me very safe in my crossings. I ran on as the feeling in the feet and legs after fording a river of snowmelt at 5AM is quite cold and freezing. Crow Dog hung back and I realized 20 minutes later when they caught up that Lakewood had fallen in. His GPS and one pole were lost in the river and he was left cold, wet, and in the snow. We carried on in the snow and somehow ended up in the wrong place. It was early, my legs were tired from Whitney, but I was still in relatively good spirits I think. We ended up in this completely flat area filled with snow and read the map to realize we were on the wrong side of a mountain and could keep going and go up a pass to get to about where we wanted to go. We decided to go that route. We made it up that pass quickly and glissaded down. Glissading down packed snow early in the morning hurts! I sang Bob Dylan on the way down as I got a severe wedgie and felt violated by snow. From the pass though we got a supreme view of Diamond Mesa, those on the real PCT wouldn’t have seen that, so that was kind of cool. We saw where we needed to be and continued towards it, way easier thought than done. The snow conditions were terrible. We postholed and postholed and postholed to the point where it was so frustrating. We finally made it to the trail and the base of the climb to Forrester, which is basically a named avalanche chute. We climbed up the right and then completed a few switchbacks on trail! The first time on the PCT for the day! Yes! Then we had to traverse the chute. Scary, scary, scary! I had to conjure everything in me to get across that thing, it was so scary I could only concentrate on the steps in front. I got some good, harrowing pictures of other people. Then Forrester!
Then getting down Forrester… That was pretty fun for the most part, tiring, but fun. We glissaded a bunch, rock climbed only a little and could generally see where we needed to end up. After a short break, Crow Dog, Lakewood and I carried onwards. Somehow we found the trail off and on. The base was wet, wet, wet. Everything was flooded and crazy. My feet have pretty much been wet for 4 days at this point. We camped in a beautiful campground at the base of Vinette Mountain near the Kearsarge Pinnacles, so so so breathtaking. I have been really bad about taking pictures and obviously even worse at posting, but I will get better! And refer to others in my group who are taking pictures.
Yesterday we hiked out to Bishop, which also involved going over a pass. I kind of crumbled yesterday, there was more snow, I have been exhausted, my shins are wrecked. Lakewood pulled me out of a posthole that I was really angry at fallling into. We finally made it to the trailhead though, got a ride to Independence and then another to Bishop and now we are kicking it here. It is a little surreal. The Sierra have been tough, but so spectacular. I’m going to head into the next part with less garlic (I have been sweating garlic), less potatoes, and several thousand more calories for everyday hopefully, lots of rest, and good positive thoughts.
Thanks for the comments. Thanks for the package Aunt Cathy. Thanks for the good thoughts. Catch you all on the flip side of snow hopefully.
Also, there are some pictures of the trip going up on facebook from other people if you are interested in seeing my larger than average sunglasses and now my crazy snow burned face.