Trout Lake

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Trout Lake

 Day 124 (cont.)

Mama G and Lynn have been some of the most amazing trail angels! Lynn took the four of us into the town of Packwood to send off our extra food.

The trail conditions are changing so fast around us that we have decided to just plan for what's right in front of us. We sent our extra food to Timberline Lodge and plan to hike from White Pass to Trout Lake and assess the situation from there.

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Fire assessment

Fire assessment

Jedi and Link outside the grocery store in Packwood

Jedi and Link outside the grocery store in Packwood

From Packwood, Mama G picked us up and brought us back to her cabin. We pitched tents in her backyard and lounged around while Lynn continued to drive back and forth from White Pass to get hikers. By the end of the day there were about 10 of us in total hanging out in Mama G's tiny living room and eating the delicious pasta she cooked for us. Mama G's house has only been open to hikers for two weeks - she and Lynn both took action to help out as soon as they heard about the fires. Once again, the generosity of strangers and the support of the community and trail angels has made a huge impact on our ability to hike this trail!

Day 125 

After breakfast Lynn drove me, Jedi, Link, and Cosmo to the White Pass Trailhead. 

Lynn, Maisie, Cosmo, Link, Me

Lynn, Maisie, Cosmo, Link, Me

Mama G and Lynn have been watching the weather closely and say that there is storm coming in on Sunday that will cause temperatures to drop and Pacific Northwest rain to fall for several days. We want to get in and out of this next section as quick as possible to stay dry and to continue to be able to see the area where we hike.

We got to the trailhead around 10:00am and the four us started hiking. The air was crisp and the temperature was cool, but warm in the sun. Fall is definitely here. 

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We entered the ever anticipated Goat Rocks Wilderness. Every northbounder we have spoken to lately has said that we are going to love this section.

Link

Link

Today was one of the most scenic days we've have on trail. Within the first couple of miles we got a glimpse of Mt. Rainier.

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We continued to climb for six miles and shortly after that we began our approach to what is called "Knife's Edge". This section is appropriately named- a thin ridge line with steep drop offs on both sides. It was breathtaking!

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I even got to see some mountain goats in goat rocks! A dream come true.

 Cosmo paying homage to the goats

 Cosmo paying homage to the goats

We scaled the ridge line of Knife's Edge for several miles and, lucky for us, we made it up there just in time for magic hour.

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All evening we had views of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Saint Helens, and Mt. Adams.

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After bypassing some of the best campsites I've seen on trail, we set up and settled into a spot tucked away in the trees. We ate dinner and then hurried into our warm sleeping bags.

Day 126

It was a chilly overcast morning and I wore most of my layers as we climbed up and over Cispus Pass. The early morning miles put us on exposed mountain sides and ridge lines with scenic views into the green valleys below.

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Link

Link

The rest of the afternoon was spent tucked away in the forest without many views. The day remained cold and overcast and I couldn't stop worrying about the rainy weather predictions.

By early evening I was surprised to run into Fresh Meat. I hiked with Fresh Meat in the desert and he was another face I had been excitedly waiting to see.

Me, Cosmo, Fresh Meat

Me, Cosmo, Fresh Meat

Towards the end of the day we entered Mt. Adams Wilderness and set up camp early at Muddy Fork Tributary. 

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Volcanic rock

Volcanic rock

Cosmo

Cosmo

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We are 20 miles from the road where we hitch into the town of Trout Lake. Fingers crossed that the weather stays dry. 

Day 127

I was pleasantly surprised to wake up dry this morning. When I crawled out of my tent the air was cold and crisp, but the sky was blue and the sun was making its way up.  

We hiked 20 miles through Mount Adams Wilderness walking over lava rocks and staring out at stunning snow-covered volcanoes like Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Rainier.

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With six miles left to go before reaching Road 23, the dark clouds rolled in and rain came quickly.  

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Using a list of trail angels as a reference we called Doug who was kind enough to pick us up and take us into the small town of Trout Lake. Once we got into town the four of us settled in to a hotel, got food at a local cafe, and watched the rain from the warm comfort of a hot tub.

Day 128 

This morning we woke up and lounged around at the Trout Lake Inn until 1pm.  

Jedi, Link, Cosmo

Jedi, Link, Cosmo

Later in the day we walked half a mile into the center of town and reserved our room above the grocery store. There are storm clouds all around us and in the mountains, but in Trout Lake the skies are blue.

Cosmo walking through Trout Lake

Cosmo walking through Trout Lake

Link getting ready for a rainy day

Link getting ready for a rainy day

 

Jedi, Link, Cosmo, and I eventually headed out to dinner at the Trout Lake Country Inn, a cozy rustic spot with a wood burning stove and delicious food. A great place to wait out a storm.

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Cosmo, Link, Jedi

Cosmo, Link, Jedi

 

After dinner we walked one mile in the rain. Back to the grocery store to pick out a movie. As we are popping popcorn Hollywood (another SOBO hiker) comes into the store. He's wet and  cold and said he hiked in through the rain and snow. We invite Hollywood to share our space and the five of us enjoy the coziness in front a small television for popcorn and a movie. Smokey, the local cat, also decided to join us.

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Day 129

We stayed in Trout Lake today while the storm clouds continued to dump rain and snow on the mountains.  

We spent the day inside watching movies and eating snacks. Although we are getting a little antsy, it feels good to be warm and dry.  

We are still deciding when to hike out. My birthday is on Thursday (gifts are welcome 😉) and I'm hoping we are able to be on the trail, I'm dreaming of a scenic, sunny, warm part of trail.  

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Up, Down, and Lakes

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Up, Down, and Lakes

Day 119

After checking out of the hotel, Cosmo and I meandered into town. A friend of mine, John Z, happened to be nearby and came to hang out for the afternoon. The last time I saw John we were running 35 miles across Joshua Tree National Park. He's a legend on the PCT and in a lot of ways has helped me prepare for this trip. It was nice to spend time in town and catch up with him.

Me and John Z

Me and John Z

After spending most of the day in Leavenworth John gave us a ride back to Stevens Pass.

John Z

John Z

We walked back into the lodge and were pleasantly surprised to see Woodchuck and Rooster!  I screamed out of excitement when I saw Woodchuck's face. We went upstairs to the bar to have a beer and some food and were surprised to find more friends, Happy Baby and Phillipides.

We ate food, got caught up, and went on a rainy search for the Mountaineers Lodge, a  hiker hostel.

Woodchuck and the search for the hostel

Woodchuck and the search for the hostel

After a desperate scavenger hunt we eventually found the cabin tucked away in the woods. We were immediately greeted by the host and taken on a grand tour. It was incredible! We made it in time for spaghetti dinner (2nd dinner for us), the hosts were generous and accommodating, and made a special tomato sauce for me when they found out I was vegan. We all ate too much food, drank too much beer, and stayed up way too late laughing and playing Cards Against Humanity.

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Day 120

We were all woken up at 7:30am for breakfast and once again the hosts were extremely generous and did their best to make vegan options. I had breakfast potatoes (amongst other things), so I was happy.

It was hard to leave the Mountaineers Lodge, partially because it was so comfortable and cozy, and partially because there is a lot that will be changing on the trail for our group after today.

Rooster and Woodchuck will be flying to the east coast for a wedding, and won't be back until the 17th. Phillipides is getting off trail and starting his journey home. Happy Baby is waiting at the lodge for Soulshine to arrive. Ya Ya and Mellow Yellow are a few days behind, and Utah Aaron is a few days ahead. The fires burning in southern Washington and all over Oregon have become a logistical nightmare. Many people are quitting and will finish these sections next year. There is a strange and surreal energy on the trail these days, with northbounders and southbounders alike wondering confusedly how far they can walk. It feels like an anticlimactic ending to an incredible journey. 

I am not ready to be done, and Cosmo isn't either. I'm not sure how much of the trail will stay open, or how we will get around the closures, but we want to try. One way or another we will make our way back to Mt. Shasta.

We headed out of the lodge by late morning, but we didn't get far. The big group reconvened in the lodge parking lot where Rob and John were doing trail magic out of their van. We ate sandwiches, drank beer, and tried to put off saying our goodbyes.

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But alas, it was time. We hugged our farewells with hopes to cross paths further along this dusty trail.

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Cosmo and I hit the trail around noon, and we were both feeling admittedly uninspired. We walked onward without our friends by our side, without a clear path to follow, and without knowing what lies ahead. However, such is life. With the things you can't control, the challenge is to find an equanimity, a peace of mind with whatever comes your way. It has been tough to keep letting go of the visions I had for this experience. But, at the end of the day, I am still incredibly grateful to be living freely out of my backpack - to set up camp wherever and whenever I choose. It seems quite fitting that we set up camp tonight at Hope Lake.

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Right before reaching our lakeside camp spot we ran into old friends from the Sierra section, Trail Brain and Bavarian Blue, aka The Swim Team (named because they notoriously jump in every lake, no matter how cold).

Trail Brain and Bavarian Blue

Trail Brain and Bavarian Blue

We enjoyed an early evening, setting up camp around 5:00pm, reading, writing, and relaxing in ways we've always wanted to on trail.

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Day 121

I heard on a podcast this morning that if you have a problem you can't do anything about it's a circumstance. Most people's problems are not problems, but circumstances. Once you accept that your problem is a circumstance you free yourself to figure out something you can do. 

The complications on trail for the class of 2017 are circumstances. It is what it is. What else is there to do except figure out a way to keep walking? This feels relevant, and validating, to my decision to keep going.  

The beauty of this section has also helped brighten qour perspectives. 

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We had a beautiful blue sky day and the air felt fresh and clean. Our morning started with a climb over Piper Pass where we caught glimpses of Mt. Rainier.

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We ate lunch at Deception Lake.

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As the day went on we started to see thick smoke creating a haze over the mountains in the distance.

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Fingers crossed that the smoke remains distant. 

We continued to climb steeply over Cathedral Pass, where we began to see the forest burning from the Jolly Mountain Fire. It looked like a bomb had exploded behind the peaks.

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Thankfully we couldn't smell the smoke and the air around us remained clear. 

By the time the sun went down we found a nice spot to camp beside Deep Lake outlet.

 Day 122

Less than a mile into my hike this morning I ran into more friends from the beginning sections of trail, Fire Princess, 8 Bottle, and Uber Frog. I hadn't seen them since Walker Pass! This was the start of a day filled with old familiar faces. A big herd of northbound hikers got backed up in Cascade Locks (due to one of the many fires) and now they are entering Washington at Snoqualamie Pass, just 20 miles from where I camped tonight.

Later in the day I was briefly reunited with others who I hadn't seen since the desert - Marble, Pegasus, Timber, and Happy.

Me and Happy

Me and Happy

The hike itself was as to be expected for Washington - lots of up, lots of down, and barely any flat ground. Most of the day was along exposed ridge lines and mountain sides with Sierra-esque granite peaks all around us.

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Once again we were lucky to have clear skies and expansive, breathtaking views.

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Throughout the day there were many reminders that there is still a destructive fire burning nearby.

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The trail has been much more crowded since we flipped up north, and today was no exception. We searched for a campsite that wasn't full on an evening climb up switchbacks.

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Thankfully, around 8:00pm, Large Pizza and his friend John made room for us at a spot tucked away in the trees. Cosmo and I ate dinner while chatting with Large Pizza about his journey, which began March 27th. He went through the Sierra and had a much different, much more snowy experience.

It feels good to lay down. Despite being almost 4 months into this hike, there is always some part of my body aching at the end of the day. Tonight it's my feet.

In my tent, I use my food bag to elevate my legs, as I close my eyes and get ready for another big day tomorrow.

 Day 123

This section was one of the most spectacular. We walked up rocky switchbacks that led to scenic ridge lines with expansive views.

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The clouds rolled in over the mountain tops adding to the dramatic scenery.

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Within the first mile we encountered a black bear who ran off at the sight of us (and before I could take my camera out).

Later in the day we crossed paths with our old friends Sweetfeet and Chopsticks. I hadn't seen them since Lake Isabella and it was so nice to reconnect.

Sweetfeet and Me

Sweetfeet and Me

Before the end of the hike I met Hoot, Brew Hiker, and Manzanita the trail cat.

Hoot, Brew Hiker, Manzanita  

Hoot, Brew Hiker, Manzanita  

Brew Hiker and Manzanita

Brew Hiker and Manzanita

After 20 miles we made it to Snoqualamie Pass. We contacted a trail angel who has been helping hikers get around the Norse Peak Fire which is affecting about 99 PCT miles.

Tomorrow the trail angel will take us from Snoqualamie Pass to White Pass.

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Day 124

After checking out of the hotel we heading over to Aardvarks, a food truck/hiker oasis in the parking lot across from the Chevron Station. We teamed up with Jedi (aka Maisey) and Link and all caught a ride to White Pass where we can start hiking again. 

 

Cosmo and Jedi searching the hiker box at Aardvarks

Cosmo and Jedi searching the hiker box at Aardvarks

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Up In Smoke

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Up In Smoke

 Day 115

Most of the morning hike was spent tucked away in a dense, chilly forest, with glimpses through the branches of the jagged peaks around us.

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The trail feels crowded this morning as every half hour another round of northbound hikers passes by. We must be getting close to crossing paths with the big northbound hiker herd.

Around 1:30pm, amidst a huge and seemingly endless climb, I dropped into a gorgeous canyon filled with fall colors and flowing water.

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All day the trail provided fresh blueberries and raspberries that we gladly picked and ate.

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After 17 miles we finally finished the climb for the day and could enjoy a long descent. During our last hour of hiking we got the reunions I was anticipating. Finally some of the northbound hikers looked familiar as we crossed paths with old friends from the beginning of trail. We chatted with Tweets, Bret, and Julian (aka Legs).

Julian, Me, Cosmo

Julian, Me, Cosmo

At around 7:30 we found our camp spot along the soft white sands of Miners Creek and ate dinner underneath the orange glow of the big (maybe full?) moon.

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Day 116

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This morning I woke up and could not see the sky. There was a thick smoke that filled the air all day. 

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Our hike was UP and DOWN, about 9,000ft of climbing and 6,000 feet of descent within 26 miles. Luckily, the trail in Washington is lined with wild raspberries and blueberries, which we picked and ate all day!

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Towards the evening hours we were greeted by an irresistible mountain lake. Mica Lake was crystal clear and demanded a dip.

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With achy feet and hungry bellies Cosmo and I finally made it to camp around 8:00pm. We quickly set up camp at Fire Creek and (as per usual) binged on several dinners and snacks before bed.

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 Day 117

It was another smokey morning and the day was off to a slow start. The lack of sun and sky through the smokey atmosphere makes for a surreal and somewhat apocalyptic feeling.

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Most days it's not the 25-30 miles of strenuous hiking that is most challenging, but the obstacles along the course.

The broken bridge at Kennedy Creek,

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The fallen trees that barricade the trail,

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The muddy tracks,

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The overgrown bushes

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You never know what the day will bring.

Amidst today's obstacle course I lit up when I saw the sun strike through the smoke and trees,and shine into the forest as though it were magic hour. It's been very surreal with the smoke-filled sky, with the feeling that the day never really begins or ends.  

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As is to be expected in Washington, today's hike included 6,000+ feet of steep climbing and equally epic descents. My skin and clothes felt wet all day. Thankfully all of the hard work was worth it, and after 24.4 miles Cosmo and I treated ourselves to an early evening camp at Lake Sally Ann.

We were gifted mini bottles of wine by two local hikers.

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 Day 118

Today was the last big day before heading into the town of Leavenworth. This section has been rough, the smokey air has been difficult to breathe and the humidity has kept my clothes and skin feeling wet all day and night.

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We hiked 27 miles through the dusty trail with scenic vistas and lush forests. The smokey sky made it difficult to tell if there were storm clouds brewing, but thankfully we did not get rained on all day.

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I am very ready for town. My feet are ready for a rest from all the climbing and I am ready to wash my filthy dirt- and salt-stained clothes. Also, food. I used to crave french fries and beer when I got to a town but as the months have gone on my body caught on that this hike is not a vacation but a way of life, and so it adapted. Now when I get close to town my cravings have changed to whole foods, fresh vegetables, and fruits.

 In the middle of the day I passed a northbound hiker who warned me that the fires have gotten worse. He claimed that the fire has grown and the trail is closed for the majority of southern Washington. I'll have to do some research when I get to town...I hope we don't have more big closures.

And we were joined by about 15 northbound hikers who also had lakeside camping in mind.

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The evening winds finally cooled my skin to a comfortable degree and I could enjoy the moment all that much more. And although I am lucky to be in such a beautiful space I cannot wait for the comforts of town that are coming soon.

Day 119

We finally made it to Stevens Pass and hitched a ride into the town of Leavenworth.  

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The couple that picked us up from Stevens Pass also took us to the grocery store in town. We stocked up on food and then posted up at a hotel in town.  

It took multiple showers for me to clean the dirt off my body (and I still don't think it's all gone). After cleaning up Cosmo and I strolled the Bavarian-themed town and found a place that made vegan bratwurst for dinner.

Tonight it's all about eating food, watching movies, and sleeping inside!  

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NoBo No Mo'!

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NoBo No Mo'!

Day 109

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First day hiking in Washington and it did not disappoint! Forrest and Brady joined us for the first 10 miles of our hike, and Brady loved his new persona as protective trail dog. 

Forrest and Cosmo

Forrest and Cosmo

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Forrest, Brady, Me, Cosmo

Forrest, Brady, Me, Cosmo

The air was smokey from fires in British Columbia, but not nearly as bad as it was in Northern California. Other than the smoke, the skies were clear and the temperature was warm and comfortable. The trail was breathtaking and full of colors. We skirted around mountains, traversed across ridge lines, and emerged in and out of dense forest.

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After 27 miles Cosmo and I set up camp. As we were eating dinner we got a surprise visit from Utah Aaron who had been ahead of us for weeks. It was nice to have a brief reunion. Utah Aaron decided  to keep hiking in the dark to get to the Northern Terminus of the PCT. None of us thought we'd get to this point so soon, and it's a bit surreal to be here. I'm glad that the monument will no longer be an end point but rather the start of a new adventure.

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 Day 110

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When we got up this morning we left our campsite in tact and hiked 3.7 miles to the Northern Terminus with light backpacks. It was exciting to be at the Canadian border, to be starting a new adventure.

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Cosmo and Me. I can't believe we have walked over 1500 miles together!

Cosmo and Me. I can't believe we have walked over 1500 miles together!

My Northern Terminus log entry  

My Northern Terminus log entry  

On the way to the terminus we again ran into Utah Aaron who was on his way back to Harts Pass.

Utah Aaron and Cosmo

Utah Aaron and Cosmo

Already things look different. Today was much less smokey and the clear sky revealed snow-capped mountains that were yesterday hidden in the distance. As we climbed up the switchbacks of Rock Pass we ran into Jedi and Link who had also flipped from Mt. Shasta.

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Smoke cloud from British Columbia

Smoke cloud from British Columbia

I kept waiting to see the rest of our crew and by the early evening we crossed paths. As I turned up a switchback of another climb I saw Woodchuck's big smile, followed by Soulshine who came running into my arms. We all hugged and quickly got caught up on our adventures north. It feels good to know that my group is here and we are all on the next part of this journey together.

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 Day 111

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It was tough to get out of bed this morning. Northern Washington is much colder than the deserts of Southern California. It was close to 8am when I finally hit the trail, but I remained bundled up in my puffy until noon.

The morning sky had some ominous looking clouds.  I thought maybe I'd have my first Pacific Northwest rainy hike, but eventually it cleared and I remained dry.

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I continued to remain impressed by the scenery. I was advised to flip up north in part so I could actually see the Northern Cascades before the rain and snow took over. Now I understand why I was given that advice.

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On my way down from Glacier Pass I briefly chatted with section hikers and fellow thru hikers (all were headed northbound). Pooperatzi was my favorite to chat with, mostly because he wins for the best trail name.

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As we neared the end of our day we were met with one last surprise - a mile shy of our campground we stumbled upon a black bear sitting on the trail. We looked at each other for a minute and eventually he waddled off.

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Day 112

I feel grateful for every day I get to hike in a rainless Washington. This morning I had a slow start and I blame the beauty around me. I couldn't stop taking photos!

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Methow Pass

Methow Pass

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The trail was smooth and downhill for most of the day, and I couldn't resist my urge to run. By midday Cosmo joined me and together we ran/hiked down Methow Pass and into Northern Cascades National Park. It felt good to feel strong and move fast down the mountain. It's been so long since I've been on a trail run and I miss it. 

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At 1:30pm we hit Rainy Pass and were pleasantly surprised to find trail magic. Angel Jeremy pulled two chairs out of his truck for us to sit on while we drank beer and soda and waited for him to finish making our hummus and avocado wraps.

Trail Angel Jeremy

Trail Angel Jeremy

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It was tough to run after lunch so we walked slowly back to the trail. However, we were both feeling so inspired that we eventually  picked our pace back up to a jog.

By 7:40 pm we got to a campground in the park, cooked (and ate) multiple dinners each, and laid down to rest our tired legs.

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Day 113

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We had a 4.7 mile hike to High Bridge this morning where we caught a shuttle into the small town of Stehekin, Wa.

The shuttle first made a mandatory pit stop at the famous local bakery in town. Unfortunately, the girl in line ahead of me got the last vegan muffin!

Cosmo excited at the Stehekin Bakery  

Cosmo excited at the Stehekin Bakery  

Arriving to town was a magnificent surprise. Stehekin is a small town that sits in front of Lake Chelan. The town offers public laundry, showers, and free camping!

Right away we ran into Utah Aaron and Switchback (who we hadn't seen since the desert!). 

Switchback and Me

Switchback and Me

Next, we checked in at the Stehekin Lodge Store, where we met Lee. Lee works for the lodge and is a friend of a friend and had good news for us. Mandy, a local trail runner, arranged for beer and chips to be waiting for us at the store! Thanks Mandy and Lee!

We ate french fries and onion rings for lunch and then jumped into the lake. We tested out our Neo-Air sleeping pads as rafts, and they worked! Cosmo stayed on his, floating on it like a surfboard, but I upgraded to a pink flamingo.

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After the lake we cooked dinner by our lakeside campsite and chatted with Rick, a local camper who was out on a weekend adventure with his son.  He picked our brains about the PCT as he prepares for his 2018 thru-hike. 

Stehekin camp spot over Lake Chelan

Stehekin camp spot over Lake Chelan

After dinner, we watched the sun setting over the mountains and water and hung out with fellow thru-hiker, Loophole.

Cosmo and Loophole

Cosmo and Loophole

Day 114

It felt great to sleep in today. I woke up at 8:30 and moseyed out of my tent. We enjoyed the day in Stehekin and took care of some final tasks.

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With the help of Park Ranger Lin, Cosmo and I became Junior Rangers of North Cascades National Park.

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We took the 5:30pm shuttle back to High Bridge where we found Happy Baby getting ready to come to town. It was nice to see him, even if just in passing.  Our group is split up along the trail, but I'm sure we will catch up to each other soon.

As sunset hours took over the sky, we hiked just three miles up a climb and set up camp near a small stream.

 

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Seattle

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Seattle

Day 106

Cosmo and I enjoyed our van life road trip up to Seattle, where we linked up with my good friend Forrest and his wife Neesha. We arrived with just enough time to get dinner with friends, see a little bit of he city, and then settle in for the night.

Day 107

Today has been the best zero thus far. Our morning started with a complimentary hotel breakfast and we scored a free Bloody Mary. 

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After breakfast, I treated myself to a yoga class - thank goodness for Corepower being in Seattle! I have missed my yoga community and my body has missed stretching. The class was just what I needed - it hurt so good.

After class I strolled back to Ballard and was treated to Mighty-O vegan doughnuts.

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After devouring my doughnuts I walked down the street to the farmers' market and somehow managed to get a free meal from Tandoozi, the Indian food stand.

Then we worked off our full bellies by biking around town on the new Seattle Lime Bikes. It felt good to do something different from walking. On our ride we stopped frequently to eat blackberries which are in abundance all over the city this time of year.

Seattle's Golden Gardens

Seattle's Golden Gardens

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After biking to the beach Cosmo and I popped into Trader Joe's to resupply and then headed back to meet Forrest and Neesha for a rooftop veggie burger dinner.

Forest grilling up some veggie patties

Forest grilling up some veggie patties

Neesha, Forrest, and Brady

Neesha, Forrest, and Brady

After dinner we packed up our stuff and Forrest, Cosmo, Brady (Forrest's dog), and I hopped on a ferry to Manchester where we would spend the night.

Forrest, Brady, Cosmo, Me

Forrest, Brady, Cosmo, Me

Cosmo reading on the ferry

Cosmo reading on the ferry

Moon over the water

Moon over the water

Day 108 

Today Cosmo, Forrest, Brady, and I all head up to Harts Pass to get back to the trail! 

 

Forrest

Forrest

Brady

Brady

On our drive up to Harts Pass we found Mellow Yellow and Boulder (not pictured) hitching near North Cascade National Park! 

Mellow Yellow and Cosmo

Mellow Yellow and Cosmo

After a long and winding drive we made it to Harts Pass. We signed the trail register, set up camp, and cooked dinner.

We met Cooper, a northbound hiker, and she joined us for the evening. She told us stories about her adventure and encouraged us that Washington is going to be great.

Back: Boulder, Mellow Yellow Cosmo. Front: Me, Brady, Forrest

Back: Boulder, Mellow Yellow Cosmo. Front: Me, Brady, Forrest

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Flipping Up!

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Flipping Up!

Day 99 (cont)

As soon as we got into Old Station we headed for JJ's Diner and stuffed our faces. The day was warm and the air was thick with smoke from a recent forest fire. Some hikers decided to skip this section to avoid the smoke, but we are going to continue on and see how it goes.

After we ate, we resupplied, showered, and hung around in the front yard of the diner with the contents of our bags spilled out over the benches and lawn like a hiker trash yard sale.

Later in the day Ya Ya and Mondo arrived and we got to meet Ya Ya's dad and stepmother. Eventually we mosied closer to the trailhead and by 5:30pm Mellow Yellow, Cosmo, Happy Baby, Soulshine, and I resumed our trek. We hiked 4.5 miles to the Subway Cave Trailhead, and Mellow Yellow did some minor spelunking in a lava tube.

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Day 100

Morning overlook at the top of a morning climb.  

Morning overlook at the top of a morning climb.  

Today marks my 100th day on trail and in celebration I hiked the most miles thus far, at 32.8!

We hiked over the hot and exposed lava beds of the Hat Creek Rim which required two 14 mile water carries. My feet were sore from the lava spatter and rocks, but we were determined to go all the way to the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch. 

It was a smokey hike from recent forest fires

It was a smokey hike from recent forest fires

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The Burney Mountain Guest ended up being an unexpected, and necessary, oasis.

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We were greeted by our friends Rooster and Woodchuck, who we hadn't seen since Tahoe, and Linda, the trail angel who owns and operates the ranch.

She let us shower and do laundry while she prepared pizza for everyone and a veggie burger for me. After dinner we hung our clothes and set up camp in her yard. I feel physically exhausted, full of food, happy to be with friends, and content in my tent ready to close my eyes.

 Day 101

The luxuries at Burney Mountain Guest Ranch continued through the morning. Linda had breakfast ready to go by 8:00am including a special vegan option for me. The morning turned into a great reunion when Ya Ya and Mondo arrived. We hung out at the ranch eating breakfast together as a big group and then stepped outside with our special glasses to watch the long-anticipated lunar eclipse.

Woodchuck, Phillipides, Rooster, Mondo, Happy Baby, Mellow Yellow, Me, Cosmo

Woodchuck, Phillipides, Rooster, Mondo, Happy Baby, Mellow Yellow, Me, Cosmo

Me, Woodchuck, Phillipides, Soulshine

Me, Woodchuck, Phillipides, Soulshine

By 11:30am we hit the trail and hiked 10 miles to Burney Falls State Park.

Trail magic! 

Trail magic! 

Hikers signed the bench at the trail magic. Can you find my tag?😺

Hikers signed the bench at the trail magic. Can you find my tag?😺

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Road walking to Burney Falls

Road walking to Burney Falls

At the state park we were greeted by Ya Ya's dad, stepmother, and three adorable dogs. They brought tons of food and drinks and spread it all out on a picnic table - like moths to a flame, hikers known and unknown congregated. 

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We all had smiles on our faces and very full bellies by the time we decided to make a move. Cosmo and I were the first to start hiking. We skirted around Lake Britton and crossed the Lake Britton Dam eventually seeking refuge at a campsite in the woods where we waited for the rest of the crew to join.

Britton Dam

Britton Dam

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Day 102 

This morning we hit the trail starting at 6:30am - there were nine of us scattered along the PCT.

I hiked alone most of the day, through the forest and along the exposed mountainsides. Most of our group would wait and gather around various water spots for lunch and dinner.

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By the evening half of the group decided they would hike into the night to complete their 30 mile day. Happy Baby, Mellow Yellow, Cosmo, and I decided 27 would be enough as we found a small campsite with the view looking over at the forest and valley below us.

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We were set up to cowboy camp when suddenly I saw the sky begin to light up all around us. A heat lightening storm was moving closer. These storms have been the catalyst to several of the forest fires near the trail in Oregon and Northern California. I didn't see dark clouds, or feel drops of rain, but we decided to set up tents and rainfly...just in case.

Day 103

Last night's lightening storm was mild, although the sky was all aglow, and there was little rain so nothing got wet.

We started hiking around 6:30am despite my exhaustion and need for more sleep. We pushed n

By 2:00pm I had done 20 miles and enjoyed a nice break at McCloud River.

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After lunch we pushed on for another 10 miles. Cosmo, Mellow Yellow, Happy Baby and I set up camp after 31 miles. We found a nice wooded spot next to West Trough Creek. We shared a campsite with Tyler, a southbound PCT hiker, and chatted about the trail conditions ahead. Tyler started in Canada and felt forced to skip all of Oregon because of forest fire closures. He furthered the idea of flipping north, stating that the logistics of getting around the fires would be less than ideal. He told us that the smoke has been clouding the views and clogging the lungs of hikers trying to get through. Tyler is not the first person to suggest flipping. My close friends, and veteran hikers (Dirtwolf, John Z, and Willy Wonka) have all recommended this change of plans. 

We have been debating flipping to Washington and finishing our hike southbound. We are all attached to a northbound thruhike and flipping is not ideal. This decision does not come easy, but it might make the most sense, especially regarding our safety. If we continue north, the fires will not be the only obstacle - winter comes early in Washington and the weather in October is unpredictable. 

 Day 104

I have been thinking a lot about this journey - what it means to "thru-hike", the lessons I have learned, and the best plan for the next half of the trip. Letting go of my original plan and vision for this adventure is difficult to do. But I am reminded that when I set out on this hike I told myself I was ready, and excited for, the unpredictability of adventure.  My main goal is to finish this hike, to walk every step. To accomplish this I must remain flexible, open minded, and follow the path of least resistance...southbound. 

3 1/2 months ago I thought that I was leaving a stressful job and a stressful city to find solitude and peace through a woodland adventure. This experience has taught me that you can't escape stress. Stress does not exist in a job, in your bills, or in any external parts of your life. Stress exists in you. To make a change in the way you feel you have to change the way you think, change the way you see life, change your perspective. You are in control. The concept is easy to understand, but not easy to practice - the challenge is within, you are the catalyst of your happiness. 

There is a saying out here, "hike your own hike (HYOH)", choose your own adventure, seek the experience you desire. I want to avoid the smoke from the fires. I want to see the Northern Cascades, and I want to hike every step of the PCT. And so I am on my way to the Northern Terminus to begin my journey as a southbound hiker. I look forward to changing my perspective within this experience.

Once the decision was made the wheels started moving. Cosmo and I got a ride from Mt. Shasta to Ashland and the rest of the crew is working on hitching up north as well. This decision has become a group exodus.

Soulshine, Mondo, Cosmo Day 105  After spending the night in Mt. Shasta we all said our temporary goodbyes and prepared to split up for the journey north. 

Soulshine, Mondo, Cosmo

Day 105 

After spending the night in Mt. Shasta we all said our temporary goodbyes and prepared to split up for the journey north. 

Phillipides, Ya Ya, Me, Cosmo, Mondo

Phillipides, Ya Ya, Me, Cosmo, Mondo

Phillipides, Ya Ya, Me, Soulshine, Cosmo

Phillipides, Ya Ya, Me, Soulshine, Cosmo

My stay in Ashland was just long enough to stuff my face with nutrient dense tasty vegan food.

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After eating, Cosmo and I caught a bus to Medford and hiked along the highway towards the airport. 

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Cosmo hiking through wildflowers on the side of I-5

Cosmo hiking through wildflowers on the side of I-5

Dinner time in the Food 4 Less parking lot.  

Dinner time in the Food 4 Less parking lot.  

Getting ready for a new adventure  

Getting ready for a new adventure  

Finally made it to Medford, had to fight for a car, but in the end it's all coming together.  

#Vanlife

#Vanlife

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Closer to Canada

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Closer to Canada

 Day 92

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This morning Mondo and I traded packs for 10 miles and it was incredible! He had my 40L full of food and I pranced up the trail in his 25L ultralight pack.

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Feeling so light allowed me to climb faster and hike happier. I don't know if I'm fully sold on the ultra light lifestyle, I enjoy having an extra pair of socks, but I definitely want to lighten my load.

After we finished our 7 mile climb out of Sierra City we had more rolling trail, up and down and along ridge lines. The trail was fairly crowded today with lots of day hikers and mountain bikers.

Ya Ya and Utah Aaron

Ya Ya and Utah Aaron

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We were cruising on this terrain and finished 25 miles by 7:00pm, a dream come true for me. That gave us time to cook, eat dinner around the camp fire, and still get to bed before 9:00pm!

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Day 93

Today was business as usual, rolling up and down through dense forest filled with fallen logs and moss covered trees....it's starting to look much more like Northern California.

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Soulshine

Soulshine

Mondo

Mondo

Mondo

Mondo

The group would meet up at water sources and then head back out to make miles. We ended our day around 7:00pm after 26.6 miles. We were treated to a campsite by the Middle Fork Feather River which we all got in to clean off the dirt from the day.

Middle Fork River

Middle Fork River

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 Day 94

The dustier trail and denser forest are signs  that we are fully in Northern California. Today started off as one of the better days in a while - for the most part. I was making big miles in record breaking time, and with a 2,000+ climb at the start of it!

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Mellow Yellow

Mellow Yellow

On our descent from the first climb we were happy to see some old familiar faces, Ramsey and Nosebleed.

Nosebleed

Nosebleed

Ramsey

Ramsey

Trail register

Trail register

By 4:00pm we finished 20 miles and were part way up our second climb of the day, and I was feeling good. We had an original plan of ending the day after 25 miles but Cosmo and I felt like it would be a good idea to take advantage of our momentum and the daylight and push on. We had a campsite picked out at 27 miles next to Clear Creek.

 

I happily continued my climb up the mountain. I was feeling so good and present in my surroundings that I didn't bother to listen to music or podcasts all day (which was a first), just the rhythm of my breath alongside the bird songs and nature sounds.

 

It was 7:20pm when I approached the campsite and my mind was consumed with the various ways I could turn ramen noodles into a culinary masterpiece. I was more than ready to take my pack off and relax. Usually when I get to a campsite there are already tents set up and people cooking dinner, though this spot was vacant. Was I at the wrong spot? Did I make a wrong turn? I checked my Halfmile app and saw that I was on track, but I also saw that there was another Clear Creek campsite 1.5 miles north. I felt discouraged that my day wasn't done as early as I hoped, but I trucked on assuming I'd find Cosmo as the first one there. I quickly hiked up the trail calling friends' names as I got closer, but when I turned a corner and the campsite appeared, it was also vacant. Where was everybody?

 

The sun was quickly setting and I was nervous to go further in the dark. I set up my tent, cooked my dinner, and sat on a rock near the trail hoping that one of my friends would walk by. Cosmo was ahead of me for the last seven miles, I was confused and worried that he was nowhere to be found.

 

When nobody walked by, I paced back and forth a bit and then tried to make myself as visible as possible before going to bed. I set my rain fly up because I thought the yellow would be more reflective, and I hung my flashlight inside my tent to create a glow.

 

I laid down and did my best to attempt to sleep. Every noise woke me up. I became sensitive to the sounds of the night in the forest - the crunching of sticks, the scurrying of little animals, and the frolicking of mule deer through the woods. What are the animals doing out there?! Go to sleep! Every sound woke me up and  every star looked like a hiker headlamp to me with my naturally poor vision. Each time I woke up I groggily shuffled around for my glasses and flashlight, and shined the light outside my tent to see if a person, or bear, might be headed my way. Each time it was nothing. 

After three months of being on trail this would be the first time I camped alone. I've camped alone on other trips and never really worried in those moments, finding the peace and solitude to be comforting and enjoyable. This night felt different. The inability to communicate with my group felt frustrating and after spending so much time together thus far, tonight felt quiet and lonely.

Eventually I fell asleep and morning came.

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Day 95

I woke up at 6:30am and packed up my things to get ready for a hiker to pass by and save the day.

By 7:00am I was all ready to go and sat back on the rock by the trail. As I waited I made coffee, ate breakfast, and by 7:30am my nervous energy stole my patience and I could wait no more. I hiked 1.5 miles back in the hopes the someone would be at the previous campsite. When I saw Mellow Yellow I excitedly yelled his name and when I heard Soulshine's voice my eyes began to water. I was so happy to have her embrace and see everyone. I saw everyone's packs except Cosmo.

Apparently Cosmo was also confused last night. Somehow I had passed him while he cooked an early dinner on a rock. Neither of us had seen each other, and by the time I had set up my camp further along the trail, Cosmo was under the impression that I was still behind. He asked around, and finding that no one had seen me since Bucks Creek six miles back, he began trekking south at dark under a panicked impression that I was lost or hurt. After a long and anxious journey to Bucks Creek and back early the next morning, Cosmo finally got word of the situation and hoofed onwards along the trail, relieved that all was well. By two o'clock, he had 23 miles under his belt. 

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Eventually we were all reunited, safe and sound, in the small one building town of Belden.

Train track crossing to get to Belden

Train track crossing to get to Belden

Hikers In Belden

Hikers In Belden

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 Day 96

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We climbed 5,000ft out of Belden town and entered Lassen National Forest.

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Yummy blackberries growing on trail

Yummy blackberries growing on trail

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On the other side of the climb we met No Grandma Left Behind at Cold Springs and she offered up her Kind bars to us, which we happily took and ate immediately. The hiker hunger is high today.

The evening climb turned from dense forest into open vistas with lava rock formations. According to the PCT guide book we have officially left the Sierra Nevada Range. 

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Around 7:30pm Mellow Yellow, Cosmo, and I found a great flat camp spot which overlooked the forest. After dinner, as the night sky grew dark, we saw headlamps and in trickled Soulshine, Mondo, and Happy Baby.

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Mellow Yellow at camp

Mellow Yellow at camp

Day 97

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This morning started out slow and sluggish. My quads and hips felt tight and my back was sore. At home when I cover 20+ miles in a day, I get to go home at the end of it, sit on my couch, eat a large pizza  and rest the next day. Out here we get to camp just before sunset, quickly work to set up our camp and cook our food, and then maybe get seven hours of sleep before getting up and doing it all again. It gets exhausting.

By the afternoon I came back to life. We hit a huge milestone today, the official halfway point! It's crazy to think that we will have to do this same distance but in less time.

After celebrating our milestone I (unexpectedly and unintentionally) flew down the mountain. I put some music on and got into a good headspace, and before I knew it I had finished 29 miles for the day and I was the first the camp!

Mellow Yellow, Soulshine, Me, Happy Baby, Cosmo at the halfway marker. 

Mellow Yellow, Soulshine, Me, Happy Baby, Cosmo at the halfway marker. 

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Eventually Cosmo, Soulshine, Mellow Yellow, and Happy Baby came in to join me and we all cowboy camped at the Feather River.

Day 98

This morning started off with trail magic! A few miles in we found a cooler filled with drinks and snacks, I still feel very grateful for these surprises which have become much more few and far between.

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After hiking five miles we entered Lassen Volcanic National Park where we are required to have a bear canister for camping. Since all of us have sent our canisters back, we had to hike the 19 miles straight through the park.

Boiling Lake in Lassen NP

Boiling Lake in Lassen NP

We were all feeling a little slow today and it was 5:30pm when we made it a little over halfway through the park. Despite the soon to be setting sun Soulshine convinced me to jump into Lower Twin Lake and I'm glad she did.

Soulshine

Soulshine

Soulshine, Happy Baby, Cosmo

Soulshine, Happy Baby, Cosmo

Cosmo

Cosmo

Happy Baby hiking to camp

Happy Baby hiking to camp

Sunset hours in Lassen NP

Sunset hours in Lassen NP

Feeling rejuvenated I took off from the group and made it to the park boundary  by 7:20pm. I was feeling strong and completely in the zone which allowed me to hike some of my fastest miles.

Once I crossed the boundary line I immediately set up camp as the rest of my crew came in. Soulshine thought my spot was hilarious and perfect. Happy Baby, Cosmo, Soulshine, and I cooked food, ate dinner together, and fell asleep feeling excited to get a little break in town tomorrow.

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Day 99

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We breezed through our morning miles hiking 7.9 to the town of Old Station.

After plugging in and picking up my resupply we hitched down the road and posted up at J.J's Diner.

Happy Baby and Cosmo

Happy Baby and Cosmo

Happy Baby enjoying his ride to town

Happy Baby enjoying his ride to town

6 Comments

Sierra City

2 Comments

Sierra City

Day 86

Back to trail! We spent the morning packing up and getting ready to get back out to the woods. The early afternoon brought thunderstorms to Tahoe so we weren't in a big rush. Cosmo's good friend Hope and her brother Tony came to pick us up and we all had lunch at Base Camp Pizza (which gives free pizza to PCT hikers!).

Soulshine and Me digesting the massive amounts of food we just ate

Soulshine and Me digesting the massive amounts of food we just ate

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After eating too much food we were dropped off Echo Mountain Trailhead and all eight of us hiked out. We walked 8.5 miles along granite slabs and next to sparkling water to make it to Aloha Lake where we camped.

Woodchuck hiking towards Lake Aloha

Woodchuck hiking towards Lake Aloha

Day 87

Lake Aloha

Lake Aloha

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We woke up at Lake Aloha and enjoyed a beautiful morning hike along the water.

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Rooster  

Rooster  

Rooster  

Rooster  

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After seven miles we all met at the top of Dicks Pass for a snack. At the pass, we were treated to hiker snow cones made with snow and Minute Maid Lemonade. After a leisurely break we hiked down.

Dicks Pass

Dicks Pass

Today my pack felt heavy and I felt slow because of it. Leaving town is always tough when you pack tons of food. The group set an ambitious goal of 28 miles for the day... I made it 23.6 by 8:00pm and figured it was time to get some rest. I will set an alarm for 5:00am tomorrow and try to catch up. I will also try to eat as many snacks as I can between now and then to try and lighten my load.

Day 88 

I got an early start this morning and began walking by 6:30am. I was hoping to catch up to some of the others, and I did. First, I found Soulshine and Link a mile up the trail and shortly after I found Happy Baby.

Soulshine

Soulshine

We hiked up and over Barker Pass and then enjoyed a few miles of trail along the ridge. The thin rocky trail gave us views of Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley.

Soulshine, Cosmo, and Me

Soulshine, Cosmo, and Me

Soulshine and Cosmo on Barker Pass

Soulshine and Cosmo on Barker Pass

Me looking over the ridge

Me looking over the ridge

Around lunch time we caught up to Ya Ya and Utah Aaron at a watering hole.

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Wildflowers are abundant! 

Wildflowers are abundant! 

We made plans to camp together at mile 1146 and then hiked on through the evening and climbed up to Tinker Knob.

Climbing up Tinker Knob

Climbing up Tinker Knob

Took an evening head dunk in this waterfall  

Took an evening head dunk in this waterfall  

Tinker Knob

Tinker Knob

Sunset on Tinker Knob

Sunset on Tinker Knob

We all met for an epic sunset and dinner on a cliff side. Not too shabby.

Sunset at Tinker Knob

Sunset at Tinker Knob

Sunset at Tinker Knob

Sunset at Tinker Knob

Sunset at Tinker Knob

Sunset at Tinker Knob

Soulshine and Happy Baby cowboy camping at Tinker Knob

Soulshine and Happy Baby cowboy camping at Tinker Knob

Day 89 

Today the trail was filled with wonderful distractions. After hiking seven miles we found ourselves at Donner Ski Ranch, enjoying free (cheap) beer for hikers and diner style food.

Utah Aaron, Me, Cosmo, Ya Ya

Utah Aaron, Me, Cosmo, Ya Ya

 

After tons of food consumption we rolled ourselves back to trail and sluggishly hiked three more miles until we came to a rest station with a vending machine. Not that exciting of a find for everyone, but for a thru-hiker it was a gold mine. Bathrooms, clean water, and for a couple bucks a cold sugary beverage.

We made it three more miles past the rest stop before being distracted by an old forest cabin.

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By this time it was early evening and we still had at least six more miles to meet our already decreased daily mileage. These last few miles could have been a struggle but luckily I had Soulshine to chat with which made the time fly by. 

It was a beautiful sunset hike (except for the mosquitos) to our enclosed forest campsite where Utah Aaron, Ya Ya, Happy Baby, Cosmo, Soulshine and I all ate dinner around the glowing campfire.

Day 90

The goal for today was to get as close to Sierra City as possible, minimum of 25 miles (we ended at 24.5). The first half of the day seemed to fly by. After 12 miles I found Cosmo, Mellow Yellow, Ya Ya, Happy Baby, and Utah Aaron hanging out at a creek for lunch, naturally I joined.

 

The next half of the day felt longer. This time I didn't have stomach issues, blisters, or a heat wave to blame it on. The terrain wasn't that challenging and the weather was perfect. Soulshine told me the other day, "I figured out what makes someone a thru hiker. It's not wanting to hike more miles but doing it anyway because you have to." I certainly don't take this lifestyle for granted, I feel fortunate to be able to explore and challenge myself everyday.  But it is hard. Some days my body just yearns for a couch, a bowl of popcorn, and a good movie. Sometimes I just want to not hike. But I do it anyway, we all do out here, and we help each other through these slumps...just like "regular" life.

 

With seven more miles to go I found Soulshine laying on the ground elevating her feet. I couldn't have been happier to see her resting, and without invitation or hesitation I joined. We laid there for a good  twenty minutes just talking and eating loads of sugary snacks. I admire Soulshine's ability to always stay positive, to laugh, and to care for others even when she is hurting. Together we helped each other up and finished our hike to camp.

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Day 91

We had a short (5 mile) hike into Sierra City, a small county town off highway 49.

Cosmo hiking into town

Cosmo hiking into town

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Happy Baby and Cosmo walking to Sierra City

Happy Baby and Cosmo walking to Sierra City

As soon as we got to town we saw the words "bakery" and "open", so we went in. Soulshine, Cosmo, and I paid $1.00 for delicious day old bread, which we drizzled with olive oil. After the first round of stuffing our faces we headed to the Sierra City Country Store to wait for the deli to open, and it was there that we found the hiker corral, plugged in our technology and took a moment to relax.

"Hiker Corral" 

"Hiker Corral" 

When I picked up my resupply packages I was surprised (again!) by both my dad, and an old friend, Carolyn (who sent snacks all the way from Scotland!) Thank you for the treats and the kind words!

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After retrieving my resupply boxes I was grateful for a free cold shower and a bucket to do my laundry.

We stayed in town for most of the day waiting for our phones and batteries to charge up. During that time we ate french fries, drank beer, and chatted with hikers. It was then that I met Mondo, an ultralight hiker who happened to run into several of my friends along his journey. Thanks to a trail angel, Brandi, we hitched out of town (though we almost got sucked into the vortex) and found the PCT Trailhead at 6:30pm.

Cosmo, Me, Soulshine, Mondo

Cosmo, Me, Soulshine, Mondo

Our hike out of town is a 3,000ft climb over seven miles. We made it up one mile before Cosmo, Soulshine, Ya Ya, Mondo, Mellow Yellow, and I decided to cowboy camp. Utah Aaron and Happy Baby continued on a little bit a head.

 

2 Comments

Tahoe

8 Comments

Tahoe

Day 81 (cont.) 

The big group split up for our hitching adventure but Ya Ya, Utah Aaron, Cosmo, and I stood together with our thumbs out. The first car to stop was going all the way to Sonora Pass and had room for two - so in went Ya Ya and Utah Aaron. The next car was going to the highway juncture and had room for Cosmo and I.

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When we got to the juncture we had our thumbs out for about 15 minutes when a Mazda van pulled up and inside were Woodchuck, Rooster, Happy Baby, Link, and Soulshine. Cosmo and I piled in and we made it to Sonora by 3pm.

We hiked 10 miles tonight. The scenery has quickly changed from granite to a rusty-colored volcanic rock. The landscape was interesting and uniquely beautiful.

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I hiked a lot of the evening with Happy Baby, learning more about him and his family. Hearing him share his stories made the evening much more enjoyable and helped the miles fly by.

We all made it to camp for "family" dinner. We cooked, laughed, and made plans for this section of hiking.

Day 82 

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Today was mellow, I spent the morning walking with Woodchuck, Ya Ya, and Soulshine. The terrain was reliable Pacific Crest Trail smooth with rolling hills. The wildflowers were abundant along the hillsides where we walked and the weather felt perfect for hiking.

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There was one big ominous cloud in the sky that resonated with deep and intimidating sounds of thunder throughout the day, but the storm stayed on the outskirts for the most part. We got a few minutes of drizzle but the sun quickly returned.

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The later half of the day I hiked with Cosmo and we listened to podcasts out loud as we walked along the beautiful rocky trail. The dark volcanic rocks around us look more like the scenery of Utah, not California. I love it. 

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We finished 21 miles by 6:30pm and found the others at the campsite. All eight of us cooked dinner (and 2nd dinner for some), and hung out until dusk settled into night before settling inside our cozy tents.

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Day 83

Today was my biggest mileage day on trail, 29.1 total! Even though I was an ultra runner in my previous life, this number felt like an accomplishment. It's been a while since I've felt strong enough to get 20 miles before sunset, and today was almost 30. The next challenge is to keep up this pace, as we need to sustain long mileage days to make it to Canada by early October.

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Me

Me

The trail today was rolling with gentle ups and downs, much different from the Sierra section we were used to.

Cosmo

Cosmo

At 4pm the afternoon thunder struck up along with ominous clouds which surrounded the revealed rocky hillside we were walking along.

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Normally we avoid the afternoon storm but today we did not. The thunder got louder, lightening became visible, and rain and hail started pour down. Utah Aaron and I were hiking together at the start of the downpour, but he decided to stay back and wait for Ya Ya.

Utah Aaron

Utah Aaron

Utah Aaron hiding on a cliff with his umbrella, waiting for Ya Ya. 

Utah Aaron hiding on a cliff with his umbrella, waiting for Ya Ya. 

 

I rushed down to get out of the dangerous cliff side and found Cosmo, Rooster, Woodchuck, and Aurora (another fellow hiker) huddled under a tree. I joined for a little while but eventually being poured on made me feel too cold to stay still. Woodchuck, Cosmo, and I hiked on in the rain. Eventually the storm passed.

By 6:30pm we had finished 26 miles and continued on.

At 29 miles we saw a lake and Cosmo, Utah Aaron, Ya Ya, and I all wanted to camp there instead of the parking lot we were headed towards. Soulshine was adorably excited about completing her first 30 mile day so she and the rest of the group continued on for one more mile.

At the lake we cooked dinner by the light of headlamps before getting cozy in our beds.

 

Frog Lake

Frog Lake

Day 84 

We slept in ( just a little bit ) and got to the trail by 7:30am. It was a nice walk into town, 15 miles to the parking lot. As we get closer to towns the cell reception gets better, and I seem to get distracted. I called friends and family as I hiked and checked in with my loved ones (thanks for putting up with constant dropped calls Dad).

After a mile Aurora, Cosmo, and I arrived at the Carson Pass trailhead parking lot.

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By the time we arrived to Carson Pass the visitor center was open and we were surprised with trail magic!! Linda, the visitor center employee, excitedly brought outside a bucket full of chips and cookies and fruit for us. 

Trail magic at Carson Pass

Trail magic at Carson Pass

Aurora and Me eating trail magic snacks 

Aurora and Me eating trail magic snacks 

Cookies for breakfast

Cookies for breakfast

I even got another Junior Ranger badge! 

I even got another Junior Ranger badge! 

On this section of trail the PCT connects with the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT), which is special to me. Last summer I hiked the TRT has my first thru-hike and my first time camping alone. It was a great experience, the weather was perfect, the wildflowers were abundant, and I felt surprisingly comfortably being alone in nature. If anyone is interested in a thru-hike I highly recommend the TRT as a perfect trail to test out your backpacking skills.

Cosmo in the trail of wildflowers

Cosmo in the trail of wildflowers

Once I arrived at the Echo Summit Trailhead Cosmo and a hitch were waiting to take us into South Lake Tahoe.

 

More surprises from my resupply box. Thank you Aaron! :-)   

More surprises from my resupply box. Thank you Aaron! :-) 

 

Thank you Ms. Camacho! 

Thank you Ms. Camacho! 

We made it to town and went right to the post office. I picked up my resupply, got a surprise gift from a friend from work (thank you Ms. Camacho, and thank you Marcia!) and swapped out my shoes after nearly 700 miles.

 Can you guess which ones are the old pair? 

 Can you guess which ones are the old pair? 

We took our boxes and walked through Heavenly Village, an upscale ski area filled with restaurants, amusements and tourists that looked and smelled a lot cleaner than us. Cosmo and I strutted through in true hiker trash fashion. It was a strange feeling walking through, like we were on display. I could feel the glares of some folks and heard whispers from others, "Oh! PCT hikers!"

The past few days have been great, but after the mosquitos, high mileage days, and thunderstorms, it's time for some rest and relaxation.

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Day 85   

Today was spent doing town errands and relaxing around Tahoe. Later in the evening the whole gang got together for some pre-bachelorette party festivities for Woodchuck.

Woodchuck - bachelorette party hiker style

Woodchuck - bachelorette party hiker style

Rooster enjoying the sunset. 

Rooster enjoying the sunset. 

Most of the crew went out on the town to celebrate, but I was too tired to party. I got one more good nights sleep before heading back to the trail. 

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1,000

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1,000

Day 76 

All eight of us slept in a tiny tent cabin in Yosemite Valley, fully embracing our hiker trash way of life. We took our time getting ready, grabbing one last town breakfast before attempting to hitch back up to Tuolumne Meadows.

We split up to increase our chances of being picked up.

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But it was of no use. No one was successful at getting a car to stop and slowly we all reassembled at the Yosemite Visitor Center.

We ate more food, drank some beer, and lounged around for a couple hours waiting for the 5:00pm YART bus to take us back up. To kill some time, Cosmo, Rooster, Woodchuck, and I enjoyed an entering Yosemite NP free movie and learned more about the park.

We rushed to catch the bus, but we were far from the only ones with this plan. When we got there we found a full ride and an angry driver. We were able to sweet talk our way into a ride but had to endure an overheated uncomfortable seat in walkway.

Rooster getting comfy on the bus

Rooster getting comfy on the bus

Me, Cosmo, Ya Ya, and Utah Aaron in the bus hallway

Me, Cosmo, Ya Ya, and Utah Aaron in the bus hallway

After an hour and a half we arrived to Tuolumne and hiked out a couple miles. Tonight we are a group of 10 with the addition of Link (formally Lucky) and Quoi. We ate family dinner under the stars and slept close to one another in our tents.

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Day 77 

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Our hike started out by passing the beautiful Tuolumne Falls.

Me and Happy Baby

Me and Happy Baby

Shortly after the falls, Happy Baby and I arrived at an intersection where we found Link, who was going to spend the day waiting for 5 Star. We asked him which way we were supposed to go and he confidently pointed up towards the Tenaya Lake Junction. I gave Link a hug and told him I hoped to see him soon. Happy Baby and I hiked a mile and a half until we got to a mellow water crossing and out of nowhere Cosmo appeared, sweaty and packless. 

Happy Baby and me

Happy Baby and me

"You guys are going the wrong way" Cosmo said breathlessly.  "Huh?" I replied confused. "You guys need to check your maps, you are a mile and a half off the PCT and headed back toward Tenaya Lake. I ran up here to find you, thank goodness I did." Cosmo was worried, and rightfully so. After the story of Strawberry we've all been trying to stick a littler closer together. 

Happy Baby and I looked at each other and we looked at the map. "Damnit!" I yelled. "We are going to do three bonus miles today?!" Cosmo nodded with sweat dripping off his face. We thanked him for caring enough to chase after us and continued back to the intersection with our tails between our legs. "Link is gonna get it!" Was the mantra I kept repeating.

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Midday we were halfway up a climb when we stopped to chat with another hiker, Pneumonia. He was turning around because of stomach issues and wanted to lighten his load by sharing his food with us. We gladly snagged dinners, bars, and tortillas and feasted before continuing on. 

Near the top a ranger stopped us to check for permits. She was nice, and we chatted a bit, but it was annoying to empty my pack and fish out my paperwork. After 900+ miles this is the first time my permit has been checked.

Later in the day we started to cross paths with "flip floppers", hikers who skipped up north to bypass the Sierra and are going south now but will flip back up when they are done. We chatted briefly with Rosie and Drum Solo and then continued on our way.

We hiked late to try and catch the rest of our crew but made it a mile shy of Ya Ya and Utah Aaron.  We ate dinner in the dark and fell asleep to the sounds of rushing river water.

 Day 78

This morning we slept in a little and hit the trail around 8am. I had high hopes for the day. I wanted to get the same kind of mileage we got yesterday, but today was slow going. The terrain and views were spectacular, with vibrant meadows colored in green grasses and yellow and purple wild flowers. There were mountain lakes with granite rock islands and clear water.

Benson Pass

Benson Pass

We stared our day with a two-mile climb up and over Benson Pass. Along that climb I encountered another park ranger who stopped me to check my permit. Begrudgingly I dug it out of my bag and after brief chit chat I was back to the climb.

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The miles went by slow today, really slow. It was around 4pm by the time we finally hit 10 miles and I knew my 20 mile goal wouldn't be reachable. Despite the lack of distance we enjoyed our day. Cosmo, Soulshine and Link jumped in lakes and went swimming, I dipped my feet and dunked my head. There were water crossings, but all of them were mellow and easy. On one such crossing I confidently skipped from rock to rock (trying to keep my feet dry) when all of the sudden I slipped and bounced up and back down with my tailbone landing right on a rock! I sat there in the damp pebbles for a few seconds clenching my mouth and trying to take deep breaths. Cosmo came running over to help me up and we sat in the grass for a few minutes until the pain lessened. A bruised tailbone lasts a long time! It wasn't too long before I started to just walk it off, and shortly after gave in to ibuprofen. Hopefully this one heals quick, having a bruised bum is no fun.

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After climbing down the second pass we decided to end the day before sunset. We only covered 14 miles, but we were exhausted. Link made a fire and we all ate dinner around it.

Link

Link

Day 79 

After coffee and a triple oatmeal breakfast, we were on the trail by 7am. Today was filled with ups and downs that offered scenic views, and non intimidating water crossings that kept our feet wet all day. 

PCT sign under water

PCT sign under water

On our morning climb we were startled by the sounds of a helicopter flying low over our heads. It looked like another search and rescue mission. We hoped for the best, and once again were reminded to be cautious.

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By mid day it started to heat up and when I found Cosmo in the water at Wilmer Lake, I decided to jump in too.

Wilmer Lake

Wilmer Lake

 

The evening hike was mellow, cruising terrain. But the mosquitos....the mosquitos were abundant and relentless! Anytime I stopped for a second there was a swarm around me like a helmet of annoying blood suckers.

Mosquito Meadow after post-holing in mud

Mosquito Meadow after post-holing in mud

We planned to hike over 20 but made it to 19. We caught a beautiful sunset over Dorothy Lake and camped along the water.

Dorothy Lake

Dorothy Lake

Day 80

After crossing Dorothy Lake Pass we hit a huge milestone. 1000 miles!

Me at mile 1000

Me at mile 1000

 

It feels surreal to reach this mileage, an unfathomable distance to walk, even for the walker. This last section has been one of the most beautiful with smooth granite slopes, snowy peaks, and flourishing meadows. This section also has me feeling much stronger than I was in the desert, and I hope to continue on the up and up.

Link on Sonora Pass

Link on Sonora Pass

How we hike up a pass

How we hike up a pass

Soulshine and crew heading up Sonora Pass

Soulshine and crew heading up Sonora Pass


Soulshine, Link, Happy Baby, Cosmo and I sang show tunes and other silly songs to get ourselves over Sonora Pass. Our biggest challenge was an intimidatingly long glissade which we all conquered with teamwork.

Me after the glissade

Me after the glissade

Soulshine staring up at the glissade she just conquered

Soulshine staring up at the glissade she just conquered

By the time we reached the trailhead we put our packs down and stuck our thumbs out. Happy Baby went in the first car, Soulshine and Link were next, and eventually we all made it to Bridgeport where Woodchuck, Rooster, Ya Ya, and Utah Aaron were waiting.

Day 81

It was a quick stop to Bridgeport, we did laundry, showered, got our resupply and began our journey back to trail.  

To make it to Canada on time we have to pick up the pace. Now that we are through the toughest part of trail our goal is to increase our daily mileage and make it to the Cascades before the snow returns in October.  

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Down To The Valley

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Down To The Valley

Day 72 

Once we got back to Reds Meadow the whole gang was there waiting. We ate as much of our town" food as our stomachs could muster and then (after a couple hours) packed up and headed back out to trail.

We hiked 8 1/2 miles before camp and I spent most of the walk listening to freshly downloaded podcasts and chatting with Woodchuck.

Woodchuck's descheleved backpack. A new one will be arriving soon.  

Woodchuck's descheleved backpack. A new one will be arriving soon.  

By the time we all reconnected at camp it was 7:30pm and still light outside. We cooked dinner together and, despite the tormenting mosquitos, we sat around in bug nets and ate our food and laughed at our own silliness.

Woodchuck, Ya Ya, Rooster, Cosmo doing the "camp dance"

Woodchuck, Ya Ya, Rooster, Cosmo doing the "camp dance"

Day 73

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This morning we had a beautiful hike with cascading waterfalls, wild flowers, and the jagged peaks of the minaret mountain range in the distance.

I was in the middle of the herd when I decided to sit down and break for lunch. I packed out vegan sausage, daiya cheese, and tortillas. I had nachos on my mind. While I cooked I laid out my tent to dry (from last nights mini rain storm) and waited for Cosmo and Happy Baby - who were both behind me.

Today was a tough one. We are all out here living a dream. We are privileged to get to hike and camp everyday and to be walking amidst this dreamlike landscape. But that doesn't mean there aren't challenges. There are days when it's impossible to get out of your own head. Days when every step is painful. Days when you just don't feel like hiking. Today was challenging for me Cosmo and Happy Baby, but as I've said in the past, having this shared experience helped us move forward. We had each other to make sure we continued to put one foot in front of the other.

The rest of the day the three of us stayed together. We climbed up and over Island Pass and Donahue Pass, finally ending after 17 miles at a campsite tucked in the trees next to a waterfall.

Happy Baby and Cosmo on Island Pass

Happy Baby and Cosmo on Island Pass

Island Pass

Island Pass

Me conjuring up some wizard magic on Island Pass

Me conjuring up some wizard magic on Island Pass

Cosmo and Happy Baby on top of Donahue Pass

Cosmo and Happy Baby on top of Donahue Pass

The rest of the gang is ahead of us somewhere, but we made the choice to set up camp while the sun was out. We were able to eat dinner and get cozy in our tents by 9pm. The goal is to try and get up early to catch the rest of the gang.

Happy Baby setting up camp

Happy Baby setting up camp

Day 74

Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows

We had an easy, flat, beautiful hike to Tuolumne Meadows where we spent an hour hitching to the Yosemite Valley. 

Cosmo hiking into Tuolumne Meadows

Cosmo hiking into Tuolumne Meadows

In a normal year we would be able to resupply in Tuolumne (which is where I had my package sent) but this is not a "normal" year for the trail. The winter weather has slowed everything down in the Sierra Nevada, and the Tuolumne Post Office is still not open.

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Happy Baby using the "hitching dance" to try and get a ride  

Happy Baby using the "hitching dance" to try and get a ride  

Cosmo and Happy Baby walking along the winding road

Cosmo and Happy Baby walking along the winding road

Our first car ride brought us to Tenaya Lake, and soon after we found another ride to the juncture of Hwy 120 and Hwy 140. From there we walked along the winding road into the Valley until we were picked up by our final car that took us into Yosemite Village.

Zef and Lidia (the couple that picked us up last), Happy Baby, Cosmo, and Me  

Zef and Lidia (the couple that picked us up last), Happy Baby, Cosmo, and Me  

Thankfully we got dropped off at the grocery store where we were instantly reunited with Utah Aaron and Ya Ya.

We spent hours sitting at the picnic table outside of the store, eating food and trying to plan the rest of our night. Jess, an employee of the grocery store, overheard our conversation and offered us a space on the floor of her shared tent cabin. After much indecision between the four of us, we decided to accept the offer.

With a cart full of food, we made our way to the tent dorms.

Utah Aaron, Cosmo, Ya Ya

Utah Aaron, Cosmo, Ya Ya

Once we arrived, we showered, did laundry, ate our midnight snacks and fell asleep, reminiscing about the days of college dormitories.

Day 75

We left Jess' place mid morning and headed back into the Village. Woodchuck, Rooster, Happy Baby, and Soulshine decided to take a zero day so we were in no rush.

After picking up packages from the post office (thanks to Cosmo's Grandpa Tom and Gran for the awesome snacks!), I headed over to the Visitor Center to take care of some serious business.

Pathway to becoming a Junior Ranger of Yosemite National Park

Pathway to becoming a Junior Ranger of Yosemite National Park

Success! 

Success! 

Junior Ranger badges

Junior Ranger badges

After learning about the park and achieving my Junior Ranger status we headed towards Half Dome Village and found the other four.

We ran into Rooster and Happy Baby first, and then found Woodchuck and Soulshine. We walked with the girls to get lunch and on our walk Woodchuck had some devastating news to catch me up on.

About a week ago we got word that a hiker named Rika (aka Strawberry) had gone missing. Nobody had heard from her since she left Bishop a couple weeks earlier. Woodchuck and her crew knew Rika. She was a familiar face during hiking lunch breaks and town visits. When Woodchuck found out that she was missing, she was filled with an uncomfortable intuition. Woodchuck called Search and Rescue from the top of Donahue Pass and told them to look near the White Fork River crossing (this was the location of the frightful crossing we did as a large group at dawn when we met Rooster, Woodchuck, and Happy Baby). Shortly after sharing this information we found out that Rika's body was found downstream at White Fork. Naturally, this news was a shock to all of us. Rika was in her early 30's, and she had traveled here from Japan to live out her dream of hiking the PCT. Her story acts as a reality check for all of us. What we are doing out here is no joke. The mountains are powerful, unpredictable, and serious. Although most of us started as solo hikers it is crucial that we stick together and help one another through this journey. I believe that Rika's story should not deter people from hiking, but act as a reminder to remain aware, do your best to stay safe, and stick together.

We took it easy the rest of the day, sitting by the Merced River, remembering that we are fortunate to be here in the beautiful Yosemite National Park. 

Me at the Merced River

Me at the Merced River

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

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Passes By The Masses

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Passes By The Masses

Day 63 - Glen Pass  

We are well into our Sierra section and enjoying the beauty of the John Muir Trail (which was my first real backpacking trip in 2015...and my gateway drug to thru-hiking). That beauty comes with a cost, as this section is one of the most difficult in steepness, technicality, and mental/emotional challenges. Every day has had multiple moments where I stare at an obstacle in front of me (might be a snow field, might be a river crossing) and then I make eye contact with one of my 3 compadres shaking my head left and right until they give me a nod up and down with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Trail sign deep under water

Trail sign deep under water

Today we went up and over Glen Pass...it took us 3 1/2 hours to go 3 miles up and another 3 1/2 hours to make our way down. We hiked from sun up to sun down and clocked in at only 13.2 miles for the day. Did I mention this section requires patience?

Climbing up Glen  

Climbing up Glen  

Almost to the Pass

Almost to the Pass

On the north side of Glen, once we finally reached actual trail and not snowy footprint tracks, we were rewarded by the beauty of 60 Lake Basin and Rae Lakes. Glistening icy lakes mirroring the majestic mountains around them. Water so clear you can see to the bottom, big trout swimming all around. This water was gorgeous to look at, gorgeous to walk around...not so gorgeous for an unexpected mandatory ice bath.

Cosmo at Rae Lakes

Cosmo at Rae Lakes

I looked atop a rock and saw three men pushing boulders into the water. At first I just thought it was a bunch of dudes out in the wild trying to connect to their cavemen roots.  Then as we got closer, they shouted instructions for us on to cross the water they were standing over. Damn it! The boulders were for us. The water was waist high for me and moving with a manageable, but slightly strong current. Cosmo had to move ice sheets out of the way for us to get our legs in. We went through the crossing together, mostly me holding onto his arm for dear life. I used swearing as my coping skill for the frozen feeling in my feet until we made it safely to the other side. Ignoring the small talk that the boulder-men tried to initiate, I just continued to walk into a sunny spot, getting the blood to once again flow into my feet. Cosmo and I took a moment to breathe and relax while I put my shoes and socks back on. As I started to put my pack back on I heard Cosmo say, "Uh,oh. I don't have my phone." He carried it across the water in his front pocket and now it is gone. We both ran back to the crossing, I peered over to see if I could see it, Cosmo got back in the water to look. Nothing.

 

We walked back to our sun spot and accepted that his phone was gone. Without a GPS or anyway to communicate with the outside world, Cosmo (who remained impressively zen about everything) stayed by my side for the rest of the day.

Celebrating another milestone

Celebrating another milestone

Eventually we caught up with Ya Ya and Utah Aaron and hiked as a group into the evening. We crossed a large suspension bridge, handled a few more river crossings, and finished at a camp spot in front of an intimidating rushing waterfall crossing that we are attempting to cross at 5am! For now...I eat dinner (in bed), cowboy camp under the stars, and try to remind myself that these scary challenges are the reason I came out here. This is an adventure.

Utah Aaron helping me with a water crossing

Utah Aaron helping me with a water crossing

Relief that I made it across

Relief that I made it across

Day 64 -  Pinchot Pass

I woke up three minutes before my alarm this morning, 4:12am. I went to bed anticipating this morning's waterfall crossing and just wanted to get it over with. As the sun slowly began to rise, so did the other hikers. Ya Ya, Utah Aaron and Cosmo were all packed up and ready by 5:00am.

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We decided to get up this early so we could cross as a big group, with two other hikers joining us, Woodchuck and Happy Baby. Last night Woodchuck's fiancé, Rooster, fell twice in the white water before making it across and decided that the rest of his group should wait until morning. So there we were.

The water was lower than it was in the evening, but it was still moving intimidatingly fast, with white water cascading over various sized rocks and boulders, leading to a big drop off...waterfall.

Utah Aaron, Ya Ya, and Woodchuck went first. They were all holding hands as they carefully made it to the other side where Rooster was there to help everyone out. Up next was Cosmo, me, and Happy Baby. I held on to both men's hands as tight as I could as we crossed the frigid falls. Immediately my feet were frozen and swear words were pouring out of my mouth. What a way to start the day! We all hiked about a half mile up the trail and then pulled over to dry off, drink warm coffee and relax.

We spent the rest of the day with our new hiking buddies. Going up and over Pinchot Pass, sharing the traditional celebratory whiskey shot at the pass before hiking down the north side. We enjoyed the Sierra scenery, taking breaks as a group, Rooster went fishing for dinner while I enjoyed a Spanish rice and mashed potato burrito by the raging North Fork river.

The crew climbing up

The crew climbing up

We ended our day in the early evening just a few miles below Mather Pass. We camped in a big green meadow and fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the raging river.

Happy Baby, Rooster, Woodchuck

Happy Baby, Rooster, Woodchuck

Day 65 - Mather Pass 

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Our morning started off with another river crossing, though it was nothing as intense as the one from yesterday. We remained as a big group and hiked together to Mather Pass - supposedly the most intimidating of all the passes. Our feet were wet for most of the day starting with the snow fields and sun cups in the foothills of the pass. 

The climb started out like all the others, follow the snow tracks and choose the path of least resistance. We started up the steep slushy "trail" in a single file line. Halfway up the trail I saw Woodchuck sitting in the snow, postholed deep into the snow on a steep mountainside. Our conga line stopped and we patiently waited for Happy Baby to help her to safety. We all took a break, and took a minute to catch our breath, on a large rocky island midway through our climb. The next challenge was a steep scree scramble up the side of the mountain until we could find actual trail.

Utah Aaron and Ya Ya  

Utah Aaron and Ya Ya  

Overall, we handled Mather Pass without major problems, as they say..."teamwork makes the dream work".

Cosmo taking the traditional celebratory "Pass" shot

Cosmo taking the traditional celebratory "Pass" shot

Our descent was snowy and slow for the first half, and overwhelmingly beautiful and easy going for the second. We descended the Golden Staircase, a windy rocky part of trail - made up of granite - that goes down for miles and is surrounded by snow capped mountains, cascading waterfalls, and thawing mountain lakes.

Me descending the Golden Staircase

Me descending the Golden Staircase

Cosmo sitting by a waterfall on the Golden Staircase

Cosmo sitting by a waterfall on the Golden Staircase

Day 66 - Muir Pass 

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This morning I woke up ravenous, again. Having my hunger back is great - I feel stronger, more energized, and haven't had stomach pain in a few days - however, I am worried about my food quantity. Yesterday it felt like I was eating most of the time I was hiking, and when I wasn't eating I was thinking about food. We are still 50 miles from my next resupply and this section has been slow going.

Five miles into today's hike I received some amazing trail magic. Happy Baby, Rooster, Woodchuck, and Cosmo all stopped to eat early lunch (or second breakfast) and were chatting with Soulshine, a fellow thru hiker who claimed she had too much food. She happily tossed meals, snacks, and various bars on the ground as an offering and we scampered over like hungry birds pecking away at what we wanted. We all got a variety of treats. I immediately ate 1 1/2 Tofurky sausages and a handful of trail mix. For later (later being a couple hours at most), I snagged a bag of oatmeal mixed with chia seeds and a Jif "to go" peanut butter pack. Hopefully this will ease some of my food anxieties for a bit. 

Cosmo and me in monster rock after getting fed trail magic  

Cosmo and me in monster rock after getting fed trail magic

 

We continued along our climb. The morning was beautiful. Blue skies, green meadows, and jagged peaks. My descriptions may sound redundant but this place is incredible! We are in Kings Canyon National Park, one of my favorite areas. So far, it's a strenuous staircase of rocks for miles and I'm trying to stay present, enjoy the beauty of where I am, and take it one step at a time. Half mile up the trail I found a rushing water crossing and Cosmo safely on the other side. Feeling brave I wasted no time walking through. In the middle of the crossing my foot got stuck on a rock and I couldn't pull it out. The water was rushing down with a strong current and every time I tried to pull harder to get my foot out it felt like I would lose my sneaker. Seeing the look of panic on my face, Cosmo rushed back in the river (barefoot) and helped pull me and my shoe to safety.

 

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With three miles of snow field on the south side and four miles of snow on the north, It was slow going over Muir Pass.

In the snow fields we follow the tracks from previous hikers - usually there is a stretch of snow tracks leading to a rock island and then we search for the next set of tracks. For most of this hike it was easy to figure out where to go, but about a half mile from the pass Cosmo and I got confused and could see nothing but untouched snowy sun cups, no footprints.

Snowfields forever With the help of technology and GPS we were able to get reoriented and eventually found our way to the top. Utah Aaron, Ya Ya, and Happy Baby were all up there waiting for us.

Snowfields forever

With the help of technology and GPS we were able to get reoriented and eventually found our way to the top. Utah Aaron, Ya Ya, and Happy Baby were all up there waiting for us.

Me in Muir Hut

Me in Muir Hut

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The way down was snowy and slow, but not nearly as scary as the previous passes. Actually, it wasn't scary at all.

We listened to comedy through my phone speakers for entertainment, hiked on despite wet freezing feet, and crossed another big waterfall while cursing out loud to cope with the cold. Once we made it back to actual trail, out of the snow, we hiked a little further until we found Woodchuck and Rooster camped out in paradise. Excitedly we joined.

Happy Baby

Happy Baby

Lakeside campsite below Muir

Lakeside campsite below Muir

Cosmo, Ya Ya, Utah Aaron and I ate by the lake and shared dinner time on our tarps. Dinner time has quickly become all of our favorite times of day because we get to eat! As we ate we looked at maps and made plans for the next two days. Today was another good day.

Day 67 - Muir Ranch 

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Today we had no mountain passes to climb and we were able to knock out just over 18 miles.

This morning was cold, but beautiful in our lake side campsite. We refused to hike before the sun came to our spot so we spent the early morning having coffee and hanging out as a big group. It started with Woodchuck who came over to my tent with her Neo-Air bed and her sleeping bag. Pretty soon Cosmo, Rooster, Happy Baby, Ya Ya, and Utah Aaron were all gathered around outside with their beds. It was nice not to rush out and to have a relaxed. 

After leaving our campsite we continued our descent of Muir Pass. Six miles down we had another anticipated river crossing, Evolution Creek. We took an alternate trail that allowed us to walk through the water in an area that was wide but the current mellow. Luckily we approached this crossing mid-day when the sun was shining and the weather was heating up. I say this because I stand tall at just about 5'4 and the water went up to my waist.

The next part of our hike led us to Muir Ranch, a fancy resort for paying customers and a common resupply for hikers. We hiked down to the ranch in hopes of filling up our bags with a few more snacks for our next big stop. We got there late in the day and unfortunately there were slim pickings in the hiker boxes. We could smell the grill firing up for the guests and we wanted so badly to get into the restaurant. Unfortunately, Muir Ranch corrals all the hikers in one area and does not let us indulge in anything other than the hiker box.  

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After leaving the ranch we had a three mile climb up (which felt like straight up!) to our campsite. This climb is the start of Selden Pass which we conquer tomorrow.

Day 68 -Selden Pass 

 Selden has been one of the easiest passes we've done in this section. The steep climbs were challenging (especially on a full stomach), but we reached the top by late morning and spent the rest of the day going down hill.

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We took our time and enjoyed the scenery, stopping for breaks by rivers and waterfalls.

In the afternoon we approached Bear Creek, supposedly one of the most dangerous water crossings. Cosmo and I got there first and had no problem walking through. The rest of the group came shortly after. Woodchuck slipped in the middle of her crossing but was able to get up and continue walking, unharmed.

Everyone made it safely to the other side.

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After eighteen miles, and millions of mosquitos, we camped at the Ferry Landing for Edison Lake. Tomorrow we get a mini break as we stop in the Vermillion Valley Ranch (VVR) to resupply. Happy Baby, Soulshine (our newest group member), and I are going to take a ferry across the lake, and the others have said they want to make the 5 mile hike. We shall see how everyone feels in the morning.

Day 69 - Vermillion Valley Resort

 This morning was glorious. I got to sleep in, wake up on a lake, and didn't have to hike! Woodchuck, Rooster, Ya Ya, Utah Aaron, and Cosmo took the 5 mile hike to VVR while Happy Baby, Soulshine, and I opted for a little leisure time on the ferry.

Me, Happy Baby, Soulshine

Me, Happy Baby, Soulshine

While sitting on the ferry I was thinking about how difficult this section has been, how nice it will be to take a break, and what food I will eat and beer I will drink once we arrive to VVR. I was also thinking about how much stronger I've felt over the past few days.

Soulshine, Me, Happy Baby

Soulshine, Me, Happy Baby

Happy Baby

Happy Baby

Throughout this strenuous section I've taken steep snow chutes and rocky scrambles to get to the tops of high elevation mountain passes. I've hiked hungry, tired, and with sore muscles to make it to camp. I've approached frightful river crossings and allowed my group members to help me move forward and cross safely. My stomach pain has started to disappear and I am feeling myself building strength again.

The week off in Bishop was good for me. I'm grateful for that time and I believe that rest is the main reason I am finally feeling better.

For most of this hike I've been pushing myself, not listening to my body, and not taking time to recover. I've felt stress on our days off, like I should be hiking, I should be accomplishing SOMETHING. I recognize now that this is a pre-trail mindset that I've carried with me through the hike.

The idea that I have to continuously work and train hard everyday to be successful is not sustainable, and not actually a mindset I believe in - nor is it one that I try to teach my high school or yoga students.

I believe self-care is essential. There needs to be a balance of work and rest, but finding balance isn't easy. I know that if I want to get stronger, build endurance, and be happier I need to honor my body and the importance of rest. Knowing something is one thing, and putting that knowledge into practice is another. Thru-hiking is more than just walking in the woods. Amidst the walking, the mountains, and the challenges there is a space for self reflection.

Everyday is an opportunity to become more self aware. To take notice of habitual thoughts and patterns of action. Awareness is the first step towards growth. Thru-hiking also creates a space to challenge the thoughts that don't serve you and to make changes in your behavior. Of course, this isn't easy. Luckily (?) I am only one third of the way through my journey, so I have plenty of time to keep trying. I know that I have some of the hardest days ahead of me and some of the best days ahead of me.

What have I learned so far?

Drink more water. Sleep more. Take rest days. Stay positive and surround yourself with positive people.

My next task is to put these lessons into practice. Sometimes it takes more strength to ask for what you need, to take a break.

Day 70 - Silver Pass

We had a leisurely morning waiting for the Ferry at VVR.  

Me, Woodchuck, Ya Ya, Utah Aaron, Rooster, Happy Baby, Soulshine, Cosmo

Me, Woodchuck, Ya Ya, Utah Aaron, Rooster, Happy Baby, Soulshine, Cosmo

The climb up to Silver Pass wasn't nearly as tough as the previous passes. There was patchy snow and beautiful views. Soulshine, Woodchuck and I had some girl time climbing up and the conversations made the miles fly by. 

Soulshine and Woodchuck climbing up

Soulshine and Woodchuck climbing up

We found the rest of the gang hanging out at the top. We sat around together for a little while celebrating in our usual way before heading down the mountain.

The whole group had ambitious plans of hiking to Lake Virginia, six miles after the Pass. It was late afternoon and I was getting nervous about the time it would take me. 

We hiked on as the sun began to set. Cosmo, Happy Baby and I started a steep climb in the dark. Cosmo stayed calm and positive as we trudged up, though I started to feel anxious about hiking late and getting my much-needed sleep. 

After fording through lakes and crossing small snow paths by the light of our headlamps we found the others. It was 11pm and they were having dinner and starting to build a campfire. I said my "hellos" and immediately retreated to my tent, exhausted.

Day 71 - Mammoth

Happy Baby and I hiked most of today together, taking it slow and hanging out in the "back of the bus".  We met a woman, Nora, who recognized me from social media and was out hiking the John Muir Trail with her two daughters. It was so nice to see a mom sharing such a wonderful experience with her children.

We stopped to chat with a couple John Muir Trail hikers who shared some wild onions they had foraged. 

We found Cosmo waiting at our 900 mile marker milestone.  After a short break the aggressive biting flies reminded us that it was time to hike on.

Happy Baby and I got to Reds Meadow and found the rest of the group there waiting. I saw Cosmo in line for a shuttle and I rushed up to ask him what he was doing. Before even saying hi to everyone, or taking my

pack off, I decided to join him for an adventure in Mammoth. The goal was to replace his cell phone.

We got on the last shuttle and were dropped off at the ATT store. It took two and a half hours for the cell phone ordeal to be completed, and in that time I ran to ZPizza and got us an XL Vegan Pizza, which we ate most of very quickly.

Later that night, thanks to the connections of friends and the trail running community, we received THE BEST trail magic. The kind and generous Amy Gatlin and her BF Cameron offered to have a friend pick us up and join them at their rental home in Mammoth for the night. When we got there we found a warm home filled with new friends, beer, and tacos.

Me, Amy, Cameron, Cosmo

Me, Amy, Cameron, Cosmo

We all sat around and shared mountain adventure stories. The gang made sure Cosmo and I were comfortable, clean, and fed. They gave us snacks for the road and the comfiest room I've had in months. 

My excitement at vegan treats

My excitement at vegan treats

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I had the best sleep I've had in a long time and secretly wish we could stay here for a little longer :-)

After a slow morning of delicious coffee, yummy fruit, and great conversation we said our goodbyes to Amy and Cameron and headed off with Nick and Brittany, back to trail.

 

Nick, Brittany, Cosmo, Me

Nick, Brittany, Cosmo, Me

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The Bishop Vortex

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The Bishop Vortex

Day 59

Zero #2 - still waiting for Leki part.

Ya Ya and Utah Aaron spent the day at Kenough Hot Springs, I joined Lucky, a hiker from Colorado, for lunch at the local juice bar, and Cosmo got a surprise visit from his mom and cousin Steph (who drove down from vacation in Lake Tahoe).

Jacque, Cosmo, Steph

Jacque, Cosmo, Steph

Later in the day we all reconnected at the Bishop Brewery and got the pleasure of meeting and spending time with the Cosmo Family Clan.

Jacque, Ya Ya, Cosmo, Me

Jacque, Ya Ya, Cosmo, Me

After lunch we headed to Vons to finish our resupply. While shopping I received a surprise text, and visit, from my friend Danielle. She happened to be driving to Bishop to rescue her off-roading husband (another story for another time). Although the circumstances weren't the best, it was great to see Danielle, Wesley (who was safe), and the wonderful Newman!

Newman and me

Newman and me

Day 60 

Zero Day #3 - still waiting for Leki...

Today was mellow, I started with a swim in the hotel pool, followed by walking up and down Main Street and stopping in at the local book stores to browse.

Later in the evening Lucky joined us for a game at the bowling alley.

Ya Ya

Ya Ya

Cosmo

Cosmo

Day 61 

Zero Day #4 - Leki part arrived! Cosmo gets sick :-(

This morning we woke up ready to go, all except for Cosmo who had been awake all night throwing up. Although everyone, Cosmo included, was anxious to get back to the woods, we knew it wasn't safe to go into the backcountry while sick. We extended our stay another night and once again spent the day hanging around the Main Street in Bishop.

YaYa

YaYa

Day 62 

Zero no more. We finally made it out of town.

We stayed in bed at the Red Roof Inn until noon, getting our last fix of being horizontal and binge watching HGTV. In the middle of our relaxing morning I had an emergency craving for Chinese food, so I hurried to the restaurant a couple blocks away, brought my rice and veggie soup back to the hotel and ate it in bed.

Once we were practically kicked out of the hotel room we began our trek to the outskirts of town where we would attempt to hitch.

Along this journey down Main Street I heard "Lani!" yelled from across the street. I couldn't tell yet who it was but I waved enthusiastically until I figured it out. Crossing the street was my good friend from Los Angeles, Cari and her boyfriend John!

John, Me, Cari

John, Me, Cari

Cari was getting ready to embark on a backpacking trip with 11 other friends and just happened to be in Bishop to witness our departure. After more hugs and chit chat we continued on down the road.

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It took us about an hour to get a hitch out of town. A nice young woman took all four of us to Big Pine, the next town over. From there we were picked up pretty quick and got taken all the way to Independence and up the long winding road to Onion Valley. The driver was enthusiastic and energetic. Cosmo and I sat in front while Ya Ya and Utah Aaron hunkered down in the bed of the truck.

We got to the trailhead with enough time to make the grueling trek back up and over Kearsarge Pass and down a few miles where we ate dinner and settled in for the night.

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Wild Life

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Wild Life

Day 50 

After the mishap with my hiking poles/ice axe I decided to go home to Los Angeles to get my gear straightened out.  

When I got home I ordered food from two of my favorite local restaurants and got a chance to relax and catch up with LA Aaron and his brother Steve. 

While we were eating I described my off-and-on stomach pain to Steve. This conversation introduced a rabbit hole of unhealthy internet searching, leading me to believe I might have the water born illness, Giardia. At midnight LA Aaron and I decided to go to Urgent Care (again) just to get another opinion.  

At Urgent Care the nurses seemed confused about what I was doing, "I'm currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and I've had consistent stomach pain." I'd say. 

They would nod with confused approval, "Okay, yeah...I understand you're concern, I'm going to take your temperature and the doctor will be in shortly." 

The doctor seemed confident in his knowledge of outdoorsy experiences. He said, "Ive watched Naked And Afraid and Bear Grylls...I know what you're talking about." He decided there was nothing major to worry about and that my stomach issues could be due to any number of things given my current lifestyle. His professional advice was to buy some Powerade and return home to sleep.

Day 51

After a late night at Urgent Care I decided to continue to relax and took a zero at home.

Day 52

This morning LA Aaron's car was broken into. His window was broken and a few of his cameras were stolen. It was devastating. After getting the window patched, we headed to Zpizza to stuff our emotions down with carbs, and then started our road trip back to the trail. 

Throughout the car ride I struggled with mixed feelings about heading back. It's dangerous to go home in the middle of a journey like this. The past few sections have been tough, and home is easy, comfortable, and has cats. 

When we got to Horseshoe Meadows I was happy to see my trail family, and grateful that they waited for me.  

Ya Ya and Utah Aaron hitching from Lone Pine to Horseshoe Meadows

Ya Ya and Utah Aaron hitching from Lone Pine to Horseshoe Meadows

LA Aaron and his brother Steve joined us for most of this evening's strenuous hike. All of our packs are filled to capacity with 7-8 days of food and new mountaineering gear. I felt gravity pulling me back with every step, but somehow we managed to make it about 8 miles to Cottonwood Pass where we camped.

Cottonwood Pass  

Cottonwood Pass  

Day 53

We left Cottonwood Pass around 8am and hiked a couple miles before stopping to fill up water and eat breakfast (immediately after which I threw up part of that breakfast and then kept hiking).

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Today was a great day. It was physically challenging, but the scenery was Sierra-gorgeous and Cosmo and I took breaks often. We spent time sitting and chatting with fellow hikers, many we were meeting for the first time. We also had two of our first river crossings. We were able to cross them fairly easily using fallen trees, but there were still moments of panic and fear. These crossings are mellow compared to the ones coming up.

We were supposed to meet Ya Ya and Utah Aaron at the juncture where the PCT and John Muir Trail (JMT) connect. By the time we ended up 0.7 miles from the juncture, it was late, dark, and we were exhausted. We guessed that the others were about an hour ahead, so we decided to camp and cross our fingers that we catch up to them before our Mt. Whitney summit tomorrow.

 Day 54

Utah Aaron, Cosmo, Me

Utah Aaron, Cosmo, Me

An hour into our hike we found Ya Ya and Utah Aaron not too far away. The day started off perfectly for a big mountain climb. The sky was clear, the weather was warm, and our backpacks were light. Before taking off for the day we set up our camp at Crabtree Meadows and emptied the heavy contents from our backpacks, leaving behind our bear vaults of food and miscellaneous gear we didn't think we'd need for our Mt. Whitney out and back.

The first few miles were breathtaking, with snow-capped peaks surrounding green meadows, and everything alive with plants, animals, and a raging river.

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We stopped at Guitar Lake (appropriately named for its shape) and filled up on water as we gazed at the beauty around us.

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As soon as we left Guitar Lake we noticed some dark clouds in the distance - we didn't think much of them at the time.

I was hiking behind my crew when I passed two women setting up camp by the lake. We said hellos and they told me that they spoke to a ranger who warned of a storm coming in today. I thanked them for their info and hurried off to share the news with Cosmo, Utah Aaron, and Ya Ya. Everyone seemed to agree that we would push on despite the ominous news.

Cosmo climbing up

Cosmo climbing up

We climbed up the rocky trail and carefully crossed sun cupped snow fields.

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My first big challenge was the snow crossing on the mountain chute. I felt myself begin to panic as I looked down. 'Charlie...' I whined. 'You got this!' He replied.

I suited up with an ice axe, gaiters, and microspikes. I carefully placed my hiking poles down in the snow and ice, and then picked up my feet, one at a time. The crossing ended up being easier than I thought, but it still took a minute to calm myself afterwards.

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I grew more wary of the incoming dark clouds and the sporadic snow and hail droppings the further we climbed up. I think I asked every descending hiker that passed me their thoughts of the storm. Some said turn back now, while others said it should be fine to continue. One girl who passed me got scared enough to turn around just below approaching the summit. Still...I kept going.

Eventually we made it to the top. We signed the log book, took a picture, and shared a celebratory shot of Jameson with two day hikers that happened to be standing next to us (right place, right time). 

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We spent about ten minutes at the summit before the dark clouds above us sounded loudly with thunder.  

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I was so concerned with beating the storm that I led us down the wrong way taking a slightly longer snow field detour. 

On our way down the thunder grew louder and more frequent while our bodies were pelted by rain and hail. It didn't take long before the storm was officially pouring down on top of us. We descended as fast as we could, Cosmo especially in a rush since he had neglected to bring any of his rain gear with him.

Getting back to tent was the greatest relief. We were soaking wet, but safe and soon to be warm.

The rain fly kept most of our stuff dry, although other hikers weren't so lucky. Mellow Yellow, a quiet young man from Connecticut, found his tent had collapsed into a puddle. 

Mellow Yellow on top of Kearsarge Pass

Mellow Yellow on top of Kearsarge Pass

We all hurriedly got in our tents, into our sleeping bags, and remained curled up and happy to be "home" for the rest of the night.

Day 55

We took our time this morning, waiting for the morning sun to make its way to our camp and dry our soggy clothes from yesterday's storm. It didn't take too long for that to happen, and we were on the trail by 9:30am.

In retrospect, drying our clothes this morning might have been a moot point since today would be the first of our true river crossings.

We first tested our water skills by maneuvering around the flooded sections of trail, usually secluded to the valleys. By midday we approached Wallace Creek. Luckily, there was a fairly wide log not too far down the trail. First across was Utah Aaron, then Ya Ya, and then me. The white water rushed beneath the log and it took me a second to calm my breath. I looked forward at Utah Aaron and Ya Ya who both nodded in affirmation. I looked behind me at Cosmo who without hesitation said his usual, "You got this!". 

I stepped onto the log and put one foot in front of the next, trying not to think too hard or panic. Eventually my steps led me to safety, high fives, and sighs of relief. Cosmo was up next, but he practically danced over it...fearless.

The next part of our hike was breathtaking. Up above 10,000 ft and surrounded by the beautiful, snow-capped and jagged peaks of this range were the Kaweahs, a sub-range of the Sierra Nevada composed of rugged peaks made of mostly metamorphic rock. 

Finally the meadow opened up and revealed a roaring river. We made it to our second crossing, Tyndall Creek.

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Tyndall didn't have any log bridges or seemingly mellow spots, just rushing wide white water. We hiked downstream about a mile searching for the best place to cross, or at least a place where the water wouldn't be over my head. Cosmo and I crossed together, mostly because I used my death grip on his hand, relying on him to help me not get swept down stream. The water wasn't as high as I expected, only coming up to my knees. Our shoes, socks, and feet were wet and cold but we all made it across unscathed.

We hiked as far as we could without losing the shelter of trees (which was less than a mile), and set up camp early in the evening,  staring out at our next task, Forrester Pass - the highest point on the PCT. There were more giant storm clouds rolling in, though they only lingered above us briefly before moving north. 

Tonight we have the luxury of time and our group all together. We cooked, we ate dinner, and we worked on a crossword puzzle I had brought along. It was nice to be hanging out and relaxing as a group. 

Day 56

I've been thinking a lot about fear and stress. Stress, although it may feel like something outside of our control, is nothing more than our own internal perception. Fear is the same as stress, a concept we make up in our minds. On the PCT there is a lot of fear-mongering chatter, about weather, mountain conditions, rivers... Today we approach Forester Pass, a mountain pass I have long feared. I've allowed other people's stories of steep mountain drop-offs and sketchy snowfields to stressfully swirl around my mind. But I realized, it's not the mountain that is fearful or stressful, but the way I approach it. 

However, the stories weren't wrong. This day was one of the most challenging yet. The climb began by slowly crossing sun cupped snowfields and frozen streams. The trick is to try and choose the hard snow to walk over, but every once in a while your leg may plunge unexpectedly through feet of soft snow, known as postholing. Early in the day I postholed into a nearly frozen creek running beneath the snow - and thus began my day of wet, cold feet.  

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The next task was to get up to the part of the mountain where we could see the trail. This required a scramble up loose rock or an icy climb up a steep snowfield. Though we had no previous mountain snow experience, Cosmo and I confidently chose the latter. On this climb I learned to trust my gear, trust myself, and to just keep pushing.  

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By early afternoon we made it to the pass and were rewarded by scenic views, friends, and photos. 

Cosmo at the Pass  

Cosmo at the Pass  

Me and Ya Ya Getting to the Pass was only the beginning of our obstacle course. We still had to get down the steep and snowy north side. As a group we followed the footprints in snow and started our descent. 

Me and Ya Ya

Getting to the Pass was only the beginning of our obstacle course. We still had to get down the steep and snowy north side. As a group we followed the footprints in snow and started our descent. 

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The way down was a second hand fun adventure. We followed tracks in snow on a steep mountain side, sometimes just guessing where the trail might be. We sat on our butts and glissaded down a couple of chutes, and we took breaks sharing laughter and whiskey with other hikers. While I felt myself growing more confident walking through the snow, I was not so sure of the once again darkening clouds and roaring thunder around us.   The second we started to feel drops of rain I asked Cosmo to set up a tent as shelter for himself, Ya Ya, and me (Utah Aaron had speedily gone down the mountain and was no where to be seen). Cosmo complied and set up his tent in record time, only to take it down moments later. A group of hikers came by, deciding they would push on through the storm. Ya Ya thought it best to be with a herd, and she was right. We followed along behind Purple Haze, Newsfeed, Mellow Yellow, and Five Star. 
 
As a group we made it down the tough parts of the mountain, and although the sound of thunder grew more frequent, the storm never fully reached us.  
 
 
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 We assumed that we had had enough adventure for the day, but we assumed wrong. A few miles down the trail we were met with a raging river crossing.

Everyone searched for a way to safely get across and most folks decided upon a fallen tree. I watched Newsfeed and Five Star straddle the trunk of the tree and scoot across to the other side. I sat down and attempted to do the same but quickly backed up and got off my seat, too scared to follow suit.

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Meanwhile, Ya Ya found a thin fallen tree further upstream and she carefully walked across. I stood paralyzed by fear in front of the task at hand. I didn't like either option, but I had to choose one. Hesitantly, I started to walk across the same tree as Ya Ya. Utah Aaron walked back to get me and with him in front I felt much better moving forward. I made it across and our new large troop carried on down the trail. 

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It seemed like we had experienced enough excitement for one day, but there was one more surprise left. Once we arrived to our campsite we found it had already been claimed, by a bear! This was my first time seeing a bear in real life (outside of a cage). Newsfeed blew his whistle and yelled "Get out of here bear!".
 
Utah Aaron and I excitedly reached for our cameras and tried to document our wildlife encounter.
 
Purple Haze and Five Star yelled out of excitement, and fear, "Oh my god! It's my first bear sighting! Oh my god! He's not leaving!" 
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Mellow Yellow reached for his signature foam sword. Eventually the bear wandered off into the woods and we all moved our tents a little bit closer together.  

Day 57

We woke up safely in the morning, with no late night bear visits, and hiked up and over Kearsarge Pass. This was a detour offtrail to get to the town of Bishop where we would all be resupplying. This pass was beautiful, yet steep, and it was hard not think about the climb back we will have to do once we leave town. 

Towards the top of the pass LA Aaron surprised me once again. It was nice to see him and we were both happy that he was able to get some footage of us crossing snow paths, glissading down chutes, and me falling several times in the snow. 

 

Purple Haze at Kearsarge Pass

Purple Haze at Kearsarge Pass

Me at Kearsarge Pass

Me at Kearsarge Pass

LA Aaron gave Cosmo and I a ride down to Indepence and he filmed us trying to hitch to Bishop. After about 20 minutes of no luck, LA Aaron drove us to town. 

We settled in at the Red Roof Inn, plopped down on our beds and felt grateful to have a roof over our heads and bad reality television at the push of a button.  

 Day 58

After feeling beat up from this last section, It wasn't hard for all of us to decide on a zero day. 

I slept in late, ate breakfast, and spent most of the day sitting in a local coffee shop.  

Ya Ya enjoying her zero day

Ya Ya enjoying her zero day

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Utah Aaron relaxing in the cafe  

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Preparing For Sierra

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Preparing For Sierra

Day 47 (cont)

Today was a good day. My eye felt better, my energy level was high, and our evening hike was gorgeous. We stayed at Kennedy Meadows for breakfast and lunch, eventually leaving at 2:30pm. Cosmo and Utah Aaron took off quickly down the trail and Ya Ya and I got some much needed girl time.

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We officially entered the South Sierra Wilderness and Sequoia National Park...it feels good to get away from the desert and good to be close to water. We walked to the sounds of the Kern River flowing fiercely, but still with a lingering smell of fire in the air.  After 10 miles we dropped into a valley just in time for sunset. The trail led to a gently rippling creek which is where we laid our tarps down to cowboy camp. For dinner I ate vegan mac and cheese with kettle chips and raw chocolate macaroons (thanks to Danielle and Bill!). Before falling asleep I laid in my sleeping bag and stared up at the big starry sky, the Big Dipper, and the bright crescent moon.

Day 48

Cowboy camping was mostly perfect, until I woke up under a layer of frost. Thankfully, I was warm and slept through the night, but the bandana I left out to try turned to a solid icicle and my backpack and various bags needed to be wiped clean of a wet and frosty residue. 

Our hike today took us above 10,000ft up to Olancha Pass, back down to 7,000, and up again. We are definitely in the Sierra now. Snow-capped peaks surrounded every valley and meadow.

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After an epic day of elevation gain we stopped off for a room with a view. Our campsite at mile 732 was on a rocky mountain ledge with a panoramic view. Snowy mountain tops lined the distance like the crest of a wave. 

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Dinner time at dusk

Dinner time at dusk

 

Day 49

We hiked 11 PCT miles to get to Mulkey Pass Trail which we took for 1.7 miles to Horseshoe Meadows. From Horseshoe we put out our thumbs to hitch a ride into the town of Lone Pine.

Horseshoe Meadows

Horseshoe Meadows

Cosmo and I lucked out today, within a few minutes of hitching we got picked up by Crab, a fellow thru hiker. She is on the trail with her husband, Tweets, but she is taking some time off for now and avoiding the challenge of the Sierra.  

My first task once arriving in Lone Pine was FOOD. We stopped at a local cafe and immediately I ordered a veggie burger, French fries, side salad, and extra side of onion rings. This time there were no left overs. Before stepping foot into this cafe, I was stopped on the street by a flustered store owner from the local outfitters. Back in Lake Isabella I ordered a special ice axe to take with me for this snowy section. Unfortunately, an unaware employee sold my axe (which was the last one available within a 200 mile radius).  The owner was incredibly apologetic and desperately wanted to help me find a solution.

After feeding my body and brain, I milled over my options. Coincidentally, LA Aaron and his brother are in Lone Pine today getting ready to summit Mt. Whitney. My best option might be to go to Los Angeles with them and pick up a pair of ice axe poles I have waiting for me at home. 

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Zero Days

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Zero Days

Day 41 

Today was my first full zero. We spent the day lounging around the Lake Isabella RV Park Campground.  

Cosmo, Utah Aaron, Sweetfeet, Chopstick, and me. We went for a 1 mile walk to "town", hung out in the air conditioned grocery store, and indulged in vegan ice cream.

Chopstick and Sweetfeet  

Chopstick and Sweetfeet  

Later that night the owner of the RV park let us come into his home to pick out some movies to watch. We chose the seemingly appropriate, A Walk In The Woods, based on the book by Bill Bryson about his journey along the Appalachian Trail. While the movie played, I fell asleep and when I woke up most of my friends has gone back to their tents. It was a slow movie.  

Day 42 

We remained in town another day while waiting for Ya Ya who is in Los Angeles taking care of her gear and her swollen knee.

I was very excited to meet Meadow...resident kitten at the campground  

I was very excited to meet Meadow...resident kitten at the campground  

I woke up hot and craving some adventure, there is only so much "relaxation" I can take. We decided to check out a local diner before jumping in the Kern River. After Neldas Diner, our bellies were full of the hashbrowns, sourdough toast and avocado that had once consumed our desert thoughts. We caught a ride up the canyon with Olav, a Danish man who has been living in Lake Isabella. He is passionate about the town and loves sharing his local knowledge with hikers.

Me, Utah Aaron, Olav, Cosmo

Me, Utah Aaron, Olav, Cosmo

The Kern River was flowing high and fast with the latest snow melt, and we sat on its banks wondering how comparable these rapids would be to the crossings in the Sierra. Across the way we found a slower section of the river and spent the afternoon taking dips to escape the heat. 

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Day 43 

Another slow zero day. I spent most of the morning napping by the Kern River. By mid afternoon Ya Ya returned from Los Angeles, and we slowly made our plans to get back to trail.

 

The four of us walked to a "hitchable" section of road, put out our thumbs, and waited about an hour before finally getting a ride all the way from Lake Isabella to The Walker Pass Campground. 

Utah Aaron, Ya Ya, Cosmo

Utah Aaron, Ya Ya, Cosmo

Day 44 

After 3 full zero days ( "zero" means no trail miles) we woke up at Walker Pass and got back to the trail. Our day started with a climb out of the dry desolate desert and into a more vegetative environment. Trees lined the trail and the massive peaks of the Sierra filled in the landscape around us.

 

As the day went on, the scenery continued to change. The trail skirted around the canyons within Owens Peak Wilderness, mountains on one side and the 395 highway off in the distance on the other. Around one such canyon the rocky mountains turned to jagged granite spears, a reminder that we have indeed entered the Sierra Nevada mountain range. These mountains are beautiful, majestic, and must be respected. Within this range are some of California's tallest peaks, as well as Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States.

 

Our day went up and down this beautiful landscape. Finally the weather wasn't so hot and we were able to jump back into our "normal" routine, ending the day after 21 miles.

 

Day 45

My appetite is coming back to normal. This morning for breakfast I had plantain chips, macadamia nuts, a vegan protein cookie, coffee with coconut oil, and a green powder + crystal light drink combo.

 

We started our day with an 8 mile descent to water. It's nice when the morning miles fly by. After lunch we climbed 3,000 ft over six miles, maintaining a manageable and gentle grade, as is common on this red carpet of trails.

Along the climb a few day-hikers stopped us to give warning of a forest fire up ahead. We could see smoke in the distance but smelled nothing, and nearby looked safe.

At the top of a nameless pass the view was overtaken by various peaks and the snow-covered summits we would soon be getting into. The snow on Mt. Whitney looked patchy and a little less intimidating than I'd been imagining. Still...only time will tell.

Dinner tonight included a ramen noodle appetizer, split pea soup main course, and a side of pretzels. Yes, my appetite is returning.

 

Day 46

Throughout the night we could smell smoke from the fire, but still never saw any flames or signs that it was too close.

 Our morning hike was mellow with very little climbing up or down. We spent most of the day hiking through a scenic valley surrounded by large granite rocks that seemed otherworldly.

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After a few miles we hit the South Fork of the Kern River, and treated ourselves to an hour of leisure. During this time LA Aaron scurried by us, running down the trail. We yelled for him and he turned around to meet us. Having LA Aaron accompany for the remaining 5 miles to Kennedy Meadows South was a welcomed surprise. I was in much better shape (and spirits) than the last time he saw me.

LA Aaron in his natural habitat

LA Aaron in his natural habitat

Another milestone

Another milestone

 Kennedy Meadows is infamous on the PCT. For many people it's the last stop before the biggest mountains of the Sierra. It's a place where hikers rest up to prepare, wait for the snow to melt, and (unfortunately) its a place where many people quit the trail altogether. Earlier in the season there were rumors of hundreds of hikers here just waiting for the sierra to be passable. Now there are maybe 20-30 tents scattered around the premises. This place is a vortex.

Hikers hanging out at Kennedy Meadows

Hikers hanging out at Kennedy Meadows

 

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When I got to the Kennedy Meadows General Store it felt like Christmas. I had three different packages from different people. My dear friend Cari made sure my feet would be okay. One of my best friends, Jeff, shared some of his favorite vegan treats and a card to keep me going. And then there's Danielle and Bill. I met Danielle and Bill when we were volunteering for Comfort Zone Camp, a non profit free camp for kids who have lost a parent or sibling. Danielle and Bill have hearts of gold...and a knack for putting together resupply boxes! One of the KM employees could see a bottle sticking out of my bag and said, "please hurry up and open it so I can see what else is in there!!"

Surrounding the all too nice bottle of Jameson were a variety of vegan treats. All three packages were incredibly thoughtful and contained stuff I didn't already have and was excited to try!

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Once all the resupply had been dealt with we headed to Grumpy Bears Cafe/Tavern for air conditioning and French fries.

Utah Aaron adding ketchup to his French fry "burger" 

Utah Aaron adding ketchup to his French fry "burger" 

 Over the past few days one of my eyes has become irritated and red, and no one is sure why (it's not pink eye). Having the luxury of LA Aaron around we decided to drive 50 miles to Ridgecrest, the closest town, and pick up a few things at the pharmacy.

It was nice to finally be alone with LA Aaron and to spend quality time catching up with him. Before leaving for trail he was my main ultra running, kale eating, adventure buddy.  We had a beautiful sunset drive down a up and down the windy mountain road. Once we reached the bottom of the road we were in the foothills of the Sierra. From down there I could see the scope of this mountain range. Canyon after canyon, jagged rocks, and the highest peaks we've seen so far. The light of the setting sun shone between mountains like a spot light. It was a beautiful evening.

I bought eye wash, redness drops, rewetting drops and tried all the things at once.

Back at the top, at Kennedy Meadows some hikers were sleeping, some sitting around and chatting, and others were down the road at Toms Place watching a movie. Tom is a local with a big screen and projector set up in his backyard for entertaining hikers.

I opted for a quiet evening in my tent. The trail, the length of this journey, it all started to catch up to me.  Maybe it's the upcoming challenge of the Sierra, maybe it's exhaustion, but I felt depleted. It was harder than normal for me to say goodbye to LA Aaron (even though I'll see him in two and a half days), it was harder than normal for me to transition back to camp life. I felt a little homesick.

 

Day 47 

After a good nights rest I felt much better. Sun is shining, hashbrowns have been eaten, and I feel ready to walk. 

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Mind Melting Heatwave

Day 35 (cont.) 

Eventually we left town and said goodbye to Ed. It was harder than normal to leave creature comforts and our good friend.  

Utah Aaron, Kim (now Ya Ya), Cosmo, Ed, Me

Utah Aaron, Kim (now Ya Ya), Cosmo, Ed, Me

Guthooks is the app I use for maps and general trail information, and today I had to download a new section. The Sierra.

The Sierra section has been the most talked about section both on and off trail. The winter in California brought record snow to the mountains, snow that is far from melted this late in the season. The rumors are rushing down trail fast and can be confusing to listen to.

'The snow is too intense and no one can make it through'  

'The snow is melted now don't worry.' 

'There are ice bridges to help you get across rivers.' 

'The ice bridges are all melted and the river crossings are far too dangerous' 

My plan is to get proper information, and gear, at a local outfitters once I get to Lone Pine and make sure our group stays together. 

Our hike out of Tehachapi was a grueling uphill battle. My energy level was still low and I felt a bit slow. After many false summits I finally turned a corner and remembered once again why I am so happy to be here.

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Mountains! Sunsets! Friends!  

The smell of pine, the Sierra in the distance, the freeway far behind us now.  

We set up camp at the top of the mountain tucked away amongst trees. We put in some tunes and shamelessly danced as the sun set and the light faded around us. Familiar faces passed by, trail friends we hadn't seen in a couple days,  and we all chatted as we ate dinner (Oreos). Feels good to be back.

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 Day 36

It felt like a slow hike to water for me today. My energy level was low and I couldn't get the miles out of my head.

 'Just 8 more'

'Just 7.86 more'

'Just 7.52 more'

I needed a distraction. Thankfully Fresh Meat caught me during one of my many breaks and we hiked the rest of the way together. The mental game is much easier when you have a companion.

Fresh Meat

Fresh Meat

We finally arrived at the water source and found hikers sprawled out like beached whales. It was nap time at the water source, nobody was in a rush to get back to the heat. Myself included. Fresh Meat and I found Cosmo and sprawled out on the ground to join the herd.

Day 37

I woke up feeling much better. I woke up feeling hungry! Eating some breakfast helped give me a boost to start my morning hike, but that boost was quickly melted by the hot sun.

We are in a heat wave.

I knew if I hiked faster I would get to water and rest sooner, but every corner I found shade and couldn't help but sit in it. Around one such corner I found Kaileigh, a Canadian woman. She was not doing so good. I sat next to her and we shared our woes and then helped each other up.

'We still have 5 more miles until water' She said with defeat.

I looked at my Halfmile app and responded with a grin, '4.86 actually! We got this.'

The two of us trudged along. And although we were still counting the miles, the companionship made it a little less painful.

We were so exhausted that we barely cared about the milestone we passed.

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We were less than two miles away when we screamed at the sight of trail magic. Cosmo (who had been resting and waiting for hours) decided to hike down the last climb from Robin Hill Spring and look for us. He had water and an empty pack -- into which we put our food bags -- to share the weight.

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Once again, I found a herd of hikers napping at the water (one couple had been there for days!). We stayed until 6:30pm and hiked out with the cool breeze of the evening. 

Day 38

The heat has melted our minds and made us all reconsider our hiking strategy. With temperatures rising to well into the 110s -- and little to no shade -- we have no choice but to siesta in the middle of the day.

We decided to wake up at dawn and get as far as we could while it was cool out. I set my alarm for 4:00am but couldn't get the energy to hike until about 6:00am.

We managed 10 scenic miles looking out upon the southern Sierra before emerging into an exposed desert landscape of scrub oak, sage brush, and yucca. The cloudless sky radiated heat and sapped the energy out of our sweaty skin.

We were grateful to find a much needed water cache at mile 616.

Around noon we could take it no more. We set up a tent under a lone yucca tree and waited the rest of the afternoon for the temperatures to subside.

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The waiting period came with its own challenges. The air was stale and stagnant and I continued to sweat through every nap I took. The little shade we got from the yucca tree moved around throughout the day and we had no choice but to move with it, which brought Cosmo to lay under a single branch of shade in the middle of the trail itself.

 By 6:00pm we left our spot thirsty and low on water. Despite our dehydrated and desperate situation, we found a sense of tranquility as the sunset hours began to fade over the desert. We felt our minds slowly return with the cool of the night, and hiked on as darkness fell, turning off our headlamps on occasion to watch the stars fill the sky.

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Cosmo and I had 1/4th of a liter of water between the two of us, and five more miles till the next cache, but we could hike no more. We called it a day at 11:30 pm collapsing in the sand at a dirt road juncture.

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Day 39

I woke up tired and still thirsty, but with a strong motivation to get to that cache. We quickly gathered our things and silently started walking at 5:30am

By the time we made it to mile 631 it felt like stumbling upon a fortune. Water, snacks, and even a place to charge your phone. These volunteers really are trail ANGELS!

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Slowly the herd began to trickle in. Chopstick, Sweet Feet, Pika, Laundromat, Eight Bottle, and Switchback.

Unfortunately, we couldn't relax too long at the water if we wanted to beat the midday heat and finish our 2,000ft climb (with six liters of water each).

At the top of a nameless pass we found more shade than yesterday. We dropped our packs and sprawled out on the ground.

Next to water, sleep deprivation may be one of the hardest challenges of this section. We walk late at night, and early in the morning. In the heat of the day we would ideally sleep, but our pools of sweat don't make for comfortable beds. Even in the shade the best we can do is listen to the incessant drone of flys, gnats, and mosquitos hovering around our heads.

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We were able to venture out a bit earlier today due to our higher elevation. We were thankful to see trees lining our path down the mountain, and walked a few sunset miles before setting up in a small clearing of pine.

Day 40

Our hike to water this morning was along a tree-lined trail, and much more enjoyable. We only had a few more hours to hike before we would make it to Walker Pass Campground. 

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With two more miles to go before break time, I saw a man with a camera and a trail running backpack, LA Aaron had come to save the day (and capture some of our desert misery).  LA Aaron was in for a couple surprises this visit. 

Today is June 21st, the summer solstice...and Naked Hiking Day. Most thru hikers didn't celebrate the holiday. LA Aaron learned all of this by running into Cosmo and discovering he wasn't most people.

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 After awkwardly chatting with a fully revealed Cosmo, LA Aaron ran up to find me. I was fully clothed, fully exhausted, and not able to show excitement for surprises. 

   

 

 

We trudged on down the steep grade to Walker Pass as the midmorning heat gradually intensified, and though we were prepared with plenty of water, I again felt the toll of such a brutal landscape on my mental state. I needed rest and I needed shade.

Near the campground, we spotted a blue tarp hanging above a picnic area, and after Charlie put his clothes back on, an older man walked out, opened his arms and smiled. "Welcome to Walker Pass! We have cold beer, soda, watermelon, and plenty of it. Have at it!"

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Not for the first time and not for the last, I want to give my greatest appreciation for the Trail Angels we have encountered along our journey. The idea of extending such generosity towards complete strangers, motivated purely by goodheartedness, is a profound takeaway of the trail, and something the world couldn't hurt to have a little more of.

Eventually we pulled ourselves away from the picnic bench, into LA Aaron's car, and headed to Lake Isabella for a much needed reprieve. 

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Day 41  

After 40 days and 40 nights, I will take my first zero.

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Windmills

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Windmills

 Day 32

Last night the winds in Hikertown sounded more like a tornado. I stayed in the bunkhouse/garage and kept waking up to a thrashing sound against the garage doors. Luckily, I've been falling in and out of deep sleep throughout my hike. The moments when I slip out of consciousness are efficient and dream-filled. 

The day's hike was hot and exposed. Leaving Hikertown we had a 17 mile stretch of desert dirt road along the LA Aqueduct.

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We all stopped in the afternoon, the hottest part of the day, and took a 3 hour nap.

 

The evening miles were much cooler and more bearable. When we got to the start of the windmills we were treated to the pinks and blues of the sun setting over the valley and mountains.

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My blister has been feeling better but I've been feeling strange in my stomach for the past two days. No signs of food poisoning or water contamination, just unexplainable cramping in my stomach. My guess is that the two giant plates of taco "salad" at Casa De Luna might be to blame.

Day 33

I woke up feeling much better. Blister was nearly gone and no longer inflamed. My stomach felt much better too -- at least for the time being.

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Our hike was hot and exposed. We walked through the Tehachapi Wind Farm, which felt more like something out of a Sci-Fi.  

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My stomach pain has caused me to lose my appetite. When you're exhausting your body every day going up and over mountains, sweating in the heat of the day, your body can't afford to lose calories. As my energy level dipped, our daily mileage suffered. I remained behind my crew all day. I took more time than usual to give myself breaks, rest up, and actually enjoy some views. 

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We were all trudging our way up the final climb of the day, in fear of no water when we stumbled upon a trail magic oasis. Fully-stocked water bottles, lounge chairs, and FRESH FRUIT! This was a much welcome reprieve from our climb. 

Feeling somewhat rejuvenated we hiked on through sunset.  About two miles into our evening walk I had an epiphany. I knew everyone wanted to keep going. I knew I COULD keep going. But, I also knew the best thing for recovery is rest. When we approached a flat scenic spot along our descent I suggested we stay. 

It's not always easy to recognize what you need. And saying it out loud, making a request to others is even harder. But I thought, 'what's the rush?'. I know we are all excited to get to town, to see Ed again, and to eat ALL the things. But wouldn't that journey be much more enjoyable if I felt healthy and strong? I needed rest.

Thankfully, I'm with a group of people who care more about each other than miles. Everyone agreed to end early and my request was honored. 

 

Sunset view from my tent

Sunset view from my tent

Day 34

Me and Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! 

Me and Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! 

We hiked down and along mountainsides and through more windmills before finally making it to Tehachapi.

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Ed surprised us at mile 558 with snacks and cold drinks. We hiked seven more miles until the trail intersected with the freeway and we found Ed once again.

Ed has been off trail with a broken foot and has been driving around delivering trail magic and visiting with his hiking buddies.

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As per usual we got to town and took care of our immediate needs. Half of the group opted for food while the others went straight for the shower. 

 

Day 35 

I was woken up this morning to more stomach pain. Once you mention pain everyone on trail becomes a doctor. 

"You're dehydrated. Drink more water," they'd say.

"Are you using electrolytes? You have to use electrolytes," said others. 

"Is it Giardia?," everyone asked.

While I appreciate the concern, I took Cosmo's advice and went to a clinic.  

The nurse practitioner that examined me said she's seen a few women come in with similar symptoms and felt better after some digestive enzymes.  She gave me a B12 shot, probiotics, magnesium, and commented on how quickly we have been crushing miles on this trail :-)

It's supposed to be a HOT day on the trail so we are taking our time hiking out of town. 

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Battling Blisters

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Battling Blisters

Day 29

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Today we hiked 20 miles along the Leona Divide trail race course and hitched a ride to The Anderson's aka Casa de Luna. We were greeted by new and old friends.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! and Utah Aaron were already there waiting. Jake aka Fresh Meat (formerly Gear Head) was excited to see us and joined us for dinner.

We made it just in time for taco salads -- I had two full plates.

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Terry, the owner of Casa de Luna, made each of us dance for her in order to get a class of 2017 PCT bandanna. I wanted nothing to do with public dancing but when we were allowed to go up as a group, I didn't hesitate (mostly because I had no choice).

We all lounged around in the evening and made new friends with Peacock and Shine On who were in the middle of purchasing gear for the Sierra. Everyone is talking about the Sierra...

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 Day 30

I've been struggling with blister pain in my feet and it's been impacting my ability to "crush" this trail. I spent most of the day hiking alone and although I enjoyed the surprising beauty of the Lake Hughes area every step felt like a struggle. Today was also our first somewhat gloomy day. The sky remained overcast all day which was helpful for avoiding the heat.

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I was the last person to arrive to the campsite but it felt good (once again) to be greeted by smiles, friends, and people who care.

I laid in my tent resting my feet while Cosmo made a fire and Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! and Utah Aaron started to cook food. Eventually, I too came out to join everyone.

Day 31 

I woke up this morning to discover the baffling had started to come undone in my sleeping pad which had developed a tumor. I immediately called Therm-a-Rest and thank goodness they were more than willing to send me a new one. Although, the next few days should be interesting for my

sleep posture.

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My foot still felt agitated in the morning so I decided to numb my pain with ibuprofen. It helped for most of the day and I was able to enjoy the trail as it winded through manzanita trees and around sweeping canyons showing off views of green mountain sides.

Today was another milestone. 500 miles!

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It took a while today before I started to feel good in my hiking feet again. It was the sunset hours, when the light dances off the mountains making a beautiful show out of shadows. I could see Hikertown in the distance and I was happy to be "home". 

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Gravity and Graduation

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Day 22 (cont)

Trail Angel Rich drove us out to the trail head at Inspiration Point and hiked in with us for about an hour. He got really excited about the trail and possibly preparing for his own future thru hike. The PCT has a magnetic energy and I think we all could tell that Rich is getting close to taking that first step.

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I felt so lucky at the Inspiration Point trail head. A fellow trail runner from LA left me some trail magic -- fresh fruit and treats -- under the sign. This gift reminded me that I'm close to home, and that people are paying attention and really do care. Thanks Chris!

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We hiked 8.5 miles straight up Mt. Baden Powell and camped at 9,304 feet. We made it just in time to watch the sunset. We cooked our dehydrated dinners as the natural light began to fade, and the glow of the city surrounded the mountains.

The moon was bright, the food was warm, and once again I wondered "Is this for real?!".

I laid in my tent listening to Bob Dylan. I remember the soothing sounds of 'Corrina, Corrina' and at some point I must have drifted off to sleep.

Day 23

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Aaron's drone!

LA Aaron returned to catch us hiking around Angeles. He tested out his new drone to get some shots for our big time documentary. We impressed the local hikers for sure.

After 8 miles we found ourselves at Islip Saddle, and Aaron's car. We were treated to fresh watermelon, avocado, and beer. While we were sitting, and waiting for Prickles and Utah Aaron, two separate random deliveries of trail magic arrived. First, an older man who claimed to be a "registered trail angel". He confidently walked up to our picnic table and said, "I don't have any food but I grow my own weed and I'd like to give you a bag". I guess being outdoorsy comes with a certain assumption. We just sat dumbfounded and confused.

Later, another gentleman arrived to drop off a bag of oranges. They were devoured immediately.

I met a man named Eric who was taking children out to train for a hike to Havasupai. He leads trips for inner city youth in Los Angeles. We talked about the greatness of using nature to teach leadership and confidence building. We talked about the lack of resources for these types of programs in Los Angeles. Our conversation brought me back to my other passion of working with kids, and the thought of connecting nature to the work I do sounded incredible. Hopefully I will reconnect with Eric when I return from the trail. 

While we waited at this picnic area I got a surprise. A new pack! Aaron brought my new Boreas bag, and I traded out my worn small bag for a fresh medium. 

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Eventually, Prickles and Utah Arron showed up. They made a wrong turn and added four uphill bonus miles to their daily total. 

Upon their arrival we came up with a plan for the next part of our journey. There is a PCT closure coming up due to an endangered frog, and hikers have two options:

1) Take an alternate along the road.

2) Take the OFFICIAL trail alternate which goes through one of my favorite areas, Devil's Punchbowl, and adds 13 more miles to the section.

Excited, and surprised, my crew was down for option 2. We hiked down to a campsite, made a fire, ate dinner, and slept to the sound of flowing water in the Punchbowl.

Day 24

This morning started off with a strenuous climb up the Burkhart Trail. On the way up I chatted with new friends. Jake and I geeked out about gear. "Happy" (who didn't seem so happy with the ascent) was excited to find out I was from Silver Lake, his former home.

Most of the day I hiked alone, and by late afternoon I was relieved to have found my family sun bathing in a pool near Buckhorn campground.

I was so happy to find them. We rested, sun bathed, and hiked on.

We decided to go about six more miles before camp. It was magic hour and the the mountains were putting on a great show. I was hiking alone when I peered over the cliffs edge. I laughed out loud at the beauty of my local mountains. At the faded daytime moon that sat on top of the peaks, waiting for its turn to shine.

The crazy thing about living out a dream is that sometimes it still feels like a dream. I am 400 miles into this journey and I still can't believe I am here. I am hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

I AM HIKING THE F**KING PCT!!

I continued to walk and suddenly tears filled my eyes. Maybe it was my hormones or maybe the endorphins, I was overwhelmed in the best possible way.  I stood still at a mountain pass and stared at that moon. I looked down and the descent that I was about to run down, full pack and all. I thought about my mom. I thought about Aunt Dona. I thought about my Grandma. I thought about everyone that I love and I felt so lucky. To be able to breath. To be able to move. To be in the mountains, to feel strong, to do what I love everyday.

To feel so happy.

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Day 25

This morning we hiked into 3 Points trailhead. We sat at a picnic table, took a short break, and chatted with a forest ranger about hiking.  

The last time I was at 3 Points I brought trail magic and sat with a family that was hiking together. I've come out to this section of the PCT tons of times to run. Every time I've come out in the past I hoped that I would run into thru-hikers. To get to feel a part of the magnetic trail energy. To feel a part of someone else's adventure. To share space with the wanderers -- those that are brave enough to step off the beaten path -- to take the less socially acceptable route. In my mind their journey seemed more like a movie than real life. I remember feeling sad the days I would come  out to run and the trail was void of any hikers.

Now I'm here. I still can't believe I'm here.

Day 26 

Last night Kim accepted a new trail name. She has evolved from Prickles to Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! (not to be mistaken for the musical group). If you met Kim the first things you would notice are her big beautiful curls, her smile, and her enthusiasm. Whenever she gets excited her whole face lights up and she proclaims, "Yeah!!! Yeah, Yeah!!! Yeah!" This reaction could come from anything. Being offered a tasty treat, coming up with a hiking game plan, or just deciding to sit and enjoy a moment. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Definitely suits her better.

Anyone who has looked closely at my knees knows that I have problems with gravity. Today I took my second spill scraping my right forearm and left knee. Minor wounds, but painful nonetheless. It was a grueling hike to the next rest area, but it felt good once I got there. I found my friends sprawled out, napping and relaxing. And, we enjoyed cold sodas (thanks to trail magic).

It was dark by the time we got to the Indian Canyon trailhead when Steve pulled up unexpectedly. Steve was an innocent bystander looking for a bathroom, but when we saw headlights our faces lit up like we were going to be saved.

Steve knew what we were. He walked out of his car and with a friendly smile said, "I am sorry but I am not here with any snacks, I am just looking for a bathroom." We chatted for a bit, but it didn't take long before Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! asked, "But are you our ride?"

He could see the desperation in our eyes. Steve chuckled and happily offered to take us to the grocery store in Acton, CA and then back to the trailhead. 

We spent the night eating REAL food at a picnic table. Drinking wine. And unsuccessfully avoiding the fire ants that came in the night and feasted on our bodies while we slept in the parking lot.

Day 27 

As per usual, the day started with Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! and Utah Aaron taking off early and Cosmo and I lagging behind. We had a moderately easy stroll through Vasquez Rocks. I was hiking along, alone when I started to hear a somewhat loud buzzing noise. I looked to my left, just off the cliff and there it was...DRONE! I smiled excitedly and to the drone I said, 'Hi, Aaron!"

We hiked into town, ate lunch at the diner in Agua Dulce and then headed over to The Saufley's, aka Hiker Heaven. 

Hiker Heaven has ALL the amenities. Internet, laundry, space for tents, and good folks all around. As soon as we walked in through the gates I looked to the left and found 4 dogs and dog beds. That is where I remained until we left.

After we got our resupply boxes Aaron let us all pile into his car and took us back to Los Angeles.

It was surreal to have my new trail family in my actual home. It felt really special to share a bit of who I am when I'm not on the trail. And, of course, to introduce them to my babies.

Day 28

One month ago I promised my students that if I could make it back to the area by their graduation I would do my best to attend.

I showed up wearing my hiking outfit underneath my graduation gown. I was nervous to be back, but was immediately greeted by one of my students, Esmeralda. She ran up to me right away with open arms. 'Ms. Lani! You made it back! How is everything going?' 

I got caught up with my co-workers and felt incredibly welcome. Mr. Delfino, school principal, gave me a shout out in his opening speech letting everyone know that I walked 453 miles to be there. I felt shy, and slightly embarrassed, when he asked me to stand up for a second to be recognized in front of an auditorium of people. But, I was quickly comforted by the cheers and support of my students. I've missed them tremendously.

I feel so happy to have gotten the opportunity to see these kids grow from 9th-12th grade. To be part of their journey, and to see them walk that stage, diplomas in hand. 

It was bittersweet afterwards. There is never enough time to catch up with everyone, or to say goodbye. But they all knew that I had to go back to the trail.

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