The End

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The End

 Day 158

 It was an emotional morning as we woke up and tried to make plans for the last leg of our journey. We are now counting down in the double digits, a 2,650 mile endeavor has now become the 98-mile, four-day stretch in front of us.

The weather is showing a front move in after today, bringing rain, snow, and freezing temperatures with it. We briefly debated staying a couple extra days in Etna but after talking to a local forest ranger we decided leaving today would be the best window of time for us to finish.

Dave, our host at the Hikers Hut in Etna, drove us to the trailhead at 10:00am and off we went into the Russian Wilderness.

Today is the calm before the storm. We hiked with warm weather, no smoke, and clear skies. 

Russian Wilderness

Russian Wilderness

Within the expansive views our end was in sight.

Staring out at Mt. Shasta

Staring out at Mt. Shasta

Russian Wilderness

Russian Wilderness

Russian Wilderness

Russian Wilderness

The evening remained pleasant and the landscape was extraordinary.

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As darkness crept in the temperature began to drop and the winds picked up. We hiked through sunset and set up camp shortly after dark.

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Day 159 

We woke up early and started hiking in the dark just before 7 a.m. We spent the day hiking through the Trinity Alps, a gorgeous Northern California Wilderness with jagged, rocky peaks and grand vistas.

 

Cosmo watching the sunrise

Cosmo watching the sunrise

The rain / snow was supposed to start today and all day long dark clouds loomed around us.

Cosmo at an early road crossing

Cosmo at an early road crossing

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We managed to get 29 miles before the rain came, but once it started it came pouring down. I got to camp first and fought with the wind to get my tent set up. On several occasions I thought I might blow over with the tent. Eventually Cosmo and Jedi arrived and the three of us struggled together to get set up. Once we were in our tents the rain came down harder and the wind continued to knock out our tent stakes. Later in the evening I felt the side of my rain fly collapse in towards the tent. I opened my zipper door to discover that the rain had turned to snow and was accumulating quickly. I punched at the rain fly to get the snow off, but it continued to fall throughout the night. This has turned into quite the epic final section of trail Day 160 We woke up completely snowed in.

We managed to get 29 miles before the rain came, but once it started it came pouring down. I got to camp first and fought with the wind to get my tent set up. On several occasions I thought I might blow over with the tent. Eventually Cosmo and Jedi arrived and the three of us struggled together to get set up.

Once we were in our tents the rain came down harder and the wind continued to knock out our tent stakes. Later in the evening I felt the side of my rain fly collapse in towards the tent. I opened my zipper door to discover that the rain had turned to snow and was accumulating quickly. I punched at the rain fly to get the snow off, but it continued to fall throughout the night. This has turned into quite the epic final section of trail

Day 160

We woke up completely snowed in.

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We refused to get out of bed before the sun arrived - we took  our time and finally started to hike around 9:30 am. On the first climb of the day I ran into Ken, a hiker I haven't seen since the desert. He was in good spirits and was out finishing his last section of trail. It was nice to see another familiar face out in the wilderness.

Chatting with Ken was a nice distraction from my physical discomfort. A foot of snow had fallen last night and as soon as I started hiking my feet froze inside my beat up trail shoes. The pain was overwhelming. The weather conditions didn't appear to be improving and we would be hiking through frozen snow for the next two days. I paused for a moment on trail, tears filled my eyes and I started to panic about how I would finish the trail in these conditions.  It didn't take long before Cosmo showed up behind me and encouraged me onward with his optimism.

In the moments when I was able to step outside of my physical pain I could appreciate the beauty around me. The snow made today's hike exceptionally stunnning.

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We hiked 19 miles before susnet and just when we thought the worst was behind us, we approached the north face of the mountain. Through the darkness, and without footprints to follow, we had no choice but to step into knee-deep snow and posthole for the last three miles. 

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Jedi

Jedi

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Me

Me

We set up camp after hiking just 21 miles and braced ourselves for the cold night ahead. 

Day 161 

Last night was our coldest night on trail, with temperatures in the teens. When I woke up I was in tears thinking about how I would get to town. I couldn't imagine hiking the 30 miles we had left to go. The end felt so close, but so far away. The harshness of this last section is surely helping us to avoid a sappy, nostalgic conclusion to the hike.

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Jedi was determined to get to town before nightfall so she was the first to leave camp. Eventually, I made it out of bed and put on every layer of clothing I had available before packing up. My shoes had turned to ice overnight, and it took quite the effort and a few more tears to squeeze them onto my already frozen feet. 

We hiked through snow and ice and eventually made our way down the mountain. After 20 miles we descended below the clouds and the haze gave way to views of Castle Crags. 

A natural and unforced smile.  

A natural and unforced smile.  

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Darkness fell with 5 miles to go, and Cosmo and I pushed on by the light of our headlamps. It was a surreal feeling to reach our end. Trail Angel Tony was waiting for us at the finish line with hugs, a warm car, and a bottle of champagne. Tony had helped us out our previous time in Shasta, and we were beyond grateful to have a friendly face at the finish line. The champagne was an added bonus.

 

Cosmo, Tony, and Me

Cosmo, Tony, and Me

The next morning we reconnected with Jedi, took our official finishing photo, and the three of us continued our travels together down the coast of California. 

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P.S. stay tuned for a more insightful, reflective post after I sleep, eat, and sit down!

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Fire on the Mountain

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Fire on the Mountain

Day 155

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The trail took us on a six mile road walk to get out of Seiad Valley and then up we went.

Cosmo, Jedi, and Dibs

Cosmo, Jedi, and Dibs

Jedi and Dibs hiking out of Seiad Valley

Jedi and Dibs hiking out of Seiad Valley

The climb was long and steep but the clear California skies and warm weather more than made up for it.

Seiad Valley

Seiad Valley

Seiad Valley

Seiad Valley

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Day 156

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We finally decided to go for my birthday miles today. 

Morning sunrise in Marble Mountain Wilderness

Morning sunrise in Marble Mountain Wilderness

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Last night Dibs told us that the terrain would be mellow today, a great day to shoot for big miles. It didn't take long before we realized that Dibs was wrong - today was up up UP! (8,591 ft of gain)

 

As the day went on we hiked further into the Marble Mountain Wilderness and the scenery made the climbing all that much more enjoyable.

Cosmo

Cosmo

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Cosmo

Cosmo

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Fall colors! 

Fall colors! 

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By early evening it was clear we would be hiking in the dark if we wanted to complete our goal. We were determined!

We continued our hike as the sun set to the west.

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As darkness fell we started to smell smoke and hoped we would be able to camp somewhere that wasn't blackened from recent fire.

 

By 8:45pm we hit our 34 mile mark. Unfortunately, there was nowhere to camp for another mile and a half. And so onward and upward we climbed.

 

Proud and exhausted we reached our camp spot around 9:10pm. I thought I saw headlamps across the canyon but soon realized the glow was from flames. Cosmo and I watched the fire light up the hillside perhaps a mile from our camp as we continued to get ready for bed. The flames made us anxious but we felt confident that it was contained and far enough away to sleep comfortably.  We will continue to keep half an eye on it as we settle in for the night.

 Day 157

Smoke in the mountains  

Smoke in the mountains  

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This morning we hiked like bandits, using our bandanas as protection from the smoke.  

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Cosmo

Me

Me

After four miles we reached Sawyers Bar Road and had to say goodbye to our new friend Dibs who would be hiking on past town.  

Me, Jedi, Cosmo, Dibs

Me, Jedi, Cosmo, Dibs

It didn't take us too long before the three of us got a hitch into the town of Etna. We got dropped off at the Hikers Hut (where we would spend the night), and took a stroll through town. 

 

Cosmo

Cosmo

After a brief walk we came back to the hostel where we ate dinner, soaked our feet, and enjoyed our last town evening before the final stretch!

 

Jedi

Jedi

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Oregon / California

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Oregon / California

Day 152

Thanks to Cosmo's wonderful cousin Steph, we got to spend the night at Comfort Inn while awaiting a doctor's appointment for my hands. A few days ago my hands felt like they got stung by an insect and since then certain fingers have formed giant dime-sized blisters while others have swollen.

I didn't choose that finger...sorry. :-) 

I didn't choose that finger...sorry. :-) 

After being examined by several doctors they ruled out spider bite, frost bite, and left it at 'we aren't sure...but get off trail'.

One nurse lingered after the doctors had left and he could tell I wasn't ready for such a devastating diagnosis, especially with only 200 miles left of trail! This nurse said, "the doctor can't say this, and don't tell him I did, but keep hiking! Keep an eye out and be smart, but finish that trail."

So, after a delicious lunch at the Ashland Co-Op, we got a ride with Jedi's friend Lexi to trail head. We hiked 12 miles through sun, sleet, and hail before setting up camp and settling in for the night.

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Dy 153

It was a frigid morning as we hiked through a misty, wintry forest.

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These were our last miles of Oregon, and by the afternoon we finally reached the border!

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Jedi signing the registrer

Jedi signing the registrer

More fun with blisters

More fun with blisters

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In stereotypical fashion there was a gray cloud on the Oregon side and blue skies in California.

Back when we flipped, this section of trail was closed from forest fires, though now with it open we have a chance to finish California without skipping a step!

The sun came out for a few hours in late afternoon creating gorgeous ridgeline views.

The cold came in quick, and it's supposed to drop below freezing tonight. I've been scared to be out when it's this cold and when I saw a truck go by I ran to catch it, hoping they might take me down the mountain. Gabe and Morgan (the truck driver and passenger) were just out for the night to hunt and were going to stay on the mountain. They did offer to be a backup plan if the weather got too gnarly.

 

We decided to set up camp early before we got too cold. We settled in around 6:30pm, made dinner, and attempted to get warm in our tents.

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Day 154

This morning I woke up fully submerged in my sleeping bag. I snoozed several times before feeling brave enough to stick my head out of my blue down cocoon - it was freezing out there. I packed up my stuff and soon discovered that the water bottle I kept inside my tent had frozen over night.

Hand warmers on the face  

Hand warmers on the face  

Thank goodness we are back in California where the sun shines bright! I kept every layer of clothing on for this morning's climb, but I knew that the blue skies would allow the sun to shine down and warm me up soon.

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By the afternoon I had my jackets off and we were cruising up and down a rocky ridge with waves of mountains all around us and our finish line, Mt. Shasta, peaking up in the distance.

 

We walked through a newly opened and recently burned area. Cosmo even put out a smoldering fire!

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The day only got better. We hit peak warmth at the top of a scenic climb and I couldn't help but run down the switchbacks.

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Up in the mountains leading out of town we could see flames and smoke close to the PCT.

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We set up camp a mile and a half away from Seiad Valley. The night was warm, the first warm night in weeks! I could set up without gloves on and sleep comfortably in a tank top!

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As the three of us were quietly settling in we saw a headlamp coming our way.

"Are you a PCT hiker?" Jedi asked. "Yes!" Said the hiker. His name is Dibs and he is finishing the 300 miles he skipped earlier in the season. Tonight Dibs will camp with us and tomorrow we all get to relax for the morning in town!

Day 155

We all got out of bed early ( motivated by breakfast potatoes!  ) and got to town by 7:30am.

We ate breakfast, resupplied at the local store and set out to hike in the warm California sun. 

 

Cosmo and Dibs

Cosmo and Dibs

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End of Oregon

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End of Oregon

 Day 146

This morning Jedi treated herself to a waffle and I indulged in delicious diner hash browns. After breakfast, the hiker friendly "Resort" hotel arranged a ride for us back to the trailhead and by 10:20am we were hiking towards Crater Lake National Park.

 

I've been excited to enter this National Park, and for a while I thought I wouldn't be able to because of fires, but it recently reopened.

 

We spent most of the day hiking along the popular Rim Trail alternate. The Pacific Crest Trail skirts around Crater Lake, while the Rim Trail affords seven miles of hiking along the volcanic rim of the lake. 

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After 2 miles on the alternate I arrived at the rim of Crater Lake. On my way to the scenic overlook I met Jack and his dad who were curious about my Pacific Crest Trail experience. We chatted for a bit, Jack's dad said that one day he would like to hike the trail, and Jack gave me a special token.

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At 7:00pm we set up camp at the juncture of Annie Spring Trail. I saw that the Annie Creek Restaurant might be open until 8:00pm so I convinced Cosmo to run the mile down to Mazama Village with me. When we got there it was dark outside and  inside the buildings were empty, with signs stating "Closed For the Season".

 

With my tail between my legs we turned around to hike back to camp. On our walk a couple in a huge RV stopped, rolled down their window, and asked if I was a ranger. I giggled and said, "Nope, just a hungry PCT hiker." We chatted for a few minutes more and then they handed Cosmo a 4lb bag of trail mix. We thanked the couple and hiked along back up to camp where we reunited with Jedi.

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 Day 147

 

This morning we made it 1.2 miles before we were met by an unexpected trail closure on the southern end of Crater Lake. We knew that the next section, Sky Lake Wilderness, has recently opened but these last seven miles of the closed national park were not on our radar.

 

The three of us stood at the trailhead in disbelief and disappointment before deciding to head back to Highway 62 and stick out our thumbs.

 

Luckily, we were quickly picked up by a couple from Michigan out on a road trip vacation. We could not have asked for a better ride! The couple drove us to the nearest ranger station and waited with us until we got the information we needed to continue hiking.

 

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The park rangers were about as informed as we were and just reiterated what we already knew - if there is a closure sign, the trail is closed.

 

Eventually, one of the rangers put together an alternate plan to get us back to trail. We would have to skip 17 miles and take a forest road to Seven Mile Trail which would connect us back to the PCT.

 

The Michiganders offered to drive us to the trailhead without hesitation. By noon we were back on the PCT.

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The Hayes from Michigan

The Hayes from Michigan

 

The hike was beautiful.

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We climbed rocky switchbacks and gazed out at waves of mountain peaks. At one point we caught a faint glimpse of Mt. Shasta...our finish line!

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The three of us have mixed feelings about seeing our end point, a bittersweet sight .

In the meantime, from the top of a climb we enjoyed a ridge line hike. The skies were clear but the air was cool and windy.

As the sun began to set, we set up camp and once again continued our conversations but from within the warmth of our sleeping bags.

Day 148

This morning we woke up to a winter wonderland.

Jedi  

Jedi  

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As we were laying in our tents a group of backpackers passed by and excitedly yelled, "thru hikers!". They were another group of north bounders who ended up flipping and flopping around. It was reassuring to know we also aren't totally alone out here.

Feeling frigid we didn't start walking until about 9:00am still crunching on freshly fallen snow.

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Luckily, the sky was clear and the sun was out all day, and by mid afternoon my feet finally felt like they had thawed out. 

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Mt. McLoughlin

Mt. McLoughlin

We had a 26.3 mile goal to get to a shelter this evening so we limited our breaks and hiked into the dark.

 

By 7:30pm we were all in the South Brown Mountain Shelter having a cozy sleepover with our own wood burning stove.

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Day 149

Despite having a "shelter" we woke up freezing and had a difficult time getting out of our sleeping bags. It was 8:30am by the time we made it to trail.

Cosmo and Jedi

Cosmo and Jedi

We hiked into the Rogue River Wilderness and again caught a glimpse of our finish line, Mt. Shasta.

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With achey feet, swollen hands, and a mean hiker stench, I spent much of the day daydreaming about our next stop, Callahan's Lodge. The lodge is hiker friendly and has a whirlpool and fireplace in every room! Just 23 more miles...

 

 Day 150

Today we hiked  the last 23 miles before getting to town. We could see smoke fill the air in the distance, a reminder that there are still plenty of active fires around. Fortunately, I just got word from the Klamath Ranger that the trail has reopened from Ashland to Shasta! Our decision to flip north once again seems to have paid off.

 

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By 6:30pm we finally made it to Callahan's...well worth the stop! We hung out next to a fireplace in the lounge drinking our free beer, eating all-you-can eat pasta, and listening to a local musician play classic acoustic covers. Life is good. 

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Back on Track

Day 143

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We spent two hours sticking our thumbs out to Highway 58 before Devin, a local resident, offered to drive us all the way to the trailhead.

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It was a 58 mile ride getting us to the PCT around 1:00pm. The air was cool but the sunshine and clear skies lifted our spirits and improved the way I looked at the trail and forest around me. I guess the third time's a charm!

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Jedi

Jedi

Out here I am more aware of how connected I feel to nature and my environment. My feelings are as fleeting, or as long lasting, as the weather around me. 

When it's rainy and gray, I find it challenging to keep my mind in a positive place. But, as soon as the sky clears, so does my mind. It's as though Mother Nature is a puppeteer pulling the strings that manipulate my moods. Sunshine, rain, blue skies, clouds...they are all feelings manifested in nature. I now read weather reports like an emotional horoscope.

As we climbed higher the snow began to reveal itself.

Cosmo

Cosmo

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Eventually the snow covered the trail and we became pioneers with no tracks to follow but our own.

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Well...I suppose we weren't entirely alone out there...

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By 6:30 the sun started to set, creating a gorgeous array of pinks and blues right below a nearly full moon.

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Our feet were wet and cold from the snow and we set up camp at the next flat spot we found.

 Day 144

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This morning I was happy to see more blue skies and a beautiful rising sun. The temperature stayed cool all day but the sunshine made for perfect hiking weather.

 

I took a mid morning coffee break at Summit Lake staring out at Diamond Peak.

Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

 Shortly after that we climbed up to a ridge that gave the most amazing views of snowy mountains, green trees, and beautiful lakes all around.

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After 15 miles I found Cosmo beside a mile marker that he had made. We added up our PCT miles and today we hit 2000!

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The rest of the day remained scenic as we hiked into the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness.

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Day 145

 

Oregon has been redeeming itself these past few days. The weather has held up and with sunshine and clear visibility we have enjoyed the ridge-line hikes and breathtaking panoramic views of Diamond Peak, Mt. Thielsen, and the surrounding mountain lakes.

Cosmo and Jedi taking a scenic lunch break

Cosmo and Jedi taking a scenic lunch break

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Also, bears. 

Also, bears. 

 

This afternoon we reached the highest point in Oregon.

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As we neared the end of our day the trail abruptly brought us to Highway 158 where we caught a ride with a couple from Florida to Diamond Lake Resort.

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Out and Back

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Out and Back

 Day 139

The gray days in Oregon make it difficult for me to get up and get going. This morning we started hiking at 8:00am through the Three Sisters Wilderness. The terrain was rolling hills and flat single track. We hiked through the forest passing by several lakes.

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By the afternoon we reached an elevation with snow. Jedi let us know how she felt about that...

Jedi did not like seeing the snow

Jedi did not like seeing the snow

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By the evening we reached an old burn area. In the absence of thick foliage I could see the mountains and landscape all around me, including the ominous clouds circling around.

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At 6:30pm I caught up to Jedi and Cosmo at the junction for Charleton Lake. Once we saw the campsite on the lake it was an easy decision to stop and camp.

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The three of us ate dinner around a campfire and watched the sun set over the water. We stayed outside until about 8:00 when the rain started to fall and we rushed to our tents to take cover.

Fingers crossed that the storm passes.

Day 140 

The rain came down last night but mellowed out in the morning. I woke up with time to see a clear blue sky and the most amazing sunrise over Charleton Lake.  

Charleton Lake

Charleton Lake

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Most of the day was spent under clouds and through damp, dense forests. The weather was cool and the stormy clouds lurked in the distance.

Midway through the day we found a beautiful ski cabin built by volunteers. The cabin was a great place to take a break while rain fell outside. 

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Jedi

Jedi

Jedi enjoying the view  

Jedi enjoying the view  

At 5:00pm we came to the Shelter Cove Trailhead. We had thirty minutes before the grill and store would close, and Jedi took initiative, hurrying down the trail.

We made it just in time for french fries, warm space heaters, and cold beer. 

As the rain started to come down, and the temparture quickly dropping we contemplated where to sleep. The owner of Shelter Cove took pity and offered us a 50% discount on a cabin room. Although none of us have disposable income, it was an offer hard to resist.

We happily settled into our warm room and watched the wintry scene unfold outside our lakeside view.

Day 141 

We enjoyed our cabin room until we absolutely had to leave at checkout (11:00am). We headed back over to the Shelter Cove Store and got breakfast at the attached café. 

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While we were eating we met Candyman, a local hiker who had just finished his PCT hike. We talked about the trail, and told him our concerns about weather. Candyman told us he would be at Shelter Cove all day and if the trail conditions seem too bad we could go back to Eugene with him later today.

Candyman (aka Jared) 

Candyman (aka Jared) 

Feeling good about our backup plan, we hiked eight miles up the mountain and assessed the situation as we climbed. We were told we would hit deep snow at 6300ft which was about 2,000 feet from where we started. 

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The air was cold and the forest was damp, but the sun snuck out every once in a while and the rain only fell in spurts. We were feeling optimistic as we started our climb. 

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Things began to change as we continued our climb. At first the snowfall was exciting, especially for Jedi who had never hiked in these conditions. The green forest soon transformed into a white wintry scene and the snow fell harder. 

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By the time we reached nearly 7,000ft we made the tough decision to turn around. The temperatures were dropping and were expected to get far below freezing, with snow was falling harder and covering the trail. We heard from local hikers that the trail was hidden under knee-deep snow on the north side of the mountain and that there were no tracks to follow. It took a good amount of deliberation before we agreed that it would be dangerous to continue on.

It was close to 7:00pm by the time we came down the mountain, and thankfully we were just in time. Candyman pulled up next to us on the road and we threw our packs in his car and warmed up on our ride into town.

We spent the night in Candyman's cozy apartment and felt grateful not to be out in the elements. 

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 Day 142

Today we slept in and spent the afternoon enjoying a 12 mile city hike exploring Eugene, Oregon. 

A vegan diner fully stocked with all vegan treats! 

A vegan diner fully stocked with all vegan treats! 

Cosmo walking over one of the bridges leading into a city park

Cosmo walking over one of the bridges leading into a city park

After trompsing around town Candyman, Cosmo, Jedi, and I ate dinner at a vegan friendly Thai spot and then treated ourselves to VooDoo Donuts for desert! Thanks for the good times Eugene, Oregon! 

Day 143 

We still don't know the conditions on the north side of the mountains, but today we head back to trail and hope for the best! 

Jedi ready to go! 

Jedi ready to go! 

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Winter is Back

Day 134 (cont.) 

After hanging out and having a drink in the famous Timberline Lodge - Jedi, Cosmo, and I set out to find the trail.

 

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Cosmo and Jedi

Cosmo and Jedi

The recent storm brought snow to Mt. Hood...a lot of snow. We post-holed through the snow on the hidden Pacific Crest Trail for about a mile before deciding to give in and walk the road.  

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We hiked 5 miles down the Timberline Highway and stuck our thumbs out. It took two hitches to get back to trail at Barlow Pass, a lower enough elevation where the trail again revealed itself.

We started hiking again around 6:00pm as we entered the Mt. Hood Wilderness. An hour later we set up camp, ate dinner together, and called it a day. 

Jedi and Me

Jedi and Me

Day 135

The miles went by quickly today and the terrain was much flatter than what we were used to in Washington.

The sky remained gray all day in a classic Pacific Northwest fashion.

Porti-PARTY

Porti-PARTY

Early in the day we enjoyed breathtaking views of Mt. Hood.

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And a scenic walk around Timothy Lake.

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We set up camp at 7:00pm just past Warm Springs River. The days are getting shorter and what little sunlight we had was gone before 7:30.

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We were still able to get nearly 27 miles done today and by 8:00pm the three of us were in tents almost ready for bed.

Day 136 

Blue skies and and warm sun made today's hike most enjoyable. We walked through beautiful forest filled with fall colors.

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We had clear skies and magnificent views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson.

By 4:00pm we made it to Olallie Lake, a small lakeside resort in the woods.

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Olallie Lake and Mt. Jefferson

Olallie Lake and Mt. Jefferson

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Jedi, Cosmo, and I drank wine, ate dinner, and enjoyed the warmth of a campfire (the fire ban has been lifted!) as we watched the sun set over the lake.

Day 137

In the morning we waited for the sun to hit our tents and then we packed up our stuff and hiked the remaining six miles of open trail before hitting a fire closure.

Campsite

Campsite

Jedi leaving our campsite

Jedi leaving our campsite

On our hike we passed by many lakes. 

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Cosmo

Cosmo

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And eventually hit some snow. 

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 View of Mt. Jefferson

 View of Mt. Jefferson

Once we reached Breitenbush Road we had to leave trail and make our way towards Highway 46. We hiked five miles along Forest Road 4220 before getting a hitch from a man named Scotty.

Jedi and Cosmo on Forest Rd 4220

Jedi and Cosmo on Forest Rd 4220

Jedi and Cosmo

Jedi and Cosmo

Scotty gave us a ride to the small town of Detroit where we ate some snacks and once again stuck our thumbs out on the road.

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It didn't take long before we got picked up. Ross was on his own road trip and happily stopped for us on his way to Sisters, Oregon.

 

Jedi, Ross, Me, Cosmo

Jedi, Ross, Me, Cosmo

Jedi taking a backpack break at the grocery store in Sisters.

Jedi taking a backpack break at the grocery store in Sisters.

As we were eating dinner inside the community room of Ray's Grocery Store I got a call from Trail Angel Jon Kelley who saved the day by offering to pick us up, host us at his house in Bend, and get us back to trail the next day. 

Day 138

There is storm expected to roll in soon and we have already heard horror stories of hikers getting snowed out and stuck in freezing conditions on trail in the mountains here in Oregon. Forecasts are predicting rain and dropping temperatures before snow showers this weekend. Today, however, it is 80 degrees and sunny in Bend so we are anxious to get our chores done and head back to trail with time to take advantage of the good weather.

After we packed up our bags Jon drove us to REI and Trader Joe's for our resupply on the way to dropping us off at the Elk Lake Trailhead. A huge thanks to Jon for going his hospitality and generosity!

Me, Jon, Jedi, Cosmo

Me, Jon, Jedi, Cosmo

We hiked 6.5 miles before it got dark.

Cosmo heading back to trail

Cosmo heading back to trail

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We found a cozy spot in the woods and made it our home. We set up our tents close to one another and ate dinner while chatting from the comfort and warmth of our sleeping bags.  

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Bridge of the Gods

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Bridge of the Gods

Day 130

I've got the pre-birthday blues. We've been inside for a couple days while it stays cold and rainy in Trout Lake. Temperatures on the trail have been near freezing and the sections we just finished now have their first dusting of snow. 

Despite the weather we decided today would still be the day we get back to trail. We lounged around until about 1:00pm and then headed over to the café for one more town meal.

Me and Jedi

Me and Jedi

Me and Jedi

Me and Jedi

Trout Lake is super hiker friendly and has an amazing network of trail angels who leave their phone numbers posted on the walls of local businesses. We called several angels and Doug, the man who picked us up from trail two days ago, was happy to take the five of us back today.

Jedi, Link, Hollywood, Cosmo, and I set out in the rain at 3:00pm.

Jedi and Link

Jedi and Link

Jedi and Link

Jedi and Link

We hiked seven and a half miles before setting up camp, cooking warm dinner, and seeking shelter in our tents. The weather looks cold and gray for the next two days but sunny and warm after that.

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 Day 131

I woke up to the sound of Link singing happy birthday outside my tent. There is no better place to celebrate than on a trail in the mountains! Traditionally, I have run my age in miles on my birthday, but in this weather I'm not sure I have it in me to pull off a 34 mile day. 

Outside it was a freezing wet morning and I did not want to get out of bed. I decided (from within the warmth of my sleeping bag) that I would take a rain check  on my birthday miles, 34 mile day will have to wait, I'm sleeping in. 

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Sleeping in on trail still means getting up and hiking by 8:00am. I had to come up with some way to make the day festive. 

Back in Trout Lake one of the locals gave me a left over goody bag from her sons birthday party, inside we found blue LED balloons. All day Cosmo and I wore the birthday balloons strapped to our backpacks.

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Cosmo

Cosmo

Me

Me

Amidst the cloudy day, every once in a while there was a vista with a scenic view of the mountains with clouds rolling in.

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A smiley is always a good reminder 😊 

A smiley is always a good reminder 😊 

Late morning I found my friends by the water having second breakfast and I enjoyed a ramen bomb that was already cooked and waiting for me.

Birthday breakfast at Panther Creek

Birthday breakfast at Panther Creek

Link, Jedi, and Cosmo eating second breakfast at Panther Creek

Link, Jedi, and Cosmo eating second breakfast at Panther Creek

Link, Jedi, and Me

Link, Jedi, and Me

Jedi  

Jedi  

By early evening the sky began to show and the clouds started to break, letting the sun cascade through the wet leaves and trees.

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These slugs were all over the trail  

These slugs were all over the trail  

We set up camp at Rock Creek, crawled into our damp tents, listened to music and ate dinner.

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Day 132

I couldn't be happier to wake up this morning and see blue skies! The sun came out, the air was clear, and the views were magnificent!

 

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Still rockin' the birthday balloon

Still rockin' the birthday balloon

Staring out towards a snow covered Mt. Adams

Staring out towards a snow covered Mt. Adams

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After 18 miles we hit the road...

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And our first state boundary!  

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PCT 2017 has been dubbed the year of fire and ice. Forest fires stopped us from crossing the California border a month ago, and with the Eagle Creek Fire burning in Cascade Locks, OR, it almost stopped us from crossing the Washington/Oregon border. Fortunately, the Bridge of the Gods opened up just a couple days ago and we finally got to walk into another state!

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Once we crossed the bridge we were immediately greeted by orange tape and a sign saying the trail is closed. Womp. Womp.

We hung out at a the rest stop across the street from the trail and made alternate plans. This begins our journey through the burning state of Oregon.

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Link in a lichen beard

Link in a lichen beard

Jedi in a lichen beard

Jedi in a lichen beard

We ended up getting a ride to the hiker friendly Rodeway Inn in Stevenson, Wa. We ate a delicious meal in town before showering and watching movies in our dry and warm room. 

Day 133 

After checking out of the hotel we brain stormed for our options to get back to trail. We decided to hitch over to Hood River, Oregon and attempt to make our way down to Timberline Lodge. 

 

Jedi

Jedi

Cosmo

Cosmo

Eventually we made it to Hood River and attempted to do more brainstorming. We met PCT alumni, 3 Times A Lady and Serenity in a Starbucks parking lot. The two former hikers gave us words of encouragement, helpful advice, and wished us luck on this crazy year of the PCT. 

We wandered around downtown Hood River for a while when we met Liz, a friendly local who was out on a walk to grab dinner with her three children. She offered to let us camp in her backyard, she invited us out to dinner with her family, and said she would drive us to Timberline the next morning!

 

Link (I guess who won't be needing this sign anymore!) 

Link (I guess who won't be needing this sign anymore!) 

Liz's generosity was more than we could have asked for or dreamed of. We will take all the help we can get and she really made our evening a good one. The kindness of strangers is a huge take away from this journey.

After dinner the four of us walked around town, and we even stopped in on a free Oktoberfest celebration. 

 Cosmo

 Cosmo

It was dark when we finally made it back to Liz's house. We cowboy camped (on a giant trampoline) under the stars, thankful to have a clear sky and comfortable night.

Day 134 

Liz drove us up to Timberline Lodge where winter is back in full effect! 

 

Link, Jedi, Me, Cosmo, Nils, Liz, Annabelle, and Harley

Link, Jedi, Me, Cosmo, Nils, Liz, Annabelle, and Harley

Me playing on a snow pile

Me playing on a snow pile

Inside the lodge we picked up our resupply boxes and I was surprised to find a birthday package from my dad, complete with a vegan cookie and candles!

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Next, we said goodbye to Link - who is heading over to the Oregon Coast Trail - and Cosmo, Jedi, and I made plans for our next section.

 

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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

4 Comments

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

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Sierra City

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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.

 

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Tahoe

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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

8 Comments

Passes By The Masses

8 Comments

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.