Trout Lake, WA to Manning Park, Canada

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August 26 – 23.8 miles

My shoes, rain pants, and rain jacket are all soaked.

So exhausted, I can’t keep my eyes open.

Passed over the Bridge of the Gods this morning, the border of Oregon and Washington. Looked just like it did in Wild.

It was indescribably breathtaking to see the dark and misty mountains rise above the bridge and around the river below. It’s so dark and dully colored, yet vibrant at the same time.

My mom says my dog, Dakota, used to wait by my bed in the mornings when I first left, but that she must’ve given up in expecting to find me there because she doesn’t do it anymore. That breaks my heart a little.

August 27 – 26.9 miles

I am sitting in my tent. I just woke up. I can hear the rain outside drizzling down my tent walls. It is oddly peaceful all the while ominous of the day to come. I mentally prepare myself for a day of limited breaks as we cannot stand still for very long in order to avoid getting too cold. I pack out my snacks, so they’re ready to go.

By the afternoon, it was an absolutely gorgeous day in Washington. The sky was a brilliant blue, and the clouds were pressed up against both Mount Adams and Mount Hood in the distance. We aired out our drenched tent flys on a wooden bridge during lunch.

August 28 – 30.8 miles

I look at a calendar, and we are roughly twenty days from finishing. But it feels like an eternity, like a tunnel with no light. I don’t want to see it end, and yet I so badly need it to at the same time.

Trout Lake is tomorrow, yay! Where I get Adam and Tara’s package.

Woke up this morning, rolled over, and was greeted by a spider directly next to my face. It was lovely. Killed him with my waterbottle.

August 29 – 15.2 miles

August 30 – 33.3 miles

Did not think with the difficult climbs we’d be able to do thirties in Washington, but here we are! We keep moving toward Canada!!!

Last night, a mouse chewed a hole in my food bag, and as I write this, another ran right across the outside of my tent, the tent that doesn’t zip …..

The Cascades of Washington are steeper and much more colorful than the hills of Oregon. When you glance around the landscape, these giants – Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens – all rise above their lesser kind.

What a blessing it is to be uncomfortable enough to know what true comfort is.

August 31 – ? miles

This morning, we walked for a few miles in what Katie believes was a mid-thirties or low forties windy and drizzling rain. Most of the path for that distance was wet rocks along a ridge where there were yards-long patches of snow that probably never melted from the year before.

Today we also took a detour around an active fire burning close to the PCT. It was most certainly longer than we’d been led to believe from the map.

It’d been a rough day of less than ideal surprises, so we agreed to get a room for the night. Turned out to be one of my favorite stops. The room looked like a New York studio apartment, kitchen and a couple of beds. Much to my delight, we watched Moana as we prepared our packs for the following days.

Sept 1 – 19.7 miles

I definitely don’t remember being this cold at night until now. Even in wearing all my layers to bed, I’m usually not warm. I started putting my pack underneath my feet at the base of my tent to protect from the cold ground.

As we’re leaving Snoqualmie Pass, it feels a little more real. The end. It didn’t feel real when we reached Washington, it didn’t feel real when we hit 2,000 miles. But now, now it does.

Someone said we only have three town stops left until Manning Park. The Northern Terminus (finish line at the Canadian border) was closed due to an active fire, until now that is. It’s officially reopened! We could be done in two weeks.

Saw an elk today! And as we ascended, I could still see it below Mount Rainier’s silhouette pressed against the setting pink sun.

Sept 2 – 29.8 miles

Woke up to the pattering of rain.

Sept 3 – 30.5 miles

I felt this incredibly painful needle pinch on my ankle. Looked down, and it was a yellow jacket, fumbling to get off of the sock it stung me through.

I don’t remember bee stings ever hurting this bad, and whoever said bees are going extinct – I beg to differ.

Not even dead after getting me, I kicked him off with my hand, looked for the stinger and kept going uphill. Not more than five minutes later did it start swelling.

Much to our luck, we decided to push to a further campsite by a road where we ended up running into friends of Katie’s from the AT who were doing a little trail magic – beers, hot dogs and good company in the nighttime light of their SUV.

It was one of our colder nights, I’d say. I was wearing most of my layers though by morning it’d warmed up quite a bit.

Sept 4 – 18 miles

Woke up, and my ankle HURTS. It is very swollen, can hardly walk on it. Guess that’s beside the point, since we have 18 miles into town.

Lots of steep ups and downs. As the day went on, my leg just got more and more swollen. Now it’s not just my ankle, but swollen from the middle of my calf down. On the upside, I’ve memorized half of the words to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” in an effort to distract myself.

We finally got into town, and I just laid outside the gas station in such considerable discomfort, pain and discouragement, more pain than I’ve had all trail. They didn’t have the medicine I needed. No non-drowsy Benedryl at this tiny non-actual town. How the heck am I supposed to hike out tomorrow without that with this much pain and swelling?

Got a hostel and planned to wait it out. Surely, it’d get somewhat better by morning. But when ten o’clock that evening rolled around, my leg was swollen from my knee down to my foot, it was incredibly tight from all the liquid, and hot to the touch. My calf was bigger than my thigh and twice as big as the other leg. Not to mention, I had a large blister ballooning where the bee had stung me, with little ones bubbling around it. It was clearly getting worse.

Within a few minutes of some snap decision-making, a guy at the hostel was driving Katie and I to Urgent Care after my insurance nurse urged I seek medical attention within the hour.

I filled out paperwork, while Katie threw her sleeping bag on the floor, preparing to make camp for the duration of our visit. A woman at the front desk came out to yell at us.

“Ma’am, you can’t do that.” The guy signing me in added, “ I wouldn’t put your sleeping bag on that gross floor.” And I’m thinking, ‘I don’t think you want that floor touching our gross sleeping bags.’

Immediately, the doctor confirmed it was infected and prescribed two antibiotics. But she was still curious as to why it had gotten that swollen. She told us we needed to go to the ER to rule out a blood cot.

Off we went again to the hospital to get an ultrasound of my bloated peg leg. It came back negative, but both the ER doctor and the nurse urged I stop hiking. The nurse actually got mad when I told her I would continue on.

We didn’t get back till 2 a.m. Shortly after, Katie and I decided that with my blister being open, there was no way I could go back out and successfully avoid reinfection between the rain, mud and river crossings. If we went out and I got a fever … I would be in the middle of the woods and shit out of luck since the farther North we went, the further we traveled from medical access. We decided I would heal for five days, Katie would head out in two, and I would meet her in the next town North seventy miles ahead.

Sept 5 – 0 miles

Today we got the news that a day hiker fell off the trail of the next section we were to hike, and died. The PCT was temporarily closed and the hostel was overflowing with fellow hikers stuck in limbo.

Sept 6 – 0 miles

Sept 7 – 0 miles

Katie reluctantly left this morning, me still in bed sleeping on a downward slant elevating my leg back to an acceptable size.

The same guy who’d driven us to the ER was coming back through town and offered to drive me up to the next town.

It ended up being a three hour endeavor where we stopped in the popular, Bavarian-styled town of Leavenworth for dinner. I ordered a beer forgetting the fact that I shouldn’t given my antibiotics.

Sept 8 – 0 miles

Made it to a mountaineers cabin at Steven’s Pass where I stayed until Sunday waiting for Katie to get in. I watched hikers come in who I had watched go out at the previous town, and each time they’d come through was like another tooth being pulled from the section of the trail I couldn’t complete.

Sept 9 – 0 miles

Despite the doctors’ wishes, I’m heading back out. My blister has mostly healed, my leg is back to normal, and it’s time to go.

Being in town, ever since starting the trail, makes me sick. It’s over-stimulating to step back into a world of loud horns, fast driving cars, and constantly moving people. It’s like going straight from a quiet stroll in a cornfield to a circular roller-coaster. After resting in town for five days, I can only just stare at my breakfast each morning, forcing myself to eat the calories I know my body needs but the bites I don’t want to take.

Sept 10 – 18.5 miles

I am inside my tent.

Most everything inside and out is wet.

I’m very cold.

I’m wearing every dry layer I have, including three pairs of socks.

We pitched our tents between mud puddles.

It’s still raining outside in the dark.

Sept 11 – 26.1 miles

It rained most the day. Got a few half hour breaks of some limited sun.

Sept 12 – 26.1 miles

It snowed on us today and it rained most of the remainder of the day.

Sept 13 – 27.4 miles

It is amazing to experience first hand the seasons changing. As we walk farther north, more and more leaves are turning colors.

Today’s detour was pretty incredible. How funny it is to hate the extra miles and uncertainty that often come with detours only to be pleasantly surprised by hidden views the PCT doesn’t offer.

Four and a half days left? I did a lot of reminiscing on my favorite moments, towns, and milestones throughout the trail. There were a few hours of significant rainfall, but most of the day was rewarding and dry. Forgotten what it’s like to be able to sit down during a break and get off your feet, it’s been so long.

There is nothing quite like a blue sky in Washington. I think what makes me love this dramatic section of the trail so much is how unexpectedly beautiful or treacherous the weather can be. Often the best days are hiking between shifts of fog, when all of a sudden the whispy clouds clear for only a moment, and a huge mountain is revealed – one that was there the whole time but you couldn’t see.

Yesterday, Katie found a bleeding baby mouse in the middle of the trail. She picked it up, wrapped it in her bandana, and put it in her pocket after giving it some cheese, hoping it would recover.

After some time, the mouse got more and more still, and we decided it wasn’t going to make it. Katie had to kill it so it wouldn’t suffer anymore.

Sept 14 – 18.5 miles

Today we took another detour to a small village which was not unlike a cult.

Had to unwrap and rewrap my bee sting to ensure it stayed clean. I pitched myself in front of the registration desk, ripping off the medical tape from my inch long leg hair which was not far off from giving myself a painful wax.

Steheiken was one of my last true moments of bliss on the trail. We were finishing up another detour from another active fire in the area, trying to make the bus into town. As we were hustling down this lonely road, a man (beer in hand) driving an old blue Ford pickup came down the road and told us to hop in the bed. He’d take us to town.

Wind in face and pack in hand, we passed by the dozens of unique, wooden and intricate homes in this forgotten corner of the woods when out of nowhere we turned a bend and were exposed to the vast lake settled beneath these HUGE and dark mountains. Like nothing I’ve ever seen. This is first time I genuinely teared up at the beauty before me. It was incredible.

Between a six-pack and dinner, Katie and I spent the evening sitting by the lake talking with the other hikers. It was a well-deserved, serene moment to enjoy in our last few days on the trail. And to think, if we had skipped the detour like many other hikers did, we would’ve missed one of my favorite moments of the PCT.

Three and a half days left.

Sept 15 – 21.2 miles

As the bus took us out of town, I reflected on how much I’d miss seeing families living their everyday lives in these tiny towns completely unknown to the busy, outside world. These small, rusty neighborhoods built around the trees rather than on top of them, where I can’t imagine living but am thrilled to hike through.

Sept 16 – 28.9 miles

Despite our bit of blue, we got snowed on a lot today.

After climbing Rainy Pass, we got covered in frozen rain as we kept going downhill unable to warm up.

It was IMPOSSIBLE to avoid getting my ankle dirty. I was still cold, when I crossed a creek and fell in. I screamed out in frustration, immediately pissed and now only more cold.

We arrived at Harts Pass where we were camping, and it started snowing again, but this time gathering on top of our tents. This is the coldest night yet at 28 degrees. The ranger station was right next to this particular campground, so they allowed us to come in, warm up and made us scolding hot tea.

When it was time to make our way back, another hiker was getting picked up by his friends and family at this location after having completing the trail. They were screaming and hugging overcome with joy while Katie and I scurried back to our frozen, snow-covered tents hoping to not freeze overnight. Just one more full day on the PCT. One.

It is sad and it is exciting, but it is time. That much is for sure. The ranger said the frozen rain and snow we’d experienced was supposed to come in again the day after tomorrow but double. And that weather would not be hikable. A lot of hikers behind us would probably have to quit.

Sept 17 – 28.2 miles

What a beautiful day it was without rain, despite our frozen, burning hands that morning just trying to take down our tents.

I haven’t had service for eight days now.

Tonight is the last night we pitch our tents.

I have no idea how I got here, to the end.

I’m still in disbelief it will ever end.

We are 6.4 miles away from the Canadian border.

The past four and a half months, every day I have spent walking.

Today is the last full one.

Sept 18 – 6.4 miles (+7 to Manning Park)

Today we crossed the Canadian border, ending a journey I’ve been clawing my way through for four months and sixteen days. I could hear the laughter and cheers in the distance as we neared the terminus, but a silent inner joyous relief is what welled inside me when I could finally see it for myself.

I remember begging for the second the sun would finally go down and feeling sick to my stomach from the heat. I remember fighting through clouds of mosquitos and filtering water unable to feel my fingers. Tripping over rocks, fording rivers, pushing through the cold, the heat, the rain, the snow, the wind and the deep longing to be anywhere but here, I’ve powered through each day with an intentional level of mental endurance that will contrast the passive world I’m headed back to, one of distractions and endless noise. But in appreciating the simplicity of a few essential items or seeing the beauty in things unseen, I believe I will find ways to fight through those same overgrown paths of the forest in the busy suburbs back home.

It isn’t quite yet real that it’s over. I still feel just as attached to every hiking habit I’ve conditioned myself to repeat. I’m still linked to my pack like an appendage. And I still feel compelled to follow a path that has become second nature to my swollen feet. Hopping from car to bus and train to plane, city to city, bouncing my way back home, I’m excited to again feel a level of comfort I haven’t had for some time. But despite the joy I have to see the family and friends I left behind what feels like just yesterday, I can only laugh at how much I will miss ending my day in my wet tent wearing the same dirty clothes from the day before.

Sept 19

I’m on the landing strip listening to Suit and Jacket by Judah & the Lion, a song I listened to for the first time months ago in the desert. It reminds me of night hiking through Mojave, of being terrified of everything around me, of continuing to hike on in the darkness with the blind faith that it will be fine.

Our plane is picking up speed, taking off the ground, and we are headed home. And in the same way that the air rushes past the wings of the plane, I can feel every distant memory of the PCT flood past me too. And it feels real. What an undeniably real adventure it has been to experience such beauty and pain.

Ashland, OR to TimberLine Lodge, OR

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August 8 – 32 miles

Calves are so tight. Get into Ashland tomorrow though. Yay!! Only have a short hike into town.

August 9 – 11.6 miles

Ashland is a popular trail town and fun one at that. We got a ride back to the trail but decided to only do a mile and a half before camping. We wanted to get to sleep early to start fresh in the morning and, honestly, we both were probably still a little bit tipsy from lunch.

August 10 – 30.7 miles

Both today and yesterday, I’ve seen a family of turkeys. Surprisingly, they can fly… I know this because when we startled the mom, she dodged into a tree leaving her wingless babies behind.

The landscape changed just as fast as the Oregon border came. The pockets of pine trees are shaped differently, there are wide open meadows between the forests unlike NorCal, and overall it’s a much flatter landscape not just in walking across the land but even in looking across the horizon.

August 11 – 34.1 miles

Frequently, we’re walking through people’s backyards, Native American reservations, touristy campgrounds or even strolling across people’s driveways. Lately, we’ve found ourselves on ranchers’ property sharing our water sources with their large and bell-jingling cows.

Last night, we passed through a campground by a lake that no one was monitoring, so we took a free hot shower in their bathroom.

Charcoal, boulder-sized rocks for miles today rising around a red, sandy trail.

Today we came upon trail magic twice. The first one was actually done by a friend we made back in the desert. He’s from Quebec, had some health issues, had to get off and decided to treat the hikers in the area while he rested.

August 12 – 30.6 miles

Today was a slow day. But a lot of days are slow, I guess, until we near the end. I’m starting to understand the monotony hikers claim exists.

Tomorrow, we get to Crater Lake! And hopefully, if the smoke clears, we can actually see it. Planning to stop at the cafe along the trail so we can get ANYTHING other than trail food.

August 13 – 27.6 miles

It will be fine. Just like every other time I thought it wasn’t fine, and it was.

August 14 – 10.6 miles

Once we got to Diamond Lake, we decided last minute to splurge on a motel room. We originally planned on camping for cheaper, but the campgrounds were a few miles down the road and what with needing to resupply and charge our phones, it was would’ve become too much of a hassel.

After getting to our room, we showered and then were both out for twelve hours essentially sleeping from the time we checked in until the time we checked out.

August 15 – 34 miles

Katie told me that when she saw me changing yesterday, she could see all of my ribs.

Honestly, I cannot eat anything in my food sack anymore. It’s all sweets and sugary, processed things that make me want to throw up.

Crater Lake was just indescribably beautiful. The water was such a deep and undisturbed blue, an almost perfect circle surrounded by a pine tree rim that the trail toured us through. We saw this adorable, black, Border Collie mix puppy and from that point on, it was a good day.

At times, frequent times, it is horrible. But in hindsight, truly each day is a gift, fun and beautiful in its own way.

August 16 – 25.3 miles

I was mad at myself for not stopping for too long at this beautiful marina spot by a lake. Another hiker was giving us crap for not staying and relaxing. But upon reflection, hike your own hike. Everybody enjoys different things out here, and they need to individually decide when and where it is that they personally want to sit and enjoy. To spend your preciously, mindful moments on what others deem as important is simply not the point.

I’m torn. I so badly want to go home, but those things will always be there, as Katie constantly reminds me, whenever it is that I return. This experience, this may be a once in a lifetime thing. That is, if I so choose.

August 17 – 36.3 miles *****

What a beautiful day for landscapes (and day to get in some killer miles – longest day ever).

These three, silent, snow-topped mountains rose out of nowhere in the distance, quietly blending in with the blue sky, almost wishing you wouldn’t notice their hidden presence. The three sisters.

We night hiked to get more miles in. The stars increased in number as the evening went on, similar to the previous night when I’d wake in the darkness surrounded by these solemn, giant pines … dark, tall shadows rising above my tent.

Today we came upon eight different but gorgeous lakes.

August 18 – 30.2 miles

The Three Sisters Wilderness was absolutely incredible. And this morning was gorgeous – the first day since the Sierra that we’ve had a sky this blue (smoke free).

By the end of the day, we were hiking miles and miles on rocks and gravel. At first it was cool in theory but actually horrendous especially when trekking uphill.

August 19 – Zero

Bend was an incredible stop. It has such an outdoorsy, warm and friendly atmosphere. It’s easily one of my favorite towns on the trail. People have their dogs out walking with them, and they’re allowed in all of the town’s stores.

Back in Burney, CA about five hundred miles back, a woman whose son was hiking the PCT gave us a ride and offered to host us when we came through Bend. So we took her up on it even though by the time we came through, both her son and brother had dropped out.

When we first got into town, we got breakfast at this turned around motorcycle garage where they had food trucks, coffee, mimosas and live music.

The woman’s house was beautiful. Got to shower and do laundry. Her son had a 3D printer going the whole time which sounded like oddly out of tune jazz music playing in the background.

She made us a homemade dinner and we got seconds, of course. We laughed and chatted like old family friends, and it felt incredibly homey to be in a house on the patio in the suburbs.

They asked about my experience, and I told them I’d never been backpacking before. They all thought that was hilariously crazy. “So you’ve never been backpacking, and you decided to start out with the PCT?”

August 20 – 5.3 miles

Did not sleep at all tonight. Tossed and turned from 3 am on. Don’t really know why, maybe because I was so hungry?

The landscape coming into and out of Bend is like a medieval wasteland. Rocky mountains of ugly apocalyptic rocks. Walking through forests where everything is charred, burned and broken.

August 21 – 34.4 miles

Tonight I duck-taped myself inside my tent because there were daddy long legs everywhere that kept coming inside. You are not welcome in here.

Saw Mount Jefferson across the way.

August 22 – 31.5 miles

As we near Washington, Oregon is getting hillier, and it is becoming physically obvious that hitting thirty miles each day is noticeably harder.

This morning was rough. Between the extra caffeine and the joys of being a woman, I am incredibly shaky and weak. I kept stopping to eat in thinking my body just needs food, but it doesn’t make a difference. I can feel my body quiver as I force it to climb these hills. I was not having it, that’s for sure. But again, here we are.

Yesterday morning was so chilly and eerily windy. I kept my baselayer pants on for about five or so miles? Just did not warm up. It’s getting colder, the sun sets earlier. The highs during the day are manageable, but the evenings and mornings are chilly when you’re not moving.

August 23 – 33 miles

Crazy to think that in less than a month we could be done and home, and yet we have not even set foot in Washington – an entire state left to go.

VERY very excited for Timberline Lodge tomorrow – the famous buffet and my four packages.

It looked almost certainly like it would rain this evening. It didn’t end up doing it, but it’s really good that we’re getting our rain gear before hitting Washington as we near the border.

August 24 – 21 miles

We came upon a pond. They call it Little Crater Lake. It is forty feet to the bottom and the deepest most pristine of blues.

Climbing up to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood was both gnarly and wonderful at the same time. The wind was intense and it was damn cold. Can only imagine if it was raining.

The terrain was entirely sand. So no traction, our feet sinking in with each step, it held us back from moving quickly and keeping warm. But in the distance, we could hear the microphone and music from the Hood to Coast Race that was apparently going on. I absolutely LOVE the atmosphere of a race, and it was electric making our way toward it.

Being at the lodge, being warm and cozy, looking out onto Mount Hood was phenomenal.

At points, I’ve had on my knee brace and two compression socks. One time, another hiker stared at my legs, stopped and asked if I was okay. Define okay.

August 25 – 32.7 miles

Cold and rainy. Continuing to get colder than it’s ever been. Cannot stop for more than a few minutes to grab a snack because I get too cold.

August 26 – 23.8 miles

Day one in Washington, and it starts raining. Welcome.

Quincy, CA to Seiad Valley, CA

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July 17 – 10.1 miles

Nero. Trying to tend to the growing weakness and pain in my knee. So rather than hiking out, we decided to camp just outside of Sierra City, spending our afternoon out by a waterfall under a bridge and taking some time to rest and relax. Unfortunately, we went back into town this morning because my leg still didn’t feel good enough to push on.

Have a seven mile climb out of town. Probably will head out this afternoon, get up the hill and call it a day so I don’t push my leg too hard right off the bat, but I guess we’ll see.

Exciting that it’s near the end of July now, almost August! It’s crazy that much time has passed.

July 19 – 26.2 miles

Saw two bears today!! How ridiculous this didn’t happen in the Sierras where we were required to carry the heavy bear canisters.

Bear one – We hiked through a campground, and I was about to throw away my trash in one of the dumpsters when another hiker came up and said don’t use that one, there’s a bear in there.

I paused. Surely she’s kidding… a bear can’t fit in there. I laughed awkwardly.

She goes, “No, seriously, look. You can see its ears poking out.” Sure enough, I looked over, and it raised its head inbetween the dumpster crack. The poor guy was probably scared and dehydrated. Thankfully the ranger was coming that morning to get him out.

Bear two – We sat down to lunch, and off in the distance I saw something moving. A cinnamon-colored bear. It saw me before I said so much as a word and it took off, heavily and goofily galloping like a cartoon character in the opposite direction.

July 20 – 27.5 miles

We’ve been seeing so many deer in Northern California, and they are hilariously and oddly behaved, completely unphased by us.

July 21 – 23.4 miles

Feel nauseous.

Sleeping at a slant in my tent because that’s all that was available on this never ending, six mile, DOWNWARD decent into Belden.

Endless seas of pine this past week. Animal tracks in the dirt – deer, maybe some coyotes, and other tracks I’d prefer remain anonymous.

The trees in the forest – they feel indifferent toward me. Indifferent toward my well-being. Whether I live or die, even if its right before their eyes, they do not care. They will not shift. In the middle of the woods, their ancient lives would go on.

July 22 – 22.8 miles

Last night we night hiked because we wanted to get through half of the large and steep downhill we had to do. By splitting the section between two days, we’d make it easier on both of the aliments that had been bothering us since both are triggered with downhill.

Into the night, the moon was bright, there was a slight breeze and a handful of fearless deer. It was surprisingly not scary but enjoyable, peaceful and incredibly beautiful to see the stars light up the open sky.

I don’t feel like I’ve been sleeping in a tent for months, shockingly enough. It feels like my cozy bed by the time I crawl into it every evening.

Took a hobo shower this morning in a restaurant’s bathroom sink. This is what thru-hikers call “hiker trash.”

After steeply descending for six miles, we had a FOURTEEN mile climb. Fourteen. The beginning was absolutely dreadful. We started it in the middle of the day, and it was SO humid. I got to a creek before Katie, shoved myself in a bush off to the side of the trail, and I started laugh-crying. “This is so horrible.” It might as well have been pouring rain, I was drenched and no amount of wiping away the sweat took the moisture away.

Hilarious. I often personify the trail like she’s making me do these ridiculous obstacles. Really? You knew I would have to climb this fourteen mile hill, why is this also the section where there’s no water … I frequently laugh, as if anyone’s listening, at the absurdity.

In Quincy, a woman at the thrift store gave us two sports bras for free. By that point, we might as well have not been wearing any form of support since the ones we started with were so stretched out.

July 23 – 26.7 miles

MADE IT HALFWAY BABY!!!!

Katie and I finished off a mini bottle of Fireball at the mile marker, so of course the rest of the hike to camp was a bit of a haze.

July 24 – 27.7 miles

I’m worried about the desert section tomorrow, an especially dry and exposed stretch in NorCal, the same stretch Cheryl Strayed ran out of water.

My shoes are a wreck. They have holes all over them, and I can see the insoles from the outside. My IT band was hurting (more than usual) today for whatever reason, and honestly I just need a break. My legs are beat up and tired after the brutal last few days, and I’m just ready for a zero and some time in town.

July 25 – 30.5 miles

I’m nauseous … so unbelievably queasy. Five times every mile my toes jam into a rock because my shoes are SHIT. My IT band STILL hurts. At dusk of all times, I came upon the largest rattlesnake I have ever seen six inches from my feet. As my mind was registering what to do, I watched it coil preparing to strike.

I’m absolutely exhausted. And I DO NOT WANT TO HIKE. I spent the better half of today crying (while still hiking).

July 26 – 22 miles

Got to Burney, where we nero-ed. Hiking in, it was in the low one hundreds.

The woman who ran the church actually graduated from Centerville High School in Dayton.

Called my mom in a McDonalds.

Made camp on the floor of the church’s gymnasium.

Slept for 12 hours straight.

July 27 – 13.4 miles

July 28 – 27.9 miles

Haven’t had time in the evenings to journal, been so intent on getting to bed as fast as possible to catch up on sleep.

There’s a large fire that started out at 20,000 acres and grew to 100,000 acres in just two days. It’s seventy miles away from the trail, but the entire sky, day and night, is gray. The sun and the moon are this eerie, blood red, and at any given hour, it’s hard to tell what time of day it is because it always feels like an apocalyptic five O’clock. It has been this way for a few days now.

It’s been dryer and pretty damn hot in the afternoons. Hot enough to make me question my wellbeing a few times a day but not enough to stop me from continuing on.

My feet are on fire. Breaking in new shoes brings blisters. I’ve been limping half the day to avoid smashing the sores against the sides of my shoes with every step that I take.

So close to a zero. SO CLOSE.

July 29 – 29.3 miles

Today wasn’t as rough as the last few days, although, every day feels like Groundhog Day. The same day, repeating itself over and over again. It is maddening.

The scenery isn’t super great, and even if it was, you couldn’t see it because of the smoke.

July 30 – 19.4 miles

Coming into the town of Mount Shasta, I am depressed. All I want to do is sleep. I’ve had no interest in eating for about a week now. Nothing sounds good. I just look forward to getting to bed every night and being asleep.

After taking down camp this morning, I remember curling up into a ball on my sleeping pad waiting for Katie, and tears numbly fell from my face.

August 1 – 17.7 miles

August 2 – 30.7 miles

August 3 – 29.4 miles

Looking at a calendar … theoretically, we’d be home in a little over a month. That is so strange, INCREDIBLY motivating and yet difficult because it’s still so far away.

Chillier than it’s been but that’s cozy.

So close to Oregon.

August 4 – 20.4 miles

August 5 – 20.7 miles

It feels so unnatural to see “human things” in the woods. So out of place. In the middle of the mountains, I’ll come upon a dirt road that actually has a car on it – a random pickup truck. I never expect it, and it’s always disorienting. You’re not supposed to be here!

A little ways back, I Face-Timed my college roommates that’re still living in the house I moved out of, and it was just absolutely amazing to hear from them and get the updates on their lives. I miss them a lot, and it’s strange that it’s been so long since I’ve seen them when I used to see them all the time. The trail is truly my life now.

It blows my mind that some people go the entire trail without stretching. WHAT.

August 6 – 29.1 miles

There are so many multi-colored, blossoming butterflies that I so frequently see in patches on the trail.

It feels as though the end of this journey is at the end of my fingertips but far enough away that it is still out of reach. It seems around the corner and yet an endless eternity away.

August 7 – 26.7 miles

Today we saw a momma deer and her baby, all curious and speckled with little white dots.

Today we sat at a water source where there were easily twenty-five hornets and bees buzzing around us for about thirty minutes straight.

This morning, we passed through the general store and cafe of Seiad Valley where only 320 people live.

Bishop to Sierra City, CA

Standard

June 19 – 19 miles

Today was the first hike in the Sierras! Did not realize how lucky we’d been in swiftly avoiding the mosquitos … until now.

No service and our wifi sucked. It doesn’t quite feel like an in-town break without a call home.

The Kennedy Meadows gear store sure made a bundle off me. Got the required bear canister, ice axe, and new socks. Ready set go

June 20 – 24.7 miles

I believe I gave myself water poisoning this morning. I’m used to hydrating for the desert where I was drinking two gallons of water a day. Suddenly, I was spacey? Unable to concentrate? Like I’d taken a shot. Katie said it was water intoxication, said it feels like you’re drunk.

10,500 feet, the highest I’ve ever hiked. This afternoon, we got to a river with a bridge where hundreds of Sparrows flew elegantly overhead. Oh, what it means to just be comfortable for one single moment a day.

Saw grass for the first time since flying into San Diego.

When it’s dark at night and I’m scared, really wish I was ten years old again and could ask my mom to turn on the light as she closes the door behind her.

June 21 – 24.7 miles

Yesterday was ‘hike naked day’. Saw a lot of butts. Just going to leave it at that.

Talk about things that feel unsettling, your chest feeling tight and lack of oxygen. Altitude. My new hell.

We came upon a boy-scout troop and they gave us lots of spare food, really helped us out. I needed Imodium for my stomach too, which they had, and they mailed my ice axe home for free.

June 22 – 19 miles

Sad but comforting that even on a scenic and remote trail like the PCT, you still cannot go more than twelve hours without seeing some sign of civilization. Until now that is …

It’s been 300 miles since we’ve even crossed a dirt road.

June 23 – 21 miles

Tomorrow is Forester Pass. The most dreaded and feared thing since I first began researching the PCT.

Camping at 12,500 feet. Woah.

Being above tree line – unnatural. It feels like we walked onto another planet. Mars. Just rocks and marmots … (this animal blend of cat and groundhog). You can see the moon mid-day and these giant lakes from the mountain snow run-off. You are above everything, and it just feels so incredibly strange.

I am EXHAUSTED these past few days. Call it altitude, call it extra winter gear added to my pack, call it what you want, but I am DRAGGING myself up these mountains. Katie and I are eating a lot more too probably because it’s so ridiculously hard to get thousands of feet in the air.

June 24 – 19 miles

Forester Pass 13,124 ft

Kearsarge Pass 10,747 ft

Today we summited Forester Pass. The south side of Forester was a short and succinct hike, not bad at all. North side had some snow, and it was scary. I tried to put on my microspikes, but you had to alternate the snow footing with boulder hopping so frequently that it wasn’t even worth it. Overall, in hindsight, it really could have been much worse, we were so lucky with timing and weather. But irregardless, it was nerve-wracking trying to get down the pass with the ice and snow both blocking and disguising the path. But look – this is what I’ve feared the most since starting the trail, and I DID IT. It is now behind me.

We hiked down into Kings Canyon National Park (SOOO beautiful) after Forester, and then hiked back OUT of the canyon (AGH) to a side trail where we did (YET ANOTHER) pass to get to Onion Valley Trailhead in order to resupply at Bishop. A really nice couple with a thirteen-year-old German Short-Haired Pointer dropped us off in town on their way to San Diego. Got to sit next to their dog Libby as we headed back to the nothingness of the desert – like looking into a window of the past.

June 25 – 7.5 miles

Kearsarge Pass 10,747 ft

Bishop was a success. Immediately stopped at McDs for that Big Mac meal (Uh yes, I’ll take a large everything and throw in a McFlurry), showered, and did a pack shake-down ditching so much stuff – roughly six pounds. Resupplied, went to an outfitters, got a delicious cinnamon role and coffee at this German bakery, and got to watch some Gilmore Girls. Overall, we made pretty good time.

June 26 – 22.3 miles

Glen Pass 11,948 ft

Pinot Pass 12,107 ft

I feel pretty good about today. It was a HARD day. Two passes, hiked from 6 am to 8 pm, with only a few short breaks. It was rewarding though to know we could do more than twenty miles in the Sierras.

Starting to get homesick, but trying not to think about it. Today we reached mile 800 and over 30% done!!

Lots of glacier-colored, clear-as-day lakes, streams, creeks, and rivers everywhere. Everything is so beautiful. But if there’s anything that would make me quit, it’s the mosquitos.

June 27 – 20 miles

Mather Pass 12,094 ft

Downright exhausted. Toes haven’t stretched out my new shoes yet so they are cramped and kill. Knees are hurting because of the rocky downhills we have at each pass. It’s like ramming my leg into a wall repeatedly, the impact BANG… BANG… until my knees are so irritated.

Vices. They might as well add marajuana to the smells of the forest for the amount of times I’ve come upon it. Some people smoke six times a day or more, often to get up a single hill. For others, it’s the painkillers, enough to make the body go numb. Maybe that’s why I find this so difficult. I find myself without my usual vices: TV, a warm bed, AC, an occasional beer, loved ones, the comfort of knowing and having a plan. Daily life is hard enough with the aide of these things, let alone being miserable in the woods without them. Deprivation. Deprived of my usual vices, the things that make the hard things easier.

Today was just absolutely beautiful. Coming down Mather Pass, despite the ridiculous irritation of walking down boulders and fist-sized rocks for miles, I barely noticed it because we were lead into a whindy canyon that twisted around waterfalls and little trickling streams. Raspberry, yellow, purple and orange wildflowers on either side and vast, rocky, snow-sprinkled mountains rising all around us. Down we descended into this pool of tall, thin, large pine trees at the very bottom of the canyon where the mountains spilled them out.

I started to get excited with how many miles we were able to do in a day, so I became eager to do as many as possible. But Katie reminded me that “it would be sacrilegious to blast through the High Sierra in the name of miles.” She’s right. We cut it short that evening and slept in, and I was reminded how peaceful it is to simply absorb the scenery around you.

June 28 – 20.1 miles

Muir Pass 11,969 ft

The past few days, we’ve been seeing deer. Large, furry, black-tailed bucks unlike the Ohio ones. They’re not afraid of us either; they stand so close to us even when we approach them.

Lately, I’ve been getting into a negative thought cycle. It truly is a mind game – keeping yourself motivated when all you want to do is quit. I can’t be at a comfortable tempature when I want… shower when I want … go home… relax… ANYTHING.

I watch videos of the people I miss in my tent at night. Last night, I watched videos of Sara’s kids (family I used to nanny for) that I still have on my phone. Cute videos of Reagan or funny knock-knock jokes Reid made about cows.

Well, you know what’s good is when my feet are frozen, I can’t feel pain anymore. Natural advil! What joy!

Right before getting back on trail, we learned there were a few active fires in our area – one prescribed and one natural. The natural fire was in Mammoth, seven miles off the trail. The rangers said to consider skipping because of the smoke. A good amount of hikers skipped that section (among others) to avoid the risk, but Katie and I, informed but still unsure of what to expect, decided to keep going.

Muir Pass was the most fun, difficult and beautiful pass so far. More snow than the others and a stone shelter at the top to sit in. You can see indentations in the snow from earlier in the season where people post-holed (fell through the snow) up past their heads.

Ever since we got into higher elevation, my stomach has NOT been happy. Nauseous and headaches for days.

June 29 – 20 miles

Seldon Pass 10,913 ft

Tonight we camped by the infamous Bear Creek that we forded three times. It’s supposedly one of the most notoriously dangerous river crossings in the Sierra. The mosquitos are ABSOLUTELY HORRENDOUS. You cannot imagine how many sworm you. CLOUDS (at no exaggeration) surround you, once they realize you’re there. At any given moment when hiking, there are twenty on you and, God-forbid, if you stand still for even a second, fifty all over your body. Believe I’m giving myself lacerations just from swatting them away. Thirty make their way into my tent by the time I crawl inside, and I spend the first twenty minutes each night racking up the dead bodies at the bottom of my tent by smacking them out of my vicinity.

Today we went to Muir Trail Ranch – horses and dogs and a DOPE hiker box with everything you could need. Charged up and essentially resupplied, hoping to make it to Lee Vining next for our zero without any stops in town from here to there.

Today we did Seldon Pass. Beautiful. Less breathtaking and otherworldly than say Muir Pass but rather colorful and serene.

June 30 – 20 miles

Silver Pass Pass 10,779 ft

Today we might as well have done three passes considering the elevation gain.

Tomorrow we deal with the fire.

July 1 – 20.1 miles

Happy two months!

July. To think what time has passed. Seems as though I’m living a different life. The trail has become home.

Today was mostly flat (comparably), and yet I am still exhausted. Hitting 20 miles every day has become such a strain and goal to be achieved in and of itself despite having done it repeatedly for months now.

We walked right past the wildfire. Katie and I have been dreading it, never having experienced anything like this in Ohio and having no idea of how bad hiking in the smoke would be. You could see it in the air all throughout the afternoon and between the white thunderheads above, the smoke, and the sunshine, everything was colored somewhat twilight zone-ish. It was odd, felt like sunset even though it was morning. We could hear and see the helicopters overhead circling the fire probably monitoring on, what I’d assume is, a twenty-four hour basis. No flames but we could see the smoke travel through the air on the mountain directly next to us.

Saw a lot of horses today which make me smile. They’re so majestic when they trot by.

July 2 – 21 miles

Island Pass 10,226 ft

Donahue Pass 11,074 ft

Yesterday, a kid about ten asked if we were doing the Pacific Crest Trail. He said I want to do that some day, when I grow up. I kept hiking and tossed back, “Good!! I think you should.”

Slept really well last night, comfortably. With the tent fly, I could keep my sleeping bag open a bit more and sleep like in a bed.

Tomorrow we get to go to town!!

Lauren Graham’s book just makes me laugh out loud.

July 3 – 10 ? miles

Got into the touristy area of Yosemite where there were lots of hikers (JMT/PCT/Day hiker) and car traffic. Got a coffee (my favorite), a pastry, an apple, and was still hungry enough to enjoy a burger later that morning.

Our hitch was a campground manager in the park, was in army for thirty years and deployed to Iraq four times.

Very tiny town but perfect for us to walk around. No Fourth of July fireworks unfortunately :/ But celebratory flags and red, white and blue spirit everywhere.

July 4 – 0 miles

Stayed for a nero and zero at the RV Park in Lee Vining and did laundry for the first time in 400 miles. Super pumped to drop my bear canister here in less than four days. (three lbs!!!) Honestly, feels like since Kennedy Meadows, time has flown by. And if I’ve made it this far, I can keep going, right? Just have to roll with the bad days, hold out hope for the good ones, and remember that honestly … the rest of my time on this trail is going to fly by and when it’s over, I’m only going to wish I was back.

Really nice mother of roughly six kids, all in wheelchairs, was traveling across the country in her RV to prove just how possible traveling was for them despite the obstacles. She congratulated us girls for taking our roadtrip before settling down with a man.

Our hitch this morning was a guy who’d visited eighteen national parks this summer with a golden doodle puppy in the backseat of his RV.

July 5 – ? miles

Back at Toulame Meadows store waiting on Katie to mail her down jacket home. Next section is supposedly unbelievably beautiful.

July 6 – 17.3 miles

camping by a lake tonight.

had two breakfasts this morning.

We have been on the trail almost more days than we have left … knowing that helps.

July 6 – 20 miles

Benson Pass 10,107 ft

Seavey Pass 9,129 ft

A foreign couple the other day came up to me and were pointing at what I assumed was my trekking pole. Nope, it was the geometric-shaped dirt on my thigh. They were concerned something was wrong since it was such a drastically different color than the rest of my skin.

Fell backwards on my butt today, that was fun.

There’s a mosquito sitting outside my tent with a broken leg. Don’t worry, he has 567 of his closest friends right next to him, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Swam in a lake today for the first time!!! Just sat in the water and smiled. It was such a beautiful moment to soak up. Water was clear and refreshing – essentially a much needed bath.

I’ve decided that I am horrible at being mindful. Being aware of what you need and how you’re feeling. HA. I can’t even decipher if I need water or not. Pretty pathetic… to say the least.

July 7 – 24.6 miles

Dorothy Pass 9,533 ft

How sad and true that you simply cannot capture the vastness of what’s around you in a photo.

When I’m going up the hills I don’t want to (all of them), I listen to Disney music (“I’ll Make A Man Out of You” – Mulan) … (that or “Closer”/”Humble” on repeat to get me going, shout out to my college roommates who would not be surprised to hear this.) Not ashamed to admit it.

July 8 – 20.1 miles

Sonora Pass 9,624 ft

It feels like the trail is pushing me down with its hand, holding me low against the ground, making me as weak and vulnerable as I’ve ever been and telling me to get back up. That’s what it feels like. The solitude in experiencing this misery is what makes it so painfully torturous and inescapable at times. I have no beer in times of anguish, no extra sleep in times of exhaustion, no comfort in loneliness, no easy entertainment in boredom.

Today one of my two tent zippers stopped working. AWESOME. Yes, fine in the desert, but OH GOSH NO not in mosquito town… AND discovered my platypus has a bigger rip in it than I thought. COOL. Hopefully it should be no trouble before I can get another in South Lake Tahoe.

If one thing has held true, it’s that pain is fleeting. No matter how bonkers the mosquitos drive me or how much my IT band hurts (today) or my feet cry out for breaks. No matter how miserable any given moment is, that moment comes to an end.

Looking behind us as we neared Dorothy Pass, leaving Yosemite, walking out of the High Sierra, we saw no vast mountains. The landscape did change as rapidly as we were told it would. It was almost as if we were looking at a familiar picture where a piece of the landscape was missing. No vast mountains, only trees.

Finally got rid of that bear canister too!! HOORAY FOR LIGHTER PACKS!

July 9 – 26.2 miles

Ebbett’s Pass 8,691 ft

Beautiful, unbelievable scenery. Tons of multi-colored wildflowers in the meadows and thicker forests with tall (175 ft?) pines. Soft dirt and sandy trail so my feet and legs were not destroyed, although my IT band was bothering me again. It actually turned out to be a phenomenal day.

There was trail magic right before we hit the highway. A guy from St. Louis who did the trail last year (“the year of fire and ice”) made the hikers a DELICIOUS burger, offering us snacks and sodas.

July 10 – 26.1 miles

I can hear a coyote from inside my tent. Lots of exposed stretches today, no vegetation above my ankles but lots of beautiful meadows and wildflowers, with pockets of tall and thick pine forests spread throughout.

Took our longer break by a lake. Really excited to get into town tomorrow and just TALK to someone other than Katie.

July 11 – 13.9 miles

Had multiple drinks with Katie at a couple different places in town (I feel like I’ve had three drinks after only one – my body is so disoriented with alcohol now) one being at a place where there was free pizza for the PCT hikers. (Got myself some delicious desert too – I swear I am ravenous when in town, just immediately hungry after a meal).

Leaving town, Katie and I felt nauseous. Unsure why, maybe the drinks because our bodies aren’t used to it, I don’t know, but it was pretty unpleasant. Mailed my fleece home so less weight yay! Supposedly there’s been a heat wave coming through here lately.. hotter than it often is is what a few people said.

Tahoe lake was just absolutely huge and beautiful.

Saw a coyote hiking in the morning. Looked like someone’s dog ran across the trail, like a mini wolf – gray and white, it didn’t know I was there. It was so so awesome to see.

July 12 – 10.6 miles

Katie and I were cracking up at funny videos online before heading out of town which was just such a nice relief from trail and town stress. Guy who apparently takes people on ski trips year round all over the world, that’s his job, took us back to the trail. Said Japan has the best skiing in the world, this little island that gets relentless snow.

My friends were so supportive when I sent them my picture of hitting 1,000 miles, and then we started joking about the ‘I’d walk A Thousand Miles’ song by Vanessa Carlton. My friend asked if I was staying alive out there, so we got on a BeeGees kick in our Groupme. I told Katie all this, and she then proceeds to sing in a high pitched voice, “I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk.” Some random woman at the post office walked by as she did that and almost fell over laughing.

July 13 – 28.4 miles

My IT band’s hurting. Longest day ever though which seriously is so cool to be able to walk that far in a day.

July 14 – 24.2 miles

Free 40s at the Donner Pass Ski Resort.

There was this little girl. She was such a little ham. I was cracking up to her expressions, twirling and dancing to the live band on the patio.

This is the first time, the first moment, when I am actually sad to think that at some point, at some approaching point, this will end. It’s quiet. It’s still. Everything is constantly moving at home. Nothing is still. But here it is. And I don’t want to see it end.

July 15 – 25.4 miles

75 days or less until I can see Austen. (-:

Today – I’m starting to feel an affection for the trail. Even the days when sometimes I hate it, I still love it.

July 16 – 16.1 miles

IT band still hurts. Woke me up all throughout the night last night, kept tossing and turning, nothing was comfortable. The early morning stars above my nonexistent tent fly were beautiful though, I must say. Chose not to indulge the desired identification of said animal outside my tent. Rolled back over to sleep the few times I heard it.

The trees the last forty or so miles, they’re covered in moss. Lime, neon green moss.

In Sierra City, there is nothing open but one single store on Mondays and Tuesdays. Camped for free behind the church. Hardly anything here. Hot as hell because of the lower elevation between the mountains. Rolled into town in 103 degree weather. No wifi or service. Just an old fashioned town.

July 17 – 10 miles

Nero. Trying to appropriately tend to my growing weakness and pain in my knee by sleeping in and taking the rest of the day off by a waterfall under a bridge. Went back to the nothing town this morning and planning to head back out this afternoon. Probably will just get up the hill and call it a day but I guess we’ll see.

Exciting that it’s near the end of July now almost August! That’s crazy that much time has passed.

Things I look forward to: drink mixes to put in my water, boarding the plane to go home, hiking into town, icing my knee

Humility. That’s definitely what this trail gives you. It surely humbles me. I am scared, tired, constantly at my wit’s end, and vulnerable. I hate being vulnerable. But it really brings me to my knees and makes me feel small in comparison to everything that’s so large around me.

Agua Dulce to Kennedy Meadows, CA

Standard

June 1 – 27.1 miles

Happy 1 month!

Tonight, I am exhausted. And I absolutely, without a doubt detest and utterly loathe the afternoons in the desert.

June 2 – ? miles

I’m really really proud of myself today actually. I hiked in legitimately my worst nightmare – Satan’s Oven is what I’d call it. Large mountains with no vegetation and therefore no shade, we got caught in the hottest part of the day. There was a single small cave slightly off the trail. But the longer you wait, the more time passes, the later in the day it gets, and the hotter it becomes. Gotta take short breaks and keep moving.

June 3 – 24 miles

Jack rabbits and kangaroo rats. Look them up.

We stayed at a famous hostel called Hiker Heaven. It is a phenomenally run place PERFECT and specifically made for hikers and all of their needs. A couple lets thirty plus hikers camp in their backyard for free, wifi, Netflix, kitchen, shuttle to town, showers, and the best part of staying there was their horses in the back, their dogs, and their free-roaming chickens and roosters plotting to get inside our tents. They made me laugh – giggling to the thought of Hei Hei from Moana.

June 4 – 20 miles

This morning we discovered there is an active forest fire right where we hiked the previous evening.

We walked fifteen miles into the night yesterday, cowboy camped for the first time (laying down your sleeping bag rather than pitching a tent), got four hours of sleep beneath the stars, and did ten more miles early this morning before the heat got too bad.

Arrived at a road into Green Valley where a woman who runs a hostel out of her home (called Casa de Luna) greeted us with a hug. The woman gives every hiker a hug when they arrive. (Despite the stench, and that’s saying something). You didn’t even realize you needed a hug until you’re embraced.

The place was just incredible. They have a lot of woodsy land behind their house where all the hikers are free to camp. They have paint supplies to design your own rock and leave it in what’s been deemed “the mystical forest,” so when you wander back there it’s just screaming with all kinds of inspirational quotes, pictures, and colors.

They cook a feast of endless tacos on tacos for dinner every night and they have a whole closet of Hawaiian shirts to clothe yourself with upon arrival. And you know what’s the coolest? They do it all expecting nothing but common courteous in return.

The couple themselves are so candid and down to Earth. They’ve watched the trail culture evolve as hikers have come through over the years though. They said this is officially the year where social media has taken over. Different kinds of people with different reasons for doing it these days. The acts of appreciation and decency have often been lost on these folks, and to be honest, I’m not surprised. It’s a shame.

We originally weren’t planning to stop there but so glad it worked out, because Katie sliced her hand open right before leaving Agua Dulce, and it swelled. We spent a lot of time with the owners because they happened to be driving in the direction of a much bigger town the afternoon we were there, Valencia I believe it was, so they dropped Katie and I off at Urgent Care. Oh, the memories.

Thirty years they’ve been married yet so playful and loving.

June 5 – 20 miles

I’m getting more comfortable with being scared and uncomfortable. Every day I do something that scares me. Every day I do something I don’t want to do. But I do it anyway. It seems I have a stronger grasp on what is extremely uncomfortable physically and what is actually dangerous.

Today we had two choices of where to get water – one with a dead animal carcus floating in the water or one that was a mile off the trail (and then some) where you had to get upside down in order to scoop water out of this cistern where the water was getting terribly low. Oh, how we love the desert’s games.

June 6 – 19.5 miles

Made it to Hikertown. Can definitely now understand what people meant when they said “creepy” vibes.

Hikertown is a made-up town, essentially, that a ranch owner created for hikers to stay before heading out onto the desert floor. It has manikins and fictional store set-ups but a real post office and bunk-rooms to rent.

I felt pretty skeptical at first, but after settling in, I found it’s just a bit run down and in the middle of nowhere. Kind of inevitable for a place not to feel that way around here.

Woke this morning after a delightful eleven hour slumber and got shuttled down the road to a store (also in middle of nowhere). Chilly AC, solid phone connection, delicious cheeseburger – yes, please.

Bought new Smart water bottles after a month… Katie’s were growing mold.. Uck.

Heading into Mojave this afternoon, what I have been dreading most. “Forty mile stretches without water” and “No shade, absolutely no shade.” Maybe it won’t be so bad. Both excited, petrified, and dreading it all at the same time.

June 7 – 17 miles

I’ve come to realize that I crave a hot cup of strong coffee more than anything else.

June 8 – ? miles

Last night, in order to avoid the heat, we night-hiked the aqueduct which skirts the west side of the Mojave desert. Long and flat, this pipe supplies water to all of LA. Twenty miles of monotonous sand, we finally came upon a dirt road. Started to get dark so we took out our headlamps, and Katie played her screamo music to pass the time.

Felt like it was going on forever. Felt like it would never end. It was a starry night, but the moon was nowhere to be seen. It was dark. Even with Katie right there with me, I just wanted it to end so so badly, to be ‘safe’ in my tent, ANYWHERE but exposed in the dark in the middle of the endless, barren night.

Around every bush was a mountain lion. Every shadow was a lurking creature whom I couldn’t see shit with my dying batteries. The last two or so miles were incredibly windy … walking through one of the many wind farms … could barely keep our eyes open for fear of pebbles flying in them … clawing our way bent forward …. me holding my music speaker up to the wind giving myself the allusion it would ward anything off.

It was extremely comforting once I started to the see the windmills off in the distance. A string of red lights in the sky ahead, blinking. We were headed that direction, walking toward them. As long as that remained the case, I told myself, then surely we were okay.

Fought against the wind trying to pitch my tent and protect myself from a mountain lion spotted in the area, but finally just GAVE UP after losing a tent stake and ripping my tent fly. Cowboy camped against my will hoping I’d still be there in the morning, got another four or so hours of sleep, made it another seven miles in the morning to climb out of the desert floor where it’d be a few degrees cooler. Made it to a giant oak tree by a small stream, where every other hiker also breaked. We all slept through the afternoon.

June 9 – 6.6 miles

Pissed off two rattle snakes yesterday. They hissed and rattled incredibly loud but scurried away from us so fast we barely even saw them.

June 10 – 0 miles

Thought we might have to stay in a hotel or camp because the town’s trail angels weren’t really available, unfortunately.

I scarfed down the delicious breakfast we got after first getting into town while Katie went down the list of trail angels with no luck until finally a woman answered. Said she was out of town, but her husband was still at their house just busy working on a nearby ranch. Would probably be willing to host us.

Wealthy, wealthy people, living on this beautiful property right outside of Tehachapi. He picked us up and drove us to his home where he offered us full access to their cable TV, fancy shower, kitchen, their food, everything. He was gone a lot both days, but we didn’t mind because Katie and I could then just lounge around and relax as if we were at home. Gave us the keys to his brand new suburban – let us drive ourselves around town to do whatever we wanted. He even fixed us his homemade margaritas and took us out for some delicious salad and pizza.

You’re thinking, Sydney, this is a Taken scenario waiting to happen, and you’d be naive to think otherwise. And at home, I’d agree with you. But truly, I’ve learn to simply trust these people have good intentions. And not once have I been proved wrong.

This man worked as a body guard for the royal family of Saudi Arabia whenever they were in the states. He was an LA cop for thirty years where he patrolled the city via helicopter and prior to that he was in the marine core. Meeting people and hearing their life stories is one of my favorite things about the trail.

June 11 – 18.8 miles

I’ve grown to enjoy grocery shopping. I love to walk down the aisles singing along to whatever familiar songs happen to be playing on the local radio.

I frequently find myself in McDs and no-name grocery stores more than anywhere else.

A PCT girl we ran into at the store asked if we had done an eight mile section in Mojave. When we responded yes, she was more surprised that we did in fact hike it than by the fact that she didn’t.

She assumed it was an obvious choice – to skip. And lots of people do it. But if I skipped the sections I didn’t want to do, I’d complete half the trail – but that’s the point, isn’t it? Sure, it is joyful, exhilarating, memorable and breathtaking. That does not mean it’s not hard and grueling at times you wish that it wasn’t. It’s a test of mental endurance. If one wanted to see the highlights, they would take a roadtrip. But this is a thru-hike. Where every day you do something you’re scared of. Every day you do something you don’t want to do. But every day, you do it, nonetheless. If every mountain was easy to climb, you would never get the views.

June 12 – 24.6 miles

If you want to find the hikers in your vicinity, just wait till afternoon when it’s too hot to breathe, and you’ll find them all crammed together for hours in the only viable shade.

Some animal was sniffing around my tent in the middle of the night last night. I would’ve bombarded Katie’s tent and slept with her if I wasn’t too scared to open my eyes and crawl away.

Last night was the first night that I actually wasn’t terrified to night hike though. Yay! Didn’t need to play music the entire time. Alright, so maybe I did for the last ten minutes because I just didn’t have the mental capacity to talk myself up anymore, but you get the point.

June 13 – 25 miles

My legs feel like absolute jello after the third 25 mile day in a row. It’s like dragging them through mud trying to get them to move. And yet somehow, they keep moving despite how much the pain is begging them to stop.

Rancid is the best and most accurate word I can use to describe my stench.

Fear. So much to do with controlling your mind. A rabbit hole you dive into and then can’t get back out of. Hiking at night – I could live in constant terror of what might happen or I could be aware of my surroundings and just trust that everything will be okay – either way, it’s happening. Either way, I’m doing it.

As of yesterday, we can see the Sierras. They are beautiful and vast to say the least.

June 14 – .7 miles

I hear talk there’s a black stallion herd that roams underneath the windmills. Every once in a blue moon you can see them over the hill as you drive by.

Of course on the bus ride to town, I find out my other credit card has become fraudulent, so I had to deal with that.

June 16 – 0 miles

It’s one of those moments where I want to run as fast as I can until I can’t breathe, I want to lay in the sun until I burn, I want to crawl out of my body to feel anything other than what I’m feeling in this moment, a train to hit me so hard until I can’t feel anything at all.

June 17 – 0 miles

June 19 – 11.5 miles

Peed in the Mojave desert. Threw a rock off a mountain. Unsure and restless trying to wrestle all these emotions at once.

June 19 – 25.2 miles

Today, I met a girl hiking the PCT (whose from Oklahoma) who was best friends with a girl from my sorority (in Ohio) in high school. The world is so small.

Tomorrow we FINALLY make it to Kennedy Meadows. We FINISH THE DAMN DESERT!!!!

______________

Scissors Crossing (The Day I Almost Quit): Started off the day playing tag with Katie. My knee was swollen, so I was going slower, and suddenly it’d been a few hours since I’d seen her. It was beginning to hit the middle the day and at the time, just starting off in the desert, I don’t believe anyone truly knew just how brutal it could be mid-afternoon. It was seven or so miles to a road called Scissors Crossing. I had, what I thought, was enough water (but hadn’t drank as much as I needed in order to balance out the heat nor did I realize at the time the importance of electrolytes, so I was likely hyponatremic. By the end of the desert, I was drinking roughly two gallons of water a day with three or so electrolyte-filled liters.)

Lucky me, there was a trail angel camped right before this brutal section. Thank goodness I had a Gatorade as I passed through or who would’ve known how else things would’ve gone. Regardless, despite his ominous reminder to me and the other hikers that there was legitimately no shade from here till the road, I stubbornly pushed on without much of a break under his tent.

I got a few miles in and all of a sudden, felt horrible. I still had five miles to go? Every time I looked at my map, the milage never got any smaller. I looked around … I was by myself. Nothing but the shrubs and I. It was one o’clock. The sun was brutal, and I saw nothing to hide under. But I needed to keep on pushing.

I needed that shade though … and immediately … I was getting urgent, but I couldn’t find any. Okay, Okay. It’s going to be fine, I told myself. Keep hiking. You’ll catch up to Katie. It’s all be alright. You can do this. You can totally do this. Alright, you’re doing this. It’s going great. You’re doing great.

Okay.

Omg, I can’t do this.

I stopped.

Okay, need a break right now. Put my sleeping pad over my head right this second and just sit. Take a breath. Wait it out … Okay, still not feeling better, what? getting hotter… why am I getting hotter?

Another hiker came along, and I asked if he was okay. (Who could be okay in this misery?) And then of course, he asked if I was okay. I hesitated. Now I don’t mind asking Katie for help, but I hate putting that on anyone else. But in this moment, I desperately needed someone with me, and I knew it needed to be now. Luckily, after a few minutes of (in his mind) “calm chatter,” a girl, I had met only earlier that day came along who had an umbrella she wasn’t using. Urgently, I asked to use it. The guy with me got up to continue but suggested this new hiker stay with me, so I stuck with her as best I could.

Another half mile in, I was shakier, did not feel better, felt worse, and continuing to hike did not help. KATIE! She crawled out from under a rock. She said she’d been waiting for hours and was getting worried.

The three of us were collectively getting destroyed by the sun, so we found a sliver of shade by a rock, and sat down. The befriended hiker gave me this super-electrolyte packet that helps dehydrated babies with the flu. I ate some of Katie’s food very slowly even though I felt like I’d throw it all up. I took off my socks, my shoes, my shirt, and tried to cool off (It did not work). The other hiker pushed on (I kept her umbrella), and it was just Katie and I.

Together, we drank all of the water both of us had, and Katie had to carry my pack for a portion of that last stretch because I was too weak.

Spoiler Alert: we made it. What a surprise, right? But I cannot quite stress how much even up through to the last step of the road, I didn’t know if I’d make it.

I was sobbing in the shower at that RV Park in the middle of nowhere, day four, nothing consoling me, I was shaking, and I remember telling Katie, “I’m in way over my head,” telling her, “There’s no fucking way I can do this.” I didn’t even want to recall the instance to Austen over the phone. When I did, I specifically remember my voice breaking when I said just how terrified I was.

I doubt I’ve ever feared for my life more than in those few hours, and yet I would imagine other experienced hikers would say, as they did, that this was a good experience to have because now I know better. And it was under the luckiest of conditions with other hikers and within a few miles from town. I had a problem that I could now fix it with a solution.

Lies I Tell Myself: This misery will be over in one hour, mountain lions don’t exist, this doesn’t hurt, I love hills, I’m not scared, that noise outside my tent is probably Katie eating and not an animal, tomorrow will be easier, boy – today is going to fly by, I’m not hot

Things I Do: Watch my bank account rapidly decline, wish I was at a comfortable temperature, wish I sitting on a couch with Austen watching a movie, avoid taking Advil as best I can

Words I Pray: God, I pray for your safety and protection today. Walk before us, behind us, and beside Katie and I both. I praise you for yesterday and I ask for your strength to finish out the rest of today. I ask for your discipline, motivation, peace and joy.

Cities I’ve Visited in the Desert: Campo, Julian, Warner Springs, Idyllwild, Cabazon, Big Bear, Cajon Pass, Wrightwood, Agua Dulce (Hiker Heaven), Green Valley (Casa de Luna), Hikertown, Tehachapi, Ridgecrest, Kennedy Meadows

Cabazon to Acton, CA

Standard

May 16 – 20 miles

Woke up this morning to a broken sleeping bag zipper because of course.

Hiked in what had to have been 60 mph winds across the desert floor toward I-10 to get to Taco Bell. (Gotta get that Taco Bell) Got a hitch into Cabazon from this woman. Said her husband and her pick up hikers frequently. She never picks up men though, only women.

Made our way to the gas station to resupply. A man behind us in the check-out line started asking us questions about the trail. When I went outside to fill my pack, he came up and said, “I think what you girls are doing is awesome. Keep it up!” Handed us two twenties. Dumbfounded by his kindness, I pleaded him to keep his money, but he refused, smiled, and I watched him walk away. I’ll never see him again.

Last week, I saw my first person drop out. She had pitched her tent directly next to mine. Said despite her backpacking experience, she just keep thinking about the long five months ahead and decided it wasn’t for her. Katie reminded me I have no backpacking experience, and I’m still here.

A few years back, I heard this speaker during Greek Week at OSU. Talked about seeking raw, emotion-filled moments in daily life whether you laugh or cry. He explained the intensity of feeling something, rather than numbing it with drugs or alcohol. One should be so lucky as to laugh and cry in a single day, he said. PCT makes me think of that. Everything is extreme; the pain … the beauty. But I guess that’s what makes the moments so vibrant – the contrast. Maybe that’s why I cry almost every day. Overwhelmed with emotion. Overwhelmed with everything.

Took our break at a windfarm office this afternoon. Katie thinks the windmills will sprout legs and take over the Earth. They do glow with red eyes at night.

May 17 – 20 miles

They say the trail breaks you. I certainly feel broken.

It’s hard to remember in the heat of the afternoon that the sun does in fact set every night regardless of how miserable and scared you might be mid-day.

Today a bee stung me on the face, little son of a bitch. Hilarious since yesterday we put on all of our clothing to avoid the ‘aggressive bees’ at mile 200, low and behold, today just sitting taking a nap is when the little bastard got me.

It is so incredible to know that the places and things we’re seeing, no one else except those who have hiked will ever see. They’re not widely known vacation spots. Just little random, hidden havens.

I swear, multiple times on the trail, it smells exactly like a Yankee candle would. Like sandlewood or cedar or whatever other woodsy ones exist.

I started wearing my shoes with the laces looser so I don’t get as many blisters on my toes – give em’ some more room to breathe.

When I’m hiking at home, I look over my shoulder every five minutes, checking to see who might be following me. But here, I don’t at all. The only time I’ve held my pocket knife is to cut my cheese and floss.

May 19 – ?

my anxiety has never been this bad I swear unsure why it’s gotten so bad in these past few days but surely it must be getting to a breaking point because I physically feel like my chest will explode

Trail angels left us beer, water, Kool-Aid and donuts when we got to Big Bear. DOVE for that Coors Light.

We hitched into town with another male hiker named Turtle. It’s usually harder for guys to get rides because they’re more intimidating, people don’t want to pick them up. We told him we’d hitch with to make it easier.

The woman who ended up picking us up was straight out of a film. (Which apparently she stars in a legitimate film, she told us, stay tuned for the trailer) She had just broken up with her boyfriend and was moving into a different place across town. Cutoff jean shorts and a pink tank (Carmen Electra style), she mentioned her ex-boyfriend frequently, reminding us she’d see him often since the split since the small town only had one highway running through it. Despite the mountains of shoes and clothes in the backseat of her ex-husband’s monster truck and her tiny dog in the middle counsel, she was incredibly sweet and giving. She gave us her name and number, told us she’d drive us around town whenever we needed for free.

We got to the International Traveler’s hostel, pitched a tent in the back for a discounted price, did our laundry and got a free breakfast, dinner and showers.

Went to the store across the street to fix my sleeping bag. The man there tried but ended up sending one of his workers to drive me to the seamstress. Nice, local, born and raised, he drove me the two miles down the street in his jeep. Was pretty quiet the entire way, but mentioned his band was playing at a bar if I still happened to be in town. Of course we were gone by then, but it’s nice to know despite my odor and appearance, human interaction is still an option.

A really nice guy driving a Subaru Forester (shout out to my baby at home), whose son hiked the PCT last year, bought us smoothies before taking us back to the trailhead.

Got two miles into our hike though when Katie said, “I don’t know if I can make it another hundred miles without taking a zero.” (A day without hiking any miles. We hadn’t taken one yet at eighteen days in, kind of odd for most hikers. Taken ‘neros’ – a day with a lot less miles than you’d normally hike – but no zeros.) Katie’s heel was killing her, and my anxiety was giving me tension headaches. We turned back and stayed another night at the hostel and legitimately rested for 24 hours straight. We got beer and ice cream upon our return to town. Congratulations, you’ve learned to rest.

We were talking about fears, Katie and I. The ability to escape. The ability to leave. The ability to choose. Out here? What a joke. Anything could happen, and I feel utterly helpless.

May 20 – ?

“It is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” – Oscar Wilde

Half a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream and a bag of Fritos was my pre-dinner snack. Feel like I’m fading away. Certainly lost at least five pounds already, if not more. My skirt practically falls off my waist if I’m not careful.

Last night, the couple who happened to witness my not-so-glorious moment of getting stung in the face by a bee decided to identify me from then on as Bee Face. I think I’ll shorten it to Bee, my official trail name.

May 21 – 13.1 miles

“I ached for the shelter of my tent, for the smallest sense that something was shielding me from the entire rest of the world, keeping me not safe from danger, but from vastness itself.” – Wild

Cannot relate more.

Today I was trying to make toast. Toaster wouldn’t work for me. Tried many times. Fellow hiker comes up, says, “You just gotta be gentle, give it a little love.” Then he did it, and it worked. Story of my life.

Started my second period in three weeks. Others’ stop entirely because of the vast increase in physical exertion. Mine increases by two. All they had were cardboard tampons from the stone ages at the convenience store. Also woke up with a stiff neck. Lovin every minute of it.

May 22 – 20 miles

What an interesting concept it is to be brave. I bet all people who have ever been brave were also terrified and just did it anyway.

May 23 – 15 miles

Today we came upon a natural hot spring and river which was much needed since I got heat exhaustion for the second time. I handled it really well in the moment. I sat down immediately, put my umbrella up in what little shade I could find. I was by myself. I drank water and ate something, waited for someone to come down the trail.

I have been scared in my life, for sure, but I don’t know that I have ever been so terrified to go back out in the sun. I was more anxious than questionably I’ve ever been last night trying to work up the courage to do it again.

Also, dropped my trecking pole which someone found and got back to me, thank God. Just another day in the life.

May 24 – 16.1 Miles

Today ended up being fine, despite my panic last night. I put on 13 Going on 30 -haven’t yet watched anything I downloaded until then – to keep from having a panic attack. Deep breathed until I finally fell asleep.

Katie’s heel is feeling better today so that’s good, although, we were discussing what it would be like if things didn’t turn for the better, and she’d have to temporarily or permanently drop out. What a terrifying concept to swallow.

Today someone called me by my trail name for the first time. It was weird and so unique at the same time. Like my trail identity had officially been solidified. Bee.

We came upon a GIANT, beautiful, deep blue lake today. It is so nice to see something living for once in the last 48 hours.

May 25 – 12.3 miles

I smell like a litter box, and everything in my tent smells like piss.

Being at the honest mercy of the elements with seemingly no way to escape, feeling almost claustrophic by the wide open space.

Yesterday, we took our afternoon break underneath a random bridge of a highway underpass.

Walking down the mountains into Cajon Pass, it’s like looking down on Aaron’s old toy train set. Little toy cars … miniature semi-trucks… they all look like they’re on a rope pulling them mechanically up the highway line. We’re so high up that you barely see them move at all in the distance. It’s like a Christmas display with little automatic movements on a timer. Beautiful and easily one of my favorite views on the trail.

I LOVE seeing the shadows on the mountains in morning. It really enhances their vastness and beauty.

What does safe even mean? I run from waypoint to waypoint, and for what? For water? For shade? To get to the next “safe location”? What even makes it safe? What would happen that being in the shade makes any difference than being in the sun if I’m hydrated and it’s almost a hundred degrees? I’m still alone in the middle of nowhere, what difference does it even make.

May 26 – Zero miles

When we were looking for a ride to Wrightwood, apparently a guy came up to Katie, said he didn’t have room to drive us but bought us two IPAs in exchange.

There is a list of trail angels at the hardware store – must be twenty-five couples long. All of them offering to house you, feed you, wash your clothes, and let you shower for free.

May 27 – Zero miles

Today, I woke up and ate breakfast at the trail angels’ house, Jeff and Cindy.

Jeff said he was going to church, and I asked if I could go with. It was a methodist church where, Jeff (sixty-one) was one of the youngest members. All the older members were so kind and interested in me and my story though. There was lots of free food – cake and coffee. I loved the sermon. We talked about the Holy Spirit and Memorial Day – recognized congregation members who’ve served. It was peaceful, and even being miles and miles away from home in a random church in a little mini town on the opposite side of the country with no one I’d known longer than 12 hours, I still felt right at home.

Left side of my face is swollen. Don’t know why.

May 28 – 22 miles

Hit the 350 mile mark in the desert!!!! Half way done with the God forsaken desert!!!

I am sitting in my tent before bed, and I can hear the fizzing of my water bottle, the slight breeze in the air. The black crow flys across the desert floor sky, and I can hear silence. A lot of silence.

May 29 – 12.5 miles

DONE with that 27 mile stretch without water. YES.

May 30 – 20 miles

I really wish that I wasn’t afraid of being alone. Alone in the wilderness. But I am. I am petrified. Often, I can be by myself for a few miles, a few hours, no one in sight, finding the path and moving along. But after too long, I start to panic. What if something goes wrong? What if I’m not on the PCT? What if I got lost and didn’t realize it? What if I run out of water? Out of food? Get too hot? What if I need to run and there’s nowhere to go? What it everything that could possibly go wrong does? What if it doesn’t and everything is alright.

“Only when I thought how far I had to go, did I doubt my ability to get there.”

“The wind shook so fiercely it seemed something bad was bound to happen.”

Wild

May 31 – 23.2 miles

Hilarious that we’re in Southern California and we are walking through ski towns.

Woke up cold at 4:30 am last night. Had a dream I was visiting Elliott in Denver, and I kept missing my flight.

Alarm went off. Snooze. Alarm. Snooze. Snooze Snooze. Finally crawled out of my tent reluctantly, my heels and feet pissed that I won’t let them be.

We are in bear country now. Maybe I will stumble onto a bear, or him me, during one of my midnight pees. Maybe we’ll lock eyes giving each other that look, that we’re both doing something we shouldn’t. Him in my camp trying to seek out my food. Me peeing right next to my tent when there are other sleeping campers around.

The mountains are beside me, ahead of me, behind me. Often, it would be as difficult to quit as it is to go on. So it seems I might as well take another step. And another step. And before you know it, I’ve gotten through the day. And that is how I have made it 400 miles in the desert.

I love leaving my tent fly open and reading. Looking out as the sun sets and the moon rises; the sky gets dark and the stars light up.

———————

Every Day – I wake up, snooze my alarm, and mindlessly shove a pop-tart, Advil, and coffee into my mouth. In goes a liter of water, shortly follow by another electrolyte filled one. I stretch in my tent, throw on more layers of clothing and prepare to brace the cold outside, my body and face wrapped like a mummy hiding what inches of skin I can. I habitually take down my tent, succinctly fill my ultralight pack, and filter what water I’ll need for the next however many miles (if we’re camping by a water source that is). I head out, slowly dropping my layers to avoid sweating in them thus getting my warm layers wet. It’s hard to remember just how hot I am in the afternoons when in the morning I can’t feel my fingers. I eat snacks, more snacks – protein bars until I can stop for a longer break and dig my hands into whatever else is in my food sack. I listen to music and podcasts with one earbud in, take breaks to stretch, eat, sit, get water, enjoy shade or take naps especially when it’s too hot to hike. I have grown to detest-fully LOATHE the afternoons in the desert, but I feel joyful and absolutely alive in the mornings and evenings. What euphoria to make it to my tent each evening, knowing I made it through another day.

I Hear – woodpeckers pecking at the pine trees, I see a conga line of ants crossing the trail, I feel the vibrations of my stomach when I’m hungry, Katie laugh out loud at her podcasts behind me, fellow hikers snoring at nighttime, the silent searing of the sun, I see black bats dive back and forth across the low desert floor, I feel the burning fire in my calves as they tighten with each hilly mile, I hear the unsettling wind blow through the trees, I see the geckos scurry out from under my feet and into nearby bushes, I hear the ever-rare chatter of hikers in the distance, the sound of a motorcycle on a nearby road, the buzz of the power-lines above me, the howling of coyotes from my tent, hooting of owls at dawn, I can hear myself crunch on my peanuts for dinner, and accidentally swallow that one and surely the same knat that follows me for miles. I feel the never-ending tingle in my tired feet and I experience the blurred vision from too much sun coming from every direction. I see the the lizards do their push ups as their arms go up and down, up and down; I see the black beetles we’ve seen all throughout the desert do these hand stands as they shove their heads in the sand, push their hind legs in the air, and sit frozen for long periods of time; and silence. I hear a lot of silence.

I Wear – a skirt and a big floppy sun hat and sometimes use an umbrella to block out the sun when it gets to be unbearable. So if you’ve forgotten what I look like, just picture Moses leading his people out of Israel. Staff (trekking pole) in hand, endless sand and sun on my back. That’s what I look like. Only hairier. And less holy.

I Have Met – so many incredible people, you wouldn’t believe. Every person I’ve hitched-hiked with has lead such an interesting and unique life, they truly are such helpful and willing individuals toward hikers.

Met people on the trail from Ukraine, England, Korea, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Sweden, China, South Africa, Canada and so many more I can’t even remember.

The amount of kindness I have been granted for no reason at all, expecting nothing in return is both thrilling, refreshing, and simply not present in daily life back home.

Campo to Idyllwild, CA

Standard

Miles …

  • Day 1: 20
  • Day 2: 22
  • Day 3: 19.4
  • Day 4: 15.7
  • Day 5: 15
  • Day 6: 12.9
  • Day 7: 8.4
  • Day 8: 17.8
  • Day 9: 18.5
  • Day 10: 15.6
  • Day 11: 16.3
  • Day 12: 7
  • Day 13: 13
  • Day 14: 20

*Note: Ideally, start milage off lower to avoid injury.

Food Intake: Peanuts, protein bars, pop-tarts, candy, more candy, tuna, more tuna, spam, tortillas, bagels, chips, more chips, oatmeal, instant coffee (Duh), electrolyte packets, pastries, almonds, cheese

May 1:

Got 1 hour of sleep. Woke up crying. Ran out of bed with fifteen minutes to get ready before Katie picked me up for the airport. Said a physically shaky goodbye in a whirlwind.

Katie and I are currently on the United flight to San Diego. First time setting foot in California, officially in less than an hour. But when I think of starting the PCT tomorrow morning and I consider the lack of time standing between now and when I get dropped off to walk the distance to Canada, my body gets tingly and unnerved, as if I’m floating with no weight to hold me down.

May 2:

My stomach is tying itself in a knot as we drive to the border. Ten minutes from starting the trail, passing trucks and vans marked with “Border Patrol”. Eerie.

What an interesting concept to be driven to America’s boundaries, dropped off and left to wander in the woods.

First night, we slept in a campground with a bunch of other hikers. Middle of the night, I heard some gobbling. Thought nothing of it since I assumed it was someone’s alarm. Nope! It was a gaggle of wild turkeys, and one came right up next to our tents. It was hysterical – they jiggle their necks like a slinky when they gobble.

May 4:

Every day is difficult, just in a different and unexpected way. Waiting for the pain to pass because it will – with a new one to take its place. It’s like every muscle in my legs is vying for my attention and they each have to take turns by alternating.

May 5:

Last night, I couldn’t sleep because despite trying various sleeping positions, my legs would scream out in pain. Nothing was comfortable. It was the kind of discomfort where you don’t even know if you can crawl out of your sleeping bag much less hike twenty miles.

May 9:

High was 93 which doesn’t sound like much but once it hits 10 am, it’s like sitting in an oven baking like a chocolate chip cookie. (Not my idea of fun). We took a SIX hour break under a “tree” (scraggly bush) that had practically no shade come mid-day. You cannot escape the sun. Katie made us makeshift tents with our tyveks, and I used my umbrella to sit and sweat under. I laid there periodically drinking water, eating tuna, and taking shallow breaths trying to exhaust as little energy as possible. And not have a panic attack.

Tomorrow is another day. Another day where water isn’t for 18 miles.

May 10:

Oh, how very found of my tent and nightly routine I have become. It’s very comforting at a time when everything is foreign and unfamiliar. I look forward so much to setting up my home every night in a completely different location. Each place so UNbelievingly beautiful. Funny how such simple things become so valued.

It’s not so much that an incredible amount of time has passed since I’ve seen my family or Austen. Rather, I miss the security of having them around when everything now is new. Every time I hang up the phone with my mom or Austen, I end the call choking back tears. Every time.

I have to say though, when you reach a public restroom, what a joy it is to be able to blow your nose or throw trash away rather than having to carry it around. What a luxury to use toilet paper you didn’t have to pack out yourself.

May 11:

Everyday is a new challenge in and of itself. Like today, realized I lost my “wallet” (Hair tie holding together two plastic cards and some cash). What a TREAT. Decided to acknowledge that, well, I guess there goes $160 along with my credit card and the-one-time-i-took-a-good-picture-license-ID. Had to be on the phone with Fifth Third the entire time we were at Paradise Cafe (a favorite hiker spot down the road from the trail). A local there apparently overheard my situation though and paid for my breakfast. The waitress told me. I never got to meet him or thank him but, boy, what a difference trail magic makes in times of distress. Happens more commonly than you’d think.

Despite my increasing loathe for endless sunshine, I do love the mornings and evenings in the desert. They’re incredibly quiet, peaceful and full of sunsets and sunrises over the mountains. I think today was another one of my favorite trail days – toward the morning and afternoon-that is. It looked like scenery from Homeward Bound where the dogs and cat see the mountain lion. SO beautiful. Right now, on the other hand, we’re cold and at a much higher elevation. Truly, we are pitching our tents inside a cloud at 7,000 ft. Foggy and Windy.

May 12:

It is so nice to peer down upon the towns and houses below us as we hike at night. There’s something peaceful about knowing they’re there.

Took my first legitimate shower in two weeks. I believe half my head of hair went down the drain.

May 13:

It was a foggy, misty morning coming into Idyllwild. But a cup of coffee, a cozy hour in the lounge, and some fresh goodies (some salad and bananas) felt better than much else has felt before.

Made my few Mother’s Day calls to home and that it did me some good… turned out to be a beautiful day full of sunshine. I love this town, and I can’t wait to sip on my beer this evening.

Summary:

Hey. I MADE IT to DAY 14 and over 200 MILES in the desert of Southern California!

Considering I had a mental breakdown at day 4, seriously calculating how I would get myself to an airport from an RV Resort in the middle of nowhere, book a flight home and have to explain to everyone I’d quit, I’d say that’s an accomplishment. I have encountered more obstacles in any given day on this trail than hurdles I would have ever expected. The list of battles I’ve fought in my life up to this point are quickly sliding down my top 10 list as adversity amps up on this trail. Despite understanding what to expect, to experience it is an entirely different mental game. My personally-declared principle of pain for the PCT holds true for everything else in life, I’m realizing: If it’s not one thing, it’s something else. (If one muscle doesn’t hurt at that particular moment, something else surely does). AKA make the best of the little beautiful moments at hand because nothing is ever right all at once. It’s proving very true.

I can’t tell you what’s ahead and I can’t tell you how far I’ll go and despite the fact that I hold my breath in anxiety just about every day because of those two things, I can say with absolute certainty that for once in my life having not ‘completed’ something, I feel pretty damn proud to have even made it this far.

The first week, I had a blister on every single one of my toes, had to cut them open with my pocket knife, bandage them and repeat the same thing the next day. I saw four snakes, three of which were rattlesnakes, two of which rattled at me. I’ve had days where I’ve tented with twenty-five other thru-hikers and other days where I’ve passed just a few and camped alone. I’ve been taking Advil morning and night, hitch-hiked with strangers three times, lost my wallet and a butt-load of money, had to buy new gear, hiked up hills that should have been climbed, walked twenty miles on a swollen knee, proudly sported bloody/sweaty/tear-stained clothes for weeks on end, pitched my tent in the middle of the night amongst tarantulas, hiked up to 10,000 ft. mountains, had my most terrifying experience with water in the desert just a few days in, and cried almost every day just because I’m plain overwhelmed. And still, I have not quit.

Despite all of the physical and emotional turmoil in just these first fourteen days, I do have to say that my, what a marvelous endeavor it is to experience such beauty and pain.

And aside from the fact that I cannot tell you how I’ll be feeling in two more weeks or where I will be pitching my tent, I do know that regardless of how far it takes me, I am taking it one step, one mile, one day at a time, knowing that every step I take is one step closer to Canada.