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.”
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.