Hello girls, can you tell me the best place to poop?

Indeed it is a challenge sometimes to find a good poop spot…. those exact words were spoken by my German friend Chicken Champ (she’s a real German chicken champ!) and conversations just like that are very common out here. Life is rather simple. Focus is on survival. Do I have enough food and water? Which ramen should I have for dinner? Am I going to be warm enough. I heard someone say recently that nature is giving us permission to be here in its presence and we must respect that. I believe that to be true. I imagine hundreds of years ago the people who walked through this area understood that so much better than we do now. This trail has taught me to be more humble and to have more respect for the greatness of this earth and mother nature’s capabilities. In the last three weeks we have experienced some absurdly unusual weather for this area. We walked through the Mojave desert which for all intents and purposes should have been the hot, waterless stretch of the PCT for us. Instead we were pummeled by 60+ mph winds, sideways rain, sleet, hail, and snow. Frost on sleeping bags in the morning and wet feet during the day. As I sit here in Kennedy Meadows looking at the horizon and the beauty of the sierras north of here, it’s difficult to comprehend just how much more Mother Nature will be showing us in the next few weeks. Certainly more snow and wetness. But we are prepared. We have upgraded our gear so we won’t be cold and have safety gear as well. It will be an adventure filled with what I have learned to call type 2 fun. You know, the kind of fun that involves doing shit that sucks at the time but in the end you look back and say ‘that wasn’t so bad- in fact it was actually kinda fun.’

We have been blessed over the last couple hundred miles with amazing trail angels who have filled our stomachs and hearts with their kindness. I am now in a trail family sometimes called a tramily with some incredible people. Grandma and Frogger came from Golden, CO- they’re 25 and some of the kindest most generous people I have ever met. They have a lot of hiking and snow experience. Sugar Glider is my partner in crime from warrior expeditions and he hiked the AT last year. Amazing sense of humor and he may be the kindest person I know. Poppins is sarcastic and funny and listens better than a therapist. Chicken champ and Lost and Found are from Germany. Witty and goofy and they love to share their food. UV and Mango are from Alaska and love to plan and organize. In the end I have found my people. At least for now. We have a great dynamic and support system that will make getting thru the sierras a lot easier. I am blessed.

Grandma and Frogger

Sugar Glider

Poppins

Chicken Champ and Lost and Found

UV and Mango

Trail names and trail magic

Out here, everyone earns their trail name. And once you’re given it, it’s the only name you go by. For example, my friend from the warrior expedition is Sugar Glider. Because he flies over creeks and rivers like a sugar glider. I have met Braveheart (because he had blue sunscreen on his face one day), Hell Boy (hell in Hebrew is cardamom and he likes coffee with cardamom), Pringle (she likes Pringle’s), chatter (he talks a a lot), sticks (she stepped on a rattle snake and nobody believes her so they keep saying she stepped on a stick), BB (short for Breakfast beer- she drank a warm beer out of a hiker box for breakfast… gross). The list can go on for a while. There are a lot of hikers out here each with their own experiences. My trail name is Out Loud. Everyone here knows I’m not the most talkative person when in a crowd but apparently I talk to myself. Enough so that when someone asks me “what did you say?” I often reply “oh nothing, just thinking out loud.” I also walk alone often and talk to myself (but mostly the animals and critters). But now I never Jackie. This week, we crossed the 400 mile mark and climbed a few big hills including Baden-Powell. Named for the founder of the Boy Scouts, it was 3500 ft climb with a lot of snow. The trail wasn’t apparent so we climbed straight up the side of the mountain. The picture with the trekking pole shows the incline. That was a long day. However, Terry was very excited to see the top! One of the most intriguing things I have discovered about the trail is trail magic and trail angels. There are dozens of people who will park along the trail and bring beer, soda, food to give to hikers. Sometimes they take donations but often they don’t. It’s just free magic. And let me tell you. It’s magical. I don’t normally drink soda but since I’m burning so many calories a day a coke is the best thing I’ve tasted on some days. Not to mention the taste of a cold beer! But what gets me is the kindness of these people. They just want to share in our experience and it’s awesome. They are awesome. I cannot day enough about them.

Ups and downs

Over the last week, I’ve experienced the extremes. In terrain. In weather. In energy levels. In mental resiliency. In pain. I’ve heard that the second week of thru-hiking is usually the hardest when the hiker questions wtf they were thinking. For me it was week three. We started out hiking uphill out of our second rest break. Packs full of food and water and way too heavy. We hiked up in sideways rain and rapidly dropping temperatures. All day I kept wondering why I was putting myself through this. And then I found this tent sight: …and then the next day we decided to hike up. 4000 ft. I started to have some pain in my quad so climbing became more and more challenging. And then we hit the snow. I was chasing the sunset so I just kept going and finally met my buddies and got to see a beautiful sunset. Nature always has a way of balancing things out.

The next day was the beginning of the mental struggle. My quad hurt with every step and there was a lot of uphill and downhill. And snow. A lot more snow. I tried hard to smile through it all but the 14 miles we did that day were exhausting. But my I met up with my buddies for the toughest part and we got through it. And then again I slept in a spectacularly beautiful area.

The next day we went downhill. 6000ft, 20 miles and an increase of 40 degrees into the desert. I discovered then that was what aggravated my leg more than anything. But we hitched a ride into town and got some more food and then camped out in the wind. The next couple days were full of windmills and hills, rattle snakes (this time I didn’t see any but they were definitely there) and river crossings. And route finding. And then climbing again. And a revelation. Food. Calories. I wasn’t eating near enough and it was making my mind, heart and soul suffer. Once I corrected that everything started to get better. Uphills and downhills got easier. We saw more snow after the crazy desert wind. And landed in Big Bear. I’ve heard a lot of people recently say how this is on their bucket list. While it’s amazing it’s not all fun. It’s fucking hard. It’s dirty. It’s gross. It stinks. But nature always has a way of balancing things out.

What’s that smell?

Ooooh it’s me. 🤢. It’s the norm out here but lord I could clear a room with how amazing I smell right now. For reference, I’m wearing the same clothes every day. Hiking 15+ miles in the heat. Showering about maybe once a week? You can do the math. But the good news is that I got new socks yesterday! They’re ingenious toe socks that help with blisters. I thought they would be uncomfortable but they’re great. I still lost one toenail from the toe squishing fiasco last week but now I’m in pretty good shape. Shoes that fit and toe socks. What more does anyone need? Terry helped me celebrate my 100 mile mark today. It’s actually mile 123 on the trail but because of the aforementioned toe fiasco I missed 23 miles earlier. I will eventually make those up but shit I just walked 100 miles! In 8 days. I’m not mad about that.

Taking a stroll in the meadows

The last two days have been remarkable. We had to battle crazy gusty winds. Rattle snakes and the heat. But we were rewarded with amazingly beautiful fields of flowers not commonly found in Southern California. The rainy winter here produced some of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever seen. I have found I’m hungry all the time. I voluntarily ate a whole package of ramen noodles with instant potatoes in one sitting and I was still hungry afterward. But I’m always craving spinach and other veggies. I’ve got to figure out how to balance my diet. But I’m happy to eat whatever i can get my hands on right now. Everything tastes so good. Not showering for days is also something I swore I would never do again. But here I am. Stinky and salty and I volunteered for it. I feel bad for anyone around me. But it’s worth it. also I broke my pack 🙄. Leave it up to me. Good thing this stuff can get replaced. But I’ve got about 70 miles to go before I can get the replacement. Wish me luck. Let’s see how this turns out!!

Warriors

5 days. 52 miles. Torn up feet. A lot of humble lessons learned. I have the utmost respect for these guys I’m hiking with. All veterans. All warriors. Every one of them have been through more than most people could imagine. Each with their own sense of humor and take on things. It’s going to be an interesting journey.