The Humanity of the Trail

I am now back home in Grand Junction with a gigantic knee brace. I do not know how long I will be wearing this thing or how long I will be here. I’m working very hard on mentally preparing myself for this to be the end of my road for the summer- knee injuries are no joke and I cannot afford to have long term damage. I will be seeing a doctor soon and should have a better perspective then.

In the meantime, I have a couple stories that need to be shared. I talked a bit about my friends who helped me in getting out of the mountains after my injury but I didn’t go into detail about the community, including family who I haven’t seen in years, who came together to make sure I was okay and got home safely. It bears telling the story as we are so often bombarded by crap and negativity.

I will begin with my two trail mates, Frogger and Grandma. They are two of the most selfless, kind and thoughtful people I know. They are also exceptional company while hiking. As soon as I injured myself there wasn’t a moment of hesitation in them about whether they were going to stay with me. It was very evident that this was a serious injury because I spent nearly two hours just trying not to throw up from the pain. Frogger held me and let me squeeze the crap out of her hand while Grandma set up camp right there on the side of the trail. They cleaned my knee, made me dinner, even helped me when I had to empty my bladder and put me to bed. They divvied out my pack weight between the two of them so all I was carrying were clothes and my sleeping bag. Over the course of the next four days, they held my hand as we ever so slowly traversed the ups and downs of the slushy snow hills. They even carried me through river crossings. (Look at the picture two posts ago if you need perspective- we are all very small women so this was huge). In short, they showed their humanity from the moment it happened and it continues still. I cannot express in words how grateful I am to have them in my life.

I fell at around 3pm. We saw no one the rest of the day. I got worried because we didn’t have enough food. Not nearly enough to make it-especially with how slowly I was walking. However, the next day (and subsequent days) we saw plenty of people. The first guy we saw, we didn’t know but without thinking twice, he gave Frogger some gauze for my knee. Said he didn’t have enough food to spare and to be clear, we were not going to take any food from anyone if they didn’t have enough to make it back. Then we saw a guy named Trail Blazer. Again, a new face. He immediately took his pack off and gave us some food, including three tortillas. I’ve never been so happy to eat a plain tortilla in my life! We had to look like we were starving because we devoured them! We saw a few others who didn’t really have much to spare. Then towards the end of our day, we were resting in a tree well (the only snow free area) and I see a familiar face. Limbo and right behind him is Sticks. I had run into Limbo just a tad over mile 200 and I had known Sticks for quite some time as well. It was such a welcomed relief to see them! They gave us all the food they could spare and got my garmin number after which they texted their friends behind us and told them to find us if they had any food. It was so good to see familiar faces and by that point we knew were were going to be okay.

We cowboy camped in another tree well not far from where we rested- it was a cold night but it was easier to sleep under the stars. The next morning we wanted to get up early to make the most of the day but it was just too cold to get out of my sleeping bag. I knew I was holding the girls back but I was still in a lot of pain so being cold in addition to that was just too much. As we were still sitting in our sleeping bags contemplating the need to get out and start our day, up walks Max, or Gilligan. We had met him one time before but he was one of the guys Limbo messaged and he came to find us! He had been carrying way too much food and he gave us all kinds of goodies (including a 1 lb bag of dried mangos!!). He spent a while with us and it truly boosted our spirits. What an amazing guy.

That same day we ran into some other folks we had passed off and on. For whatever reason I could never remember their names but they gave me some good advice about how to wrap my knee and also shared some more food with us. By the time they passed us up we were pretty well set with food for the rest of our journey!

We trudged along that day and finally passed the 1000 mile mark. The next day we ran into BB, Princess, and another friend whose name I can’t remember… Princess gave me an actual knee brace! It made a huge difference in giving me stability and easing some of the pain. A mile or so later, up walks Croc-a-mole and Mild Sauce! Again people we have known for quite some time but hadn’t seen in a long time. We took an early lunch to spend some time with them and they gave us a few snacks to hold on to, including some pop tarts. Then they told me that Stefani had camped with them the day before! I hadn’t seen him in a long time so I was excited to reunite with one of my favorite warriors.

We continued on and sure enough that afternoon I heard a familiar voice. Stefani, in typical Stefani fashion, had been lost for five miles and also had almost no food. I gave him my pop tart and had to force him to continue on, even though he insisted on staying with me to make sure I got out.

That evening, I finally turned my inReach on and sure enough I had messages from UV and also from Misti the warrior sponsor in Bridgeport. I had sent UV a message letting her know we were going to be quite a bit behind because of what happened. She, Mango and Recharge became worried when I didn’t answer their response so they were already formulating a plan to hike back up and bring us food. When i told her we had enough food she was relieved but after I asked her about the conditions coming down to Sonora Pass, she made the decision that they had to come and help me. This text exchange happened in the evening- they were are a bar in Bridgeport. The man sitting next to them overheard their conversation and he jumped in to help. Bill is the post master and he decided there and then that he wanted to help me get off the mountain too. He messaged his friend (my sponsor Misti) to fill her in on what was going on and she even opened her store so my friends could resupply. Bill drove my friends to the store (13 miles away) and then in the morning drove them to the trail head. The three of them hiked about 4 miles up a very steep, snowy hill, with freshly baked croissants in hand, to come and help me down. It’s an indescribable feeling to have so many people jumping in to help. I can honestly say that I don’t know how I would have gotten off the mountain had they not come to help. The girls would have done their best, I have no doubt, but it probably would have taken us 6-8 more hours than it did.

When we got to the trail head, Misti picked us up and immediately drove me 90 minutes to a neighboring town in Nevada that had a good medical system. We got to the hospital and I had such a great experience there. Such an amazing group of people who were genuinely concerned about me and even let us all take showers there. The nurse who checked us in, gave us some advice on where to stay and even drove us there!

The next day, after eating a lot of food and taking more than one shower, we set out to get the girls some resupply while I waited for my cousin Debbie to come and get us. We were about 2 miles away from the grocery store and we couldn’t get Uber or Lyft to come and get us. So we began walking. We were right on the 395 so hitching was impossible. However, not a few moments after we started walking, a car pulls over and a very nice woman named Shamra asked me if we needed to laundry or take a shower. I told her we just had done both but we were trying to get it a grocery store. She scooped us up and drove us there. She went in to get a few things herself and decided while she was there that she was going to make us lunch. So she took us to her house and made us delicious cheese burgers. Out of the kindness of her own heart she simply decided to help.

My cousin Debbie and her family have been camping in Bridgeport for the summers for many more years than I’ve been alive. Unfortunately these are family members I hardly knew because we never spent time around them when I was a kid. Boy am I thankful I know them now. I cannot express just how amazing they are. Without a second thought, they took me in and took care of me for several days. Debbie drove all over the area, shuttling me (and some friends) around. They fed me every meal and taught me how to play corn hole (which I will not be setting any records in any time soon…). In the end Debbie drove us to Lake Tahoe so I could meet up with the girls and Recharge one last time. I’m so grateful that I got to spend time with all of them as they are all amazing people!

Last thing-remember that nice nurse who drove us to the hotel? Well as it turns out her family is good friends with my family there and is also related! What are the chances?

Since I’ve been integrating back into the real world, I have been exposed to a lot of real world stuff. Politics, storms, unhappy people. It’s a sad reality that I hadn’t experienced in a while and I realize my perspective is skewed now. I spent time around nothing but kind, generous, amazing people who could and would restore anyone’s faith in humanity. I’m very fortunate.

The Sierra: F’d right in the A

Hello again. It’s been quite some time since I’ve been around here. Technology has been the last thing on my mind for the last month. But now it’s time for an update on what has been some of the most amazing, beautiful, awful, challenging, scary shit in my 40s. Oh hell, I mean my life. Let’s be honest. Perhaps early in my 20s I had a few intense experiences but for the last 300 miles on the PCT, I truly have felt like I might die more than once and have been incredibly miserable pretty regularly. I am writing this from an actual computer in a real library so I won’t have pictures on this post but I will try to put some on from my phone later on.

The Sierra Part 1 (Kennedy Meadows to Bishop): The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen

2019 has been one of the most snow filled years in the Sierra for many years. We left Kennedy Meadows on May 30th and headed in the abyss not knowing what was ahead. That’s a lie. We had an idea. “It’s the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. Better than any postcard” they said. True. It sure was. It was also the beginning of the snow filled misery that became so commonplace throughout the last month. Our timing was as good as it could have been. The weather had finally cleared up and we have had sun 83.3% of the time. The guy who told me it was going to be the most beautiful thing also went in two weeks earlier than we did and wound up with frost bite because the weather was still very cold and stormy. Our first few days involved climbing up in altitude to 8 or 9000 feet and seeing intermittent snow. It was warm enough during the day for shorts but cold enough in the evening to justify carrying my bulky, heavy 0 degree sleeping bag. We crossed over rivers and creeks and continued to climb. We saw F-18s flying right over our heads, mountains and rivers. Beautiful sunsets and sunrises. We had planned to climb Mt Whitney but because of the slushy conditions we decided not to. Not everyone in our group had water proof socks so while those of us who did were just moving along, annoyed with the slipping and sliding, they were cold all the time with soaking wet feet. Not a good time. Grandma got sick so myself, Alli, and Frogger fell a day behind our family. As we approached mile 778.6 Forester Pass, the highest pass on the PCT at 13,124ft we were enveloped by snow. We slept directly on the snow at around 11,500ft and woke up at 2am to get to the pass by sunrise. We had heard it was scary and dangerous and at the time it seemed like it. Oh we had so little perspective then. It was, however, the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen and I’m so thankful we got up so early to see it. We worked our way to Kearsage pass from there and ran into a common issue- we didn’t have much food left. Those pesky bear cans can only hold so much and it’s really hard to judge how much food to bring. Additionally, walking through slush burns a lot more calories than walking just on the trails. By the time we took the turn to Keasarge pass, Frogger was out of food and the rest of us were rationing and very hungry. Then it happened. We were getting water from Bullfrog Lake and Alli found an Oreo cookie candy bar in the snow that some poor soul lost on their way out of Keasarge. It was by far the best candy bar I’ve ever eaten in my life. We climbed Keasarge the next day and came into Onion Valley/Lone Pine/Bishop without incident. We enjoyed a couple days of real life, including getting a latte (whoa getting crazy). We had a room that had a stove so we made dinner and breakfast and prepped for the next part of our journey. We truly didn’t know what in the hell we were about to get into….

The Sierra Part 2 (Bishop to Mammoth Lakes): F’d Right in the A

This section of the Sierra is known as one of the harder sections on a normal year. Seven passes and two very dangerous river crossings awaited us. In a normal snow year, everyone would likely see some snow but the burden would be all the climbing up to a pass only to go down again and do it all over. In a normal year, people can stop in a couple places to get resupplied. This year, nothing was really open so we started carrying over 10 days of food. Or what we hoped would be enough for 10 days. We had to go back over Keasarge pass, where on the way out we ran into Stefani (Josh from Warrior Expeditions), and then a long awaited reunion with our friend Poppins. We decided to stay where she was, which wasn’t as far as we had planned to go. Thus began the fiasco. We woke up later than we should have (4:30) to head towards Glen Pass. We got separated early on and Sugar Glider disappeared into the sunrise while the rest of us got reconnected. As such, we didn’t get to Glen Pass until mid morning. As with all of the passes I will talk about, Glen Pass was completely covered in snow. On a normal year, there are switch backs all the way up and back down these passes. This year whoever was the first person up the pass kicked the steps into the snow, which was almost never on trail, often along the edge of a steep, scary slope of avalanchy snow and also quite frequently straight up the mountain. Like doing a stair stepper, at 11,000ft for a mile or two. All of these conditions are bearable when the snow is hard. In the slush it’s exponentially harder and more scary. We hit Glen when the sun had been shining on it for a few hours so it was slushy. The uphill was hard but not a big deal. On the backside, however, there were footsteps along the edge of the bowl of snow. We went down them because there really wasn’t any other way down but once we got to a stopping point and looked back up, we all had our first (of many) ‘oh shit what did we just do?’ moments. The trail was on an avalanche shoot and it looked like it could slide at any moment. We had to sit on some rocks for a while to decompress from the stress but we continued on. About three miles later, we ran into one of the other Warriors, Tinman, walking back southbound. He had started a day before us and had come up on a stream that he was uncomfortable crossing alone. He had waited all night and still felt like it was too strong. He made the decision to head back and skip this part of the Sierra for his own safety. We took his recommendations into account but chose to see it for ourselves. We did not, under any circumstances, want to go back up over Glen Pass again so I began a somewhat frantic Garmin inreach conversation with my amazing brother Terry about finding bailout routes in case we couldn’t cross this stream. Let me take a moment to clarify what streams and creeks mean in a high snow year. On our maps, they are sometimes named, but often just called “seasonal stream.” A lot of the comments on these streams from 2018 are “easy rock hop” or “dry”. This year these streams and creeks are raging rivers, full of melted snow, angrily rushing to whatever the easiest downhill destination the water can flow to. The stream Tinman couldn’t cross was narrow but flowing very fast and when we got there at 6pm, about waist deep. We chose to sleep right next to that stream because early morning time around 5 or 6am is when the streams are at their lowest point usually because the snow isn’t melting at night. We got up at 2 just to check to see if it was better but it was still raging. At 6, we paired up with a great guy named Pogo and a gal named SOBO and all of us crossed together in a line. It was scary, but just like Forester, we had no idea how easy that actually was. At this point we still hadn’t met up with the rest of the group so the Women of the West (Frogger, Grandma, Alli and me) kept trudging along. Because we had to sleep by that stream that night we had to cross Pinchot in the slush as well. It was not nearly as scary but it wasn’t fun. We knew where our friends were planning to sleep so we kept trudging well into the afternoon and finally we came down this awful steep hill (where I fell through a snow bridge, a story for a different day) and there they were. UV, Mango, Puns, Sugar, Pitstop and Recharge. I don’t think any of us could have been happier to see them. We camped with them and the next day arouse at the bright beautiful time of 2am to attack Mather Pass. Our third and probably the worst of the passes we were going to cross. As we approached the pass we noticed that the trail was supposed to be on the right side but no, all the footsteps were on the left. A closer look revealed why-several avalanches had already happened on the side with the trail. So we headed straight up. Part way up, this made up trail took us to a bunch of boulders and rocks that we literally had to climb up and over. That was scary enough but then after that it was another section of side of the bowl, steep drop off hell for a good 1/4 mile. Sugar post holed (when your foot falls through the snow knee deep or further) on that section and he saved his own life by digging his ice ax into the left side of the mountain. I lost my balance once and teetered to the right but thankfully recovered quickly. Our friend UV is not a fan of heights so this one was particularly hard for her. But we all got up and around and were rewarded with a rather gentle downhill on the backside. We kept trekking, knowing we had a day without a pass after that. I was having a bad day, off balance all day long, and I felt pretty awful. I must have fallen in the snow two dozen times. But we all got to camp pretty early so I was able to take a nap in the sun and recover. The next day we walked to the base of Muir Pass. At this point we were on the John Muir trail, said to be one of the most beautiful parts of the Sierra. All we saw was snow by this point. I’m sure its gorgeous but day after day of slushy snow can skew your perspective. I will say cowboy camping at 10,200ft overlooking a frozen lake with a waterfall in the distance was pretty amazing, if not a little chilly. The next day we got up early and before we knew it we were on top of Muir pass. Easy peasy. What a nice change. However that day we had our first big river crossing ahead of us. Since I wasn’t feeling well we took our time and unfortunately made our friends wait a very long time at Evolution Creek for us. We crossed with water above our chests but it was the beginning of a couple of challenging days. The next day Grandma, Frogger and I decided to get a little rest so we didn’t wake up until 5 or 6 and didn’t leave until 8. Our original planned campsite wasn’t really far away, before Selden Pass so we thought we had the time to get there and perhaps see if we wanted to keep going, so we wouldn’t keep our friends waiting the next big river, Bear Creek. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t communicate this with our friends so they thought we just wanted to do our own thing. So they kept going also and crossed Bear Creek mid afternoon that day. We got down to a stream before Bear Creek at around 5:30 and it was so high we decided to sleep next to it. At this time Pogo (he’s about 5’10”) had joined us and chose to wait with us. We got across the stream the next morning around 6 and then headed the mile or so south the Bear Creek. We were in awe of the immensity of this creek. Moving very fast and it was very deep at the trail crossing, even at 7:30am. One of the cardinal rules of river crossings is to take the time to look for the best place to cross. Lucky for us about 1/2 mile downstream, we found a log to cross on. Still scary but we don’t get caught in the raging flow of the river. Pogo helped us get across and we counted our lucky stars for not having to walk directly through that river. We had been in the water a bit and at 7:30am it’s not a beautiful, warm experience. We had to stop for an hour and take our socks off and get in our sleeping bags because we were so cold. We kept going after that. We had heard that Vermillion Valley Resort had just opened and had a few supplies but we really didn’t want to stop. However, we decided we needed to because we didn’t want to be in that same, hungry starving position we were in the last time. So we climbed down the steepest non trail garbage of a hill (falling numerous times) and lo and behold at the trail exit for VVR, there were three (civilians, non hikers, people in jeans, people we can’t really relate to) right there. They were the “ferry” drivers and they were changing the sign to tell us that they are in fact open for business. So we got on a little boat and they took us across the lake to the resort. We reconnected with our friends and worked out our communication issues and spent a lot of money getting food and eating dinner. We then headed out with out sites set on getting to Mammoth. We felt safer and had only one more pass ahead of us. We got over it and trudged through a thunder storm to camp on the other side of a river (with a bridge!!!!). We had no idea but our friends were a mere .2 miles ahead of us. The next day we walked the 6 miles to get off the trail to go to Mammoth Lakes. We had to do a 2.5 mile road walk because the road wasn’t opened but once passed the gate, we were picked up by Poppins and everything started to feel a little better. F’d right in the A is the most appropriate description for this section because every day we felt like we were putting our lives in danger and jeez we were miserable. The passes were hard but the snow was scary. The rivers were raging and intense and we never had dry feet. The beauty of the Sierra was regularly lost to the intensity of the daily journey to survive. Our lives became primal. Get from here to there without slipping and falling off the side of a pass. Eat enough food, drink enough water, try to stay warm. No time for reading a book or enjoying the scenery. We all made it and thankfully, everyone else who has gone through have also made it. I know this probably sounds exaggerated but for us this was how we felt.

The Sierra Part 3: Four Days of beauty, a couple hard days and then the oh shit moment.

Back on trail after Mammoth brought us to some areas without snow!! Whoa. We camped by a river and there was no snow within a close distance. So weird. We woke up the next day and took a detour to the Devils Post Pile, a National Park that has piles of rocks in the shape of posts. It’s very strange but pretty amazing to see how these things naturally appear in the middle of the Sierra. We kept trudging and hit some snow but nothing dramatic. The next few days we made our way into Yosemite National Park and then we got to see what all the fuss is about. Beautiful scenes with rivers flowing and meadows covered in actual green grass (not snow or brown dead grass just trying to come back to life after the snow has melted). Amazing, flat, actual trail walking for a couple days restored our spirits and our desires to continue on the trail. We didn’t get off to visit the touristy part of Yosemite because the road was still closed but we did see a lot of amazingly beautiful things. That part of the park is apparently swarmed with people that time of year normally so the fact that it was a ghost town made it so much better. We began to climb again. Back to the snow and more passes. Nothing super intense and we were very excited to be done with every going above 11,000ft. We had a few large streams to cross and while they were pretty deep, nothing was intense enough to truly scare us. There was one more side hill and a scary crossing with a log (again a story for another day) but we were okay. The next day after that crossing we had the last big river to cross, one more pass and another high elevation section and were were done. But as things go, it wasn’t going to be that easy. We crossed Falls Creek at around 1pm. Waist deep but not too bad. .25 miles after that, I slipped on a rock and fell with all my weight on my knee. The pain was excruciating and I couldn’t even dream of walking anymore that day. There was a good amount of blood but the internal pain was what worried me the most. We were 30 trail miles to the exit to Bridgeport that involved on more pass and another climb above 10,000 ft. This was the beginning of a moment in my life where I learned some very valuable lessons. Namely, how to accept help from other people, and there are some incredibly amazing people on this trail and in this world. We had planned to be in town the next day so our food was dwindling and our buddy Recharge had fallen earlier so we gave him our last big bandaids. Grandma and Frogger didn’t hesitate for a second in their decision to stay with me to get me out. Even though they didn’t have much food, they knew they had to help me. The next five days involved a lot of painful slushy snow with uphill climbs and downhill descents, some on snow, some on trail. Both ladies helped me up the hills, carried extra weight from my pack and took incredible care of me. Every person who passed us on the trail also helped. They gave us food and medical supplies. They stayed with us and boosted our spirits some. We got to see some folks we hadn’t seen in a while but also met new people. Everyone was so kind and generous and some even offered to carry my pack out. I was so humbled every day by how amazing everyone was. We didn’t starve. We kept trudging through. I had used my inreach to message our friends UV, Mango and Recharge to let them know why we were taking so long but it was a quick message and I turned off my phone and garmin to preserve battery. They got very worried because they didn’t hear anything else back and decided they were coming back to help. They had already made it to Bridgeport but they didn’t want to leave us out there. Without hesitation on their part, they decided to climb back up the steep hill that descends into Sonora Pass to make sure I could get down safely. They bought us these delicious croissants from the local bakery and Recharge and Mango essentially carried me down the hill. I don’t know what I would have done without these incredible people. What’s more is that in the town of Bridgeport, people came together to help out. UV, Mango and Recharge were at the bar talking to the local post master about me and our situation and he jumped into action, called a local sponsor for Warrior Expeditions and had her open her store for them after hours so they could resupply. I am now well known in this town-I went to the post office today and the woman behind the counter knew exactly who I was. I am so humbled. My sponsor picked us up at the trail head and drove us an hour and half to get to the hospital. The staff at that hospital were incredibly kind and helpful and after an x-ray and MRI, I discovered I have a small ACL tear and a possible micro fracture on my knee cap. Not totally debilitating, I should be able to hike again but not right away. It just so happens that I have family visiting this area so my amazing cousin Debbie came all the way up to the area where the hospital is and drove us all the way back. I’m now staying with her for a few days while I’m resting and recovering. But this isn’t the end. I will be going back to the trail. I still have business with the PCT.

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.