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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
The question I’ve heard more than any other in the last few days is “what? Why would want to do that?” It’s very difficult for most people to understand why anyone would want to walk for five months straight. It’s a simple answer for me. Why not? It’s cliche but life really is too short. For me, the best part of this world we live in aside from relationships with good people is the beauty in nature. I am happiest when I’m smelling the rain right after the first couple of drops mix with the dirt on the sidewalk. Or when the sun is just about to rise and the whole sky turns orange in anticipation. No matter what else is happening those things can put my mind at ease. It helps me to breathe. This trip is my journey to connect with all the beauty that the western US has to offer. That’s why.