Washington, and Beyond (Day 113 – Day 137+)

After arriving at the Portland airport, I caught a ride to Trout Lake, WA where my fellow hikers were set up for the night. I stood, circling, wondering where they could be. Ninja Turtle emerged from the doors to the upstairs lodging; we locked eyes, paused, and hugged while smiling uncontrollably. I made my way upstairs to say hey, again, to the rest of the group. It was like I had never left at all.

Return to the dirt

The following day we set out on the trail; my first day hiking again since Northern California into Burney Falls, before we had decided to flip up to Washington. The trail greeted me with the soft cushion of pine needles, green everywhere, huckleberry bushes on either side, and the all-encompassing feeling of home.

The next stop was White Pass. The hike there included an introduction to the cold weather we were to experience. Many of the views were obliterated by the dense, low fog, which occasionally lifted, giving way to glimpses of the beautifully mountainous terrain, including Knife’s Edge – the walk along the spine of the mountain was eerie, as you look down on either side of you and see nothing but fog, a bottomless pit. The group split at White Pass; Dime, Ninja Turtle, and I hiked out, while the other half took a side trip and skipped ahead.

We hiked on to Chinook pass, where my grandfather’s good friend Danny picked us up and offered us to stay and rest at his home. Showers, pizza, and beer awaited us, and we couldn’t be more appreciative. In Snoqualamie Pass, we spent some time at the Dru Brew Brewery and at the Commonweath restaurant. 

Danny, myself (Suture), Ninja Turtle, and Dime
The seemingly neverending fog
Trail leading across the river with a makeshift pathway

Stevens Pass held little attraction to hikers, since we had to hitch one way or the other to get to accommodations. We hiked in with a section hiker, who offered to take us where we needed to go. We decided to ride into Leavenworth, as many hikers that we had passed by said that it was a cool place to be. We had lunch and walked around the shops, then made our way to Skykomish for rest. As I waited for my package to arrive, Dime hiked out and Ninja Turtle and I took some time to rest and relax at the Dinsmores Trail Angel house.

Staying warm in the hammock

Once making it back on trail, the next couple of days brought harsh weather. 20 miles in the consistent, constant, freezing cold rain brought frustration and frigid fingers. We were wet and cold, nothing dry except for our beloved down jackets and sleeping bags. The fear of wearing down under our rain jackets kept us from doing so, knowing that they lose their effectiveness when wet. The following day seemed to clear up in the morning, but soon thereafter, the rain came again. And we were cold. We made camp and ate enough food to stay warm, silently and apprehensively calculating the food for the days to follow. The following morning brought more poring cold rain – a decison had to be made: our gear was wet, we weren’t staying warm, we were miserably socked in, it was verging on sub-freezing temperature, and we needed more food than we had to stay satiated and warm. After that day, should we hike, we would have been halfway between Stevens Pass and Steheiken. That morning, we were 35 miles from Stevens Pass, and 76 miles from Steheiken. Turn back and take refuge? Or hike on into the unknown? We contemplated, and decided to turn back to Stevens Pass – a decison made uneasily. Heartbroken (and cold and wet…), we turned back and hiked in the opposite direction.

The day after snow, frozen along the north side
Snow-covered mountains, which were nearly bare the day before

It was a long walk back, defeat trailing our footsteps. Weather was bad that first stretch back – rain turned to hail, turned to snow, and back to rain again. We hiked to where we had camped the night before and set up in the same spot. The nights got cold and we had more trouble staying warm. Even though the weather lifted where we were, we could still see ominous clouds just north of us, and the nights dipped below freezing.

When we finally made it back to Stevens Pass, we contemplated buying new gear ($$$) or taking off. We hitched into Leavenworth once more, where we got a bite to eat and a room to stay in. This is where we made the decision to make our way down to San Diego, where Eric is from. There was no telling how much it would have cost to get the right gear, or how the weather would be for the next week. The following day, we made a series of hitches west into Seattle, where we stayed with a friend of Eric’s.

We then took a train to Portland, which arrived late at night. Our flight to San Diego was booked for early the next morning, so we decided to pull an all-nighter and head to a lively street of night festivities, which included VooDoo Doughnuts. We stopped at a bar for a couple drinks and killed some time hanging out at a picnic table, people watching. When it was time to head to the airport, we called an uber. Upon arrival in San Diego, Eric’s mom and grandma picked us up and took us to their home. This is where we have been staying since.

Street performance, Portland

Our bodies required some recovery time; for some reason, when you stop hiking, your body says a “hell yah!” and begins to repair itself – muscles, joints, feet… We have been rock climbing at the climbing gym, hanging out at the beach, tandem bicycle riding around the bay (24 miles, a true test to teamwork), seeing the city, and visiting Eric’s family and friends. I’ve had so much fun here, but that doesn’t mean that leaving the trail was easy. It was a difficult decision to say goodbye, knowing that the Canadian monument would be left unvisited, so close to us. However, I believe we made the right decision; we were cold and wet and the views had been dismissed behind layers of fog and clouds.

I set out on this trip to see new things and make memories and have experiences that I otherwise would not have. To say my life has changed is an understatement. My whole world has been turned on its side, and I see things in a new light. There is nothing like the wilderness, nothing like hiking and surviving with your life on your back, nothing like disappearing into the woods for days on end. I am extremely satisfied with how much I have accomplished in these last few months. I have made friends and met some incredible people that I intend on keeping in my life post-trail. I have a job waiting for me at home, and all I can think about is saving enough money in order to get myself back out here again. Once you fall in love with the wild, with the dirtiness and the tiredness and stand-alone beauty, there is no way to cut back the desire to return.

For now, peace out, PCT.

Much love, 




A Brief Lapse in Judgement (Day 82 – Day 112)

Back to the trail.

After leaving South Lake Tahoe, the group and I took a bus to Truckee, CA and – after much deliberation – rented a car to drive to Belden, CA for the StillDream Music Festival for a weekend off the trail. Interesting (albeit questionable) electronic dance music pursued and we spent the nights dancing our hearts out, while the days consisted of seeking shade near the river from the intense heat.

Decisions were up in the air as we made our way back to Truckee – where to get back on trail, future resupply, mode of transportation, etc. I surprised myself by making a snap decision to get back on trail at Donner Pass, knowing that the rest of the group was planning on skipping forward. Ninja Turtle had been slack-packing through the last section and would be catching up in a couple of days, so I would be able to hike with him once I reached Sierra City. My hiker friends dropped me off at the pass in the rental car, and we said our goodbyes as if it were the last time we would see each other; the trail is unpredictable and there were no certainties of reunion. I questioned my decison, wondering what the hell made me want to do this, but I knew for some reason that I had to get back to the trail, even if that meant doing it on my own (for at least a little while).

Donner Pass

I hiked out midday, legs shaking from the nerves of leaving the group and hiking solo without promises of future hiking partners. My trail legs carried me on without hesitation while my mind wandered and tried to make sense of what I had just done. The trail was decently unremarkable, except for the unpleasantly mangled trees from an aged reforestation project and fluorescent-like moss, the color vibrant yet emulating toxicity. Proud of myself, I hiked on, occasionally stricken by my possible stupidity – there was no way of telling whether the decison was “right” or “wrong,” or perhaps there was no right or wrong, but this was the circumstance I had so desired at the time. I felt the need to fall back in love with the trail, but I had a heavy feeling that this was not the section to do so, and instead I was somewhat repulsed – the trail was not beautiful, not compared to the precious section, filled with mountains and snow and views atop climbs. I completed 15 miles before exhaustion hit and the sun set, leaving 26 miles to Sierra City.

I decided to push for town the next day and got myself up early in order to do so. That day, my confidence waivered, and I mentally planned for a hitch out of town to get back to Truckee and catch a bus to wherever the group had decided to go. A long day pursued with minimal breaks (with the exception of a 1 hour break when I contemplated giving up on the full 26 miles, with just a few miles left) and quick legs, getting me to town in less than 12 hours. (Thank you Strawberry Mama for the ride from the trail into town). I was greeted by hikers that I had never met before with beer and fun conversation – a great ending to a tough day.

I was still planning on hitching out, but Ninja Turtle persuaded me to stay put, telling me of all the things that Northern California had to offer. I met him back on trail and we hiked together from then on. Time on the trail is exceptional and doesn’t seem to apply to life off the trail – so much can happen in such little time. I am so thankful for hiking out at Donner Pass, and for staying on trail past Sierra City. The trail improved in beauty and in company. We celebrated Ninja’s birthday on August 7, which we were going to do by hiking 23 miles for his 23rd. Unfortunately, I had sprained my ankle the day before, which he was kind enough to tape up; he also took to distracting me with conversation on the painful descent to Feather River. Upon arrival, we sat on the rocks just above the rushing – and pleasantly warm – water and star-gazed, for by the time we reached the bottom, it was darker than dark. A truely magical space.

We built this city. We built this city on (sharp) rock(s) and roll(ed ankles).

The next days of hiking took us to Belden, Old Station, Chester, and Burney Falls. We also passed the trail midpoint at 1,325 miles. The trail found me again, and I was quite content with my decisions. The beauty of Northern California was different from that of the Sierras, but breathtaking nonetheless. Hat Creek Rim was a beautiful hike in the evening, despite the waterless state it is in and the painfully steep climb down to Lost Creek in the dark of night. Cowboy camping every night, the stars battle the moon for attention. The ritual of cooking dinner followed a deep sigh of relief for being done for the day – a sigh of relaxation and a sigh for another day ahead. 

Mt. Lassen

Where ya goin’? North.

The day before we reached Burney Falls, we had made a spontaneous decision to do a modified flip – to skip to Washington and north-bound to Canada, then flip back to south-bound Oregon. We planned to meet the group in Ashland and go to PCT days in Cascade Locks, OR before hitting the trail.

Burney Falls

And so we did. And, one-by-one, the group followed suit.

Now, here comes something. I woke up one morning and thought that I had enough of hiking, that I was ready to go home. And so I left. I hopped on a train and two days later, I was spat out, back in Wisconsin. As happy as I was to see my family, I couldn’t help but feel unfinished and dissapointed and sad. The long train ride home supplied ample time for me to live in my head, regretting my decision while trying to make sense of it, to no avail. I wasn’t ready to be done being hiker trash, or pushing my body through miles of beauty, or rolling into town with my pack on my back and smelling like the wild, or having my whole body covered in layers of dirt, or living like a vagabond, or sharing all of these things with people that I care about. I walked through the door, muttered mindlessly in indecision, until my mother prompted me to do what I needed to do, to which I responded by purchasing a one-way plane ticket to Portland. I was myself again, knowing that the trail was waiting and that I would return in just a couple short days.

As I sit on the plane, awaiting reunion at last, I can’t help but feel sure of myself in this decision, excited to return to hiker trash, and a little bit reckless.

I am finishing this hike, and I am now more motivated than before. I have this one life to live and this is one thing I will never regret. Make the leap; follow the adventure; don’t take the easy road; live fearlessly and love fiercely. 

Keep on keepin’ on, hiker trash. 

Another Day, Another Pass (Day 55 – Day 82)

The lack of posts can be explained away by my complete enjoyment – apologies.

My journey has now extended past two months, going on three; time has flown by, but thinking back to Day 1 has me reminiscing. Many miles have been covered in the last month, and some time off the trail has been experienced as well.

After leaving Bishop, CA, I went back over Kearsarge Pass to rejoin the PCT. Rae Lakes followed Glen Pass (11,947 ft). An unexpected trail zero day was spent there, enjoying the amazing views near the water, exploring the niches between rocks and trees, and swimming off an island. A bear visited us in camp, meandering through and paying no mind to the watchful humans nearby.

The following days each contained a pass of their own: Pinchot Pass (12,106 ft), Mather Pass (12,093 ft), Muir Pass (11,969 ft), Selden Pass (10,913 ft), Island Pass (10,225 ft), Donohue Pass (11,074 ft), Benson Pass (10,106 ft), Dorothy Lake Pass (9,533 ft), and Sonora Pass (9,649 ft).  My top 3 favorite passes were Forester, Muir, and Sonora, in no particular order.

Sonora Pass

I won’t bother going into the fine details of each pass, as the same basic concept applies to all of them: you go up, reach the top, and come down the other side. The journey up these passes, however, is what makes the top so special. The approach to the climb brought questions of where the pass is and which way the trail winds up it: How many switchbacks? Gradual or steep? The view of the other side? The view of this side? Adrenaline pumping and excitement brewing as the top comes into site. A smile never fails to appear on my face nearing accomplishment. The top – oh the top. Victory in the climb. A wave of pride. A sigh of relief. I set my pack down and circle in awe of my surroundings. The top of the passes is where you get to look back at all that you hiked through, say goodbye and give thanks, and look the other way to say hello to all that you have ahead.

Pinchot Pass

Though I can’t speak for the rest of my group, I had found that the passes were a motivator in more ways than one: the feel-good of climbing, the adrenaline rush, the accomplishment, the views, the reward of a descent, the hard-days-work feeling at the end of the day. It saddens me that this is all already behind me – I have plenty to look forward to, as the rest of the trail holds new and exciting sections; however, I find myself already missing the snow-capped Sierra mountains. I believe I will find myself back here one day to relive it.

Off-trail adventures include a trip to Fresno, Yosemite Valley, Mammoth/Red’s Meadow, Tuolumne Meadows, Bridgeport, and South Lake Tahoe.

From Vermillion Valley Resort, we hitched a ride into Fresno since a couple people needed new shoes and gear. The gentleman and his son that gave us a ride went above and beyond what we could have asked for. We were dropped off at the REI, where they waited for us. Next, we went to a Chinese Restauraunt, which was paid for by the father – we had refused this at first and wanted to actually pay for their lunch in thanks for the long hitch into town, but this was out of our hands. Our bellies were happy. Finally, they dropped us off at our hotel. We couldn’t help but feel extreme appreciation for their going out of their way to help us out. Details were exchanged for a proper thank-you in the future and to update them as we progress down the trail.

The following day, we caught a bus to Yosemite Valley, a zoo of a place. The valley was beautiful, but the volume of people was overwhelming and claustrophobic. Same-day permits could not be obtained to hike Half-Dome on our spontaneous excursion, and we swiftly made our exit to Mammoth. Smokey and Dime, fellow original Rainbow Tribe members, awaited our arrival and reunion, hiking with new member Ninja Turtle.

Yosemite Valley
Sunset on our way to Mammoth

After typical chores and errands, we caught a short bus ride to Red’s Meadow and spent the night stealth camping (somewhat unsuccessfully, given the early morning wake-up) before making a trip to Rainbow Falls and Devil’s Postpile the next morning. A short day followed, along the parallel John Muir Trail.
Rainbow Falls

Devil’s Postpile
Tuolumne Meadows was the next stop, where we spent an unexpected trail zero rock climbing. I met a man named Brick upon my arrival and spent some time talking to him as I waited for the rest of the tribe to show up. He offered us to all stay at his paid campsite, and extended his hospitality by offering to take us climbing the following day. Being my first go-around was difficult enough, while also rated as a 5.9 climb. My determination got me to the top of the 80ft climb (with a little help), stopping halfway through to change into bare feet to grip the barely-existent footholds with my toes. The accomplishment of reaching the top was something comparable to the climb of a pass, but this being something new and foreign caused it to intensify. I can see how easily people can fall in love with climbing, and I’m excited for the next opportunity I get to do it again.

More days on the trail brought us to the 1,000 mile mark and led us to Bridgeport from Sonora pass after waiting 3 hours for a hitch on the low-traffic road. We spent the night in a hotel room doing what us hikers know 2nd and 3rd best: joking around and drinking beer. We caught a bus the next morning to South Lake Tahoe – a massive lake with surrounding mountains, sand beaches, and pine trees. The Mellow Mountian hostel that we stayed at was only a 10 minute walk from the beach, which we stayed at all day, enjoying the water, sunshine, and, yeah, beer. Watching the sunset behind the mountain on the other side of the lakes was picturesque.

Lake Tahoe

My body has been treating me well, and I thank every inch I have for carrying my soul up and down mountains like the strong vessel that it is. Skipping from rock to rock across rivers has taught me to be confident in my steps, while also being forever prepared for a shift in stability. My arms pump trekking poles, launching me further with every step. My skin is tough and weathered, and my hair is often in knots. My longing for cleanliness and the comforts of town have slowly dissipated, as I embrace to total hiker funk, which in my eyes is simply more of a connection to nature and the natural human state. Nonetheless, I take every opportunity I get to submurge myself in the lakes and rivers, no matter how cold, breathing in sharply as I turn around in awe, soon followed by drying myself in the sunshine.

Here goes. 

21st, Mt. Whitney, and Forester Pass (Day 45 – Day 54)

I hiked out of Kennedy Meadows in the evening, approaching real trees and flowing water. Camping solo that night, I slept sans rain fly under the stars, close enough to the river to hear it flowing in the valley. An early wake up was in order to meet the group the following day. I hiked through a huge meadow with deer bounding in the morning light.

I spent my 21st birthday hiking 22 miles and hitching into the town of Lone Pine late at night. Though I wasn’t sure where I’d be on my birthday while on the trail, I can’t say I pictured it quite like this. There was no vacancy in any of the hotels in town, so we decided to walk to a nearby park in the dark of night to cowboy camp (somewhat illegally), hiding behind trees in fear of getting kicked out. Not a drop of alcohol was consumed on my celebratory day of legal drinking age. We were woken the next morning by a maintenance crew mowing the grass. We packed up in the already hot air of the day and ate breakfast at Alabama Hills Cafe, with its hiker-sized proportions.

Cowboy camping (illegally) in the park

Loaded up on food for the next stretch, we made our way back to the Cottonwood trail head that led us back to the PCT. Rapunzel, Clicker, Zane, and I cowboy camped next to Chicken Spring Lake after a beautiful climb up to a meadow and a sunset, and of course a quick swim in the frigid water. The night air was chilly but the stars were incredible.

Chicken Spring Lake

Chicken Spring Lake

I made my way to the ranger station in Crabtree meadow where I set up base camp. I prepared my nearly empty backpack to “slack pack” the next day for the side trip up Mt. Whitney – meaning I would return to the same spot, lessening the load I would have to carry up the tallest peak in the 48 contiguous states. We left the next morning (or, rather, in the middle of the night) at about 3:30am to begin the 8 mile trek to the summit. The sun was slowly making its way over the peak, shining pink and golden on the neighboring mountains and over the lakes.

To reach the top was the most amazing feeling in the world. The switchbacks back and forth up the mountain were never-ending and exhausting, but the adrenaline running through my body pulsed with motivation to push on steadily. The final 2 miles were both promising and daunting; the trek became even more challenging, maneuvering through narrow passages and over unstable slate rubble. The peak came into sight with its slanted slope and small shack awaiting at the top.

Looking to the east of Mt. Whitney

A giant breath of satisfaction and accomplishment accompanied my final step to the top. To one side was a giant valley straight down the east side of the mountain. The west side was filled with snow-capped mountains as far as the eye could see.

Looking to the west of Mt. Whitney

Being the first of my group to reach the summit, I was witness to the smiles and sighs of relief the others experienced as they made their final steps to the top – it was so beautiful to see the moment they realized that they had done it, their eyes sparkling in the rising sun and their shoulders go slack in relief. We stood in awe of the great beauty surrounding us, amazed by both the contours of the earth and the fact that we completed the challenge. We spent a couple of hours at the summit, taking in the surreal formations. The trek back down was long and just as difficult, our campsite greeting us at the end of the day, hopeful for sleepy hikers. 

View from summit of Mt. Whitney

The next day was abbreviated, making our way to the base of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT itself and notorious for its difficulty when snow is present. We were caught in some rain, and lightening was in the distance in higher elevation. I enjoyed the company of other hikers at camp who were also waiting out the storm before making the climb. The following morning we made our way up the pass without weather complications. A path was carved out where other hikers glissaded off the pass, which of course we couldn’t pass up. On our butts, we slid down the pass, snow flying outward in a fit – an absolute high!

View from Forester Pass

The following day we woke early and made our way over Kearsarge Pass and hitched into the town of Bishop, 6 hikers and their packs loaded into a tiny Subaru.

So many changes have happened in the past two weeks, but I couldn’t ask for more. I have been so fortunate to have legs that carry me up mountains and feet that withstand the constant pounding on uneven ground. I am in love with the Sierras and everything they have to offer – water around every corner, tree lines, rain, fellow hikers, and of course the amazing views that no picture can do justice. I am living the dream and so look forward to all the trail has to teach me.


Suture and Sierras (Day 37 – Day 44)

We left Hikertown as the heat dissipated into the evening. The lack of elevation change was expected, but hiking it threw me for a loop. There is a slowness about it that makes it seem like you’re not going anywhere, yet your speed is fast and consistent. The pavement of the aquaducts teases your feet and makes them ache. We had a dance party as the sun was setting in the desert. I camped solo that evening as the rest of the group hiked on.

The following morning I woke up at 4 and was hiking by 4:30. After a couple of hours, the sun made its appearance and I caught up to the rest of the group, still groggy at their tentsite. I continued on to the water source – a spigot branch off of the aquaduct at the entrance of a windfarm, filled with turbines. My group members filed in, retrieved and treated their water. We all congregated under a nearby bridge for shade and a siesta on our sleeping mats. The final 5 mile stretch into camp was exhausting – challenging both mentally and physically. It was no longer flat, and the trail lead directly through the middle of the windfarm, winds gusting strong enough to throw off our balance and vibrate our vision. A stream in a valley greeted me, the stopping point finally being reached. The wind had less force, but lingered, apparently strong enough to damage my tent yet again, in the exact same spot as the first time I broke. I felt the gust and heard a snap, waking me from my sleep. Headlamp on and splint in hand, I exited my tent and detached my rainfly in time before the sharp edges of the break tore through. After securing the broken pole, I went back into my tent, dumbfounded at the fact that it broke in the exact spot as the last time, with wind not half as bad. So it goes.

17 miles were completed the next day, making our way into Tehachapi, CA. I made it to the road and hitched into town with a fellow hiker. Our group gathered at a best western, thankful for showers, sushi, and shops nearby. Tehachapi ended up being a 2-day event, the 11 of us sharing joined rooms and living it up by the pool and hot tub with cold drinks. We explored the stores and boutiques throughout town. Some of the group members dyed their hair blue or purple, while others sided with piercing ears. I did neither of which, but was decidedly satisfied with observing. When our time came to an end in Tehachapi, we decided on taking a bus around a dry section of the trail that many had said is not anything special to miss. The first bus took us from Tehachapi to a bus stop an hour away near a college, where we waited for a second bus that we never saw come by. We waited in the shade of a tree in the grass, playing frisbee. One hiker called the bus station and they sent us a bus that arrived with “Special” spelled across the banner. That bus took us to Lake Isabella, where we hopped on a third bus which required us to stand in the isle with our packs on, the bus too full to allow any of us to sit. The KOA was our destination for the night, where we decompressed from the day of hectic travels.

Anxious to get back on the trail, we woke up early to catch a bus to Walker Pass, where the trail picks back up again. However, we weren’t early enough and we missed the bus (our luck), the next one not arriving until half-past noon. We rolled our sleeping mats and sleeping bags back out and went back to sleep. We eventually reached Walker Pass, and I was loaded up on enough water to dry camp, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to complete 17 miles before day’s end. I managed 12 miles and camped 5 miles behind the rest of the group, catching up to them in the morning by waking up at 4. That day, I hiked 19 miles, leaving 19 more for the next day to reach Kennedh Meadows.

I had recieved news that I passed my certification exam for Surgical Technology back at Hiker Heaven. An example of “The Trail Will Provide”: a hiker that I had never met before hobbled up to our shade break late one morning, explaining that he had cut his leg with a knife while cutting open an avocado. In my first aid kit, I kept a prolene suture packet for just this reason. He asked if I could stitch him up, and I said I would. I prepared by leatherman and “surgical supplies” and “scrubbed” my hands with water, wipes, and hand sanitizer. The rest of my group waited in anticipation for the show. I closed the wound with four stitches as my “patient” endured the pain like a champ. Topped with bacitracin, gauze, and a tegaderm, the procedure was completed. His new trail name is Stitch, and my new trail name is Suture. I earned it on the trail and have a story to tell when I introduce myself.

Kennedy Meadows. Kennedy fricken Meadows. I have been looking forward to this moment, not even sure if I would ever get here. 4 miles before the road crossing we stopped at the river, after hiking through the incredible heat of the day. Washing off the desert and coming out of the water for the Sierras was a turning moment, an end to one section and the beginning of another. A congratulations to myself for making it this far. A relief for change of terrain. An accomplishment I surprise myself with. Us girls walked in together, greeted by a huge crowd of hikers gathered on the porch of the general store with shouts and applause. What an amazing feeling.

Yesterday we walked a mile down the road to where the bridge crosses the river, where we alternated between sun and shade. The water was shallow and calm, but deep enough to sit in and submerge yourself from the heat. We experienced happiness and love and an incredible sense of belonging.

I am here. I’m headed north. The Sierras await, where the water flows like wine. The mountains anticipate. The views exaggerate. The heart flutters. The mind wanders…

(The lack of photos is a result of poor sercice/ wifi connection – apologies)

Casa de Luna and Hikertown (Day 34 – Day 36)

I left Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce and made my way down the trail in the early morning. I hiked part of the day with another hiker named Clicker, but ultimately we camped at separate tentsites. The day started off pretty cool as the thin layer of clouds created a filter for the sun. Eventually the temperature climbed and breaks were needed. I left Hiker Heaven with a cold, which became a nussance to hike with. I made camp early and had full enjoyment in my isolation and relaxation under a ceiling of low shrubbery and bending trees. I made dinner and read my new book that I pinched from the hiker box at Hiker Heaven.

The following morning I woke up early and hiked 7 miles to the intersecting road that would take me to Casa de Luna in Green Valley. I caught Clicker as we were hiking and we managed to grab a hitch into town. The rest of the group was still there, and we relaxed the day away. Rock painting and Hawaiian shirts were part of the culture of Casa de Luna. 

We all decided to take a ride offer to Hikertown in the Middle of Nowhere, Lancaster. It’s a pretty bizzare place. There is nothing around for miles except Highway 58 and an out-of-place convenience store about 5 miles down the road. The place is lined with “town buildings” where you can choose to spend the night. 

We are currently lounging and relaxing in the shade and eating our food to both satiate our hiker hunger and to lighten our packs. As of now, I plan on hiking out late this afternoon/early evening and hike on through the night in order to get past the upcoming corner of the notorious Mojave desert. The first stretch is very flat, and I aim to complete 17 miles before the heat sets in tomorrow morning. The next town is Tehachapi.

There has been a sense of increased independance now that I am hiking “solo,” though entirely solo I am not. There are always hikers on the trail, coming and going. After all, I did catch up to the group unexpectedly. I now am only concerned about my own happiness and enjoyment on the trail. When I want to go, I’ll go; when I want to stop, I’ll stop. There is no keeping up or catching up or holding up. I get to decide my own personal journey from here on out. And the fact that I can hike the parts that I want to hike and skip the parts that I want to skip is an unfamiliar freedom. I am going to keep walking north, toward Kennedy Meadows and the Sierras, to fill the time until more snow melts.

Beyond that, I have no idea what I’m doing.

Keep on keepin’ on. 

Mt. Baden Powell, Hitching, and Solo Hiking (Day 28 – Day 33)

I slowly made my way to the base of Mt. Baden Powell after camping solo. The seemingly never-ending series of switchbacks up the mountain tested my endurance; I found that my steady pace carried me to the top with taking only a single break as I came across a couple of my group members. There is a difference between pushing yourself and killing yourself. Taking the short (and very steep) side trail to the summit was extraordinary, like I was climbing straight into the sky. At the top, I was greeted by the group I was sure was far ahead.

I made my way to Little Jimmy Spring and Campground, where I arrived with fully-exhausted feet. As the rest of the group journeyed on for 10 more miles, I decided to stay behind and camp amongst the groups of Boy Scouts with Kyle and two other hikers. We were presented with some left-overs from nearby campers, who were familiar with PCT hikers. A day hiker recognized us as long-distance hikers and asked if we would share a beer with him, something we sure wouldn’t turn down! However, the beer was actually quite disgusting (haha). He shared his cornbeef sandwich with the omnivorous of the group as we talked about the trail, our experiences, and our plans. 

The following morning, I hiked 2 miles to the intersecting highway where we caught a hitch that allowed us to skip 17 trail miles. Many hikers would be appalled at the thought of skipping hikeable trail miles, but something that I’ve learned about this journey is that getting north – whether it’s by foot or by hitch – is all part of the experience. After a few more miles in, we took a lengthy siesta in the heat of the day under shade – something that is becoming quite common as the temperatures continue to rise. The day ended at a tentsite on the ridge, which overlooked the flat desert below us while also providing overhead star-gazing clearance. One by one, the group arrived, who had hiked ahead of us (which we passed during the hitch).

The next day was a hot 20 miles, the last 5 truely giving my feet hell. I slept in my tent that night, contemplating the importance of traveling in a group. The next morning, I made my way to the next water and beyond, to the KOA in Acton, California. I was greeted by a shower and a swimming pool – literally the most amazing sight after a hot descent off the mountain. We cowboy camped in a circle that night, after a series of hand-stand contests.

The following morning, everyone was in agreement that hitching outweighed hiking the short 10 miles into Hiker Heaven, Agua Dulce. This ended up being quite the party place and we all stayed up past our hiker bedtime of 8pm. A zero day needed by all, we plan on hiking out early tomorrow morning. I plan on doing only half the miles that others are planning. I am loaded up on food and water, accompanied by a book to keep me entertained in my presumed solo hike from here on out. I have enjoyed hiking with this group, but I’ve realized that groups come and go, and it all comes down to hiking your own hike (aka HYOH).

I know, now, that thru-hiking, by-the-book is not for me. The plan still is to go to Canada, but I will not be hiking every step of the way. For now, I am taking my time in this grueling-hot desert and doing low-mileage days to prevent severe foot pain. Wherever I am when the Sierras open up, I will hitch ahead to Kennedy Meadows.

I am content.