Sierra City to Belden, with a lot of random thoughts

The Northern California section of the PCT is famous for being where most people quit the PCT- and it’s true that I knew a lot of people who quit during it. My theory for this is a mix of a lot of factors: it’s beautiful, but it’s not as breathtaking as the high Sierras. It has some huge climbs and descents that you might not be expecting after finishing the Sierras. Also it’s HOT and can have some long dry stretches. If you’ve had an injury that’s going to take you off trail eventually that you’ve been dealing with, you’d probably want to tough it out through the beautiful Sierras and then bail in NorCal. You also feel like you’ve been hiking forever, but you’re still in the same state and only hit the halfway point of the trail about halfway through Northern California, which is just discouraging because you’ve been hiking FOREVER but you’re still only halfway. And the time pressure to finish the trail before snow hits starts sinking in, and you realize you have to seriously up your daily mileage if you’re going to finish in time. And a big thing that applies to so many other things in life- at this point of the trail, it’s no longer new or exciting- you’re past the “honeymoon stage” and it becomes routine and can be monotonous. It was easy to see why people quit in Northern California.

I think what got me through Northern California is finding joy in the routine and little things, and not letting it get too monotonous. Setting up and taking down camp was a series of many steps that you had to do every day, and I would find so much satisfaction in finding ways to make it more efficient and go without unnecessary steps. I also got really into podcasts in Northern California and would learn lots of things while listening to them, but I would usually hike the first 5 miles of the day in silence to take in the cool morning air and be present, and only ever had one earbud in so I could still hear what was going on around me. I also tried to swim in as many lakes as possible (without killing too much time)- planning lunch or snack breaks around lakes. This helped me stay cool and would give me a quick break from walking. I loved northern California in a lot of ways, but it was HARD. And this section is where that started to sink in. But it was also so unbelievably great.

I left Sierra City late morning and had a huge climb with a bunch of switchbacks up a big surprisingly green hill, passing the 1200 mile marker. The trail followed a ridge that overlooked some big boating lakes through a recreation area that people camp and dirt bike in. During this section Smiles and I played a game with other thru-hikers by exchanging riddles with them and trying to have them solved by the next time we saw the other hiker. Here’s one: If there’s a B in my hand, what’s in my eye? Except it was way harder without google and without knowing if it was B or bee! It was a good way to pass some time while hiking through some less interesting parts of the trail.

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Top of the climb out of Sierra City

The second day was one of the least memorable of the trail. I hiked alone all day. The water sources were far between and it was hot, and the trail passed through remote hills and a bunch of logging roads and logged areas. Some of the water sources were off trail which is always the worst because you have to hike further to reach them. I did pass the mile marker for 1234.5 (people always leave rocks as mile markers for significant mileages). We met and camped with McG that night and had a campfire for once, talking with him while he shared some homemade beef jerky with us. While we were having our campfire an ultra runner ran past who was trying to set the assisted speed record for the whole PCT… it didn’t look fun. Our campsite was right next to a logging road and early in the morning these big trucks loaded with trees came barreling by. It’s always really sad to see trees getting cut down- when you live in nature, it feels like your house is getting robbed.

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Mossy trees
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Wildflowers

The next day, the trail wound through the forest then had a steep descent to the Middle Fork Feather River. It had this huge bridge crossing over it and it was a hot day, and what started out as a lunch break and swim in the river turned out to be a whole afternoon of relaxing on its shores. When you’re thru hiking, it takes a lot of self control to not stop at every beautiful place for extended periods of time. You have to walk past really awesome spots most of the time if you want to make it to Canada. I also didn’t want to look back on my hike and feel like I was rushed the whole time, and looking back that afternoon on the shores of Middle Fork Feather River was needed. I hate that I felt so guilty at the time for taking an afternoon to relax, but the guilt of not hiking 25 miles a day is a real thing that can weigh you down. I had still hiked about 12 miles that day. And that afternoon was gorgeous and hot and it was so refreshing to swim in the river-carved rocky alcoves of the Middle Fork. But I wish I had relaxed a little more and didn’t feel so bad about not making mileage.

(I really wish I had taken pictures of this beautiful place!)

The next day, Smiles and I were determined to make up for our afternoon off by waking up early and hiking a 30 mile day. The morning was a big climb up from the river, but we still did the coveted 10 by 10 (ten miles by 10am), after which we took a short break at a spring. I was feeling great- well rested and my achy muscles had been soothed by the cold water from the river the day before. It’s amazing what a little time off will do! I was feeling so ready for my first 30 mile day. At the top of the climb there were some great mountain views and I met a lady who had to be at least in her 70s hiking alone the 15+ miles from the nearest road to Middle Fork. She told me she had been doing that hike since she was young, and it was her favorite out of all the places she’d been! Something about old people on trails really inspires me to stay in shape as I age.

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I failed to take any pictures of the Middle Fork Feather River, but this was just past it and felt like the NW for the first time

The trail passed the coolest campsite on a cliff ever (sometimes I want to hike the trail again just so I can camp at all the cool campsites I missed) then went into a logging area where I could sadly hear and see trees getting cut down. There was a sign along the trail left by some trail angels inviting hikers to their house for food, showers, and a place to sleep. But it didn’t even tempt me- I had 30 miles to do that day and nothing was going to stop me! Then the trail crossed a road, and there was a group of hikers waiting on the side for the trail angel, and seconds later Nancy the wonderful trail angel shows up and I’m shaking her hand, and next thing you know I’m on her back porch eating a double cheeseburger and realizing I’m only hiking 15 of my 30 mile goal that day. But I didn’t feel guilty this time, I truly relaxed and had an awesome time.

Terry and Nancy like to stay as true unexpected trail magic, so they don’t want their info put all over the internet. Which is honestly the best way to do it- staying at their house was spontaneous and so unexpected! They’re middle aged, their kids are grown, they own a big farm in Northern California, and this was their summer cabin. It had a huge back deck that hikers sleep on with provided sleeping pads and a hiker hut with a shower, laundry, and supplies. There were double cheeseburgers Terry barbecued for lunch and Nancy made some killer lasagna for dinner. Since it was true unexpected trail magic, it wasn’t overrun by hikers doing their resupply. There ended up being about 20 of us who stayed the night, which was the perfect amount. I got to know some new hikers but was also so happy to see old- Nick and Beth (Man Hands and Apples) were there! The last time we’d seen them was in Yosemite. We all spent the afternoon hanging on the porch and playing instruments and getting to know Terry and Nancy. Smiles plays the accordion and always had the far-fetched dream to find one to play along the trail- and it was totally meant to be that we showed up there because they had one for him to play! He was stoked. We ended the night with s’mores around a campfire.

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All he ever wanted on the trail
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Sun+scratched phone case=glare but this meal was unbelievable
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new friends and great times at the trail angel’s house

The next morning we had a big home cooked breakfast of biscuits and gravy and got dropped back off at the trail. I stayed full from breakfast the majority of that day but found a cool spot at the top of a ridge for a late lunch with Smiles with vast views of the valleys below. That day’s hike was 20 miles to Belden where Smiles and I had both sent resupply boxes. The descent from the top of the ridge to Belden was KILLER. When I got the first glimpse of the valley we were descending to I could not believe how far down it was. While climbs are strenuous, if you’re in good shape they don’t hurt your knees or feet. But long and steep descents just hurt no matter what shape you’re in. I just looked and it’s 4300 feet of descent over 7 miles, which isn’t as bad as I remember… but anyways, we made it to our next resupply point- Belden!

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sorry I always post pictures of my food but it’s like 1/3 of all my PCT pics and homemade biscuits and gravy are phenomenal when you eat pop tarts for breakfast most mornings
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Terry and Nancy- thank you!!!
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did you even go outdoors if you don’t have a Polaroid to prove it?
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views
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view from the top of the ridge before descending into that valley to Belden

Which is the weirdest little place on a big river that isn’t really even a town even though it’s called Belden Town. It’s a place where they hold music festivals which are really big hippie raves. We got there on a Friday so there were hoards of people camping all over the place and everything was getting set up. It would have been super interesting to have showed up the next day when it was all going down. If I did hard drugs and hadn’t already taken two afternoons in a row off, maybe I would’ve considered staying. Some of my friends went and got free admission for working as parking attendants and told me it was a good time. There was a little store in Belden with crazy overpriced snacks that the owner of the whole town ran and I bought an ice cream bar and sat on the porch with other hikers. There wasn’t anywhere to camp because the festival goers had to pay for their camping, so some friends and I crossed the highway and cowboy camped on top of picnic tables at a highway rest stop. A super nice trail angel delivered our packages to us early in the morning, because that’s just how resupply works in the strange little town of Belden.

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this was too crowded with other hikers to sleep in so I slept on top of a picnic table next to it
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I was sad I didn’t get a picture of Belden so I took this when I left

I started out this post thinking that I was writing about a boring section, but now that I’ve replayed it all in my mind I remember that it was phenomenal. Every single day of the trail had something great to offer, and any day on the trail was better than a day stuck inside. Right now I can predict with close accuracy what my next week will look like, but on trail I could have never predicted where I would be the next day or even just a few hours later, and that’s something I really miss.

~Dilly Dally (currently feeling more like boring old Sarah)

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South Lake Tahoe -> Sierra City: the start of NorCal

(Pictures at the bottom!)

Well here I am. The year is 2017, the month is March, and I’ve been off the trail for longer than I was ever on it. I’ve thought a lot about how I need to finish off this blog but was never sure how to approach it. I’ve decided to just jump in where I left off.

This section began at South Lake Tahoe, which proved to be really hard to get a hitch out of. I was feeling much better after dealing with the pain of my hip raspberry (remember that?!) for over a week already, and we had nero zero neroed at the hostel in town while I let it heal and made sure it didn’t get infected. After getting creative with hitchiking signs, we finally caught a hitch and Smiles and I arrived where we had left off at. We had a super late start and it got dark as we hiked around Echo Lake, admiring the cute little cabins that dot the sides of the lake as we hiked. Even though it was July I met some local snow bums who were hiking out with snowboards and apparently knew of a patch of snow on a mountain nearby. We camped at a small lake called Tamarack Lake that was a little off trail about 5 miles into the day. We got there when it was dark and thought we were the only ones there, but were very surprised to see a tent nearby when we woke up in the morning! Which is funny because I had gone pee right near it the night before without noticing, and Smiles had been throwing rocks my way to try to make me think there was a bear. So we we made a huge ruckus- if you’re reading this I’m sorry for screaming next to your tent!

The next day’s hike was through Desolation Wilderness, a beautiful wilderness area despite the name right near Lake Tahoe that is full of lakes, boy scout troops, and lots of mosquitoes. Smiles was ahead of me most of the day per usual but we met up about an hour in at breathtaking Aloha Lake and took some pictures. There was one medium sized climb that day over a pass where we met up again for lunch. The lakes were amazing and there were a lot of intersections with other trails. It’s 8 months later as I’m writing this and I can still remember all of the podcasts I listened to that day haha. Smiles and I met up for camp at a crowded campsite at Richardson Lake where Presente and her boyfriend David Foster Wallace, and The Brothers Zuke and He-Man were. We ended up seeing these four all the time throughout NorCal. Also there was a whole boyscout troop practicing their tarp tent skills. Smiles and I had packed out fancy food for once- brats wrapped in crescent roll dough that we cooked over a fire that night.

Day three of this section started out not too interesting for the first 6 miles as it went over mostly flat terrain in the trees. Then I saw a big cinnamon colored bear running off in the distance, downhill from the trail and only about 1/4th mile past a super busy trailhead with a group of seniors about to take a nature walk. Never a dull day on the PCT! I said hello to the sweetest old couple right near where I saw the bear- they had to be about 90 years old- in hiking boots and smelling and identifying every flower along the way. I love that the PCT has SO many different types of people that benefit from it, not just thru hikers. I later had lunch by myself on some big rocks overlooking Lake Tahoe.

That afternoon I had the craziest encounter with animals I had on the whole PCT. There was a creek after an 8 mile waterless stretch as the trail followed the crest of the mountains where a bunch of hikers had stopped. I hadn’t prepared for that long of a waterless stretch because I hadn’t had one that long since probably before the Sierras, so I was thirsty when I reached the creek, and a bunch of hikers were taking a break there and drinking and filtering including Presente, David Foster Wallace, and the Brothers He-man and Zuke. I talked with them for a bit then crossed the creek and continued. A couple hundred feet later I hear this loud commotion in the dense bushes next to me paired with a screeching noise and I froze as I watched the bushes move around a bunch directly to my right. Eventually I saw a very panicked looking young deer dart out across the trail in front of me, through some more bushes, and into the water, followed by another. In my panicked brain I thought- what kind of animal hunts deer? And then I was like MOUNTAIN LION and then attempted to back up. Then, out pops a coyote! I was so relieved to see a coyote pop out of the bushes, and not a mountain lion! It continued to chase the deer around for a little while, then saw me and took off the other direction- I saved those deer that day. Then Zuke and He-Man come around the corner and I told them all about it and they were jealous. They were around earlier in the day when I had seen a bear, and also the last time I had seen a bear too, and hadn’t seen a bear yet (they later saw a massive bear right near their camp). Anyways, I had some major adrenaline rushing through me and was a bit freaked out the rest of the day. I had cell service for once and caught up with a friend as I finished out the last few miles of the day, and camped under a ski lift at Squaw Valley ski resort where I met back up with Smiles.

Day four of this section there was an incredibly beautiful ridge walk with views on either side, overlooking mountains and bright blue Lake Tahoe. I hiked with Smiles most of the day and we had lunch with some other hikers at a nice viewpoint. We crossed Donner Pass, a highway that leads into Truckee and also where the Donner Party famously got stranded. We hung out at a dusty parking lot there for a bit and got some free sodas as trail magic. Then we crossed the highway, walked through a cool climbing area and meandered down the trail for a few more miles before crossing under highway 80. Eventually we made it to the Peter Grubb hut, one of very few shelters along the PCT where we made some new friends as well as stayed with the Brothers, Presente, and David Foster Wallace.

Day five wasn’t too eventful. The water sources were far between and the hike was remote and mostly through forests with bright green moss on the trees, and there was one nice ridge walk. The mountains of Northern California are much smaller than the ones in the Sierras, so there are less water sources. About 23 miles in there was a small road crossing with a campground just down the road, and at the last water source Smiles, the Brothers, Presente and David Foster Wallace had decided we should all meet up there and check it out. Mostly, it was the end of a long, hot day and the big lake the campground was on sounded really nice. The brothers had talked to some people at the campground and found out that their friends were supposed to come but bailed last minute, so there was an open campsite they let us take! We all went for a swim in the warm lake as the sun was going down. I was too shy to go up to random strangers and see if they would take me wakeboarding or waterskiing, which was one of my bucket list items for the PCT I never accomplished. That would’ve been my chance!

We all skipped rocks on the lake- Smiles is super good at it, then we went back up to our campsite and were greeted with some steaks some fancy campers had left over that they gave us. Score! I swear that was the best steak I had ever eaten- teriyaki with pineapple- but maybe that was my hiker hunger speaking. Americans know how to camp in luxury! We split those between us then wereinvited over to another campsite where an older couple was cooking burgers and had homemade cookies. They had made friends with some other PCT hikers who eventually came over too- and that was my first encounter with the gypsy crew. This crew didn’t actually hike much- they yellow-blazed (hitchhiked town to town) and caused a lot of ruckus in towns, making a lot of other hikers mad. But for a few minutes they were funny, and the fact that they had taken a zero there and convinced people to take them waterskiing was pretty mind blowing.

Anyways, I was super thankful for the steaks, burgers, cookies, and the company, and loved the luxury of having a bathroom with flush toilets for a night. Most hikers didn’t wander down the road to that campground but I was super glad I did- free food is a real morale booster.

The next morning I ran into Travis right when I got back to the trail! Remember Travis from the first 100 miles? It was super cool to see an old friend from the very beginning of the hike- I think the last time I had seen him was Bishop. It’s funny how you never know when you’re going to see someone again or if you will see them again, since so many people get off trail. Smiles and I loved hiking with him for a bit and catching up. There was a big descent that day and change in vegetation with it, and next thing we knew we were in Sierra City (JK the last few miles into towns always take FOREVER because you’re so hungry).

Sierra City is tiny- population ~200 but it has a nice little swimming hole, the little church lets you camp on it’s little lawn for free, and it has the BEST burgers in their convenience store/burger shop. This was one of my favorite towns because it was small so everyone was together and a bunch of my friends were there at the same time as me, hanging out on the porch until late. There was also a cute little diner where I had breakfast the next morning before hitting the trail again.

 

The day I finished the PCT

“What does it mean to feel millions of dreams come real? A feelin’ in my soul I’d never felt before”- MMJ

The morning I finished the PCT, I woke up camped next to a lake 6 miles before the monument. It was a cold, foggy morning. Smiles and I packed up our things and ate breakfast, knowing it would be the last time we’d pack up camp on the PCT. It was bittersweet- I was pretty excited to not have to sleep on my leaky sleeping pad anymore, but I knew I’d be missing the simple lifestyle I had become accustomed to.

Smiles and I hiked together that morning, reminiscing on favorite memories of the PCT and talking about the things we’d miss most and the things we looked forward to the most. We didn’t see many people that morning, a lot of our friends had finished the trail just the day before but we were going slow because the weather was good and we were in no rush to be done. The fog burned off as we hiked across hillsides and through the forest. The miles went by quickly and soon we passed another hiker we didn’t know going southbound who told us the monument was just 5 or 6 minutes away. I hadn’t allowed myself to get too excited until right then but it was finally starting to sink in that I was just minutes away from completing the goal I had spent the entirety of the last five months exhausting my body and my funds towards. While in some ways I wasn’t ready to be done, my body was definitely done, the days were getting a lot shorter, and the weather wouldn’t hold out for much longer. I knew it was time to be done whether I liked it or not.

There’s a clear cut through the trees where the 49th parallel separates Canada and the United States, and the monument is next to the trail as it crosses the clear cut. All of the sudden as I was walking I noticed a clear cut in front of me, and down it a couple hundred feet I could see the monument! That’s the moment I knew it was actually real and that it wasn’t just another day on the the PCT. It felt like electricity was running through my body right then and it intensified as I followed a switchback in the trail back into the woods then popped out in front of the monument. I wasn’t sure if I would get emotional or not, but yeah, I definitely cried. It was the coolest and craziest moment as I found myself actually standing in front of what I had been walking towards all summer. Not that the monument is actually that cool, but it symbolized the completion of an insane goal that I had set for myself. It symbolized the end of what felt like a lifetime of experiences, stories, friends, and places.

Smiles and I hung out there for like three hours. We brought party hats and noisemakers and took some pictures with those, he exploded a bottle of champagne, we took about a million other pictures although the light kind of sucks in all of them, I ate a snickers bar I had saved, and we just spent our time taking it all in. Two other hikers that we didn’t know came and went during that time. I had always envisioned hanging out at the monument with a bunch of my trail friends, but I stayed true to the long-distance hiking motto of “hike your own hike” and didn’t go out of my way to stay close to my other friends in the last weeks on the trail, which is why they had finished the day before. But I didn’t care- I was just so happy to be at the northern terminus and with really good weather too.

From the monument, you can either turn around and head 30 miles south to the nearest road or if you have a Canada entry permit you can keep walking north for 8 miles to the Manning Park lodge in BC. I did the latter. A huge part of me was dreading the fact that I had finished the trail but still had to keep hiking- how lame is that? But another part of me was happy to be soaking in a final few hours of solitude in a place that made sense to me before I had to head back into the “real world”, a place that now seemed really foreign to me.

Smiles and I eventually showed up to the Manning Park Resort and talked with a big group of hikers that were there. We all congratulated each other and they told us there were free showers, a free pool, hot tub, wet and dry saunas, and even a voucher for a free drink! (Smiles is always stoked when I get a free beer because I always give it to him haha). So next thing I know, I’m all showered and clean and sitting in a hot tub feeling like royalty. An older couple joined us in the hot tub and asked us a bunch of questions about the trail, they were super nice. I knew that Manning Park would be the last time complete strangers would come up to me and ask “are you a PCT hiker?” then bombard me with questions and compliments, something I had gotten really used to.

There are two options to get from Manning Park to Vancouver- try your luck with hitching or take a bus at 2am. Since it was already 5pm by the time I showed up and everyone that was trying to hitch wasn’t having luck, I went with the 2am bus option. The people at Manning Park are super nice and turned a basement game room into a hiker hangout room with soft mats for us to sleep on while we wait for the bus. After hanging out in the hot tub, I went to the bar and hung out with all the other hikers, ate a salmon burger, stayed up way past my usual 8:30 bedtime, then crashed on one of the mats until the bus came. After a 3 and a half hour ride that I couldn’t fall asleep during, I was suddenly thrust back into the “real world” of downtown Vancouver, B.C.

I don’t know at what point I would consider myself actually done- the monument, Manning Park, Vancouver, or maybe that’s in the future still because I’m still traveling, or maybe never. All I know is it’s a step by step process- just like it was getting to the point of starting the trail, and just like it was once I was on the trail. I’m taking the re-acclimation process slowly by traveling a bit. There’s a lot more places out west I want to explore and I have a car but at this point things are dependent on the weather, and autumn is definitely settling in on the great northwest. All I know is that wherever I end up over the next few months and over my lifetime, I’m going to keep living a life without limits and full of plenty of adventure.

-Dilly Dally

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I’m still out here!

Hey I just thought I’d do a quick PCT update because I failed so miserably at updating this blog. I think the last time I updated it was over a thousand miles ago, yikes. Anyways, I’m still on the trail, still hiking towards Canada, my feet still hurt, I still have fantasies about cheeseburgers, I’m still hiking with Smiles, and I’m still in good spirits.

This trail hasn’t been easy by any means but the further I walk the more I realize how much it’s changing me in ways I never expected. I’ve been able to completely step away from my life and reexamine it from a distance. I stepped off the ladder that keeps me reaching towards whatever the next thing is and I get to spend time thinking about what I truly want and don’t want out of life. It’s definitely easier to figure out what I don’t want- to get stuck in the endless loop of working all the time to pay for the things that enable me to keep living a life where I work all the time. It turns out I don’t need lots of stuff to be happy, I’d rather have experiences and friends to show for a life well lived. I want to contribute to society in a meaningful way. I have lots of time to think and I like seeing how my ideas change as I keep reprocessing them.

Right now I’m in the town where I spent the first 18 years of my life- Sammamish, Washington. I just finished my last zero day of the trail and I’ll be back at Snoqualmie Pass tomorrow to hit the last 250 miles of trail. It’s weird being this far and it’s really strange to think I’ll be done in two weeks. My body is definitely ready to be done but I’m not so sure I’m emotionally there yet.

It turns out I really love this lifestyle and I know it will be hard to walk away from such a simple way of living. The only things I have to worry about on the trail are food, water, and staying warm. People refer to the outside world as “real life” all the time but I’m beginning to realize that this is real life and modern society is a construct that we all subscribe to without giving a second thought. The idea of ever wasting time being stuck in traffic or waiting in a long line kills me. Don’t worry though, I’m pretty stoked to sleep on a bed and use flush toilets again. The modern world definitely has its conveniences and I’ll appreciate them so much more.

I’ve been loving these lyrics from Lord Huron:

“When we’re dead and gone, 
Will the mountains remember, 
Or just carry on
Moving as slow as the forest grows
And turn our bones into dust, 
An untold legend is lighting up
When will I reach that light that I’m running to,
When I die, 
Will it turn out forever 
There’s a fire burning inside of me,
When I die,
Will I burn out forever”

Peace and love,

Dilly

4th of July, a bear, and walking SLOW

Painful as it was from my little incident on Sonora Pass, I really loved this section. The terrain was scenic but not too difficult, I was surrounded by new and old hiking friends, the weather was nice, and I got trail magic THREE TIMES!

I’ll start with North Kennedy Meadows, my resupply stop. It’s this little store, restaurant, and pack station from the 1800s with cowboys roaming around and a really friendly cashier who takes pride in how much she accommodates PCT hikers. I got super motion sick on the ride there Smiles and I hitched with a section hiker named Kathryn who we met on trail.

I like tiny resupply stops like this one because everything you need is in one spot and all your hiking friends are in one place, in this case the back porch of the store. Anyways, I ordered a cheeseburger the second I got there from this super nice older waitress who let Smiles and I eat on a porch bench because all the tables were full of normal life people and was so happy to have real food in me! I never cared much for cheeseburgers pre-trail but I find myself fantisising about them a lot on trail. I did my resupply in the store while all this pus dripped down my leg because I was procrastinating cleaning out my wound. I also washed my socks in the bathroom sink because actually doing laundry seemed unnecessary. About 20 rinses later the water coming off was only light brown and I called it good, and I could no longer procrastinate cleaning and re-bandaging my wound. A nurse named Dawn who works there and apparently also does the laundry stopped dead in her tracks the second she saw my oozing bandage when I was sitting on the porch and asked what on earth I had done and told me I definitely needed to clean it out. She was super disapproving of my plans to hike out the next morning but I did everything I could to pick her brain about how I should properly care for it on trail. I had Smiles clean the burn with hydrogen peroxide I bought in the store. I was laid out on the back porch and my new hiker friend Turquoise let me squeeze her hands (mostly so I didn’t hit Smiles while he inflicted terrible pain on me). All these cowboys gathered around to watch the commotion and offer input. This one teenage cowboy was all “I’m first aid certified. Let me give you all this advice.” It was sweet but not that helpful haha. After Smiles was done inflicting terrible pain on me by cleaning the wound, I headed down the street with a bunch of hiker friends to stealth camp at some trailhead so we didn’t have to pay to stay in a bunkhouse. I slept terribly as I tried to let the thing air out all night. Pus was still oozing and making a sticky mess, and it burned like crazy. Sorry if that grosses you out 🙂

I convinced Smiles to hang out on the back porch with me until noon. It was the 4th of July and a bunch of us spread the word among hikers to meet up at mile 1026, just 10 miles back into the trail to celebrate. It took Smiles and I all of 30 seconds to get a hitch in a Porsche with a middle aged man who knew way more about the trail than we did, then we set off walking once again. I was moving super slow at first because of my hip but it kind of numbed up eventually. We came across our Swedish friend Downtime who informed us there was cell service and we took the first social media break we had the chance to take in weeks, there had been not even a chance of service in the high Sierras. I called my family and did some instagramming. I was surprised that we had to cross a lot of snow that afternoon. Snow now terrified me and I went super slow so I wouldn’t fall on my crazy sore hip. After finally descending below the snow I was able to speed up and made it to the Fourth of July celebration.

It was so rad! There was a campfire and  everyone packed out luxury food and drinks that we never take on trail. I ate hot dogs, pudding, and s’mores and everyone shared whatever food they had packed out. Of course there was lots of drinking and a drunken rendition of the star spangled banner was the highlight of the night. I’m pretty used to being the only one who doesn’t drink at this point. In total there were over 20 hikers in attendance. We never do anything like that on trail so it was really cool to see so many of my friends come together to celebrate the 4th of July. For quite a few it was their first 4th of July- two were from Australia, two were from Switzerland, and one was from Sweden. It was cool to share the holiday with them. Have I told you that like 1/4th of thru hikers are foreign? I love getting to know about the cool places they’re from.
We all went to bed super late and the next morning when I woke up at 8:30 most people were still asleep. That’s crazy late for thru hikers. My hip was killing me and I walked so slow all morning. There were lots of uphills and downhills and I found out that both of those make it hurt really bad. The more it bounced around the more it hurt so walking slow was the only way to make it bearable. I stopped for lunch by myself and forced myself to clean it and re-bandage it. I got really lightheaded and almost passed out from how bad it hurt. It got a little better in the afternoon and I spent some time hiking with these two brothers who are hiking the trail together. Danni and Angela why aren’t you hiking the trail with me?! Besides lunch I didn’t take any breaks all day. I really wanted to hit my 20 mile goal and it took me until 9pm to reach it because of how slow I was moving. Literally at one point I had hiked 5 miles in 3 hours haha, I usually hike 2.5-3 miles an hour.

The next day was very similar with pain and pace. With one major exception: I hit the BEST trail magic one mile in! There was a road crossing and a trailhead with these awesome people set up with tents giving out trail magic. I dropped my pack and sat at a table with a bunch of my friends and the trail angels handed me a plate full of fruit and asked if I wanted a bacon cheeseburger, a brat, or a hotdog. Bacon cheeseburger, duh. All I think about these days is cheeseburgers. There were also bowls full of candy and chips and salsa and blueberries. There hadn’t been a single road going through the trail since like mile 600 so this was such a novelty and was so appreciated. They also had a few first aid kits I browsed through and found some more nonstick gauze which I found to be the best as a bandage for my wound. I changed the bandage out and everyone was so concerned about my wound haha. This really well intentioned middle aged trail angel kept putting all this tape on it for me and I couldn’t do anything except act appreciative even though I knew it would hurt like crazy to change the bandage. He also tried to convince me to put duct tape over it… Uhh no thank you haha.

So it was another slow day of walking but this day there weren’t too many climbs. The scenery was going through a noticeable change- there were grassy hills, some deserty parts, and more forests. The trail magic kept me full pretty much all day. I hiked alone and listened to some podcasts I downloaded when I got another spot of service.

This was also the day I had my first ever bear encounter! I was listening to a podcast and had just crossed a stream when I saw a bear to my left, standing on all fours on a rock. It was maybe 200 feet away. It looked just as surprised to see me as I was to see it. I was swatting at a bunch of mosquitos on my legs and really wasn’t that scared. It was dark brown and pretty small, maybe thigh high, and didn’t look ferocious at all. I had begun to think bears didn’t exist because I had spent so much of my life outdoors in bear territory and had never seen one, so it was actually pretty cool to see. It turned and scampered off and I hiked on.

I passed a bunch of lakes before catching up with Smiles and other friends to camp, once again reaching my 20 mile goal but getting into camp late because of how slow I walked. The next day we were up high on some mountains with beautiful views of big lakes in the morning and Smiles held back and hiked with me. We took a long lunch at a lake and eventually descended down Carson pass, a highway crossing with a trailhead and ranger station. The ranger station had trail magic for PCT hikers! Fresh watermelon, snacks, and sodas. It was great. There were tons of dayhikers in this section so it was cool to talk to a few of them about the PCT and there was a really cute group of old ladies hiking that we passed. We got our first glimpse of Lake Tahoe up on a ridge and walked through meadows and past another beautiful lake. We camped just three miles from the highway to South Lake Tahoe, ending another 20 mile day.

The next morning I woke up with thoughts of McDonald’s cheeseburgers on my mind and Smiles and I walked slowly to the highway. Honestly my wound didn’t feel any better, it was still just as sore and open as it had been and it was time to get to town and get some rest. That’s when we hit trail magic number three- round 5 of Coppertone! He was back at it with the trail angeling after taking some time off for his son’s wedding. We got rootbeer floats and cinnamon rolls and hung with some other hikers for a bit before hitching into town. The third car that passed gave us a hitch- people are so awesome to PCT hikers. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl but I never have to spend more than a minute with my thumb out.

South Lake Tahoe is the biggest town I’ve been to on the PCT and has treated me well in the two days I’ve been here. I got my town chores done yesterday and have pretty much been laying in my bed at the super awesome hostel here eating skittles all day today. It’s been great. My wound is even starting to scab over and feel a bit better. I think I’ll hit the trail tomorrow!

Pictures or it didn’t happen:

We even decorated!
4th of July on trail
When the PCT and paradise are in different directions
YUM
Trail magic number 1!
My bacon cheeseburger!!
fellow hikers at the super awesome trail magic

Smiles is growing his hair out

Mammoth -> Sonora Pass

So I’m trying to play blog catch-up here in South Lake Tahoe and I don’t have a ton of time. I realized I actually did a decent job of taking pictures for this section so this will be a photographic essay. I’ll tell the stories by showing you pictures and captioning them. Sound good? Great.

Devil’s postpile alternate coming out of Mammoth. They’re called columnar basalt rocks or something like that. Pretty cool.
More of Devil’s Postpile. Super short and nice day hike if you happen to find yourself in Mammoth.
I was with Jordan and Smiles when I left Mammoth. There’s about 15 miles of the trail where the PCT and JMT split and you have to choose between the two of them. We chose the JMT for that section because it went past a bunch of beautiful lakes and I loved it. You can see here that it was also raining a little bit that day.
Another beautiful lake on the JMT section.
These mountains are called the Minarets
So my friend Jordan came to join from Provo. He’s super good at hiking and was just itching to do like 30 mile days but that was just not my approach to the Sierras. I was really taking my time and trying to soak it all in. It probably killed him that I just wanted to hike slow and do like 15 miles a day, but he was super patient and I hope he had a good time anyways.
Typical Smiles smiling
Smiles says this might be a juniper tree but is only like 50% sure. It looked cool though. Also at this very spot I got a terrible nosebleed for no apparent reason. I get one of those about once a week which is why one of my trailnames at one point was Bar Fight.
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The Minarets once again
IDK why I look so unhappy but here’s me above Garnet Lake
Garnet Lake Panorama
Yes I let my hair down for this picture! Awesome snack break spot on Garnet Lake.
Thousand Island Lake, where the JMT and PCT meet back up.
Thousand Island Lake
Sunset from my campsite at Thousand Island Lake

So Jordan decided to book in to Tuolomne in the morning to make it back to Utah in time, apparently I hike too slow for him haha. I always had the idea since before I started the PCT to take an on trail zero at one of the beautiful lakes in the Sierras and I realized at some point that I would probably not be able to mentally handle not moving for a day. But that morning the sun came out and I was at the most beautiful lake ever, so Smiles and I decided to take an on-trail nearo and take the whole morning off and enjoy the lake. It was a bit cold but I put my sleeping pad in the lake and floated and swam and it was a really great morning.
View from higher up on trail of Thousand Island Lake
That day we did Donohue Pass, which is the boundary of Yosemite National Park. This is the trail descending from the pass, so finally in Yosemite!
Descending from Donohue Pass, where the trail became a waterfall for a bit.
We camped next to a beautiful green meadow that night and had a campfire, where I learned that I’m not actually good at getting campfires going so I’m going to have to work on that skill. In the morning, there was this huge moose-sized 7 point buck that wandered through our campsite grazing on the grass. It didn’t care we were there at all. 
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Yosemite is beautiful just in case you haven’t heard. The PCT doesn’t go through the main valley though, it goes through Tuolomne Meadows which is a little more remote but still packed with tourists and day hikers. So I still need to pay a visit to Yosemite Valley at some point in my life.
Another picture from the Tuolomne Meadows section of Yosemite.
Tuolomne Falls
So most of the day there were tons of day hikers, JMT hikers, other PCT hikers, and tourists and then all of a sudden there was no one around for like ten miles after the JMT and PCT made a final split. It was almost eerie because it hadn’t been that devoid of people for hundreds of miles. The meadows were super green and beautiful and by the morning I was back to being surrounded by lots of other PCT hikers.
The night before this was taken, the inevitable happened. I pretty much always cowboy camp unless it’s raining and when I went to bed that night, every star was out and it was perfectly clear. I woke up at 3 am to rain coming down on me! Then I had to rush to set up my tent in the middle of the night. I also happened to be sleeping on top of a rock for the first and only time, so I had to get creative with staking out my rainfly by using my bear canister and my trekking poles.
This was a beautiful day full of steep climbs and descents (same day as the previous picture). I did three smaller passes and even though it was crazy steep all day, I had made the goal in Tuolomne to do a minimum of 20 miles per day besides nearoing and zeroing in towns from here on out. So I reached my goal and did exactly 20 miles that day.
This day I made it a goal to hit the 1000 mile marker, which was like a 24 or 25 mile day but I made it in the evening! I had never seen so many mosquitos in my life as I saw that night though. They would literally cover a rock and get up and fly towards you as you walked past it.
The 1000 mile marker was huge so I had to stand on a big rock in order to fit it in my selfie.
It got really barren all of a sudden the day after I hit the 1000 mile marker. You can see the switchbacks in the background going up really just a giant pile of gravel. But the mountain views from the top were unbeatable.
The reason the trail before Sonora pass was so barren was because it was both high elevation and a volcanic section. Look how cool these rocks are- maybe you can’t see it but they’re really colorful from lichens.
View from above Sonora Pass
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See all that stuff dripping down? That’s pus. Sorry if it grosses you out. So a few miles from the highway on Sonora Pass, there was a crazy steep snow patch that I decided to glissade down. Smiles went first and used his collapsed trekking pole to self arrest and it looked fine to me, even though it was like an 85 degree slope. Yeah it was a terrible idea, even though it cut out a mile of the trail. When I went, I lost control pretty quickly and wasn’t able to slow myself down with my trekking pole. So I was totally out of control, sliding on my butt and side down the side of a super steep hill. It was TERRIFYING. I thought I was going to hit a rock and die, I was going so fast. There was one rock I could see that I thought I was going to hit but there was nothing I could do besides close my eyes and hope I wouldn’t hit it. My body was bouncing around all over the place and flying off of bumps but eventually I was finally able to slow down. Once I reached Smiles and some other hikers, I got up and was really relieved to be alive when one of them pointed out my upper thigh- an entire layer of skin had burned off from the friction of my body against the snow at such a high speed. It was numb at first but during the mile and a half left before I hit the highway I started to feel it. This really nice Asian couple gave me a whole tube of neosporin and some chocolate as I was hiking down. It took about 5 days for the wound to stop dripping pus and now, exactly a week later, some of it is starting to scab over. It’s been a painful week but my next blog post will cover that.

Dilly Dallying through the Sierras

Ah! 22 days since my last blog post! That’s way too long! I promised myself in the past week that I would renew my efforts to keep a good blog. I actually wrote this blog post almost two weeks ago when I was resupplying in Mammoth. I’m on a computer at the hostel I’m staying at in South Lake Tahoe so I’ll add a few details to the original blog post and pictures. So I’m actually at mile 1090 right now but this post covers miles 789-906, all of which is the same trail as the John Muir Trail.

This section was full of extremes: extremely sketchy passes, extremely blue lakes, extremely frustrating postholing, extremly green meadows, extremely cold nights sometimes, extremely intense sun, extremely strong rivers, and SO MANY MOSQUITOS. But wow, the Sierras are breathtakingly beautiful.

The passes on the John Muir Trail/PCT (the trails are the same for almost 200 miles) are more sketchy than I imagined they would be. But honestly I kind of liked that because it kept me entertained. I did most of them by myself and found that I loved the route finding involved with going over snowy passes. Lots of the trail is covered in snow on passes so I found myself scrambling up the faces of steep passes on loose rock to avoid snow or walking across often slushy snow on steep switchbacks or just walking straight up the super steep snow. Sometimes I would follow footprints in the snow and get entirely off course from it. It’s such a change from how straightforward and easy to follow the PCT usually is and caught me off guard at first but I found that the change of pace was exciting and the adrenaline rushes from slipping down a hill or postholing (when your leg sinks entirely into soft snow) were kind of fun. I was able to do some glissading sometimes which I love.

My feet were wet most of the time during this section, I would give up pretty quickly in the morning at keeping them dry and just walk through streams and creeks with my shoes on. Lots of the trail became a stream too. I didn’t get any blisters from it though, just an ingrown middle toenail which I didn’t even know was possible.

I loved the forests of this section- full of green meadows and deer and big trees. One morning I was hiking alone alongside a big coyote who was across a creek fishing, moving upstream with me for about a mile but not really caring about my presence at all. I spent lots of time above treeline too, which was scattered with lakes and snowfields.

My least favorite pass by far was Muir pass. The mountain views were spectacular but the north side of the pass was a giant, flat snow field that was slushy. I postholed consistently for like 5 miles, finishing with postholing into the shallow part of a mostly frozen lake. That was the only time I have ever seen Smiles not smile and the longest 5 miles of the trail. He would posthole and as he was sinking in he’d say: “Time of my life! Time of my life!” It was kind of funny to watch him be mad just because I’ve never actually seen him that way. Postholing is scary because you don’t know if your foot or leg is going to hit a rock under the snow which could really mess you up. Luckily, I had no injuries but that was definitely a hard part of the trail. After descending below the snow we found a beautiful spot next to Evolution Lake to cowboy camp and I took a dip in a warm little pond that definitely had leeches. I really need to do a better job at taking pictures of where I camp, I’ve camped in some really beautiful places but you would never know that from my pictures.

There were some crazy creek crossings. Really they were rivers- this week was pretty hot and snow was melting like crazy and swelling all the rivers and streams. The craziest by far was evolution creek.

When my friends and I got there, some people across the creek told us it was just above the waist. I made sure everything important in my pack was water tight before just taking off from one shore to the other, the first of my friends to leave. I walked out there like it was no big deal but quickly found out that I was wrong. The water was up to my ribs and the current was very strong, then next thing I knew my feet were no longer touching the ground and I was swept away! I think the bear can in my pack made me buoyant but it all happened so quick I’m really not sure what happened. My first thoughts were of the giant waterfall just downstream that I was surely going to go over. I couldn’t decide if I should try to find the bottom of the river with my trekking poles, my feet, both, or neither. According to my friends who were watching and terrified and not sure what to do, I started kicking towards the shore. Eventually, downstream a little I was able to find the bottom again and regain my footing and pull myself onto the shore. I was shaken up a bit but happy to be alive and not at the bottom of the waterfall! Also Sam was right behind me (we call him Sheriff now) and he had the exact same series of events happen at the same time as me. Smiles made it across just fine, I’m not sure if it’s because he’s so tall or because he walked across a little upstream of where Sheriff and I did.

I can’t really describe the feeling of being swept away by a river. I replayed that feeling over and over in my head while I tried to fall asleep that night. It’s definitely not a good feeling but it was short lived. I’m happy to say I’m alive and well and didn’t get swept down that waterfall.

That same day was admittedly one of the hardest mentally of the PCT so far for me. I was walking along the trail which was pretty crowded with both PCT hikers and section hikers when I rolled my ankle on nothing- the trail had been really rocky but at that moment it was entirely flat. It was a pretty bad ankle roll and it made me really upset. I kept walking until after a few miles I met up with my friends for lunch. We decided to take an alternate trail to Muir Trail Ranch because of the natural hot spring there. The trail went downhill a lot and when we got to the river we needed to cross to reach the hot spring it was too high to safely cross. So we just hung out at the river for awhile. I took a dip in the river and soaked my rolled ankle and met a nice little water snake. We headed off eventually and the trail was a couple miles of consistently steep uphill switchbacks with swarms of mosquitoes just waiting there to attack me. My achilles was in a lot of pain from rolling my ankle and I was just in a sour mood. I eventually made myself stop and put bug spray on although I probably should have done that BEFORE I got like 30 mosquito bites. Mosquitoes love me. I kept walking uphill and was just hating everything. I don’t usually get that way so I was mad at myself for being that way and everything was just spiraling down mentally for me. I was sick of all my music, tired of walking, my ankle was in pain, I had almost died that day, was bored, covered in itchy mosquito bites, had just gone my longest stretch without any contact with the outside world, and really behind all my friends.

Eventually I decided to have a self-check. I told myself: “Dilly! You are not taking one more step until you have an attitude adjustment!” I sat on a rock, turned off my music, and thought of all the reasons I was happy to be there. Which wasn’t that hard. I’m literally living the dream and the Sierras are unbelievably pretty. I was able to get a grip of myself and finish walking uphill until I crossed a beautiful green meadow and met my friends at the most perfect campsite. We love to rate everything from pit toilets to cheeseburgers to campsites. That campsite was a 10/10. There was soft ground for staking my tent, ample places to take care of your business with a view, and the ground was perfectly flat. Mentally I did much better from that point on and my ankle was entirely better within a few days.

The next morning I hiked alone over a beautiful and easy to navigate pass and there was another treacherous but slightly less scary river crossing later. I hiked with Sharpshin for a bit and Carmel for a bit later, it was cool to get to know some new hikers. I met up with my friends eventually and we took another alternate, this one to Vermillion Valley Resort. It was like 7 miles of downhill hiking and was the first time in almost a week we saw signs of civilization like small roads and a dam on a big lake. Walking down a little road through a campground we came across the “Old Fart Brigade” who asked us if we wanted a drink and invited us to come sit down. One of them had been coming there every summer since the 1950s and the others had all been coming there for a long time too, but they started doing trail magic for hikers just the year before. They were super funny and kept hitting on me and Smiles and I hung out there for a bit, shocked that we actually hit trail magic in the middle of the Sierras. I didn’t have a resupply box at VVR but Smiles did and it was a good spot to have my friend Jordan meet up with me. I was also really hoping for a hot meal, preferably a cheeseburger, but dinner was like $20 there and I definitely don’t have that kind of money haha. VVR is a little place similar to a lot of other resupply stops on the PCT: it had a small store with food catered to hikers, a hiker box, a little restaurant, and free camping.

The next morning we headed out and took an alternate pass so we wouldn’t have to add that much mileage for the VVR stop. It was weird being on a different trail that wasn’t often used but it was fun having Jordan come hike with my friends and I! We took a lunch break at a nice lake, took a dip in a river in the afternoon, and camped at a really big and beautiful lake called Lake Virginia. The next morning we hiked past the 900 mile marker and to Red’s Meadow, where we caught a bus to Mammoth. I got super carsick on that crowded bus ride. Apparently I can’t handle being in a moving vehicle anymore.

I had a lot to do in Mammoth and probably bored Jordan to death. I had a broken trekking pole I needed to get fixed, had to resupply, needed to eat a lot of Mexican food and cheeseburgers, rest, catch up with a lot of people on the phone, and figure out some group logistics. My group ended up splitting there. We all headed out at different times- Pacer first, Smiles and Jordan and I later that day, then Sheriff and Beans the next day. After Jordan left it’s been just Smiles and I and it’s actually been really good because I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know a lot of other hikers and we’re always camping with new people or other friends.

I ended up adding lots of details to the original blog post. It’s hard to narrow down what to write about, so this blog post pretty much skipped the first half of that section and told detail about the second half. Here are a bunch of pictures that might fill in some of the gaps:

Doing laundry in a bathtub, look how brown that water is! 
Descending Kearsarge Pass
I think this is Glen Pass
One of the Rae Lakes
nicest bridge I’ve ever seen on the PCT
My coyote friend fishing
View from Pinchot Pass
Marmot on Mather Pass, I love Marmots
View from the Golden Staircase, descending from Mather Pass
Golden Staircase in King’s Canyon National Park
Muir Monster a few miles before Muir Pass
Ascending Muir Pass
When the switchbacks are covered in snow, you just walk straight up the pass. Muir Pass.
Muir Hut on top of Muir Pass
The sloooooowest descent from Muir Pass. It’s pretty much flat.
A partially frozen lake descending from Muir Pass
Descending from Muir Pass still
Evolution Lake
Sunset from where I cowboy camped on the shores of Evolution Lake
somewhere beautiful on the PCT/JMT
10/10 campsite taken over by Big Agnes Fly Creeks
View from Selden Pass
The super adorable and awesome “Old Fart Brigade”
I think this was Fish Creek
View from way above Fish Creek
Lake Virginia, which I camped next to but not here

Sierra in the Sierras

At the job I quit before hiking the PCT, I went by Sierra. The doctor I worked for pegged me as the outdoorsy type for some reason and changed Sarah to Sierra because I worked really closely with another Sarah and it was all too confusing to have two Sarahs. But at that point I had never been to the Sierras. Now I have a pretty intimate relationship with that beautiful mountain range- so far I have some pretty wild stories including hiking Mt. Whitney and helping with a helicopter rescue mission.

There are two items of business I need to take care of before jumping into my first week in the Sierra Nevada: my group and my trail name.

My group is a lot of fun. We’re all solo hikers, young millennial idealists, first time thru-hikers, and really laid back. We’ll usually separate during hiking and meet up for breaks or camping and we all hit towns together. It’s the same group I joined leaving Warner Springs at mile like 110, minus Roman who is now ahead and plus Beans (another girl!) who joined us at Wrightwood. So now it’s me, Smiles, Beans, Pacer, and Sam/Candyman/Doublecheck. I’m really happy to have a fun group to hike with but am glad I get to spend some time hiking alone too.

And I’ve gotten a million questions about my trail name so I’ll address that. I was given so many trail names throughout the desert and they were mostly laughably bad. During the last 150 miles of the desert I finally just adopted one of my trail names because it was the least bad- Dilly Dally! It’s pretty cute. But mostly just really fitting. I’m all about taking breaks to enjoy the scenery and am never in a rush, meaning I’m always the last one to show up at camp at night. Also I’m often the last one to leave camp in the morning. So yeah, there you have it!

Now for the Sierras! I left Kennedy Meadows with my group and a super heavy pack on Saturday afternoon. We were planning on doing 10 or maybe 15 miles out of there. But then just 5 miles in we found a super cool campsite on a river and decided to call it a day already, at like 3 in the afternoon. I’m not used to having downtime at camp at all- in the desert I’d do a lot of hiking in the evening when it was cooler and go to bed as fast as I could. So it was really fun to just chill with my friends, take a dip in the river, and have a campfire.

The next day we gained a lot of elevation in the South Sierra Wilderness and the scenery changed with the elevation- more trees and more water. There also was a decrease in temperature with the increase in elevation, which was noticeable when it hailed for like two or three hours in the afternoon and the hail didn’t melt on the ground. The elevation gain was noticeable- even though I’d been hiking every day for a month and a half I was feeling out of shape on those steep climbs! I got used to the elevation pretty quickly though and didn’t feel that way the rest of the week, so that’s good. We called it a day kind of early again, probably 5:00 but I never look at the time, and had another campfire when the hail stopped. It was cold that night! I’m happy to say that my sleep system kept me warm and I was able to get good sleep. The next day we gained more elevation, entering into what truly felt like the Sierras. The snow-tipped peaks were now surrounding us and parts of the trail were flooded with snow melt. There were lots of water sources and so many beautiful views from the sides of the mountains.

That brings us to Tuesday, which started with a beautiful lake and some really creamy miles. I remember hiking alone and singing along to Fleet Foxes and passing the sign saying I was entering Sequoia National Park. I met up with my group for lunch then we did the first river ford, a huge climb, and ended in a really beautiful green meadow full of marmots at the junction of the Mt. Whitney trail with a bunch of other hikers. We set up our tents in a circle and slept for a few hours before waking up at 1:30 am to start hiking Mt. Whitney. We left most of our stuff in our tents and slackpacked up. Smiles went ahead so it was me, Pacer, Beans, and Sam who headed out together into the darkness.

The trail was really flooded or covered in snow fields in places and hard to follow. It was about 4 miles to the base of the mountain then 4 miles up switchbacks. I was leading the way a lot of the time and we did a decent job of staying close to the trail most of the time. When we reached the switchbacks, Beans was struggling with the altitude a bit and I was feeling really good and I realized that I wouldn’t make sunrise at the top if I didn’t hurry, so I went ahead of the group. I could see other headlamps on switchbacks way above me but was alone. Some of the trail was dry and rocky, other parts were covered in packed snow, and there were also icy parts. There were only a few places that I felt were actually sketchy but I didn’t stop to put my microspikes on, I felt fine without them. It was really unbelievably cold out and kept getting colder the higher on the mountain I got and the wind made it feel colder. I was feeling good and powering up the mountain as it started to get light. Unfortunately, the sun rose about half an hour before I summitted the mountain but I was able to see it through some cutouts and it was incredible. I could also see pink on all the adjacent mountaintops and it was so beautiful. I kept climbing and about half a mile from the summit the elevation caught up to me and I had to stop and force myself to drink my now icy water. My hands were completely frozen on my trekking poles, even with gloves on, so I put my poles under my arm and stuck my hands in my pockets and finished the ascent. Sam caught up to me when I had stopped and we summitted together. There was a shelter on top and no one in sight. Sam and I climbed up some rocks and took some quick pictures of each other, then ducked into the shelter as fast as we could.

When we opened the door to the shelter, we were surprised to see the tiny room entirely packed with freezing cold hikers telling us to get in and shut the door fast. I pulled out my sleeping bag and got in it, squished between other hikers, and tried to warm up. Beans and Pacer eventually made it, Smiles was already there, and some of our other friends were in the shelter. I would say it was about 10 degrees out and there was wind chill, and even in the shelter I couldn’t fully warm up. I was starving and definitely didn’t bring enough food to climb the highest mountain in the lower 48, woops. We hung out there for about an hour or maybe more, then Smiles and I took a bunch of pictures of each other on top (he managed to have his finger over the lens on about half) and spent time enjoying the unbelievably stunning mountains that surrounded us from all sides. We descended and at the base of the mountain found a nice snow field to glissade (fancy word for slide on your butt) down. It was the first time I used my ice ax and it was fun but hurt my butt! Smiles and I hiked back to our campsite and we all napped for an hour or two before heading back out.

I had a pretty bad stomach ache most of that day and had to pull over after about half a mile because, well I’m just going to be honest here, I had the runs. While digging my cat hole my nose started to bleed excessively and wouldn’t stop for like 15 minutes. I was also still groggy from my nap and lack of sleep and I just ended up in a bad mood because of it all. I hit the trail again well behind my group and was in a pretty bad mood for a few miles, and that doesn’t really happen to me often. But the next 8 miles were a testament to how much nature can heal you. It was easily the most beautiful 8 miles of the trail so far. The meadows were unbelievably green with views of so many different snow capped mountains, then above the tree line all these marmots were playing with other mountain views in the background. A pregnant (or maybe morbidly obese, who am I to judge) marmot came within about a foot of me. There were three river crossings and many flowing streams and lakes. By the time I rolled into camp, I was in the best mood ever.

The next day we did Forester Pass. It’s the highest point on the actual PCT (Mt. Whitney is a side hike) at 13,200 feet. The trail was really flooded in places, covered in snow in others, and hard to navigate going up to the pass above treeline. I had to go way off trail to use the ladies’ room (aka a boulder) and got behind my group once again. The rest of the group was way ahead and the navigating was tricky so I did it by myself. I was a little peeved when I got to the bottom of the ascent of the pass and none of my friends had waited for me. It was a climb straight up the side of a snowy mountain. I had my microspikes on and got out my ice ax, climbing up the side of the mountain entirely alone. I reached some boulders, peeled off a layer, and climbed straight up to where I could finally find the first switchback. It was just rocky, not covered in snow, and not that bad. There was one more sketchy part though- a walk across the snow on the side of a very steep hill right before the top of the pass. Luckily I had done some self-arrest practicing so I felt safe. I made it to the top of the pass where all my friends were and they were surprised to see me- with all the confusion of the trail navigation they thought I was someone else who was way ahead of them. So I couldn’t even be mad that they left me alone, they thought I had left them in the dust.

We took pictures on top and headed across the side of a very snowy and slushy hill. I glissaded down a huge part of it and it was really fun. My group and I were having a good time sliding around in the snow, then we descended a dry part of the trail and came to a part that was like waterslides but made out of snow where everyone else had glissaded down. It was SO fun! Usually we just have to walk but for a few seconds we got to slide on our butts!

Things turned south though. We were walking across a snowfield when we came across a girl who had fallen in the snow. Pacer and I asked her if she was okay but it was very apparent that she wasn’t. We helped her up and started asking her questions. She was a German 25-year-old trailnamed Bingo and there was a bit of a language barrier. We found out that she had hurt her hip the day before and had at some point that day fallen again, this time injuring her hip badly. She had been trying to walk on it but it was excruciatingly painful but she was determined to keep walking anyways. We decided to divide the contents of her heavy pack between our group and put it in our packs so she wouldn’t have to carry weight. We stayed very close to her and walked very slowly with her, holding on to her at times.

Her leg was shaking and she was visibly in so much pain, and I felt SO bad because with all the snowfields and misleading tracks we ended up off trail in a boulder field and she had to walk over all these huge rocks with her painful hip. She was a tough girl, I can’t even imagine the pain she was in. We made it back to the trail eventually, walking very slowly and realizing there was no way she was going to hike out of there. After two switchbacks, she was in too much pain to walk anymore and we all had a seat on the trail. We told her the closest place she could get off trail was 14 miles away and asked her if she would be able to hike it. She said no. We asked her if she had a SPOT device, a personal satellite that sends a distress signal to emergency responders. She did and although at first she didn’t want to press it, we helped her realize there really was no other choice. She needed help to get out of there and there was nothing we could do to help her. So she pressed her SPOT and we waited for help.

She was very concerned about her group who was ahead and had no idea she was injured, so Sam who is the fastest hiker in our group went ahead to go find them. The rest of us waited with her. She couldn’t keep food down, I think she had both elevation sickness and was going into shock. We took off her wet socks for her and helped her get as comfortable as possible. And we waited. There was nothing else we could do. We watched from the trail as the few other hikers going through also went the wrong way and got completely lost in the boulders, making me feel a little bit less awful for how off trail we got with injured Bingo. Eventually Pacer and Beans decided to keep hiking, cold and knowing that Smiles and I had the situation under control. Smiles and I waited with her, rationing the small amounts of food we had left before resupply.

As the hours passed we all started having doubts that help would come, or that if it did it would be by foot and not be very helpful. A group of 10 hikers we know pretty well came by after about three and a half hours. They were very concerned and surrounded her and started asking her a million questions and I felt so bad because at that point she had been dry heaving and was clearly not doing well. Someone had some Gatorade powder that I mixed with water and she was able to keep it down, so that was good. Then after about ten or 15 minutes, out of nowhere I looked up and there was a helicopter hovering over the valley. I about cried, it was the best sight I had ever seen. We all started waving at it and it circled around the valley a few times, then picked a spot next to the lake below to land. First responders came out and someone ran down to talk with them, then they started hiking up with a stretcher. The first responders came up and asked her some questions then situated her on the stretcher as comfortably as they could. Although I was initially annoyed with everyone being there, it was really good to have so many people help carry the stretcher. People took turns carrying the stretcher while others carried two packs each. They kept saying they needed guys to carry the stretcher but I gladly took a turn and did fine. The trail was a little hard to navigate because parts of it had turned into a stream but everything went smoothly. Every time the stretcher got jolted a little, Bingo would yell out in pain. I felt SO bad for her. It was clearly a very painful ride for her but there was no way she could walk.

We made it to the helicopter and then they took care of the rest. I got to say goodbye to Bingo and tell her she better rest up so she can get back on trail. I heard today that something in her hip tore and she’s planning on getting back on trail in a few weeks after resting up. Smiles and I headed out and hiked a beautiful 7 miles to where our friends camped, with one terrifying river crossing along the way. We told them the rest of what happened, Sam told us he was able to find her group and tell them, and these two John Muir Trail hikers asked us a million questions about the PCT. We went to bed pretty late (9:45) because we got into camp so late, then still woke up at the crack of dawn.

We hiked a side trail over Kearsarge pass so we could resupply in Bishop. My parents were planning on meeting me at the Onion Valley trailhead 8 miles from where we camped and I was excited to see them. I came around a corner about a mile up from the trailhead to see a very familiar face- my dad! I got to hike with him a bit on the way down and catch up. I told my parents that if they were going to pick my friends and I up that they should bring trail magic for all the hikers and they did! They were making pulled pork sandwiches and had fresh fruit and other treats. A bunch of hikers were hanging out around their RV and I guess my dad had helped arrange some rides for people. It was cool to introduce my parents to so many of my hiking friends and they were super happy to have food after such a long stretch. A bunch of us crammed into the RV and we ate homemade cookies on our way into Bishop. Best hitch ever. It’s been fun catching up with my parents and they couldn’t possibly have fed my friends and I more in the past day of being in Bishop. They took us out to Mexican food last night and brought food to our hotel room multiple times haha.

Here’s an overload of pictures of the Sierras, have I told you I’m a little obsessed with these mountains?

Intimidating moment before the hail started
Smiles in the hail
#squad

after the first river crossing

sunrise on Mt. Whitney
sunrise from Mt. Whitney
top of Mt. Whitney
in the Mt. Whitney shelter… we look warm but we’re not
view from Mt. Whitney + my shadow

one of these things is not like the other… and yeah we weren’t creative in our gear choices

the view from above the steep climb up Forester Pass
the top of Forester Pass, highest point on the PCT

the only picture I got from the rescue was of the helicopter flying away
King’s Canyon National Park

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on the Kearsarge Pass trail
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thanks mom and dad for the trail magic!

Kennedy Meadows

Kennedy Meadows is the first major checkpoint of the PCT and possibly the most important. It means I made it through 702 miles of Southern California desert- and not the flat kind. I’ve hiked through desert mountain ranges that include 20+ miles between water sources frequently, rattlesnakes, a heat wave, rain and snow, countless burn areas, and 4 alternates. I worked through the physical difficulties of the start of a thru hike: blisters, foot pain, IT band pain, chafe, sunburn, and sore muscles. I dealt with missing friends, family, other hobbies, creature comforts, and certain foods. I learned how to set up and take down camp quickly, wake up early in the morning and get moving, pace myself, do town chores efficiently, give myself sufficient rest, sleep in various conditions, feed myself well, and mentally get myself through long days of hiking.

It’s a PCT tradition to applaud a hiker when they walk in to Kennedy Meadows because it means that they made it though all of this. That applause felt a little surreal to me when I received it- I really walked all that way and I really get to finally enter the beautiful Sierra Nevada, where there’s endless water and unbeatable scenery. It’ll only get harder though- I’ll be doing much steeper climbs in elevation and I’ll be carrying a much heavier pack. I picked up a bear canister, microspikes, an ice ax, a mid-layer fleece pullover, and tons of food in Kennedy Meadows. It’ll take me probably 7 days to reach the next resupply point even though the mileage isn’t that long.

I’m excited to have made it through the desert and I’m ready for a change in scenery.

The last section wasn’t too exciting to be honest. It made me really feel ready for the Sierras. There was long water haul after long water haul and some really barren scenery. It was 150 miles without a resupply and I did it in 6 days. It wasn’t all bad though. My body felt better than it ever had- no more blisters, minimal chafe, and my feet felt good- especially because I shipped myself a new pair of shoes to Tehachapi. There were incredibly beautiful sunrises and sunsets that I got to see. There were some really hot days so I had to do a bit of night hiking but not as late as the section before. Also I listened to all of the Serial podcast- sorry mom and dad for using up all of this month’s data!

One exciting moment was when I almost stabbed a young rattlesnake with my trekking pole and it got really mad at me. Also a few days before I hit Kennedy Meadows there was a stunning distant view of the Sierras for a few minutes and it got me really pumped. The day I hiked into Kennedy Meadows I woke up before 5:00 and got moving fast. That morning there was views of the Sierras in the distance again and the first river I had walked past since deep creek, which I guess is a creek so maybe it’s actually the first river I’ve walked past at all. I walked so fast that day! The last 3 miles before I hit Kennedy Meadows lasted FOREVER. But I made it.

Kennedy Meadows itself was interesting. It’s a tiny town population 200 with one general store that hikers completely take over during hiking season. The store is very helpful to hikers offering showers outside, camping in a kind of junkyard out back, hamburgers on a giant patio during the day, and accepting hiker packages. All of their prices for snacks and resupply items were really fair too. It was fun to hang out there for a day, catching up with lots of hikers, getting town chores done, and applauding all the incoming hikers. But I was also ready to get out of there within a day and did.

I didn’t take many pictures in the last section, but here they are:

Trail near Tehachapi
The barren scenery during a 43 mile waterless stretch
VERY thankful for this water cache in the middle of the 43 mile waterless stretch
Crawling past mile 700
my cute feet and legs after a 150 mile section of the desert
Kennedy Meadows
where you camp at Kennedy Meadows…
also where you camp at Kennedy Meadows… movie theater seats?


Mind Games in the Mojave

I always thought that hiking all day every day on the PCT would be monotonous. This section was anything but that.

The section I just completed is section E, Agua Dulce to Tehachapi. I learned a lot in this section. I learned that diaper rash cream is great on chafe, social norms aren’t all that important on trail, the water report isn’t 100% reliable, and that I’m tougher than I ever thought. This section was chalk full of wild stories so here it is in detail.

Let me first say that I don’t know how I’d be functioning right now without the help of trail angels. I’m sure I could do the trail but I’m sure it wouldn’t be as great of an experience. Hiker Heaven/The Saufley’s was. the. greatest. and is where this section started in Agua Dulce. The place had a big tent with computers, a tent with a sewing machine, a double-wide in the back exclusively for hikers with a shower/living room with TV/ kitchen, and a big yard with horses and shade to hang out and camp in. I left feeling all put back together- I got some gear I needed from the hiker box (and I did my entire food resupply from the hiker box there), was clean, finally was able to find the hole in my sleeping pad and patch it, used the computers to order all the gear I needed for the Sierras, and spent enough time relaxing to feel ready to hit the trail.

Smiles and I headed out together at about 3 in the afternoon. The PCT followed the shoulder of the main road in Agua Dulce, passing houses and private property for a few miles. This ended up being a huge problem- Smiles had 4 beers before we left and I just always have to pee and we didn’t want to give hikers a bad name by peeing in front of someone’s house. So we were both just trying not to wet our pants which was hard because we were both laughing so hard at how ridiculous our potty walking probably looked for all the cars passing us. Eventually I got sweet relief behind a tree on an abandoned property- rough and hilarious start to a rough and hilarious section. We hiked 12 miles in some desolate hills and camped under the stars. Smiles was randomly full of energy and kept trying to convince me that the big dipper was actually the little dipper until I eventually made him shut up so I could get some sleep.

The next morning we took off, realizing water would be tight and the day would be hot. We hiked separately. I was walking along the side of a steep hill, listening to music out loud on my phone with my phone pocket zipper open so I could hear it, when I saw that someone had dropped a map. I leaned over to pick it up when out came my iphone! I couldn’t do anything but watch as it slid down the side of the steep hill under thick desert brush and finally came to rest about 10 feet down. I sat on the trail and strategized about its retrieval as Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” played over the phone speaker down the side of the hill. I took a trekking pole and extended it as far as it would, then slid my body under the dense bushes, using the stems of which to hold my feet. I watched as small avalanches of dirt buried my phone and hoped it wouldn’t knock it down further. Once my body was as far down the hill as possible, I took my trekking pole and reached as far as I could, relieved that it was able to reach the phone and was able to slowly pull it up towards me. I spent the next few minutes cleaning out all the crevices of my phone of dirt and thankful I didn’t lose my most expensive piece of gear.

The rest of that day’s hike was hot and not too exciting, but wasn’t long as there was a trail angel’s house called Casa de Luna 12 miles from where I started that morning. The house was a mile or two west on a highway and I only walked about a quarter mile before getting picked up by a trail angel and brought there, and was even given a cold Vitamin Water. Thanks Little Steps! Casa de Luna is a legendary trail angel house and I wasn’t sure what to expect- I had heard rumors that it was a giant party and that you’ll never want to leave. The house was a small yellow house entirely covered in decorations and pictures with a driveway full of tattered couches, coolers of beer (and some soda!), and a row of outhouses in front. The backyard was a giant grove of Manzanita trees with a maze of dug-out flat campsites. There was also a makeshift solar shower that a hiker had built the year before, some hammocks, horseshoe, and some frisbee golf. I met up with my group again and hung out on the driveway all afternoon and evening, painted a rock, painted tattoos on my friends, ate hot dogs in the afternoon and taco salad in the evening. That night people were a bit rowdy. There were probably 40 hikers there drinking and having a good time, but later things mellowed out and I listened to a hiker play guitar. Terrie Anderson runs the place and I can’t quite describe her- she’ll whack your butt with a stick if you hold your plate over top of the sour cream, play music and make you dance if you want a PCT bandana, meowed at me from afar when I had cat whiskers painted on my face, and just obviously loves being surrounded by hikers and feeding us food. She clearly doesn’t care about social norms and it’s refreshing.

Normally I wouldn’t take a zero in the middle of a section. But Casa de Luna aka Hippie Daycare is a place that you could never find anywhere else on the PCT or in the world, and there was no rush to get through the final weeks in the desert because of the late snows in the Sierras. So the next day was my laziest day of the PCT. I woke up, ate some pancakes for breakfast, took a nap among the manzanita trees, topped up my resupply at a c-store, took a benadryl because I got a lot of mosquito bites during my first nap, then took a long second nap all afternoon because I had benadryl in me, played horseshoe, played some cards, painted another rock, and ate BBQ chicken and tri-tip steak for dinner. That night wasn’t as rowdy as the night before and we had a mellow jam sesh. One of the hikers is crazy good at guitar and singing and a bunch of other hikers joined in on other instruments, I even worked the tambourine for a song. I stayed up way past hiker midnight (9 pm) and my friends and I took off pretty late in the morning the next day.

The next 15 miles of the PCT was closed from a fire a few years ago so I once again road walked. It was hot and I was excited because we were going to walk past the supposed Lake Elizabeth and I wanted to swim but was disappointed to find that it was entirely dried up. There was a small town we walked through and hung in the shade of a c-store with some other hikers for a bit, drinking a cold drink and eating a cold orange. There was a trail log with signatures back to 1977 in that dusty old c-store that I signed. The dusty little town had more motorcycles than cars and more bars than houses and was overrun with a biker gang that memorial day. As we walked we passed a wolf preserve and an ostrich farm- the most exotic animals I’ve seen on the PCT. 15 miles later we were back on the PCT and sluggishly hiked to a campground.

The next day started in the relatively green and forested tops of the foothills above the Mojave desert and I passed the 500 mile marker. There were swarms of gnats that kept surrounding my head and caused me to almost lose it a few times. There was a guzzler for a water source and I severely underestimated the amount of water I needed that day. The trail descended the hilltops towards the daunting Mojave desert floor that I’d been catching glimpses of for over a week. The temperature was noticeably hotter with each hundred feet I descended. The water report google doc said there was supposed to be a running stream 14 miles in and I was started to get dehydrated before I reached it, hoping for some shade and water and a break for the afternoon. The PCT water report is rarely wrong, but it was that day. I found myself descending into the desert floor of the Mojave with 1/2 a liter of boiling hot water on a 95+ degree afternoon. I only had 5.5 miles left so I knew I would survive but I knew it would be miserable.

I was hoping the trail would follow the flat desert floor below the foothills but it kept going up and down the foothills skirting the desert floor. It was frustrating but I couldn’t do anything but walk on. I listened to music to get me through it and at one point Smiles and I took a break in the one small spot of shade that existed in that section of trail. We didn’t talk and I found myself thinking in depth about what my funeral would be like- what pictures and memories would be shared and what people would say. Obviously it was irrational, I only had a few miles to go and I slowly made myself snap out of it and get back to walking. I think that was the first time I realized how much of a mind game the PCT really was, I had always been told it wasn’t nearly as physically hard as it was mentally hard and I think that might be true. My mind was in the weirdest place though as the weirdest music on my phone was playing in my headphones and I walked on. First it was a bunch of Animal Collective, then it was a bunch of Radiohead, then it was The Flaming Lips. I walked on and on in the blazing heat, my lips and mouth dry and my only thoughts were of cold water. My imagination kept drifting to the hostel I was walking towards and I imagined a spigot of cold water waiting for me among big shady trees. I rationed the last of my hot water so that I got a sip every mile. Smiles and I stopped in a bit of shade just .6 miles before Hikertown Hostel. We sat and laughed at how awful it was to be this thirsty and hot and he told me he had stopped sweating which is a little scary. I’m glad he’s become my hiking partner because neither of us get angry in rough situations like this. We just kind of laugh it off and do all we can to keep each other positive.

We finally rolled into the weirdest place in existence, Hikertown Hostel which is right on the PCT, and I immediately spotted a spigot of water and stuck my head under it, pack on and super desperate looking. A hiker I had never met was there and watched me at my worst as I drank all the water I could and then told me I had blood all over my face. Awesome. I kept rinsing my bloody nose and drinking the lukewarm water and he gave me some wet wipes to clean myself up.

I can’t describe Hikertown Hostel. I think it was a good idea at some point but the execution was strange. It’s basically someone’s house in the middle with all of these sheds around it turned into places hikers can sleep and had an odd assortment of decorations and furniture. The sheds are labelled as different things like town hall or library and I was confused when I walked into the country store and it was just beds. I showered myself off with hose water to cool down and hung with a bunch of hiker friends in a garage. I complained a bit about some thigh chafe to a friend who told me to try diaper cream, so I dug some out from a hiker box and it did wonders. I rested for four hours, eating lots of food and rehydrating before taking off at sunset.

From Hikertown the trail follows the aqueduct that brings water to LA. It was easy and flat night hiking under brilliant stars with a bunch of city lights from the city of Lancaster in the distance. I was fully recovered and felt mostly good as I walked, all except for The Chafe which returned after a few miles. I was afraid my thigh chafe was going to start a small wildfire at mile 30 of the day so Smiles, OB1, and I decided to call it a night, sleeping on the flat top of the LA aqueduct for a few hours before waking up early and finishing the 7 miles to the next water source. The second the sun rose above the horizon the air was noticeably hotter, and by the time I made it to the water source and only shade at 8:30 it was already time to hunker down for the heat of the day.

The water source was a spigot of water feeding from the aqueduct and downhill from it there was shade from a small bridge. I met up with my other friends and a bunch of other hikers and blew up my sleeping pad in the shade. The rest of the day was a pattern of waking up every hour in a pool of sweat with my feet in the scorching sun, moving to a new spot in the shade, eating food, and repeating as the sun kept moving across the sky. It was 105 that day and the slight breeze felt like a convection oven, baking me and the 30 other hikers squished into the small amount of shade. None of us slept well but there was nothing to do besides at least try to sleep and I will admit that taking a Benadryl helped a bit (I had like 20 mosquito bites so it was justified).

I finally took off at about 6, ready to night hike and get the section over with. There was a small stream that seemed really out of place in the dry desert after about 6 miles, then another long water carry. I hiked with friends as it got dark and the desert came alive. I saw a glowing green scorpion and many mice and large bugs. We passed tons of windmills that were there for good reason- it was crazy windy. The terrain was hilly and the sand under my feet was super soft, making some of the uphills challenging with the wind. The wind almost knocked me over a few times, turning my pack into a sail that sent me every direction but forward. I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous this section had become but it was actually kind of fun battling the wind and blasts of sand while climbing up a huge hill and it wasn’t hot so I had no complaints.

I hiked with friends until we came across a random water cache at 2 am. We sat in plastic lawn chairs and ate food out of a hiker box. I laid on the sand, unbelievably tired and having weird dreams for half an hour before my alarm went off and I forced myself to hike again, determined to not get caught in the heat of the sun again. I made it about 3 miles before I was too mentally exhausted to continue on and slept for a few hours without blowing up my sleeping pad, waking to the most brilliant sunrise over the Mojave. There was only about 6 miles left but it was rough because The Chafe had returned and was unbelievably painful, even with the Body Glide that usually helped a lot. Also my phone was dead so I couldn’t distract myself with music or podcasts.

But I pressed on and made it to the highway, happy to see Coppertone’s RV parked there. He’s a former thru hiker and this was the third time I’ve run into his trail magic- he spends a week at one location and then keeps migrating north with the pack, bringing mini pies, cookies, fresh fruit, and root beer floats. I was happy to have a cold root beer float and apple on that hot morning and Smiles, OB1, and I all fell asleep in the camp chairs in the shade of his RV. We woke after a bit and hitched into Tehachapi, the first non-semi truck pulling over and giving us a ride. We met up with some other friends at Denny’s, checked into a hotel with our group where I slept in a bed for the first time of the PCT, and spent the rest of that day and all of the next day relaxing. I also got to meet up with my good friend from high school Bianca and had a BBQ at her house here in Tehachapi, that was super awesome, thanks Bianca!

The talk of the hiking community lately is of a wildfire that broke out 100 miles north, causing 50 miles of trail to close right before the start of the Sierras. Throughout our stay in Tehachapi, we’ve been keeping up on the wildfire condition and just this morning were informed that the fire is now out and that section of trail will be open again tomorrow! From here we’ll pack out enough food today to bring us 150 miles to the start of the Sierras, finishing out the rest of the Mojave and transitioning into higher mountains. Also the news stations keep telling us that this area is experiencing a heat wave and apparently it was only like 70 degrees here last week… haha lucky us to hit the Mojave during a heat wave!

When I was at the super weird Hikertown Hostel, a hiker did an interview of me for a documentary and asked me a bunch of questions about my hike. He asked me if I’ve ever thought about leaving the trail and giving up. I answered honestly and said, “No. Not even once.” And that’s the honest truth. I didn’t come out here for an easy time. No matter how hard it gets, it’s still the best time of my life and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

This section was crazy and I felt I couldn’t capture it without going into detail, so thanks for reading such a long blog post about my trek through the desert. Here are some pictures from this section!

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hiker box resupply from Hiker Heaven
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Hiker Heaven

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painting rocks at Casa de Luna
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Terrie Anderson, the trail angel in charge of Casa de Luna
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The famous taco salad at Casa de Luna
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Afternoon hang out at Casa de Luna
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Jam sesh at Casa de Luna
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Wasn’t expecting that butt pinch… thanks for the times Terrie!
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mile 500!
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LA aqueduct
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Under the bridge

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