I got really into taking pictures of all the different types of flowers I saw along the trail. Here are quite a few!
My journey lasted a total of 102 days. I walked 1700 miles across California and part of southern Oregon before my body told me it was time to be done.
Around July 17th, just as I was starting some 30 mile days, I began to feel some pain in my right ankle – I disregarded it hoping it would go away. Within days the pain moved down into my foot causing discomfort with every step, resulting in a decision to get off trail for about a week to let it rest. When I got back on trail in Ashland I walked with my sister, who had been training for months to join me. This was wonderful for many reasons because it broke up any blues I’d been having, and the hiking was more relaxed than I had been doing before. She was a fully competent hiker and we still walked significant 20 plus mile days.
I started the week off strong, feeling no pain and looking forward to the walking ahead. But by the end of the second day I was limping and struggling to walk at a decent PCT hiker speed. I limped the third day and on the fourth my left hip was having trouble as well, most likely from supporting my body for 50 miles with little help from my right side. On the last day I sported an obvious limp and wobble walking style with a duck foot right side. My foot was wrapped, puffy, and had a strange lump on it, not good for comfortable walking.
At this point I kind of knew I wouldn’t be able to walk much further but to double check I went to a hospital. The prognosis is unclear. A stress fracture is difficult to see on an x ray and nothing showed up on mine, although I am a textbook example of a fracture case. The doctors guess is that I have tendinitis, which is a fancy way of saying my tendon is inflamed. Rest, ice, compression, elevation, to heal it.
Sadly, I am writing to say that I’ve come to the end of my journey this year. I know I’ll attempt to thru hike again, I knew I would from the beginning. I would just prefer to walk with strength rather than a gimpy hike. This year will be my practice round, I’ll come back some other year and I’ll know just how to do the PCT the way I like it!
So thank you all for your support, it’s been such an incredible journey and I am not defeated. I’ve learned a few things along the way, some incredible and some very basic survival skills, optimism in any situation, confidence being on my own, a lot of responsibility, and I’ve learned that my body is AMAZING and with it I can do just about anything.
This is Child of the Wild, signing out for 2013!
Mile 1605, Day 90
Up until four days ago I only had four full zeros for the whole trip. I now have eight. About a week ago (maybe more or less, my concept of time is a little off) I started experiencing some ankle pain that has still not been clearly identified. I kept walking on it for a few days until maybe the third or fourth day when it got really painful. I got to a town and took a night of then tried to hike again the next day, but was not a happy camper. So I went back down the hill, and decided I was going to skip the 100 miles between Mount Shasta and Etna and stay in Etna for the amount of time it would have taken me to walk that distance. So here I am, doubling my zeros and being the laziest I have ever been in my life. I’m not sure what is wrong with my ankle. It could be a low shin splint, at worst I may have a small fracture, but I’m hoping its just some soreness that can be rested and gently walked off.
I did have an awesome hitch up here! I hitched up I-5 and then another highway to get to Etna. I was hitching to the town of Dunsmuir with two other hikers when a guy in a little black Mazda Miata pulled over to talk to us about what we were doing. After a few minutes I asked him if he’d be willing to give us a ride, and he agreed! In his two seater shiny little sports car he shuttled me and the others to town then joined us for breakfast. Afterward he offered to drive me as far as I needed up I-5. So me, looking like hiker trash, got an incredible hitch in a fancy little sports car. Life is good, and hitching has been fun!
I’ve walked through some incredible scenery lately. Or maybe it’s just my pictures turned out to be really good. But I was looking through my pictures trying to jog my memory of something I would want to talk about and I had so man I liked! This selection is from the area around Hat Creek Rim. A notorious thirty-something mile dry section that has had multiple fires burn around it, leaving the rim exposed and hot for hikers. After comparing experiences later with others, I’d have to say I think I had one of the better rim walks. Coming from the Central Valley of California, I’m used to lots of heat and sun, so the temperature and exposure doesnt bother me too much. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, open trails with views are my favorite, so Hat Creek Rim was really an ideal walk for me. I picked up an extra liter of water (4 liters total), and hit the rim around 11:30am. It was slightly cloudy, preventing me from getting a continuous full heat blast from the sun, and later in the evening, it even sprinkled a bit!
The rim was beautiful. Mt. Lassen slowly disappeared in the South and Mt. Shasta became clearer as I headed North. The trail is mildly graded and goes right along the edge of the rim where you can look down into the Hat Creek Valley. Lucky for everyone, 16 miles in there was a huge desert style water cache that relieved all hikers of having to ration their water for the next day. I got water here and dry camped that night a few hours later, finishing the waterless section by 9 the next morning without any dehydration! It was a pleasant walk and most definitely one of my favorite parts of Ncal.
Okay it’s honesty hour. July has sucked. I really try to stay positive and not complain but I have not loved this trail this month. I can’t pin point an exact reason why, there are many small things that keep adding up. It started with homesickness, and as that faded I just became very lonely. I haven’t seen the Bone Thugs since the Sierra, and when I got back on the trail after Tahoe I knew very few of the people around me. Everyone is spread out. As of the last week or two I see one or two people a day and that is usually a brief, two minute encounter as one party passes the other. I camp alone, eat alone, walk alone, watch the sun set and rise alone. I knew before I started this that alone time was one of the reasons I was doing this. I just never thought I’d get so much!
So what do I do? When I’m walking my mind wanders. I find it hard to focus on any single thought for a long time, so I end up thinking about EVERYTHING, and yet nothing of importance. I do a lot of basic math, figuring mileage between two points, dividing by hours, assessing elevation change per mile, checking time – it’s probably part of the reason I’m so obsessed with how many miles I do. I know how many miles per hour I can walk, how many hours I want to walk, and how many breaks I’ll take so I try and challenge myself to go faster than the day before. It keeps me thinking and active. Miles are my main thought.
When I’m not computing something about miles, I play a different number game. I’ve taken up memorizing phone numbers. I’ll write a couple numbers on a sheet of paper and go over them all day. The next day I’ll add one or two more, and then more when I have those down. It sounds simple however since my head drifts a lot I have to remind myself to stay focused. Sometimes Ill completely forget for hours that I’m memorizing, so maybe that’s not the best method for keeping my head occupied, but if my phone falls in a creek I’ll still have my contacts!
I speak to myself out loud in French a lot, describing the scenery, my backpack, my friends (dear 308, 662, and 712, you are missed, I described you for hours last week). This is probably the best method I have for distracting myself, but I only know so much French!
Also I can’t exactly just team up with someone. Everyone is a good five to ten years older than me or retired, and the majority of them are male. Although I can quite easily keep the pace of a 26 year old male, I can’t keep their company for more than a day or two.
To sum it up, July has been endless repetition. The trees are the same, the hills are the same, my rambling thoughts are the same. I’m really looking forward to crossing the Oregon border and starting the next leg of this trip. 390 where you at?!
Mile 1289, Day 77
Once again the trail has recognizably changed. Gone are the dramatic granite peaks, the alpine lakes, and the high green meadows, the trail has descended to being constantly below 10,000 feet. Northern California is a dry forest, with the occasional spring or creek oasis (and the bugs to match), and few landscape views. My favorite part of the trail has been walking high up in open areas, skirting ridges and being able to look down and around for miles. In the desert that’s about all the trail did, in the Sierra everything was open and grand, but in Northern California the only way I know I’m on a ridge is because I can see blue sky beyond the trees in all directions – but I can’t see past the trees to the actual view. For this reason I’ve been taking fewer pictures of scenery, and focusing my camera closer, generally to the sphere around my feet where the flowers and bugs are. The forest is either eerily quiet, or humming with life from these insects. Same with the flowers, it’s either quite brown all around and there’s downed trees and nothing else, or the trail is barely visible through the overgrowth of Mule’s Ears and Ferns.
I like this trail. It’s gently sloping and predictable. I look at the elevation profile and see no impossibly steep slopes (Ahem, Glen Pass) which is exciting to me because I like going fast, and a gentle grade means speedy me. I just wish I could see where I’m walking!
I’m really getting the hang of this. I’m noticeably stronger and faster, and the grade is evening out which only helps me get faster. I’ve cut my original pack weight in half by now so it’s only over 25 pounds if I carrying a lot of food and water. Hiking by myself keeps me moving too. I do stop and enjoy views and nice spots, but usually not as long as a lot of people. I don’t like being bored and sitting still bores me, so I walk a lot. 25 miles a day has turned into a regular, not very difficult happening. 25 is my new minimum for a full hiking day, in comparison to 20 in Southern California and 18 in the Sierra.
Prophet told me that in doing 25 miles a day, one could finish by September 1st. He told me this as I was coming away from a few days of homesickness and I jumped on the idea. September 1st? Heck yeah, that means I’d be done with Washington before any chance of rain and I’m like the Wicked Witch of the West, I just melt in the rain. Plus I seriously missed the world and my family and life at home, 60 days sounded great. So I gave myself five days of give, for hitting towns and taking breaks and figured I’d finish September 6th.
And then Fourth of July happened. As I hiked by highway 40 I ran into a lady who offered her cabin to me and two other hikers (Prophet and Bambi). Her family and another family were staying there so we got to enjoy a family dinner, an unexpected shower, and real beds. I started to head out the next day, prepped and ready to do 25 miles on the fourth, when another hiker pulled up telling me about his incredible Fourth of July plans. I said yes. BBQ, swimming, and fireworks over Donner lake? Sign me up! The trail can wait. Suddenly my homesickness was fading and that goal in September wasn’t so necessary. I headed out of Truckee late the next day and had a good day and a half until I got sucked into town, again. I stopped and stayed at an Angels house with the intention of resupplying and leaving. However the lovely hostess noticed a hole in my shorts and offered to patch it for me. I wasn’t concerned because the hole had been there since the desert and hadn’t gotten bigger. Plus hikers really don’t care about holes. But she persisted again and then tempted me by letting me know she could put a strawberry patch over it. Well I was convinced then. However the busy lady had many chores and my shorts were forgotten. What was going to be a full day turned into yet another near zero mile day. The fourth nero of July!
In the past week, since making my goal of 25 miles a day, I’ve hiked a total of 105 miles. I’m laughing at myself but having fun again. Now that I’m REALLY well rested, we’ll see how well I can keep my goal now! Or not. I’m enjoying this unique laziness!
Finally, a night with fewer mosquitos than usual, no rain (but ominous clouds), and full mileage done by 5 o’clock. It’s about time!
These past few weeks have been extra challenging. Bone Thugs in Harmony accidentally lost each other in the Mammoth area and I’ve been hiking solo ever since. I enjoy going solo, I’m a very efficient hiker by myself and can make great time. Also camping alone doesn’t bother me in the least so this lack of constant company hasn’t affected me too much. However when challenges roll around, it does mean I have to tackle them with my own brains and will, and ever since Tuolomne a new challenge has arisen every day.
It started off simply with mileage. I wanted to get to Tahoe by a certain day so I had to hike consistently 25 miles a day, which was difficult with the elevation changes in northern Yosemite. After a day or two of that, the weather got ugly. It rained all over the coastal states and the mountains were no exception. Still determined to get to Tahoe on time, and without a strong enough shelter to keep me warm and keep my down dry, I hiked through the rain. I passed people all day huddled around fires and pitching tents but I got a solid 27 miles in. I was prepared to do the same thing the next day, however that night the clouds dropped, soaking my everything. I woke up the next morning with a wet sleeping bag, wet shoes, wet clothes, even my toilet paper had turned to pulp. Had the clouds shown signs of clearing I could have dealt with this and dried my things out later. But my sleeping bag is my safety and with it wet I had to get out of the weather before the next night to get it dry. My risk for hypothermia was dangerously high. Fortunately I was able to get into a town and fix my situation, but I was set back for Tahoe. I moved my arrival 24 hours later.
The next morning the clouds had cleared. Another hiker and I attempted hitching back to the trail, but it took us three hours to get a ride – UNHEARD OF for pcters. A hard hitch is one hour, but never three! This put me 8 miles behind for Tahoe.
The next challenge came in the form of small, noisy, blood sucking mosquitos. I thought I would get to sit around and relax on some sunny granite that week, but oh no I was so wrong. I was being followed by the Fourth of July parade of mosquitos the entire next few days. Apparently mosquitos make me hike faster and harder than rain for I pulled 30 miles that day. I was rewarded with a dip in a lake, and, the mosquito’s after party. The bugs didn’t die down that night or the next morning or the next night. I ran out of DEET quickly and was left using my hat to whack them off my limbs as I hiked. The previous days of rain made all the ground marshy and the air warm, perfect conditions for mosquito hell.
The last challenge was only hard for me because I made such a deadline for myself to get to Tahoe. Really, it was a blessing. I hit a pass everyday, Sonora, Ebbetts, and Carson Pass. At each of these places I was detained at least an hour by wonderful people trying to feed me. Trail Magic. Okay, so that’s no challenge at all, really each stop only gave me a needed break and helped me get past the bugs, weather and miles.
And with all that, somehow I still made it to Tahoe on time.