Well, I Didn’t See That Coming… | 40 Miles on the Pacific Crest Trail

What shall I write about next? Possibly something more cheerful than before? Yes. Yes, more cheerful, because the day today is fantastic. The trail is spectacularly mine, while all together herself.

May 23 | The Last Time We Spoke

The last time we spoke was a rest day and a magnificent one.

I was able to get all my feelings out in writing and I felt so refreshed from the night of rest. My parents and I stopped in a winery, and although I do not drink there was plenty for me to appreciate here (as you can see from the photos). If you’re ever in Campo or the nearer regions of California make sure you check out Campo Creek Vineyards.

May 24 | 4 Miles(ish) (on and off-trail)

Before hitting the trail I did a little TLC on my blisters. This strange combination of padding, bandaids, and KT tape seems to be doing the trick.

Well, I didn’t see that coming is undoubtedly the best title for this log because, well, just keep reading.

Aaron and I hit the trail. He was going to do a scenic day hike with me around the “Desert View” trail which coincides the Pacific Crest Trail. This section of the trail was mostly shaded by healthy pines, and there was also access to drinkable WATER. Which I’ve quickly learned is somewhat an anomaly in this region.

We hike along, enjoying the views when my Mom calls Aaron. The van is stuck. It seems that just as there is a Desert View trail, and a Desert View Picnic Area (where we were going to meet) there is also a desert view street, and the desert view street is not so much a street but a relatively thin dirt road.

When my mom attempted to turn around the van’s tail end was stuck on a decent-sized mound of dirt. Aaron and I quickly left the trail and made our way along the road to my mom’s location. We then spent the next few hours digging the frame and tow hitch from the very solid dirt.

After the dirt road adventures, and becoming the dirtiest I’ve been on trail yet, the thought of returning to the trail was the farthest thing from my mind.

My parents and I got a hotel just outside Julian. We showered and ate mouth-watering pizza from Heroes Restaurant (also known as Wynola Pizza).

I gathered my bearings, and the next day was dropped off on trail about 20 miles away from Julian.

May 25 | 9 Miles & the Perfect Day

There is no such thing as a perfect day on trail, and so I’m quickly learning, but comparatively which days are truly ever perfect? There is never nothing to go wrong – whether it be big or small. Drinks spill, the remote gets lost, we find frustration in slow running devices. We miss deadlines and forget manners and on occasion things even grander than that hold power to leave a previously unscathed day ruined. Our tire gets a flat, or that drink we spilled was completely in our lap, and now we will be late for that really important meeting with those really important people. And oh shit, I forgot I actually had to pee an hour ago!

Yes. There is no such thing as a completely perfect day. But it is not how we measure these fractures and cracks, but how we scale them to our overall view of each overall day. How much is shadowed by these perfectly unperfect moments of unpredicted shit, and sometimes it all just boils down, that was a bad day.

Early mornings on trail feel safe. The bushes bounce with life, as lizards hop across bushels and branches. The smells in the morning are sharp against the chilly air and birds sing powerful, bright tunes, communicating with each other in voices I never bother to hear at home. It is safe, I feel, to be here. A woman in the wild. And although I am observing I am not intruding. This is that, which I was promised. This is the wild, emotionally addicting feeling people describe. The PCT on a perfect day.

I am learning. That is something to celebrate. I am out of the classroom and I am learning in the world and from the world and what she is teaching me is life is huge and powerful and beautiful and faltering and fast-moving while also capable of being slowed; when we choose to just be we can gather the illusion that the moment is slower than before, and in this gathering, we can reflect and lock this key precious moment into our memory, into our soul, so later when the perfectly unperfect and unpredictable shit is pilling up we can choose – is this a good day or a bad one? is this a great life or a fantastical one?

I take breaks in the shade. I drink water. I journal. I stop to take photos, although nowhere near as often as I think, hey I should take a photo of that… because if I did stop as often as I think, hey I should try and capture that in photo form… I would be on the same stretch of 10-mile trail until 97 years old.

It is all captivating, and while I try to capture moments with my camera to share with you and my older self as flashbacks of memories later on down the line, it’s never as breathtakingly pleasing to the eyes as seeing it here.

I have gone 5 miles in about 7 hours. Before the trail I naively thought I would be moving faster than this, but to any future hikers reading this, you will quickly learn PCT miles are unlike any other hiking miles out there. The elevation dips and rises, terrain changes from large rocks to gravel, and every step is different on the feet. I prefer gravel, I think. But dirt is also nice too. I will meet more hikers tomorrow who will tell me how slow they are moving compared to their perceived pace, and it’s not necessarily that this revelation makes me feel better (because I don’t actually feel bad) but their sharing of similarities does make me feel connected – in unison with others.

I have always thought I was a person who listened to their body, but admittedly I’ve gone without breakfast or lunch when I am in a hurry to get out the door and on to the next thing. I run around doing this thing or that thing, forgetting I had the urge to use the bathroom an hour ago. I put myself on pause or fast-forward. On trail, that can not happen. I have to be far more in tune with my body than I ever have before. It sounds so simple, but if my stomach says “you’re hungry” I can’t let my brain say, “we’ll eat in a few miles, let’s push on a bit”. I can’t just keep trudging forward because the miles are just about as endless as they could be (2,000+ to be exact).

To my husband’s dismay, I still manage to buy books on trail. I am currently listening to Nick Offerman’s, Where the Dear and Antilope Play. While I find it ironic, his discussion of disconnecting from technology to connect with our environment, his book is nothing short of adding to my experience.

Tonight I am camping above the ridges of Oriflamme Canon. The sun sets in a glowing orange sky, and the remaining light breaks through the crevices and across the large rocks. She says goodbye, have a nice night.

She makes her way across the sky and greets the night, as the moon and stars still remain, her energy breaks across the valley. Night and day meet with affection. I am lucky to be here, to witness the passionate interaction between these powerful elements that create our day and shadow our night. The controllers of time, schedule, and the creators of everything around us. Trail magic.

May 26 | 6 Miles, Mom’s Pies, & a New Pair of Shoes

My morning has been graced by a peaceful beginning.

I pack my things and hit the trail around 6:30 am. The sun is still rising, each valley reflects the light, and it is gorgeous. Mornings are my favorite time on trail. I move at a nice pace and make it to my pick-up location before noon. Here I meet other hikers, resting in the shade. We talk, and it is nice to interact with others. I am learning how everyone is doing. Some people miss their significant others, and others don’t miss anyone at all. Just like me, there is a person who has their parents following them along the trail.

My Grandma Barbie picks me up. She leaves water for some of the hikers, offers them treats, and gives another hiker a ride into town. These acts of complete kindness have crowned her the title – Trail Angel. My parents are my trail Guardian Angels too. They make sure I get from point A to point B safely; that I have good food on hard days and a resting spot when I need one. I know that having them here is only adding to the experience, and I’ll cherish my memory hiking the PCT more because I have these sprinkles of experiences with them in-between.

Grandma Barbie and I head into Julian for my much anticipated Mom’s pie – which is free to PCT hikers with their permit. I introduce myself to a few more hikers here. Everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting is so nice, but I do wish I’d meet more women on trail. But I am optimistic because rumor has it there are more women on trail than ever before (I was told this by a legendary trail angel, with a name to match his title, Legend; I have not fact-checked the stats).

After enjoying my delicious slice of cherry-berry heaven with vanilla ice cream we begin the drive to less rural parts of California. We stop into Target for a few things that I need, mostly skin-health-related. I haven’t been on trail long but it feels out of this world strange to be in such a public place. I wonder how it will feel even farther and longer down the road.

We go to REI and the woman who helps me pick a new pair of shoes is wonderful and energizing, and somehow makes me even more excited about hiking this trail than I have ever been (how? I don’t know. The woman radiated amazingness). I wish I would have taken down her name, but perhaps we’ll meet again. She told me she will be hiking in Big Bear in a few weeks, so we’ll see.

I have 4 blisters, two in the same spot on each foot, and I truly (perhaps naively) expected none. Some people hike the entire trail with no case of the evil-heaping lumps of foot-unpleasantness. I tested my shoes plenty of times, but not on terrain like these for miles as long (my bad, lesson learned).

May 27 | Rest & Write

When I am off-trail and think back to where I’ve been and what I’ve done – I fear it. I think, back to the miles I walked and the nights outside. It plays like a movie in my mind, I am out of my body observing. And it’s not some sense of instinct – it’s different. It’s boring but shaking. It’s knowing it would be easier and possible to go home to my husband, my lovable dog, and my temperature-controlled house, to another life and career I am anxiously awaiting to begin – those post-grad jitters.

But I am choosing to sleep outside most nights and I am so lucky.

When I am on trail I feel safe, and I have to remind myself of these feelings when I am off because it is more of the fear of the unknown than anything else that makes me hesitate and question my ability. When I am on trail there is less of the unknown and it’s more about dealing with the things as they come.

As crazy as it is, and as crazy as some people may think I am walking through the western states with a destination for Canada, I believe that if you get anyone in reasonable health outside on trail with a pack on their back they will come to love it. And even when anxiety creeps in when you’re off trail, there is still that part of you that aches for the feeling of the pack on your back and miles under your feet.

On this rest day, we go to the farmer’s market and walk the meditation gardens in Encinitas

We also tour White Labs in San Diego and learn how they make their world-renowned yeast; interesting, nerdy things happening on these rest days.

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