June 1 | Cozy Stays & Animal Fries
We spent the day and night in Big Bear at this adorable Airbnb, which I linked below. I really enjoyed our stay at this BnB, there were so many little details to the place (including the quoted coffee mugs and pottery-style mushroom salt & pepper shakers) that lived up to its self-proclaimed title “cozy”. The owners spared no expense in features that made this home feel inviting. Board games filled the shelves, and popcorn was provided in a small-wicker basket with some little chocolates. There were yoga mats, a writing desk with books including classic tails reimagined, and outdoor exploration guides. The beds were dressed in cabin-chic linen, equal parts comfortable as they were stylish. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve spent most nights sleeping in my tent on the ground, but the bed felt similar to sleeping on a cloud. You’ll have to be the judge.
The only complaint, that’s not so much a complaint but an annoyance (that you may too find annoying) is the level of expectation for cleaning. Now, I have stayed at many an Airbnb. I am all for being a great guest and cleaning up after myself (I always do). However, as a guest of this, and other establishments, I am charged a substantial “cleaning fee”. So, naturally, I was disappointed to read that upon leaving the Cozy Chalet you must take your trash with you. If you don’t take your trash with you, you will be charged an “undisclosed fee” for trash removal. I understand that Big Bear city runs a different style of trash collection – where residents are responsible for disposing of their trash. However, if someone is coming to clean the home wouldn’t more trash be accumulated while wiping things down, dumping vacuum scraps, etc., therefore, needing to dump the trash anyway? Perhaps this is a big leap of assumptions. Anyway, I was just negatively tickled by the “undisclosed fee” I would be charged, and it seemed a bit much.
Regardless, the good of the place completely outweighed the bad; all in all, I enjoyed the Chalet. I do recommend this stay to any Big Bear visitor. And really, even now with a word of warning about the trash, would stay here again.
Book your stay | Cozy SunDance Chalet – Big Bear Lake
June 2 | Big Bear & Back on Trail (5 Miles Off & 5 Miles On)
Rambunctious ground squirrels rummage around Big Bear Lake, weaving in and out of the whit-washed rocks surrounding the lake. Many of them are not wary of people. I was crouched down taking photos of one when another approached me from the side. Walking right up to my camera – made for some great shots.
Aaron and I hike around the fresh-water lake, seeing fish periodically make a splash. The air feels so much cooler by the water as compared to recent hiking days.
We witness Bank Swallows feeding their babies from mud nests high above our heads, clutched to the bottom of the Big Bear Observatory. I stay here for a few moments, observing the birds flying in, feeding their babies, and flying back out in search of more food. If you pay close attention you can see the babies’ pink faces and light yellow beaks for a few seconds each time their mothers fly from their nesting holes.
Artemsia tridentata, the scientifically-fancy name for, “Big Sagebrush” permeate the trail. Large pines of all different species provide shade and a fresh-crisp scent – like untouched earth.
I hit the official PCT trail around 4pm. It is a quick 5 miles hike to the campsite where I set up my little yellow home away from home (aka tent). I really love my tent and sleep gear (including sleep-wear) combination, which is a relief because I relentlessly stressed over my choices for months. My Barney-purple sleeping bag is toasty and plush. Most nights I unzip the side because I get too hot. This level of warmth will be good as temperatures get colder in the northern regions of California, and when I finally reach Oregon and Washington.
If you’re interested in what I am carrying with me on the trail I created a pre-trail gear list, found here | What I’m Packing for My PCT Thru-Hike
There are two other hikers posted up when I get to camp. We sit in a circle around fallen logs which make for perfect seats to rest our backs against. We have dinner together and discuss our favorite things about the trail so far. The answers are unanimous – the views.
June 3 | 16 miles
I have noticed that some of the most marvelous beings are some of the most guarded. I fail to capture photos of birds with sunburst orange plumage on the tops of their heads; Quail are but a brief encounter, as they move so quickly across the trail and through the trees. I only have the pleasure of seeing their topknot bopping in the wind as their little butts scurry in a cry of boop-boop-boop before disappearing in the brush; Chipmunks, are hamsters with longer tails, which stick straight up like stiff sticks attached to their butts, as they dash across the ground and fly through the trees. They remind me of Spider-Man breezing his way from skyscraper to skyscraper in New York City. Little legends. When I’m finally able to see a less anxious chipmunk, it’s from a few feet away. He or she is observing me from a far-off tree stump. I get a good look, but then their rusted-brown and primed white stripes are visible as only blurry bounces flying into the shrubs until they disappear completely.
I reflect on how humans and these marvelous animals are similar. Some of the best people I know, including myself, have shared stories with me that relate back to one key characteristic – guarding the marvelous in fear of unacceptance. When we interact in new environments and around people we don’t know, some of us hide the truest and most beautiful parts of ourselves; the parts that make us uniquely us. We aren’t trying to be deceitful or inauthentic, it’s just difficult to remain fearless when we’re battling the desire to belong. Similarly, these delightful beings need to feel safe before they can truly show themselves.
Perhaps, for this reference, we could be more like the lizard. The lizard reflects vibrant colors, and shimmering scales, wearing their stunning self-hood outright. They are cautious but curious – open to an introduction. They observe the world as they are, unapologetically present. They are who they are, and even when facing the unknown (humans) they remain steadfast in the pursuit of their desires. Just as they are.
Let’s be like the lizard.
Today, the trail smells like cracked pepper and sunflower honey. One of my favorite things about being out here is the new scent – the aromas of untouched earth.
June 4 | 17 Miles
Green, I think is my favorite color. No matter the shade it teems with life and rejuvenates the eye. I love the way it soaks in the sun and reverberates it across valleys, trails, and meadows. The color is not greedy, it shares its energy with those willing to take the time to enjoy its gift.
There are a lot of great things about this day. Plenty of shade to keep me cool, and the terrain is only gradual inclines and declines. But, undoubtedly the best thing about this day is the freshwater streams.
I feel like I could sit here for hours listening to the water flowing across rocks and through fallen branches – like a soothing bath filling to the brim and inviting you in. The water is cold and clear and full of life. Trout and small unidentifiable fish move around in the mirrored waters, and teeny black snails cling to tall blades of grass. Lady bugs crawl around the leaves on the shore’s edge. Bees and butterflies sip from shallow pools.
The greatest gift which binds us to the earth.
It is the common, living, moving essence of our soul and the soul of the planet. The connection between all living beings. There is no living being on earth that doesn’t need water to survive. On a splintering-hot day, she is what we crave. Water cures our bodies when we drink; when we soak in a fresh flowing river we come alive with renewed energy; when we dip into a warm spring our muscles soothe and aches subside.
It’s hard not to think of water as a high and thriving never-ending commodity – in the society, most of us are accustomed we can access it so readily from our sinks or from bottles at the convenience store. But if we took the societal convenience away we’d quickly realize how precious and wavering this gift is. We know water is important, but I think sometimes its deep essential-essence is lost on us. I am thankful to have learned when convenience is taken out of the equation a deeper gratitude can flourish.
The trail is a high-spirited color pallet. Almost every day I am treated to a different blend of colors, and on occasion, a day is filled with one distinct color. Sometimes, I see mostly orange, yellow, or blue. These colors present themselves in the flowers and bugs and sunset skies, but this section of the trail on this day is pink all over.
I have officially gone 105 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.
In honor of this exciting accomplishment, I am sharing 36 Things I’ve Learned and Loved. 36 because it seemed like a reasonable number, and I didn’t want to force 100 things; it’s all just arbitrary numbers, but I want each to mean something more than a forced point.
- I have all the tools I need to be successful.
- Flowing water is magic with extra stardust.
- Stop tracking my distance so frequently, all the stops to check only slow me down. Instead, set “time” goals and check-in points.
- Go with your gut.
- Double-check that equipment (even if it’s only a mental check) before going back on trail. Otherwise, you may forget important tools (like eating utensils, yes this happened).
- Pop blisters
- The cutest animals I’ve seen so far are chipmunks and quail.
- The highs are so high and the lows are rock bottom. I fail to find the in-between.
- My tent feels like home
- Waking with the sun
- Sleeping with the moon
- Rest when needed
- The natural world smells so good. It’s relatively indescribable.
- Time for deeper thoughts and introspection
- People are pleasant
- Free pie in Julian, CA at Mom’s Pies. Thank you!
- Learning as I go
- Climbing really high for great views
- Seeing things you can only see on foot.
- What comes down, always goes back up… enjoy the decline.
- The sound of busy bees in bushels of flowers sounds like a car horn being heard from far away. It’s incredibly powerful.
- Flying through my TBR (to be read) list
- Going to the bathroom outside isn’t that bad.
- When I think it’s time to put my camera away for the day… it’s not.
- On that note: I will continue to take photos of lizards, even after I convinced myself that I have enough great ones.
- Trees 🧡
- Expectation is the death of joy
- Not everything can be planned (that’s blowing my very Virgo mind).
- The small things are also the big things
- Family time 🧡
- True desert sucks (sorry, not sorry). I’ve spent a good portion of my life being hot and dusty and it makes me tired and cranky and shitty. It drains me of joy, and pushing through doesn’t make me feel strong. It makes me feel unhappy, and life is too short to live like that. Props to all those bad-ass hikers who endured. I skipped it and I am better because of it.
- The trail is a color palette. It’s fun to see the rainbow.
- Ramen bombs are actually dope as hell. My ramen bomb ingredients: Lotus Foods Rice Ramen noodles + miso flavor packet, instant mashed potatoes, and nutritional yeast.
- We’re all alright…
- This is once in a lifetime, in a lifetime filled with once and a lifetimes.
- If sadness is what you need to feel, even if it seems in direct contrast to this epic adventure, then feel it, and don’t shame yourself for that.
And if you’ve made it to the bottom here, I am thankful for you, reader. For keeping me going, keeping me inspired to observe the world from the lens of a writer. Thank you. Talk soon.