Day 33: Mile 500, Hikertown, and the Mojave Desert! (And my first 30 mile day!!)

Day 33
May 21
mile 498.2-about 529.7
31.5 miles!

Today was going to be a big day! I had 19.4 miles to get to a place called “Hikertown”, which I had heard was creepy and wasn’t recommended to stay at. I planned on picking up my resupply box and finding a tree to lie down under for a couple of hours and then night hiking the start of the Mojave Desert (where it could easily be 115 degrees during the day). I never get up really early, so I was surprised to see that I was the first one to head out in the morning! I noticed the clouds hanging in the sky and realized what a rare sight that was out here!
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In less than 2 miles, I reached the 500 mile point. Bean had said she was excited to reach this milestone, but I didn’t feel the same way. I knew we still had the entire length of the Appalachian Trail to hike and over a month less to do it in! 500 miles didn’t seem like such a great achievement. (But I realized that if I were hiking the Colorado Trail, my hike would now be over, and I was so happy that I still had a long way to go! The thought of only being out here for four more months made me feel sad!). No one was around when I passed the marker, so I took a picture and moved on. IMG_1715 copy 2
I could see Cattywampus and Iceman ahead. Soon, I caught and passed them. Iceman said he was happy I passed them so I could be the one to get the spider webs in my face and not him. (Nice…)
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I could see the soft green folds in the distant mountains. When I reached a dirt round, I found a rock to sit on and snacked before the trail took me back into the trees, and eventually wound down the side of a mountain.
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I came to a tank of water that was put there by the owner of Hikertown. After collecting some water in my squeeze bags, I looked around for a shaded spot, which didn’t seem to exist. So, I opened my umbrella (for the third time on the hike) and shaded my legs as I squeezed the water through the filter. Chief, Iceman, and Cattywampus came along and found a tree to sit under nearby. Chief commented that the only shade in the area was under my umbrella.
I got going, excited to maintain the lead position as I crossed over the Angeles National Forest Boundary. (I had essentially hiked from San Diego to Los Angeles by now!). IMG_1737 copy 2
Trees gave way to shrub as we dropped in elevation, and the real desert came more and more into view. It was stunning to see this dry expansive brown plateau that we would soon be walking across!
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Eventually, I dropped low enough to see some buildings in the distance. I wondered which one was Hikertown!
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I passed by a random junkyard area of old, unwanted electronics, and a sign warning me to stay on the trail. I was now on a dusty road and felt like it was taking forever to reach the end of it!
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Finally, I reached a paved road and located Hikertown, diagonally across the street. I made my way over to the entrance, opened the gate, and found some firemen there. One of them asked me who I was. I told him that I was hiking the PCT from Mexico to Canada and he said that he had never heard of such a thing until the owner was just telling him about it. He thought I was incredible to be doing that and asked me a couple of questions about it. A lady who worked there told me where I could hang out and I asked her for my resupply box. I followed her to the room containing the boxes and started looking through them (they were not arranged in any order). I knew what the box looked like, so I was able to narrow the search, but I didn’t see it anywhere! I looked a second and third time and my heart sank. I figured someone must have stolen my box! Cattywampus and Iceman came in and quickly retrieved their boxes while I texted my resupply people to ask when they had sent it. I started to wonder if the other hikers might be able to give me a little of their extra food. A bunch of hikers were hanging out in the tiny building labeled “City Hall”, while others were in the room attached to the kitchen. I brought my pack over to the kitchen area and found some plugs to start charging my electronics. My external adaptor takes four hours to charge and uses the same plug that I need to charge my iphone with, so those had to be charged separately. Brian had meanwhile found a tracking number for my package, but wasn’t able to get any information on when it was delivered. Then, he informed me that he had just mailed it 2 days ago! At least there was still hope that it could arrive today. The mail came after 4pm and I didn’t feel like I could afford to sit around here and wait an entire other day for it. Somehow, I needed to get enough food to make it the 40 miles through the Mojave desert! I had hoped to be the first to use the outdoor shower, since I was the first person to arrive, but Iceman had jumped in while I was looking for my package. Cattywampus said she was going to use it after him… So, I had to wait. When my turn came, no water was coming out! I asked some hikers for help, but they said I could figure it out. Finally, I asked SunDog if he could try it out. He couldn’t get it to work either, so I sought out one of the workers. The tank needed to be refilled. Finally, I was able to take a shower, which felt really good. I was starting to get used to showering outside!
I returned to my things and found that Mark and Chip had come in. Everyone seemed to be planning on spending the night and waking up around 3 to start the desert hike. I preferred to hike during the late night and sleep in the morning. My box did end up arriving, which I was extremely thankful for- especially when I discovered that they had put my second pair of shoes in there! I had asked for them to be put in the Mojave box since these ones still had some miles left in them. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to walk away from that box!
I sorted through my food and other resupply items, re-organizing for the next stretch of trail. Chip, Mark, and the Chief had decided to order some lunch and I figured I might as well have some real food, too, rather than eat my disgusting backpacking food. I hadn’t planned on spending the money, but for $10, you could get salad, a meal, and ice cream. When I cut into my chicken, I discovered it was still raw and wondered what to do. I returned it to the lady who had cooked it and waited for her to cook it some more. It definitely wasn’t the greatest meal!
I returned to the couch and rested my head on my pack, as I needed to get in a little nap. Cattywampus walked past me and loudly said, “Did she fall asleep right here?”. One of the employees noticed that this wasn’t the best place for me to sleep and asked if I wanted a place to nap for a little while. I nodded. This room was too loud. He took me to his room, with the TV blaring and said I was welcome to hang out there, pointing to the bed. I told myself in my tired state that “this is normal…”. (“Normal” takes on a different meaning when you are a tired traveler at the mercy of others). I was about to step into the room when he said that wasn’t what he had in mind, unless I was thinking otherwise. It was now getting weirder! He then took me to another room with no TV and said I could sleep there unless I got lonely. I asked if I could bring his dog in with me. I lied down on top of the bed, but I wasn’t feeling comfortable enough to actually fall asleep. And the dog wanted to go back outside. I stayed there for about an hour, and then headed back to sort through my things. I was made fun of by some of the hikers for my nap. (?). By this time, the owner had come in, and had a captive audience listening to his stories on how this place came to be a haven for PCT hikers. The sun was starting to set and I needed to be on my way. “But he’s telling really interesting stories!” someone said.
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The moon was full and the night air was pretty as I headed out along the road and across a field. Soon, the sun disappeared and darkness took over. I had my headlamp ready. I got very confused at the road crossing and went back and forth looking for the trail and then, I was finally on my way! I reached the LA aqueduct, which at this point was an open canal. As I looked back at a bridge crossing the water, I felt like I could be in Paris right now! I followed the water, checking my GPS often to make sure I was on the right course.
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Then, I came to the big metal pipe, routing the water underground, which felt a bit more eerie. I realized that the moon was bright enough that I didn’t need to use my headlamp, for the most part. As I passed by some tiny houses and horses, I felt so happy. It was just me, my new kicks, the crickets chirping, the stars overhead, and the moon illuminating my path. I could smell my clean hair, which felt nice against my skin when it was blown by the wind. I was almost surprised at how at ease I felt night hiking alone!
I passed by a bunch of white concrete blocks and was suddenly startled to find a person in a sleeping bag behind one of them! I calmed my shock by telling myself he was someone just like me, finding a flat spot to sleep (although I wouldn’t have chosen that place!). We are all vagrants.
At one intersection that I had continued straight ahead on, I decided to double-check my GPS and make sure I was still on track. I wasn’t! I went back and took the right hand turn, wondering how many people had made this same mistake, especially in the dark! There were a couple more intersections ahead and I took my time making sure I was following the PCT. I would stop and pee and rest my shoulders and snack, as usual, and for the most part, my energy remained pretty strong. But then, I started feeling tired.
At 1:30, I found a little sandy area in between some Joshua trees that looked like it would be a perfect place to sleep. I set up my bed and closed my eyes after having hiked over 30 miles for the first time in my life!

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Day 32

Day 32
May 20
mile 478.2-498.2 (Sawmill Campground)
20 miles

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We were told that pancakes would be served at 7. Many of us were conflicted about whether we should stick around and wait for breakfast or hit the trail and get in some miles. I packed up my things and headed over to the front of the house. I got a cup of coffee and sat down on a mattress and listened to the banter. Eventually, we were told to form a line for the pancakes, which were made one by one. It was better than I expected, so I decided not to rush to try to get a ride back to the trail with the others and stick around for a second one, instead!
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A van full of hikers took off, including Tumbleweed, Puma, Walking Home, Cattywampus, and Iceman. Spoonman, Sprinkles, and Skinny D were going to spend a few days hanging out there. Only one other guy wanted a back to the trail with me. While I waited, I discovered the collection of rocks painted by the hikers who had hung out there during the day. My hiker companions were also impressive artists!
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We all had to have our pictures taken before we were allowed to leave. I had mine taken twice- the first by Joe, which was the normal one, and then later by Terri, who did her signature move to get a better expression from us!
She dropped us off at the trailhead with a hug, and then it was back to the shadeless hills! It took only a few minutes for the other hiker and I to find our own space and for the rest of the morning, I remained alone.
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About seven miles away, there was a small water cache. (Man, I am sounding spoiled! It’s true. There are so many people helping us along this trail these days, purely out of the kindness in their hearts. I often wished I could have done this trail when there wasn’t much assistance, when it was more challenging…). There was a female hiker about to take-off, who I had never seen before. I sat down at the picnic table, had a little snack, refilled my water and continued on.
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I started to feel tired and needed another break. I spotted a tree that looked good for sitting under and then saw that a couple of other hikers had also chosen the same tree! I felt like being alone, so I decided to sit away from them. (I guess that was a bit creepy). Then, I noticed that 5-Star was one of the hikers, and he invited me to join them. He and the girl were both about to take naps. That sounded wonderful! It was something I almost never allowed myself because I feel like I have to keep hiking to put in the miles that I need to. I decided I could lie down for a few minutes. I lightly napped and then woke up to snoring sounds. I decided I had better get moving.
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Once back on the trail, I found that I had reception and needed to do some communicating with my resupply people on what to send to Kennedy Meadows (I needed winter gear and a different outfit, which was the thing I most couldn’t wait for! This desert skirt was way too big!). I also let them know that I was now 4 days ahead of schedule. It wasn’t so comfortable to sit in the hot sun on the dirt to take care of this and I felt like I was losing a lot of hiking time.
5 Star passed by me on one of my pack breaks. Our next water source was a guzzler up ahead and the directions on how to get to it sounded very confusing to me. I reached the dirt road and looked around. Then, I heard 5-Star calling to me from across the way. Luckily, he directed me on how to get up there! The water was below the surface of a concrete slab and part of me just wanted to stop there for the night!
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A nice, flat spot right next to water seemed ideal! After I filtered my water, I lied down for a moment. I could get used to these kinds of breaks! 5-Star rested against a metal traffic barrier and wondered what one of those was doing up here. It was a good question!
We both decided to press on and make it to the Sawmill Campground. Views of the Mojave desert we would soon be crossing appeared.
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The campground was about a quarter mile off the trail- uphill, of course! I passed by a couple of tents and then saw two other hikers at a picnic table. I went over to join Chief and Bean for dinner. They had already set up their camp. They informed me of a very loud party across the way and advised me to stay on this side of the campground. 5-Star joined us at the table after setting up his tent. Night was falling, so I wandered over to find some space of my own and set up to cowboy camp. I discovered that I had reception and stayed up later than normal, texting a friend while I charged my phone with my external adaptor. It’s a rough life out here…

Day 31: Saufley’s to the Anderson’s

Day 31
May 19
454.5-478.2
24 miles

One of my tent mates woke up very early and already headed out before I got up. I quietly packed up and headed over to the gate. Luckily, John Deere offered a group of us a ride downtown. I wondered if I should have another real breakfast before I hit the trail, but decided to compromise and go to the bakery instead. 5 Star joined me.
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I enjoyed a breakfast sandwich on a croissant and coffee and then noticed UB heading back up the hill! I called after him and he joined us at the bakery. He wanted to know how far I had planned on hiking today- whether I was going to make it to the Anderson’s or not. I told him that 24 miles was too much and that I would probably only do about 20. He told me not to be surprised if he came and found me during the night.
I headed out alone, continuing the road walk that brought me into town.
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I had no idea how long it would be until I reached the actual trail! Finally, I reached the dirt path that had now become my home. By this time, I really needed to pee, but I could still see houses!
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I had to hold on a bit longer until I rounded a corner. The trail wound through pretty desert hills.
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As I looked back, I saw a couple of other hikers well behind me. I stopped to read a register placed along the trail and take my usual pack break. Gradually, they caught up to me and passed me on another break. They looked like a very energetic and happy couple with light packs and I had to remind myself that my pack was much heavier and that my pace was just fine.

I reached a water cache that was tucked into a grove of trees and found the happy couple, who I learned were named SunDog and Giggles, finishing their lunch. SunDog asked me if I wanted his leftover brown rice! The idea was not at all appealing to me, so I declined. They kept talking it up, though, and I finally agreed to try it. I got out my jetboil, and dumped out the candy I was storing in there. I felt embarrassed about the display of my junk food while they were obviously eating much healthier food. The rice actually tasted good and I realized that I needed to start eating better! Giggles told me that it came from a California company called Lundberg’s. They packed up and continued on their way and as I was getting ready to leave, Spoonman, Sprinkles, and Skinny D rolled in. They had all hiked at least a part of the trail before and were planning on taking a shortcut to the Anderson’s. They told me that I would come upon a surprise later in the day.
I continued up the ridge, wondering what they were referring to. Spoonman was the first of the three to pass me with his ipod blaring out loud. The others followed behind with empty-looking packs. I took my time and hiked at a pace that was I was comfortable with.
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In the late afternoon, I reached the Anderson water cache and found a bunch of hikers sitting on chairs in a little cove which also contained Halloween-like plastic decorations. I was informed that this was the surprise they had mentioned and I disappointingly said, “But, I already knew about this!”. (That’s what happens when you read other people’s journals!). I sipped on some water and listened to SunDog’s scary stories about the snow in Washington. He and Giggles were forced to end their hike in 2007 at Snoqualmie Pass due to the amount of snow that had accumulated. I assumed they were hiking so quickly to beat the snow this time! Other hikers chimed in, saying that mild winters meant an early winter the following year. Bambi, who is from Washington, told me at the Saufley’s, that even if it is not an early snow year, that the last two weeks in September are cold and consistently rainy and that he did not want to be hiking in that. I had originally planned on finishing my hike by September 30, but with all of these warnings, I knew I had to aim for mid-September.
Sprinkles, Spoonman, and Skinny D headed out for the road walk shortcut while Giggles, SunDog, and I chose to remain on the PCT.
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There were only a few miles to go until we reached the road, but I was growing tired. I found a bench next to a plaque and took a moment to rest on it before continuing on. SunDog and Giggles approached, hiking together as if they were a unit, step for step. They decided to rest, and I found enough energy to make it down the hill to the road. I was going to make it to the Anderson’s after all! A truck drove by and asked me if I needed a ride. Yes! She was a firefighter who worked at the station I had taken a break at with Dinnertime and JT! She knew where the Anderson’s lived (a couple of miles away) and dropped me in front of their house. I saw a bunch of hikers that I didn’t know sitting in front of the house in Hawaiian shirts. I had heard a lot about this place and wasn’t sure if I wanted to stop here, but decided it would be good to get the full PCT experience. As I retrieved my pack from the back of the truck, I said, “Oh, boy.”
Terri Anderson came over and welcomed me with a hug, and Bean (the only hiker I knew) gave me a tour of the property. There was an outdoor shower and a grove of manzanita trees with little camping spaces that extended as far back as we could imagine. I chose an empty spot next to Bean and went over to shower. I couldn’t get any water to come out, however, so I had to ask Joe for help. I guess I was lucky to arrive in the evening because there was no way to control the water temperature and it was scalding hot during the day! This was my first outdoor shower experience!
I went over to sit with the others, feeling a bit uncomfortable, but relieved that I had made it in time for the taco dinner. Terri explained the rules and said she would be watching us and come over to smack us on the backside with her wooden spoon if we didn’t do as she said! The group that was staying there was very quiet, and while I was glad it was not a party atmosphere, I grew quite bored. I was happy to return to my little camp spot and get ready for bed!

Day 30- Zero in Agua Dulce!

Day 30
May 18
Zero day

I got up at 6, went to collect my clothes (my wool clothes on the clothesline were still wet, of course, because it was dewy and the sun hadn’t come out yet), plugged in my electronics that needed charging, and headed out to breakfast. I met Donna and she said I could take one of the bikes. I said I didn’t mind walking (as I have had tremendous fear about riding a bike ever since I flew over the handlebars at age 12). She said that if I gathered enough people, she could take me down in the van. So, I went around asking the other hikers if they wanted to go downtown for breakfast. Bambi started running to get his stuff! Others were taking their time, in no hurry to go anywhere.
We broke into two groups at the restaurant. I sat at a table with 5-Star, Bambi, and Elizabeth (who was now going by the name Bean). We caught each other up on our most interesting trail stories, most of which revolved around the Warner Springs trail angel. I was so relieved to hear 5-Star describe his experience of staying at this guy’s house and how he texted his friend to let him know the address if he didn’t return… I have found that a lot of males brush off his behavior, but women have much more direct and unsettling experiences that really affect our hike. He was completely empathetic with me. At one point, I looked at the clock and thought it said 11:35! How can it possibly be that late already? Someone corrected me. It was actually 6:55! Apparently, along with forgetting how to look out for traffic, I had also forgotten how to read a clock!
We all ordered the breakfast special of 2 eggs, bacon, and french toast. After the waitress brought out our food and told us to “enjoy!”, I looked down at the small portions on my plate and the words, “It’s not enough for us!” spilled out of my mouth. (It wasn’t!) Elizabeth said, “Did you really just say that out loud?”. (Later, 5-Star said that was the quote of the day!). My french toast came without any butter on it and I had no fork. The service was very poor in this place. I was filled in on the stories of the older man who had started the hike the day before me, who they now called ice-cream man because he went up to a girl he didn’t know and asked if she wanted to lick his cone! Elizabeth had a lot of trials with him early on in the hike, but had finally separated from him awhile ago (he assumed she was going to be his partner for the trail and told her she should always be close by in case something happened to him). After hurting his Achilles, he had gone back home. I wasn’t surprised to hear this.
On our way back to the Saufley’s, we stopped in at the bakery to check it out. Two hikers that I had not yet met (Weeds and Icebucket) were in there, getting ready to head back to the trail. Bambi wasted no time in ordering a ham and cheese croissant, apple cobbler, and tiramisu, and ate it all immediately after his original breakfast!
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We got a ride back with John Deere, who happened to be dropping off a couple of hikers. I checked the progress of my charging electronics and decided to write down a few notes about the preceding days. Some other hikers were gathering for an REI run. One of my Sawyer squeeze bags already had a leak and I was considering switching to the in-line filter system that Bambi was using, but since there was a replacement bag in the hiker box, I decided to stick with the squeezing method.
More and more hikers streamed in throughout the day. Elizabeth and I watched Donna wash out her horse’s infected hoof. This horse looked so sad because his partner had passed away just days ago! I petted him a little and told him he would be okay.
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I started to walk the mile back to the restaurant for lunch when Chief’s wife offered me a ride! Nice! I ate lunch alone and then sat outside and called my friend Amanda to catch up a little. She said I sounded very happy. While I was on the phone, UB walked by! I asked Amanda if she could hold on while I called him over to get my hug!
After I hung up, some older men hanging out nearby commented on how much I was laughing while I was on the phone. I ended up joining them for awhile. I think they enjoyed having a new listener for their jokes! They had to go to a flea market, but one of them offered to give me a ride back up to the Saufley’s.
I decided to join the people sitting around and socialize a bit. Legend’s niece was passing out candy because her mother had sent her way too much! UB joined us and started going through his resupply boxes and I got an extra package of Reece’s Pieces! Just what I had been wishing for! Most of the hikers were receiving care packages from their friends and families, but I hadn’t received anything but the boxes I had packed myself. I wondered how many miles I had to hike before anyone would want to send me something. When UB got up from the table, I noticed that he had lost a lot of weight! I told him that he was looking really thin and he seemed to take a bit of offense. When Cool Ranch, who had hiked the trail last year, heard that UB had already lost 25 pounds, he told UB that he would help him go over his food and show him what he should be eating each day. That was too much weight to lose so early on in the hike! Mark joined us and the discussion turned to the book, “Wild.” Mark was not a fan…
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UB and I walked back downtown to the Mexican restaurant for dinner. He was talking about his need to set records in order to continue getting support from his blog followers. He asked me if he should try to beat the record for the most miles hiked in a day. “No!” I told him. I said that he didn’t need to do anything other than hike the trail in a normal way and that he was already offering his viewers a huge gift with the videos he was producing during his hike. “It’s all about sustainability,” I said. There was no need to try to outdo anyone or kill himself trying to set crazy records.
At dinner, we talked about what it was like to experience deep depression and about how to deal with the loss of family members. He said he could talk about that stuff for hours, but that we should get back.
I spent a few moments looking at the horse and then went to my cot to sort through my food. I gave a Snickers bar to my new tent-mate, which made him really happy! The Saufley’s was now crowded with hikers. They had put up the canvas tents in the late afternoon to accommodate everyone. I was growing more and more antsy to get back on the trail and keep ahead of the “herd”. I found Cool Ranch and El Capitan helping UB with his food. Cool Ranch told him that what he was eating was not nearly enough for his body’s requirements and that if he didn’t drastically change his diet, he would end up in the hospital, unable to finish his hike. He told him that he was lucky to have friends like me who cared enough about him to tell him he wasn’t looking so good. Cool Ranch suggested he cut back his mileage for a little while until he felt more comfortable with cooking meals and eating more often.
We had been expecting Muk Muk to show up at any moment. It was nearly 11pm, when she and PacMan rolled in! She was so happy to see UB! We chatted a bit and she told us about feeling the hairs stand up on her arms while she was hiking through the Vasquez Rocks area. Pacman apparently saw a mountain lion standing on a rock watching them! We both did not like that place!
I headed back to my cot to catch a little sleep.

Gratitude

So much is happening to me so fast out here! I wish I had a bit of time to process it each day, but it is too much… And we need to keep moving!
In the last couple of days, I’ve been doing some math. There’s no time to mess around on this trail! I still have more than the entire length of the Appalachian Trail to hike and 2 months less time to do it in! That’s A LOT of miles to hike each and every day!
So far, my body is holding up well. My calf muscle was hurting quite badly a couple of days ago, but before bed that night, I rubbed a little arnica on it, lied down for 9 hours, and in the morning it felt much better! It is amazing to me how quickly things change and move out of you out here- colds clear up faster, injuries heal more quickly, and there is no time to dwell in emotions or get depressed. We just keep moving and I love it! I feel happy!

I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the people I have met on my journey so far who have given me a boost. A simple hello and smile are enough, but anyone who shows interest in what I am doing really helps pick up my energy levels and get me further down the trail. Several people have taken my picture and a few have even shared some of their food with me! I have already received much more on this hike than I did on the entire AT, and I know that this is partly due to me being more open and ready to receive, and partly due to the more relaxed and friendly attitude of people on the west coast. (Coming out of Big Bear, I started crying when the thought of returning to Boston came into my mind. I live unseen and unnoticed in Boston and my spirit suffocates). So far out here, I have been given a kiwi and a package of sliced salami and cheese from Trader Joe’s (thanks Sam!) on Mt. Jacinto, two avocados, a half gallon of ice cream, a banana from a trunk (!) of trail magic on a tough day for me, and a slice of cheese pizza, a banana, some orange juice, and a donut from JT’s mom (best break ever!). And Mike, who offered me a ride back to the trail from Wrightwood, gave me $10! All of these gifts, I accept humbly and gratefully and I hope everyone knows how much they mean to me.

I also so greatly appreciate all of the trail angels along the trail who go out of their way and donate their own time and money to help us achieve our dream of walking from Mexico to Canada. Many of them stock water caches for us in otherwise very long shadeless, waterless sections. Sometimes, thinking about what these people do for us brings tears to my eyes. All we are doing is walking…

Right now, I am at the home of the Saufley’s (famous trail angels on the PCT, who do our laundry, let us shower, and have tents set up with cots inside them for us to sleep on). I have hiked 454 miles, with 27 being my biggest day so far. I am getting to the point where 23-25 miles is an average day for me. Surprisingly, I managed to pass everyone I know on the trail coming into Agua Dolce! Several guys seem to be taking a day or two to visit their girlfriends in LA (we are the closest to LA that we will ever be on the trail right now). Drama is one of those people. He will be behind me when he gets back on the trail! Sprinkles and Spoonman came in this morning, UB came in early afternoon, and Muk Muk will arrive tonight. I love UB and Muk Muk. Even though we only see each other in town, they are my trail family. They love me for who I am without me having to do anything. I can just be and laugh, and they give me hugs and say loving things to me. I appreciate this so incredibly much because I have had so very little of this in my life. I didn’t have loving parents and I lived a very isolated life with no people in it. And everyone I have opened my heart up to and given my love to shuts down and treats me badly. That is what I need to turn around. I need to learn not to open my heart to people who don’t have open hearts themselves and who in turn criticize me and don’t treat me nicely.
Muk Muk told me that I have the biggest heart of anyone on the trail and that I am also the strongest. She said that sometimes, I am too strong for my own good. I agree with her.

I received a piece of news on the evening of the 13th, towards the end of my 27 mile day from the McDonalds to Wrightwood. My sister called and left a voicemail. It was the first time I had heard from her since I had been on the trail. She said she had some news she thought I would like to hear, but didn’t say what it was. I stopped and called her back with the wind blowing strongly, dusk approaching, and several more miles to hike. She lingered a bit and I hoped it was not something that I needed to leave the trail for. Was it Dad or our older sister…? Was someone sick or did someone die? She finally said that our mother passed away on the 7th. Our older sister waited almost a week to tell our father the news. He, in turn, told my younger sister, and she informed me.
For years, I had thought about what my reaction to this news would be. I always thought I would feel happy, and that was indeed the case in reality. It was simply a piece of news, and the only feeling associated with it was one of peace.
I know this is hard for anyone who did not grow up with an abusive mother to understand, but this is and has been my reality. I never had a mother. I never had anyone to listen to me or wrap their arms around me. I was never given love or acceptance. Instead, I was surrounded by hate and isolated from anything loving. I was criticized for every move I made and every word I spoke. I was born to someone that only wanted to control me.
My mother suffocated herself with hate. My last interaction with her was in 2002 when my sister and I called a family meeting to deal with my brother’s possessions years after his death. My mother had been using them as a final means to control us by locking up and keeping away from us my brother’s belongings- his remaining earthly connection. At the “meeting”, she threatened to call the police if we ever came near her house.
She since went to live with my older sister, and thereafter began to lose her mental capacities. With no connection to anyone or anything in life, this wasn’t hard for me to understand. Apparently, she had been recently living in a nursing home, knowing not much more than her own name. Now, her soul can finally rest in peace, and those of us who were abused and held down by her can finally begin to breathe a bit more freely. She no longer has any control over me.

The real question to me is whether these four individual pillars left of this nuclear family will ever be able to connect with each other again.
(I asked my sister if my father knew I was hiking the PCT. She said yes, and I asked what his reaction was. She didn’t say anything. When I pressed her, she said he just thinks you are living an independent life. (That’s his only reaction???). The tremendous disconnection greatly saddens me.

For someone who was never given love, I am so, so thankful for my heart and all of the love I have inside of me. I can’t wait for the day to finally give it to someone who will return it back to me. I can’t wait to finally be nurtured.

Day 29

Day 29
May 17
430.6-454.4
23.8 miles

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The night wasn’t too cold. I got up at 5:30, made coffee, and ate my poptarts with it. Everyone else was in their tents. I was able to get on the trail by 6:20! The pretty views weren’t allowing me to get far, though, as I kept stopping to take pictures. I started to worry about the time this was costing me.
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Again, the trail was full of obstacles to avoid in the form of sharp prickly bushes, poison oak, and poodle dog bush!
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A fallen tree that I had to get over drew blood from the skin above my knee. I found some rocks to sit on and eat a power bar and some almond butter.
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I had one mile to get to the ranger’s station, where the nice ranger, Todd, put out water for PCT hikers. I was surprised to find Elizabeth there! She had also camped at Messenger Flats, but not in the area I was in. I found the water in big, heavy water cooler jugs, and had a difficult time pouring some into my water bottles. I used the restroom and resumed hiking, feeling good and energetic. I hadn’t expected the views to be so beautiful!
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As the morning wore on, it got sunnier and warmer, but not brutally hot, and a little breeze kept me comfortable. I passed Elizabeth feeling strong. After another mile, however, my stomach really started to hurt! I had no idea why! As I continued to walk, it felt more and more like the pain I had experienced when I had giardia after the AT. I kept thinking that I needed to get to Agua Dulce and find a watermelon with seeds in it! Ahead, I saw a guy shooting video from his hiking pole. He backtracked to do some filming. I hoped it was UB, but it turned out to be Craig. He told me that he started regretting his decision to hike on last night and nearly turned around, but then saw the most beautiful sunset that he had ever seen in his life and knew that is why he had gone on.
I had set a goal of walking five more miles before taking my next break, but couldn’t manage to make it with my hurting stomach. I sat down in a shady patch of brown grass on a hill and ate a bagel, some chocolate almond butter, and a Snickers bar. I knew my stomach probably wouldn’t like this food, but I needed energy. Elizabeth came by and wanted to join me as I ate my Snickers. I apologized for not being such great company due to my pain.
I moved on and felt my energy pick up, but my tummy continued to hurt. If it weren’t for the pain, it would have been an absolutely lovely day. I took so many pictures of the incredible scenery. The terrain was largely downhill, but it was interspersed with small climbs, which I appreciated. I climbed the spine of several mountains and wound around the rims of others as I made my way down toward the road.
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When I arrived, I found an outhouse and a single shaded picnic table and trash can in a parking lot. I hadn’t planned on stopping there, but decided to take advantage of this perfect place to eat. It was now 12:20. I ate a packet of salmon and some whole grain crackers and then had a second Snickers bar. I went back and forth deciding whether or not to take the time to make a second cup of coffee for the day and eventually decided to have one with a miniature peppermint pattie and a couple of Starbursts.
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I left the area at one, crossed the road, and then arrived at an eerie junkyard where the KOA was supposed to be! A boarded up RV with no wheels sat nearby. I passed through this spooky area and went through a short section that was very jungle-like before crossing over a set of railroad tracks.
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It was now time to climb again! I decided to listen to some music to help me out. I listened to my “Dance” playlist on shuffle and felt my body starting to lighten and loosen up after having only performed one repetitive motion over the last month. I realized that the dancing part of myself had gone away. I found a makeshift bench, and as I listened to a particular song, I thought about three people in my life who all had similarly closed hearts, but still somehow remained connected to me. I hiked on with the music keeping me moving. I found that I didn’t need to stop as much to drink water with this distraction. I had five more miles to get to Agua Dulce and I danced my way down the mountain. Trucks drove by on the highway and I imagined being their entertainment.
I entered a new environment of canyons, in which wooden signs were set up to identify some of the flora in the area.
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I took my last break and ate some candy, which made my already black hands sticky! Muk Muk texted me and I found out she was 31 miles behind me!
As I entered the Vasquez Rocks area, my battery ran out in my phone, which meant I could no longer use my GPS. I had only 2 and a half miles left and figured I could make it. However, I couldn’t find the trail after the picnic area! I heard voices in the distance but couldn’t see where the people were. After walking around hopelessly, I set my pack down and took everything out of it with my sticky hands to find my external adaptor to recharge my phone. I waited for it to charge a bit and then started searching out the trail- going this way and then that. I was wasting so much time, and after a very long day, my frustration was growing. Finally, I found the path, but soon got confused again! For the next mile and a half, I went backwards and forwards, losing more time and patience. I hated that area! Finally, I reached the road and began the walk into the farmland of Agua Dulce.
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It went on and on… At some point, I saw a sign for Sweetwater Farms and then saw some bikes! I knew they were being used by PCT hikers! I was almost there! It was now 5:15. A lady in a car pulled over and asked me if she could shake my hand! I looked down at it and told her it was sticky. “From what?” she coiled back. Before I could say it was from candy, she said, “That’s okay. I’m about to eat dinner.” She wanted to take my picture and asked me why I was doing this and how old I was. She said that a lot of people did this kind of thing to get over a broken heart, or were trying to figure out how to make a job change.” I tried to summarize my story. She said that she thought what we were doing was great. “Why?” I asked.
She pointed out the restaurant across the street and said that there were trail angels in town who would let us sleep at their houses.
I headed over to the restaurant and looked at the menu. It said, “Cowboy Cafe” and I stared at it for a long time, wondering if I was in the wrong restaurant! Then the waitress gave me the regular menu. I order a California burger and a chocolate milkshake for dessert. A lady came over to me after she was finished eating and asked how many miles I had hiked today. I told her 24 and she said, “Wow! Are you tired?”
“Yes.”
She told her husband that I had hiked a marathon today.
I went outside to collect my pack and started walking up the road. The Saufley’s, who welcomed PCT hikers to stay on their property for a night or two, lived a mile away. A man on a mule cart offered me a ride and I happily accepted! “Is this a golf cart?”
“No. It’s a mule cart.”
I opened the gate and saw someone I didn’t know sitting there. He welcomed me and offered to give me a tour. I followed him around, and grew more and more overwhelmed and confused. I didn’t know any of the hikers there and the place didn’t look like what I had seen in videos of this stop. I expected to sleep in a white canvas tent with 4 cots each, but I saw none of these tents- only a few smaller ones of different colors. It was almost dark by now and I didn’t know what to do. I found the last empty cot in a tent with two others and set my things down, then collected my dirty clothes to be washed. I was encouraged to take a shower first, change into some loaner clothes, and then give the guy my clothes that needed to be washed. I found a very small shirt and some very large pants to change into before I took my shower, and put my clothes in the bin I was instructed to put them in. I had to write down on a post-it note whether I had anything wool that couldn’t be put in the drier, so I wrote down, “wool.” Then, I took a shower, found my resupply box, and went to my cot to wait for my laundry. They weren’t able to dry my clothes before I went to bed however. When I saw the helper, he asked me if my name was wool. He wanted to know why I hadn’t written my name on the post-it or what article of clothing was made of wool… I guess I was too exhausted to understand the directions. I was also too exhausted to remember to pull out my sleeping bag liner, sleeping socks, or hat, so I shivered in my sleeping bag all night long.

Day 28: A day of flowers, overgrown prickly bushes, and lots of poodle dog bush!!

Day 28
May 16
mile 407-430.6
23.6 miles

I was feeling very tired, so I slept in until 6:22. It was 35.7 degrees out! I had my favorite breakfast of love crunch granola and then made some coffee. Yum! Postholer was long gone.
I was on the trail at 7:13 and got hot quickly. I had to stop and peel off some layers by 7:30. The trail climbed, but did so gradually, and the first few miles passed by quickly and nicely. Thoughts were flowing through my head and I wasn’t concerned with what mile I was at (a rarity!). The lizards were my companions and I would stop and talk to them. Some did push-ups for me. I showed one of them how big my skirt was getting on me. Finally, I was losing some fat!
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At 9:40, I found a nice rock to take a break on just before the Station Fire detour. I saw that I had reception, but there were no incoming texts, which made me feel a bit sad. A guy carrying a ridiculous amount of weight on his back walked by in the other direction. He wasn’t interested in chatting. I wondered what he was doing with all that stuff! I thought about what food I wished for and found that I had a craving for Reese’s Pieces.
I took the detour and headed down a gravel path. I stopped to try to take a picture of a bird in a tree when Meredith came along and asked if she could hike with me. She told me that she had wanted to hike the trail since she was 13 years old in 1968! Back then, the trail wasn’t even complete. After the legislature had passed, she found herself busy being a mother, and it was only now that she felt she was free enough to go ahead and hike the trail. I found her story fascinating! I felt like she was a true pioneer of backpacking. She talked about how she would go out with friends in Montana, choosing their own route based on wanting to climb a certain mountain that they saw or get to a particular lake just because it looked interesting, and then figure out a route to get there! I had never done anything like that. I have only ever followed a trail already in place. She informed me about the history of the PCT and how the boy scouts went out to find certain sections of the trail before WWII, a little about what went into choosing a route around a mountain, and about checkerboard ownership. There was so much I had no idea about! We walked along a ridge and could look down below to see the PCT which was closed due to the amount of poodle dog bush that grows in burned areas. I was glad I had taken the detour route this time because it seemed like we had a better view.
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Meredith kept looking to see if she could see Postholer walking down below. At 11:49, we reached the fire station, where her husband was picking her up for the day. She would be going back to do an earlier section of the trail with her daughter the following day. I spotted Dinnertime on the porch below and called out to him. Meredith and I said goodbye and I went down to the porch to find JT and his mom, as well as Craig and Dinnertime.
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I sat down at a picnic table and looked into my food bag, knowing there was nothing appetizing in there. Then, JT asked if I wanted the last piece of pizza. I was so thankful for that! I ended up joining them at their table and got a banana, an orange juice, and a donut, as well! This was the best break ever!
Dinnertime said he was going to hike 17 more miles today. The thought made me groan out loud. No way would I be doing that! He said that he might never see us again, but would more likely see us tomorrow- and if not, then on Facebook! Anastacia, Archie, and Leftover came in and took their lunch break. The girls made fun of Leftover for still having a dehydrated meal that he started with at the Mexican Border in his food bag.
I took off after having spent an hour there and used the restrooms down by the road. The traffic attendant offered me water, but I had filled up at the water station. He wanted to know why I wasn’t hiking with the guy ahead, and then wanted to know how often we got showers and how many miles and hours we hiked a day. I appreciated his interest! As soon as I was about to start the climb, three day hikers came down and talked to me. One of them told me I was crazy! They asked if they could take my picture and then told me about some of the wildflowers I would be seeing (another thing I knew nothing about), including scarlet bugler, which Meredith thought was called firecracker. The hike started slowly for me as I decided to post some flower pictures on facebook. It always takes a long time to upload photos, and I later wondered why I was wasting my time doing that, because no one seemed to care about what flowers I was seeing! JT and I kept passing one another. At one point, I headed off on the wrong trail and JT called after me to tell me that the PCT was down there! (Thanks, JT!). I climbed another hill and for some reason, completely missed the Station Fire memorial! The trail was overgrown with prickly bushes and poodle dog bush, making my progress slow. I saw many beautiful flowers, though, which gave my mood a boost and counteract the frustration I was feeling.
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Mountain lilac lined the sides of the trail on my final mile of the day and it was hard not to keep stopping to take pictures.
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Finally, I reached Messenger Flats campground, where I would stop for the night. Before doing anything, I took out some wet wipes to try to wash off the poodle dog bush oils on my hands and legs! I found it impossible to avoid this bush. I found the tar from a tree was almost impossible to remove! I found a little area to set up my groundcloth and sleeping bag and then cooked my pasta at the picnic table, adding some tuna fish for protein, and crackers for a different taste. Then I had a little trail mix and a peppermint pattie for dessert! JT had come in after me, followed by the three from Redding, and Lullabi. Archie wanted to know how to get the poodle dog oil off her body. Lullabi jokingly asked JT if his mom could come pick us up and have 11 people take showers at her house! They were originally planning to make it to the Saufley’s tomorrow, but had changed their minds and decided to stop at the KOA campground instead. There was lots of worried talk about washing their clothes in a washing machine that might have poodle dog bush oils from other hikers’ clothing in it .
Craig passed by and decided to keep hiking. He said he had set a goal for himself of listening to the entire set of Led Zeppelin albums by the end of the day.
Through the trees, I watched an amazingly beautiful array of colors from the setting sun and then got into my sleeping bag.
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Day 27

Day 27
May 15
Little Jimmy Spring- to mile 407 (sulphur springs)
23 miles

I was in a deep sleep, dreaming about teaching yoga when I heard voices talking. I awoke to find Meredith and Postholer packing up at 5:37. It was 43 degrees out. No bears had visited during the night. I took my foodbag over to the picnic table and ate breakfast there. It turns out that the sidepath I started down but that everyone thought lead nowhere was indeed the spring. So we all had to walk back to collect water. It turned out to be a lovely spring! I carried the water back to a picnic table closer to the trail and the big group of thru-hikers to filter the water. There, a man who was out for the weekend put out a trash bag so we could dump anything we were finished with. How nice! He then began talking about watermelon seeds being the natural cure for giardia, but that it was very tough to find a watermelon with seeds in it these days because the drug companies want us to be dependent on them. I felt like it was significant to be hearing this and very interesting that I was at the right place and the right time to do so. Hmmmm….
I hit the trail at 7:07, descending switchbacks to a road and then making my way back up into the mountains.
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A few hours later, I had reached a picnic area at the start of the endangered species detour where a road walk was set up to bypass a 10 mile section of the PCT in order to protect the frogs in the area. I found Meredith and Elizabeth at the picnic table and joined them as I snacked. Meredith’s husband was providing support for her along her hike and was coming by to transport her up the road to avoid the detour section. Elizabeth and another hiker decided to skip the section as well. I decided to hike the regular trail, as my friend that had hiked last year said that he had not taken any of the detours. A couple of other guys made the same decision as me.
The trail was quite overgrown and there were a lot of fallen trees to step over, making the hiking slow. There were several nice water sources along the way, though. When I reached the main creek, I found Postholer and “The Kid” relaxing. Postholer said that I shouldn’t be on this part of the trail and I quickly said, “Neither should you!” An Asian couple with a big white dog came down to the creek from the other side. The dog got wet and then came right over to us, eager to share our food. The owners didn’t say anything. I headed back up the trail and met a father and his toddler son. The man asked me if there was anything of interest ahead. The only thing I could think of was the creek. He seemed happy enough with that. The trail didn’t seem to be marked as closed from this side.
Ahead, I reached a dirt road and didn’t see where the trail continued. I started up an obvious path and turned on my GPS to make sure this was correct. In fact, it was not. So, I backtracked and eventually found the PCT across the road. The miles seemed to drag on. I got hungry and found a rock to sit on while I ate my disgusting packet of tuna, followed by a Snickers bar as my reward. Archie, Leftovers, and Anastacia passed by. It wasn’t long before I found them resting on the trail right beside the number ‘400’ spelled out with rocks! “We didn’t make it very far,” they said. I was lucky to have people nearby to take my picture at this milestone.
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I soon reached the Camp Glenwood water source and found a few other hikers gathered there. Everyone seemed tired. It turned out that the water from the pump was incredibly warm, which was not thirst-quenching! As more hikers came in, I said, “I hope you like warm water!”.
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It turned out that I wasn’t the only one to have gotten confused at the road. Bambi had taken the other trail to the top of the climb until there was no longer a trail and had to turn around. It had cost him four hours.
As I continued, the inside of my right calf started hurting. The more I walked, the more the pain grew and it started to worry me. I decided to listen to some music to give my mind something different to focus on. My mood was becoming more internal. I found a place to sit down at a bend in the trail and my arms took the shape of a cradle as my body swayed from side to side. I had never done anything like that before and wondered if it was my mother’s spirit descending down to me in remorse, or if it was a symbol from myself of needing to be my own caregiver. I stood up and continued on. I saw Postholer in front of me, seemingly wanting to interact. I didn’t know why he wanted to say something to me, but it turned out that he wanted to point out a trunk full of trail magic under a tree that I might not have seen! I had never seen anything like it before!
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It was huge and filled with carrots and apples and bananas! Goodness! Even though I always feel pressed to make miles, I sat down and ate a banana. It helped lift my spirits. Fresh fruit on the trail is the greatest gift! My calf was still hurting. Archie and Anastasia came by, looking for a place to go to the bathroom. It turned out that just up the hill, there was an outhouse! Wow!
Another little treat.
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I caught up to and passed Postholer as I started looking for a place to end the day. As I climbed along a ridge, I could see a flat area down below. It looked like there were picnic tables below. I wondered if I should backtrack and take the Stock route to get down there. Postholer came along and I pointed the area out. He also wanted to camp there. I was surprised that he didn’t know about this area after having had hiked this part of the trail many times before! We found a sandy area where we could camp, but it wasn’t what I had seen from above. I went to take a look and came back to tell him that there was an even bigger area with picnic tables across the way. We chose opposite ends of the area to camp in. I made use of the picnic table to eat my dinner and cowboy camped next to it.
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I calculated that with the days off, I was averaging 15 miles a day, and that I would need to average 18 per day if I wanted to reach Canada by September 20th. Today had been a tough day and I hoped my calf would feel better in the morning!

(It was 52.5 degrees at 8:46pm)

Day 26

Day 26
May 14
mile 369.5-384.4 (Little Jimmy Spring)
14.9 miles

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We all got up early after not sleeping well. Muk Muk and I headed to the Evergreen cafe for breakfast, while UB went to the coffee shop to work on his videos. I was surprised that there weren’t a lot of hikers in there already for breakfast! Muk Muk wanted to know what happened with my visitor, so I told her the story. She had had a bad feeling about it from what I told her in Big Bear and it turned out that she was right. She said that I should be feeling a lot more upset and angry than I was and that I should not communicate with this person anymore. She told me that I have the biggest heart of anyone on the trail and that I am also the strongest. Sometimes, I am too strong for my own good. She said that I deserve to be treated like a princess! (She could tell that I wasn’t really allowing her words to sink in…)
As we talked, hikers began to come in one by one. Cowboy walked by our table and asked if my visitor had showed up, since I hadn’t seen him since. I said he had. He asked if it was a good visit and I said no and that I would tell him about it later. “Is it short?”.
“No”.
Dinnertime came in and I told him that I did 27 miles yesterday and gave him a high five! I was the only person who had stayed at I-15 while they all started the climb from McDonald’s in the afternoon. I felt proud that I had already caught up. “And we’re Facebook friends now!” he added. I was happy for the positive distraction from my unpleasant story.
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Lion King came in and ate everything remaining on our plates and then we headed out on our own way. I needed to pick up my resupply box at the hardware store (I was expecting it to be an outfitters from the name of it!) and also had to find a new pair of sunglasses, as one of the screws had come out of my pair and it was now longer functional. I ended up finding a purple-hued pair to match my outfit! It amused me that the post office had put a sticker that said “Caution- Heavy parcel- Lift carefully” on it! I saw Cowboy heading back towards the motel and called after him. I nearly got us hit by a car trying to cross the road! Paying attention to oncoming traffic is one of the things we have no need to be concerned about on the trail… Cowboy headed to the natural foods store and I headed back to the room to sort through my box and re-pack. UB was the first one to be ready and he started dancing to an Adele song. “This is how I pump myself up for hiking!” he said. Muk Muk told him he was going to make himself tired doing that!
They had taken the Acorn trail to get into Wrightwood, which is 4.5 miles long and several miles before the point at which I had gotten off the trail, so they were going to be behind me again. We all thought we could meet on top of Baden Powell to camp. Before I tried to get a ride back to the trail, I decided to grab something to eat. I went to the coffee shop and ordered a breakfast sandwich. And then who showed up, but Muk Muk and UB! I joined them outside while they pondered how they were going to get back to the Acorn Trail. Then, another hiker showed up who had been waiting to hike with them and said she had found them a ride. We said goodbye and a couple of minutes later, a man came by and asked me if I needed a ride back to the trail! I wasn’t quite ready, but took a last bite and put my pack in his truck. When he dropped me off, I asked if I could give him some gas money. He refused and gave me $10 instead! How kind! I had already had more good things happen to me on this hike than on the entire AT!
I took a moment to look out from the overview and collect myself before heading up the trail. Everyone had talked up the difficult climb we had ahead of us to Baden-Powell. At 12:42, I resumed my hike, passing Lion King and finding my own space. It felt good. The wind picked up and I found myself looking for a sheltered spot to take a short break. I wedged myself in between some pine trees, but the wind made it too uncomfortable to rest there, so I moved on. As I climbed, I passed Lullabi, and then he passed me back when I took a snack break. I was enjoying the climb and felt like I was in my element. Two older gentlemen were making their way down from the summit and as they approached me, asked, “You got this thing whipped?”. I smiled and confidently nodded. “Yup!”. He said that I have the right attitude.

I continued climbing until I reached the intersection of the PCT and the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell, which was a third of a mile off the trail. I love summits, so I dropped my pack, put on a warmer jacket, and headed up. There was a big group already sitting up there. One of them called out my name and I raised my poles in the air. I checked out the monument and the views and then asked Anastacia if she could take my picture.
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I felt like an outsider with this big group, who were all sitting in a line.
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I sat at one end and listened to a few of their jokes, which I didn’t find funny. Group humor tends to dissolve into a couple of subjects which don’t interest me. It was far too windy to camp up there and the next obvious place to camp and get water was Little Jimmy Springs, which was six miles away. The group planned on heading there and didn’t seem concerned about the time. It was now 5:05 and I found the thought of hiking six miles before the sun set to be stressful! I was the first one to get going. After a mile and a third, I got hungry and needed a snack break. Cowboy and Birdman passed me while I was eating a powerbar. I moved on, trying to keep a strong pace as I climbed. My breathing was loud. I saw that Birdman and Cowboy had stopped to admire the view. They said they liked to look back and see where they had come from, as do I. Cowboy pointed out the direction and I said I thought we had come from that way. He joked about not really knowing and to pay no attention to them. We moved on, and I was happy that I could keep up. As I walked along a ridge behind Birdman, I thought about how lucky I was to be out here doing this.
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Cowboy fell behind and Bambi joined our little group. We heard Lullabi playing his flute in the far distance. Once we reached the top of the climb, Birdman stopped to observe some birds with his binoculars. Bambi took the lead ahead of me. I asked him how he got his name and he told me it was because of his very lightweight shoes and the ability to spring over obstacles in his path with them. We reached a confusing intersection and wondered which way to go. I thought it was the higher path, but Bambi wasn’t sure. He was examining his map when Birdman and Cowboy reached us. They joined in on the map reading and the consensus was the lower path! I lead the way. There was a big fallen tree on the trail, which was difficult to get over gracefully. We reached a side trail later on and wondered if that was the spring. I started down it, but the others continued along the main path, so I backtracked and followed them. We came to a camping area as darkness descended. There were a mixture of thru-hikers and locals camping within a large area. I spotted Dinnertime’s tent and he made his owl call to me. I went over to join him at the picnic table where he was having dinner. It was already after 7:30. The others stayed back at another area. I cooked some pasta and shared some of my Starbursts with Dinnertime. Another hiker was also eating there and had taken out box after box of individual pies that he had bought in Wrightwood and stacked them up right in front of me. I wish he hadn’t!
I didn’t feel like setting up my tent at such a late hour, so I laid out my ground cloth to cowboy camp. This area was notorious for bear activity, but I wasn’t concerned.
“The Kid”, who was camping nearby told me to yell if a bear came over to me. He said he had his phone on airplane mode and was ready to take video of it!

Day 25- A very full day

Day 25
May 13
mile 342.5-369.5 (Wrightwood)
27 miles

An alarm in the room next to mine began blaring at 4am. Too early for me! I got up sometime after 5, packed up the last few things, and headed to the continental breakfast in the lobby, where I found the three older men already eating. Chip was enjoying a bowl of raisin bran and every time he had finished, he would get up and refill it again. (He later said that this was the first sugar he had allowed himself on this journey and it seemed like his body couldn’t get enough!). We had a little extra walking to do to get back to the McDonald’s and then a little more to get back to the trail.
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Chip and Mark were going to fill up their water bottles at the McDonald’s, so I decided to do the same, although I kept worrying that they wouldn’t let me if I didn’t buy something! The road to McDonald’s was a historical site from the days of wagon travel, and we stopped to take photos at the monument.
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Mark was telling a story about being overtaken by four girls on the climb the day before and how it really hurt his ego. I suggested he let that one go…
I filled up 4 liters of water from the machine and used the restroom. Chip and Mark had found a woman who was interested in their journey and they were showing off their lightweight backpacks. They were each carrying only one liter of water!
We headed back to the trail together, through a tunnel, and then across some train tracks.
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I let them know that I had to stop often to relieve my shoulders from the weight of my pack, and that I didn’t want to hold them back. They seemed to agree that they would go on ahead of me, but every time I needed to take my pack off, they said it was a good time for them to take a break as well!
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These two had begun their hikes separately, but decided to hike together after discovering that they had similar paces and were of a similar age. Their dynamics were interesting to witness. Chip had clearly claimed the role of leader and dictated where they would stop for resupplies and harped on the pace they were moving. He was extremely proud of his resupply strategy and rattled off how many 2, 3, 4, and 5 (his maximum) stops he had. (I didn’t find this so fascinating to listen to, myself…). Mark was afraid of hitchhiking and hoped to hike the entire trail without ever hitching (I’m not sure how…), so Chip had his work cut out for him in convincing Mark to follow along with his plan. Mark was tracking his progress on his GPS and always knew what pace they were hiking. If the pace seemed slow, Chip would call out with a frustrated voice, “Are we only hiking 2 miles per hour right now?” and Mark would look at the numbers and tell him that it was actually 2.83 miles per hour. Chip quickly drank his one liter of water, so I offered him some of mine at one of our break spots. He drank right out of my bottle!
Mark dropped behind and Chip decided to tell me lots of stories about his dysfunctional family, which I really didn’t need to hear. I gave him some sympathy, but it was very clear that he was choosing to stay in a situation that he could have very easily removed himself from. When he asked about my family and I told him I really didn’t have one, he asked what was it that I had done. What had I done??? I explained as best I could, knowing that he wouldn’t understand, and that it didn’t matter anyway. I was proud of myself for creating a barrier around myself so as not to let his dysfunctional stories penetrate my energy field too much.
We reached a water cache where four other hikers were hanging out, smoking marijuana. I took a bit of this water as Chip talked to the hikers and then told Mark I was taking off. I wanted a bit of space. However, Mark said, “I’m coming, too!” and jumped right up.
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He called out to Chip, “We’re leaving!” and Chip said he would be right behind us! That plan didn’t work so well… Both Chip and Mark had downed between one and two liters of water at the cache so they didn’t have to carry any water. The day was hot and we had 5,000 feet of climbing to do, but I felt pretty good.
We reached a second water cache and found several other hikers resting there. I ate some lunch, collected some more water, and got back on the trail. This time, Mark and Chip remained where they were! I finally had some space to myself! As I walked along, I could see the smoke of a wildfire in the distance.
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Postholer and his friend were a little ways behind me. All of a sudden, I heard a loud hissing to my left. Another rattlesnake! I talked to it for awhile, trying to calm it down, and telling it to go one way while I went the other. It worked!
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A little later on, I came across another startling sight- a man lying face down in the middle of the trail, with his head towards me! What on earth! He lifted his head up when he heard me, revealing a bloody cut on his forehead. I asked him if he was all right. He said he was fine, just tired, and apologized for being in the way. I would expect to come across such a scene on a city street, but not on the trail!
Pine cones blanketed the trail around a bend and I returned to a more peaceful mindset.
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I had one more piece of the climb and then I would have to figure out where I would get my water. The only water source in the area was a distance off the trail and only seemed to be trickling according to the water reports. I decided to bypass that side trip and make it to the top of the climb and the campground up there. A man greeted me on the return from his day hike and asked me if I needed some water. How amazing! I followed him to his trailer, where he introduced me to his wife and dogs. His wife was running low on water, herself, so I told her I was fine- that I didn’t want to take their water. She thought about how much water she needed for washing the dishes and said she could spare a liter. I was so thankful, as she confirmed that the water source was barely trickling and that it had taken two thru-hikers an hour to fill up six liters! I happily went on my way. At one point, I was confused as to which way the trail went and turned on my GPS to help me. I discovered that I had a voicemail and learned that my sister had called (for the first time on this hike) telling me that she had some information that I would want to hear and to call her back. The wind had picked up strongly, so I made my way over to a patch of trees and called her back. She did a lot of stalling and I wondered what had happened and to who… Was my father sick and did I need to go home? Or was it our older sister? I wished she would just tell me! Finally, she said that our mother had passed away a week ago and that our older sister had just informed our father, who then told her. I felt relieved in many ways- relieved that I didn’t have to do anything, that I could continue on with my hike, and relieved for the many people who were abused by her that she has finally left this earth. I felt no sadness and really no emotion at all. It was a piece of news that was delivered to me and one that had more of a freeing feeling than anything. Now, I really had no excuse to be held down by her in any way. She had no ability to exert any control over me. It was time to fully live my own life. My sister said she felt similarly. I told her that I had to get going as I was getting very cold from the wind and because darkness was coming and I still had several miles to hike. As I walked, I reflected on the timing of my mother’s passing. This journey was already a significant one.
At some point, I began wondering if I should try to make it into town that evening where I knew Muk Muk was already. I texted her and told her that I didn’t know what to do- sleep in the woods or try to make it all the way. I hadn’t planned on spending money to stay in town again. She said that I should stay with them. The room was already full because UB and Lion King were there, but I was still welcome. So, I moved as fast as I could. I still had three more miles to hike and the sun was setting.
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As I emerged from the woods, the sky revealed clouds of pink and blue.
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I knew I had to make it to the road before darkness fell in order for it to be possible to get a ride. Eventually, I could see the road ahead of me. As I got closer, I saw a car drive ahead. I needed to flag it down but I was steps too late! I walked down the road and saw that it had pulled into an overlook. I still had a chance! I made my way towards it, but then saw the people get into the car and drive off! Nooo! I knew no one would be coming up here in the dark. Then, I saw the car heading towards me on the other side of the road! I crossed the road and waved to the driver. She stopped and I asked if she was going to Wrightwood. She was! She opened her trunk for me and I got in, so thankful that the timing worked out perfectly. She and her daughter were very nice people and we had pleasant conversation about the trail. I asked if she could drop me off at the Pines Motel and she pulled up to one of the cabins. I didn’t know which one Muk Muk was in, but in the window of the one we had pulled up to, I could see UB’s signature red hat! She took me right to them! I excitedly got out and tapped on the window. UB jumped up, came outside, and gave me a big hug, and told the woman that she was awesome for giving me a ride. I took my things in and reunited with Muk Muk. It was so good to be around my friends again! The three of them were in the middle of resupply organizing and the floor was covered with food and gear! I looked down at my legs and couldn’t believe how dirty I was!
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Still, I didn’t feel like I NEEDED to take a shower because I hadn’t planned on taking one there. I was able to get one, though, which was really nice. We all took turns taking an epsom salt footbath and Muk Muk popped some of UBs blisters.
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We laughed and laughed when they talked about the lingering smell of Muk Muk’s cooked rice from the trail that she had dumped in the toilet, and finally, we got ready for bed. The guys said the girls could have the bed while they slept on the floor. UB said he needed to practice his set up. Lion King showed us some of his videos and Muk Muk did some blogging and then it was time for a little sleep after a very long day!