Day 24

Day 24
May 12
mile 328.5-342.5 (McDonald’s)
14 miles

I woke up to find my “friend” staring at me from his table. I covered my face up with my sleeping bag and stayed there for a couple of minutes before getting up. Last night, when I asked him why he couldn’t hike with us today, he said he had to get back to LA to iron his clothes before his training tomorrow. I was astounded. Iron his clothes?! He couldn’t do that in the evening?
For some reason, he let me lead him through a little yoga before we parted. The grass was very wet and it was cool out, so I wore my rain pants and jacket. That way, I could stay dry! It was his first time trying yoga, so I kept it the basics, but it ended up being a bit too repetitive. All of the hikers who stayed overnight had by now hit the trail. As I finished packing, my friend was visibly growing more and more antsy to get going. I walked to his car with him, which was parked quite a distance away, beyond where the trail left off. It was amusing to see his gigantic toiletries in the trunk. I don’t like saying goodbye in the first place, and when factoring in the upsetting circumstances, my tears couldn’t be contained. I looked at my hands after I wiped my eyes and noticed that even my tears were filled with dirt! He said something about what I needed to do to finish the trail and I brushed it off, saying that I wasn’t worried at all. “But this trail is different than the AT. Snow is involved.” I shrugged. Since the start of this hike, I never once questioned my ability to finish. He told me to let him know if I needed him to send me a package and we gave each other a hug goodbye. Then, he drove me the short distance back to the trail head with heavy music blaring from the radio. It was all so upsetting. (Another thing that I hoped for was that he could take us to sushi instead of having to eat at McDonald’s, which added to the disappointment).
I was left to resume my hike alone. I had missed the opportunity to climb while it was still cool out. The sun was already burning down on me. He had said that there was a nice view from the top, but I didn’t find it so amazing. I looked for a spot of shade to take a break and didn’t see anything. Another guy had reached the top and probably thought I looked confused. He suggested I could walk a bit off trail to some trees. I ended up doing that, but decided I had better keep going.
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It was a long descent. A couple of other guys passed me as I took short breaks. On and on, I walked. And then, I saw the sign pointing to McDonald’s. I took a picture and sent it to my friend. (He did not respond).
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I was almost done with my hiking for the day, as in my planning, I had chosen to have my resupply box sent to the Best Western off the interstate rather than Wrightwood. I walked along the road to the McDonald’s and found a huge group of hikers sitting under an awning on the grass next to McDonald’s!
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After stopping to say hello, I went in for something to eat. I had no ravenous hiker hunger, so I ordered something modest and sat alone to eat it. This isn’t what I had imagined.
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I went back outside to join the others and Dinnertime told me that our friend had just left here a little while ago after making a stop here and finding a hiker to talk with. I couldn’t believe it…
The others joked about coming back to the hotel with me to use the pool. I eventually went in search of the hotel and said goodbye to the others. While I was crossing the road, an orange car pulled into the gas station and asked, “PCT”? and then said, “Yeah!”. I walked along the highway, over a bridge, and turned into the parking lot leading to the Best Western. All of a sudden, a car pulled in right behind me! It was the guy in the orange car. He said that he didn’t mean to stalk me, but he and his friends were looking for a 4th person to climb Denali with in August. He assumed I would probably still be hiking then, but thought he would give it a shot anyway. I told him that I wouldn’t be finished until sometime in September. Before he sped off, he reached over to the passenger seat and handed me a king sized bag of skittles. “Sugar!” he said. I smiled and thanked him. It was a bright spot in an otherwise very difficult day.
I checked into my room, got my resupply box, took a shower, and started rinsing out my clothes. I was going to find the washing machine, but was suddenly overcome by a tremendous feeling of tiredness and lied down on the bed. I quickly fell asleep.
My friend had posted on facebook that he had played disc golf in Wrightwood before heading back to LA.
When I woke up, I went to the lobby to find out where the washing machine was and was asked by a couple of older hikers if I would like to join them for dinner. They were heading to Subway across the street. I walked over with them and order a sub, and we brought the food back to eat at a table in the lobby. The entire time I sat there with them, I felt so disconnected and lonely.
After putting my clothes in the dryer, I went out to sit in the hot tub- the reason why I had chosen this place to stay over Wrightwood. I couldn’t sit there long, however, because I needed to organize all of my stuff and start packing for an early start tomorrow. We had another huge exposed climb and were advised not to hike it during the day.


Day 23

Day 23
May 11
mile 314.6-328.5
13.9 miles

I got up to pee in the middle of the night and spent a moment taking in the environment I had somehow found myself in. The whole scene was surreal! Where was I and what was I doing out there? All night long, the wind kicked up the dirt, blowing it all over us. I awoke to a layer of dirt coating my sleeping bag, as well as my face! Oh my goodness!! I said a cheery “Good Morning!” to my friend and it was returned with silence. (!!) He went over to talk to Birches and avoid me. While that was not cool of him, I didn’t mind having a bit of personal space to clean up. Dinnertime woke up and began cursing the dirt that had blown into his tent. “Can’t I have at least one enjoyable day out here?!” he yelled out. I was amused that he was more troubled by the dirt than I was! I told him that he was the one who chose to be out here!
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After everyone had packed up, we headed back to the road. I walked ahead of everyone on my own. It was the second time I had walked this stretch. Dinnertime needed to get into town to resupply and the others wanted breakfast. It’s hard to turn down an opportunity for a real breakfast! Our friend was already talking about hitching back to his car after today’s hike, which was surprising to me. He had planned to hike for two days and now no longer wanted to do that. His mood was upsetting. But the other two were laid-back and nice to be around and I enjoyed eating with them. Time seemed to stop regarding the constant pressure of miles and moving forward with this unplanned stop. We each paid for our own food and then went to a grocery store so Dinnertime could pick up what he needed. And then we drove back to the parking lot where Birches’ friends would be coming to pick him up. After a lot of waiting, we finally headed back to the trail! Dinnertime somehow dropped back and I lead my “friend”, chatting a good part of the way. I was not used to hiking with anyone and I worried about not being in a good mood in the heat, and about my constant need to take off my backpack (which he agreed was annoying), but I was perfectly pleasant! It turns out that my companion was the grumpy one. He asked if he could use my sun umbrella. I was glad someone could make use of it after carrying it all that way! We came upon some trail magic after a road crossing that included a big container of water with a pump. However, I couldn’t get the pump to work! My friend offered no help and when I asked if he could help me, told me that I went to MIT and could figure it out for myself!! Luckily, Dinnertime caught up and graciously helped me out. (There was something very wrong with this picture!!).
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We moved along and later came to a second cooler with some water and fruit on it! Wow! A day of trail magic! My friend sat on the cooler, taking up the entire width, as he read through the registry. I looked around for a place to sit, but couldn’t find one. Instead, I did something really nice for him, and he completely ignored me! Wow! Again, Dinnertime caught up and said we had just missed sandwiches! Apparently, a couple had come by to do trail magic, just as we had started up the hill, and wondered if they should run after us. They made Dinnertime a sandwich.
My friend and I moved on. This time, he took the lead, but did no talking. So, we were both quiet. The day was growing hotter and the temperature was now in the upper 90s. The trail took us around Silverwood Lake, which was incredibly beautiful and a surprising sight for being in the desert! I kept wanting to take pictures! By this time, I was having painful chafing issues, but decided I could make it to our destination and then take care of it. My friend kept saying that we were very close, but I checked my GPS and told him we actually had three more miles.
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Finally, we made it down to the Pavillion and bathrooms. I thought we could hang out by the water, but he said he was going to walk to the road and try to hitch back to get his car. Really? Why now? Why did he need to do this right at this moment and even today for that matter? I suggested he ask for a ride from someone in the parking lot, but he was determined to walk to the road and hitch.
I was left alone with a bad feeling permeating the air. Dinnertime came down the hill and said he had run into UB, who had just gotten back on the trail, and asked if he had seen me. He said he hadn’t but that I was “a hell’a cool girl!”. (Thanks, UB!)
Dinnertime and I separately made our way over to the water. Lots of locals were hanging out there. I went in partway and then tried to dry off while lying on my sleeping pad (not very successfully). A few other hikers rolled in and we each claimed our own spot on the grass.
I headed back to the Pavillion and cooked some dinner, although I didn’t have an appetite. My friend returned, even more grumpy because he had a hard time hitching. He said he was going to go for a swim. I asked if I could at least have a hug. This whole day had been upsetting. More and more hikers gathered at the pavillion. I was not at all in the mood to socialize, so I took my things over to a picnic table that would act as my bed. There was a bit of reception at this place, so I texted a friend and asked if he could talk. He finally made a bit of time for me and I got to tell someone what was going on. He told me to stay away from this guy. He didn’t have much time to listen to me, so the call ended very abruptly and I returned to not feeling so well. Then, the “friend” put his sleeping pad on the other table in this section. He still didn’t have anything to say to me. I tried to ignore his presence, wondering if I should just move somewhere else. But I have a hard time not wanting to resolve things. I went over to him and said a few things I needed to say, and while he didn’t have much to say back, at least he heard some of those things.
I went back to my picnic table, got into my sleeping bag, and closed my eyes.

Day 22

Day 22
May 10
mile 299-314.6
15.6 miles

While I was still in my tent, many of the hikers who had stayed at the gazebo area walked by. Such early birds! I was glad I had moved on a little ways last night because it’s really hard for me to get up in the mornings.
I resumed my walk along the ridge with a view of a large creek well below me and soon found the Swedes having breakfast on a rock, admiring the view.
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We said hello and then I moved on, stepping across the 300 mile mark, spelled out with rocks.
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It was a warm day and the landscape provided very little shade. The trail wound around brown mountains dotted with green shrubs.
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After seven miles, I reached a creek, where I found another hiker lounging. I decided to take off my shoes and cool my feet in the water for a couple of minutes. The Swedes passed through, excited to reach the hot springs a couple of miles away. I felt in no rush to get there.
When I did arrive, I was astounded to see the number of hikers lounging around! I thought that only the group who had slept at the gazebo would be there, but there were hikers who had been camping there for days! I was unsure where to go and then someone called my name, so I headed to that area to drop my pack. I saw Elizabeth who had started the day before me for the first time since I started the hike, as well as Matt (Luke’s cousin). I recognized some other hikers and some I was seeing for the first time. I felt self-conscious about my body and wasn’t comfortable going into the water in my underwear with so many people around. I decided I would go in with my running shorts. There were pools of differing water temperature- one that was much too hot for me to stand, a very, very warm one in which several people were sitting in, and cool water down below. I unsmoothly made my way into the very warm pool and then switched between that and the cold water below. There were locals as well as hikers, and it was easy to tell us apart. One local woman started talking to me about my journey and why I was doing it. I love it when people ask me these kinds of questions. She said that she would love to do what I was doing but didn’t know how with the responsibilities of children and a job. By the end of our conversation, I was worried that she was getting the wrong impression of the hike, as she probably envisioned lounging around in pools of water rather than hiking 12-13 hours a day in extreme conditions!
I returned to my sandy area to snack and collect water, knowing I had to get going to be there for my visitor (but having no idea when he would be arriving!). Some of the hikers nearby encouraged me to spend the night and have my visitor meet me here. But the plan was already in effect. (I still hadn’t seen Dinnertime or Birches).
I packed up and headed back to the trail. It wasn’t too long before a naked man with a backpack on approached me, asking if I knew where a particular trail was. I kept my eyes on his face and pretended that nothing was out of the ordinary, as I apologized for knowing nothing but the way the PCT went. I hiked on alone, winding my way down some switchbacks where I could see the bridge I would cross.
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Cowboy caught up to me while I was taking a break at the end of the bridge. We chatted for a couple of minutes and then he moved on. When I caught up to him, he asked if I wanted to go ahead of him. I said I didn’t care. Really, I was happy for the company. I finally got to ask him about his yoga practice and a little about himself. I told him that I had to stop at the road ahead to meet my visitor and he promised that we could do a little yoga before the end of the day!
We reached the dam and then had a tough time re-finding the trail! Baby eagles flew overhead and Cowboy wished that Birdman was here to confirm their identity. We ended up walking through a creek (the cold water felt good in our shoes!) and then someone pointed us back towards the trail. We climbed up towards the road, hoping that the owner of the RV we could see might offer us some water. And then, suddenly we were there! My friend had texted me, saying that his plane was delayed and that the airline had lost his luggage! I wrote back but he didn’t reply. I had no idea when he would be arriving or whether or not he would even be able to make it! Cowboy asked if I was okay waiting alone and then started to head off, saying that Canada wasn’t going to wait. “But what about our yoga?” I asked. He agreed to do some, so we spread out our sleeping pads and I changed into my shorts. He wanted me to lead, but I wasn’t prepared, so he went ahead and lead us through some Sun A’s. It was his first time leading and he did a really good job! He told me that I was a good friend to wait for this guy and then headed out. Several minutes later, I heard someone call my name. I wasn’t sure who! It was Cowboy letting me know that he had found a small water cache under a bush up the trail.
I spread out some of my things that needed to be dried and waited and waited and waited… Finally, I called the guy to see what was happening. He was on his way, but stuck in traffic. I realized that the Spillway where he wanted to meet us was a mile and a half back on the trail. Dinnertime and Birches would be stopping there. I didn’t see any roads there, though, and didn’t understand how someone could drive there! I explained the situation to my friend and he said he would meet me here first and then go back to visit them. The sun began to drop below the horizon, and still no one showed up…
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Finally, a car pulled in.
“It’s been five years,” he said.
“Four,” I corrected.
He opened up his trunk and cracked open a beer. The owner of the RV returned and asked us if we were hiking the PCT. “I am. He did it last year.” He asked if we wanted a rootbeer float! I agreed. After chatting for a few minutes, he said he was going to take off to meet the others and that he would see me here tomorrow. (?!) Birches was being picked up at 10 am. He wanted to leave me at a road alone and make me wait until 10 am (when it would be scorching out) for them to come back here?!
As he started walking off, I said, “Why don’t I just come with you?”. He told me I had two minutes to pack up my stuff! I stuffed most of my things back in my pack and left a couple of things in the trunk of his car, including my tent. Then, I lead the way back in the dark. When we arrived and heard voices, he made an owl call, which was returned by Dinnertime. (I guess that is how they would find one another on the AT). We found Dinnertime and Birches and our friend asked Birches if he wanted a beer. (He was carrying a tiny pack- most of which was a case of beer!). Birches did not recognize him. He said “sure” thinking we might be trail angels. Finally, he figured out that it was his good friend standing in front of him! Dinnertime lead us back to their “sketchy” campsite which turned out to be a wide dirt floor with the biggest cracks that I had ever seen all over it! Oh, my goodness! Dinnertime and Birches already had their tents set up, as did Leftover and Lullabi. I stood in a circle with Dinnertime, Birches, and our friend, who only offered his cans of beer to the guys. (?) We talked until 10, when Dinnertime said it was time for him to go to sleep. I looked around for a place to lay out my groundcloth.

And that is where I will fade this scene.

Day 21

Day 21
May 9
24.5 miles

I got up around 5:20 in the morning and discovered I was half off my sleeping pad. It was cold! Condensation was all over the inside of my tent and there was even frost on my backpack!
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I had granola with powdered milk for breakfast and was on the trail at 6:26. I wound my way down some switchbacks, passing by two tents and a cowboy camper. A couple of miles later, I found the Swedish boys, still in camp! They had stopped at 4:30 yesterday and camped with a big group. As I was chatting with them, a hiker came up to me and said, “I need to talk with you- privately.” I said that I knew, as part of the plan to meet up with the AT hiker was to surprise Dinnertime’s friend who happened to be joining Dinnertime on this stretch of the PCT. The three of them had hiked a big stretch of the AT together. Robin listened as I asked where they were planning on getting to today and tomorrow. The entire time I was talking to him, I somehow thought he was Dinnertime’s friend because I had only seen Dinnertime one time and this guy didn’t look like him. At one point, I asked him, “Who are you?”. He said “Dinnertime” and took off his hat so I could recognize him the way I had met him the day coming into Ziggy and the Bear. He told me that his friend Birches (who we could hear crushing some kind of metal in the distance) was camped a little ahead and that I should say hi and tell him that I also hiked the AT the year they did. “But then he might catch on!” I said.
Everything turned out fine. Before I left, the Swedes warned me about getting lost at Cougar’s Crest. “What’s that?” I asked.
Sure enough, I spend a good deal of time around that intersection trying to find the PCT…
The guy with the funny hat who saw me in the gear shop in Idyllwild and two others passed me while I was snacking on a rock, but I never saw Dinnertime.
As I approached the creek, I was really hoping that no one would be there so I could take care of my girl issues, but the Swedes were taking an extended break there.
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Within a couple of minutes, I was perfectly okay with the situation. How could anyone be upset around them? A couple more people came by to fish, as well. I thought I saw some poison oak and asked Rasmus about it, but he said he didn’t know what it looked like either! I filtered some water and then relaxed for a few minutes before heading on. The Swedes wanted to hike six more miles to Splinter’s Cabin, but I was shooting for 8 more.
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At the last second, they overtook me on the bridge.
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They are fast hikers! A guy on his way out said there was a big group over there. It was off the trail, but I decided I could go over and cook my dinner there and then move on a bit. Cowboy was there and said it was nice to see me! I said thanks. I asked him if he did yoga today and he said he had done some in the morning, but that he didn’t have a set routine. I told him I wanted to do some with him sometime!

I ate dinner with the Swedes, who went down to the creek to do some fishing afterwards. People started jockeying for positions to sleep on the concrete floor under the roof. I packed up and got going after 7. Thunder and dark clouds rolled in and I wondered if I had made a mistake leaving the roof!
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As it started to rain, I switched jackets and put my pack cover on. I was walking on a ridge with little possibility of camp spots, but then I found a little path to the right and decided to check it out. There, I found a flat camp spot and was able to set my tent up easily! The rain stopped at 8:45 but started up again several times throughout the night.
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Tomorrow we would reach Deep Creek Hot Springs. I was a bit wary about this place from what I had read in the guidebooks. I had 15.6 miles of hiking until I met my visitor.

A stretch of extremes (Idyllwild to Big Bear summary)

The day I left Idyllwild was my most fun and social day on the trail! I became a mini-celebrity at the local breakfast place, Dr. Sole came to visit Muk Muk and we had a happy reunion with lots of hugs and kisses, a nice local woman named Maeux offered to drive me to the trail, I met some nice day hikers on my way up to San Jacinto peak, and then I became the center of attention for the next hour on top of the peak, posing for an audience of men. It was so much fun!! Give me a stage…

I ended up hiking until 11pm that night thanks to my new headlight. I could see the lights of Cabazon below, which was pretty. We had a very hot 23 mile downhill stretch ahead of us, and a few of us wanted to knock off a few of these miles in the cool night air.
I got too tired to hike any longer and found a nice flat spot to cowboy camp.
I woke up to an amazing sunset!

The two girls and guy from Redding passed by me while I was still in my sleeping bag and for the rest of the day, a bunch of hikers passed me. It was hot early on, there was no shade, and sharp, strong prickly bushes overtook the trail and bruised and bled me. Today was a day of choosing the lesser of discomforts. Keep my rain pants on and scorch or take them off and get scratched and scraped?
I had 16 more miles to get to a trail angel’s house. I was tired. Should I find a rock to nap under or should I keep pushing on and wait to rest there?
The sun kept growing hotter. I finally reached the water fountain, filled up, and then had to figure out where the trail picked up.


A vehicle that was parked nearby drove toward me. “Are you confused?”
I got a mini- geology lesson, as well as some directions, and advice on kicking sand into a sidewinder’s eyes if one gets in my way. “Sidewinder? What’s that? A snake?”
“Don’t they tell you about those in your book?”
I still had to make it across five more miles of scorching desert and it only got worse. The wind picked up and was knocking me sideways and the sand was loose and 2-3 inches deep. I could hardly move forward.
Finally, in mid-afternoon, I reached the trail angel’s house to find a gaggle of lounging hikers.


I was given a questionaire to fill out, told I would be brought a foot bath, and that salad would be served at 6 and ice cream at 7:30! Caroline (from Scout and Frodo’s) was there, as well as the boys from Sweden. I took a shower, and was so happy to find conditioner in there! I had walked in hot, tired, and in a bad mood, but within an hour, everything was just fine!
A lot of hikers left that afternoon, but I stayed the night. I was wiped. All I wanted to do was lie down and sleep. Unfortunately, the strong winds whipped the tarp all night long and I couldn’t sleep at all. Another group of hikers came in around 8 or 9 at night.

After some cereal, a banana, and a coffee, I packed up and headed out. Rain was forecasted (apparently, it rains only once a year there and when it does, about 4 inches falls!). I was happy for the cooler weather that this weather pattern was bringing. A bunch of hikers left around the same time and I was wishing for my own space. I hiked 22 miles that day and found a make-shift camping spot in a sandy gully. Caroline was further ahead.

The next morning, after my latest start to date (7:00), I passed by two hikers who still had their tent up around 9 or 10am. I found a stream to collect water and then heard voices.
4 men in orange jackets were headed down the trail to the creek. They asked me if I had seen 3 men in their 40s in t-shirts and shorts. They were unprepared to be out here and were reported missing yesterday morning.
I hiked on and saw the Search and Rescue vehicle ahead. I stopped to take a picture and then saw a search and rescue man on a horse! He came over and asked me if I was hiking the PCT.
“Really?”, he responded with a proud smile. He chatted with me for awhile and then was joined by three others on horses.
“This girl is from Boston. She’s hiking the PCT!”
They told me what route the missing hikers took. They wanted to climb San Gorgino, which is an 18 mile round trip. The smoker in the group was struggling and turned around and went back. When the others hasn’t returned by Saturday morning, he reported them missing.
“That’s off the PCT.”
I knew they were somewhere around that peak…

The two hikers who had slept-in, passed by. I didn’t see anyone else all day! It remained very cold and clouds obscured any views. It started to sleet, the temperature dropped even more, and then it started to hail. I put on all if my layers, including my hat, 2 hoods, and gloves.

I got an eerie feeling right before I came to the animal cages (“predators in action”)- Hollywood show animals that were wasting their lives away in tiny, bare cages. It was a sad sight. I gave myself a treat and listened to some Serena Ryder and Ray LaMontagne (knowing no rattlesnakes would be out because it was so cold).
I met back up with the 2 guys from Redding at the water cache.
“Do they use the word ‘bubble’ to describe a mass of hikers in one area?”, I asked them.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that word used a couple of times before,” one of them said.
“What’s the opposite of a bubble?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, we’re in it because you 2 are the only ones I’ve seen all day!”
I cooked my pasta, ate, then packed up and moved on. I passed by some nice camping spots, but it was a bit too early to stop. Of course, when it was starting to get dark, I didn’t see anything. Then I reached a forest service dirt road with a flat spot next to it. Good enough! I figured no one would be driving on it. I set up my tent (bending and breaking several of my stakes!), and dozed off to sleep after 8. The temperature had rapidly dropped and it was now in the low 40s. I needed to put my sleeping bag liner over my whole head to start to warm up. I wondered how the hikers in their t-shirts and shorts were getting through this.
A couple of hours of later in the pitch dark, a vehicle came up the road. It stopped across from my tent and a headlight started towards me! It was all happening so fast and I was just coming out of sleep. “Hi there,” a man called out.
“Have you seen…?”
“Three men in their 40’s? No.”
“Oh, they already asked you.”
I told him they probably got cold and took a different route off the mountain- quite aways from where I was now!
“Oh, that’s over by…”
He turned around and called back, “thanks, guys!”
Thanks, girl, you mean… I’m a girl, all by myself, camping by a road…
It was freezing cold all night long. I heard helicopters flying overhead most of the night.
At 5:30 in the morning, it was 32.7 degrees- too cold to get up. I fell asleep and woke up abruptly at 6:30, feeling I had really overslept! It was still only 33 degrees. My poptarts that I had planned on eating were missing!
I bit into a frozen bar, packed up, put on all of my clothes, broke down my tent, and moved on. I had 11 miles to reach the highway to hitch into Big Bear. I got warm during the climbs, but became very cold on the flats and descents. My nose kept running. And it started to hail again.
It hailed on me while I was waiting for a hitch (something I’m not good at!). A lot of cars passed by and didn’t care. Then one turned around to pick me up. He said he felt bad for me, which doesn’t happen often. “You have to listen when it comes up.”
I was delivered to Nature’s Inn, went to find food while they got my room ready (a much longer walk in the freezing cold then I had anticipated), and was happy to see that I could still order breakfast at 1pm! I chatted with a local and then walked back to my room. I couldn’t get my body temperature to regulate for the rest of the day and my nose wouldn’t stop running! The freezing cold weather had made me sick!
I had a barbecue chicken sandwich and tea for dinner, chatted with more locals, did my laundry, then got in the hot tub!

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I hoped a night of sleep would help my body recover.
After I went to sleep, Muk Muk and UB came in after hiking 31 miles yesterday! Crazy people!
I got some nice hugs this morning and awesome breakfast company with those two this morning. I love them and I hope we can actually hike together sometime soon! (They hike together now).

Oh, they found the missing hikers yesterday morning. And they appear to be just fine! They don’t even have colds!!
And they were where I suspected they would be! Partially down on a different path off the peak they climbed!


Day 20

Day 20
May 8
8.5 miles

Muk Muk texted me in the middle of the night from a few rooms away, not knowing that I was also at the Nature’s Inn (a lot of hikers stayed at the hostel on the other side of town). I was glad they decided to stay here! She had hiked 31 miles yesterday to keep up with UB and was in so much pain that she couldn’t sleep! I told her not to do that ever again! We both weren’t sleeping well and decided to sleep in a bit before heading to breakfast. Once we emerged from our rooms and saw each other for the first time since Idyllwild, we gave each other lots of hugs. Then the three of us walked to Thelma’s. I used the restroom and realized how different I looked and felt compared to yesterday when I had first come off the trail. I was cold and dirty and tired then, but now my energy was much different! It was so nice to have breakfast companions again. The three of us get along really well and laugh a lot.
When I returned to my room, the housekeeper said that I looked “fluffed up” compared to yesterday. It’s amazing what a shower and clean clothes can do! He was also relieved that I was still around because he had gone into my room while we were at breakfast and thought I was leaving all that stuff behind! He couldn’t believe how much stuff I was able to fit in my pack!
I gathered my things together and brought them to UB and Muk Muk’s room to finish sorting. I finally heard back from the guy coming to visit. He was trying to coordinate getting together with a couple of other AT hikers from our year, but didn’t tell me that. One of them was across town and heading back to the trail at 10am. I had planned on taking a zero today, but in order to make the visit possible, I had to get back on the trail by the afternoon.
Muk Muk and I headed back to Thelma’s for one last meal, after stopping in the laundromat to get her clothes washing. They had an entire list of different kinds of pie and I finally decided on the chocolate creme one for desert. Muk Muk had never seen such a thing before!
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Then, it was time to walk back and figure out how to get a ride back to the trail. The owner told me to make a sign and hitch, but then decided he could take me and check the water cache that he stocks before the road. Before he could get ready, a green car pulled into the driveway with Karma in it! They were checking to see if anyone else needed a ride back to the trail! Unfortunately, Ed got talking to the driver and gave him the full tour of the place, including his record collection. I waited and waited and waited… Finally, he was released and we were on our way back to the trail!

I felt so happy when I started walking again. I was filled up and completely content. I saw a couple at a road crossing on their evening walk and later decided to listen to some music. I always have energy after town stops and even though my pack is at its heaviest, it never seems so bad. The thought of returning to Boston after the trail crossed my mind and I started crying. I really don’t want to go back there! I ended up walking 8.4 miles before the sun began to set.
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Day 19

Day 19
May 7
mile 255.1-266
10.9 miles into Big Bear

At 5:30 in the morning, it was 32.7 degrees- too cold to get up. I fell asleep and woke up abruptly at 6:30, feeling I had really overslept! It was still only 33 degrees. I searched my food bag for my poptarts and couldn’t find them! They were missing! How could that be? I tried biting into a power bar, but it was frozen. I packed up, put on all of my clothes, and then tried to break down my tent. My hands were frozen and pulling the stakes out of the ground was incredibly difficult. I kept telling myself that this state of discomfort was only temporary. I had 11 miles to reach the highway to hitch into Big Bear, and then I could get warm. A couple of miles away, I found the Swedes and Corey and Mountain Man sitting around a campfire.
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It would have been so nice to stay there last night, but it was a bit too far for me. I joined them for a couple of minutes while they ate their breakfast and Robin thawed out his frozen water. He was antsy to get going, but needed to pull Rasmus away from the fire.
During the climbs, my body heated up and I stopped to peel off some layers. The Swedes passed by, but I caught up to them again when they had to attend to their newly formed blisters from wearing their warm sleeping socks while walking. I had learned that lesson on the AT… I couldn’t seem to keep warm enough on the flats and descents and my nose kept running. Then, it started to hail again.
When the Swedes passed me again, I said that maybe if we were close enough, we could get a ride into town together. Their pace was much quicker than mine, however, and I found it too stressful to keep up. I sat down on a rock and gave up on the idea of hitching with them. (I had to remember I was absolutely fine on my own).
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When the road finally came into sight, I saw a white truck sitting there. Then, I saw the Swedes pacing back and forth! Maybe they were waiting for me! I quickened my pace. When I was withing a couple of minutes of reaching the road, they jumped into the truck and it sped off! Nooo!
Oh, well… Maybe they didn’t see me after all. I walked across the road and dropped my pack on the gravel. It was sleeting. I stuck out my thumb and every car that passed by ignored me. Then, the sleet turned to hail. I wish I was better at hitching! Finally, a car turned around from the other direction and the driver told me that he usually doesn’t pick up hitchhikers, but something in his gut told him to pick me up. He told me that you have to listen to that feeling when it happens. I was so thankful!!
They dropped me off at the Nature’s Inn. The owner wasn’t around and the housekeeper wasn’t sure what room was available. I left my pack in the office and headed to Thelma’s, which turned out to be quite a distance away! That didn’t make me so happy. It was still extremely cold out and I was all bundled up. However, when I sat down and they said I could still order breakfast (at 1pm), everything was okay! Andrew and Ted came in and sat at the counter. They barely acknowledged me, which was a bit disappointing. A local started chatting with me instead, which was fine by me! I asked him if this cold weather was typical here in May. He said it was.
For the rest of the day, I couldn’t get my body temperature to regulate and my nose wouldn’t stop running! The freezing cold weather had made me sick! I wasn’t even three weeks into my hike! I took a shower, started rinsing the dirt out of my clothing, and started to sort through my resupply box. I also let my AT friend know that I was in Big Bear and tried to make some plans. He was not giving me much of a response, however!
I found a little place to eat near the laundromat and had a barbecue chicken sandwich and tea for dinner. I was still feeling very cold and sick. Again, I chatted with the locals and met the guy who invented mountain bikes! Then, I went over to the laundromat to wash my clothes. The news was on and I learned that they had found the missing men! They were where I suspected they would be- on a different side of the mountain they had climbed. They were all in very good health and spirits and I found it quite stunning that I was the only one to have a cold when I had a sleeping bag and warm clothes and they were out in T-shirts and shorts! I returned to my room, tried to let the irritation of getting no response from my upcoming visitor go, and filled up the bathtub with hot water and bubbles. I hoped a night of sleep would help my body recover.

Several hours later, I heard Muk Muk’s laugh on the porch! She and UB had made it in.

Day 18- The Coldest day yet!

Day 18
May 6
mile 233.1-255.1
22 miles

I heard Half Slow walk by, talking to himself, while I was still in my tent. It was a cold morning, so I felt no rush to get up and get moving. I broke down my tent after eating breakfast and made my way out of the gully and back up onto the trail at 7:00. By 7:51, it was still only 43 degrees out!
Soon, I entered into the San Bernadino mountains as fog enveloped the atmosphere. A storm was coming through!
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I walked by a campsite in the forest with an eerie blue tarp left behind and then up ahead, saw a yellow cone with a sign warning us to stay away from that particular plant- poodle dog bush! I would have to be careful in not allowing this highly poisonous plant to brush up against my skin or clothing.
Two guys were still in their campsite with their tent set up when I passed by at mid-morning. I assumed they must not be thru-hikers with such a late start. I asked them if the creek was nearby and they assured me it was up ahead. I needed to fill up on water. It was so cold that it was almost painful to sit there and squeeze the cold water through the filter and into my water bottles. I heard some male voices come down the hill and as they neared me, they asked if I had seen three guys in their 40’s wearing T-shirts and shorts. “Is someone missing?” I asked before realizing how obvious that question was. They said they were and were not prepared to be out here overnight. Unfortunately, I couldn’t offer them any leads. I climbed up the mountain and several miles later saw a search and rescue truck. Then, a man on a horse came towards me. He was very laid-back and after asking me if I was hiking the PCT and where I was from, seemed more interested in chatting with me than heading out to find the missing hikers!
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He told me they had climbed San Gorgonio Mountain (the highest mountain in Southern California) which was off of the PCT. The smoker in the group decided to turn around and go back and when the others didn’t turn up at the truck the next morning, he called for help.
Corey and Mountain Man passed by when I was chatting. I caught up to them when they took a break on the side of the trail and decided I needed a break, too! It had only warmed up to 55 degrees. We agreed that it was a good motivator to keep moving. Before long, it started to sleet, the temperature dropped even more, and then it started to hail! I put on all of my layers, including my hat, 2 hoods, and gloves. Still, I was cold!
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I really liked being in the San Bernadino mountains, even though I missed out on most of the views because of the clouds.
One of the plants was particularly fragrant in this area, which I later realized was the poodle dog bush! As hard as I tried, I couldn’t avoid it touching me.

Before I even reached the sign for “Predators in Action”, I already was experiencing an eerie feeling in my body.
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I stood in front of the cages with warning signs all over them, feeling so sorry for these large animals- bears and tigers, mostly- that were wasting their lives away, sitting and lying down in contained spaces. And what for? I didn’t know if someone was going to come out and yell out me to go away, but it was hard not to stand there and observe these animals. Finally, I pulled myself away and headed back to the trail and trees.
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I allowed myself the treat of listening to Serena Ryder and Ray LaMontagne, knowing that it was too cold for the rattlesnakes to be out. I really enjoyed this music. And I thought a lot about my upcoming visit, wondering what it would be like.

I met back up with Corey and Mountain Man (also from Redding, CA!) at the water cache.
“Do they use the word ‘bubble’ to describe a mass of hikers in one area?”, I asked them.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that word used a couple of times before,” one of them said.
“What’s the opposite of a bubble?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, we’re in it because you 2 are the only ones I’ve seen all day!”
I cooked my pasta, ate, then packed up and moved on. I passed by some nice camping spots, but it was a bit too early to stop. Of course, when it was starting to get dark, I didn’t see anything! As the sun set, I reached a forest service dirt road with a flat spot next to it. Good enough! I figured no one would be driving on this road. I set up my tent (bending and breaking several of my stakes!), and dozed off to sleep after 8. The temperature had rapidly dropped and it was now in the low 40s. I needed to put my sleeping bag liner over my whole head to start to warm up. I wondered how the missing hikers in their t-shirts and shorts were getting through this.
A couple of hours of later in the pitch dark, a vehicle came up the road. It stopped across from my tent and a headlight started towards me! It was all happening so fast and I was just coming out of sleep. I didn’t have much time to feel scared, but my heart was beating fast as I tried to figure out what was happening.
“Hi there,” a man called out.
“Have you seen…?”
“Three men in their 40′s? No.”
“Oh, they already asked you.”
I told him they probably got cold and took a different route off the mountain, which was quite a distance from where I was now!
“Oh, that’s over by…”
He turned around and called back, “Thanks, guys!”
Thanks, girl, you mean… I’m a girl, all by myself, camping by a road…
It was freezing cold all night long. I heard helicopters flying overhead most of the night.

Day 17

Day 17
May 5
mile 210.8-233.1
22.3 miles

I was one of the first people to get up at 5:15. We had another exposed climb today so it was important to get moving early. I had frosted cereal squares, a banana, and coffee for breakfast. Affter Marijke woke up, (she and Werewolf had come in late the night before) she called me over. “We were going to tease you in Idyllwild,” she said.
“Why?” I asked. She said that the guy in the outdoor store was so obviously hitting on me, but I kept deflecting it. At first I thought she meant the guy hanging out who wanted a date, but she was talking about the one who worked there! Marijke said he was trying so hard, but I just kept shooting it down. I was completely clueless! I told her that never happens to me so my natural reaction is to dismiss it. She also told me that B-Rad is now wearing my ragged western hat that I left in the hiker box. He couldn’t understand why anyone would want to give such a good hat away! One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! I was glad it was being put to good use.
I started to pack up and took a couple of photos with Caroline and ‘The Bear.’
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Then, it was time to head for the hills! Lots of people had left in a short time frame and I yearned for my own space- if not for any other reason, so I could at least pee somewhere in this very open landscape!
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Half-Slow returned, looking for his pole tip, and Anastasia and Archie caught up to me. Finally, I was able to find a space to myself in some bushes and threw my hiking poles down. Unfortunately, they landed in the tiny needles of a plant and were now covered in them! I was amused because I had heard about this happening to other hikers in previous years and I still did the same thing! I guess we all have to experience these things for ourselves!
Caroline and I ended up climbing the last part of the hill together. As we were nearing the top (which had come much sooner than I expected), Half Slow started shouting up to her. “Caroline!…Wait up!… I promise I’ll make it worth your while!” We were both annoyed and I told her I didn’t want to wait. I started the descent and eventually Half Slow passed by. Caroline caught up to me when I was having a snack break. She was not happy at all! She told me that he had asked her what kind of sleeping pad she had and that she exploded back at him saying that she had just climbed a big hill, was having PMS, and that she was not at all in the mood to talk gear! He then pulled out her inflatable sleeping pad that had fallen off of her pack, which he had picked up. We both wondered why he couldn’t have just told her he had something of hers to begin with. This wasn’t the first interaction of the sort that we had each had with him. She continued on ahead of me, blowing off some steam by flinging dried (cow )?) poop off the trail with her hiking poles. Another woman hiker was just slightly ahead of her. The wind was picking up and this time bringing cooler air with it, which felt wonderful! I felt like I could finally enjoy the views now that I wasn’t baking under the hot sun!
Archie and Anastasia caught up to me as I was taking a short break on top of a ridge and then later on, when I had lunch at a beautiful river. This was an incredible sight in the middle of the desert!
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I had a bit of trouble finding the trail after crossing a couple of the tributaries and ended up getting my feet wet. Knowing that this would be a common occurrence in the Sierras, I just thought of it as a preview. Again, the trail started to climb. Dark clouds rolled in and the wind picked up strongly. It was the strongest wind I had encountered on the trail and I wondered if it was a smart thing to be climbing to a higher elevation at that time. I had to dig my poles into the sand and bend my body towards the ground to avoid being blown over. I wondered how Anastasia and Archie were faring in it.
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As I descended, the weather calmed. I reached another creek where I needed to collect water and looked around for a good place to do so. I found Jamie, her husband, and their two Alaskan Huskeys resting under a tree and found my own spot to snack.
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The girls came along a bit later and talked about the possibility of doing their first 20 mile day today. They told me that I had given them good advice- that if they took several breaks, it became something possible to do! I felt proud and happy for them.
I moved on and as I became tired, I decided to listen to some music for the first time on the trail. It’s not advisable to have headphones on in the desert because you won’t be able to hear rattlesnakes, but I felt like it was now a safe time of day. A little Michael Jackson in the desert turned out to be quite fun! (Unfortunately, I realized that all of the music I had meant to transfer onto my iphone for my hike was still on my computer back home! So, I was stuck with a very limited selection out here). Half Slow was in the same area and wanted me to tell him what mile I was at with the App on my phone. I wondered why he couldn’t figure that out for himself! (It takes time for the GPS to work…) I got a bit lost again soon after, but finally started the last climb of the day. I found a nice spot to rest and contemplated stopping there for the night. I was hoping the girls would come by so I could give them a congratulatory treat for their first 20 mile day, but they weren’t coming. I decided to get a little more distance in with the remaining light.
After passing Half Slow’s tent, I saw a wide gully beneath the trail and decided I could set up my tent down in it. There was still plenty of light out so I was able to take my time and watch the sky change as dusk fell.
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Today was a good day.

Day 16: My toughest day so far!

Day 16
May 4
mile 194.5-210.8
16.3 miles

I woke up to an amazing sunrise and thought about how lucky I was to find this spot to sleep!
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As I sat in my sleeping bag, preparing for the morning, the group of three from Redding passed by. I guess they got tired, too! I got up to pee and pack my things and then heard voices below me! What?! I looked down to see three guys standing around with their tents still up! I wondered if they had seen me peeing…! Since I got in so late last night, I couldn’t see anything and they, of course, were already asleep!
I resumed the 23 mile descent (I had never heard of such a thing!), expecting to pass by their campsite, but never did. (I guess they had camped off trail). Prickly bushes had overgrown large portions of the trail, scratching and scraping me. Today would be a game of which would be the lesser of two evils- get scratched up or overheat from a more protective layer? The three guys passed me one by one, as I tried to step aside and make room for them on the very narrow trail. My mood was already sinking.
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I noticed that the guys were bypassing the switchbacks and cutting down the hill. So that’s how people were doing bigger miles! I remained on the path and took my usual breaks as a couple more hikers caught up. This was going to be a slow day!
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At some point, I came to a thin marker with a ‘200’ on it.
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Reaching the 200 mile point took so much longer than the first 100 miles due to all the time I had spent off trail. It felt a bit disconcerting. Yard Sale, an 18 year old hiker, who I had seen in Idyllwild on the morning I had left, came down the mountain and let out a “whoop” as he brushed by this milestone. I thought we might be able to take pictures of each other, but I was left to my own. I guess it wasn’t that important. As I continued on, I kept looking for the “water fountain” down below that I heard Spoonman talking about. He said it taunted hikers as we descended the endless switchbacks in the sun. I struggled with my wish to take a nap under a rock that provided some bit of shade and wanting to get to my destination as soon as possible. I needed some rest, so I opted for a short nap. Since the rock was slanted and uncomfortable to lie on, it wasn’t hard to get up and continue on.
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I finally found myself on the floor of the desert in front of the water fountain! There was a car parked nearby and my only concern was where I could pee without being seen! I collected and filtered water and headed across the road to find the trail. Once again, I got confused. I thought the trail crossed the road, but I couldn’t find where it reconnected. The car slowly pulled up and the man inside asked if I was confused. He told me that the trail followed the road for awhile and then cut across several more miles of dusty desert. He said the group of three was probably in the middle of that section now. He gave me a mini-geology lesson and told me to kick dirt into a sidewinder’s eyes if I saw one. “Sidewinder? What’s that?” I asked. He couldn’t believe I didn’t know! He was also very dismayed that I had filtered the water I had collected from the fountain, as he said it was some of the most pure water that could be found in the country!
I walked down the road and eventually reached the flat section. However, the wind had kicked up and the sand was now several inches deep, making it extremely hard to move forward! A helicopter flew overhead and I saw a sign that said to stop and wait to proceed until helicopter activity was over. How long was I going to have wait in this burning sun and high wind?! I decided it was okay to proceed. I said hello to a man taking a break under his umbrella and continued on. My mood was growing worse. This deep sand was awful! Why hadn’t I heard about this? I thought about some people back home and wished they could see the conditions I was in. I hoped they knew that I wasn’t having fun! Once I reached a big tree that provided some shade, I went over to it and took a break. Soon, ants were swarming all over me! What other challenges were going to confront me?
I reached the I-10 underpass and found two hikers who were going by the name “Wild Boys” and their dog hanging out underneath it.
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Some trail angels had left bottled water for PCT hikers, so I sat down and had one of those (much better than the boiling hot water in my bottles!). I then moved on at what felt like a snail’s pace. I had to stop to drink some of my hot water. Eventually, I started seeing signs to the trail angel’s house.
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I made my way around to the back gate and opened the door. When I rounded the corner, I saw about 20 hikers lounging in a carpeted area under some raised tarps. I was so tired and grumpy! Caroline came up behind me and knocked off my hat. I was not yet in the mood to socialize! A guy that was working for the trail angels offered me a seat and said he would bring me a foot bath. I asked him if I could have a cold one and he knew I had read the website that he had written! Ziggy likes everyone to have warm foot baths so she was not happy about him putting ice in mine! After my feet soaked, I was shown the shower and when I got my turn to clean up, I felt so much better! When I had my picture taken by Ziggy, a hiker that I did not know flashed me a nice smile. I felt a bit self-conscious and turned away. Several of the hikers were headed back out to the trail, but I was too tired to go anywhere and decided to spend the night there. I found a spot to lay out my sleeping bag and sorted through my resupply box. Archie was teaching Leftover how to do a downward dog and she called it “Cowboy pose.” I asked her why she was calling it that and she said it was because the hiker Cowboy was always doing it. It was that moment that I put several things together and realized that the guy who I saw doing a little yoga at Mike H’s place and the person that Anastasia and Archie had asked me if I had seen several times was Cowboy!
We were offered salad and then had time to make our trail dinners before they served us ice cream! I chatted with Caroline and caught up on her many trail stories. As darkness settled, we prepared for sleep. I brushed my teeth at the outdoor sink and took out my contacts. The wind was so strong that the first one blew right off my hand! Great! I looked around and saw nothing. Hikers were walking by on their way to the outhouse. I gave up hope when Caroline walked by and saw it on the ground! Awesome! As I lied in my sleeping bag, hikers continued to stream in get their foot baths. The wind whipped through the tarps all night, not allowing us light sleepers much of a chance to sleep yet again.