Day 102: I love the PCT!

Day 102
July 29
mile 1606.4-1625
18.5 miles

My spot on the back lawn of Alderbrook Manor was probably the most peaceful and beautiful place that I had camped on the PCT. It would have been nice to sleep in a bit, but I had to go the bathroom, and I didn’t know what time FunSize was getting up and wanted to go to breakfast. I headed over to the bunkhouse, past all of the sleeping hikers, and was surprised to find Braveheart still in bed and FunSize asleep! Why was I the other person up? I sat down in a chair inside the bunkhouse and started to compose a small update to post while I waited. When FunSize woke up, he looked down at me and said, “Good morning, Wendy!” with a big smile. After he showered, the three of us got on bikes to head downtown. Two mountain biking guests were getting ready for their long ride. We all started out around the same time and I soon found myself trying to match their pace! My competitive spirit was already coming back on my second attempt at riding a bike! I was the first to arrive at the diner, where I had another omelet, toast, and fruit.
On the way back, I saw Veggie relaxing outside a coffee shop, reading the newspaper. I wished I could have stayed another day here, but my schedule was too tight to do so. Having arrived on a Sunday, I did not get to visit the old fashioned soda counter or swim in the pool, as they were both closed. Back at the Manor, I was enlisted to find out about a ride back to the trail. Dave wanted to give Fred some time, so we agreed on 10:00. I went to pack up my things and took two minutes to lie in the hammock, which felt amazing! I decided that I want one of my own some day.
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Lots of hikers congregated in the front yard, anxious to get back to the trail. I filled my water bottles as Cookie and Braveheart played with the dog, and Shyshinka took photographs of everyone. Braveheart then decided he might as well make use of the waiting time by eating a giant bowl of Lucky Charms. When Fred’s truck pulled up, FunSize started feeling sad about us all leaving. He told Shyshinka and I that seeing us makes him feel happy! Shyshinka was planning on doing 30 miles today in order to make it to Ashland before the post office closed on Friday, and FunSize worried that he would never see him again. “Don’t say that!” I said. I knew that would not be the case. (And if it were, it would be too sad!).
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We threw our packs in the back, found a spot in the truck, and waved goodbye to FunSize.
When we arrived back at the Etna Summit trailhead, there was a feeling of excitement and happiness in the air. No one was in a rush to get hiking. I kept thinking, “This is so much fun!”. Sometimes, the right mix of people come together and the energy of a place is really positive. Etna turned out to be one such stop.
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I took the lead until I had to pee. Since everyone was fairly close together, I had to wait for them all to pass by.
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I kept my mind amused with things that happened in Etna, such as Shyshinka’s story about taping up his ripped shorts, which led FunSize to stand up on the couch and impersonate Michael Jackson and me to start screaming with laughter. In a couple of miles, there was a trail register and I waited for Cookie and Elk to sign it before sitting down to read through it.
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I later collected water at a cow-infested stream to make myself an ice coffee and chat with Elk. The water was not cold enough for it, though. My intestines were still problematic, but my mood was good. Elk started hiking before me.
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I later caught up to her at a pond. I took the lead and, towards evening, when I reached the last stream of the day, sat down to collect and filter water and eat a snack.
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Elk came along, hoping to get in five more miles to camp where Cookie was planning on getting to. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hike that far before dark.
The trail climbed and I met two section hikers headed south. They planned on hiking to Sierra City.
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As the sun went down, I found a nice flat spot that was perfect for one person alongside the trail. Everything was well. Today, I loved the PCT and didn’t want this hike to end!

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In Etna, CA!

I’m now in Etna, CA- mile 1606. Less than 100 miles of California left! Wow!! Got caught in a huge hailstorm (marble sized!) for an hour and a half a few days ago. Soaking wet, cold, and nowhere to hide. It’s been extremely hot (and surprisingly humid!) these past 2 weeks. The locals haven’t seen anything like it. It’s a big fire year, too. There is one currently happening around Crater Lake where I am headed.
Yesterday, I saw my friend Fun Size again. I didn’t know where he was since about mile 1380. (He hikes really big miles, really quickly- his pack is twice as light as mine- but when he stops in town, he takes a lot more rest than I do). Anyway, we rode bikes down to the other end of town to get some food. That was a huge deal for me. I hadn’t been on a bike since I flew over the handlebars of mine when I was about 12. I really wanted to walk, but he said he would be finished with his milkshake by the time I got there! So, I mustered up enough courage and got on. It was terrifying, but so fun!!
I wanted to do some writing while I was here, but the time just flies by and there is not enough time to do everything!! It is 7am and I can’t believe that all of the thruhikers are still sleeping! I want to be sleeping, too, and I really wish I could have some rest today, but I have to keep going. This is a lovely place.

Oh- a bear and I almost ran into each other at 7:50 pm two nights ago! It was so cute! I bypassed the last sure campspot because I wanted to hike until 8. Things were not looking good… There were boulders everywhere and no possible places. I bushwhacked down off the trail, but still couldn’t find anything, so I headed back to the trail and thought I might have to night hike up and over the mountain. However, at 8:20, I reached an opening in the climb, found a flat sandy spot, and was able to watch a beautiful sunset! I couldn’t believe how one minute, my night was going to be a really bad one, and 25 minutes later, everything was wonderful!

Day 101: Etna!

Day 101
July 28
mile 1602.8-1606.4
3.6 miles

I wasn’t motivated to get up super early, even to watch the sun rise, as I had less than 4 miles to get down to the road. I ate a quick breakfast, took a couple of pictures of the scenery in the daylight, and got going at 7:24.
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I had to first finish the climb and then make my way down the mountain. As I neared the road, two women, two men, and a dog named, Luna approached me at the start of their hike. We chatted for a few minutes and then I finished up the descent, arriving at 8:42. There was a bulletin board in the parking lot, and while I wanted to get to the road in order not to miss one of the few passing cars, part of me thought I should see what was posted.
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Just then, a blue car went whizzing past. No!! I walked over to the road, took off my pack, and waited…and waited… and waited. Three cars went by in the other direction and although they were going the opposite direction, each driver waved. No one was headed the way I wanted to go! After about 35 minutes, a white truck headed in my direction! I stuck out my thumb, but the driver put his hands up as if to say he couldn’t help! Really? I had read that this road had very little traffic, but that all of us would eventually get a ride. Being Sunday, there were almost no cars headed into town. The horizon was very hazy and I wondered why I couldn’t see the mountains clearly.
At last, I saw a white pick-up truck pull over at the trail head across the road. A bunch of hikers were being dropped off! I put on my pack and headed towards it, assuming the driver would be going back to town. I didn’t know any of the hikers, but they were all in a good mood and were thanking the driver for the cookies he had given them! Once everyone was set, I put my pack in the truck and headed down the mountain with Fred. I didn’t understand exactly who he was or how he was connected to the Hiker Hut, but he was a very nice man and he told me about the fires in the area along the way. There were currently a large number of them spreading in Northern California and Southern Oregon, and the worry was that they would come together and create an even more massive fire. So far, none of the Northern California fires were threatening the PCT, but Fred said that there was one happening around Crater Lake, where I was soon headed. He didn’t know how close to the trail it was or how much it was contained at this point.
As we neared town, he asked if I was staying at the Hiker Hut. I didn’t know. Part of me wanted some privacy, and I thought the motel would be better, but not spending so much money was also appealing. The hiker I had run into yesterday told me that Bob’s Ranch House had great breakfasts, so I asked Fred if he could take me there while I thought about it. We drove past the Hikers Hut and I saw a bunch of hikers hanging out, including Shyshinka. Fred laughed and told me that he was desperate to visit the commune nearby and see what the hippies were like. He had asked Fred for a ride, but Fred tried to dissuade him. We drove on and I asked about the motel. Fred said it was small and often booked up if there was an event in town. He dropped me off at Bob’s and I told him I would probably see him tomorrow morning!
I left my pack at the entrance and took a seat at the counter, since the tables were full. I had an avocado, bacon, tomato, and jack cheese omelet, with a side of fruit, and wheat toast, along with an orange juice and coffee. I was glad for the time alone to decompress a bit. The waitress was very attentive about re-filling my coffee cup, which I really appreciated. I texted my Swiss friend to tell him I was now in town. He asked if I was going to head back out to the trail after breakfast! (I just got here!!). I decided to order some french toast after a little break and ended up eating it all! For once, I felt like a normal thru-hiker!
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My Swiss friend said he had time to talk, so I went outside to try to find some reception. It turned out to be more of a difficult task than I expected. My phone battery was about to die and I found an outlet outside of the bakery, but the reception was too weak there. Finally, I managed to find a place to talk, but the conversation took a bad turn and did not end well. In the meantime, a couple headed into the diner stopped to chat with me and wanted to know if I needed a ride somewhere. When they found out I just wanted to get to the other side of town, they were no longer concerned. I put on my pack and headed back out into the sun to walk the mile back to the hiker hut. Along the way, I saw Ole, TrackMeat, and Veggie on bikes. Ole stopped to chat with me. I walked on, looking at my phone to see if my Swiss friend had texted. Most often, when I am upset, he tries to placate things. This time, he was letting me stay upset…
I arrived at the Hiker Hut and found my two packages on the porch. I decided I would stay there after all, and went into the office to check in and pay. For $15, I could camp in the backyard, and do my laundry for $3 more. A hiker was sitting at the table in the front lawn and said hi to me. He said his name was Slack and that he had seen me in Sierra City, where I was not looking good. He said that I looked much more lively now and that he was happy to see me that way. (I can look lively??… That made me feel happy in itself!!). The shower was free, so I took the opportunity to get clean before other people arrived and wanted to use it. Braveheart was inside. He had stayed in the bunkroom the night before and was planning on staying tonight, as well. When I finished showering, I heard a familiar voice outside, although I could not immediately place it. It turned out to be Fun Size!! We were finally reunited after not having seen each other since Old Station, over 200 miles ago!
This morning, he had somehow hiked a ridiculous 22 miles to get here, passing 11 other thru-hikers along the way! After he got settled in, we decided to head back into town to get some lunch together. He wanted to take the loaner bikes, but I preferred to stay on my feet- even if I had to walk a mile to get there. When I was twelve, I had an accident in which I flew over the handlebars of my bike, and ever since, I have been too scared to get back on one! FunSize said that he would be finished with his milkshake by the time I got there if I walked! So, I stood staring at the row of bikes with their rusted and broken brake handles, trying to muster enough courage to get on one of them. I pulled one of the bikes out, sat myself on top, tipping from one side to the other, and even though I was shaking, decided I could give it a try. We started off downhill and I tried to find my balance for the first couple of minutes. Once we hit the main road, I hoped the cars would be understanding of me, as I did not have much control! It turned out to be a terrifying, yet exhilarating experience, and I was so happy when I came to a stop at Dotty’s! I did it! We headed in for our hamburgers and milkshakes, which were quite disappointing to me. I think we should have gone to Bob’s instead. FunSize ordered us some curly fries and we laughed and laughed while we ate (although he got mad at me for using too many napkins!). Then, we got back on our bikes and headed back. I had to pedal up the hill to start and then manuever through a busy road again. In those moments, I felt more free than I had in a long time! I was overcoming a very long held fear, was moving much faster than I had moved on my own in a long time…and I was out here in the town of Etna and didn’t have to go to work!! I felt so happy!
Fun Size wanted to stop at the grocery store and I said I would see him back at the hut, but then he asked why I didn’t want to stop there, too! Okay… The store reminded me of one that my Swiss friend and I had gone into in Northern Italy (not a nice one). Fun Size asked me if I wanted to share a pint of blueberries with him. Sure! I got us each a banana, and then we went to the freezer to pick out a flavor of ice cream. How nice to have someone to share things with!! We headed back to the hut and I began my resupply sorting process. I sat on the porch, which turned out to be a mistake, as the sun was baking me. My energy quickly wilted. Fun Size offered to help me take my things to a shadier place and then sat by me to keep me company while I sorted. When the washer was free, I put my load of laundry in, and then went to the back of the property to set up my sleeping bag. Cookie and Runs with Elk had set up nearby, while the others were staying in the middle of the bunkhouse and our area. Braveheart, Ole, and the others were planning on going to the brewery for dinner, and wanted me to go, too. I felt well-liked at this place!
I wasn’t so hungry after the hamburger and milkshake, however, and Fun Size and I needed to eat our snacks that we bought. He was on the phone and I decided to wait to see what he was going to do. We were both torn. Part of us wanted to stay, and part wanted to go. He started looking at the VHS options… Once he heard Siesta and Weebee had made it into town and were at the brewery, he decided that he would go say hi. I stayed and took out the ice cream. I felt like I needed to journal, as well. So many things to do and so little time!!
Surprisingly, Fun Size returned not too long afterwards! Oh, Shashinka had returned from his commune visit by this time and had a nice reunion with Fun Size! Unfortunately, being Sunday, the hippies were all having an off-site meeting and Shyshinka didn’t get to observe any of them!
We ended up watching “Best in Show” with Cookie and Runs with Elk. I rarely watch movies, so this was something different for me. It was nice to be around people and laugh. Of course, it was well after my bedtime by now and I kept yawning. Braveheart and Funsize slept in the bunks while the girls headed out to the backyard. This turned out to be a great day! I love Etna!

Day 100!! (An amazing turn around at the end of the day!)

Day 100
July 27
mile 1575-1602.8
27.8 miles

I was so tired in the morning and on top of that, my stomach was really hurting. When I sat up at 6:24, I just wanted to lie back down! I took some ibruprofen with my breakfast, hoping that would help with the pain. Although I didn’t have to rush out of my sleeping bag, there was still no evidence of improvement in my intestines. When I took off my thermal bottoms, I noticed a big red rash on my upper thighs! I guess it wasn’t the best idea to go to sleep in wet clothes! All I could do was hope that it would fade!
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At 7:39, I finally got walking. The day started with a small climb and then descent to the saddle that Braveheart had pointed out on the map.
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There did turn out to be a flat spot for camping there as he had thought, and I imagined that he had camped there. I wondered how he had coped with the storm. As I continued on, I heard the clanging of metal cow bells and soon came across an entire herd standing on the trail. When they saw me, they immediately ran down the mountain slope with great clamor, kicking up mounds of dust! Funny animals…
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During my descent through the forest to South Fork Scott River, I listened to some music. Having forgotten to transfer the songs that I was hoping to have for my hike, I didn’t have a lot to choose from. Most of my songs were ones that I used for my yoga classes, and today, the ones that played all seemed to have come from one of my main yoga teachers. I thought I would miss my teachers and yoga classes a lot while I was out here, but that turned out not to be the case. I was simply too consumed with hiking the miles that I needed to hike in order to finish. However, when I heard David’s songs, I started to miss him. I also missed myself in his classes. He always makes me laugh and I think that is the best form of healing someone can offer. When you are laughing, you are completely content and nothing else matters.
I made it to the river and treated myself with an ice coffee and snacks. My intestines were not doing well at all, unfortunately. It was another extremely warm and humid day and I had a lot of climbing ahead of me.
I reached a parking lot, where I found a helicopter landing pad and then crossed a road to resume climbing. I hadn’t seen a single human being since Braveheart and I parted yesterday afternoon, and I wondered if today might be my first morning until night alone! I thought about what Kermit had talked about yesterday and wondered about doing seasonal work in Alaska in the winter.
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I continued to climb and kept an eye out for the next spring, which was off the trail. Somehow, I ended up missing it. My energy began to fade and I needed to sit down. I decided to have another ice (moderate temp?) coffee to boost my energy for the last 10 miles, realizing this was not starting a good pattern…
It did get me on my way, however. At 4:08, I ran into a southbounder. So much for my day of solitude! When I told him that he was the first person I had seen today, he apologized, which I thought was nice. He was a school teacher from Florida, finishing up a 650 mile section, and was the first person to congratulate me on almost making it to Oregon! He told me about Etna and highly recommended staying at the Hikers Hut. He also told me to keep looking up toward my right, as I was going to pass a neat rock formation. He asked me if there were any camping spots around the river and then we parted ways.
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I listened to more music to help me along as I walked. When I came to a little stream, I decided to dip my hand in the water to help cool me down a bit. Somehow, my iphone dropped into the water as I did so! It was now sitting in a pool of water, completely submerged! My mouth dropped open as my brain started to panic. I didn’t have time to soak it in a bowl of rice for two days!! What did I just do?!
Fortunately, it still seemed to work…
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I reached the last definite place to camp as evening approached. It was a well-used site, in the woods, and beside a creek. I dropped my pack, looked around, and thought about whether I really wanted to stop here for the night. It would mean that I would have nearly 10 miles to hike down to the road to hitch into Etna tomorrow. I decided that I didn’t feel so comfortable here. I don’t like being near water that drowns out all other sounds and I prefer not to camp in mosquito infested woods. I put my pack back on and kept walking, not knowing what I would find ahead.
In just under three and a half miles, I reached the last water source before the road and stopped to collect and filter water. I could hear campers nearby and smelled the smoke from their fire. I felt under pressure to move as quickly as possible due to the dimming light. As I started the next climb, two teenage boys hiked down, presumably to join the group at the lake. I hiked onwards, hoping a little spot would appear somewhere. However, the ridge I was walking on offered no such places!
The trail re-entered a wooded section. I heard a noise and all of a sudden, saw a cute little bear happily foraging in the trees just off the trail in front of me! He did not yet see me and started making its way in my direction! For a second, I wondered what was going to happen. It seemed like he was going to run right into me, but then he finally noticed me and quickly turned around and headed down the slope. I could see a second bear further down!
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It was now 7:49! The sun was setting, I was now in the direct vicinity of a family of bears, and I still had no idea where I was going to camp. As I continued to climb, things only started looking worse. I was now in very rocky terrain. Huge boulders sat all around the trail. I wondered if I was going to have to night hike all the way to the road.
I continually scanned the terrain on both sides of the trail and a couple of times, went off the trail, looking for any possible places to lie down. I bushwacked down one hill where I thought I saw a semi-flat space well below the trail. Still, there were two many rocks around. I kicked one over to discover a bunch of white maggots writhing around. Do I want to camp in a rocky place surrounded by maggots? No, I did not. So, back up the hill, I went. I guess I was going to have to night hike.
About a half a mile later, I suddenly came to an opening in the climb. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes! Here was a nice, flat, sandy spot right along the trail. And since I was now up high, I had a bit of extra light to set up with. I walked over to the opening and looked out over the horizon as my jaw dropped, unable to believe the incredible sunset I was witnessing! How could it be that a few minutes ago, I was about to (try to) go to sleep in the most uncomfortable, maggot infested places that I had ever camped, or after hiking nearly 28 miles, be forced to continue climbing over this mountain in the dark, and now, I was completely fine, and more than that, watching one of the most magnificent sunsets that I had ever seen! I just couldn’t believe what a difference a few minutes had made.
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I set up my cowboy camp, cooked my dinner, and kept walking over to the opening between the rocks to watch the sky turn color. The mosquitoes were still out, and one even bit me through my sock, but the wind was starting to pick up, which I knew would chase these bothersome creatures away. I put on my hat and nestled into my sleeping bag, grateful for this amazing turn-around in my night.

(Less than one hundred miles until Oregon!)

Day 99: A Day of the Unexpected

Day 99
July 26
mile 1548.8-1575
26.2 miles

I got up at 6:13 and saw the sun rise through the trees.
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For breakfast, I had my Love Crunch granola, which I added some chocolate whey protein, chia seeds, and powdered milk to. While I ate, flies infiltrated my area, landing on me, my sleeping bag, my trash bag, and whatever else they could find.
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I then boiled my coffee (having only one container to both eat and drink from), and after a few sips, had to dash out of my sleeping bag. Ugh. As I am taking care of my business, I hear a man clear his throat! Great! I look down to see an older guy stopped by a dried up creek, looking all around. Why now? I had to wait several minutes for him to get going so I could finish up.
At 7:10, Elk and Cookie passed by. I got on the trail at 7:22. I felt pretty good in the morning miles and ended up passing everyone. I found Rabbit Stix bent over and leaning on his hiking poles on a fairly small incline. When I got close, he looked behind and smiled slightly. Concerned about how he looked, I asked him how he was. He answered, “Fine, thanks.” He didn’t look fine to me, but I guessed I didn’t need to worry.
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At 9:00, I stopped again to receive the reiki Checka was sending. I felt a lot of energy in my hands and then in my feet. As I walked, I thought about what an incredible gift it is when someone consciously dedicates several minutes out of their busy day to thinking about someone else, especially when they are doing it for the purpose of healing. I also realized how I needed to work on being more open to receiving. I have been incredibly independent over the course of my life, relying solely on myself for survival. It is much easier for me to give than to receive, and I found this exercise helpful in learning to allow more.
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Both of my guides indicating that there was a spring at mile 1560, but there was actually nothing there at all! Disgruntled, I sat down and ate a snack anyway. I was surprised that my granola had lasted that long! Usually, I need to eat every couple of hours!
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I came to a little spring. A man was sitting in the shade beside it, filtering his water. I went over to a rock in the sun and then patiently collected water. The other hiker wanted to know where the next water source was, but all I could tell him was the information he already had! When he left, I moved over to the shade and made myself an ice coffee. I looked back to see a hiker approaching. It turned out to be Braveheart! He dug out a big bag of vanilla wafers from his pack, complaining that he didn’t have enough cookies! We chatted for awhile, but at 12:20, I told him I had to get going! I had been there for 50 minutes already!
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I managed to stay ahead of him for longer than expected. Up ahead, I saw the other hiker lying down next to the trail, eating a bagel with cream cheese. He didn’t see me until I was practically upon him and said hi! When I stopped to take a pack break, Braveheart caught up to me and asked if I had seen the rattlesnake 100 yards back. I had not. He said that he had brushed up against the bushes and then thought, “Wait a minute… Bushes don’t sound like that!” I said that it didn’t rattle at me. Braveheart said I probably woke him up as I passed by. (Actually, I think brushing against the bushes is what woke him up!). I hadn’t had a rattlesnake encounter since way back in the desert!
Braveheart stopped to collect another liter of water soon after (I had to call back to tell him there was a better source ahead where I was) and I headed down toward the highway. The trail was littered with rocks that hurt my tired feet when I stepped on them. I hadn’t felt them hurt so much in a long time!
As I neared the road, I saw a sign that read “trail magic” and looked back with a smile at Braveheart. He was hoping for some here, but I didn’t want to put any false hope into my head. The sign told us that it was being offered at Camp 3 by Kermit.
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We headed across the road, wondering how to get to Camp 3. A few people were standing around chatting nearby and one of them came over to greet us. It was Kermit! He told us to follow him to his site, which Braveheart and I agreed was too far away and too hard to find if we didn’t have someone to show us the way. He asked us if we liked lemonade. Of course! However, he couldn’t find the paper cups, so he offered us a power bar as we waited for his wife, Junebug, to arrive. We chatted with them and came to find out that these were Weebee’s parents! They had been driving from town to town, supporting their daughter in her hike, and offering snacks to other hikers. Junebug asked if we would like a piece of bread and later handed us each a ziplock baggie with two chocolate chip cookies in it. The other hiker appeared and joined our group. When Braveheart started talking about the process of applying for jobs after the hike, Kermit asked him, “Why would you want a real job?”. He said that he was serious and told us how Weebee had created her own life by working seasonally in Alaska, making good money for half the year, and then going off for an adventure the other half. Junebug said that her daughter was one of the happiest people she knew. I was starting to think this could be possible for me, as well!
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It was now 4:00 and I had hoped to still get in 10.7 miles. Braveheart and I excused ourselves and headed back to the trail. He hiked behind me and asked where I was stopping for the night. When I told him my goal, he said that would be a good stopping point for him, too! The trail climbed steeply and I knew I couldn’t sustain the pace I was keeping. I told Braveheart that I needed to stop for a snack. I wished I had eaten some protein while I was sitting around during our unexpected break. I pulled out my summer sausage while Bravehart looked at his map. He said it looked like there was a flat spot in a saddle around mile 1577.8. He went on as I finished my snack.
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Minutes later, I heard the sound of thunder. Raindrops had fallen while we were sitting around Kermit’s campsite and I almost thought we were going to have to huddle in their RV, but then it seemed to have passed. Now, the wind was picking up. I stopped to seal my phone and camera in a ziplock bag. When I emerged out of the woods and could see Mt. Shasta in the distance, it was covered in dark clouds. I could see the rain falling and hoped it wouldn’t move this way.
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However, within a couple of minutes, big drops began to fall on me! I quickly put my rain cover on my pack and headed off the trail into a patch of trees. They offered no protection, though! The wind was blowing the rain horizontally! I decided to get back on the trail and keep walking. My skirt got completely soaked in the next few minutes and the trail turned into a river! Then, the rain turned to hail. The size of the hail increased and pelted my body. It hit my hands, my head, and my neck, stinging me each time. Oww! By now, it was marble sized! I had never seen hail this big before! I found a tree to stand under next to the trail, but I could not escape the onslaught of pelting. I backed myself as close to the trunk of the tree as possible, my feet standing on an incline, ready to slip off at any second. I was cold and wet and stood shivering. I watched the trail transform from a river into a field of hail. Everywhere I looked, it was white! Then, the hail turned back into hard rain. I decided to start walking to try to warm up a little. The hail returned and I spent the next hour alternating with stopping under trees and walking through ankle-high rivers flooding the trail. My feet were soaked and my body was extremely cold. I moved and then stopped, walked through the hail and river, then tried hiding under a tree. I was determined to make it to Mosquito Lake Creek! In my way was a raging brown river! The water was the color of coffee! This was an angry storm! I could see the tops of rocks above the strong current, but wasn’t confident that I could make it across that path the way the water was rushing. Instead, I just went right through it! Disgusting! My feet were now frozen and I decided it would be best to keep climbing so I could give my body a chance to warm up! I told myself that I would be warm in 2 hours. I just had three more miles to hike in this cold, wet state. I could do it! Finally, the rain lessened. From the amount of hail on the ground in front of me, it looked like the storm wasn’t as bad here, as it had been where I was.
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I looked behind me to see flashes of lightning. I was just going to keep moving away from the storm.
Soon enough, the sun came out and cast a beautiful soft light over the landscape. I even saw a little rainbow!
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It was incredible to see such a turn-around in the elements. One minute, I was in the middle of one of the biggest and most uncomfortable storms of my life, and an hour and a half later, I was walking in a calm, tranquil land of flowers and the evening glow of twilight.
Just after 8:00, I arrived at my intended destination! No one else was around. Since the rain had stopped, I decided it was safe to cowboy camp. I thought my clothes would dry faster if I kept them on, so I put my thermal bottoms (which I was glad I had not shipped ahead) over my skirt. I cooked a dinner as I watched the clouds turn pink and then huddled into my sleeping bag, hoping to get warm and dry.
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I only have 125 miles left in California!!

Day 98: Still sick

Day 98
July 25
mile 1521.6-1548.8
27.2 miles

I suffered from painful heartburn all night long and couldn’t sleep. It was a terrible combination of pain and nausea that must have stemmed from the town food I had eaten. Why did real food hurt me so much?? At least I was alone. I got up at 6:45 and my intestines immediately acted up. I still felt the remnants of heartburn in my chest. For breakfast, I ate poptarts so I didn’t have to use any water to dissolve my powdered milk.
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By 7:40, I was all packed up and on the trail again.
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A few miles later, I saw SunDog and Giggles. They told me that the trail was very crowded with people behind us! They wanted to stay at the Sulphur Creek camping area, but there were too many people there by the time they arrived, so they had to walk several additional miles before finding a place to camp. That news made me want to get moving quickly! I told Giggles that I liked her new hat and they joked about calling it the “chastity bonnet” because they couldn’t kiss as easily now. “Only on Sundays,” SundDog said. He was massaging Giggles’ shoulders because they were kinked from sleeping in a weird position. Someday, I hope to have a relationship like they have! I told them that I had a scheduled long distance reiki session at 9am that I was excited for and headed on. Around 8:55, I started looking for a place to sit down in the woods. I didn’t see many good options, but finally, I found a rock just off the trail next to a tree. Checka said we would spent a couple of minutes transitioning into the space, then I would practice being open to receiving as she sent me energy, and then we would close it off for the last minute or so. I sat facing away from the trail, as I knew SunDog and Giggles were about to pass by, and opened my palms to the sky. I could feel energy tingling in my hands, and the minutes quickly passed by.
The trail climbed out of the forest and out onto another ridge.
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I could see a lake off to the left, well below the trail, which was too far off the PCT to get to. I ran into two older day hikers who were heading towards me. One of them said, “There are a lot of hikers ahead of you.” I wasn’t sure what to make of this. Of course, there were a lot of hikers ahead of me. There were even more behind me!! Then, the man said, “In about three and a half miles… you’re going to come to a road… ” “Yeah,” he said. That was it! I was going to come to a road? I had crossed plenty of roads by this point! Why was he saying this to me? If there was something meaningful at this road, like jugs of water or food, he could have said that, but that was all he had to say! Part of me thought that maybe they didn’t want to ruin a surprise for me, so I felt a bit hopeful!
I headed on, reaching the gravel road in less than three miles and then took a couple of minutes to look around. There was nothing there!
Later on, I ran into a woman walking her dog (carrying a tennis ball in its mouth) and then a grandmother and granddaughter who stopped to talk with me. The grandmother was amazed that I was hiking the trail alone and told me that her nine year old granddaughter wanted to do the same thing one day. She said that I was a good role model! “She’s training for it now,” she said as I walked away.
I walked until I saw a couple of hikers and several backpacks by a tree. I wondered if there was trail magic over there! It turned out that there was a spring 800 feet down a hill that SunDog and Giggles had stopped at. They took off just before I got there. An older man had just returned from collecting water, as well, and encouraged me to take the path down. “It’s nice and cold!”.
“But it’s too far away!” I said.
He told me he thought the same thing, but SunDog and Giggles had convinced him and now he was doubly convincing me! I told him I had enough water and headed on.
Not too long afterwards, I came to one of the best sources of water I had seen on the entire trail! It was flowing out of a copper pipe and was nice and cool. I was so glad that I had waited! I collected water and took my pack up to a bank along the trail. My stomach was still hurting and my intestines acted up again, so I had to quickly find a spot to take care of my problem. Then, I returned to filter my water and make another delicious ice coffee, which I enjoyed with a Snickers bar and a packet of almond butter as my afternoon energy boost. Four kids had come along in the meantime. They stopped to get water here, as well, but did not say hi to me. Then, faster than I could react, a cyclist came whizzing through, greeting the kids on his way past me. I was so stunned that I didn’t know what to do! Bicycles are not allowed on the PCT…
I collected more water and filtered enough so that I had my full capacity of three and a half liters to carry with me. This break had cost me 40 minutes of time! The older man approached just as I was getting ready to head out. He said his name was Rabbit Stix and asked me what mine was. “Wendy.”
“That’s what your mother calls you,” he said, somewhat annoyed.
“I don’t have a mother,” I responded. (Even when I technically did, she never spoke to me, and when she did many, many years ago, Wendy was not the name she most commonly used…).
He took out a little pad of paper and said he had to write my name down. He asked me if I was leapfrogging with SunDog and Giggles. I wasn’t sure what to say. I just am where I am….
As I walked away, I put in my new headphones and was so happy to be able to hear music so clearly with two ears! It helped get my energy going. I didn’t think anyone was around me so I sang along with several of the songs. While I walked, I could see Mt. Shasta, now from a different vantage point. It is quite an incredible mountain and I found it interesting that I had been able to see it for so many miles! I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience like that before. Although I felt very sick today, I could feel the freedom of being out here on the trail, and felt grateful for it. And although my pack was heavy with three and a half liters of water, I felt like I was moving well. The bugs weren’t as bad as they were yesterday, either.
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I headed toward Deadfall Lake as the day turned to evening, stopping to give my shoulders a break at an intersection and making sure I knew which way the PCT went. I saw a blue marble under the tree and put it in my hipbelt pocket. A little ways ahead, I was happy to come across some running water in a little creek. I stopped to filter more water and eat a snack and headed out once again. In a meadow, I found Cookie and Runs with Elk setting up their tents. We said hello and I continued on, as I was not yet ready to stop for the night.
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There weren’t any nice spots appearing as the sunlight faded, so I made due with what I could after looking around for awhile. Somehow, I ended up camping right next to some kind of dried animal poop. A deer came to visit while I ate my dinner and then ran off into the woods.

Day 97: Utterly Exhausted!

Day 97
July 24
1506.6-1521.6
15 miles

I wanted to get up early, get packed, and get to the road to start hitching back to the trail by 8am or so. However, I was completely and utterly exhausted! As I lay in my bed, part of my brain told the rest of me to take advantage of the room I had to myself, knowing that I would likely be staying in a bunkroom in Etna, where it would be hard to rest. Sleep a little now while you have the chance… So, I stayed in my bed a little longer and then walked over to the organic place for breakfast at 8. However, I learned that they would not actually be making breakfast sandwiches for another our or so!! (What??) So, I hunted down a banana and a little container of yogurt and ordered a latte. I decided to wait for a breakfast sandwich and used the intermittent time to write a facebook update and do a little texting. Then, I ordered a second latte along with the sandwich. I felt like I had been hit by a truck, I was so tired! After I finished, I returned to my room to finish my sorting and packing and I was able to text a bit with my friend, Checka, whose wedding I was trying to get to. I told her about my continuing illness and she offered to do reiki on me every day for a few minutes! She suggested that we both stop at a certain time each day and allow the energy to be sent and received. I was so thankful for this generous gift!!
By the time I walked down to the road, it was after 11. Most of the other hikers had left hours ago, but Ranch and Beer were just making their way out, too, so the three of us hitched together. We weren’t having much luck at first. However, after about twenty minutes, a black pick-up truck pulled over! The driver asked if we were PCT hikers and told us to get in. He had two sweet dogs in the back seat and a load of groceries, so Beer had to lay down in the bed of the truck. As we drove, I learned that this man was the good friend of a long-time PCT trail angel who had recently passed away. He was an Indian man, and the only living person to have a section of the trail named after him. According to our driver, he spent 30 years picking up every dirty, stinky hiker that he saw and shuttled them around town so they could buy food or new boots, or whatever else they needed. He did this well into his 90’s and when he was dying, his friend promised him that whenever he saw a hiker on the road, he would them them out. He thought about him smiling down upon him every time he did this. I was so touched by this story! (And so mad at myself for failing to get their names…). He understood that we were hiking this trail for a reason, and that we were changing our lives by doing it.
When he dropped us off at the trail head, I gave him a hug as I thanked him for sharing his wonderful story and helping us out. Mt. Shasta had given me my best hitchhiking experiences of the trail!
I walked through the gate and toward the pile of empty water jugs, as Beer stayed behind, smoking a cigarette. The direction of the sign pointing to the trail was extremely misleading and I attempted to walk up a very steep, very sandy slope, until I realized that could not possibly be the PCT! Each time I tried to find the trail after getting off it was an ordeal…
Finally, I found the correct path and headed up into the woods. The humidity was as high as ever and with a full pack, my pace felt slow.
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Once I crested the top of the initial portion of the climb, I sat down on the side of the trail to take a break. I ate my delicious plum that I brought from town, and then enjoyed the amazing brownie that I bought from the health food store. (I had a hard time finding any regular chocolate there! They took healthy eating to an entirely new level!).
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While I was eating, Ole, Veggie, and TrackMeat passed by. They had made a quick stop in one of the smaller, but closer towns to the trail.
I took my next break several miles later, at Sulphur Creek, which had some nice camp spots. I collected more water, and as I sat filtering it, Ranch and Beer came along. They planned on stopping here for the night at 4pm, as they were in no rush to get to Etna, and because they knew Viking (another German hiker), was planning on staying there, as well. While we sat, they snacked on some healthy trail magic that they had received from Pokey and Princess at Burney Falls State Park. Apparently, the girls had mis-planned the number of days for their upcoming stretch and had sent themselves twice as much food as they needed! Meanwhile, two hikers did not receive their expected packages at all. Everything was taken care of after Pokey and Princess gave their extra food to the two empty-handed hikers! I love how everything on the trail works out…!
They asked me if I heard what had happened to Muk Muk. No! I had not! I was filled in on the news that she had been stalked by a mountain lion one night after she had left Belden and was so scared that she pressed her SPOT button, activating search and rescue. An hour later, she canceled it. In the morning, she woke to a helicopter flying overheard, circling her tent, and an hour or so later, two search and rescue volunteers, who had started hiking in the early morning hours, found her. Although she had been terrified and alone all night, she was unharmed. Upon learning about her scary night, one of her many blog readers alerted the staff at Drakesbad and paid for three meals for her there. She was extremely pampered and ready to keep hiking after some rest, some good food, a shower, and a soak in the pool!
Beer and Ranch asked me where I planned on stopping tonight and what I was going to do for water, as we had a 24 mile dry section coming up. “We do??”. I had no idea… Why don’t I ever spend time looking at my guidebook section for the next stretch of trail when I am in town? (I guess I have too many other things to do…). I told them I didn’t have a plan! I was just going to keep hiking! (What else could I do?)
The trail was about to climb and climb and climb… This was the section that the trail angels at the WildBird cache had both warned me about and described as the most beautiful shades of blue. Unfortunately, the clouds that hung in the sky cast a gray coloring over the mountains, and I didn’t see the same beauty that had been described to me.
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I came across an older hiker lying on the side of the trail, and then found the three boys lounging around. They also had no idea that there was no water coming up for a long stretch! Fortunately, not too far ahead, there was a path to a stream fairly close to the trail.
I headed on, accosted by flies heading straight into my face and tiny little fly-like gnats that hovered around my eyes and nose. When the mosquitoes came out, I had no choice but to put on my head net. My breath was labored as I climbed and my legs felt slow. I looked behind to see Ole approaching and stepped aside so he could pass by. We continued to climb, looking at the crags around us. I had to use all of my energy to keep making forward progress.
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With great fortune, we found a small stream with just enough running water to drip into our collecting bags up ahead. Ole asked me how much father I was going to hike that night and I told him a mile. “A mile?!” he exclaimed. He seemed a bit envious and I asked him how long he was planning on hiking for. He said another hour or so! It was already nearly 7:30. He said they usually hiked until 9:00. I always hiked until the sun went down. We both wondered where Veggie was. I assumed he had stopped to get water, but he should have caught up by now. Something had happened to him…
As I filtered my water, I saw him approaching! He had just taken a long cigarette break! Ole asked Veggie when he wanted to stop and surprisingly, he said anytime! Ole told him that there was a campsite in a mile that I had planned on stopping at, and added, “She probably had someone hike up to put a ‘reserved’ sign for her there.
I got going as the boys sat around and hiked as fast as I could, knowing that other people were in pursuit of my intended stopping place!
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I surprised myself by getting there more quickly than I thought I could! I looked down below me and saw a little flat space, and then checked my GPS. I had made it! I walked down the slope and looked around, trying to see how many people could fit, but also knowing that I was still too sick to camp near anyone… Still, I waited for the boys to decide what they wanted to do before I set up. Ole came by first and said he would find something further up the trail. This space was too small.
Once I spread out my sleeping bag, Veggie came by, happily singing to himself and giving me a little wave as he headed on. I hoped it wouldn’t take them too long to find a nice place to sleep!