Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day 14 - Two Weeks by the Numbers

Combs Ridge, Mile 129 to Campsite in the Boulders, Mile 144

Two whole weeks down! Let's break it out by the numbers:

  • 14 days/2 weeks/336 hours
  • Two day zeroes
  • Two day near0s
  • 6000+ feet, highest elevation
  • 2000 feet, lowest elevation
  • 144 miles walked
  • 102 degrees - hottest day
  • 45ish times Brett's hit me with his hiking poles
  • 15+...20? 25? blisters. At least...I lost track how many
  • 13 episodes of Arrested Development watched from the trail
  • 6 snakes, 5 types: Gopher, Rattler, Long nose, Whip, and 2 King
  • 4 times cried
  • 3 times proclaimed that this was a stupid, ridiculous idea, and I'm going home
  • 2 towns visited/resupplied
  • 2 times noticed that my hip belt or article of clothing was a little loose (woot!)
  • 2 catholes dug (hooray for lots of established campsites so far...)
  • 2 bloody noses, ugh
  • 2 counties
  • 1 delicious burger (and one more tomorrow!)
  • 1 day of seriously difficult homesickness
  • Uncounted awesome views, and more cacti than I can fathom

Monday, April 29, 2013

Day 13 - Stepping Closer to Comfort on the Trail

Mile 115 to campsite on Coombs Ridge, mile 129

What a difference a morning without blister care makes in a day on the trail! So much more free time - sometimes wonderful, and others, just more time to think about all the other aches and woes. Broke camp and hit the trail by 6:15, I think the earliest yet!

The hiking was quite beautiful for most of the day, but also still in the desert, so quite hot. Got water from a questionable source at mile 117, but unfortunately there was no other choice, as the next on trail water wasn't for 10 miles. By around 11, I was boiling and my feet started hurting, so we found a spot under a huge boulder to have lunch and while away the hot afternoon hours. It's funny to be settling into this routine of waking early, hiking, followed by mid day breaks, and afternoon/evening hiking to end the day. When things get tough, I try to remind myself of my work/life schedule of not SO long ago. This ain't too bad in comparison!

My loneliness seemed to get better today, although I still find myself contemplating what the heck I'm doing out here (especially in those long stretches with no shade and hot weather!) There's a group of people hiking around our pace the last few days who seem really fun. I could definitely see becoming friends with them! There's a trail angel named Mike Herrera who provides water to hikers at his home near mile 127, and we stopped in there and spent the afternoon with the other hikers and had such fun. I'm definitely feeling the need for new friends! Most people at the stop were enjoying some beer, but after a long day of hiking and the prospect of more miles ahead, both Brett and I passed - a rare occurrence indeed!

We made it the last few miles up the mountain to an awesome campsite right on the ridge. Enjoyed a beautiful sunset and even had 3G to make a few calls home. All in all a success, but went to sleep dreading the alarm clock the next morning!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Days 9-12 Two Near-0s and Two 0s

Thursday morning the 25, we got another later start than anticipated. My feet felt pretty good, and breakfast at the Warner Springs community center had been rumored to be quite the tasty affair, so we made good miles fairly quickly. Left camp at 7 and made it the 9 miles to Warner Springs by 10. Walking inside was pretty neat - the whole room was filled with familiar faces & people greeting us when we arrived. It was nice to feel like we are getting to know the people we're hiking with.

Spent a few hours in the lovely air conditioning, and then Jon and Gail arrived to sweep us back to San Diego. Riding in the car on the way there was a funny feeling, even though we'd only been gone from reality for 9 days. It felt like we were flying, and took a little bit of getting used to. Our first stop was a critical one - Ballast Point Brewery for some great micro-brewery beer! I felt unfit to be loosed on society - my formally crisp white shirt (great for desert heat!) had turned every shade of brown to grey to black in the book. But the bartender was excited to hear about the journey and we had some awesome brews.

Arrived at the hotel a little bit later where Gail managed to get a fantastic suite overlooking the marina (found out later that the one and only Hilary Clinton stayed in the same room once!)  The shower was quite easily the most enjoyable one I've ever had in my entire life. I couldn't believe how many times I washed and scrubbed and still dirt flowed down the drain. So crazy. We went out for a nice dinner later in the evening, and even spotted some of our favorite wineries on the menu - Nickel & Nickel and Moshin, among others!

On Friday, the plan was to head to KickOff for the rest of the weekend, but we couldn't bring ourselves to leave the awesome hotel. Plus, we still had chores to attend to. We did some laundry - my shirt turned out almost as dirty even after a hot wash and bleach, sadly - and then headed out to REI, Michael's, Target, and AleSmith...because of course we wanted to try one more tasty San Diegan brew! I got new shoes which I'm hoping beyond hope will help my wounded feet. Turned out the Giants were in town to play the Padres, so we got some cheap seats! I'm pretty sure there were more Giants fans in the crowd than Padres, which was really funny, but the Giants wound up losing.

I reluctantly left the beautiful hotel on Saturday morning to head to KO. I don't know why, but I was dreading going back. Every part of me just wanted to go home and hang out across the street in the park. Although the San Diego time was great, I think spending a few days back in normal life completely away from the trail, removed from anything that reminded me of the trail, made it difficult to consider returning. San Diego was fun, and easy. While I was proud to have finsihed the first section (109 miles) of the trail, it was really quite hard, and I completed in far more pain than I'd hoped. It was also 109 miles of hot, dry desert. But given the fact that I'd only spent 9 days on the trail, it wasn't time enough to consider giving up yet!

Soon enough, we arrived at KO, and within a few hours I'd resettled. Only went to 1 seminar, but most of it was information we already knew. I think KO will be great next year as a reunion, and I think it's quite beneficial for a lot of people who need to learn more about the trail...but I'd done my homework, and didn't find much there to be anything new. However, it's a great chance to meet other hikers and hopefully reunite with old friends the years after your own hike! Speaking of meeting other hikers, I bumped into an old friend who is also hiking this year - Ben, who I went to high school with and haven't seen in the past 10 years! I hope we have the chance to hike with them sometime over the summer.

Saturday night, they played the 2012 class video, which is essentially a compilation of pictures and video. Watching that reminded me of all the awesome experiences yet to come & why I'm out here in the first place. Sometimes, I've felt like the one who doesn't belong out here, which is completely self-defeating. I knew I should stop, but it's easier said than done! I hope those feelings will change soon, and watching that video made me excited for the awesome places and scenes I've yet to experience. I think after I get back on the trail I'll feel better - both physically AND mentally.

Sunday morning was interesting. Apparently a number of people in camp thought 5 am an appropriate time to chat and carry on like it was the middle of the day. Woke up early and after breakfast, spent time around camp with Christian until Jon and Gail picked us up to go back to Warner Springs. On the drive back, we essentially drove the route of the PCT. It was quite odd to pass one landmark/campsite/etc. after another in such rapid succession. We stopped in Julian for the free slice of pie for hikers, and then said goodbyes at Warner Springs. I was so lonely as soon as they left. I had a hard time even thinking about going back to the trail, I just wanted to go home. I wasn't feeling very social at the community center, where we spent the heat of the day lounging around waiting for cooler hiking weather. That probably made my situation worse. I started to feel like everyone had already buddied up but me. I hope to make friends out here- I'm already lonely and it's only a week in. I'm too social to do this without some friends along the way! 

Finally left the community center around 430 and wound up at mile 115, about 6 miles in. It was a nice hike and my loneliness started to lift a little. I got a little more comfortable with the fact that I'll be gone for so long. Wound up camping at Agua Caliente at a lovely little site right next to a creek. There's another group here that seems pretty nice… Maybe we'll get to know them?! I'm feeling better tonight and hoping tomorrow will continue to improve. Most importantly, my feet are finally and hopefully officially on the mend! The time off was invaluable, and the new shoes seem great so far. Granted, we only hiked 6 miles, but any improvement is huge in my book. I definitely think I've got some plantar issues, but I'm hoping some easy mileage days like today will offer enough rest for the ole dogs!

Days 7 & 8 - Working Hard for a Day Zero

Days 7 & 8; April 23 & 24; Campsite at mile 82 to Barrel Springs (mile 101)

Tried for another early morning start yesterday, but after the usual routine of snoozing and blister care, didn't leave camp until after 7am. My feet were really bad from the first step, and another sunny day made things even more uncomfortable. The water cache at 3rd gate was only 9 miles away, but it may as well have been 90 for all I could tell. While the landscape was probably awesome at one point, it's fire scarred now and I can't say I found much beauty in it as the trail traveled through it, try as I might. We didn't get there until 1pm, but upon arrival, I found the first shady spot I could to spend the heat of the day and wait out the heat for a little night hiking.

Spent a long, lazy, lovely afternoon under a juniper (and alarmingly close to a cactus). We realized that if we pushed on for a longer night hike than initially planned to mile 101 at Barrel Springs, we'd be able to enjoy our first day zero at the springs. We had no idea what was actually there but hoped it would be a nice spot to while away a day and rest the feet. Making it to Barrel Springs would put us only 8 miles shy of Warner Springs, the official end of the first section of the PCT, at mile 109. It was tough to leave the huge water cache, but we hit the trail at 7pm and slogged on 10 more miles...and I couldn't be happier about the decision! It was midnight by the time we rolled into camp, and there were plenty other hikers already there. Set up camp as quickly and quietly as possible, and went to sleep with the knowledge there'd be no alarm tomorrow morning - quite nice. Couldn't see much when we got in, but the oak leaves on the ground as we descended into the area were a promising sign of some shade. Indeed, upon leaving the tent this morning, we were greeted with a lovely green little area to spend the day. Water, grass, oak trees, etc. It's great.

After sleeping in today, the Flying Hons made it to B. Springs and we spent the morning with them - I adore them! They're 3 retired women from Boise, all very friendly and kind, and always look like they're having more fun than anyone else around. They're fantastic - it's refreshing to see people who seem so genuinely happy to see you too, and they're a good reminder that we're all out here to have fun - so we may as well enjoy the journey even when it's rough! Atlas also arrived for a short break before pushing on, and then Tracy and Ingrid arrived to spend the day - some more of my favorites! I'm curious if we'll see Marshall today - our first trail friend, and I miss him! I'm curious how his trip has been since we last saw him a few days ago.

Tomorrow is the meet-up with Jon & Gail in Warner Springs, and I'm definitely looking forward to some more time off for my feet! I can already tell this one day off is helping tremendously. If they'd stop hurting, all this madness would be making far more sense!

By the end of the zero day at Barrel Springs, I was shocked by how much I enjoyed a day of doing literally nothing. It was the leisurely, slow paced kind of day I've never been able to appreciate - until now perhaps! I spent the day journaling, napping, eating a nice big lunch, playing cards, etc. It was awesome, though I started to feel weird about that fact that I didn't get bored even once! So unlike me, and I feel pretty relaxed. Fingers crossed this becomes a pattern...but if so, my Mom would wonder what happened to her totally on the go, antsy and over extended oldest daughter. Might not be so bad!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 6 - Hanging Out Under the Freeway

Day 6 - Rodriguez Cross (mile 68) to campsite in San Felippe Hills

Today was infinitely better than yesterday. My feet didn't miraculously heal (heel!) overnight, BUT they also didn't torture me all day either. Set the alarm for 4am, but of course didn't get up and moving until 5 and out of camp until 6. Either way, I was practically flying this morning, and the combo of happier feet and hiking in the cool shade allowed for an arrival to Scissors Crossing by 10am. Apparently the rule of thumb while desert hiking is hike 10 before 10am, and then wait out the day and hike 10 more before 10pm.

The desert landscape is pretty wild. There's all kinds of cacti and lizards. My favorite lizard so far is this goofy looking guy called a horned lizard - it looks like a mini dinosaur! There's scales all over the back and it looks positively prehistoric.

Scissors Crossing is so named because it is where two freeways cross each other (near Julian, CA). A local trail angel supplies a huge water cache under the freeway bridge from the well on his property, and it's the last water for a long while, so it's a much appreciated stock for hikers. Quite a group gathered under the bridge throughout the day, and it turned into a little hiker party. A few people went into Julian and returned with beer and soda! Drinking a beer under the freeway, completely filthy, we all mused what the difference is between a thru-hiker and a hobo. The only thing we could come up with was about $2,000 worth of gear. It was a great day. Famed thru-hiking guru Yogi even made a surprise appearance! I felt like I'd just met a real celebrity.

Made some new friends including a couple from Salt Lake City and a younger fellow who just graduated Cal early to hike. He didn't have much of a budget, so his gear list is untraditional - he's carrying an army duffel he found at a surplus store as his pack, and wearing a bright Hawaiian print tshirt and Chacos and is awaiting ski poles for hiking with. He already earned the trail name Buzz Lightyear due to his big smile and square jaw, and he was a fun character to spend the day with.  We also met a new class of people - a few hiker bros! Who knew backpacking could get bro'd out? Definite surprise.

Took off around 5 to hike straight up into the hills. Found a nice little camping spot at mile 82 to tuck in for the evening. Only 27 more miles to Warner Springs (and new shoes, showers, etc!)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 5 - Mercury Hits 100

Day 5 - Campsite in boulders (mile 53) to Rodriguez Cross (mile 68)

Two complete days on my new insoles and still no improvement on the feet. If anything, they're worse, which only becomes more and more frustrating. Every morning the foot care routine eats up about 45 minutes before we get out of camp, every break is consumed with tending to the feet, and every time we roll into camp it's priority #1. Still, every step I take is pretty excruciating. These stupid New Balance shoes have GOT to go. On top of the blisters, my feet just generally hurt. So frustrating!

Today was also the hottest, most hard-core desert hiking yet. There was absolutely zero shade, very little water (necessitating carrying 4 liters/person...at 2.2 lbs. per liter...that's an added weight that becomes tough to carry!), and the mercury hit 100! To boot, I passed a GIANT rattler on the trail - could hear it rattling away from a ways down the trail - it was angry. Brett thinks I got some minor sun stroke. I wasn't very hungry due to the heat, and didn't eat or drink enough throughout the day, and then I couldn't find shade when I needed it. Finally gave up looking for a nice shady spot and just scrambled up the hill and crawled under a shrub for some shade. I drank a liter of water and just hung out for an hour or so, and eventually got up for the last 3.5 miles into camp at Rodriguez Cross, which held the promise of water (yayyy). It's not the prettiest campsite ever, but I'm so tired I don't much care.

After the misery of today's mid-day heat, we're changing the strategy for tomorrow. Going to attempt an early start (4am hopefully) to beat the heat. Getting going at 9am today, it was already 85 - way too hot that early! Rumor has it the weather is supposed to cool off, but we also enter a very long stretch without any water, so we'll have to be prepared when leaving Scissors Crossing at mile 77. Fingers crossed for cooler weather and healthy feet!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day 3 - First Town Stop

Day 3 - campsite near mile 32 - Mt. Laguna, mile 43

I woke up to HOWLING wind in the middle of the night last night. Turns out, we pitched the tent in the middle of a construction site with all kinds of loose dirt...which managed to find its way to my sleeping bag and face in the crazy wind.

The hike to Mt. Laguna was great. I felt significantly better than yesterday and the relatively short jaunt into town seemed to fly by. We hiked up into the mountain and had some incredible views. Soon, the trail entered a forest with the first pine trees of the trip...such a welcome site! To boot, the smell of pines in the fresh mountain air never fails to invigorate me. I felt great, even though my pace probably left something to be desired.

Bumped into Marshall about a mile before town and we headed in together. It was so fun hiking in and seeing all the other hikers milling around the store and PO. Met some new people and quickly headed off for a late lunch. The burgers definitely didn't disappoint - neither did the Stone IPA. Yumm - and no guilt after 3 long days of hiking! After lunch, I headed over to Dave Super, the outfitter in town, and found new insoles for my aching feet - hooray! Can't wait to hike on these new beauts tomorrow.

We resisted the temptation to get a cabin and shower, and instead picked up a 6 pack of beer at the store, and headed to the outskirts of town to the picnic area for a night of camping with Marshall, Joe, and Nancy (Joe & Nancy are from Oakland!) who all had the same idea. We built a campfire and drank beer, and enjoyed the sunset and views overlooking the Salton Sea. Definitely a great day!

Day 4 - Campsite in Boulders

Day 4 - Mt. Laguna (mile 43) to Campsite in the Boulders (mile 56)

Got a late start out of Mt. Laguna but resisted the urge to head back in to town for breakfast at the restaurant, which was no easy feat! We have so much food from the first resupply box which we collected from the store yesterday, it would have been silly to spend the money.

The hiking was really stunning but my feet were in a lot of pain from the start, so the pace was slowwwww. It's so frustrating to feel good and want to continue hiking, but have this one problem that is so debilitating. It gets very disheartening very quickly, and today was tough, even with the beautiful landscapes we traversed.

Finally made it to Pioneer Mail in the afternoon, which was the only water and shade for a long while. I was tempted to stay there overnight and would have been happy to pitch the tent, but at least took the opportunity to lay down in the grass and put my feet up on my pack. There were a number of people milling around nearby as I napped, and some loudmouth came over to chat. I had my hat over my head as I was trying to sleep, but heard said loudmouth asking "does she know how to talk?" Even if I'd wanted to, I'm not sure I could have gotten a word in edgewise, but it irked me and contributed to my bad mood. To top it off, dude then plopped down literally right next to me on the upwind side and lit up a cigarette. A good motivator to get out of dodge and keep hiking!

The guidebook mentioned that there are "campsites in boulder field" but we didn't really know what to expect. We hiked on three more miles to check it out, and my feet felt much better after the rest. Hiking through Anza-Borrego was stunning and it was cooling off in the evening, which was more than welcome! The boulder fields turned out to be pretty amazing, and I'm so happy we continued on. The giant boulders overlook the valley and are surrounded by the desert mountains. It was pretty cool.

This campsite definitely wound up being pretty special, but I'm looking forward to Thursday and seeing Jon and Gail for the weekend. I can't wait for a shower!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 2 - A Few Surprises

Day 2 - Lake Morena (mile 20) to campsite down the hill from mile 32

Happy Birthday seeeester!

And, BLISTERS. OMG...blisters. How is it I've managed to avoid these painful buggers for most of my hiking and backpacking life until now? If someone had asked me what I expected pain-wise the first few days, I would have guessed I'd be sore, feel out of shape, maybe have a nasty sunburn, etc. I never would have put my money on feeling great in all categories except my feet. Definite surprise...but I feel like such a backpacking newb.

We woke up early this morning but took our time getting out of camp. No surprise almost everyone else was gone by the time we rolled out. From the first step, I hurt. Really, really hurt. My body felt pretty good, especially given the miles of yesterday, but the insoles on my shoes are total crap and have destroyed my feet. Almost 13 miles today, and not a single step was I not in pain, which only got gradually worse as the day wore on. Around mile 5, I took off my shoes and stood in a cold creek, and then aired my feet out in the sun - I never wanted to leave! I was able to get service to call Kelli to wish her a happy birthday. 

We hit Boulder Creek campsite at mile 6, where Marshall and I both would have been happy to call it a day, but we pressed on in the pursuit of miles. The rest of the day was ups and downs as far as both pain and morale went. The highlight was definitely bumping into Magic Man at the top of a long, hot climb. He was set up with camp chairs for relaxing and cold Mountain Dew, which I never could have imagined would be so tasty. He's such a nice guy - I thanked him for his generosity, and told him how sweet I think it is that he's helping his daughter on the first week of her journey. His response? "Aw well, I'm just lucky she lets me tag along." Such a response that a great dad would give - I know my Dad would say the exact same thing!

Surprisingly, I managed to avoid any run-ins with the rattlers everyone else seemed to find at some point along the trail. I did, however, bump into a king snake which scared me just as much as a rattler would have anyhow. (As someone with a debilitating paranoia of snakes, this whole journey DOES seem to be an interesting endeavor, huh?)

Another pleasant surprise at the end of day 2 is that I'm not homesick (yet). Usually, this is the time for me that the comforts of home, realities of how long I'll be gone, and everything else sets in as the initial excitement begins to wear off. So far, I don't miss home, which is promising. I'm sure at some point this will change and I'll be terribly homesick, but for now, even with my dang feet killing me, I'm still really stoked to be out here. 

Lastly, I'm not quite sure when it's appropriate to begin having food cravings and fantasies, but rumor has it there's a restaurant with great burgers in our first town stop (tomorrow) at Mt. Laguna. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pretty excited about a burger at this point. Mostly though, I'm just hoping beyond hope that the outfitter in town has some decent insoles to help start healing my wounded feet. Tomorrow's hike promises to be brutal...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Day 1 - 20.6 Miles Under My (hip)Belt!

Day 1 - Border to Lake Morena (mile 0-20)

Wow - what a day. I don't know where to start. Alarms went off at 5 for a 5:45 departure to the border. Frodo cooked a big breakfast - french toast, eggs, fruit, and muffins. I wasn't able to eat much so grabbed a muffin to go, but somehow managed to lose it between the kitchen and the car. The paltry breakfast and lack of dinner the night before came back to haunt me a few miles down the trail!

We all arrived at the border around 8am. I thought when I got to the border all of my fears would set in big time. I'm happy to report that wasn't the case! I think I was running on pure adrenaline - it was so exhilarating just to be there. Standing in this place I've seen pictures of and thought about for SO long, and finally here I was. Everyone took a bunch of pictures with the monument and the border in back, I called the fam to say one last goodbye from the border, and then we were all off!

The first 6 miles seemed to veritably fly by under my feet. Stopped after two hours of hiking to have a snack and change socks, and was pretty surprised to see 6 miles already completed. It was such a fun start - incredibly beautiful! I expected the scenery to be far more barren, so felt spoiled with all the vistas and bits of greenery. Plus, we all kept ourselves busy with pictures at the 1 mile marker, all the new and exciting PCT signs, etc. We also had our first trail magic! Booboo's Dad is following and supporting her first few weeks - and also supplying treats & drinks to hikers each day! Talk about a lucky time to get started.

Everything remained awesome until around mile 9, when the adrenaline seemed to wear off and my pace started to slow. It got much warmer (it was a beautiful day, no clouds in the sky, but started to get hot!) and fatigue started to set in. All the sudden I was more aware of the fact that I had a 30 pound pack on my back. Took lunch around mile 11, and had a nice rest and then hit the trail again. After more great scenery, the trail hit Hauser Creek (bone dry) before a 2.5 mile exposed slog straight uphill at 2 in the afternoon. The last 4 miles were sort of the opposite of the first 6 - they crawled by, I had a hard time enjoying the scenery, and the weather was significantly warmer than anything this Bay Area girl is used to. Eventually though, we made it to lovely Lake Morena. It's weird to think I'll be back here in a week and a half for kickoff. It's pretty quiet here now, so it's hard to imagine this place teeming with thru-hikers for a festival like kickoff weekend.

All in all, I'd say today was a great start, bumps along the way and all. Funny to experience such a range of emotions on the first day alone. I went from a ball of nerves and energy to pure adrenaline/elation/excitement about the journey, to pretty miserable and in some serious pain...and then back again! It's going to be an interesting trip...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Original Day Zero - Traveling to San Diego, and Scout & Frodo

Well, after months of planning, here we are at Scout & Frodo's house after the flight from Oakland. The first trail angels of the trip, they pick up hikers from the airport, host them at their house, and provide rides to the border as hikers begin their trek.

Today was insane - one of those days that feels it's lasted a lifetime. I barely remember this morning. My Mom came over to pick up some of my unused backpacking stuff and say bye, and then the rest of the day was spent packing, cleaning, and taking care of all the pesky last minute items that have been hanging out on the to-do list for too long (WHY didn't I complete my PCT-playlist before today?!) Naturally, the day was way busier and more hectic than it should have been, and I realize now it was silly of me to think it would be any different. In the time leading up to today, I'd had daydreams about popping open a nice bottle of champagne and enjoying it before heading to the airport. Wrong! Running around the house, throwing my final pack together at the absolute last minute, already behind schedule for the departure to Oakland airport, I honestly felt like I was going to pass out a few times from the combination of stress and nerves. Luckily, made it to the airport on time, hopped on the plane, and had a really beautiful ascent out of the Bay Area - the last views of home for some time!

Waiting outside the airport for Scout & Frodo, Brett and I both admitted we were apprehensive about what's to come. The look in his eyes seemed to match my level of "what the hell are we doing/why have we gotten ourselves into this?"We chatted a little about the fears of getting out there and hating it...realizing after a few days this isn't what we bargained for. Sounds weird, but that made me feel a lot better. It was nice to know I'm not the only one freaking out a little about this. I'm fairly confident this will be the journey of a lifetime, but the truth is you never really know until you get out there and actually hike. Mostly it's just nerves, so I'm anxious to hit the trail!

And lo, here I am in San Diego! Scout & Frodo are simply awesome people - they've made me feel right at home here, and given my current level of stress, that's no easy feat! They are incredibly generous people, and host a mind boggling number of hikers each year at their home. They've got it down to something of a science. Apparently next week they'll have nights with more than 50 people staying! There's 8 of us here tonight, a relatively quiet night. When we got here, Scout took us on a tour of the house, and told us to all help ourselves to anything. The kitchen is stocked with fruits and snacks, there's a hiker box full of supplies, and their entire garage has been converted to a prep/staging area, with extra fuel, hiker clothes, and any other last minute items you could possibly think of. They'll feed us breakfast before we all head out for the trail tomorrow morning. Pretty awesome folks, indeed. If I'm ever at a point in my life where I can, I'd love to help hikers out even just a tiny bit as much as Scout & Frodo do each year.

I didn't expect to be the only girl here tonight, but it looks that way right now. There's 3 German guys who are also starting tomorrow (arrived in the states just yesterday...I can't even fathom the logistics of putting this together from abroad!), a guy named Chris also from the Bay Area, and someone who arrived when I did named Kit. I wonder if any of them will become my hiking pals! As of writing, it's 9:40pm, and cars leave for the 90 minute journey to the border tomorrow at 5:45am, which means I have 8 hours until the dream of the past 6+ years becomes the start of reality. That's it for now...next time I write is from the trail!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Final Prep - Bus Party, Showering, and Everything Else Important

I'll just start out by saying - I have awesome friends. I feel so lucky to have so many fantastic people in my life, and I had a chance to say goodbye to a lot of them on Saturday. We rented an old school bus and did a little brewery tour and sightseeing trip throughout the Bay. We couldn't have asked for better weather, which helped make the bon voyage party a blast. Although my time PROBABLY could have been well spent wrapping up last minute plans and packing, I couldn't be happier to have spent the day frolicking about the Bay on a ridiculous school bus turned dance floor with seating around the perimeter.

Looking around the bus, I saw faces from so many parts of my life - my high school and college friends, friends of friends who have become close friends, former coworkers, Brett's family, his high school friends, college roommates and teammates, and our friends from Oakland, etc. What a joy to have so many fantastic people there to send us off in style! Thanks to everyone for coming out and getting low to Motown on the Bay Bridge.

I can't believe tomorrow is the big day. All the boxes are packed and ready to go (for the most part), all of the gear is packed, and things are finally coming together. I'm so excited to hit the trail. I can't even imagine what it will feel like standing at the southern terminus - right now I'm just ready to be there, but I anticipate being just as excited but significantly more terrified come Wednesday morning. I'll handle that once I'm there though.

For now, I'm starting to process the "final" mundane bits of life. I remember when I graduated high school and college, I went through a few months each time of "this is the last time we'll bike to class (go to the farmer's market, hangout at Humboldt Manor, go to Froggy's on a weeknight, etc.) together." I know I'm on the emotional end of the spectrum, but I suspect a lot of people have those feelings when a major life event is coming to a close. I'm feeling that way about funny things now...showering, sleeping in a comfy bed, blasting music in the living room and chilling out with a glass of wine on the couch, having a selection of clothes to choose from in the morning when I wake up...the list goes on. It's funny to think how simple all of those are, but I'm sure appreciating them more than ever right now!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Last Week at Home

I took a few months off work before starting the PCT to ensure that by the time April rolled around, I'd be completely ready to go. How silly...I'll be on the trail in less than a week and I am suddenly feeling totally unprepared.

All of the major prep work is done. If I was dropped off in Campo right now with my pack, I think I'd make it just fine. I have to keep reminding myself that although all of the planning and prep work is important, at the end of the day, the trip is going to take on a life of its own as soon as I hit the trail. I think I'm pretty much equipped to do so at this point. I know I shouldn't stress too much, but that's much easier said than done! In the meantime, I spend my days organizing food boxes, resupplies, extra gear for different points in the trip, and mountains of maps. The living room is a disaster (shout out to Scott and Rita for putting up with the copious amounts of PCT related items cluttering the living room!)
food, and resupply boxes, and gear, and clothes, oh my...

I haven't had a full night's sleep in probably close to a month...I may be going delirious at this point. I wake up constantly throughout the night from one or another ridiculous PCT related nightmare, and I find myself questioning whether a conversation with a friend actually happened or if it was just in a dream. Funny enough, I think I'll sleep much better once I'm on the trail and sleeping on the ground every night.

All of this stress and worry just boils down to the fact that I'm anxious. I'm ready to make this dream a reality! It hasn't hit me yet that I'll spend the next five months of my life working every day towards one of the biggest goals I've ever had. I just can't wait to get out there and start walking. But for now...back to work!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

KEEN Sock Testers!

Well, my last post was about shoes so I suppose it makes sense that the next one would be about socks, although that wasn't initially the plan. However, I found out yesterday that Brett and I were selected to be KEEN sock testers on the PCT! You read that right, folks...as my old coworker pointed out, I'll now be able to add the title "Official Sock Tester" to my resume.

I'm pretty stoked about the socks although we haven't seen or tried them on yet (they're not on the market yet but coming soon.) KEEN invited 2013 thru hikers to apply to put their new socks to the ultimate test - a PCT thru hike! We applied and are so excited to have been chosen - socks are no menial consideration, to be sure.

The socks are Merino wool (two thumbs up/a definite must!) but are specifically designed to withstand the elements and rigor of a long trek - the wool near the toes and heels is interwoven with a fabric called dyneema. All my climbing friends out there are probably more familiar with dyneema than I am, but in a nutshell, it's basically a super strong fiber used in climbing equipment, etc.

Pictures to come when the socks arrive...but suffice it to say, I feel like we've won the lottery. And with one week to go before flying to San Diego...anything that helps make my to-do list a little bit shorter is a complete godsend.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I suppose it comes as no great surprise that one of the most crucial considerations for a thru-hiker is foot care. The success of a hike can sometimes come down to how well a hiker is able to maintain blister-free and happy feet.

Many people are surprised to hear that I won't be wearing hiking boots on the trail. I've never been a huge fan of hiking boots (so heavy!), so I was happy to hear that they're uncommon on the trail. Hikers instead typically opt for trail running shoes - my preferred shoe choice! In all likelihood, I'll go through 3-6 pairs of shoes on the trail (that's a huge shoe budget for one year, and not a single pair of heels!)

I've spent the past 5 months testing shoes that will keep my feet as injury free as possible. It's no easy feat (feet?! harhar) to find what's right for me. My feet are small but wide, with a super high arch. That's a tough combination. On top of that, it's apparently not uncommon for your feet to grow up to 1-2 full sizes when you're hiking! I didn't believe it at first, but after some of our longer training hikes and overnight backpacking trips, the first pair of shoes I'd purchased, which had been quite comfy for the first hundred miles or so, suddenly felt tight. I think I've done a good job getting my hands on shoes that will get me through at least California. The most important thing is to ensure there's plenty of room in the toe box...if not, blisters are likely.

Check out my shoe collection! Here's hoping these bad boys will carry me painlessly across the trail: