day 2: juicy

04.11

mile 20 – 37.6
i wake up in the night to dripping condensation & the sound of dogs (or coyotes?) baying in the distance. i sleep poorly & the bright full moon makes my confused jolts of wakefulness all the more jarring. 

i’m up by 6:30, call goodbye to the guys i’d been leapfrogging with, & on the trail by 7:30. the air is nice & cool & i wear my leggings for a while. i count desert bunnies & i say hello to each one but they just stare at me, blinking.


the blisters that were threatening to pop up yesterday finally do. i had hoped that a night of rest & elevation would help but they begin to bubble up not even five miles into the day. i find a patch of service & call josef. hearing his voice is so comforting that i almost cry but i don’t & instead ask him about my blisters. he warns me against pushing myself too hard & i say okay, i won’t. 


i pass some day hikers a mile or two after we hang up. i’ve been having a hard time distracting myself from the self defeating voice in my head but even just a quick exchange helps to cheer me up. “when did you start?” they ask, “yesterday morning” “wow! you’re booking it!” “i guess” i laugh.


just before mile 30 is the first access to kitchen creek. i’ve been eyeing this as my blister repair & lunch spot all morning but now i’m confused. the trail keeps a pretty moderate elevation but the creek is way down below in a gulley. scrambling down isn’t too bad but i dread going back up. i sit on a slanted rock, the only shade, & inspect my feet. earlier, josef asked if my blisters were juicy. “sorta,” i had said. by now they are definitely juicy, my right pinky looks like a grape. oh no. i poke them with a sewing needle & bandage them with gauze & duct tape. i can’t pierce through the callus on my heel to drain the blister there so i guess i just have to hope for the best. lunch is hard, i haven’t had much of an appetite but i know i’ve eaten less than 400 calories so far today so i have to try. in the end i manage a tuna packet, a babybel & a couple of crackers.


the afternoon is all bakingly exposed ridges. snakes & lizards silently shriek “oh shit oh shit” as they hear me approach & dive off of the trail & into the brush. a naked man approaches wearing a tiny daypack. a naked man! “you’ve got a long journey ahead of you, huh?” he asks. i don’t really know what to say so i just say “yeah, i guess!” & step aside to let him pass.

a fellow hiker named joey passes by & cheerfully tells me “it’s all uphill from here!” i laugh to cover my dread. i feel depleted but slog on. why? 


near dusk, i find a campsite near long canyon creek. i am so ready to elevate my feet & rest that i don’t notice that i have set up my little shelter on a subtle hill. i know i will be sliding all night but i’m too depleted to do anything about it & besides, it’s nearly dark already.  


i wake in the night & the other tent in the clearing has disappeared & the bottom of my footbox is damp w condensation & my shelter has partially collapsed from the incline. just sleep, i tell myself. 

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baby’s first trail food

ever since i got down to los angeles i’ve been grumbling about needing to get around to grocery shopping for my first ~100 miles. tonight brian graciously let me use his employee discount at the EXCELLENT sprouts market… unfortunately things went a little *too* well & now i have what could pretty easily be described as WAY TOO MUCH FOOD.

i think i officially have TOO MUCH FOOD

over the course of my research i learned that most people recommend 1.5 pounds of food per day to begin & that those foods should have a caloric density of at least 100 calories per ounce but ideally more like 125 calories per ounce. other than maximizing calories i am also interested in minimizing super processed foods & refined sugars. 

so here’s what seemed like a good idea a couple of hours ago starting with that fat sack of trail mix in the upper left corner 🙄:

-various protein powder packets

-olive packets. i think there are only like 8 or 9 olives in each but i love olives so whatever still worth the packaging & weight probably

-german wasa crackers. i honestly do not really know what these are but i had german roommates for a while & they were crazy about these crackers & they taste pretty good so…?

-HONEY STIX

-a giant sack of granola

-clif shot blocks because penelope said that they’re pretty good & i want to slowly wean myself off of caffeine while still having contingency plans for when i get the afternoon sleepies

-adorable little one ounce coconut oil packets (caveat: actually got these at trader joe’s). i’m planning on using these for a bunch of things besides adding fat n flavor such as diluting my lemongrass tick treatment & chafe & maybe even oil pulling if i feel ambitious?

-nuun electrolyte tablets that josef bought for me back in portland

-kind breakfast bars. idk not much to say about em, they’re just boring bars that i bought because somehow i thought i was going to starve?

-salami. i think i will either love this or think it is disgusting…

-tuna packets! i’m excited about these

-chocolate covered espresso beans. see: shot blocks. also hannah has had a paper cup of these under her desk at work for a couple of weeks & i have been steadily pilfering them the entire time because turns out they’re awesome (sorry hannah)

-quart ziploc full of dried kale & peas. i actually ordered these from the internet a few weeks ago & they are super tasty so i’m happy about that

-salty green bean chips. i am stoked about these!

-lara bars because they are pretty cheap & their calorie to weight ratio is on point & they remind me of my last year in college which actually is probably not a great thing

-sharp cheddar babybel. i guess they’re pretty shelf-stable since they’re packaged in wax?

-wasabi peas for delicious spicy crunch

-mac n cheese & special hatch chili mac n cheese?

-shark gummies which have already scented my entire food bag

-these weird heat n serve mediterranean sides which actually look delicious. they had couscous w garbanzo & lentil w rice & the ingredient list is super short & simple so that’s cool!

-chia seeds for shiny hair & smart brain

related: brian convinced me to pick up a multivitamin so that i don’t get malnourished & lose my teeth 😬

campo to lake morena

04.10

pct mile 0 to mile 20

i stay with trail angels scout & frodo the night before i begin. josef is volunteering here for a month & seeing him is a huge comfort. over breakfast i say something about my life philosophy involving primarily doing dumb things… why did i say that? i mostly keep quiet after that, i get lost in my mind.

i hang back at the monument. josef finally urges me forward & says “look excited babe!”…. apparently this is my excited face?


a combination of nerves & the half cup of strong coffee i’d had at scout & frodo’s had my stomach feeling all kinds of ways so before i hit the trail i attempt my 1st cat hole. leave no trace ethics dictate that it should be at least six inches deep & toilet paper must be carried out. it isn’t until miles later that i remember w a pang that you’re supposed to stir the hole w a stick to encourage biodegrasion. i silently apologize to the tender desert ecosystem.

i walk through mikes of chaparral & yucca. everything is lush & green after the wet winter.


around 10:30 i sink gratefully into a shaded slab of granite overlooking the dips & climbs to come. turkey vultures dive & circle through the air. i devour a wasa cracker & babybel sandwich. the cheese has kind of melted into the wax but it is so so good. the way the boulders are arranged means that i can see people before they can me. i startle a few with my greetings before i decide to just let them pass.


a trail runner with sloshing water bottles strapped to his hands passes by, twice. “did you start today?” he asks. i laugh & say yeah. “you’re doing good” he says before he speeds away.

after a while i notice that someone had made a circle of rocks in the ground. strange, i think. i step back to inspect & notice that, no, the rocks spell 10. 10 miles. okay, then.


after a steep descent i come to hauser creek. 15 miles. okay. it’s only 3 in the afternoon & i feel alright so i rest for a while, clean my feet, before i look upwards towards the climb out of the canyon. i’ve heard awful things & it so does not disappoint. the ridges are so bakingly exposed & the switchbacks unrelenting. 


the last mile feels like an entire lifetime & i try to conjure the thought of anything that might cheer me up & give me something to walk towards. i settle on calling josef- even have it worked out. i will get into lake morena at six & i call him but the first thing i will say would be “i’m sorry i know it’s dinnertime!” i drag my poor listless body to the ranger station & pay for my hiker campsite & after i set up my little tarp i sit inside & call him. it takes me a full minute of waiting for it to begin to ring for me to realize that there is no service. how?! there had been service for most of the day but i have dutifully kept my phone in airplane mode. disappointed, i put myself to sleep before 8:30, exhausted.

los angeles

in the very early stages of planning i was plagued by what-ifs & the kind of logistical challenges that are hard to approach with little if any practical knowledge. thinking about small tasks like resupplying would inevitably spiral outwards like a mitochondria web & i would be overwhelmed & have to basically shut down & forget about it for a while. 

the most daunting of my worries, the one that came closest to being an impasse was that two of my best friends are getting married in june to each other just outside of mendocino. i knew i had to be there, it’s not something i would even consider missing out on. we lived together for a what felt like a year-long slumber party most of the time. we watched animaniacs, played settlers of catan, ate a lot of candy & leapt out from closets at each other. they are the friends i have had for the longest, who have known me since i was seventeen & fell asleep at every party. so of course i have to be at their wedding.

penelope’s bachelor party is this weekend in the desert so i am here in los angeles to play & plan for a while. 

the snowstorm of 2014 in portland with brian & penelope

i am obsessed with the shower at their peaceful house in carson. it’s the kind that has a normal head & also a handheld one but you can turn them on simultaneously & the water pressure is perfect & it is heaven. lately when i shower i try to imagine what it will even feel like after one hundred miles of dust & sweat. i can’t, of course, but i’ve been having fun making up little games like this for myself. 

i spend a lot of time petting tallulah, the most giant & floppy dog i have ever seen in my entire life, like an enormous muppet. i’ve been moonlighting as a dog walker for a while. i love it. it’s gratifyingly simple work & my heart feels like exploding when i see how happy a dog can be just to be out & in the world. i wonder if i will meet any dog friends on the trail. 

TALLULAH
 

i am obsessed with the shower at their quiet house in carson. it’s the kind that has a normal head & also a handheld one but you can turn them on simultaneously & the water pressure is perfect & it is heaven. staying with brian & penelope is comforting, familiar. 

i talk to brian’s dad, pat, for a long while about the dinosaur bones that he dug up in canada in his younger days. the bones themselves are perched innocuously in a shadow box just opposite a photograph of the hillsides where they searched for them. “what an adventure,” i said, taking in the ochre colored vertebra. he laughed, “nothing like the one you’re about to have”. pat knows california the way that people who have lived in california a long time always seem to. i pull up the app i’ll be using (in conjunction with paper maps) for navigation & we trace the red line northwards as he narrates the just-off-trail points of interest.

my last few days in portland were a chaotic whirl. i had my last day at work, anticlimactic but probably in a good way. i paced & fretted & spackled & cried. i slept for the last time in the small, bright house that has been home. it was a strange time. but i also had the pleasure & privilege of being surrounded by some of the most magical women i know. my friend sage hosted a perfect going away brunch in her perfect treehouse apartment. 

sage’s perfect apartment with amazing ladies

i’ve been kind of overwhelmed by the outpouring of support & enthusiasm from every corner of my life… the list of people i want to thank for ever & ever grows longer & longer. for now though: 

thank you to hannah for reminding me that being brave means asking for help or stoping all together if i want to & that saying my fears out loud will make me fucking unstoppable when i finish whatever journey this turns into. (sorry hannah i paraphrased your always wise af texts).

thank you to hallie for doing heavy lifting both physically (shout out to my dad’s giant glass coffee table that we carried down the steepest basement stairs) & especially emotionally. thank you for making me a nest on your living room floor on my last night in portland & taking care of me always.

thank you to rebecca for bringing me spackle & vegan ice cream & asking me all of the questions that i really secretly wanted to answer (e.x. how much does that rainjacket weigh?)

more thank yous to come because honestly i have like HUNDREDS

goodnight moon 🌘

i woke up thirsty in the night & layed sleepily in the shadowy moonlight for a while. when i padded around the corner to the kitchen the clouds in the window shifted just slightly & the waning crescent moon spilled over them like butter. the stars were cleanly bright & unobstructed. it felt like a special treat only for somnambulists like me, venturing out of bed. i gazed into the night a while longer, thinking. how lucky i am that i will become extra acquainted with the night over the next five months! i wonder what kind of circadian rhythms i will fall into, what it even will feel like to rest when it gets dark & wake when the sun does. 

i’ve said several times recently that the only preparation left is to worry. that’s not far off the truth but really i just feel so aglow with the newness & unknown of it all. i’m grateful that the small anxieties of minimizing my posessions & finding homes for my plants are absorbing the brunt of my worries so that the trail can remain unadulterated in my imagination a while longer.

i’m sleepy now, but i wanted to see what it would feel like to write a little on my phone in spite of the soothing snores & comforting warmth from j’s side of our flannely bed.

it’s happening

in 25 days i will stand at the mexican border looking north towards canada. & then i’ll walk 2,666 miles north to reach it. i have squirrelled away entire paychecks towards the gear that, in spite of my relative inexperience, i have decided that i need. i put in my notice at the restaurant where i’ve worked nearly four years a couple of weeks ago. most nights i lay awake wondering what i will feel like the first time i sleep alone under my crinkly eight ounce shelter, what i will feel like after 500 miles, or 2,000.

in many ways the catalyst for all of this was reading my friend emily’s blog of her solo thru-hike of the pct in 2014. after i read it all in one breathless spring week, i found more women’s blogs of their pct hikes. i was totally in awe. slowly i started to wonder whether it was something that maybe i could possibly also do… i thought about it more & more through the summer & into the fall. on day hikes i closed my eyes & tried to imagine myself in the situations that my new heroes described in their blogs.

i met my boyfriend on the internet in the early fall. his pictures were all of him in tiny red shorts at the top of mountain passes w tears in his eyes. we talked a lot about hiking on our first date & then we were together every day for a month & we talked about it a lot more. finally one day as we were driving across the st helens bridge back towards portland i said the words that i’d been chanting like an incantation in my head: “i think i want to hike the pct”. things would either fall into place or they wouldn’t but i couldn’t bear to keep being too afraid to say what i wanted out loud. caught in the vast tidal wave that is portland real estate, my landlord decided to sell our house. when i heard all i could do was laugh: what serendipity. i had been terrified to leave my home, the relative security of a job that i like okay & a life that overall feels pretty linear & easy. suddenly i had no choice & all i could feel was grateful.

when people ask me why i have been saying mostly just that i want to. it’s true, but it’s not exceptionally articulate. so:

i want to be braver- i live on daydreams that hardly ever come true. manifestation has always been a challenge for me. i want to set a precedent of completing the things that i dream of doing.

i want to remind myself how independent & capable & self reliant i can be. i want to be able to trust myself to bring enough food, to take the right route over a treacherous pass, to turn back if something doesn’t feel right, to rest when i need it.

i also want to learn how to ask for help when i need it.

i want to spend six months basking in nature. 700 miles of desert & then 200 miles of high sierra & that’s not even half of the trail. i want to see spring turn into summer turn into fall. i want to see a rattlesnake & not be scared.

—-

i want to commit to writing either here or in my tiny moleskine regularly because i want to remember every hour of every day.

IMG_2717.jpg
a bit of a throwback to a time when hiking in the sierra in docs & a dress made sense to me