Update: The desert is hot!!
As the days grow longer, my body is beginning to feel stronger by the mile. My blisters seem to be healing, and overall, the only thing dragging down the days is the scorching sun and weight of carrying more water to avoid dehydration. Water casches are always exciting, and fortunately semi-frequent and always appreciated!
Definitely going to Trail Angle some water next year!
Hiking and setting up camp is beginning to feel like normal life. I mean, after all, it IS my life now. It's my job -- I show up to work hard and sleep exhausted at night knowing I did my best to push my body through the dry and mountainous terrain. It's hard. There are moments, where sweat is dripping down my cheeks and my throat feels dry like I'm sick and I can see up 3 miles ahead at the trail I will be walking in just over an hour. It seems so far, but after the terrain crossed inthe past 10 days, I know it looks horrendous but is possible. Having a camel back is amazing for quick sips of the heavy water I'm lugging to keep me alive. It's a mind over matter job... I get to take breaks whenever I want and no one cares if burp or swear, but with each step, I push myself to limits I didn't know I could. I find myself comfortable peeing with a backpack on, storing food in my pockets for nibbles here and there, and always on the lookout of snakes. The daily grind is brutal on trail...
... That being said, totally worth it.
Right now, I am sitting in the shade of a beautiful oak tree while my best trail-bud Rachel serenades me with a guitar she found inside the town of Warner Springs' recreation center. Within the past couple hours, I have scarfed a double patty burger, drank (drunk?) two Mt.Dews, showered for the first time in over a week, personally popped my first blister myself (Trail Mom Chris popped my other first blister -- I was too sissy to do it myself), washed all my clothes in the shower, and now sit here in total peace. The temperature is a sweet 77 degrees. We are parked here waiting for our washed clothes, and popped-blisters, to dry. I can not explain how good it feels to be clean. I can't figure out how I get so much dirt on my face everyday! Having showered, I can see that my face has developed a nice base-coat tan. I have been the dorky kid on trail using my umbrella everyday, but that shit is so awesome! From 11am until 4am (while the sun is high) I am walking in shade! Only when it is windy does it suck. Yesterday, I was walking around a mountainside with a narrow trail and steep drop off to my left, and the wind began blowing so hard! It was my first wake-up call to the power of mother nature while on trail. I stood there, bending my knees trying to firmly plant them into the rocky trail, with both hands holding the sides of my umbrella tucked near my head, practically praying that "death by umbrella launching off cliff" was not going to be in my obituary. The moment the wind stopped, I immediately dismounted my umbrella from my pack, and continued the day with my sun-hat on. The breeze now feels pleasant as I sit here writing this.
Thank you everyone for the kind messages. My family, friends, and even their family and friends, are really some of the best people on this planet. Your support is what I think about as a slowly climb up mountainsides, step after step, in the hot sun, with this heavy pack pounding down on my poor heals and their blisters. I think my blisters have blisters now - haha! I know I am making the choice to hike this, but that doesn't mean the walking comes easily. Thanks guys - I love you all!!
It's amazing the things I've seen, that I would never see all at once, nor come out to the middle of nowhere to see. Eagle Rock, random caves, cattle grazing in a field (whom didn't like us in the field with them... We were like, "Shit, we never trained for cow-attacks..!"), vistas showing mountain ranges we've passed over, and ones beyond that, cacti with fushia, yellow, and white flowers, snakes (only one rattler, the rest king or something native), ants... and more ants, all sorts of birds, and people smiling even though they're all in excruciating pain. We all are. It's almost taboo to talk about ones personal pain because we are preaching to the choir. Either way, in the end of the day, I feel so grateful for this opportunity and the people who have my back. Even though I am not personally responding to each blog reply, please keep them coming! They're soooooo awesome to read after a long day.
The other day while in Julian (home of Julian Cider Co... Which I unfortunately did not go to...), I sent home 4lbs of stuff I felt I no longer needed, or no longer wanted to carry. I ditched the brain of my pack, the book I never finished reading, the can opener I don't think I'll ever use, and a few other things that were weighing me down. It feels better, and it is fascinating how my attention has moved from gear weight, to water weight. As a community, we are all trying to figure out how much water we each need for how many miles we're hiking for how long we need to hike until the next water source.
Rachel and I have been waking up early (5:30am) to morning-hike before the desert heat warms the ground too much. Hot heat means blisters and more dehydration. After 20 miles yesterday, Rachel and I called it a night and made an insane dinner combo of Mac-n-cheese and mashed potatoes... Mixed... And Oreos dipped in peanut butter sprinkled in pixie-stick powder... dinner of champions! We then camped right along the trail baracading the pathway with her tent and my tarp. I've been cowboy camping so much... With earplugs in... Which help both my fear of bugs crawling into my ear as well as keeping my mind quiet to the sounds of the desert night. The stars are incredible out here and the slim moon chills the air around 5am each morning. I can't wait until it's full so I can put in a night hike with no head-lamps. Morning hiking is incredible.
No trail name yet, no backpain... Yet. Just smiles and blisters and beautiful desert landscape. Lovin' it.
This blog is almost the most difficult to type so far, because there is so much I want to share, say, and describe to you. First, yes -- this trail hurts. Everyone hurts. My feet hurt. Carrying a pack with water and food, weighing around 40lbs total (20lb base weight), up hills, down hills, in the sun, on hot, sharp, uneven desert rocks hurts. Bad.
That being said, it has been so worth it. The people I've met are absolutely amazing, and the views are unbelievable.
Right now, I am sitting in Julian where me and a few others decided to take a rest day. We all slept outside last night under a bridge, laughing until we all passed out. Cowboy camping is not as scary as I thought. I crave beer, a giant swimming pool, my mattress, and my friends. I wish I could steal some friends and family so they could see some of the incredible views... Although, the pain is real. I have 3 beautiful blisters, and have ditched so many things in my pack to lighten my load. I'm even debating getting a lighter tent!
So many people I want to thank:
Lindsey, my sister: you're amazing for helping so much with my resupply packages! I love you!
Brandon: your thoughts and support are felt all the way over here -- thank you!
Charity and Sandor: my first trail Angels!! They met me at Mount Laguna and gave me soooooo many amazing laughs, seasoned French fries, and a delicious IPA!! Thank you so much!!!
Adina: you dropped off my box, but first loaded some sweets, including pixie sticks!!! Seriously, it's been a great friend-getter during lunch ;)
All my friends at home: I have gotten some beautiful notes of encouragement online, and the gear you all helped me get. I wouldn't be so prepared without you.
Things are absolutely beautiful out here. The rocks glow, the flowers sparkle. The sky looks larger than I've ever noticed. I have seen 3 shooting stars, a rattle snake, tons of ants, trail magic from random day hikers (who shared chips, eggs, and fresh veggies). The people are beautiful and come from all areas and jobs. The youngest person I met so far was 18, the oldest 78. It's amazing. The crew of people I have been hanging with the past few days are family for life. We have shared so much personal information, and have seen each other in our worst possible state. We share the pain as much as we are sharing the trail.
I'll write more while on trail. Until then, xoxo.
For my final meal, sushi was the ultimate dream come true. I really can't believe tomorrow is the day. All this planning... All the preparation... And I'm ready...
My dad and I did a final walk-through of REI this evening. I feel confident in my gear. I don't feel confident in my stomach though. It's turning so hard. My dad didn't believe me when I said sushi will make it better, but it sure is doing the trick.
This afternoon, I went over to my amazing friend (since 6th grade) Krystin's house, to hang out, share laughs, re-dye the blue in my hair, and drink beer and mimosas. She's such an amazing person. She made sure I left her home with a, "This is Skarks territory," sign, a spare iPod, a sweet dryfit shirt, and gingerbread edibles. Uhhhmazing. I am so grateful for the people in my life right now. It's no joke when they say, "It takes a village to send Katie on trail." ... That's the saying, right? ;)
As I finish my packing, drinking Le Freak from Green Flash, I must remember what Alex told me yesterday: Life finds a way.
Brandon, my brother-in-law has been SO amazing!! Not only has he provided positive support from the beginning, he's built a support systems in many others, including my family and with his coworkers! Thanks Team Comerica!! Brandon also wrote me a beautiful letter the other night, expressing how much he believes in me, and how proud he is in me... Made me cry. He's so anazing. I'm glad my sister found such a rad man. My sister has also been so incredible. I wonder if she knows how much I look up to her -- she's such a strong person, and called me today telling me how I have already succeeded in hiking this trail, by making it this far in the process. Her, and Brandon's help is unquantifiable and shows the true strength of Ohana. I love you guys, forever.
Sent 2 boxes from this morning to Warner Springs and Idyllwild. Lindsey is sending two more tomorrow. Adam met Emily today to hand-off my forgotten ground Tyvec, since Emily is heading south this weekend. Adina took my box for Mt. Laguna since she's going there Saturday. I met with her and Jonny Morgan last night at Green Flash Brewing for beers and dinner. So great to see them! Figured out my bank accounts, student loans, and final necessities... This is it. The sunset seemed to glow just for me this evening -- as if it knows what I am about to embark on. Time to pack my final pack, shake it down, and try to sleep. See you tomorrow, Campo. I've been dreaming of you for a long time.
Unsaved draft typed this morning lost... Lesson learned the hard way... Save yo' shit if you type more than one sentence. Oh well. Can't sweat the small stuff, right?
My head is in a peaceful state right now compared to the partially flustered state I awoke to this morning. I felt anxious when I woke up around 3 covered in sweat, not wanting pull the sheets back further because of the chill on my moist body. I dreamed this vibrant, royal blue beetle I was admiring flew up my skirt and climbed up to my back. Fuck that thought... Bahhhh. (Excessive) Bugs are seriously one of my top 3 fears of trail. Almost like Indiana Jones and snakes... But I'm a little better.
This morning, I typed about my Easter and how wonderful it was to be around my family. They all were so interested to ask about gear, clothes, food, miles... As crazy as they think this is, none seemed majorly surprised. It was so nice to be around them all at once. I haven't been home for Easter since I moved to Portland. The last 5 Easters consisted of being present virtually on a screen, taking turns seeing the faces of my family, only to be passed on until everyone had a turn and I ended the call in tears, to continue with my typical Sunday while they continued with laughs, bunnies, an adorable family portrait, home made brunch by my parents... Man. I planned my PCT launch around bring present for this. So happy to be there and get their love. Ohana.
My Dad and I just left Venice beach and are on our way to San Diego. He's been amazing following through with supporting not only my dream to hike the PCT, but to have a sweet road trip to the boarder. I told him last year I wanted to drive with him to the start of trail, but take the scenic route and drive along the California coast. I am going to miss the ocean so much -- I definitely have a major soft spot for the power and beauty it holds.
So far, we stopped at Firestone Walker Brewing for me to have a beer (My Dad is the most responsible/strict DD I know), stopped in at my Aunt Connie and Uncle Dave's for a quick hello/goodbye with them and my cousin Dennis, ate at the, "Best Indian food in Ventura," and this morning, walked 6.2 miles from one end of Venice Beach to the Santa Monica Pier! Warm up for the mile he's going to do with me starting PCT, and my venture for 2,600 more.
Sunday night after Easter I was so overwhelmed and exhausted from all the excitement, that I didn't want to do anything trail (even though I had no choice). I decided to work from the couch on the spread sheet of information for my family to have, while my sister helped set up the GPS spot my Aunt is loaning me for this trip, all while watching the 10 Comandments on TV. While Moses walked his 40 days through the desert, I could help but laugh hysterically while poor Moses crawled with his shaft and wool poncho through the Hollywood created desert-set. It's funny, but all too imaginable for myself... Haha? (Who put that question mark there..?)
Monday morning, I woke up thinking: okay Katie, this is it. Pack your bag, finish your boxes, you're leaving as early as possible. However, if you know anything about me, early doesn't really work. I'm more of a ten-minutes-late kind of person. I'd be the person late to their own funeral/wedding/birth/drive-south-to-start-this-crazy-fucking-hike kind of person.
I finished labeling the boxes, and layed out all my gear on the table. When Logan and Ryland woke up, they asked, "Auntie Katie, where are you going?" Only when they grow up will they understand the magnitude of where I was going and what I was doing.
Weighing my pack once it was all loaded was a trip. 32lbs minus Water. Holy moly... This is happening. 4-hours later, I said farewell to my Mom, and cried she prayed for my safety. I'm going to miss my Mom so much. Everyone. I am going to miss everyone so much.
The past few days have been grocery shopping overload! I am seriously, sick of grocery shopping for packaged food right now. Bless my dad for calorie counting, driving, and brainstorming with me every step of the way since I've been in CA. Thank you Lindsey (sister) for being my online guru and finding quick deals on last minute goods. I wish the best to my mom who might be going slightly crazy as she watches us prepare, desperately hoping I'll decide to not hike this trail. My entire family has shown so much support. My friends too. Jeez, the amount of emails and messages I've received the past week with encouraging words have warmed my heart and kept my spirits high. I love you all so much!
This morning, Night Rider (Alina) came over and generously dropped off a bear barrel and go-lite umbrella and gave my parents a glimps of hope of being a solo, female thru-hiker. She road with her horse TWICE through the entire 2,660 miles, and today shared stories of mosquitoes, snow, and the brilliant others whom I will meet on trail. She stayed way after breakfast and walked through my rough box-schedule, and guided me in ways that will assist me incredibly. What a gift to know someone so awesome who is able and willing to guide me, with personal experience, through this difficult planning process.
This evening, with the loving help of my dad, sister Lindsey, Tom (friend since '05), and Nick (BIL since '01), we were able to pack up the 23 California boxes with TONS OF FOOD! I wish I had exact numbers to express how much food we divided... But I'm going to guess like 60+ oatmeal packets, 90+ packages meals, 100+ granola bars, 90+ emergen-c packets, tons of jolly ranchers and candy, dehydrated potatoes, snickers bars, tea...roughly $700+ of food.. so freakin' much! For the record, I took off my shoes for this process (inside joke). So excited, so much help, so thankful.