Day 21 – Big Bear City


Today is officially 3 weeks on the trail!  Since day 17 I have been without Jean, but with other hikers to keep me company for at least some of the time.  Jean and I decided back at Ziggy and the Bear (Cabazon) that she should rest, but she’d be damned if I was going to rest with her.  So days 17, 18, and 19 I spent slackpacking across the desert and up into the mountains around Big Bear with some of our companions.  If you’re not familiar, slackpacking is when you aren’t carrying all of your own gear – Jean took one for the team and decided that she wanted to help by carrying most of my gear in a rental car, meeting me only to sleep at campgrounds.  When I met her at night, I would grab what I needed to make camp, do so, and we would eat dinner together and go to sleep for the night.  In the morning, we would pack the car back up, and I would carry only what I absolutely needed… which turned out to be pretty instructive.

When you’re carrying only what you need for the day, your pack is light.  Really light.  Checking my gear list over the past couple of days, I figure that my base weight (what I have on my back, minus consumables) has been about 18 pounds.  With Jean spotting me from the roads, however, my base weight was probably more like 4 pounds.  I carried only my down jacket for emergency cold, my rain jacket in case of wet or wind, about a pound of snacks, a knife, a compass, a map, and a water filter.  In a word, it was amazing. Our normal pace has been somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 miles an hour, or 2 and a quarter on the high end.  On days 17, 18, and 19, I hiked a total of 57 miles at an average pace of about 3.5 miles an hour – It felt like I was practically running.

On day 17, I hiked with Josh, Virginia, and String Cheese for 8.5 miles from Ziggy and the Bear to Whitewater Preserve.  We were together almost the entire time, until I got to the final set of switchbacks and started moving a lot faster – Jean was at the bottom and I was eager to see her.  Whitewater canyon was the first real water that I’ve seen flowing yet – it was an honest to god stream, and in California I think it probably even qualified as a river.  The canyon was beautiful in the fading light, and left a real impression on me.

The next day – day 18 – I was behind our companions in the early morning but caught up to them after a couple of miles.  We hiked up a ridge and down to yet another little stream – Mission Creek.  We were to follow this creek all day, the trail crossing over it repeatedly, and eventually to reach Mission Creek campground up above us in the mountains.  At the first crossing, we stopped to drink as much water as we could stand and refill our hydration packs.  Some other hikers we had briefly met before – Andrew and Spencer – caught up to us at the creek crossing.  They were on day 10 – doing 30 mile days, every day.  After we talked for a bit, they decided that they’d like to hike with us for a couple of days, and our group grew a little larger.

The rest of the day was easy physically, but tough mentally.  The terrain didn’t change much until the last two miles or so of the 22 total that we hiked, and it was very hot down in the canyon.  We also had our first run-in with the bizarrely named Poodle Dog Bush, which as far as I can tell was invented in order to emasculate poison oak.  Luckily nobody was actually exposed, but we did see an awful lot of it.  That evening, we finished the day by gaining a lot of elevation – a few thousand feet from the canyon floor up to the campground over two or so miles.  At the end, we had hiked up into a high stand of enormous pine trees – a welcome change of scenery from the desert we had grown so used to.  Sleep came easily that night.

On day 19, Josh and Virginia decided that they were going to skip ahead to Big Bear, and not do the next stretch.  Andrew, Spencer and I set out about 730am, an hour or so behind String Cheese, to do a 26 mile day.  By 1030, we had made about 10 miles and found the water cache that Jean, J&V had left for us at a road crossing.  The terrain was beautiful all day – basically following contours along a mountain range leading to a descent into Big Bear City at mile 266.  About 25 miles in, my feet were killing me.  It was 430pm, and we had been keeping a 3 mph pace or so all day.  We crested a ridge and looked over to none other than Big Bear Lake, and Spencer and I started booking it for the road crossing at 266 where we would meet Jean and the others.  At 5pm, we got to the crossing, found a cache of sodas and water, and sat down with String Cheese, Half Step, Change Up, and Andy to talk a few before Jean picked us up.

The past 2 days we’ve spent trying to get rid of weight.  I’ve wrestled my own pack weight down by about 6 lbs!  My base weight is now about 12.5, down from 18.5, and it feels amazingly light.  Tomorrow, having rested Jean pretty thoroughly, we’re going to try to get about 10 more miles down the trail, crossing our fingers that her shin doesn’t act up.  With any luck, my next post will be written from the McDonalds at Cajon Pass, where we will be seated in the VIP room.



Alright, day 21 on the trail and day 6 of rest without hiking! Man am I ready to get back on the trail. The shin splint is feeling much better – l’d say 95% – no pain, some slight tenderness, some tightness and knotting on my shin area – pretty much good to go. So we’re hitting the trail tomorrow! I am ready. We’ll take it easy as I get back into the swing of things. The past few days have been boring not being on the trail. I’m feeling antsy and ready to get moving. Jared and I have really grown acquainted with Big Bear City and Lake, spending 4 nights in town. Since the last blog post just north of Ziggy and the Bear’s, I spotted the crew (Jared, Josh, Virginia, String Cheese, then later Spencer and Andy) as they slack-packed to Big Bear. After 8 miles their first day, it was 22 miles, followed by a 26-mile day, with a night spent at Mission Creek Campground. That first day driving around, I drove up to Big Bear and got all of our goods from the post office (thanks for the Gatorade Emily!!) before driving the 5-6 miles of dirt Jeep roads up to the camp. There were a few tricky spots on the dirt road, but the trusty Ford Explorer made it. Everyone met me in camp that evening – we’d gained two people – Andy and Spencer who were ultra fast and ultra light – averaging 30+ miles per day and subsisting on little more than maltodextrin. We chatted over dinner, found out that Andy is a Mormon, I shared my Armenian heritage, everyone talked of the great views coming up the trail, we talked bamboozling, and Josh and Virginia who were weary and decided to join me into town the next day, bypassing the next 26 miles. The next day we woke, grabbed some water to cache for the group, and made our way down the windy, rocky roads, eventually dropping our water jug near the “Animal Cages” (yes, there are actual animals, supposedly old Hollywood stunt animals – lions, tigers, bears, raccoons, and more). We ate real food (crepes!), shopped and ran errands, and checked in to the lovely Motel 6. I picked up the group around 5:30 or 6 (they made great time!) and made it straight for Mexican food. The next day Jared and I relocated (along with J&V) to the Nature’s Inn, a quirky local hotel with great prices that prides themselves on their plentiful amenities, where we stayed in the “Raccoon Room” for the next 3 nights where I iced and elevated my leg, massaged way too much aspercreme onto my shin, stretched, and eventually donned some sweet running compression socks and superfeet insoles. We also took the time to pare down our weight – cutting our food down by 30-35% and shaving pounds from our pack (I cut 4 lb, Jared cut 6 lb). In town life is relaxing, sure, but I can’t wait to start moving. Our next resupply is in Wrightwood, 90 miles north, which should be another 5 or 6 days at a reasonable pace…

Outwash near Whitewater Preserve




Braided stream at sunset




Poodle dog imposter


Josh, Virginia, and String Cheese
Edges of the desert


Rock formations


So pretty



From Ziggy and the Bear’s to the Whitewater Preserve. And shin splints (Day 17)


Shin splints suck. A shin split sucks. My right leg is dragging me down and I’m temporarily out of commission until my shin is on the mend. That dull ache that I’ve had for a few days turned into a full-on painful throb once we made “The Descent” from Fuller Ridge to the dessert floor yesterday…but I’m getting ahead of myself…
We are alive, well, rested, and each in one piece – yay PCT 2014! Jared (Snake Charmer) and I (Lady Luck) left Idyllwild a few days ago with TONS of food on our backs (resupply is heavy), along with Josh and Virginia (a couple from Virginia we’d met the night before over s’mores at the Idyllwild Inn). We got a ride to the trailhead from the folks at the Inn. In order to get back on the PCT after the fire detour, we had to climb the Devils Slide trail (about a 1200 foot gain in 2.5 miles) which rejoins the trail at mile 179.5. We started early to avoid the thunderstorms on the horizon – estimated to hit around 1 or 2 – and our goal was to be well off the ridge by then. No thanks lightening. We followed the trail and skipped the San Jacinto peak detour, overlapping with Josh and Virginia all day. We met a group of 5-8 kick ass 70+ day hikers who lent us words of encouragement. The elevation (shy of 10,000 feet) and heavy packs made for rough travel as I huffed and puffed up to the ridge. A few hikers, 10 Percent and his teva-and-Hawaiian-shirt-wearing companion, passed us while we cooked lunch (our worst meal yet – quinoa). 10 Percent is rushing to finish his 1 1/2 month stint on the PCT before his wife goes into labor. Impressive. We made it to the top around 6 and caught a few glimpses of the stunning dessert floor below before we covered the first few miles of down, not believing that we’re going all the way down there. We met Josh and Virginia at camp around 7:30, at mile 193ish after 4000+ feet of climbing followed by 4000+ feet of descent. Snacks and hot chocolate before a restful sleep.
Slowish going the next morning, we were out of camp by 7 and again overlapped with J&V again all day. The first few miles were great – beautiful views! The next few were not bad. We made it to mile 200!! But the last few miles of switchbacks taunting us above the desert floor were torturous. We were weary of going down, the storm clouds were looming, our joints ached, my right shin was screaming at me, and I resorted to counting the last 2,095 steps (1.6 miles give or take) to the water fountain at the bottom. I elevated my leg as Jared got us water. We hastily repacked our packs using our pack liners as the storm clouds hovered above us and we felt a few sprinkles. J&A met us at the bottom. Then we all booked it for Ziggy and the Bear’s – the home of some great trail angels – 5 more miles across the sandy desert floor through strong headwinds and under the I-10 overpass (slightly sketch under the bridge but we still had plenty of light). Walking through sand is hard. We arrived at Ziggy and the Bear’s around 2:30 to a house full of hikers and we were so happy!! Ziggy and the Bear have been trail angels for almost 20 years now – first at their home in Anza, the past few years at their new home in Whitewater – and man do they have it down to an art. Ziggy gave us the rundown once we arrived: Epsom salt footbaths first, then help ourselves to showers, hand wash laundry, candy/snacks, soda/Gatorade, ice cream, and pie. The sweetest people! Jared and I strategized operation shin splint. We all talked and told stories over ice cream and crashed around 9:30 (hiker midnight is 9).
In the morning we woke to find String Cheese had come into camp around midnight after getting stuck in the storm pummeled by hail and very close to lightening, but made it out safely. No word from Anna or Warren yet, we’re not sure if or when they went over the mountain. Jared and I came up with a shin splint plan. So I need to rest. That’s the only sure way to care for them. We’re going to rent a car and I’ll drive to Big Bear. Jared will slack pack and I’ll spot him on side roads, carrying the brunt of the gear in the car. He’ll only carry what he needs for the day then we’ll rendezvous in the evenings. I won’t let him rest with me. If I can’t do it right now, he has to do it for me so I can live vicariously until Big Bear. Got a rental, looked up PCT road access (this afternoon: 8 miles, tomorrow: 22 mi, and day after: 16-26 we’ll play by ear… 55 miles by trail to town!). We ate whoppers for lunch, got Josh, Virginia, and String Cheese on board, and I bode farewell to our Trail Angels, driving ahead to get into the Whitewater Preserve before the gates closed at 5. The hikers hit the trail around 4:20.
Resting is going to be a struggle – wanting to be on the trail, missing a part of it, being injured, and sitting still are leaving me feeling disappointed and frustrated. I’ve been researching all care options – KT tape, RICE, new insoles to stabilize my feet, altering my gait, reducing pack weight, wearing compression socks, ibuprofen, applying aloe+aspirin to my shin, exercises, stretches, and TIME. The time is the hardest, of course. Hoping that between the few days it takes to get to Big Bear and another few days resting at the hostel there, I will be in good trail shape. Books, journaling, blogging, reading the news, caring for myself, prepping for more trail, and exploring towns should keep me busy.
The crew hiked into camp around 7:30 that night! They saw some great views, hiked through the wind farm, took pics of a lone cow, and loved the slack packing. They also got word from a few hikers who got to Ziggy and the Bear’s as they were leaving – Anna is safe and sound a few hours behind them! No word from Warren, but we’re sure the old Alabaman hitched North – he’s skipping the dessert and meeting us around Kennedy Meadows.

Josh and Virginia


Looking back to the storm brewing over San Jacinto


The storm looming behind


The scenery would have been more enjoyable if it wasn’t such a torturous descent


Near the San Jacinto junction


Resting the ol’ shin


Jared on the trail


Rental car


We made it. 200 miles down. 800+ to go


White Water Preserve


Day 14: Idyllwild


Has been my big realization for the past few days… hiking the PCT is a seriously humbling experience!  Well, to be fair, it’s a combination of really humbling and really empowering.

We’ve hiked 180 miles so far in under 2 weeks.  Realizing that we’ve done that under our own power – fueled by nothing other than M&Ms, powdered Tang, and pasta – is pretty awesome.  On the other hand, “getting it right” in terms of keeping track of all of the details of proper hydration, map reading, making and breaking camp, repacking your pack correctly, having good posture, etc etc… is a daunting task.  I’ve had to learn as I go quite a bit, and I can definitely say I haven’t been too hard on myself about not getting it right immediately.  The past few days have held some sobering moments, but I’m loving it.

We got to Idyllwild yesterday via the Mountain Fire detour and it’s everything I was hoping for.  I’ve been really excited for Idyllwild for months for absolutely no good reason other than the name, but once we got here I knew I was right.  Great burgers at the Lumber Mill yesterday, the people here are super friendly, and the scenery is beautiful.  No complaints.

Tomorrow we begin “the descent” after a really relaxing zero day here.  We drop from an elevation of 9000 feet or so down into the desert floor at roughly 1000 feet above sea level – 8000 feet of downward going switchbacks over about 20 miles.   It promises to be pretty much brutal.  Stay tuned!


On day 14! We sucessfully have made it over 170 miles on the trail. The last stretch has been fairly intense – heat, no wind, long siestas, evening miles, early starts, few encounters with other hikers, and plenty of snakes.

After our last blog post in Warner Springs, we ran into Warner Springs Monty who hooked us up with a little extra fuel. Then Jared and I camped behind the Community Center along with String Cheese, Not-Just-Warren, Anna, Colin, and a large bunny clan (so adorable!). After running out of sunscreen, we hiked out in the heat on day 10 with long sleeves and pants to avoid too much sun exposure. And man was it HOT. We will definitely be getting more sunscreen ASAP. We reached the spring after our uphill climb, around 12:30 – just in time for a long siesta until 4 pm – but even so we were still a bit dehydrated (it’s amazing how the time flies and little water gets consumed during those siestas). We had 8 miles to go until we reached trail angel Mike Hererra’s place…and Jared was out of water after 3 of those miles. Luckily the next 5 were in the cool of the evening and I had plenty to share. We rolled into Mike’s around 8 pm and man was it ever AMAZING. So amazing. Water. Tons of water. And the warmest welcome for hikers. Nina was watching the place with her absurdly large dog. She offered us cokes and beer which we enjoyed as we made dinner and admired the incredibly impressive sky, littered with more stars than we knew existed. Tomahawk was the only other hiker there, but we saw evidence of Magic Mullet, Mogli, Rich, and Phoebe who left behind notes in the log book. In the morning of day 11, we woke to coffee and truly amazing cherry-pineapple-coconut cake/pie and had a good chat about the trail and it’s magic with Tomahawk and Nina. Turns out Tomahawk was the first hiker we saw on the trail – we glimpsed him at the monument on day 1, huffing and puffing with a ridiculously large pack. His name came from the first piece of gear he parted with – a tomahawk. And as we talked to him that morning, he told us about his plans to leave the trail – to make his way from the Seattle area and relocate to Arizona with his lady friend. Go get ’em Tomahawk. He hooked us up with his sunscreen too – thanks! We left Mike’s place and Jared immediately began to feel ill (we’re attributing it to the cake/pie) and ate very little that day (which is the ONLY time I’ve ever seen Jared eat less than monster proportions). We hiked 13 miles, had a long siesta, saw a garder snake and a rattlesnake, Jared had some of his first foot issues, and we heard several loud rattlesnakes just off trail. We settled in at Nance Canyon at a beautiful sandy spot and ate our dinner and hot chocolate before crashing hard. The next day – day 12 -we woke early and were on the trail around 6 am. A few hours in, Jared “Snake Charmer” Kofron picked up a snake which freaked me out. But we made it – in one piece – uphill from Nance Canyon and out to the Paradise cafe by 1 pm where we had a great burger and a few amazing vanilla milkshakes. We chatted with tons of friendly folks about the trail, filled our water, and ran into Colin immediately, on his way to the cafe. We discussed our “detour plans” to get around the burned area in the Idyllwild vicinity, then Jared and I were back on the trail. We hiked up the ridge to find wind and a new, higher desert landscape. Jared ran off to get water from the Live Oak Spring, described in the water report as “a hell of a mile” downhill, and I ran ahead to make camp, to find a sign and realize that Jared was not on the spring trail, but for somewhere else entirely. I caught him a few hundred yards in, he changed course, I made camp and dinner, and he came back with 8L of water just before dark. A restless, windy sleep. Day 13: to Idyllwild! We hiked the last few miles along the trail until the detour: down Cedar Oaks trail, along a horse trail, and onto Fobes Ranch Road (we also found the Fobes Spring based on sparse directions and intuition, very exciting), then hitched a ride from a guy named Drew into town. My right shin and neck are bothering me. An epic burger meal at the Lumber Mill where we chatted with locals about Deep Creek, the fire, and volcano conspiracies. I love how warm folks around here are once they realize you’re a hiker. It’s like a big extended family. Crash at the Idyllwild Inn. Day 14 we zeroed. Caught up on errands, tried to repair my back, ate real food, shipped our bounce box, stocked up on supplies (good finds in town), got feedback from our trail big bro Mike (thanks!), planned our trek down from Fuller Ridge, and ran into Anna! Breakfast tomorrow morning with the gang before a ride at 8:15 to the trailhead.

The trail


Horny Toad


Magic Mullet




Desert flowers are so colorful


And the detour begins…


Nearing the end of our detour


We had the windy trail to ourselves


Lupines (I think)


Lush greenery to the east


Detour to Fobes Trail


Warner Springs (Day 9)

Early PCT hills, just north of Mexico


Geology in action


Jared and Collin around noon on Scizzors Crossing day



Flowering cactii


Eagle Rock


Finally at Warner Springs! Warm welcome


Does it get any better than a can of Moxie and a foot bath?



We just finished our first epic day yesterday: 24 miles!! From Scizzors crossing to Barrel Springs. We hiked with Colin most of the day, hit mile 100!!, watered up at cache 3, made camp, and solidified Jared’s trail name (Snake Charmer). Whew it was a hot day – Siesta for an hour. Future siestas may be longer…
We rolled into Warner Springs before noon – the sweetest people and the best stop yet: burgers, foot baths, showers, laundry, rides to PO, wifi, and ice cream. We picked up our boxes (thanks Mike & Allison and Mike H!), drank our moxie, and posed like gangstas. Next stop: Idyllwild.

Dessert gangstas



Hitting mile 100 yesterday felt pretty great, I have to say. I hadn’t appreciated the importance of these milestones – but after a week, having a definite sign of accomplishing something bigger than an oversized day hike mattered. Our first 100 (110 really) miles, and our first resupply. 10% done or so!

The people we’ve met in towns have been overwhelmingly kind. Two different people in Warner springs have volunteered to drive us back and forth from the post office, and they have out and out refused our attempts at reciprocation and remuneration. Honestly I was more expecting to be a nuisance – a tolerated nuisance, but a nuisance. Instead people have done their best to help us at every turn and seem genuinely excited about it. Except for that one woman in Julian. You know who you are.

Tomorrow we set off for idyllwild, which I’ve really been looking forward to because idyllwild is an amazing name. It’ll be our first fire detour too – 26 miles of trail is currently closed due to old wildfires. It’s kind of interesting to talk to people about how they plan to get around it, as folks have different philosophies. Some people are intent on walking everywhere no matter what, while others don’t mind hitching a section if the trail is damaged. I think we will probably walk it as the detour only adds about 4 miles. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion…

Miles hiked – 109
Miles per day – 12.8
Day 8 – 24 mi
Day 9 – 9 mi
Blisters – Jean 2+, Jared 1 1/2

Julian CA! (Day 6)

Mexican border fence and PCT monument


Brandon and Jared. A sweet cousin sendoff


Less than one mile into our 1000+ mile journey. Campo CA


My first version of trail selfies. Pasty and clean legs


So Cal desert just north of Campo. So scrubby


Our first water cache! They do exist! Very excited at Hauser Creek


View from camp. Second night on the trail. Beautiful sunset


The wildlife is intimidating. A cute horny toad. Sorry little guy, but you’re so photogenic


Flowering yucca near Cibbets Flats Campground. Just past the “unexploded ordinances”


Recent wildfire along the trail here


Dirty legs and dinner


We’ve had a little sun by now. Still fresh faced


Best. Food. Ever.



Here we are on our first zero day in little old Julian CA. We’ve hiked 77 miles in 6 days, longer than either of us have hiked in a stretch! We’ve seen Mexico, a dry lake, a few water caches (thank you trail angels), ambitious Canadians, one naked hiker, an ultra marathon on the PCT, a baby rattlesnake, countless lizards, and a dozen or two hikers. We’ve taken two showers, eaten two in-town meals, stayed in one campground, and slept in one real bed.

On day one, Brandon drove us to Campo, where we hiked 9 miles north from the border fence to our camp – a dusty spot next to an outcrop in a former burn area. Great weather, not too hot. 5 liters of water on our backs. Our first dinner – success (tuna stroganoff…SO much food)! Woke up in the middle of the night to a mouse chewing at my pack but I fended it away with my umbrella and then stashed our packs in the tent.

On day two we hiked from mile 9 to mile 21, just north of Lake Morena (which was dry!). The dried fruit was good for breakfast. We had our first climb today – after descending to Hauser Creek (water cache!) and then up to the lake. It was hot but we made it. Ran into the Canadians from Banff (who are hiking to Tahoe also…only in 2 months instead of 3!), saw our first snake, saw hiker Bob in town, refilled water at the campground, and then hiked into camp at 6:30 – a secluded spot tucked under a madrone tree with a perfect sunset viewing spot. Ramen for dinner. Not my fave. Did not sit well. Hot chocolate was so nice.

Day three we hiked our first longer day – 16 miles from mile 21 to mile 37, from the ridge above Morena to the ridge above Cibbetts Flats CG. A few miles in we watered up at Boulder Oaks CG where we met Phoebe with blisters and Steven hiking from Tampa to CA to Seattle. We passed a guy flagging for the PCT 50 mile ultra marathon as we left the CG. Back on trail and a climb in the heat, a water refill detour at Cibbetts Flats CG, then climbing again. Saw a baby rattlesnake (kind of adorable with two tiny rattles). My stomach was not feeling well (all this dehydrated food…) but I slogged on and we made it to a campsite with Anna at mile 37. The chicken-veg-rice-quinoa action tasted great. Sleep.

Day 4 we ran into all of the ultra marathoners as we hiked through Lake Morena. Feeling good today! Beautiful views this morning. We hiked down to Burnt Rancheria CG and had SHOWERS…amazing. Then to the Pine House Cafe and Tavern for burgers and beer, where we entered a food coma for the rest of the day. So good. So heavy. We stopped at the Laguna Mtn Sport and Supply where Jared got new shorts/pants, I pilfered the hiker boxes, and we chatted with Dave and a few other hikers (Rich and two girls). Back on the trail and burger heavy, saw Colin, a few more runners, hit some HEAVY winds in the burned area below Morena CG, then made camp at the CG (mile 47) and shared a site with Anna – who has become our hiking companion. Still full. The wind is chilly here.

Day 5 we hiked a 17ish mile day from Laguna CG to Chariot Canyon road. A lot of downhill. Another water cache at the Pioneer Mail picnic area. Passed a few bikers on the trail, an older man doing trail maintenance, and Anna a few times. We had our first water refill at a horse trough…with a mouse at the bottom…thank you water filter. Before we made our end-of-day decent I had my first blister meltdown…taped my feet, popped some ibuprofen, and got back on the trail. We made camp just before Chariot Canyon Rd, ate some Annie’s, and crashed. Warm night.

On day 6 we hiked and hitched into Julian with Anna and Colin. A quick 13 mile hike, water refill at Rodriguez tank, and crazy hitch/ride from a tiny woman who packed the 4 of us and our packs into her Chevy Aveo with her and a car seat and large cooler. Intense is an understatement. Whew. We escaped with our lives and got to the Julian Lodge, had a HOT shower, did some laundry, ate some snacks, and had dinner at Romanos – a solid Italian place. I had a great salad, tasty food, and a Guinness. A real bed to sleep in felt good, but I somehow felt strange covered by a roof. Back on the trail tomorrow.

On day 7 we woke in Julian to CRAZY WINDS outside and spent most of the day in town so we can tackle Scizzors crossing in the AM on day 8. Real breakfast, picked up a few supplies at the Julian Market and Deli, and ate the best split pea soup at Granny’s Kitchen. Hitching back to the trail soon…

Miles hiked – 77
Miles per day – 12.8
Day 1 – 9 mi
Day 2 – 12 mi
Day 3 – 15 mi
Day 4 – 10 mi
Day 5 – 18 mi
Day 6 – 13 mi
Day 7 – 0 mi
Blisters – Jean 5, Jared 2



This has been a pretty incredible week so far.  80 miles of walking (give or take) over the last 6 days, and I can’t wait to get out and do more.  For one thing, I cannot emphasize enough how truly stunning the scenery is.  The sense of scale alone is absolutely staggering – looking ahead, it’s impossible to tell if its 10 miles or 100 to the next mountain range.  It seems at once like it’s right in front of us and that we could walk forever and never get there.  Huge expanses of land stretch out in front of us in all directions, and it’s hard to not feel a little bit like any goal is utterly hopeless.


That said, progress on the PCT is unexpectedly tangible.  We use map and compass a lot to figure out where we are on the trail, and we’ve gotten pretty good at determining our position just given nearby terrain and landmarks.  In the mornings we are often looking ahead to a distant point and planning the details of how to get there – things like where will we get water and how much should we carry, where will we rest, how often should we eat, etc etc.  By the late afternoon we’re standing on that distant point, looking back at where we started and recognizing the switchbacks and ridges that we traversed.  So far every day it has looked really, really far away.


There have been some pretty hilarious moments on the trail too – two days ago we rounded a bend and saw a guy walking towards us, wearing a sun hat… and nothing else, other than a little backpack.  “Those umbrellas are really cool,” he said, “where did you get them?”  Needless to say, this was not how I expected this interaction (or any interaction, really) to go.  I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from this nude trekker, but it wasn’t talking shop.


Generally speaking I’ve been surprised by the attitude of people towards us as hikers – most everybody has been incredibly nice and warm, and has asked us to “travel safe” with total sincerity.  Other acts of kindness have stood out as well – at the cafe where I am writing this, they offered us some free soup (for energy, they said), added sides on to our sandwich without our asking, and assured us that it would be fine if all we really wanted was to use the internet.  Our next stop is Mama’s Pies down the street, where they are offering a free slice of pie to anybody with a PCT long distance permit.


On another note altogether, my body hurts.  It’s not just that it hurts – it actually seems to be actively trying new and inventive ways to hurt every day.  Luckily it seems to be choosing its victims pretty evenly – one day it’s my shoulder, another day my hip, and yesterday I discovered a new part of the human body between the ankle bone and the achilles’ tendon that is capable of being sore.  Of course this morning, everything felt great again.  So far, I’m grateful to say, these little aches and pains haven’t actually eaten into our hiking or diminished my enjoyment at all.  In fact, it’s been kind of hobble around without a pack on and really feel just how hard your body is working to get you where you’re going.


On that note, yesterday I had my first oh-my-god-this-is-ridiculous moment when we were hitching from the PCT to Julian, CA.  It’s about a 12 mile drive, give or take.  Over the past two days we hiked about 31 miles, marking milestones such as Sunrise Trail, Rodriguez Spur, and Chariot Canyon Road.  We got picked up by a kindly local woman from Julian who was… very chatty, let’s just say that.  As we drove the maybe 10 minutes from the trail to Julian, we passed none other than the road to the Sunrise Trailhead, a sign for Rodriguez Spur, and another for Chariot Canyon Road.  It took us hours and days to mark the distance between these places, and here they were accessible in mere moments by driving.  I was reminded of a day a couple of weeks before we left – we decided to walk the entire Burke-Gilman trail in Seattle.  It wraps around the city and is roughly 30 miles.  After day 1, we had walked from Woodinville (way up north) back to the UW medical center.  Our friend Tyler called and asked if we wanted to hang out – I told him we were too tired, we’d just walked 18 miles – and in the background, I hear Ziad yelling “DUDE WE HAVE A CAR, YOU DONT HAVE TO WALK!”


True, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  So far, so good.


T-Minus 4 Hours… (Day 1)



We’re driving to the trailhead now…a 5-hour drive from Tucson to Campo. Thanks so much for the lift Brandon! And thanks so much to all of our friends and family for supporting us on our way out there. Early morning 3:30 am wake up and we plan to hit trail at 10 am.
We went for a 5-mile walk along the Romero Trail in Catalina State Park yesterday to get warmed up. Hiking in the desert is really amazing I can’t get over how great it is – the rock exposures, views, warmth, dry air, cacti, plants, and desert life. Our start got pushed back by a day (thanks to Mexico) but we’re on our way now.
Next stop: PCT. Our first leg is a 7-day hike from Campo to Warner Springs. We will be hiking through dry, hot desert. The day 1 goal is to set up camp at or a few miles before Lake Morena. Doing it!

Over the past few weeks we’ve gone through this process of reducing our possessions down to essentials. Things that aren’t coming with us for the next few months have been steadily getting packed into usps flat rate boxes and getting shipped all over the place. At this point we are finally driving to the trailhead and the only thing left is what’s in our packs. The only clothes I have are the ones I’ll be wearing for the next three months. My wallet has been left behind for a lightweight nylon satchel which – let’s face it – is a backpackers man purse.

Despite it all, this feels at once like it’s not really happening and like it’s happening forever. In other words, I clearly haven’t really gotten my bearings in terms of what this experience is going to be like and I’m not sure when it will really sink in.

What I can say is that I’m excited. Yesterday we hiked through the desert a bit and I carried my pack – with food and water for the next week, 42 pounds. The weight was surprising but after an hour or so it felt great. T minus 3 hours…

6 Days…

6 Days left before we hit the trail. We’re on our way to Jared’s cousin’s wedding in Mexico this morning. We stopped over in Tucson (thanks for housing us Mr. and Mrs. Kofron – John and Beverly). Mountains are on the horizon in every direction and the trails sound inviting. I’m incredibly enchanted by the desert – the smells, the dust, the sounds, endless cacti, and lore of snakes.
I’m very happy to have most of the logistics and planning related meltdowns out of the way. The next few days in Mexico will be a perfect respite before Campo.