Trail difficulties

Guest Post on The Mighty

Yesterday I wrote a guest blog post for The Might which is a blog geared towards family members and people challenged with disabilities and other medical conditions. This is the first blog I've written as a guest blogger and I hope to continue sharing my story with a wider audience. The blog provides an overview of my PCT hike so for those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning might not read anything new, but I did share a few new pictures.

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Click image to read my blog on the Mighty.

Click image to read my blog on the Mighty.

Begin and End in Weakness

It's easy to develop a superiority complex as a thru hiker. Once I made it to Washington all the day hikers, weekend backpackers, and section hikers on the trail would congratulate me on hiking as far as I had, and they'd tell me and all the other thru hikers how awesome we were.  The more I basked in the light of praise the more prideful I became. Towards the end I began to see myself as an elite superhuman, but life always seems to find a way to humble me.

Forty miles from Canada, just past Glacier Pass, without warning I found myself face down on the trail.

On Empty

The first mile of the day starts slow as I work out my tense joints and achey muscles. I'm not as energetic as I was just a month or so ago, but I'm pulled through each day by the hope of reaching Canada. My weariness grows, and like weeds along the trail, it chokes the beauty of creativity from fully blossoming, and at the end of the day when I settle into my tent I have no energy to string together thoughts for coherent blog posts. I have many stories to tell but not enough daylight in the day to hike and write. I guess I'll just have to share these stories after I get to Canada.

Puddle Water

It was bound to happen while hiking the PCT in a severe drought year; after 1500 miles I was finally forced to filter my drinking water out of a swampy, stagnant pool. For the first 750 miles a water report helped hikes navigate through the arid sections. Hiker updated the water report via email and text message, and anytime the adjective "stagnant" appeared on the water report I planned according and carried extra water.

In Northern California no such water report exists, so I rely on the information found on my trail maps, which is often quite accurate,  but my luck finally ran out.

Crash Course

Only three storms have interfered with my PCT thru hike so far, and it just so happened that the worst of the three storms hit while Katie section hiked with me near Donner Pass. Katie currently lives in Davis, CA which sits just a few hours from the trail, but we met in Colorado when we both worked for Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. When I announced my plan to hike the PCT Katie expressed interest in hiking with me while I was in her neck of the woods. I didn't know the hike would turn into a crash course in thru hiking.

Fifty Hour Holiday

On a whim, my parents drove out from Colorado to spend the weekend with me in South Lake Tahoe. I had planned to nero (hike less than 10 miles) into Tahoe on Saturday and nero out on Sunday, but instead I enjoyed a full zero with my parents on Sunday and then neroed out on Monday afternoon. Most town stops induce stress for me because I have more errands than I have time, so relaxing in town always falls behind the necessities, but Tahoe was different. My parents drove me around town to complete my errands, they took me out to eat numerous times, including an all you could eat Brazilian Barbecue restaurant. On Saturday my parents rented a jet ski for a hour, and my mom baked me a homemade chocolate chip cake. Miraculously, my mom found a great hotel even though most places in Tahoe were already booked for the beautiful summer weekend.

Missed Moments

Back when I was still hiking the desert, the day I crossed the short section of the Mohave I hiked with Backup and Horizon, and as we slowly walked along the LA aqueduct I mentioned that I had a sister who was pregnant and going to have her baby while I was hiking the PCT. Backup and Horizon mentioned it would be cool if the baby's middle name was derived from my location on the PCT when my sister delivered her baby.  I said I better not be in Tuolumne Meadows when the baby is born. Low and behold, about a month later my sister delivered a baby boy four hours after I walked into Toulumne, and luckily his middle name is Daniel and not Tuolumne.

I recognize that even though the trail simplifies my life, I realize for my friends and family life continues to progress whether I'm in the picture or not.

Spelling PCT

A few days back I hiked the afternoon with Ball Buster and Slacker. They typically hike faster than my pace, but on that afternoon Ball Buster had painful muscle cramps that slowed them down. Ball Buster said he had never hiked in so much pain before but they had no options other than to hike through the pain. The High Sierra have limited entry and exit points and we were still a full days hike to the next exit point. As we hiked Slacker sarcastically, yet boldly, stated that you can't spell PCT without pain.

The Forests of Mordor

I found myself once again in an old burn area.  For whatever reason the trail always seems to ascend steeply through all the burned areas and the trail seems to always meander along the sunny side of the mountains. As I climbed, a song from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack popped up on my playlist, and for a few minutes I was whisked away to Middle Earth, where I imagined that I was lost deep in the burned forests of Mordor.  Thru hiking might not be as heroic as the epic stories told by Tolkien, but I realized every good story arises in the midst of conflict.

Overcoming the Desert

The trail consisted of several inches of sand which seems to absorb my momentum and energy, and it climbed swiftly up the hill and into the burn zone.  In Southern California one of the first plants to return after a wildfire is called Poodle Dog Brush, and although the name sounds cute, hikers despise the plant. Poodle Dog Brush causes skin irritations and even respiratory distress in bad cases, it omits a skunk like aroma, and it can grow up to nine feet high.