Navigating clouds of mystery with pretrip jitters– whats out there?

Date: Sun, Jun 28th, 2009
Start: Albany, CA– far from the trail.
End: same place.
Daily Distance: 0
Controlling chaos and trying to play dodge-ball with Murphy’s law. Here I am trying to pack my extra things away so my sister can find them in the event I want an extra pair of socks or can’t find goji berries in central Oregon– boxes and sharpies and envelopes of cash surround me. Spreadsheets and scales, gram to ounce conversions, reorganizing guide book sections from front to back so they go with my flow… and for what? I will probably want to buy mac-n-cheese and little Debbie’s cakes from every store I encounter and won’t want these hippy treats I am sending myself… but LNT (Mr. T’s sister– thanks Eric!) told me to plan ahead and prepare, so I am. Even though I know everything will change when I get on the trail at least I am beginning to wrap my mind around it all. I fly out soon to start up in Canada where my feet will meet dirt and I can leave this stuffy planning time and work the kinks out. How is the snow? Will I be able to cross the rivers? Will I kick myself for leaving gaiters behind or cutting off the superfluous drawcord on my new sleeping bag? Will I hike as slow as molasses in winter or will some kind of wings sprout from my new kicks and speed me along like a gazelle (fat chance..). I just don’t know what to expect from myself or the trail, and am stoked that the start is almost here. These last pre-trip details are never going to be ironed out, and the wrinkles are a part of it anyway– just think about smile lines and a wrinkle in time. If you could iron pre-trips like Beyonce irons her hair adventure might get crushed. I will continue on with planning, even if it is futile, it will all be over soon and the journey will be set loose! 

July 5 2009 Mazama, WA
Since my last entry I flew from Oakland up to Seattle, where Christopher and Nickie let me sleep on their couch, took me out to thai food, and even drove me down to the bus station. From there I took the dirty dog up to Vancouver, slept in the cleanest bus station I have ever been in, and had a peaceful greyhound ride to manning park, where I met Tortoise and Parkay– two other southbound hikers!

I beat my package to Mazama, but the Outward Bound Base has taken me in, and I can resupply out of roadkill, use computers, take showers, do my handful of laundry, sleep on the ground– and even watch movies and see an old friend from college! This little base makes me miss Montana, but also makes me happy to know that not all OB communites are gone, this one is still going strong, and overflowing with kind people who love mountains and wild places.

The next section looks a little tricky, more snow than the first section, a trail that has been mostly repaired, and some big creek crossings– also a lot of miles– 117! I have no idea what my pace will be, and it could take me anywhere from 5 to 10 days to get to skykomish. That means a heavy pack again… but at least I get to eat most of that weight!

Wish I was feeling more creative and wordy right now– wish I could remember the journal entries I was writing in my head out on the trail. Oh Well. I am going to pet some chickens and hang up my laundry.

Mazama, WA
The first 70 miles of this trail have me hooked. I am in the honeymoon phase with this trail– the wildflowers are going crazy, but not crazy enough to make me sneeze, the sun has been out and bright from 5:30am till 9:30pm each day, and the trail itself winds along through gorgeous peaks and passes, staying high most of the time. I have seen at least one pile of bear scat each day, and yesterday saw a little golden colored bear ambling down the trail infront of me. McGilivrays warblers and pine? grosbeaks (the bright yellow and black ones) are a couple of the birds I have been able to ID, and there are tons I don’t know– gotta get bird songs on my ipod! Of course it hasn’t been all roses out here, there are mosquitoes, my feet do hurt, I have felt alone, tired, and hungry, but the good far outweighs the bad and my first four days have been worth all the days inside planning.

This morning I woke up and started walking across a flat patch of snow on the way back to the trail and before I knew it I was on my ass– “better to eat it here than anywhere else” I laughed and kept hiking. I went through Chikamik? pass and started out along the ridge trail where I came to a 2oo meter long snow patch that was still hard as a rock. I etched steps out with my trekking poles and it took me about a half hour to cross. When I got to the other side I was kicking myself, wishing I had kept going last night and hit those snow patches when they were still soft from the day. I continued my hike and tried to keep my jaw from dropping because of the awesome views of Rainier. Eventually I wandered out above Alaska lake and was marveling at all the huge logs floating in it when I came to yet another snow patch. I saw a marmot run under a snow ledge at the base of the patch, turned off my ipod, told the marmot to sit tight, and started my way out across the slope. The snow had melted a little with the sun, but not much and the slope was pretty steep. I have kicked thousands of steps on this adventure so far, but suddenly I was sliding down the slope, trying to arrest with my trekking poles, but just skittering off. Good thing the run-out was not too shabby, and when I finaly did dig in enough to stop I was parallel with the marmot, who just looked at me like I was an alien from another universe. Lake Alaska was a little closer, my adrenaline was pumping, but if I was going to eat it on a real slope this was the one it should have been. I am glad to still have my health, and am forever calling today FALL day. I don’t think I am walking by any dangerous cliffs for the rest of the day, but I am going up the snoqualime ski hill– maybe I will climb up on the lifts because I have always wondered what it would be like to fall of one of those. Last night I watched a fog show over some peaks above Park Lakes and got caught up on my journal. I am hoping to send it off from here and soon there should be a bit more record of my hike. My stomach is really full after stuffing my face with a burger and TWO chocolate milkshakes (my waiter said he messed up on the first and gave me both!) and now I have to take my distended stomach and the rest of my body over to the time wise grocery store to buy food for the next 5 days. My appetite is finally increasing, and I walked into town with a tortilla and a bag of dehydrated lintels. Good thing it didn’t take me another day to get here. I am really sore and am considering slowing my pace down a bit. My shoes are falling apart and I am not even 300 miles into this expedition– Crap. Maybe if I hike slower I will make my shoes last a bit longer. That’s all for now– off to white pass!

Portland, OR
Wonderful Washington
Bummer– I just typed an entry and then it vanished rather than posting… I will type another later, but I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who helped me across Washington. I loved the first 508 miles of this trail, and am looking forward to my return in mid August. More later, I swear, once I am done kicking the computer gods for stealing an hour of computer bound work time… Be Well and Wild! Sage

September 17 2009
Chester, CA
Half Way Today! Daily Summary
Date: Thu, Sep 17th, 2009
Start: Drakesbad Guest Ranch
End: Chester
Daily Distance: 18
Ahhh- 1330 miles, and I have enjoyed most of them. The past few days have been amazing, the Hat creek rim, though dry, was beautiful, Old station and the Heitmans were more than a treat, they were inspirational, and Drakesbad Guest ranch was so relaxing I didn’t know what to do with myself. I am working on getting my journals posted, but for now I will toss an entry in when I can– I still have 1330 more miles to figure this out!
Oct 6th
Bishop, CA
Bishop Snow day!
I am inside for a surprise zero day here in Bishop after a surprising ammount of snow dumped on the sierras yesterday. I came out to the devil’s post pile yesterday after wading through snow for 20 miles and am having a hard time convincing myself to go back. My pace dropped dramatically and I am not sure how far I can count on getting each day now that the trails are covered and the rocks are slick with ice, and the mornings are only getting darker and colder. Hike time is probably down to 10 hours max and pace is down to ~2mph. This all adds up to a HUGE and heavy carry through the sierra- I am looking at about 10-12 days to Kennedy Meadows, and they are going to be closed when I get there, adding on another 2 days… crap. I am gonna go buy a burger and watch a movie and try to forgett about the harsh reality of snow, fall, and the sierras.
Oct 15th
Lone Pine, CA
Snow Again, but for real this time 🙁
I woke up this morning to the normal gray and cold of 6am, ate my poptart before even undoing my sleeping bag– slept with it in my pocket last night (this is one of the best breakthroughs I have had on this trip!)– and finally got on the trail by 7:10 (so many layers to stuff into the pack, and it takes me forever to convince myself to get out of my sleeping bag). By 7:30 the snowy clouds touched down and started dumping, by the time I reached siberian pass there was a couple of inches on the sign– kinda cute, cold, siberia… When I reached Cottonwood pass I could no longer find the trail, I could barely see because of blowing ice crystals, and was having a hard time keeping feeling in my toes and fingers, so I chose to bail. Down into horseshoe meadows I hiked, dreaming of a hot shower and defrosted toes, but trying not to get my hopes up. I found the road, which had recently been plowed, and started my 20 mile road walk. Soon I was rescued by the snow plow on it’s downhill drive! The two guys running the plow pulled over, stuffed my pack in the tool bin, let me in the warm cab despite my stinking and soaked state, and had a co-worker pick me up and take me into Lone Pine! This was another day filled with the magical moments the PCT keeps providing. I am so stoked to have had the last 7 days– the high sierra, blue bird days, the 10 people I saw, and the joyful solace I have been seeking on this journey. I am trying to decide how much of the trail to skip and where to start again, but for now I am happy, full of ribs and pumpkin pie, warm, dry… what will tomorrow bring?
Oct 19
Inyokern, CA
SOBO again, on to MEXICO!!
Daily Summary
Date: Mon, Oct 19th, 2009
Start: Walker Pass
End: hopefully a water cache!
Daily Distance: 0
Trip Distance: 71.0
Here I am back in Inyokern after a 96 mile hike back to cottonwood pass and another hitch down the owen’s river valley. Today I am spending way too long getting resupplied, but soon I should be back on the trail going in the right direction for me, the wrong way on the PCT. Wind howls outside, but the desert looks inviting and I hope to see a tortoise or at least some scat and walk through a few solid groves of j-trees. Off to get my feet back on the trail!
Antelope Valley, Mojave section

Got lost last night on the aquaduct. Didn’t think it was possible, but I missed the “turn” and wound up crossing the open aquaduct again, met a security gaurd, and gave up hiking at 8:30. This was my first day over 35 miles and my feet hurt so bad I couldnt eat dinner. I crashed out, slept in this morning, and made my way to hikertown where I type to you now. I have a ways to go yet today, and I keep looking at the maps wondering why I am going to walk west, then flip around and walk east. If I wasn’t over road walks I would just hike along the San Andreas rift zone and call it good, but I would feel like I was cheating. Guess I am not as much of a blue blazer as I thought. Back to the trail– Oh- I drank a cantalope drink this morning and actually enjoyed it– I usualy don’t eat that gross orange melon if I can avoid it, but maybe this hike is changing me in more ways than I know. I wish I could have made it here last night, but even a couple hours here is worth it– Bob is great, the dogs, cats, chickens, and ducks are cool, and my belly is full of porkchop, potato, and phillipine cantalope drink instead of fig bars. Alright. Onwards to Mexico… it does get closer every day even though I sometimes feel like I am walking in place.

Oct 25
Cougar Ranch, CA
Lions, Pizza, and Lofts- oh my! Rescued from the road walk and fed!
Daily Summary
Date: Sun, Oct 25th, 2009
Start: Acton, Ca
End: Cougar Ranch, Little rock creek
Daily Distance: 15
Trip Distance: 116.0

Today I got a late start at about 1:30 after a wonderfully slow morning at hiker heaven eating cookies and ice cream, talking with improbable, another hiker who has drifted to the PCT this fall, and pouring over maps with L-rod. L-rod gave Improbable and I rides to our respective “trail” heads, improbable’s was big rock creek near the devil’s punchbowl and mine was a fruit stand on Aliso canyon road. I hiked to a friend/ new trail angel’s ranch- a place where the animals you see on TV live. They have deer, racoons, cougars, a panther, a bear, a LION, some wolves, an owl— all kinds of amazing critters. Some of these animals are wild rescues being rehabbed, others are working critters. Two of their deer are the ones you see in Onstar commercials, the racoons have been in Prius commercials and movies of all sorts…. pretty cool to meet famous animals! I am skipping about 10 miles of road walk today and starting up at the Burkhardt trail via an apple orchard off of juniper canyon road, thanks a ton to the Chamberlain’s connections and kindness. I should regain the PCT my mid day on the 29th and be back on track to Mexico. The adventure continues! sage

Nov 13
San Diego, CA
A fist into Mexico & a string of luck and kindness
Daily Summary
Date: Fri, Nov 13th, 2009
Start: Holden? canyon
End: Mexico
Daily Distance: 11
Trip Distance: 127.0

Friday morning I wandered up to the southern monument for the PCT. I climbed up and sat down to write an entry as a helicopter flew overhead and wind rattled the metal fence. Soon a Border Patrol car pulled up to ask me if I was just starting out and when I told them I had just finished I received the typical response of “wow- how far is that? like a hundred miles?” The confused look on their faces when I said no, a couple thousand told me that they might not be able to grasp the PCT, but they knew it was impressive. I did not feel very impressive sitting there in my tattered hiking skirt with sore feet, bleery eyed from a night of rain and helicopter buzzez. After reading the entries of the previous 5 south bounders I tried to write something equally insightful, then Cucumber Boy and Three Gallon (’06) pulled up and busted out a little bottle of champagne and we celebrated by getting dehydrated in the desert at 11am. Before I knew it we were on a highway on the way to San Diego and the trail was getting further and further away. I still have no idea what to make of my 115 days on the PCT, but I know they were amazing, beautiful, painful, challenging, joyful, and the million other things that make a good expedition great. The biggest thing I have learned is that I love the trail more than I hate it, and that the frustrations I had with the trails inefficiencies and shortcomings parallel the frustrations I have with myslef. My inner Outward Bound instructor won’t let me pass up this opportunity to see the trail as a metaphor for my relationship with myself- a love hate relationship that is endlessly frustrating, but mostly well intentioned, respectful, honest, and adventuresome.

Nov 17
Glenwood, NM

I couldn’t stop walking yet, so I am writing from Glenwood, NM. where I hope to hike 320 miles of the Grand Enchantment Trail- an amazing route that runs from Phoenix to Albuquerque. I am preparing to hike West Bound to Phoenix, but we will see how water and weather, not to mention motivation, treat me. Tomorrow I turn 30 and should find myself alone amongst pinons, under a crisp blue Arizona sky, stumbing and mumbling as I hike the rock strewn “trail” of the GET. Here goes nothing!!

Safford, AZ

After ruining my knees on the first day of the Grand Enchantment Trail, then hiking for another 4 to reach Safford, I decided to end my hiking season and return home for a day of eating turkey, hanging out with family, and being inside for the first time in months. Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone and the days between being on the trail and off have grown to a week I feel like I am sitting in the bottom of the trash can my step-cousin-in-law cooked a turkey in a few days ago. I look up and see a round window of light, but don’t know what to do with myself. Walking is hard right now- messed up my knees pretty good on the GET- and it takes me at least a block of walking to warm up to more than a hobble. It feels so strange to move slow and with pain after so many months of motion- just 15 days ago I was practically jogging down the trail to Mexico, and here I am getting my daily exercise on wii fit in a living-room in the bay area. Haven’t even been outside today… Ok enough with the pity party already.

Nov 26
Albany, CA (back home)
The Grand Enchantment Trail: WOWOWOWOW and Cow.

I hiked from Alma to Safford via Eagle Creek. The day I spent wandering down Eagle was one of the highlights of my whole hiking season. I felt like I was on a rafting trip with all the fords (50+) and eating lunch on a sandy, sunny river bank. The only thing missing was the pringles and the roll-out table- and other people of course. Maybe my 5 days on the GET seemed so glorious because I had to work really hard to be there. My knees crapped out on the 18th (my birthday) and I had about 80 miles to go to get to Safford. The following 80 miles were pretty pain filled, but the extra challenge seemed to wipe the window clean and let me see amazing beauty in even the most overgrazed and barren places. The trail itself was amazingly hard to find and follow, providing me with a constant navigation challenge, which I LOVED. I kept thinking again and again that this trail was the most engaging and fun trail I have ever hiked.
I only saw two people in the five days I was out, but was not loney at all. I hardly listened to my ipod, where on the PCT I was plugged in for at least 8 hours a day. The difference was my brain had to be working constantly. Even when I could find the trail the tred was unpredictable, and I never knew if I was going to miss a junction or walk past a water source. Reading the maps was like reading a really good book- a fine work of liturature meets choose your own adventure. The GET has been trampled by cattle and ignored for years- maybe since the 70’s? but somehow all of these ancient trails, cow paths, and jeep roads meet together and led me through canyons, mesas, and mountains of extreme beauty. Most of the changes we humans have put on this landscape haven’t been able to alter the underlying truth of vast wild desert- But some have. The Morrenci mine is a HUGE hole in the ground to the east of the GET, and it was hard to ignore the terraced pink and brown dirt, the two-story high dump-trucks, and the sound of copper rich rocks being hauled and smashed and bulldozed. I was ~2 miles away as the crow flies from the big pit and could hear the mine loud and clear– weird to be alone on a juniper covered hillside on my way to pictograph covered bluffs and isolated springs and look out to see something you can see from space.
I slowed my pace down a bit to try to rest my knees, but it became clear to me that I needed to come off the trail when I was still walking backwards down a dirt road with 800mg of IB profin coursing through my veins. I hobbled into Safford, got a motel room, and began my epic journey back to the Bay Area. I miss gritty algae filled cow tank water and the sound of my feet on gravel. Here I am in a house, sedentary and strangely sad. Hopefully I will go play in the ocean later this week and that might boost my spirits. I knew this transition would be hard, and I usually enjoy challenge, but I think this is hard because it is so different from the reality I have been living in for the past 4 months.
Thank you to everyone who helped me this season! I can’t even begin to show how much I appreciate the kindness I have received. Everywhere I went I met wonderful people who went out of there way to make my hikes safe and amazing. From giving me a ride in a snow plow to wrapping up an extra maple doughnut in a trail worthy package, to talking to me about elk tracking or handing me a head of lettuce in the middle of a 6 day carry, doing two U turns in a kenworth truck in downtown Phoenix to get me to a bus station, scooping out extra ice cream or putting a late night burger on the grill- I have been well cared for by perfect strangers. I have seen people at their best, and will always carry with me the glow of kindness that these interactions have ignited.

Dec 1st
Santa Cruz, CA
Trail Withdraw entry

Trail withdraw is hard as heck, but at least I will be able to get some exercise in the ocean tomorrow! It has been over a week since I left the GET for the season and my knees feel better, but not good enough to start running or anything crazy like that yet. Thanks again to everyone I met out there during my hiking season– I miss those interactions, people are so closed off in the city- they look away when I smile and say hi, probably thinking “crazy lady- I wonder if she is going to ask me for money” I am already dreaming up my next hike, only 6 months to go until my feet hit trail again, this time hopefully on the CDT.

Santa Cruz, CA
Slide show- Revisiting my PCT hike
Daily Summary
Date: Sun, Jan 24th, 2010
Start: Santa Cruz, CA
End: Same
Daily Distance: 0
Trip Distance: 127.0

Hi! It has been a couple months, I am pretty well re-adjusted to the front country, and my knees are doing much better. I have been doing physical therapy like it’s going out of style and going on short walks. Last week I went Skiing! Today I went for a RUN!! Wahooooo! Maybe I will be able to hike again next summer.
I just had the opportuinity to give a slide show up at UCSC on my hike last summer. It was fun to re-visit the places and expieriences of the trail, and I was surprised that people were so interested in it- and that somehow I didn’t freak out- maybe it has something to do with being in a dark room- takes the pressure off. I hope my slide show inspired a few more hikers to find their feet and hit the trail. The journey never seems to end now that it has begun for me. I can’t wait until my CDT cd’s get here! How long is it until July?