Swimming With Moose and Blood Thirsty Insects

Frantic to finish our preparations for our 3-4 month trip, we were up until 3 am and then got about an hour of sleep before getting on the train. We had a very quiet and peaceful 2.5 day train ride to chill and relax until the walking began. We arrived in East Glacier just outside of Glacier National Park, and began our walk across the Pacific Northwest, starting at Chief Mountain border customs right next to the Canadian border.

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Our first day was exciting and had our feet moving quickly. We had plenty of water, never having to think about where we might find it next, just taking it when we needed it. We met several other hikers on our first day, which was refreshing on a trail we expected to be almost entirely alone on. The walking has been nice, the trails in Glacier are well made, and it was a nice way to ease into this very difficult trail. There were designated campsites with poles built into food prep areas for handing our food, which made life pretty easy.

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We were blessed to meet our first ever moose! He was busy eating grass at the bottom of the lake, and enjoying fully immersing himself and bobbing up and down in the weightlessness of the water. We kept our distance, remembering someone saying that moose are some of the most dangerous wildlife. Feeling safe down the trail, we came upon a perfect jumping rock directly into deep turquoise water. We jumped in reluctantly, and swam out as quickly as we had fallen in. Glacial lakes are not anywhere close to body temperature. The moose, still 200 yards away in the shallower part of the lake, still busy dunking his head and munching. Butterflies were flying around, and the mosquito’s couldn’t find us with all the cold water on us. What a refreshing swim with Mr. Moose! We have had no issues with bears but have found their tracks, scat, along with scarred tree’s and turned over rocks.

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After having a beautiful, but steep, descent out of the park (damn that went by too fast!), I was reluctant to leave the last campsite at Bowman Lake, afraid of being in a crowded place full of people, but I went anyway. I was pleasantly surprised when we walked into the tiny “town” of Polebridge, where we were treated kindly by the locals at the Polebridge Mercantile which had all kinds of deliciously made baked goods among other food treasures. We stayed two nights at the North Fork Hostel that was so pleasant and quaint. A kind man by the name of Oliver owned the hostel and it felt like we were staying in his home – a rustic old cabin tucked into the woods next to a mighty river. We hand washed our clothes and enjoyed conversation with Oliver’s helper, Amy. She was a humble cyclist who worked seasonally and used her bicycle to travel across the country to all of her odd jobs in beautiful places. I enjoyed her big smile and wished I had gotten to know her a little more. We spent hours by the river, I read books about grizzly bears from Oliver’s library, and Ted made some music. We sat there for so long that many animals passed by. We saw geese, osprey, hummingbirds, and even an otter! In the community kitchen we met other people staying in the hostel who gave Ted and I their fruit, and Oliver gave us some kale – making a fantastic breakfast that we are so grateful for. It’s not always easy to find fresh food in tiny towns like this one, so it was truly heaven sent. Our first trail magic on the Pacific Northwest Trail. Polebridge was probably the coolest trail town stop yet!

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We hiked out, doing some road walking, the trail is not complete, so there are lots of roads to walk on that connect to other roads and or trails along this journey. I personally don’t mind them, because they are level and easy to walk on, unlike what we experienced going into the foothills of Montana. Water became scarce, temperatures hovered in the 80 to 100 degree range, trails had no switchbacks and went straight up and down the mountains, not to mention hundreds of blood thirsty insects constantly berating us. Here in Montana, I have experienced some of the steepest, most difficult terrain I’ve ever walked on. It’s been two weeks now, and my legs are getting BUFF! They better be, after all this crazy climbing.

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We took another zero day in Eureka Montana, to rest our feet and let our bodies adjust to the intense hiking. We briefly hiked with a woman trail named BloodyMary who is really fast, and I think we got a little excited and pushed ourselves beyond what we are used to. She is fresh off of the PCT, finishing a southbound hike last December, we have been sitting on our butts for months, so we are reminded to listen to our bodies and take it easy until the bigger miles come more naturally to us. As of now, we are averaging 15 (hard) miles a day. Here we go, back into the hot hot hills of Montana. I’ll post another blog when I find another computer. Love and light from the trail.

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Snoozing in Mammoth

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After a great experience in Yosemite, what was to come next was what I would consider a sleepy time in my nomadic, constantly changing lifestyle. It was time to answer the looming question – What next? Ted and I had a decision to make. Go our separate ways, or stick together. He wanted to get his EMT certification, and chose to do it at Cerro Coso Community College in Mammoth Lakes – knowing it would be likely that I would want to go there, too. He was right. I liked the idea of staying with Ted and moving to the Eastern Sierra’s to experience a winter different than what I was used to – 75 degree’s and sunny in San Diego. So I packed up my car full of everything I had and drove down Tioga Pass to my new neighborhood. We spent about a week camping on some BLM land just outside of town while we spent our days checking out apartments. We found the cutest little studio in the middle of town within walking distance of all the things we could ever need: an organic market called Sierra Sundance, Vons, the library which offered computers and DVD rentals, a bowling alley, and a yoga studio. All tucked into a tiny 4 square mile corner of the high sierra’s! Our first holiday in our new home was Halloween. We dressed up as a shark and a half eaten boogie boarder while we experienced our first snow storm of the season! Sharks are kinda my thing and this costume was a lot of fun to put together – I wish we had more pictures.

IMG_4854 We enjoyed a little down time exploring our new town before our jobs as Mammoth Mountain Lift Operators began. We played in the snow, followed mountain lion tracks, wandered around the shops and rode our bikes on all the bike paths. My best friend Danielle came to visit me for a few days and I caught my first trout (as an adult) while fishing with her at Crowley Lake! Before her departure, we brought him home and cooked him up for a hearty lunch. It was a great day for us, not so much for the fish.

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One day Ted and I spent hiking off trail to the summit of Laurel Mountain, an almost twelve thousand foot peak that stood directly above the town of Mammoth Lakes, visible from almost anywhere. Being the experienced hikers that we are, we figured that we could hike into the night considering we would be connecting to a “main” trail by nightfall. A little darkness didn’t worry us. However, we did become worried when our “main” trail disappeared after following it several miles and found ourselves at a stand still. We couldn’t find it, it was just gone. So after a very long day, we realized we had to turn back three miles to the junction where the trail started for us – and then hike down the mountain via Laurel Lakes road, a very long dirt road that lead straight back to town. Leaving our car at the Convict Lake trailhead, we abandoned the idea of returning to it that night, and just hiked home. This evening didn’t spare us the suffering of unplanned miles. I can definitely say I have never been more tired, hungry, and thirsty than I was this night (so much so that I felt drunk). We hiked all night, an additional twelve to fifteen miles than we had anticipated- making it into town by one o’clock in the morning. It was hellish, but we managed to get back to our cozy apartment safe and sound, with a colorful adventure story.

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After our first few weeks of working, we spent our first Thanksgiving without family. It was emotional for me to do this without the love and company of all the beautiful people in my life, but also a great experience to be doing it on my own, with Ted. We cooked a feast!

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We spent a few weekends wandering around the desert floor of Death Valley National Park, reveling in the sunshine and soaking up the warmth of the desert. We had both developed deep auburn tans from our outdoor lifestyle in sunny places, but they had faded from the excessive use of clothing to stay warm in our new climate. The vitamin D was delicious. We walked along sand dunes in Eureka Valley, ran naked across a parched earth, and visited Charles Manson’s old stomping grounds. I am in awe to say, this was my backyard.

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We enjoyed our free season passes and skied all winter at Mammoth Mountain, and it’s sister resort – June Lake. Often after a long day of standing at work, I’d opt for a dip in our local hot springs. Sometimes we’d make the 40 mile drive out to the travertine hot springs in Bridgeport. Nothing was too far and we never had to worry about traffic. I rarely ever drove, except to trailheads and hot springs. I rode my bike to work and walked everywhere else. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing this is – to never commute, unless for pleasure. Dear God please never make me drive through rush hour day after day again! I won’t do it. I won’t. I won’t.

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I really took a likin’ to riding my bike and discovered many long road rides into the mountains. My favorite was riding the ten mile road from Tom’s Place all the way up to the Rock Creek Trailhead. A challenging bike ride that had people in cars turning their heads, “is that a girl?” Yes I am a girl, and I can ride a bike up a huge hill like a bad ass. Amongst other badass things that people don’t think girls can do. The best part was the ten mile downhill cruise after an endorphin inducing up hill ride. I can’t say I didn’t catch a few flies in my smile. Did you know exercise makes you happy? There is nothing I find more enjoyable than a good challenge.

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As the snow began melting and night time temps were rising, Ted and I found ourselves full of angst from the lack of time spent exploring the wilderness. The ice and snow kept us inside much more than we would like to admit. To combat our dormancy, we planned our first backpacking trip of the spring season. IMG_5063We dusted off our backpacks and headed out to the well-known Iva Bell hot springs. Some weather was in the forecast but we weren’t going to let it stop us once again, so we went anyway. Most of the trip was weather free, it was warm and slightly breezy. It was a lovely walk that reawakened my body, bringing it back into my hiking rhythm, where I feel my best, my strongest, and most beautiful. I was in flow again. Hallelujah! I was feeling amazing when it began to snow. Nothing could damper my mood. I gazed up at the flakes falling and smiled, while also harboring a little anxiety about how much it might be snowing at the higher elevations where we were headed. We just kept on moving and made it through without waver. As we reached Duck Pass, I knew it was all downhill from there, and despite all the deep snow, I began to frolic. Somehow, almost entirely lacking snow travel experience, I just flew through the snow like I was dancing on top of it. It was a great time.

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In April, our time in Mammoth was coming to an end, because we decided to spend the summer hiking instead of working. It was a hard decision to make because I had fallen in love with Mammoth, but I felt like a full turn of the seasons might plant my roots a little too deep for my comfort at this time in my life, so we agreed it was time to spend some months just walking. There are a ton of long distance trails in this country, the Pacific Crest Trail is only one. We decided to hike the newly formed Pacific Northwest Trail from Glacier National Park in Montana, all the way to the ocean in Washington. It is about a 1200 mile walk that is said to be more challenging than the 3,000 mile Continental Divide Trail. During our brainstorming of this trip, we wondered how we would get home from Washington. Plane, train, boat, or… bike? We had been biking around town together having so much fun, we just thought we’d add another 1600 miles to our trip by riding bicycles down the west coast from the end of the trail, all the way to San Diego. We are currently in the process of preparing and plan to be gone a total of about four months, before returning to Mammoth if all goes as planned.

During my six months living in Mammoth, my thrifty nature came in handy. Despite living in an actual apartment that costs money, paying bills, and working for only $9.80 per hour – I managed to eat like a queen AND save over two thousand dollars. We didn’t have cable – we had story time, where we read classic stories aloud. We rented movies from the library, I got food stamps to help me with groceries, my local organic market gave away food that was imperfect, so I collected it daily and I managed to eat nothing but deliciously fresh, organic produce. I love seeing how well I can live with so little, it is a philosophy I want to carry throughout my entire life. Less is more!

We said goodbye to Mammoth with a “freshy” hike right after a big snowstorm – feeling the soft powder compress under our feet. We’ll be back!

See you on the P N T Summer 2015!

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.” ― Terence McKenna

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Home is where I am – My Summer in Yosemite

What is home? I am 27 years old, and for the past 2 years, home has evolved into something I carry with me, rather than something I leave behind. From birth until I graduated college, home was my parents house. Sunny, beautiful, and full of comforts (and free food). It was a place that I had little motivation to leave. But after a couple months hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, the trail became my home. My tent, my house, though lacking in decorations and my family – I had the beauty of the wilderness around me to fill me with love. In Baja, home was my campsite under the shade of mesquite tree’s and I shared my space with dove’s, who perched above my head as I laid in a hammock. Each time I returned to my parents house, I felt more like a visiting guest. And as quickly as I had arrived, I was off again to my next adventure – this time, a summer in Yosemite National Park. Why visit a national park when I can just live there? Seems reasonable.

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At the end of last spring I decided that hiking another long distance trail was too costly an endeavor to take on. I had to get a job… but not just any old job, a really cool job. I found myself applying for jobs in June. This is extremely late for summer jobs which are usually filled in December and January. I could only hope for a miracle. I applied for naturalist positions all over the country and did not get a single reply. I knew I was too late. Head in hands, I started asking around. A girl who I knew very briefly during my time in Mexico told me a position was open where she worked in Yosemite and needed to be filled immediately. I jumped right in, applied, got an interview and suddenly I was making plans to move to Central California in the Western Sierra Nevada mountains. I had about a week to figure out where I’d live. I arrived under the belief that I was going to be living on a farm owned by the well-known Double Rainbow guy, Bear. But when I arrived, an angry young woman scolded him for giving me permission to live there. Feeling uninvited, I drove off hoping to find a place to camp along the road. I arrived at a trashy campsite late in the night somewhere just before the National Park Boundary. Sleepy eyed, I set up my tent and went to bed.

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The next day was my first day of work! So I freshened myself up in the Merced River, dodging the eyes of people in cars driving over a bridge in sight of my naked bum. Once I was reasonably clean, I was on a mission to find an electrical outlet. After making circles around public buildings, I spotted one near the front door of a general store in the tiny town of El Portal. I put my produce in a blender and nonchalantly approached the front of the small store and quickly (and noisily) made my breakfast and drove off to my first day of work. As I processed in for employment, I was offered a place to put my tent by a very lively and sweet woman my age who lived high on a ridge above Yosemite Valley. I was relieved to have a place to sleep, at least for now. I drove into the valley, seeing it as I had never seen it before – my work place. I was trained by a sweet hippie lady, who had hired me over the phone. She was the manager of the Wilderness Center. She showed me the ropes and before I knew it I was memorizing the maps, giving Leave No Trace talks to wilderness users, issuing permits, and taking wilderness reservations over the telephone. I spent my days talking to people about the wilderness that I was also paid to hike in. I couldn’t have found a better job to feed my hunger for wilderness. Twice a month I went on a four day backpacking trip (including shorter weekend trips almost every weekend) which helped me get to know the vast and beautiful land that makes up Yosemite National Park.

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Did you know Yosemite Valley makes up only 1% of the entire national park? Yet it is usually the only part of Yosemite that people ever know simply because almost all park users never get farther than a mile away from their vehicles. Yosemite Valley cradles this type of visitor with roads, restaurants, hotels, crowded campgrounds, and of course gift shops. It is only those who are willing to do the work who get to have a real wilderness experience. They must decide on a route, obtain a wilderness permit, learn the rules and regulations (i.e. food storage, bears, human waste, etc.), and of course just get out there with their two trekkin feet and their dirty boots. People who are willing to do that experience the true, pristine beauty of the park – free of crowds, roads, cars, noise, and nonsense. I very much enjoyed my position to help those kinds of people who were seeking the experiences that I have grown so fond of. However, I also found myself surrounded by the crowds of the more common visitor who came for the gift shops and to say they had been to such a popular place, likely the most popular of all the national parks. Being surrounded by the yahoo’s who swarmed the valley, I often wondered to myself how the human species has survived.
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Surely these people hadn’t lived their whole lives parking in the middle of roads, pooping and leaving poopy toilet paper next to pristine mountain springs, leaving their trash everywhere, feeding wild animals. Or had they? All I could do was hope for their sweet children whom they pushed around in strollers on paved paths to have a future of real life experience, not this gift shop bonanza where buying things is how they experience life. Thus only begins to express one of my daily challenges in life, being baffled by human ignorance and all the things they do that make me worry about the future of our planet and our species. Being in the tourism industry, I see a lot of really ridiculous stuff – it just makes me slap my forehead and pushes me further, to live a life with real meaning.

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Soon after I arrived in Yosemite, a relentless young man from San Diego followed me. I allowed his presence but was focused on being on my own and experience the world as a solo woman. He was so easy to be around that I very much enjoyed his company, and he loved the wilderness just like me. So we hiked. And hiked. And hiked all summer long, till I realized that I’d be stupid to be so stubborn to push him away and not accept that which life was offering to me. So while I have remained true to growing my independence and doing what feels right in my heart, I have opened and allowed a new relationship to blossom in my life. Because after all, I can’t always choose what or when things happen to me. I realize that I can’t be in control of everything. So I let go. And in return I was blessed with a best friend, a hiking partner, and a lover. We explored over 300 miles of Yosemite trails together. We ate trout from high sierra lakes, skipped rocks, shared trail snacks, sang songs around the fire, jumped off rocks into wild and beautiful rivers, took shelter from thunder storms, shared the most epic mountain views the Sierra Nevada mountain range has to offer, and we laughed. His name is Ted, and he is the sweetest trekker to cross my path.

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When I was a kid, my Dad took my brother and I backpacking for the first time. Our destination was Barney Lake, just a few miles from Mono Village in the Eastern Sierra. We never made it because my brother hurt his knee on a stream crossing. I recall the most uncomfortable night I’ve ever experienced in the wilderness. I woke up repeatedly scrunched up at the bottom of the tent because we were camped on a slope. Since we had to stop when the injury happened, it wasn’t an ideal location. To make matters worse, I was awoken by the sound of a bear roaring outside of the tent. My dad was awake already and trying to scare it off. At the time, I thought it was hilarious, and started cracking up inside the little tent with my brother. The bear had a cub and was trying to get our food hung high in a tree. They eventually ran off. I didn’t make it to Barney Lake on that trip, but now – at 27 years old I was setting off to hike Matterhorn Canyon with Ted from Mono Village to Tuolumne Meadows. In between those two places lay the ever illusive Barney Lake, and after only 5 or so miles, I was standing at the place I was supposed to see when I was 9 years old – 18 years later.

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It was a beautiful lake beneath the mountains leading up toward Matterhorn Peak (named for it’s resemblance to the Matterhorn in Switzerland). We spent our first night praying for good weather when it was drizzling on our tent. We knew we had much higher to go and would prefer some gentle weather – either way we were going. Rain or shine. I do a lot of praying, especially when I am in the wilderness. I pray for safety, warmth, comfort, and a smooth trip. Not to anyone in particular, to God, to nature, to the universe – whatever may be hearing my request and my ever gratefulness for all the blessings I have received thus far in my journey through life. Our second day it rained on and off all day. We hiked through the mist into the majestic Matterhorn Canyon and almost as an answer to my prayers the rain stopped and we saw a few stars in the sky. That night we had a fire, Ted played his ukulele, and we cooked a fantastic feast.

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That night we fell asleep with the rain door open. But when we woke up in the morning we realized that at some point the door had been shut and it had rained all night on us. Neither of us remember waking up and shutting it, not to mention it is a tight door that really takes some force to open and close. It was a mystery. Had we been protected by some guardian way out there in the middle of the mountains? We will never know. I did some research once our trip was over, and I learned of a man named Fred Claassen who went missing while on the same hike we were on. His body was found 7 years after his disappearance at the base of Whorl Mountain, very near to where we were camped that night. He had fallen to his death from a ledge during a deadly storm. Part of me would like to think it was Fred who heard my prayers and shielded us from the rain that night. All I asked for was to be warm and dry, and I was. Thanks to Fred!

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During my summer living in the national park, I ate organic produce from a local CSA that delivered right to my work. I ate mostly raw fruits and vegetables, but weekly cooking up a big healthy stew of some sort consisting of whatever was in my CSA box, coconut milk, and a collection of spices. I had an outdoor kitchen made up of a camp stove, an old table, a giant pot and cutting board. While I cooked, the local dogs would smell my food from far away and come by to get some for themselves, I enjoyed their friendship. I’d watch the tree’s sway in the wind and enjoy the silence and solitude of my beautiful camp on a ridge, far from the tourist traffic and rowdy campgrounds. I half lived out of my tent, and half lived out of my car. I stored anything in there I might need while down in the valley, running clothes, hiking clothes, a large cooler, camp chairs, and backpacking supplies. You can imagine it got a little messy! I slept in a large tent with sky windows under a forest of pine, surrounded by wild, open space. Each night the wind blew, coyotes roamed, and snakes slithered. It hit me one night just how wild I have become when I was settling into my sleeping bag after a day of work. I could hear an animal under my tent, a gopher, snake, or lizard. Whatever it was, it’s movement kept me awake. At one point, I walked out of my tent without shoes or anything at all for that matter, lifted up the edge of the tent to find the tail of a garter snake, I grabbed it and tossed the snake through the air into some bushes. Here I was, this woman, standing naked outside in the middle of the night throwing a snake through the air. Then, I could finally rest and went back to bed. I realize that to the average person, I probably seem like a weirdo, and that is all right with me, because I know it’s not me that’s weird – it’s everyone else! What may appear to be weirdness is actually just a connection to the world around me, which so many people lack. Life in the cities can be too busy, noisy, and full of so much nonsense it is almost impossible to feel a connection to the earth. The truth is, we are disconnected from ourselves, because we are not separate from nature. Get closer to nature, become more of who you truly are. Your wild self. You could die tomorrow, and this could be the only chance you have to live an amazing life. Get out there and smell the flowers ya bunch of weirdos! Life rules!

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In recent years, large areas in Yosemite had burned, and being our third year in drought, it wasn’t a surprise what a fiery summer this one would be. On an average day, I had gotten off work early for the first and only time all summer, so that I could attend a local concert in the nearby town of Groveland. On my drive out of the valley I picked up a female hitch hiker a little younger than me. We were driving and making conversation when I began approaching the road to the Flying Spur and saw a very large plume of smoke threatening the land that I camped on. We took a detour toward the flames to save my belongings from the fire that would certainly come through my camp. When we arrived, the fire was wildly burning towards us. Residents on the land began to show up to do the same. The hitch hiker helped me gather almost all my things until the fire was too close for comfort, and we drove out of there as quickly as possible. The firemen were just driving in as we were driving out. I went to the concert that night, but I knew I could not return to my camp. I was invited by some locals at the concert to sleep on their land. I drove to their farm in the middle of the night and caught some shut eye, but in the morning I drove to Mammoth Lakes to get away from all the smoke. When I returned for work, and after the firefighters let residents back in, Ted and I went to the Spur to see the damage. My home was replaced by a layer of black crust, but thankfully all of the permanent structures (except the shed) had been saved by the firefighters. I was now entirely living out of my car, and camping wherever I could find a place to sleep. It was frustrating to say the least. Again, I felt displaced and wanted desperately to find a new space to call my own.

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After confiding in a coworker that I was homeless and stressed out about illegally camping, she told me she wanted to help me. She connected me to another Yosemite local who had land on the other side of the Merced River Valley. He allowed me to live in a tiny shack about 5 minutes walking distance from his home. I lived in the tiny 10X4 shack for the remainder of my summer. It had windows all around that overlooked the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and I had complete privacy there, besides the resident red-tailed hawk who perched high in a pine tree above my cabin every day, and the mama bear and her cub who occasionally sauntered through. Once again, I was afraid of something new. I missed my comfortable camp across the valley, but before I knew it, this little cabin became my home and I just loved waking up to the sun shining in my windows. Inside, I had a table, a futon bed, and a chair. I decorated the space with incense, a couple of candles, special stones and dried plants I’ve collected from places I’ve been, and a string of battery powered LED lights. It was a beautiful little home. Outside I had a couple camp chairs, a small metal table for eating on, and a giant tool box that I stored all my kitchen supplies in, and used as a kitchen counter top. I had all the necessities to make it work perfectly for me. It was cozy and beautiful, as well as fully functional. I even put up a hammock between my cabin and my kitchen. It felt like home. I’d often rush home after work to catch the sunset from the top of the ridge. A ten minute walk on a dirt road from the cabin lead to an overlook of the western foothills, and a perfect place to witness the setting sun. I often walked back in the dark, always feeling grateful for my shelter once I’d walk in the door of what became my sanctuary.

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As with all my travels, in Yosemite I experienced the fear of integrating into a new environment with new people. An insecurity that has been with me since childhood. Despite my fear, I met people who were warm, kind, and open towards me. I also felt the tension of one particular woman who carried a heavy load of negativity in her heart and the pain she projected onto me. Why I am chosen for this projection is unknown to me, but it seems to happen with one person at every work place. So it was a challenge I’d been faced with in the past, and this one was just more practice to remain peaceful in my heart and keep my distance. It seems that some people who feel dim inside want to dim the light of others. I am so much stronger now than I was years ago, and these kinds of people no longer have power over me. They just make me shine brighter. I’m on a journey, I’m imperfect, I make mistakes, I get angry, I feel strong, I feel sad, I feel beautiful, I can be wrong, I’m the only me there will ever be and I’m proud to be myself. I’m just a person doing the best I can. I know I’ll never be able to please everyone, so I’ll just be happy anyway. Thanks to all the bullies who have reinforced that in me. While they have hurt me throughout my life, they hurt themselves far more. Meanwhile, my heart only blossoms. I become more open. I become more of myself.

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I didn’t have too many visitors during my stint in the park, except for my mom. She is the kind of woman to require comforts like running water, electricity, walls, toilets, etc… you know, “regular” stuff. I’ve begun a lifestyle so minimal and cheap that I’ve grown comfortable without these things. I don’t mind pooping outside or carrying my water into camp. If I need it hot, I heat it up on my camp stove. If I need a light, I make a fire or carry around a lantern. Everything is just fine that way for me, but I knew it would be slightly uncomfortable for my mom. I was surprised when she followed through with her plans to visit me even after I told her how I live. She was brave and came to visit me anyway. I gave her my bed in “the cabin” and slept outside in my outdoor kitchen. I took her car camping in the High Sierra before taking her on an easy one nighter in the wilderness. We hiked out of Lyle Canyon and went a few miles. She carried a backpack with just a sleeping bag inside and a couple of clothes. Dutifully, I carried the rest, knowing we didn’t have too far to go before we would camp. That night we slept cozily inside my two man tent, only to awake to frost covering it in the morning. We cooked a meal with the river water flowing through the canyon, forded a stream, and enjoyed the sounds of the wild night. She did great, and I was proud to see her so tolerant of a lifestyle so far from hers. I really appreciated it and had no idea she could be so tough. Love ya Mom!

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As fall arrived, my seasonal job came to an end. I decided to prolong my time there and take on a job in the visitor center after about two weeks off. I spent five days hiking solo on the High Sierra Trail, which is a pathway leading from west to east from the giant sequoia’s of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park all the way to the top of Mount Whitney, a 72 mile trek over the Great Western Divide and back to the eastern Sierra’s. It was a beautiful walk that I’ll never forget. It meandered up and down through the high country and down into the valleys and back up again. Something I love the most about backpacking is how strong I feel out there. Self-sufficient, light, quick, and just plain tough. When I got to the top of Mount Whitney on my fifth day, an old man who had seen me the day before setting up camp at Guitar Lake, saw me again on my way down from the top of Mount Whitney. He was sitting alongside the trail with his wife and said to me “Girl, you fly over mountains!”. I spent 3 more weeks working in the park before I packed up my stuff and drove over Tioga pass to begin a new chapter living in a studio apartment with my boyfriend Ted in Mammoth Lakes.

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Here’s to another amazing Summer!! Goodbye Yosemite. Hello Mammoth.

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Baja Biosana

Through adventure I am seeking my purpose. A great transformational phase in my life began after college and I am on a mission to discover my true authentic self by following my heart and listening to my intuition – because school just doesn’t teach you that sort of thing. When I came home from the trail, I was not only faced with the emotional and physical downfall of reintegration into society, but also the deafening trauma of my break up with a man who I had spent over 5 years of my life loving. It was overwhelming. I had just experienced the most beautiful pilgrimage of a lifetime, and there I was, lying in pieces on the ground – with a “nowhere to go, nothing to do” stuck kind of feeling. After spending what felt like forever feeling lost and confused, one word came to my mind. Biosana.

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In Spanish, Bio means Life and Sana is Healthy. A healthy life is just what I was looking for. A cleansing of the mind and body, a space for me to heal and reflect. For several years prior to my hike, I had been in contact with a couple of residents at a small sustainable, organic farm in Mexico called Baja Biosana. They always told me, “come on down to Biosana, it’ll be great!”. I wanted to. Every time they would suggest I come down, I wanted to drop everything and go, but since I was still in school I had to be patient. I trusted that if I was meant to go, I would know when it was the right time. Two months after returning to San Diego from my long walk, I was on an airplane to the tip of Baja California Sur, Mexico. What happened next was entirely different from my day to day experience on the Pacific Crest Trail, and in so many ways it’s contrast liberated me.

After a short flight to San Jose Del Cabo, I was greeted by two smiling (and very tan) faces, Andrew and Shenaqua, founders of the sustainable community that I was about to spend an undetermined amount of time living and working at. In an old, dusty astro van, they drove me far into the back country. I was charmed by the mountains and small Mexican towns as we drove to the farm. One final dirt road lead us into the town of El Chorro, at the base of the Sierra La Laguna mountains and through the gates of Baja Biosana. Once I was settled in to my new home, or should I say, campsite, I began exploring with as open a mind as I could muster despite the turbulence going on inside. I was nervous and quiet. Surrounded by people who appeared to be enlightened, I felt myself going inside – insecure because I felt that I wasn’t as spiritually adept as these people. To put it bluntly, I was uncomfortable. Once again I was in a new place with new people and it was going to take time to get used to, all the while harboring a lot of emotion from home.

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Each morning I would look outside my tent door and see the orange colors from the sun rise hitting the top of Mount San Rafael, the most prominent peak in view. Soon I would learn that when the glow of the sun kissed the top of it’s majestic summit it was 7 O’clock in the morning – a good time to start wiggling my toes and thinking about getting up and beginning my day. I love rolling around in the mornings, this toe wiggling and mountain gazing would last a blissful half an hour before rising and greeting the cool and moist desert mornings.

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Quickly, I developed a morning routine. After rising from my quaint little two person tent overlooking the mountains I would walk to the common area/outdoor kitchen and share tea with the other Biosana residents. This is where my first impression of the people here came from. I observed conversation and energy between the people who had been here longer than me and I felt that these people knew something that I had yet to learn. I felt insecure, average even. Soon I learned it wasn’t so much my impression of them, but rather myself. I was delicate and sensitive after everything that I went through after the trail and I was experiencing low self-esteem. I wanted to connect to these people yet I wasn’t allowing myself to be fully open to them. I was afraid of what they might think of me.

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While integrating into this new environment I did projects that allowed me to have quiet and alone time. I spent some of my first work days harvesting Jamaica flowers and spreading them in the hand-made solar dehydrator to be used in tea once they were dried. I climbed high into avocado trees to harvest the delicious fatty green fruits and loved every second of climbing and singing among the deep green leaves and the giant stickbugs. I also harvested white sage for burning and frijoles for salads and cooking with. After a few days at the farm I grew fond of a woman who brought me comfort with her open heart, kind smile, and wise words. Christyn embodied strength, light, dark, and a need for balance. She never said a harmful word to anyone, but always spoke with love and compassion. I first took interest in her when I went with her and some other people living on the farm down to the local swimming holes. I could feel her eyes on me as she was curious about this new girl. I felt safe with her and decided to take part in her Cactus Cafe project near the community kitchen where I cleared weeds and did what I could to make this outdoor space look beautiful.

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I soon began to make sense of the community dynamics occurring in this small group of people – not always liking what I was witnessing. At the same time, remembering how to be settled within myself despite what was going on around me. I noticed strange tyrant-like behaviors happening and distanced myself from the aspects of this community that I did not agree with. I saw it as an opportunity to remain calm and peaceful in my heart, and Christyn was a great inspiration for me to act with love, compassion, and understanding. It helped me realize that things are not always as they first appear to be and my initial feeling of inferiority began to fade away as I realized we are all imperfect humans with pain from the past and questions of the future. I realized they were just like me, battling their own battles, asking their questions, and healing.

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A week after my arrival, a new bunch of people began to arrive from all over the world. Germany, England, Scotland, Lithuania, New York, California, Missouri, Russia, and many more places. They arrived in response to a request for volunteers to help build an earthen home for Dan, one of Biosana’s many founders. I was excited for the addition to the land and made myself part of their group. I began working with them daily – digging holes, mixing cement, laying stones, and working through the barriers that kept me from getting close to people. After two and a half weeks of internal turbulence, I had a shift. I let go of what I thought people were thinking about me because I realized I had created it all inside my own mind. When I did this, my friends at Biosana welcomed me with open arms. I began developing a deep connection with the community around me and I became grateful to be healing and growing with all these amazing people.

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Every day we became closer as we practiced yoga, breath work, and community conversations about how we were feeling and what work we would be doing together that day. On one bright and sunny morning under the palapa one of the volunteers spoke up as we sat together in a circle. Friedel from Germany, suggested we have a “Joy Person” each day, and that it was the most important job to have. I volunteered to be the first joy person and with this job I was able to not only bring enjoyment to others while they worked, but I also practiced being my self without worrying about judgements because I knew I was in a safe place. I read poetry and stories by John Muir aloud, brought snacks and water to my friends working, and even frolicked around with a sarong fanning people. That evening the volunteers expressed their gratitude for my efforts as the first Joy person and I felt appreciated. Sometimes all we need is to feel appreciated. Over many weeks we played in the canyon, soaked in hot springs, shared fire circles, sang, drummed, visited the ocean, hiked over mountains, watched sun sets, worked hard on Dan’s house, cooked healthy meals, and helped each other grow.

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One of our outings was a full moon gathering we put on in the canyon about 15 minutes walking distance down the dirt road of El Chorro where we slept around the fire under the moon. The morning after we were disgusted by what had joined us in the night. The four of us who had fallen asleep there had been feasted on by kissing beatles! They are the size of an adult stink bug and they were bulging with full bellies of our blood. There were at least 10-15 of them drunkenly wandering off as we began to stir, but who knows how many might have been there and left while we slept. Luckily, none of us have experienced any ill-effects since the incident. I was pretty freaked out the day after and felt like I had been violated.

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During my five weeks in Baja I attempted a solo ascent of Mt. San Rafael – the tall mountain that stood above the farm. There was no trail and I found myself frustrated, lost, and bloodied by the scratchy desert plants that often required me to duck to move through the tunnels in the bushes as I made my way up the canyons and deep into the mountains. Despite the difficulty, I was exhilarated by being on my own in a place not many people attempted to go. I saw rogue cows wandering around way out in the wilderness, obviously wild and long lost from their domestic pasts. In the late afternoon I startled a HUGE wild pig who was asleep under a rock who almost injured itself trying to run away from me. As I made camp within view of my summit, I saw some cute little piggies who “oinked” at me from 100 feet away, I wasn’t sure what they would do so I yelled “HEY PIGGY! GET OUTTA HERE!” and they scurried off into the cacti and plum tree forests above the canyons. I made it to about 2-3 miles below the summit when I realized continuing on was futile due to no trail and lack of time. I became impatient and frustrated when I got lost (for probably the third time) on my way down and kept having to retrace my steps uphill and back down, until I saw two red tail hawks soaring over the canyon, helping me to regain my calmness and keep trying. I made it back to the farm on my third day of wandering and told my story to open ears the evening I returned.

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I spent much of my time on the farm, but I also developed a friendship with a local family in El Chorro. Mariana and Alejandro lived at the end of the dirt road, and I would often walk to their land after a days work to relax and connect with these unbelievably humble and happy people. They had just given birth to Regina (Rrrehina) two months earlier and were the first in over 20 years to have a natural birth in the area. Someone told me that the doctors who worked with the people in El Chorro and the surrounding area were wealthy doctors who made appointments around their golf schedules and all pregnant women would endure C-sections for every birth for the convenience of their leisure. Mariana gave birth to Regina in a tub outside with loving neighbors surrounding her with their love and support. They had very little money and survived on the kindness of others. Despite having so little material items, they always had clean, fresh water, vegetables, and grains to cook delicious meals with, and an uninterrupted smile. Mariana smiled so much I couldn’t help but be around her. I wanted to be like her. We became close over a short period of time and she decided to teach me how to make “chocolate” out of raw cacao beans. It turned out to be soooo delicious! And it was an experience I will never forget.

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On my last week there I backpacked with two friends over the Sierra La Laguna Mountains from the Gulf of California side to the Pacific Ocean side. It was great to get out for a few nights on another adventure, and an awesome way to wrap up my trip. We walked up desert slopes and into unexpected pine forests. At the top there was an ancient lagoon that had dried thousands of years earlier and left behind a 3 mile long meadow that was FREEZING at night. My bag and all my belongings were covered in ice the morning I woke up in the lagoon. This lagoon is what gives these mountains their name, the Sierra La Laguna. The night we arrived at the lagoon I wanted to summit the highest peak in southern Baja, El Picacho. It was only 3 more miles to the summit so I left my pack behind and hit the trail running to make it before sundown. I went alone and met a hoard of wonderful locals at the top. Together we laughed and watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. I had spent 5 weeks on the other side of the range and it brought me comfort to see the Pacific Ocean again, a piece of home!

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After our last night on the mountain, the three of us headed down the next day and hitch hiked from the trailhead to the beach and enjoyed burritos and wine as we watched the moon set over the ocean. My friend Yvonne from Quebec sang songs in French and worked on a beautiful hair wrap for me by the fire. It was like a dream. The next morning I decided it would be appropriate to go for a swim. I entered the rocky water near our campsite but immediately I had a battle with the rough waters and felt the sting of many spines go into my foot and ankle. I had hit a sea urchin and blue spines were stuck in my foot! Luckily, most of the walking was finished because we planned to hitch hike back to the farm. It was a tough day but we took about 7 separate rides and made it back to the farm in about 8 hours (probably a 3 hour drive if you go straight through).

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I said my goodbyes on my last day at Biosana and though I spent the first 2.5 weeks adjusting and getting comfortable, I was now so happy and at home. I no longer felt the way I did when I bought my plane ticket to go back home. I was content, but I had also gained peace in my heart that allowed me to accept what was happening and go home without any regrets.

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Life is full of magic and being at Biosana and hiking the PCT really engrained this into my heart. Once you know it is there, you can do nothing but constantly seek it. Some may look down on me for this way of thinking, because in our society we are taught that we are only worth something if we get a job, buy a house, get married, have children, and just do what everyone else is doing. I can understand why seeking an adventurous lifestyle might seem irresponsible to people who have spent their whole lives focusing on money, stability, and permanence. I don’t plan on letting that perspective prevent me from following my heart, even if I make mistakes along the way (and I promise that I will). I anticipate my path to be a unique challenge, as going against the grain has never been easy.

Resources to live outside of the norm are not available, so I have to create it myself by exploring the path less traveled. There is an entire culture of people who do this, but we don’t see much of them because they are out there traveling and experiencing the world. I will join them. I am also very excited to start working in the field of outdoor recreation (Wilderness Guide, Nature Interpreter, Park Ranger, etc.). I am in the process of finding a way to balance both my work experience and travel experience. Luckily, my travels compliment my work experience in the field I am passionate about. With time, I will find my rhythm. My tentative plans now are to hike the Appalachian Trail (If I can scrounge the bills) or the Colorado Trail (only 500 miles) with my friend, then begin working to save money for my next adventure. Hopefully, I will be able to find seasonal work in my field in between adventures.

I spent 5 weeks on an amazing farm at the very tip of Baja California Sur, Mexico full of people living alternative lives, who have all influenced my path as a human being. Every person I meet, every step I take, every fall, and every laugh is forming the beginning of my path as a strong and independent young woman. I was nervous when I first arrived and for the first two weeks I was uncomfortable. It is kind of funny to see myself thrown into the unknown and my behavior associated with that. I am prepared to feel more discomfort in the future and am better equipped to stick it through because I know that my discomfort will pass as it helps me grow. I am grateful for the opportunity to push the boundary. So little time, so much to experience!

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“I put one foot in front of the other, steppin’ in to the here and now, I’m not sure just where I’m goin’, but I will get there anyhow…” – Tim O’Brien (listen to the song)

This Is Only The Beginning

My graduation from college was followed by the most mentally and physically arduous pilgrimage of my life thus far, an experience which has thrown me into the greatest transition I have ever been through. Kind of feels like a mid-life crisis, but I’m too young for that! It has been a roller coaster of excitement, sadness, self-love, self-doubt, loneliness, power, emptiness, independence, frustration, pride, inspiration, fullness, and a lack of motivation. Each day is different, which is telling me something very big is on the horizon.

One thing that rings true for me – is that in order for us to transform ourselves, we must first be broken. Something that we thought would always be there must end in order for something brand new to be born. For me, it is a path of independent adventure. I am focused on what I need to do in order to live a life that fulfills me. I am learning that nothing in life is permanent and things can change in an instant which has enabled me to accept a new path…
You can either be a victim to this change or use it as a tool to live what I like to call… “AN EPIC FUCKIN’ LIFE”!!

The trail is a perfect metaphor for almost anything in life. You live the most simple truths because they are all you have. Here are only twelve of the many lessons/gifts that walking over 2,000 miles gave to me:

~ In order to move forward you must let go of the past, because it’s behind you now. Your survival is reliant on your ability to focus on what is happening right now.

~ Don’t try to live faster than the pace your feet can travel – you will get there, enjoy where you are now.

~ No matter how difficult an obstacle, you have the power in you to overcome it. Never give up, unless it will certainly kill you, then maybe you shouldn’t do it.

~ Some days totally suck but a good day is always on the horizon. The hardships you endured are always paid off with the strength you feel from overcoming something so difficult and of course the beautiful places your audacity has taken you. Remember this on those crappy days.

~ Just when you think you’ve reached the top of a mountain, you see there are many more mountains for you to climb.

~ Sometimes, when you want to quit, you’re in the middle of nowhere and can’t do anything about it. Suck it up and keep walking. After all, moving forward is all you can do.

~ People come and go, when they do go, you may never see them again. Enjoy them for everything they are right now.

~ When walking gets boring, DANCE.

~ When walking is too easy, flex your butt muscles and get the most out of the path you are on.

~ If you fall over, get up, yell about it, then move on.

~ If someone wants to help you, let them and let their generosity help you to become more giving of yourself.

~ If it’s raining, get your butt up anyway. Magic can be found in all types of weather. Even on dark, cloudy, rainy days there is always something beautiful to be discovered.

The lessons from the trail are endless, discover some for yourself…

Since I returned home from my long walk I haven’t just been moping around (maybe I have a little bit) but I have been staying busy with friends, occasionally pretending to be a transient, drinking wine, looking at rainbows, holding babies, throwing snowballs, swimming in the ocean, wearing silly hats, journaling, singing loudly and terribly, drinking ridiculously healthy smoothies, making a montage about my trip, looking for work, and routinely jogging 4 miles a day, ending at the top of my local mountain to watch the sun set. Witnessing the setting of the sun on a daily basis has become the one thing that brings me the most happiness and peace during this turbulent period in my life. Also, I discovered the most delightful dance community in San Diego, with whom I have been dancing my heart out. It feels so good to have this outlet. It is very healing and has brought me much joy.

For my next adventure, the time has come. I am going to Mexico at the end of this month. I will be living among other people who strive for a more simple life in a sustainable community in Baja. I don’t really know what it is going to be like yet, but I can tell you I will be learning how to build earthen homes, working hard in the gardens, living in a tent, hiking to swimming holes, hot springs, and waterfalls as well as developing myself as an independent woman. Please stay tuned for my adventures there. I am flying out on December 31st! What a way to start the new year!

Recently, I made a rough “life itinerary” to help me stay focused on achieving my goals and living epically. This winter and beginning of next spring I will be spending my time living in this community in Baja. Next summer of 2014 I will be working a seasonal summer job somewhere in the states doing what I love: environmental education, or something similar in the outdoors. In the Fall of 2014 I will attend the Burning Man festival and that winter I will work my butt off to save for my next big adventure, back on the trail summer of 2015. My goal is to walk every single mile of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada and put it to rest so that I can move on to other long distance trails. All of this is subject to rearrange, change, and be accommodated to as time goes on but at least I have an idea of how I would like my life to go over the next two years.

Here I go!

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The Brick Wall

I must warn you, this post is nothing like my happy, excited posts I have written over the past 6 months. Rather, it is a reflection of what it is like, for me, to come back into mainstream society after the most beautiful journey of a lifetime. It is very common for people to have a period of sadness after such a long hike, and I am no exception. So if you are here to be uplifted, read no further. It’s all part of the journey, and this is my experience.

I have been “home” for just over two weeks now and have been working through so much mentally, emotionally, and physically. Each day is a challenge in a whole new way that I never experienced on the trail, and it may be just part of this great journey – another challenge I didn’t expect. A very dark one.

While I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail I felt the most happiness I’d ever felt in my entire life – I attained true bliss. I learned that real happiness comes from not knowing what each day will bring, but having the faith in myself that I will confront obstacles and get through them as they come. It is invigorating to wake up each morning not knowing the beauty I will see or the challenges that will arise, but taking each step one at a time and living only as fast as I can walk and only concerning myself with a few simple things: eating, caring for myself, sleeping, resting, filtering water, and most of all WALKING.

Coming off the trail is like coming into the world for the first time. It is a noisy world of fast cars, unhappy, unhealthy, and upset people living lives that contain them in little boxes, only occasionally dreaming of doing what they really want – all the while telling themselves they cannot, because their responsibilities seem to own them. It is a world of anonymity where people barely even look up at one another in passing and think you are weird if you take a moment to say hello to them. After being embraced by a community of happy, healthy people I feel so alone in this world of strangers.

Life here has me dwelling on the past, stressing about others and the chaos that surrounds me, and just plain feeling stuck. I feel as though this place that I call “home” is merely a waiting room. Waiting for my next adventure, waiting to see what the future holds for me, waiting to move out and be independent again. My real home is the trail. The trail is home to all of us, you may just not realize it yet. It is a place where life is simple, options are limited, and friends are everywhere. Every day you are blessed with the beauty of going with your own rhythm and accepting every single moment for what it is and nothing less. On the trail we walk in God’s country, a place of perfect beauty and what may seem to most as mere legend. The earth is a magnificent place but our busy lives within our concrete jungles make us think that wilderness is only a dream, or perhaps a place to visit – but it is our home. As the Tobasco Donkey’s put it, “Civilization is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” I’d rather be hiking up the hottest, most endless hill, or walking through freezing rain and snow than living such an average life. This feeling must be temporary, but I know I will never see the world the same again.

My feet are buzzing constantly and I have nowhere to go. They said it would be hard to come home after my hike, but I had no idea it would be this hard.

The trail gave me a gift. One that no one can ever take away from me. I know how I want to live. After a lifetime in school, I finally discovered what it feels like to be free and now I am determined to live a beautiful life of adventure, and not settle for anything less. I have so much life left, and I will spend it discovering the world. I may not have discovered the strength to do this had I never hiked the trail. The realization that I have what it takes to follow my dreams has pushed me to make some very ambitious and difficult life decisions. I sacrificed my relationship with the man I love to nurture my independence and further challenge myself with living the life of my dreams. It is both terrifying and exciting at the same time, it is also very lonely and I miss him deeply. It is quite simple. He is focused on building a settled life and I can no longer swallow my urge to fly. Perhaps one day our dreams will align, but right now I have no choice but to feed the hunger of my soul to experience all the different flavors life has to offer.

“When it’s time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.” Henry David Thoreau

Some things I am dreaming of…

1. Finding a community of happy, healthy, inspiring people to live among (out of San Diego)

2. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail AGAIN (and the entire thing this time)

3. Hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT – 1200 miles long, from Montana to the Washington coast), among many other lesser-known long distance trails.

4. Living in beautiful, inspiring places – maybe other countries

5. Seasonal Park Ranger opportunities in other states (Such as Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, etc.)

6. Learning to play a musical instrument

7. Living well, following my heart, not letting the world get me down, being inspired

8. Eventually, settling down somewhere beautiful where I can live simply

I will start working again soon and I don’t know what the next chapter will bring, but I know it is not going to be easy. Being here has me trying to make future plans, but my life is too unpredictable for it not to be in vain so I will do what worked for me on the trail – I will play it by ear and see where the path leads. All I do know is that I am going to follow through with what truly satisfies me, no matter what I have to do to manifest it. And let’s not leave out the most important part… I know that everything is going to be okay. Everything is temporary.

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Thank you for following me. I hope my adventure inspired you to get out and do something you have always wanted to do.

Urge For Going

After a spending a few days hiking through Mount Hood and down into the breathtaking Eagle Creek with Brian, we went into town at Cascade Locks, my last town in the state of Oregon. We parted there where I spent the afternoon at the marine park enjoying the beautiful Columbia River and preparing for my next section toward Trout Lake, Washington. As I crossed over the Bridge of Gods, stepping from one state to the next while suspended over a large body of water, I gazed all around at the 360 degree views of the beautiful river and the bridge I was crossing it on. The wind blew wildly as I looked down where I could see through the metal grids all the way down to the water below. It was breathtaking and exhilarating. I was excited to step into a new state, the last state. Washington!

I hiked into the evening that day and found myself on an unexpected and frustrating ascent in the dark. All I wanted to do was make camp but I had to keep moving forward and hope for a flat place to sleep. It is not uncommon for me to get a little sloppy at the end of the day and this evening ascent really got the best of me. I fell hard on some rocks right on my knee resulting in a nice big, bloody gash and a bruised knee cap. I yelled out loud in anger at the trail and felt pretty silly when I ran into some friends just a few minutes later. I had hoped they didn’t hear me whining at the forest. I camped with them that night in a nice little flat spot near some water. The next morning I completed the ascent alone and enjoyed some music in my ears. It was a gorgeous day and one of only a few that were left…

After a big day of 27 miles, I camped by Panther Creek and saw an almost full moon rise over the rushing water. I felt all sticky from the day of humid heat and lots of climbing so I rinsed off in the freezing water. It was refreshing. That night I made my heaviest meal, gnocchi, which is also my most hearty, flavorful, and favorite meal. I fought for my hot cocoa when a mouse kept coming back to steal a sip. I awoke in the middle of the night to rain drops on my shelter but when morning came it was only fog hanging over the forest. As I climbed, the clouds became thicker and thicker until I was walking through them, taking in the beautiful silence of this dark, wet day. That evening the wind was blowing like a tornado, throwing water at my face as I walked. Once again I hiked into the night, and exhausted from the beginning storm, I fell again and sprained my hand. I was just getting all beat up on this section. The next day was nothing but rain and I was pretty cold and miserable. I resisted the desire to hitch into town at a road I reached before my planned exit road, which was 15 more miles down the trail.

I got a ride with some other hikers into Trout Lake, WA which is a beautiful little town full of wonderful people. I stayed at the tiny grocery store which was run by a family who lived behind the building. They offered small, hostel type rooms for hikers at a very reasonable price and they did everything they could to provide us with what we needed. Trout Lake was full of angels and I’ll never forget how at home I felt there. The day I left the rain had finally broken and it looked like it might become a sunny day, which it did, just in time for me to head into the beautiful high elevations of Washington around Mount Adams where I could see for miles all around. Mount Adams had fresh snow on top which was beautiful and also threatening. The air was cold that day, but I strutted around in my shorts as I walked 3mph with music in my ears. I was on a roll, but by 5pm it was too cold and I had to put on extra layers. From this day on, I never walked again without those extra layers…

That night I camped at a beautiful lava field where water came out from beneath, forming a pool I could get water from. There were 11 other people there that night and we all sat around eating dinner, watching our breath, and making ridiculous jokes that would only be funny to people who have been on a trail for 5 months. The next day I was the last to leave camp (as usual). I passed a couple people while they took lunch, but I saw no one for the rest of the day. I was appreciating the sun as I climbed up high to where I could see lakes, hills, volcanos, and endless forests. As the day continued on I became grumpy, not for any reason in particular. Sometimes hiking can be monotonous and on top of it, I am simply not giving my body what it needs to hike a 25 mile day. A grumpy hiker is a hungry, tired hiker. Despite the beauty that surrounded me, I could not unfurrow my brow. My heart reawoke as I passed over Cyspus Pass and was transported to what felt like the High Sierra again. Rocky peaks engulfed me in an enormous, open valley of flowing water. I found the best campsite just after a waterfall. The site hung over the emptiness of the valley and seemed to float over nothing. I set up camp here and watched the full moon rise as I heard the hoo-ing of a dozen Great Horned owls as they retreated from their daytime sanctuaries in the thick trees of the forest and headed out into the last light of dusk. I watched them as they took flight and went off into the night sky. I love camping alone.

The next day was a blessing in disguise. I climbed up and up where I found marmots! It really was like being in the Sierras again. I had heard about a place I was going to, called the “Knife’s Edge” and when I saw it, I threw my hands up in complaint. Ahh I don’t want to do this! The Knife’s Edge is a 2 mile piece of trail which traverses over a narrow crest with thousand foot drops on either side, with nothing but glaciers to break a fall. My nerves were all buzzing as I crossed over the Packwood glacier and then walked along the edge very carefully. This was one of the most beautiful views I had seen on the entire trail. Mount Rainier in the distance with clear blue skies, mountains, lakes, glaciers, and rivers all around. I was one of the last people to see Mount Rainier from Knife’s Edge this season. There was a tiny cloud at the tip of the majestic mountain and as the day grew late, the cloud got bigger and bigger until the whole sky looked angry with darkness, wind, and cold.

I camped a mile from White’s Pass so that I could go in in the morning and resupply. That night the rain started, and this time it never stopped. It rained and I saw a bunch of hikers at the Kracker Barrel store who where talking about skipping to avoid the coming storm which was said to bring immense amounts of snow and rain. I wasn’t ready to give up yet so I got a ride into Packwood where I could wait out the storm at a lovely little hotel that charged only $30 a night. I ended up staying here for 5 days, and it stormed day and night, nonstop. I became depressed with the lack of hope to continue on. Other hikers were coming off the mountain describing 2 feet of snow and high winds as they traversed the Knife’s Edge. They were all thankful to be alive.

In a couple days I knew there would be at least one clear day, so I decided to get back on trail at that point. The first day out was very cold, but mostly no rain fell. The rain started again the next morning and never stopped. I met some southbound hikers who told me of a trail angel waiting for hikers at Chinook pass. I made it to the pass and waited inside of a pit toilet bathroom at a rest stop, on the floor, in my sleeping bag, because it was FREEZING. My fingers and toes had been numb most of the day, and now that I was stopped my entire body was losing heat fast. I did what I had to do to stay warm while I waited for the trail angel to come pick me up on one of her regular runs up to the rest stop to rescue hikers from the bathrooms.

Trapperkeeper, took me and my friend Backfire to her camp where she fed us a fresh cooked meal, built us a fire in the rain and gave us a dry place to sleep among her Tarp Town in the woods. It was amazing and necessary trail magic. I finally reached the point where I was deciding whether to go on. She checked the weather and assured me that snow was on its way and the weather would only get worse from here on out. The freezing cold rain had been enough for me. It was frighteningly cold. Hypothermia became a real concern and I couldn’t imagine dealing with colder temps. I simply was not equipped enough for winter weather, nor was I skilled in snow travel and navigation. This was where my hike north on the Pacific Crest Trail came to an unexpected finish. 300 miles from the Canadian border, and I decided to turn back.

Trapperkeeper drove me to Packwood the next day where I spent another night so that the following day I could find a ride to Seattle. After making a beautiful Seattle sign on a piece of cardboard, Trapperkeeper showed up in town again and said it had snowed overnight and she was shutting down her camp and going home, to Portland. I decided this was my best bet for a ride and took it. Feeling so far from the trail now, the anxiety hit me as we drove into the busy city with lights, cars, rain, and noise. I realized this was not a temporary ride into town, this was it, and in town was where I’d stay. Goodbye Pacific Crest Trail, for now.

I was then thrown into the oblivion of public transportation. I rode a bus to a train and rode the train to the real train, which I sat on for 30 hours going insane because I felt like there wasn’t enough oxygen on the train (I’m used to being outdoors!), then in the middle of the night I got onto another train from Union Station in L.A. and rode that to Santa Clarita where I spent the night and was picked up in the morning by the well-known trail angel of southern California, Donna Saufley.

Instead of going straight home, I decided I would fare better with some time to reflect and decompress. I skipped a section from Idyllwild to Agua Dulce so I am going to spend 3 more weeks hiking south from Agua Dulce to Idyllwild, or at least until I run out of money. Here at Hiker Heaven I am preparing for my final jaunt in the wilderness before going back home.

I walked over 2,000 miles and I thought there was no chance in the world I wouldn’t make it all the way to Canada, but Washington had different plans this year. Winter started in September, historically the most rain and snow ever received this time of year. Just my luck!

This was the most amazing summer of my life. I crossed through the desert and over the entire Sierra Nevada mountain range, and almost the entire Cascade range. I walked through California, Oregon, and Washington. I walked and I walked, all day every day. I saw the sun rise and set and became in tune with the moons waxing and waning. I slept under the stars every night sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. I met hundreds of wonderful people and for the first time I really felt part of a community. Everyday I was blessed with beautiful scenery, challenges, and time to think and go with the flow. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was the best decision I ever made, and I will do it again. This was an epic journey through the deserts, mountains, and forests of the west coast. I also had the unexpected opportunity to experience tiny mountain towns all along the way where I met people with unwavering generosity and kindness. There were times when I didn’t think I could take a single step, and then I did. I overcame so much doubt and became stronger than I have ever been. My mind has never been clearer, my life has never been simpler, and my body has never been stronger. Thank you to all the trail angels who helped me keep going and to all the people following me and cheering me on. I have never been happier!!!

Stories of my final journey to come, stay tuned.

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Trail Bliss

I am doing very well and am still out here living in the forest! My home is the woods and I am in love with the trail. I have been so many different things in my life, always searching for what is right for me but never quite meshing completely with any one thing, but on the trail I feel at home. Life is raw and true out here. I have the freedom to be myself and go with the flow of what feels right while being 100% responsible for my actions and dealing with consequences. I have many daily tasks and chores but they are simple: eat, make shelter, sleep, filter water, rest, watch my maps, care for myself as needed, and simply WALK. I used to think this was the hardest thing I’d ever do, but in fact – it is the easiest I have ever lived. Life IS the moment and the challenges, with few options, forcing me to accept each moment and take each day one step at a time. Don’t be mistaken, hiking 25 miles a day is not easy, but don’t we all understand how rewarding it is to suffer? Not only am I in the best physical shape of my life, but mentally I feel powerful and independent. I feel at peace and in control of my life. I have made a complete turn around since the beginning of the trip. At first I could barely stand the thought of being away from home, and now I can’t stand the thought of the trail… ending. I just want to walk in the woods forever….

After a lovely stay at the Hiker Hut in Etna I hit the trail again and got the best of surprises! As I was walking I noticed three beautiful Rosy Boa snakes lying sleepily along the side of the trail. I thought they wouldn’t be safe from flying trekking poles and curious hikers that close to the trail so I gladly scooped them up and made friends with them before relocating them to a safer place. That was such a happy day! Soon after, the landscape transformed from brown and green to white, brown and green. Raw marble all over the ground and making up entire mountains! It was a beautiful sight and made me happy to see such a valuable mineral being left in it’s natural state, protected by the national forest, untouched by the hand of man.

After descending into Seiad Valley, we were picked up by an old local couple in a pickup to avoid the dangerous road walk and were greeted by many hikers relaxing on the grass as we arrived. I had lunch at the cafe but did NOT take on the pancake challenge. I don’t really like pancakes – I’m more of a waffle kind of girl! 🙂

With a full belly I took on the 8 mile ascent up a huge steep mountain overlooking the smoke settling from recent fires in the area, it was eerily beautiful with a red crescent moon as I fell asleep in my shelter. I love sleeping on ridges because I can see the sun rise and set.

Soon, I made it to the Oregon border and the trail was a whole new ball game! I was ready for a change and excited to see what a new state had to offer, I walked on with big smiles and wide eyes… 😀 What I found the next day was Santa Claus! He lives in Oregon!! I met Santa at the Callahans Lodge where I was treated so kindly by fancy, clean people. One woman who worked at the front desk offered us a ride into Ashland and I asked her “how many can you fit?” she replied, “up to 7, I have a pickup truck.” When I walked outside I laughed to myself when I saw her tiny 2 seater truck, we all jumped in the back and we drove on the 5 freeway for about 15 minutes and it was terrifying. At least I can say I’ve ridden in the back of a truck on the freeway! That is not something that most people can say they’ve experienced. Now I don’t ever have to do that again!! But thank goodness for the ride to Ashland, and to be alive. Wow.

In Ashland, I shared a hostel room with several other hikers. It was more like a large apartment and felt very luxurious, although it was difficult to get enough sleep with everyone making breakfast and talking at 6 in the morning. I was a grumpy girl that day. Ashland was a nice town stop, I stayed an extra night to get the rest I needed and got more chores done before hitting the trail again with the excitement of my next stop – Crater Lake! This is a section of the trail that I have looked forward to since the very beginning. Arriving here was emotional and beautiful. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and my feet! The lake was huge and glorious. I camped for a couple nights here and watched both the sun and the moon rise and set shining it’s beautiful colors on the crystal blue waters of the ancient caldera of what was once Mount Mazama, standing above 12,000 feet before it exploded.

I went real slow through this section because of its sereneness. I was caught in a vortex of beauty and bliss, walking through the forests of Oregon has been a dream. People warn you of how boring it is to hike through the forest for days on end, but for me it wasn’t like that. Each day I’d make it to a ridge where I could see snow-covered mountains, craggy peaks, volcanic lava fields, and beautiful sunsets. When I was under the shade of the forest, it was a whole new world of green ground cover, butterflies, lakes, wet mushrooms, and happy pine trees. I could never get bored with the sweet smells of the forest and the soft duff to sleep on. I made it to Sisters and began heading back out on the trail when I was hit with a big cold, scary, wet storm. I was hiking through exposed areas in a lightening storm and I was terrified. I finally found a safe place to set up shelter where I stayed for 24 hours hoping the storm would pass. It did not, so with all my wet stuff, I hiked back to Sisters and Brian picked me up there instead of the planned pick up spot at Timberline Lodge. He is going to hike with me from Timberline Lodge to Cascade Locks which I am looking forward to. However, I am currently stationary at his Grandma’s house in Washington but will be back on trail tomorrow.

I reached mile 2000 last week and have less than 550 more miles to Canada. This hike is a dream and I couldn’t be more content and happy. I want to just keep hiking.

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Goodbye California

Oh boy, so much to write. I’ve really been pounding the trail with little time in town and have not had an opportunity to blog until now. I am in Etna, the last town in California. Over the past few weeks I have been consistently doing 23-26 miles a day. Getting to Canada is a real and timely concern. It’s time to get miles!

After I spent a few days with my family in Sierra City I hit the trail again and headed toward Belden, my next resupply town. I had heard it was creepy, but nobody told me the whole hike would be eery. I hiked for a few days through a dry, hot, and unhealthy forest where I found myself going out of my mind with boredom. I ran into my friend Puppy on the trail and we camped together a couple nights until I stopped to take advantage of a perfect and beautiful ridge where I could dry camp, but only be a mile from water. I knew she was at the water source, but I decided to camp because I hadn’t seen such a beautiful view in days. I was able to watch the sun set and rise from my tent and the hills around were forested and made me think of Oregon, and how close I was to finishing California. This ridge and the Feather River were the two best things that happened to me that week. Everything else was mosquito and poison oak infested, not to mention the occasional rattlesnake (my 3 favorite things!). When I got to Belden I had lunch at the resort which had a bunch of minimally-clothed, pale, zombie-like people wandering around aimlessly. Apparently raves happen here on a weekly basis, and they were the sloppy leftovers.

I slept on the porch of a trail angels house down the road, but got out of town as quickly as possible toward hopefully brighter horizons. The sun was beating down on me while I kept busy dragging my tired body up hill after hill through a dead, burnt forest until I reached Lassen National Forest where water and shade were more prevalent and my spirits were a little higher. I met a girl who I’ve been hiking near for several weeks now, her name is Skidaddle. We have lunch, discuss our daily plans, and often camp together. She has been good company for me, especially since I have done almost the entire trail alone. I was excited to walk through the National Park but it didn’t last long, it only took one day to walk through. Once I reached Old Station I resupplied and got new shoes in the mail! My old shoes had 700 miles on them and they looked it. I was very happy to have new kicks. The next section was Hat Creek Rim which other hikers talked about as the worst part of the PCT due to no water, no shade, high temperatures, and rattlesnakes – it was much different for me thankfully for the clouds in the sky which kept it cooler and a trail angel who kept the cache 22 stocked with water for everyone coming through. I kind of enjoyed that stretch, actually. The haze from distant fires gave the mountain ranges a dream-like feeling.

After I finished up the Rim with some friends Seeking and Delaware Dave, we headed back down into the forest which became moister and moister as the miles went on. Eventually all my trail friends hitched into town while I continued on alone until I ran into some other hikers, Ash and Sierra Bum who I hiked with for several days through Burney Falls State Park all the way to Shasta. I found Skidaddle in the wilderness out of Burney Falls and met some other hikers Rotisserie, Sensai, and Cream Tea – all of which were hiking in the same vicinity for a couple weeks so we all grew fond of one another and shared a big hotel room in Shasta, which was purely awesome. I have not been one of the most social PCT hikers, as I do like my alone time and the freedom to move with my own rhythm, but spending this time with other hikers was really fun and it was so nice to hang out with other girls! Skiddaddle, Cream Tea, and I sat on the bed drinking beer and gossiping. Oh the joy!! 🙂

After “neroing” in Shasta, I hit the trail again with the girls Skidaddle and Cream Tea where we ascended into the Castle Crags, Trinity Alps, and Russian Wilderness’. It was BEAUTIFUL! So different than the high Sierra but so magical. It took us 4 days to get into Etna and here I am now at the Alderbrook Manor Hiker Hut with lots of other hikers.

The hiker life is fun, we are all just living amongst each other as though we are just relaxing in our own living room. I am loving this life on the trail and all the beauty I see. The hiking is fun, but always challenging. I am currently nursing a fluid-filled knee and a shin splint while I rest here. I am trying to prevent more damage so that I can make it all the way! My next town is Ashland, Oregon. WOOHOO!

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Magic Abounds

Hello friends and family! I am in Sierra City now and have about 3 weeks to tell you about…

After a frightening thunder storm coming over Sonora Pass, I spent 2 lovely nights at the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station where I was treated with friendly faces and generosity. I ordered dinner and scarfed it down. Someone who saw me eating recognized me as a dirty, starving PCT hiker and bought my meal for me anonymously. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least. It is amazing how many people want to help us. This is what we fondly call “Trail Magic”.

Trail Magic is what happens when someone who is most likely not a hiker, but is inspired by what we do, helps a hiker in some way. The past 3 weeks have been filled with magic. People who do this are called Trail Angels, and I have certainly gotten to know how much of what these angels do really is like magic.

On July 3rd, my friends Eldon, Kathy, and Julie picked me up from Kennedy Meadows and took me to their beautiful cabin where we spent the evening relaxing and fishing at the river nearby. Another storm blew in so we had the awesome experience of cleaning fish under a tin roof with hail and rain coming down, it was so cool! Dinner was amazing and the next day we spent exploring Bridgeport for 4th of July. We watched the parade, looked at art, swam in the lower Twin Lakes, and watched an incredible firework show after dark. It was a great celebration! The next day, Kathy gave me a gift from her garden – delicious dried apricots which sustained me for days after my visit with them. Julie and Eldon hiked out with me on the morning of the 5th and we said goodbye after about 4 miles. I was a little sad for a bit as I hiked away, but that is expected now and I am able to cope much better than before. Julie and her family gave me something to look forward to and what came truly was trail magic!

As I hiked on I went up and down and up and down, which I have learned is pretty much the entire trail – go down just to go back up! It was beautiful but I was lonely. A fast hiker came by while I was making dinner and I talked to him as much as I could before he ran off into the woods so that he could get his 43 miles in. He was trying to break the world record for the fastest thru hike on the PCT – nonetheless he still took about 15 minutes to have a pleasant conversation with me, which I appreciated more than he knew.
Along my trek the following day I was lost in my earbuds – music makes my thoughts richer because I’ve thought about just about everything I can think of and I get bored thinking about the same things all the time, so music helps keep things interesting. I saw a group of people alongside the trail who called me over. They were past PCT thru hikers who backpacked in for some on-trail trail magic. They offered coffee, cookies, and good company. The same day, a few hours later, I saw a woman sitting by the creek in the distance and as I approached she placed herself beside the trail to greet me. Her trail name was Sleuth and she was happy to see a young woman on the trail. So of course I sat and talked with her for a long time. She also had a sweet german shepard doggy who made me smile. She gave me peanut butter granola bars and two packets of mango and guava Tang! She said you can only buy them in Mexico. They were delicious…. And that SAME DAY as the evening approached and I was looking for a place to sleep, I was greeted by a family near Ebbett’s pass who made me a garden burger for dinner as well as a huge plate of watermelon, cantelope, and grapes. It was the most gourmet trail magic yet!

The next day brought with it a whole new landscape of dark volcanic rock formations and beautiful wildflowers. After a long walk I finally made it to South Lake Tahoe where I was reunited with my friend Heather (aka Hot Tub) with whom I began the trail with. It was lovely to see her face after what seems like such a long time! In Tahoe I replaced my backpack and shoes due to my failing pack and the need for ankle support since I repeatedly rolled my ankles.

Unfortunately, after a day in my new shoes, my feet became unbearable to walk on and after 60 miles I was crying with every step until I reached Truckee where the most amazing magic happened! Whilst hiking, I met another female solo hiker named Mackenzie (aka Hitch) whose company I enjoyed and we went to the Truckee DQ together where we loitered for hours using their restroom, water fountain, and benches. I daydreamed of washing my feet because it might relieve some of my pain but I did not think it would actually happen…

A curious couple approached us with questions about our journey. After a bit of talking they offered to take us back to their cabin where they would cook us dinner, do our laundry, and give us a place to sleep and shower. It was an amazing offer and we could not pass it up. That night we ate a healthy salmon and vegetable dinner with the warm company of Barb and Ernie – our most generous trail angels! Their cabin was in a beautiful forest with lakes and friendly faces. Mackenzie and I felt like new women! It was a very uplifting and eye opening experience for both of us. We are very thankful for Barb and Ernie, and to all of the angels who help us along this amazing journey. Something I need to remember is that pain and suffering are temporary, it will turn out okay, and to trust that the trail will provide what I need.
To top it all off, Barb offered to drive me the 43 miles to Sierra City where my parents were bringing me my old shoes so that I did not further damage my feet. I was sad to skip 43 miles but it was what I needed to keep going. Barb saved me from the pain I was experiencing and the extreme desire to quit because of it. We had a beautiful drive through the forest and enjoyed chatting and having lunch together before we parted and she headed home.

Sierra City is an amazing little town! What a gem. I love it here. I slept in the backyard of the Red Moose Inn with tons of other hikers and spent a lot of time with smiling faces down at the swimming hole. It was soooo relaxing and it is amazing how different I feel just a few days after having the worst day on the trail.
My parents finally came and I spent 3 days with them doing tourist stuff in Sierra City and the nearby Downieville. We explored Big Spring Gardens (which were a bust), and went on an amazing tour of the Kentucky Mine where I unashamedly rode in the ore car with a bunch of kids! We had a lot of fun learning about the gold rush and how they harvested gold from the Sierra Buttes. Each night we cooked dinner in our room at the Herrington’s Resort and it felt like home. Spending a few days with my family was much needed and appreciated. I know it will be difficult to part, but they are both happy that I want to continue on. The next time I see my mom and dad will be when I get to Manning Park in Canada. I have that and a long road trip home to look forward to!

It has been a great trip so far. I have had many ups and many downs and I am learning to recognize the pattern and work through the hard parts with the knowledge that good parts are ahead. Each day I am a little stronger and I truly feel that I can make it all the way. Oregon here I come! I can’t believe I am almost done with the state of California – and what a beautiful state it is! I’ll always be a California girl, no matter where I am. I love this state!

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