Well it has been a week and we still haven’t been eaten by any bears. That should assuage many of your fears. Nor have we been bitten by any rattlesnakes, although we did see one earlier in the week. He was pretty grumpy though so we gave him ample space to rattle away to his heart’s content. Otherwise we have seen many lizards and many bunnies. I’m committed to catching a bunny to keep as a trail pet.
An ideal day out in the desert is waking up around 4 or so, packing up camp, and walking north. The nights are extremely chilly, but as soon as the sun peaks it’s little yellow head over the horizon it becomes unbearably hot. Even writing becomes a sweat inducing activity. We walk all morning until it becomes too hot or we find a nice shady oasis. Then we sleep and try to allow our bodies to rest and heal before we begin to abuse them again. After the siesta we hike until sunset or a little bit after and set up camp. I left out eating in this daily routine because we eat every second that isn’t occupied by something else.
I eat four Poptarts for breakfast. I eat Skittles, Starbursts, and Snickers for second breakfast. Then I have snack time which is a trail mix palooza. Lunch is next which is primarily Wheat Thins with cheese if I have it. After lunch I just eat an assortment of my morning goodies again. For dinner I have the very varied menu options of tuna mac, tuna potatoes, tuna spaghetti, or if I don’t want to cook, Poptarts. The irony in how I eat is that I have never felt healthier in my life. The Pacific Crest Trail is a great weight loss program for those looking to eat as much of whatever they want to eat.
There are people called ‘trail angels’ on the Pacific Crest Trail. They usually provide a house, food, water, a good time, and the open hands of hospitality. They are unconditionally generous people who like to help out hikers. Yesterday as we were hiking through some desert hills we came upon a sign that read “Trail Angel Mike, Food, Water, Shade”. We followed to the trail to the house and began to lounge. A hiker-looking guy came out and told us his name was Kushy Kushman. Apparently he was dubbed that after writing some tips on gardening. He had been staying at the house trail-angeling for the entire season he said. Kushy treated us to some kool-aid, beer, and brats which raised the day’s morale significantly.
Since then we have hiked a couple more days and are hitching in to Idyllwild today to idle-a-while. We’re taking a semi rest day before heading back into the San Jacinto mountains. The hike is definitely difficult with some constant pain whether it’s in the knees, feet, back, or the mind. Although it’s cliche, the quote that I keep remembering day after day is “When life squeezes lemons in your eyes you may as well laugh about it.”
Sunday.May 19th.11:15pm.Day 2.Mile 40
We got through our first two days in one piece (more or less)! Despite the expected aches, pains and soreness throughout the majority of our bodies, all three of us have been considerably lucky with blisters and other ailments of that sort. The biggest obstacle we are encountering is heat, which reaches high 80’s during the daytime. The other challenge has been lack of water. We went 20 miles the first day without any water sources and today was a similar situation. We have all been eating voraciously, in part to lighten our packs, but for the most part we are just so darn hungry all the time. Overall, morale is good as we learn the ins and outs of life on the trail.
Yesterday morning my dad (Peter) drove us to the Mexican border where we touched the fence, took a few pictures by the Southern Terminus monument, signed the trail manifesto and were off hiking by 7 am. We walked until about 2 pm when the sun was becoming uncomfortably warm. To remedy this, we found a shady spot and Carter and I took a siesta while Gus picked ticks off of our sleeping pads. Reenergized after rest and sustenance, we finished off the day strong and stayed at Lake Morena county park where Papa Peter helped us out once again and took us out to a delicious dinner at the Campo diner.
Today was a bit harder and alot hotter as we traversed our way up and over the Laguna mountain range. Even though we got a relatively early start at 7 am, we had only gone 11 miles before our Pacific Northwest bodies found the temperature unbearable and we found a large rock to sit under as we waited out the heat.
We escaped the major heat of the day but also ended up reaching camp at 9:30 pm, something that we hope to remedy in the future by getting more miles out of the way earlier in the morning before the heat kicks in. We ll try this tactic tomorrow with a 4:30 am wake up call.
Until next time, Elena
Finish classes: check
Finish thesis: check
Receive diploma: check
Pack up house in Salem: check
Pack up food for the PCT:…..
As I have been tying up the many loose ends that come with the completion of an undergraduate degree, planning, packing and excitement for the PCT has taken a backseat over the last few months. However, with the many requirements fulfilled, the only thing between me and starting the PCT is putting the finishing touches on our food boxes, a 22 hour drive south and mentally gearing up for days upon days of walking.
I’ve accumulated much of my hiking gear over the years thus am lucky enough not to have to spend much money on a pack or tent or many of the other camping necessities. The big bucks get spent however, on purchasing approximately 150 days worth of food. Especially when we will be consuming, on average, between 3,000 and 4,000 calories a day. Carter and I have been making frequent trips to Costco and Winco so as to slowly chip away at assembling the many meals, rather than having to do it in one fell swoop, or one big debit card charge.
We’ve gotten it down to a pretty straightforward food formula. Our breakfasts are one of three options: oatmeal (with various flavorings and toppings) cream of wheat/grits or poptarts. Thanks to Gus’s overestimation on his poptart order, we are living large in the realm of poptarts and the various flavors that we can choose from.
Lunch consists of either cracker and cheese and meat, or tortilla and peanut butter and honey. Dinners are mac and cheese ($0.42 a box at winco!) powdered potatoes and meat, a rice and beans mix or pasta mix and various dried vegetables from my Mom. Various trail mixes and energy bars make up the rest of the snacks throughout the day. All in all, it is considerable amount of food to purchase, re-bag and box up. But an undertaking that I know will all be well worth it on the trail.
<20 days worth of energy/candy bars
Mary’s Peak, > highest point in Oregon’s coastal range at 4, 097 feet (photo cred: Abby Clark)
Training for the trail has been a bit more difficult in Salem than it seems to have been for Gus in hilly Tacoma. Besides the fact that I have spent a disproportionate amount of time in the library of late, Salem is hands down one of the flattest cities that I have ever been in. I have been breaking in my Saloman trail runners on the stairs in our university stadium, and have been able to get reaccustomed to walking with a weighted pack on a couple of hilly excursions this month.
Highest point in Oregon’s Coastal range at 4, 097 ft.: Mary’s Peak.
But for the most part, my school of thought is that training will happen on the trail. And there really is no way to prepare for the most difficult challenges-extreme heat and extensive sustained walking-that we will encounter in the beginning. Those are bridges that we can only cross when we get to them.
All in all, we are as ready as we can be at this point. Tomorrow morning at 8 am, Gus, Carter, my dad and I will cram our three backpacks into the rocket box on top of the car, squish six bags of resupply food into the caboose (which our awesome dad is going to drop off on his drive home), and then squeeze our four bodies into the car for the 22 hour drive down to Campo, California, where we will finally, after many months of preparing, begin the PCT!
As we enter the final week at home before hitting the trail our planning has gone into overdrive, or so I like to think. In reality, it feels as though I am playing a game called “How much planning for a five-month trip can I do in one week or less?” Nothing makes someone feel like an inefficient dunce more than planning for a five-month hike. My notable blunders have been buying twice as many Poptarts than were necessary (that’s an excess of 400 Poptarts), purchasing multiple backpacks before realizing that I have a completely functional one in my closet, and creating resupply schedules around locations that don’t exist. These are only mistakes while planning though; I cannot wait to see what the trail will serve up. Overall, though, planning is going swimmingly. We have moving boxes all around our house which are chock-full of nutritious goodies like Starbursts, Snickers, and Skittles.
Our life in boxes
Yesterday I went on another training hike with my buddies Eric and Corey. We got up at 4 A.M., drove to Mt. St. Helens, walked to the top, and then slid to the bottom. The way down was like a classic game of chutes and ladders, just without the ladders. A certain 1,000 vertical foot section took a never-ending hour to ascend and a thrilling two minutes to descend. When we got to the summit we were thankful for the 1980 eruption. That last 1,300 feet would have been killer. From the summit we had a sublime view of the crater, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and all of the Cascades near us.
Mt. St. Helens with her top off on a summer day in May
Over the course of the next five months this blog will not only be used to chronicle our walk home; it will also be used to relate the condition of life that we will be living to the condition of life in rural Bolivia, where Etta Projects does its work. Last fall Elena and I decided to turn this hike into a fundraiser for a local non-profit called Etta Projects which promotes sustainable development in the poverty stricken villages of Bolivia. More than 25% of Bolivians live in a condition of extreme poverty in which the people have difficulty with accessing basic human needs such as food, safe drinking water, health care, and shelter. Initially, raising money for Etta Projects was our only goal, until we realized that we could help raise awareness as well through a blog. Some of the areas of life that we will be able to connect with Bolivia will be water scarcity in Southern California, possible water contamination throughout the entire hike, any medical situation, and pooping. I look forward to experiencing and reflecting on these challenges on a daily basis to create a sense of empathy towards the Bolivians who I hope to work with someday.