Oct 3-4

Eating lunch at the top of our final climb. Only 7 miles to the border and northern terminus from here...and it's ALL DOWN HILL!!!

For five months my home was 18" wide and 2,650 miles long. 

Seeing the clear cut border for the first time just before taking the final switchback down to the monument. It's the distinct thin line just left of center in the photo above. 

And thus began the photo-shoot and the border. Had to get one of my pack and me and another flying proud the red, white and blue. 

The final crew I finished with. From left to right: Six, Dirty Gil, Fly-By, Sheppard, Meerkat, Me, Breakaway, Bud and Fret. 

Selfies galore. 

Everyone taking in the moment of what we'd just accomplished and me signing the final trail regester. 

Even though the official end of the trail is at the border, we still had to walk an additional 8 miles into Canada to Manning Park, the nearest place to hitch a bus out of. 

 The beginning and the end. (my shorts perhaps a little worn. 

The beginning and the end. (my shorts perhaps a little worn. 

Over And,  

Outro

31: The Stehekin Bakery, Winthrop

Sep 30 - Oct 2

 THE GREATEST BAKERY IN THE WORLD!!!

THE GREATEST BAKERY IN THE WORLD!!!

We spent the night in Stehekin at a campground near the center of town, which is not much more than a post office, lodge and visitor center. Nestled between the mountains, Stehekin sits next to Lake Chelan and is only accessible by foot, seaplane or ferry. This makes for dramatic views in all directions and is less touristy than other 'remote' places we've hiked to. The PCT skirts along the north side of the small town, past a bus stop where hikers are shuttled into the bakery and town every few hours. We were lucky to make it there before they switched to their winter bus schedule, but even then it's only one bus making four runs per day.

The following morning we woke up early and took the 8am bus out to the bakery, about halfway between town and the PCT stop. The bus normally makes a quick stop there, enough time for passengers to grab a scone and coffee, but after hearing about this bakery for thousands of miles, we decided to stay for the whole morning and take the noon bus back to the trail. GREATEST DECISION EVER.

When I first learned about thru-hiking, the part that most intrigued me/ terrified me, was hitchhiking.  I'd never done it before and while I still wouldn't in most places, many times it's the best (only) way to get to town if the trail doesn't pass through. I've been extremely fortunate with all of my hitches, getting rides from high school teachers, retired veterans, foreigners traveling in the US and former thru-hikers. I can't thank them enough and in many ways, they are the reason America's long distance trails are thriving.  A week or so before arriving in Stehekin, I'd caught a hitch out of Packwood, WA looking to go back to the trailhead at White Pass. No sooner had I stuck out my thumb, a car pulled over in the shoulder and motioned for me to get in. Inside was a husband and wife in the front, their one year old son in a car seat in back. I sat next to him for the duration of the ride trying my best not to stare at him too intently. You see, kids are a novelty on trail. That is, for the five or six months your out there, you don't come in contact with many. So, for me, even seeing a kid off trail was a unique experience. I remember one afternoon on the AT hearing a child's laughter while hiking through a dense part of forest. Terrified all I could think was 'What kind of Blair Witch magic was happening.' I later learned there was a mother hiking the trail with her twin six year olds and eleven year old son.

Anyway, the family from Packwood were locals and avid hikers themselves. We made pleasant small talk and they shared their favorite parts on the trail ahead. Before hopping out, the wife Gretchen, explained that she used to live up in Stehekin. "If you happen to stop in town and see any locals," she said "tell them Gretchen says 'Hi!'". Long shot, I thought, but agreed to. 

Now, here I was at the Bakery in Stehekin. I hesitantly walked up to the counter and asked if any of the employees were local to the area. One girl raised her hand and came over.

"I got a ride from a family in Packwood," I explained "and Gretchen says 'Hi'".  

"Oh my gosh!" the girl shrieked! "Did you meet the baby? Is he adorable?" she continued. 

She turned to another customer in the bakery, "Hey Billy, this girl knows Gretchen!"

Bud, Fret, Six, Meerkat and I spent the next three hours hanging out in the bakery, stuffing our faces and relaxing. We might as well have been locals and known each other since childhood. That's the level of intimacy and comfort the trail provides. When the bus finally came we all hopped on, fed and happy, the PCT calling us home. Sitting on that bus, watching the bakery fade into the distance with less than 100 miles left to walk to the border- That was the first time I realized I might actually finish this thing. 

20160929_143300.jpg

I felt very much at home in this section, the perfect mixture of dense forest ( I'd become accustom to on the AT) and open vistas (like I'd seen in the Sierra). Much of today's afternoon was spent walking through dense forest, dappled sunlight flickering over my face. 

I think I liked Washington's sunlight the most. I never knew I could like a state's sunlight more than another or that each state would have it's own quality of light, to begin with. But sure enough this was a reoccurring thought I couldn't shake. Three siblings all from the same family but I wasn't their parent, I was like the neighborhood babysitter - I could pick a favorite. 

The light of California was direct and blatant. Always around with no clouds to disrupt its gaze. It was either there or it wasn't when the horizon said enough was enough at the end of the day. Though direct sunlight on top of blazing heat is like adding salt to a wound, I enjoyed it. Probably not a surprise to anyone who knows me. But I became complacent without variation. In many ways California ruins NoBo's by setting up the expectation of blue skies and cloudless days everyday. 

Oregon's weather felt more or less like a transition zone. The southern half feeling much like NorCal but the increase of dense overhead foliage made the unexpected heat bearable. In the later half of the state, I feared consistent cloud cover and worsening rainy conditions was only foreshadowing what was to come. Luckily, it didn't pan out that way.

If you could translate a taste to a feeling, Washington's sunlight was as sweet as the wild blueberries that covered the state. Warm, necessary and sometimes found at the most unexpected times. 

My trip to Winthrop wasn't planned and barely thought out. All I knew was that I desperately wanted a bottle of champagne (lets face it, Sparkling Wine) for the border and Winthrop was the only place left to get one. The plan, which I made the night before, was to leave camp early ahead of the group and crush some morning miles. Then, get a quick hitch into town, pick up the goods, hitch back to the trail and race to camp to catch back up with everyone. In theory the plan was simple and I'd done a couple In & Out's before. The problem was that you never knew what the trail's terrain would be like in any given day and Winthrop was 35 miles away. That's about a 45 min. car ride on the winding mountain roads, not to mention the time it takes if/when I'd get a hitch. In all honesty though, this is one of the reason I love trail life. The spontaneity, the challenge, the experience. 

I took orders from the group and early the next morning found myself at Rainy Pass, thumb in the air. A couple from Seattle picked me up, they were headed to Winthrop as well for a weekend vacation. As we descended driving East, the landscape changed from mountains covered in dense coniferous forest to relatively flat farmland. I'd seen a similar transformation on the ride from PCT to Bend, OR. It was staggering how quickly the landscape changed forms, especially since I'd been surrounded only by mountains since entering Washington at Bridge of the Gods.

Winthrop itself looked like an old Western town. I was told it'd been planned with that aesthetic back in the 70's as a tourist destination. I gave myself an hour to spend in town and after picking up the goods, quickly caught another hitch back to Rainy Pass. This time it was from an older couple, hikers themselves and quite knowledgable about the flora and fauna of the area. The husband spent the majority of the ride telling me about the history of the area, the best hiking trails around (besides the PCT) and his fascinating adventures as a young adult. I simply sat in the back like a sponge, trying my best to soak it all up. For awhile now, I'd been seeing these golden yellow conifers. At first a few but now whole swatches of them. My limited tree knowledge told me, while beautiful, they were probably dying from some disease or invasive insect. To my surprise though, the elderly man told me these trees were called Larches, and as deciduous conifers, their yellow color was completely normal. If you ever get the chance to see one up close, their needles have an interesting bundle pattern and are soft to the touch. 

At the pass I bid my final hitch adieu, and headed up the trial now carrying a small liquor store for our celebration at the border. What all did you pack out? Ahhh, I thought you'd never ask! In tow: a bottle of Bourbon, a bottle of Spiced Rum, three small bottles of champagne, a six pack of Washington's finest IPA and all the fixins' for S'mores. (Meerkat's Australian and had never tasted America's native snack before!) I almost had to put my pack back on Cheryl Strayed style.

This is Rainy Pass and thankfully it was anything but that day because the views were simply breathtaking. If you ever happen to find yourself in this part of Washington on a beautiful fall day, do yourself a favor and go hike! One of the most beautiful places I've ever been. 

You can see the trail cut alongside the mountain face with spectacular Destiny Views!

I think it was my friend Wolf who summed it up best when saying "The Cascades look like waves frozen in time."

50 miles to go!

 Beautiful Larches!

Beautiful Larches!

The last National Forest Wilderness before the end!

Maybe the photo that sums up my Washington experience best. It's raining somewhere but not on me!

I'll see you at the monument, 

 Outro

30: Stehekin

WASHINGTON - Sep 27 - Sep 29

And so the 'finals' begin. The final National Park, the final resupply package, the final rummage through a hiker box. Cue the tears. 

 The second to last major mile marker. 

The second to last major mile marker. 

The Fall colors are getting more and more beautiful by the day or perhaps hour. The weather has been holding up well but the occasional drizzle is welcomed to dampen the potential of wildfires. And now that we're in Washington, with no fire bans, evening camp fires have become a nightly ritual. 

On the morning of the 27th, I woke up to the pitter patter of rain on my tent. I find it interesting what noises I've become conditioned to pick out over the duration of the hike. Incessant Watch alarm?... might as well be a babbling brook cuase I'm not waking up. But just the first few drops of rain hitting my tent are like a gunshot to my ears, especially if I forgot to close my tent doors the night before. 

This morning in particular was one of those. After waking up, I promptly made sure nothing was getting wet and proceeded to eat breakfast in my tent. Yes, yes, I know you're not supposed to do that but I'm not sure you understand... I don't care. It was raining and I was hungry. 

Slowly, one by one, Six, Bud, Fret, Meerkat and I all packed up and headed up the trail. Without a word, we all superstitiously knew what the others were thinking, that local's forecast was probably right, it's going to rain all day. 

 Walking in the clouds. But there is some blue sky in there! - maybe, just maybe the clouds will lift!

Walking in the clouds. But there is some blue sky in there! - maybe, just maybe the clouds will lift!

We didn't know it then but this was just the beginning of our good luck with the weather. By afternoon, the clouds had lifted and rain was a distant memory. 

 A silty glacial river! Pretty as heck but can clog a water filter in no time flat. 

A silty glacial river! Pretty as heck but can clog a water filter in no time flat. 

 Glacier Peak with a backdrop of blue sky

Glacier Peak with a backdrop of blue sky

Feeling on top of the world, Washington is home to views like this at nearly every turn. As the sun began to set, we made our way down the mountain to camp, soaking up every drop of sunlight we knew wasn't promised but appreciated. 

 Meerkat leading us to camp. With it now late September, as soon as the sun dropped behind the mountains puffy jackets came out.

Meerkat leading us to camp. With it now late September, as soon as the sun dropped behind the mountains puffy jackets came out.

The next morning was set to be a fun day. It was our last full day before going into Stehekin, our next and final resupply. We'd also be walking through an old growth area with some of the largest Douglas Fir's and Cedars we'd see on the entire trail.  But not without some unexpected trail conditions...

 landslide

landslide

 Some real Lord of the Rings stuff going on here. 

Some real Lord of the Rings stuff going on here. 

 And here too.

And here too.

Yard sale! Even though we weren't getting much precipitation during the day, condensation was still as issue. Most mornings I woke up to the inside of my tent covered in dew and the down of my sleeping bag and jacket compressed from the humidity. Luckily the sun was out when we stopped for lunch, time to dry everything!

It's funny what you don't notice until someone mentions it. Mushrooms, yeah I'd seen a few, but it wasn't until Meerkat pointed out a few during a snack break when this micro-world revealed itself. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking among the giants. I dare you to walk past this tree without giving it a hug :)

 The final National Park  - North Cascades National Park 

The final National Park  - North Cascades National Park 

We hauled butt today, doing 23 miles before 3:00 to get to the bus stop in time for the 3 o'clock shuttle ride into Stehekin, the final stop (well, sort of). And waiting for me at the post office!?!?!? The final resupply and Feed Me Package!

Thank you mom and dad for being my support team at home, mailing out my boxes, handling last minute food requests and making sure each box made it there on time. Your aid was invaluable, Thank You!

In this box was actually three different scrumptious Feed Me offerings: Perfectly portioned tuna lunch packets from Maria, Amazing Power Protein Balls from Suzette, and Slutty Brownies (her name for them, not mine) from Big Sis! Thank you!

Maria, Suzette and Elyse, 

This was the perfect final resupply and there was more than enough to share with my fellow thru-hikers as well! Thank you for following along on my journey, on this crazy, frustrating, inspiring, magnificent trail. I hope over the days, weeks, and months I was able to shed some light on the world of thru-hiking and the landscape PCT.

Maria, I loved these little all in one boxes and the packaging kept the crackers in one piece. I'm not sure I can express how much that means to a thru-hiker but eating chips or crackers that haven't been smashed into a fine particle dust is an absolute luxury! To put it into perspective, when I normally ate chips on trail, I did it using a spoon. Hungry from the high milage morning I actually ate two and saved two for the week on trail ahead.

Suzette, I don't know the official name but I referred to your homemade dessert as the Amazing Protein Packed Power Balls! I shared them with the rest of my group, Bud, Fret Six and Meerkat and we devoured them all on the spot. They were fantastic and I felt like Mario after eating a Super Mushroom, three times stronger and ready to hit the trail running! (And I did sneak a couple in my food bag for later in the week!)

Best Sister Ever, those were some dense, rich brownies! Holy cow! I also shared them with the crew and I think they were the nail in the coffin to our official food coma. Thanks for waiting until the end to send your dessert when I know you wanted to send many things earlier. Selfishly, from the beginning I wanted yours to be in the final resupply - a little extra motivation to get me to Stehekin and it made it all that more special when I did.

 The final resupply box! Filled with soooo many goodies I can barely pick it up. 

The final resupply box! Filled with soooo many goodies I can barely pick it up. 

 Slutty brownies courtesy of Elyse! 

Slutty brownies courtesy of Elyse! 

 Tuna salad and crackers! Perfect for lunches on trail!

Tuna salad and crackers! Perfect for lunches on trail!

 Amazing protein power balls!

Amazing protein power balls!

What a feeling to pickup the final resupply box! There's an interesting pattern every thru-hiker is familiar with; you come into town with a light pack (little food, little water) and leave with a heavy pack due to resupply. The food in this particular large flat-rate USPS priority shipping box would last me to the USA/Canada border. To anyone handling the package, it was just an ordinary box that made its way from St. Louis to Stehekin, WA. Interesting that I'd done the same. By way of the PCT of course, but I thought back to that night before my flight out west looking at the long line of resupply boxes, lined up against the wall like giant dominoes. I hoped I'd see each of them again but who could ever know what the trail had in store for me between now and then. Each box, one by one, our paths completely different yet we started and were at some point again standing in the same location.

I lived in Dallas for a few years after graduate school, moving down south for my first full-time architecture job. The first order of business, buy a road bike.  I'd always wanted one because I thought they looked cool. I know, I know, my reasoning was a little superficial. I ended up buying a shinny used denim blue and canary yellow Trek 400 bike. Immediately after I saw it, I  loved it and by the color and model number I was able to find out its history. Turns out the bike was made in 1989. Back then Trek was still manufacturing their products in USA, in Waterloo, WI, in fact. At the same time, myself a small child, my family spent summers up in a tiny cabin in Wisconsin, less than 30 miles from Waterloo. Somehow we both made our way to Dallas by way of separate stories and different routes. The coincidence of our paths was a reminder of how far I'd come.  

Quite a bitter sweet moment it was organizing my food bag that last time. I flipped open my Swiss army knife and cut the packaging tape I'd carefully placed on the box some five months earlier. And as I deconstructed the cardboard and placed it in the recycling bin I considered that perhaps, sometimes, it's fragments from our past which are the best reminders to keep on, keeping on.

The final hiker box. Bud, Fret, Six and Meerkat all looking for a few more items to round out their resupply. Tomorrow we head to the Stehekin Bakery, the famous Stehekin Bakery!

I'll be dreaming of cinnamon rolls and sticky buns tonight, 

 Outro

29: Snoqualmie, Stevens Pass - Skykomish

WASHINGTON - September 20-26

One of my favorite parts of Washington was how remote it felt compared to the rest of the trail. I'd been hearing the SoBo's mention this in passing but couldn't truly understand what they meant until being there. In some parts of California there were times I'd cross a few roads a day could come in handy if you were hurt and needed a way out, but up here in Washington roads were few and far between. It felt great to not only be in national wilderness areas but really feel like you were there.

One of the only bits of civilizations that we got was hearing military jets scream by once or twice a day. On occasion we'd catch a glimpse of them after learning to look in the opposite direction from where the noise was - those things are fast!

 on our way to Snoqualmie Pass!

on our way to Snoqualmie Pass!

 I-90 in the distance. Getting close to civilization again.

I-90 in the distance. Getting close to civilization again.

 A package from Samuel! What's inside, what's inside?!?!?

A package from Samuel! What's inside, what's inside?!?!?

I was so excited to pick up another Feed Me Package when I got to Snoqualmie! This one from my friend Samuel down in Dallas.

Samuel! 

It was so good to hear what you've been up to over the past couple years! Thank you so much for sending out a package from down south. The dessert was definitely the most unique one I received on trail, Fruit-loops in a gooey delicious marshmallow mixture!! 

It got a 5 out of 5 for addictiveness, which I attribute to the taste and delivery method. I carried around that ziplock bag around the whole day, constantly nibbling on it until I was only grabbling plastic at the bottom of the bag :)

Thanks again! I'll have to come crash one of your lunches soon so we can catch-up in person. Hope all is well!

 Always make sure your phone is locked so people can't snag photos like this. 

Always make sure your phone is locked so people can't snag photos like this. 

 250 miles to go!!!

250 miles to go!!!

 Cathedral Peak

Cathedral Peak

Leaving Snoqualmie Pass I heard from some SoBo's about yet another alternate which led down to hot springs. Funny side note about the PCT, it seems as if there are hot springs lining the entire trail. Even back in SoCal it seemed people had been mentioning side trails which led to some. So if you ever find yourself hiking the PCT and are afraid of missing out on hot springs, don't worry there will be another right around the corner. 

The SoBo's also mentioned the alternate cut off about 8 miles of the actual PCT and didn't have nearly the elevation change. For those reasons I decided not to take the alternate and was thrilled about my decision in the end as the next few days ended up being some of my favorite on trail. Difficult elevation profiles might look intimidating on paper but on the PCT it's usually associated with spectacular views. Also, the thing is, I love hiking. Or to be more honest, I love walking. And the part of walking I love best is walking up hills. Of course I have some off days on trail where I just don't feel like doing anything, but the truth is, the majority of the days out there were the happiest of my life. Getting to spend all day in an environment I love, while doing something I love, surrounded by phenomenal people; I learned to put the bad days in perspective. The physical pain my body went through, the sometimes not so perfect weather and the occasional difficult days couldn't wipe the permanent smile that had become part of my expression. 

I remember one day in particular, back near South Lake Tahoe. Around that area are a ton of side trails and for whatever reason I kept getting off trail. This day, I accidentally took three different side trails which can really add up quickly, both in time and mileage. The last time I went off trail, I didn't figure it out until I was 1.5 miles in which meant I had to walk the 1.5 miles back too. After finally getting back to the PCT, the frustration level with myself was at 100 percent. A term hikers like to use is 'rage hiking' - hiking fueled by some event wherein all trail norms go out the window. And while rage hiking can be effective in mentally processing situations or getting to camp four hours early, this time I could feel myself getting more and more worked up. For once, it seemed walking had been the problem not the solution, so I sat down on a medium sized, ordinary, mundane rock.

As I sat, I let my mind wonder, and as I wondered I let the feelings pass. Eventually I questioned why I was frustrated in the first place. Didn't I love walking? Had that changed at some point? No, I thought to myself, I was angry about going the wrong way not for having walk a few extra miles. It's like asking for two scoops of ice cream and getting an extra scoop for free, who complains about that? No one, especially when then 'extra' your getting is something you love. My mixup meant I'd get to camp a little later than I expected, but I'd get there.

There are many reasons why hikers get off trail. Injury, fatigue, lack of enjoyment or perhaps the one I secretly envy most - because they found what they were looking for. In many ways my decision to do the PCT was a variation of this. Although I finished the AT, a complete journey in itself, for one reason or another, there was still something left to find. It might take two trails, a little longer than I expected, but I'd get there.

Eventually, while sitting on that rock, I started to laugh. An awesome, deep, uncontrollable laugh. That overused quote I thought "Life is a journey, not a destination." Emerson, right? Whether life is or is not about the journey, I reasoned, I'm not sure it matters to me because ultimately it's the part I love, and that in itself makes all the difference. Out here, deep beneath the 'philosophical journey' everybody is seeking, the less poetic physical journey entails walking. If I love the fundamentals of the journey, then when a layer of frustration is added- go back to fundamentals, I thought. Put one foot in front of the other, and let that always bring joy.

The few days after Snoqualmie Pass where I decided to take the PCT not the alternate, with breathtaking views and wild landscapes, were some of my favorite on trail. But they were just that- some of my favorite days. Others were the times I sat on medium sized, ordinary, mundane rocks and found the extraordinary. 

 

 breathtaking views and wild landscapes

breathtaking views and wild landscapes

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 The colors they are a-changing. 

The colors they are a-changing. 

Skykomish

 hitching out of Skykomish, back to Stevens Pass to get back on trail. 

hitching out of Skykomish, back to Stevens Pass to get back on trail. 

Leave it to the ladies! We're always way more efficient getting rides then the guys. 

 blueberries for dayzzzzz!

blueberries for dayzzzzz!

I virtually ate my weight in wild blueberries and huckleberries everyday for about a two week stretch. $ Free.99 per pound

 Lunch!

Lunch!

Sometimes the expectation is that the further you get on the trail, the less people you'll see due to hikers getting off trail and the bubble thinning out. Today was contrary to all that though - 10 hikers all at showed up to the same spot for lunch nearly 2,500 miles in. From right to left: Six, Meerkat, Jiggy, Sprout and Dirt Squirrel (slightly hidden), Fret (in front), Yucca, Wood Smoke and Bud. 

I'm trying my best to take it all in. Every moment, every person, every view. At this point it feels as though I'm on a runaway train and just doing what I can soak it in before the border. 

-Outro

27: Trout Lake, Knife's Edge, White Pass

WASHINGTON - September 12-19

Pictures or it didn't happen... so here are some photos of the past week :)

 there's always time for Pie! Quick hitch into Trout Lake. Also pack out a six pack for the group :) 

there's always time for Pie! Quick hitch into Trout Lake. Also pack out a six pack for the group :) 

one of my favorite things to do on trail is to hitch in and out of town as quick as possible. This time it took me two and a half hours total to get from and back to the trail. And the hitch alone was 30 min. Each way. Had to go in for pie and coffee :)

 the Goat Rocks wilderness has been one of my favorite places on trail and I was so lucky to be there while there was good weather!

the Goat Rocks wilderness has been one of my favorite places on trail and I was so lucky to be there while there was good weather!

 nice weather now but here's the front coming in with Mt. Adam's in the background 

nice weather now but here's the front coming in with Mt. Adam's in the background 

 Rainier in all its glory

Rainier in all its glory

 looking out over Mt. Rainier. The PCT, Knife's Edge section is on the right. Ridge walking at its finest!

looking out over Mt. Rainier. The PCT, Knife's Edge section is on the right. Ridge walking at its finest!

 not done with the snow crossings yet

not done with the snow crossings yet

Made it to White Pass

 More Feed Me packages! This one from Katie and Sam!! But yes, that's rain outside, so glad to be indoors eating cookies :) 

More Feed Me packages! This one from Katie and Sam!! But yes, that's rain outside, so glad to be indoors eating cookies :) 

 FOOD

FOOD

Yo- Katie and Sam!

Thank you!!  As the weather is turning quicker and quicker, the motivation of getting these packages are what's getting me to town. And the homemade goodies warm me up quicker than any amount of clothes. In the photo, cookies, chips, pop tarts and most importantly- some veggies :) (thanks Sam!) You guys are the best, hope the quarter is going well! Hope to visit soon!

 yep, that's snow. And if you listen closely, it's whispering- Walk Faster

yep, that's snow. And if you listen closely, it's whispering- Walk Faster

 Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

 always remember to turn around every once in a while. You never know what you'll see.

always remember to turn around every once in a while. You never know what you'll see.

 found this cabin in the woods to stay at for the night! And just in time- it rained all day :( The sun was out the next morning though.

found this cabin in the woods to stay at for the night! And just in time- it rained all day :( The sun was out the next morning though.

only a few hundred miles left to go, 

Outro

26: Eagle Creek, Portland, Bridge of the Gods

OREGON / WASHINGTON - September 8-11

One of the really cool features of the PCT is that it's not as strict as the AT, in that there are many different alternates you can take along the way. For example, one of the alternates takes you to Crater Lake, a gem I wouldn't dream of missing and I'm not sure why the official pedestrian PCT doesn't go by. Another was on this section of trail, the Eagle Creek alt. It took me by some of the most beautiful trail I'd seen, around a moss covered landscape and spectacular waterfalls.

 the further north we go, the more moss that appears.  

the further north we go, the more moss that appears.  

 a rock face seeping water

a rock face seeping water

 tunnel falls

tunnel falls

From Cascade Locks, Breakaway, Sheppard, Flyby and I went to Portland on a slightly spur of the moment quick excursion. Here are some pics from the big trip to the city!

 good eats in portland

good eats in portland

 st. John's bridge, markets and good food galore!

st. John's bridge, markets and good food galore!

After returning to Cascade Locks, I got some amazing trail magic from the Colby's and DeCanti's! The Colby's were up in the Pacific Northwest this summer and left me a resupply box fit for a queen! Tons of food and everything I could need for a spa day!!! And if that wasn't enough they both chipped in and got me a hotel room for the night! I can't say thank you enough- it was a perfect few days where I was able to recharge by batteries before crossing into THE FINAL STATE! Although it's boasted as "the conveyor belt state", Oregon was a though bit. As the days are getting shorter, the miles are getting longer as the race is on to get to Canada before the cold rolls in. The hotel and care box was an incredible surprise! I miss you all! Hope everyone is kicking butt at the gym :) 

 view from my hotel room. The destiny view room- bridge of the gods

view from my hotel room. The destiny view room- bridge of the gods

  my friends are the best! They know i love Birthday Pie!!! Thank you Sprinkles, Home grown, S'Rocket and Blue!

my friends are the best! They know i love Birthday Pie!!! Thank you Sprinkles, Home grown, S'Rocket and Blue!

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 Everything a Thru-Hiker could ever want!

Everything a Thru-Hiker could ever want!

Crossing Bridge of the Gods into Washington!

 there's no sidewalk, don't think the cars were too happy.

there's no sidewalk, don't think the cars were too happy.

 WASHINGTON 

WASHINGTON 

talk soon, 

Outro

25: Bend, 2000 Marker, Timberline Lodge

OREGON - September 1-7

Oregon has been fantastic! We've had great weather for the most part and it's been unbelievably beautiful! So many different and unique types of terrain as well, from lush forest to miles of lava fields to sandy mountain climbs. 

 hiking through the lava fields

hiking through the lava fields

 More shots of the lava feilds. These were pretty rough on the feet and shoe treads, good thing I have a new shoes coming soon!

More shots of the lava feilds. These were pretty rough on the feet and shoe treads, good thing I have a new shoes coming soon!

One of the resupply locations at this point on the trail was a youth camp. This place was awesome! They had a special PCT Hiker building on the property too. Not only that but we were welcomed to dinner and breakfast with the crew there and we're even given one of the bunk houses to stay in due to the overnight rain showers. A truly incredible place, so glad I stopped by to pick up my package and new shoes!

 old shoes vs. new shoes, hopefully my last pair!

old shoes vs. new shoes, hopefully my last pair!

 a beautiful manzanita, bummed I won't be seeing these for much longer.

a beautiful manzanita, bummed I won't be seeing these for much longer.

A quick side trip to Bend, to visit some of the 40ish breweries they have in town. We didn't have time to visit them all but after a valiant effort for the task at hand, we were happy to head back to the trail a little more hydrated (or dehydrated) then before. 

 one of the most famous, Deschutes Brewery

one of the most famous, Deschutes Brewery

 amazing trail magic from Breakaway's parents! Treated us to a wonderful rib dinner in Bend and trail magic back on the PCT:)

amazing trail magic from Breakaway's parents! Treated us to a wonderful rib dinner in Bend and trail magic back on the PCT:)

 selfies galore at the 2000 mile marker. Here's Sheppard taking one for the records!

selfies galore at the 2000 mile marker. Here's Sheppard taking one for the records!

 Mount Jefferson at sunset

Mount Jefferson at sunset

 a beautiful Oregon sunset

a beautiful Oregon sunset

 an eerie day on trail

an eerie day on trail

 Jefferson's getting closer

Jefferson's getting closer

 I wish all water sources where this nice

I wish all water sources where this nice

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 midway through a 44 mile day. Had to stop and get a pic here!

midway through a 44 mile day. Had to stop and get a pic here!

At this point I was consistently keeping up 30ish mile days and feeling great, well, a little tired at the end of the day but free from injury. I'd been wanting to push myself for some time and Oregon just seemed like the perfect place to do it. The state was flat-ish, and was mostly compacted dirt trail- amazing for keeping a rhythmic stride.

 Timberline, at the base of Mt. Hood

Timberline, at the base of Mt. Hood

I rolled in on a rainy morning so was very glad to have a roof over my head, especially one as nice as this one, to wait out the storm. 

 a sure sign that hikers are close by

a sure sign that hikers are close by

A huge thanks to Yoda's family for the wonderful trail magic left for me at the lodge.

Dear Hannibal and the General,

After battling the pouring rain on my way to Timberline Lodge, I was so surprised and excited to find your gift with my resupply box! I was overjoyed to be treated to a hot meal (5 plates at the breakfast buffet to be exact)! I was also able to get a couple beers as well which warmed me up quickly :)

As I'm sure Yoda knows, it's comforting to have a support system outside of the trail rooting for you. In the hard times on the trail, it's those people and memories that pop into my head and keep me going.

As I head into Washington soon, and probably some adverse weather conditions, please know that you all and Yoda will be in my thoughts, pushing me on. 

 the main lobby at Timberline

the main lobby at Timberline

 Finally a clear view of Mt. Hood after it was shrouded in clouds for the past couple days. 

Finally a clear view of Mt. Hood after it was shrouded in clouds for the past couple days. 

 Ramona Falls

Ramona Falls

Signing off for now,

Outro

24: South Sister

OREGON - August 28-31

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 an awesome public ski Shelter on the PCT

an awesome public ski Shelter on the PCT

I caught up with my friends Breakaway and Sheppard after a few days of not seeing many NoBo hikers. This can be the case when walking between bubbles of hikers on the PCT. Breakaway, being from around the area, mentioned he was taking a side trip up South Sister and welcomed me to join himself and Sheppard on the adventure. We had been seeing incredible views of the Three Sisters for a couple days so I thought, why not?!? Round trip it was about 13 miles of additional hiking from the PCT and well worth every step!

 what I'll be climbing the next day

what I'll be climbing the next day

 our campsite for the night and view toward Brokentop

our campsite for the night and view toward Brokentop

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 another view of Broken Top at dawn

another view of Broken Top at dawn

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 Breakaway looking sharp!

Breakaway looking sharp!

 hiking the ridge

hiking the ridge

 middle and North sister in the background

middle and North sister in the background

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 walking around the rim

walking around the rim

 the glacier 

the glacier 

 glad we climbed it when we did, the next day it was in the clouds

glad we climbed it when we did, the next day it was in the clouds


It was my first time hiking up a volcano and touching a glacier!!!

See you in September, 

Outro

23: Ashland, Crater Lake

OREGON - Aug 23 - August 27

Oregon started with a bang. A day after hitting the CA/OR border, we rolled into the amazing little town of Ashland. This small town (seemingly large for our standards) is home to the best breakfast I've had on trail, at Morning Glory, and a year round Shakespeare festival. Ashland is rounded out by a smattering of amazing restaurants and breweries too, it seems like something for everyone and a great place to take a zero! This is definitely a place I'll visit again after the trail.

As some of you know, I hiked the AT last year and concluded the trip with hiking partners Neemor and Adios. It turns out Neemor is also hiking the PCT this year but is walking Southbound. We'd been texting back and forth and knew roughly we each other was but the lack of cell service made it impossible to know exactly the epic high-five would occur. 

A funny sidenote; when I thought I was getting close, I made it a habit to start asking SoBo's (Southbounders) if they knew of him. I ran into one gentleman, typical thru-hiker complete with beard, buff, and one earphone in (you know, so you can hear a bear sauntering up to the beat of your favorite tune). I hesitate to ask because no one I'd met had heard of him but last minute thought what the heck. Of course replied he hadn't met Neemor but just as I was about to walk away he yelled "hold up a sec". It turns out he was actually on the phone with his wife back home, she had overheard our brief conversation and followed Neemor on Instagram. After a few silent moments, where I can only assume his wife checked Neemor's Instagram account, the hiker replied that Neemor was only a few miles behind him. 

Sure enough, less than an hour later, I saw that familiar face walking towards me in the trail, a heartwarming reunion indeed. 

 myself and Neemor!

myself and Neemor!

 2/3 done!

2/3 done!

 The beginning of the lava fields. This one was amazing though because someone, bless their soul, cleared most of the path.

The beginning of the lava fields. This one was amazing though because someone, bless their soul, cleared most of the path.

 after a forest burns, a new one grows

after a forest burns, a new one grows

 Entering Crater Lake NP on the 100 birthday of the National Park Service. Couldn't have planned it any better!

Entering Crater Lake NP on the 100 birthday of the National Park Service. Couldn't have planned it any better!

After entering the Park, the next stop for most thru-hikers is Mazama Village, a Campground, general store and restaurant a couple miles from The Crater itself. I'd been pulling some big miles days, 30ish, since Ashland and was completely out of food coming into the Village (which is actually a really good feeling because it means your planning was spot on) but it was definitly time to eat again. So I hope you can imagine my smile when walking out of the General Store with two packages! 

 protein packed power bars from The Goldberg's!

protein packed power bars from The Goldberg's!

The first was my normal resupply box, sent by my parents but inside had a special surprise from the Goldberg Family!!!

Thank you Goldberg Family! The granola bars had extra protein powder, which has been key in muscle recovery the further I get down trail. The recent high milage days had also left my muscles more sore than normal but I've noticed with the added protein in the bars I wasn't nearly as sore I I normally was the morning after eating them :) A true staple for thru-hikers!

Pam also included a recent essay she'd written about her cycling trip to Europe! It's an inspiring and encouraging read, especially empowering for women! Check it out at her blog: youcallitchaosicallitlife.wordpress.com

 

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The Feed Me Package from Ken and Karen!

Last year, while hiking in Shenandoah National Park on the AT, I met Ken and Karen. We flip-flopped back and forth a few times and they became familiar faces on the trail, treating me to a night at a hostel and sent out this care package! 

Thank You so very much for the package at Crater Lake! It absolutely warmed my heart that you remembered I love Pro Bars- so needless to say everything you sent was consumed rapidly!!

And the cookies, they were phenomenal!!! I shared a few and hoarded the rest in my food bag to eat later on trail :) Something to look forward to at the end of the day!

The card was so kind of you as well. You're words of encouragement were just want I needed at that time. I'd had a rough few days, but that rapidly changed when the ranger handed me the boxes.

 all the goodies!

all the goodies!

I woke up the next morning feeling great after all the amazing food from the night before and headed for Crater Lake. Hands down, this is one of the coolest natural wonders I've ever see in person. I think what surprised me most was the color of the water. It was one of the bluest bluest I've ever seen.

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 wizard island

wizard island

Taking my eyes of the beauty of the Lake was hard but finally it was time to move on. The next milestone was reaching the highest elevation we'd reach in Oregon and Washington, for the rest for the hike.

 the high point of Oregon and Washinton. Won't be above 7,569' for the rest of the trip (well, kind of).

the high point of Oregon and Washinton. Won't be above 7,569' for the rest of the trip (well, kind of).

It's all down hill from here, 

Outro

22: 52.49

(One time back in CALIFORNIA) Etna to Seiad Valley

The idea had been rolling around in my head for some time, it seemed I just need the right circumstances to attempt the challenge. Honestly, it may have all started back on the AT. After walking my longest day out there, 30 miles, I had always been curious to know how far I could push that number in a 24 hour period. 

Looking over the trail maps while at breakfast in Etna, components started to align. For one, the elevation map appeared flat-ish for this section (spoiler: maps lie). Second, a designated campsite just a few miles out of Etna landed me exactly 52.49 miles outside Seiad Valley- too close to a double marathon distance to ignore. The location seemed perfect, shooting the gap between town meant I would only have to carry a days worth of food, (lighter pack weight), the water reported mentioned many good water sources so no long water carries (lighter pack weight) and I was able to send home some non essential gear in Etna (lighter pack weight). 

The more I thought about the challenge, the more I convinced myself not only could I achieve it, but that this was my best idea ever. With every new sign pointing me to take this on, it was no longer a choice, but fate. Yes, I thought, I must be destined to walk these miles. Two things I forgot to keep in mind; Oh how the mind lives coincidence and hindsight is a powerful thing.

logistics: I decided my 24 hour clock would start at midnight so I would do the challenge in one calender day. To keep from cooking meals and loosing valuable hiking time, I brought only bars (like cliff and odwalla) peanut butter and pretzels. Lastly, I planned out my schedule so I wouldn't have to make to many decisions on the fly. Calculating milages for water and snack breaks would probably end poorly with the mental state I'd be in after such a grueling day. Because I'm the type of person that likes checklists, I split up the day into 4 phases. This way I could see my progress with pen and paper (and doesn't everyone love the satisfaction of checking off a listed item?!?!). Also i was abke to trick my mind into believeing i wasnt doing a 50+ mile day, i was only doing a 20 mile day, then a 15 mile day, and so on, managable chunks. And, in worst case scenario, if I was hopelessly behind schedule, I could just stop early and save myself some physical torment.

Phase 1:  21.6 miles

Phase 2:  15.7 miles

Phase 3: 8.7 miles

Phase 4: 6.5 miles

The day went a little something like this:

August 15- 11:30pm : wake up, pack up camp, eat a bar. Time for coffee? Naw, get to walking girl.

August 16: 

12:03 - Begin - screen shot it, in case I make it, there will be the doubters so document everthing. Also, I hope those three minutes don't come back to hang me later on.

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Mile 1611 - first break (10 min.) Stop and filter water at small Creek, about 3:45am

Around this time, I seriously considered giving up. I was extremely tired from only getting 4 hours of sleep the night before and the darkness playing games with my mind. Although the section appeared to be flat, it seemed anything but and the hills where made more difficult by the extremely rocky terrain. I swear every third step was a torqued ankle or stubbed toe.

The first miles also seemed to oscillate between an open rocky section followed by a densly forested area and back again.

The near full moon brought some comfort in the open bits, while my only source of light in the forest was the faint beam radiating from my headlamp, growing dimmer with each step. 'Oh, how I regret not taking the extra batteries Hurdy-Gurdy offered,' was my only thought. 

Perhaps I would have preferred no headlamp at all though, as I looked out to the surrounding forest, I was occasionally met with pairs of eyes staring back. The previous nights, most of the campfire chatter had been centered around the topic of mountain lions - recent sightings, how they attack, ect. - it was pure adrenaline hiking to put it mildly. The physical pain from the rocky sections had my wishing for the forested parts; the terror of darkness in the forest was mentally taxing, I wished to be back in the open. It was a vicious cycle only remedied by the light of day, around 6 am.

I'm not sure what kept me going during this time. Perhaps shear stubbornness, or perhaps the hope the lies in the rising sun. 

 hope on the horizon 

hope on the horizon 

Mile 1622.5 - break (30 min.) Stop and filter water, eat a snack, good job at completing phase 1! 

Mile 1627- break (10 min.) Stop and filter water at a seasonal stream, eat a snack

Mile 1632 break (25min.) Stop to filter water at Buckhorn Spring, eat a snack. I didn't originally plan to stop here but chatting with a South Bound Hiker earlier in the day, he mentioned this was a good source and not to far from the trail.  

 feeling great?!?!

feeling great?!?!

Mile 1638.2 - break (15 min.) Stop and filter water at a seasonal creek, eat a snack. Phase 2 is complete!

The next section was the most painful of the day. Although the terrain was no longer as rocky, and the second half of the day was mostly downhill, my feet just flat out hurt and I'm pretty sure I was loosing my mind. At this point I was having delusions that trees where hikers, boulders were cars and I may or may not have been conversing with myself.

 starting to get a little loopy.

starting to get a little loopy.

Mile 1646.9 Grider Creek and Campground (30 min). Filter water, eat a snack, ice feet in Creek until numb. 

 my cheeky side showing through. 

my cheeky side showing through. 

Now began the 6.5 mile road walk. At this point I was really glad to be on a road. The hardness of payment, compared to dirt, wasn't pleasant but by now every patch of grass looked like the world's best campsite. As tired as I was, I knew I couldn't camp this close to a road so my only option was to keep on walking.

 darkness approaching... ughhh, not again

darkness approaching... ughhh, not again

 the end screen shot

the end screen shot

Mile 1653.4 : 9:33pm stop walking

Delirious, dehydrated and delusional I rolled into Seiad Valley at 9:33. 21.5 hours of hiking and the double marathon day was over. Luckly, there was no hitch into "town" (more a small collection of buildings), the trail goes right through. Before pitching my tent at the RV park, I gave a little smile, a quiet chuckle and the same thought I had at the top of Mt. Katahdin passed through my mind, 'Yeah, I'd do it again.'

 goofing around the next day

goofing around the next day

Nervous I wouldn't be able to move the next day, I was relieved to feel so good. 

Take cae, 

Outro  

21: Mt. Shasta, CA / OR Border

California / Oregon Border - August 7 - 22

Hello Friends!

It's been an amazing couple of weeks, and guess what!?!??! I'm in Oregon!!! 

California was a beautiful state and I loved living there for nearly the past three and a half months.  

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 a logging operation right next to the trail.

a logging operation right next to the trail.

 Trail magic at Soda Creek right before hitching into Mt. Shasta

Trail magic at Soda Creek right before hitching into Mt. Shasta

I left Mt. Shasta around midday and started the multi- hour climb into the Castle Craggs Wilderness. That night I camped at probably my favorite spot on trail so far with views of Mt. Shasta and Castle Craggs as well as an amazing sunrise and sunset!

 At camp that night

At camp that night

 mt. Shasta 

mt. Shasta 

 Castle Craggs

Castle Craggs

 Darlingtonia californica  The California pitcher plant! Super cool to see in person.

Darlingtonia californica

The California pitcher plant! Super cool to see in person.

 another beautiful sunny day in CA!

another beautiful sunny day in CA!

Next stop, Etna and then Seiad Valley. See Blog 22 to read about my double marathon day walking between the two cities in one day!

Seiad Valley was our last stop in California, then on to Oregon!

 perhaps the most hugged tree in America!

perhaps the most hugged tree in America!

The slogan for California should be- "California: The Longest State Ever"

It feels so good to be in Oregon finally. This proved to be a huge morale booster for everyone!

 Fancy Lunch

Fancy Lunch

For our first lunch in Oregon we decided to have Fancy Lunch, complete with table cloth, plastic utensils, plates, napkins and stemmeded cups! Thanks mom, for sending out all the accoutrements in my mail drop :)

 First sunset in Oregon.

First sunset in Oregon.

I'm in Ashland, OR right now, taking a rest day after all the heavy miles we've done over the past couple weeks. This is a pretty amazing town too, glad to spend some time here relaxing.

Can't wait to get back on trail though, I can always hear it's call after a day in town.  

Outro  

20: Halfway There

CALIFORNIA - July 23- August 6

I've been trying to pick up my pace lately, I think everyone on trail has. Now that we're through the Sierra's, notorious for rough terrain and low milage, the race is on to beat the bad weather to Canada. I feels kinda silly to be thinking about snow while trudging through the hot Northern California landscape but I don't think I'm alone in my thoughts.

25 miles a day has proved to be a good pace for me and I'm holding up surprisingly well with no major injuries to speak of. On the trail though, everything can change so quickly. Injuries, weather, plans, most of the trail I actually feel as if I'm living in limbo, slightly ironic for such a prescribed route. Right now, however, things are rolling my way and I'll try to keep on, keeping on all the way to Canada. Hitting the halfway marker was the recent huge accomplishment but I think I'm more excited to get to Oregon. 

 entering the Desolation Wilderness

entering the Desolation Wilderness

 the beautiful Aloha Lake

the beautiful Aloha Lake

 part of the PCT was also the Tahoe Rim Trail

part of the PCT was also the Tahoe Rim Trail

 I love walking up mountains that are sky slopes in the winter. #hearthesarcasm

I love walking up mountains that are sky slopes in the winter. #hearthesarcasm

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 feeling hungry??!? 

feeling hungry??!? 

 Evac and I did a pack swap heading into Sierra City, it was really weird seeing someone else carrying your pack but so much fun!

Evac and I did a pack swap heading into Sierra City, it was really weird seeing someone else carrying your pack but so much fun!

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My next Feed Me treat came from my wonderful family, The Alletto's!!!

Thank you so much for the yummy bars! The good news- they were delicious and enjoyed by the crew :) 

The bad news, I forgot to take a photo until right before devouring the last one. 

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Two Feed Me's in one post!?!?!?!?

YEP! This one is from Grace! 

Girl, you rocked it! This box put a huge smile on my face and I almost made the same mistake as the last box. (You can see form the photo the fudge is mostly gone. Oh, and the bag of fudge bites, yeah, it's empty.) But I was able to restrain myself just long enough to snap a quick pick before the gluttony continued :) The Kansas city postcard and sketch pad were a special touch! Loved it, thank you!!!

  The Halfway marker!!!

The Halfway marker!!!

  Terminal Geiser

Terminal Geiser

 northern California 

northern California 

working my way to the border, 

Outro

19: Hey look, it's Half Dome!

CALIFORNIA - July 7 - 22

Here are some photo updates!

It was a jam-packed couple of weeks, headed off by a reunion at Reds Meadow! I hadn't seen Evac, U-Turn and Wolf through most of the Sierra's due to illness, so I was beyond extatic to start hiking with them again. They were total Rockstars too and did incredibly high milage through one of the toughest parts of the trail to catchup. Not an easy feat, and I'm so grateful they did. When location, environment... aura are constantly fluctuating, for me, familiarity become home. Suddenly, the forbidding forest becomes a scantuary, with the comfort of a familiar face appering from the trail's bend.

Hopefully we be back on the trail soon but for now we're in South Lake Tahoe, taking a rest day and feasting at all the amazing resturants!

 Our first day out from Red's - here's the Devils Postpile

Our first day out from Red's - here's the Devils Postpile

 fishing at Garnet Lake 

fishing at Garnet Lake 

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 entering Yosemite Wilderness at the top of Donahue Pass!

entering Yosemite Wilderness at the top of Donahue Pass!

 The top of the pass

The top of the pass

 more snow, coming down from Donahue Pass

more snow, coming down from Donahue Pass

 U-Turn and I got a sweet hitch down to the valley (the main touristic part of the park) an RV from a Canadian family!

U-Turn and I got a sweet hitch down to the valley (the main touristic part of the park) an RV from a Canadian family!

 Half Dome in the distance

Half Dome in the distance

 yosemite falls

yosemite falls

 not sure which way is up and which way is down

not sure which way is up and which way is down

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 the view from our campsite that night!

the view from our campsite that night!

 reaching 1000 miles! Such a good day:)

reaching 1000 miles! Such a good day:)

 group shot :)

group shot :)

 more secluded lakes

more secluded lakes

 U-Turn and evac

U-Turn and evac

 still seeing snow in July

still seeing snow in July

10/10 for sticking the landing :)

 sprinkles and homegrown

sprinkles and homegrown

 no, we're not going backwards...this is Kennedy Meadows North and Sprinkles' family came out to visit :)

no, we're not going backwards...this is Kennedy Meadows North and Sprinkles' family came out to visit :)

 the flowers are in bloom

the flowers are in bloom

 another pair of shoes down, managed to get about 600 miles out of these!

another pair of shoes down, managed to get about 600 miles out of these!

 the new ones! Special thanks to Jennifer at Backcountry for the amazing customer service getting these out to South Lake Tahoe!

the new ones! Special thanks to Jennifer at Backcountry for the amazing customer service getting these out to South Lake Tahoe!

take care ya'll, be back soon,

Outro

18: JMT

CALIFORNIA - June 29- July 6th

It was the best of times, it was well, the best of times!

This section of the PCT, where it coincides with the JMT and Sierra's, has been phenomenal! I'm still trying to digest all the amazing views I've seen and passes I've crossed over but this has been the most incredible stretch of trail for me so far. Now that I'm in Mammoth Lakes, CA, we've officially done all five of the major passes; Forester, Glen, Pincote, Mather and Muir and crossed two of our major river fords; Evolution and Bear. 

I was super glad I had my microspikes be used there was still some snow left on many of the passes but the spikes over my shoes gave me all the traction in the world trudging up and down the icy bits. 

 entering John Muir Wilderness!

entering John Muir Wilderness!

 I thought about having a swim out to the island and then reached down to feel the temperature or the water. Needless to say that plan was quickly nixed. 

I thought about having a swim out to the island and then reached down to feel the temperature or the water. Needless to say that plan was quickly nixed. 

 officially on the John Muir Trail!

officially on the John Muir Trail!

 this section of trail has been incredibly diverse- moving above treeline to densely packed forest patches. 

this section of trail has been incredibly diverse- moving above treeline to densely packed forest patches. 

 so many flowers are starting to bloom!

so many flowers are starting to bloom!

 I'm really going to miss these mountains!

I'm really going to miss these mountains!

 it's so nice when we can rock hop a stream instead of ford through it in our shoes!

it's so nice when we can rock hop a stream instead of ford through it in our shoes!

 so many hidden lakes! I'm loving it!!!

so many hidden lakes! I'm loving it!!!

 nomnomnom 

nomnomnom 

 just some deer, roaming free

just some deer, roaming free

 through the snow and ice cold water, dedicated soldiers to the trial.

through the snow and ice cold water, dedicated soldiers to the trial.

 these lakes were the bluest of blue, and so clear we could see straight to the bottom where there wasn't ice.

these lakes were the bluest of blue, and so clear we could see straight to the bottom where there wasn't ice.

 Snow bridge

Snow bridge

One of the most terrifying moments of my hiking career. Look closely, the trail goes right over a snow bridge. Didn't realize it until I was halfway over but directly underneath us was a raging river. A few more weeks of warm sunny weather and that bridge will likely be gone.  

 I hope this inst the edge of the Earth!

I hope this inst the edge of the Earth!

 the top of Muir Pass

the top of Muir Pass

Reading The Wild Muir, on the steps of the Muir Hut, while on top of Muir Pass, in the John Muir Wilderness. #Inception much?!?!

 took a little side trip down the Goddard Cajon Trail. Heard from some trial maintainers that it was worth it so took a chance and it definitly paid off! Here's just one of the many waterfalls I saw along the trail. Spent a good hour there just trying to take it all in and didn't see another person the whole 13 miles. 

took a little side trip down the Goddard Cajon Trail. Heard from some trial maintainers that it was worth it so took a chance and it definitly paid off! Here's just one of the many waterfalls I saw along the trail. Spent a good hour there just trying to take it all in and didn't see another person the whole 13 miles. 

 Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!

 leaving the John Muir Wilderness :(

leaving the John Muir Wilderness :(

 made it to mile 900! Only 6ish more mile to Mammoth!

made it to mile 900! Only 6ish more mile to Mammoth!

I'll hopefully be back with more shortly, for now it's bedtime- and in a real bed so... #sleepingintomorrow :)

Outro

17: Forester Pass

CALIFORNIA - June 25-28

Our next big milestone was hiking over Forester Pass. We heard from some south bound JMT hikers that the south and North sides of the pass still had snow so we were all eager to try out our Microspikes and ice axes :) For most of us this would be the first time ever using either!

 one last look back at Mt. Whitney

one last look back at Mt. Whitney

 facing Forester. The V with the crevice about 1/3 of the way in from the right of the photo is Forester- where we'll be passing over the mounting range.

facing Forester. The V with the crevice about 1/3 of the way in from the right of the photo is Forester- where we'll be passing over the mounting range.

 summit frog

summit frog

 who's excited to climb Forester!?!?

who's excited to climb Forester!?!?

 the view from the pass

the view from the pass

 We made it! (Along with a couple other random people)

We made it! (Along with a couple other random people)

 sprinkles looking bad ass with her ice axe and Yoda's crushing it with her Microspikes!

sprinkles looking bad ass with her ice axe and Yoda's crushing it with her Microspikes!

I had a little bit of trouble post holing because we crossed the pass in the afternoon but we all made it through.

 coming down the north side of Forester Pass

coming down the north side of Forester Pass

finally found a place where I had sure footing.

 panoramic of the view

panoramic of the view

Zuul glissading down the mountain - it's quicker than walking :)

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 part of the haze is from the Lake Isabella forest fire. 

part of the haze is from the Lake Isabella forest fire. 

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That night we had amazing trail magic! Up at Forester another hiker had mentioned that there might be some at a campsite about 7 miles from the top of the pass. We had only planned on making it just over the pass to camp but at the mention of TM we started hauling down the mountain and we were not disappointed! They had a shot of whiskey waiting for every hiker that came through as well as quesadillas and pasta for dinner that night. The people responsible for it all had hired mules to bring in all the food and goods!

Atthe the end of the evening we all moved from the campfire to watch the Alpenglow of the mountain and we're serenaded with guitar and flute music- truly a special night. 

The next day we headed down the kearsarge pass trail to Independence/ Bishop for some R&R and to resupply. Can't wait to get back out there, we have many more passes to cross over. 

On top of Kearsarge Pass. We'll have to climb back up this beast later today to get back to the PCT...

Outro

16: SEKI National Park

CALIFORNIA - June 19-24

Of all the sights I've seen in my life, the Sierra's have a beauty all to their own.

Although we'd reached the Sierra's, it took a few miles before the scenery caught up to it's reputation. Hiking out from Kennedy Meadows we were immediately struck with another burn area, the fire that ripped through this area couldn't have happened more than five years ago.

Living in the midwest most of my life, I'd heard of the drought and fires raging across California but to be honest, the distance made it hard for me to actually understand the consequences. Hiking through these areas though, has really put it into perspective the damaged that has been caused. Not only to the land and once beautiful lush landscape, but to the once thriving communities that are now struggling without tourism and permanent residence. 

 view of a valley on the summer solstice 

view of a valley on the summer solstice 

Around Chicken Springs Lake, the scenery really started to change as we we're met with dense forests and bright greens unfamiliar to our desert eyes. 

Unfortunatly, around this time Evac got really sick and headed to Lone Pine with Wolf and U-turn to get some proper medical attention. She's doing way better now though and I hope to see the three of them soon!

 Chicken Springs Lake, shower time!

Chicken Springs Lake, shower time!

 a few miles later, entering SEKI, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks! Our first NP'S of the trip

a few miles later, entering SEKI, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks! Our first NP'S of the trip

CLIMBING MT. WHITNEY

Yoda, Zuel and I took off around 12:30am the morning of the 24th - hoping to make it in time for sunrise on the top.of the mountain. After nearly 4 hours of climbing up the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 and in the dark, we made it while the horizon was just starting to show a faint band of yellowish glow. Mt. Whitney isn't technically on the PCT but the 17 mile round trip hike makes it nearly impossibly to pass up. And luckly we'd been warned too how cold it was up there, so while we're able to leave most of our gear at base camp, we packed out all of our clothes and sleeping bags. 

 Sunrise from the edge

Sunrise from the edge

 sun and moon in the same photo

sun and moon in the same photo

 just another warning sign

just another warning sign

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 looking out over the edge

looking out over the edge

 the shelter on top

the shelter on top

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 don't Let It Go

don't Let It Go

 sprinkles and I

sprinkles and I

It was all dark on the way up so the hike back down was quite spectacular to see what I'd walked by without even knowing.

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 some of the trail still had snow on it, not so much fun in the dark. 

some of the trail still had snow on it, not so much fun in the dark. 

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next, we'll start walking over the passes,

Outro

15: Kennedy Meadows

CALIFORNIA

The gateway to the Sierra Mountains!

I arrived to the legendary Kennedy Meadows early on the morning of the 18th to a standing ovation - one of the coolest moments I've had on trail so far! It's an amazing tradition which I wasn't awear of until Evac told me about it a couple weeks before we got to Kennedy. As it goes, Kennedy Meadows is a pretty small place, population 200 (I think they accidently added an extra zero), but for thru-hikers it's mainly just about the General Store and the porch out front is the place to be. (Go re-watch Wild, the KM General Store makes an appearance). Anyway, the tradition goes that every time a thru-hiker makes it to the G.S. everyone around stops what they're doing to give the new arrival a welcome and deserved round of applause.  

The night before, Wolf and I camped a few miles outside of KM and I was so excited about getting there, I hardly got any sleep. At first light I packed up and headed onward and to sweeten the deal, my next food challenge package was waiting for me too. Wolf decided to sleep in a bit since we'd all agreed to take a nero that day and didn't have many miles to do. Meanwhile, Sprinkles, Home grown and Pineapple we're already waiting at Kennedy after getting ahead a day when some of us zeroed in Kernville (another really sweet trail town known for their white water rafting). And Evac, Yoda, Zuel and U-Turn were hot on our heels coming into KM the same day. 

 the meadow, the mountains are getting closer :)

the meadow, the mountains are getting closer :)

Not only was the arrival applase amazing, it was a complete reunion of the Wolf Pack which is always cause for massive celebration! I'm so glad to be hiking with such an amazing crew!

 town limits

town limits

 the General Store

the General Store

After tearing up from the warm welcome, my first mission was to devour the contents of the food challenge box, cardboard possibly included :) But what was inside this one?!?!? Only one way to find out!!

Stephanie!!!,  

The box was more than i could have ever hoped for! Homemade treats are just the thing thru-hikers crave after eating so much "just add water" food and on top of that, Stephie Poos Energy Balls (she named them, not me), were downright phenomenal!!! They contained all the delicious goodness (chocolate, peanut butter, oats, coconut oil!!!) that's hard to get out on the trail and we're vacuum sealed so I could enjoy all of them at my leisure, (over the course of an hour :) I'm definitly going to have to get the recipe from you for the future!

And the other items were icing on the cake after a though 700 miles trudging through the desert. So many thoughtful things; chapstick, hair ties, emergen-c, endurance gel, just to name a few. All things a thru-hiker wants and craves :) Thank you so much for all of it; the package and the letter - quite the pick me up and at just the right time. Can't wait to thank you in person next time I'm in Chicago!

 It's here! The next food challenge package! I'm so happy I'm flying :)

It's here! The next food challenge package! I'm so happy I'm flying :)

 the contents of the package, so much good stuff!

the contents of the package, so much good stuff!

 confirmation I'm on the right trail, thankfully 

confirmation I'm on the right trail, thankfully 

Still heading north, 

Outro

14: Letter to the Desert

CALIFORNIA - June 9-17

Dear Desert, 

I'm not sure how to say this, so I'll just be blunt, it's over. I thought we we're perfect for each other but I've moved on. You know i love the the blistering heat between us but you know what they say about too much of a good thing. And I'm not sure we can rekindle the flame, because actually, fires aren't allowed. 

Either way I think we shouldn't be together anymore. It's not you, it's me, well, actually no, it's you. I just felt you're always staying in the same place while I was moving forward, mainly north that is. And lately I feel there's become a distance between us, about 150 miles roughly. 

Don't worry though, I'll still visit on vacation and maybe for the winter holidays because you know how I feel about the cold.

I'm sorry though, I've moved on, and if you really must know, I'm seeing the Sierra's now. Anyway, I think it's all for the best. On cold nights, I'll probably miss your warm embrace. I'll always remember you and the times we shared together. 

Goodbye for now, but not forever, 

Outro

 the last of the wind farms

the last of the wind farms

 joshua trees

joshua trees

 Spacemn, Linda, Evac and U-turn

Spacemn, Linda, Evac and U-turn

 fresh cobbler at Linda's house

fresh cobbler at Linda's house

Our amazing trail angle host, Linda, in Tehachapi! She is a truly amazing women who has traveled and hiked all over the world. She was so wonderful opening up her house to us which was basically a museum with artifacts from all the spectacular places she's been around the world. And right now she's off hike the Camino de Santiago! Thanks again for your wonderful generosity and happy hiking!

 typical views of the desert

typical views of the desert

 an amazing water cashe left by our friends Spaceman and Flamin' Hot!!! It saved us from a 30 mile no water stretch. 

an amazing water cashe left by our friends Spaceman and Flamin' Hot!!! It saved us from a 30 mile no water stretch. 

 more desert

more desert

 when there's no shade, I brought my own! Time for a mid-day nap to wait out the hottest part of the day. 

when there's no shade, I brought my own! Time for a mid-day nap to wait out the hottest part of the day. 

 1/4 of the way done!!!

1/4 of the way done!!!

Mile 700!

On to Kennedy Meadows,

Outro  

13: Case de Luna

CALIFORNIA - June 1-8

It's been a wild and amazing start to the month of June! 

On June 1st, we made it to the Anderson's or as it's better known, Casa de Luna. I'm feeling a little bit spoiled at this point with all the trail angles on this section of the trail. The Sauffley's and Anderson's are two of the most famous PCT enthusiasts on trail and are located only a few days apart from eachother. 

 The front yard of the Anderson's, there were probably about 40 hikers there that night. 

The front yard of the Anderson's, there were probably about 40 hikers there that night. 

The Anderson's backyard is an old Manzaneda forest, with a ton of tent sites built up by the thousands of hikers that have stayed there over the years. 

 the path to get back to the tent sites. It's a little confusing during the day so you can imagine walking back there at night after a couple beers :)

the path to get back to the tent sites. It's a little confusing during the day so you can imagine walking back there at night after a couple beers :)

 My tent nestled among the trees

My tent nestled among the trees

 The Anderson's are famous for their Hawaiian shirts and taco salad dinner! Upon arrival everyone is given a hawaiian shirt so you have something to wear while you do laundry. Also this way the locals can all tell who the hikers are :)

The Anderson's are famous for their Hawaiian shirts and taco salad dinner! Upon arrival everyone is given a hawaiian shirt so you have something to wear while you do laundry. Also this way the locals can all tell who the hikers are :)

 Time for a new pair of shoes! Got about 500 miles out of these!

Time for a new pair of shoes! Got about 500 miles out of these!

 Headed into LA for a few hours to get a new pair!

Headed into LA for a few hours to get a new pair!

 Our crew the next day at the Rock Inn, a few miles after leaving the Anderson's.

Our crew the next day at the Rock Inn, a few miles after leaving the Anderson's.

 Reaching a huge milestone: mile 500! And made it there with the best crew on trail!!! (L-R) U-turn, Yoda, Wolf, Sprinkles, Home Grown, me, and Evac! 

Reaching a huge milestone: mile 500! And made it there with the best crew on trail!!! (L-R) U-turn, Yoda, Wolf, Sprinkles, Home Grown, me, and Evac! 

Our next stop of trail was Hiker town. This is a small collection of buildings made for hikers as a refuge in the desert. It was a pretty bizarre place but a good location to have mail drops sent be used it' right on trail.  The trail was nicely graded and mostly downhill coming into Hiker Town which was so nice because I basically ran the last 8 miles into town when I remembered the next Food Challenge package was waiting for me from Maggie!

 A shot of some of the buildings in Hiker town. It's sort of similar to a wild west movie set in that all the buildings were made at about half scale. 

A shot of some of the buildings in Hiker town. It's sort of similar to a wild west movie set in that all the buildings were made at about half scale. 

Ah, Maggie! 

Girl, thank you sooooooo much! The treats were phenomenal! Homemade granola bars and chocolate covered coffee beans (And all dairy free) sooooooo tasty! I hate to admit it, but I scarfed all the bars in one sitting :) I had enough self control though to save the espresso beans as little energy boosts for the night hike the following day. The homemade dehydrated apples and fruit leathers were an amazing touch too! We can never seem to get enough of that stuff out here. I can't wait to come and visit CO in the future :) 

 jumping for joy after getting the package!

jumping for joy after getting the package!

 the contents of the box! Some of thru-hiking brownies are already missing...oops

the contents of the box! Some of thru-hiking brownies are already missing...oops

The following day we headed out of Hiker town in the evening and decided to night hike the next 17 miles to stay out of the heat. 

 walking along the LA aqueduct!

walking along the LA aqueduct!

 Walking on top of the LA aqueduct!

Walking on top of the LA aqueduct!

 taking a break 

taking a break 

 sunset on our night hike.

sunset on our night hike.

 walking by the wind turbines 

walking by the wind turbines 

 we find any bit of shade we can to stay out of the heat when taking a break. 

we find any bit of shade we can to stay out of the heat when taking a break. 

 can you spot our next climb? 

can you spot our next climb? 

 sunrise over the wind turbines 

sunrise over the wind turbines 

 Technically we're finished with the desert section but the next 200 hundred miles from Mojave to Kenedy Meadows is the driest section on the entire PCT. 

Technically we're finished with the desert section but the next 200 hundred miles from Mojave to Kenedy Meadows is the driest section on the entire PCT. 

Another week and we'll be heading into Kenedy Meadows, the gateway to the Sierra's!!! Trying to stay hydrated for now!

-Outro