Day Five: Hot Legs Saves My Life (Or At Least My Feet)

Zero in Mt. Laguna
0 miles hiked

(I didn’t take a lot of photos this day because I was mostly hobbling around town, and also uploading photos to the WordPress app is a HUGE pain in the ass, it turns out, so excuse the lack of images. I probably won’t be able to be as particular about the way this blog LOOKS while I’ll updating from trail – it’s pretty taxing just to get the words written and posted, let alone make things look nice. Head to my Instagram, @vanessatakesphotos, for more visual stuff. Thanks for understanding!)

I wake up at 8am to my alarm and intense throbbing in my feet. Fuck. My blisters feel worse than yesterday, which I didn’t know was possible, so I suppose an optimistic take would be to say the day began with wonder and amazement! I wipe drool off my cheek just as Mike walks by my tent. “Did you just wipe drool off your face,” he asks. “Yep.” Hello, happy Monday.

My friends are all packing up their gear and talking about hiking out today and I’m suddenly really sad. They’re all leaving, I’m so slow, I got stupid blisters even though I researched my shoe and sock scenario so much…I’ll never catch up to them. Bye, tiny trail family.

I’m being dramatic and absurd, I know. But my feet hurt so much and the idea of hobbling to the lodge or the gear shop or fuck, Canada, is so demoralizing that I start crying. Everyone crowds around my tent to say sweet comforting things. Why are these people so nice to me?! “We’re not saying goodbye, Scissors,” Cate tells me. “You’ll catch up. We’ll see you in Warner Springs, or before that!” I don’t know if I believe her but it’s so nice of her to say. They are all packed up and heading to the restaurant for breakfast, but I want to be sure I’m at the lodge at 9am sharp so I can hopefully get a room for tonight. I don’t bother taking my tent down – what if there isn’t a room and I have to come back? I borrow Lynn’s sandals and shuffle over to the lodge. It’s less than a quarter of a mile away and it takes me approximately twenty minutes to get there. I try to think positively: I’m learning so much about patience! And persistence! Look at what a body is capable of! Here you are in your body, Vanessa! Ouch.

I get to the lodge and Hot Legs and Mike from the gear shop are sitting on the porch. “Hi Wonderful,” Hot Legs greets me, and I grimace. “How are the feet?” I explain that I’m going to try to get a room and then I’ll meet them at the gear shop to deal with my feet as we discussed yesterday. I’m just praying these kind men can fix my feet. I don’t know what else to do.

The man at the lodge front desk (which is also the general store front desk) tells me I can be #1 on the waitlist for a $90 room. Well. I say yes please – what else is there to stay? I didn’t intend to drop so much money on a room so early on, but I really want a clean place I can shower and keep my feet elevated and let my blisters try to heal. So I’m on the waitlist for a $90 room. Okay!

I limp outside. Hot Legs and Mike are still there but Mike’s getting ready to leave and disappears to get his car. I tell Hot Legs I’ll see him at the gear store but it might take me a while. When I turn to leave, there’s Mike and his car, waiting for me. Oh my god. I open the door and get in and look at Mike to make sure this is what he meant and he nods and I try not to cry and I say, thank you, and he wordlessly hands me an apple and then I really almost burst into tears again. Fresh produce is gold to a hiker. Everyone is being so nice to me. I don’t know why I’m surprised – maybe I’m not, I know the PCT is filled with incredible humans – but I’m moved. Mike drives me the literal .2 miles from the lodge to the campground and I say thank you thank you thank you. He waves it all away. “See you at the store,” he says. I nod and he drives away.

I pack up reasonably quickly but I’d like to become faster. I assume I will. I’m still a little worried about butt chafe so I decide to wear my hiking skirt for prime ventilation. Normally I’d be worried about my thighs chafing in that but I’m not walking very far today. It works great and I’m stoked to have my skirt for town time throughout the trail.

Getting from the campground to the store is excruciating. I’m wearing Lynn’s sandals, my pack’s on my back, and I’m gripping my hiking poles and my trail runners in my hands. But I get there eventually and I’m the first hiker there and everyone enthusiastically greets me. I drop my stuff and Mike asks if I want a foot soak. Oh my god yes please. He puts Epsom salts in a tub and adds cold water. “Some people like hot water but I like cold for soaks – it draws everything to the surface.” I’m so grateful I don’t even know what to say. Mike puts a chair in the sun and instructs me to soak for half an hour. I obey. My feet are so happy.

While my feet are soaking I get to watch other hikers come through. The store staff is incredible. Owned by a man named Dave and famed for its thorough gear shakedowns, it’s an institution on the PCT. 42 miles in, it’s the spot where hikers stop and reevaluate their gear, chuck stuff that’s not working, and check out the killer hiker boxes. A hiker box is like a free box, but hiker-specific. All along the trail these boxes exist at businesses and trail angel’s houses – you dump your stuff that you don’t want and it may be someone else’s treasure! The boxes at the gear shop in Mt Laguna are particularly epic because of the thru-hiking gear learning curve. There’s a full box of shoes, a full box of extra Sawyer filter paraphernalia, a lot of Nutella, and a bunch of other stuff. I ask for one of the jars of Nutella from my perch at the foot soak and tuck in to some for breakfast. Yum.

More hikers trickle in as the day progresses and it’s fun to watch and listen. Many do shakedowns. I eavesdrop on Mike’s shakedowns and learn new things, including how to pack my pack more efficiently. My friends come back from breakfast and Sarah joins me at the store to continue her search for the perfect pack. Yesterday she was dubbed “Shakedown” because she’s gotten so many since starting the trail. She never had a ridiculously high baseweight – she just likes hearing everyone’s opinions about her gear. The rest of the pack heads to the store and I request a bag of potato chips as I continue to soak my feet. We’re about to be ready for the surgery aspect of the day.

Hot Legs comes over and literally saves my life. (Hi Hot Legs, I love you and so does my mom.) He explains to me why sterilizing the needle and using thread wasn’t really working for me (the flame apparently doesn’t actually sterilize the needle and the thread is often dirty so I was basically inviting bacteria into my wounds) and says the way to go is: alcohol wipes, a small knife, moleskin, antibio cream, and leukotape. Okay, take two.

He then proceeds to painstakingly cut/pop six of my blisters. Cate has, indeed, brought me a bag of chips from the store (THANK YOU CATE AND MIKE AND SHAKEDOWN AND LYNN FOR TAKING SO MUCH CARE OF ME ALL THE TIME) and I munch on them through the procedure. “This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,” I tell Hot Legs. He shakes his head like it’s no big deal but it’s a huge deal. He’s sitting on the ground in front of the gear shop cutting my blisters, covering them in ointment, and then meticulously taping them for me. When I mention that I’m hoping to get a lodge room tonight and wish I could air them out but don’t want to ruin his hard work he doesn’t bat an eye. “Air them out tonight,” he agrees. “I’ll tape them for you again tomorrow.” Who is this guy?!? I call my mom and tell her what’s happening. “I love Hot Legs!” she exclaims. I cover the receiver and say, “Hey, Hot Legs, my mom loves you!” He chuckles. “I love your mom,” he says. Everyone around us laughs too. I love everyone. My feet are fucked but the trail is still magical.


While I’m on the phone with my mom I get a call from the lodge saying they have a room available for me tonight. I’ve never been so excited to give someone $90. I spend some more time at the gear shop – Hot Legs does a brief pack shakedown for me but we’re not really aiming to change too much of my gear. “I love all my gear,” I tell him at the beginning and he laughs. “I know, I read your blog about it!” He does help me shave down my miscellaneous items and we make a small pile of things for me to send home. He also promises to help me look at new socks and shoes tomorrow – I don’t think my set up is working for me. I also make a very important purchase at the end of my day at the gear store: flip flops! They’re $2 and it’s the best money I’ve ever spent. I now have camp shoes! Bless everything.

Right before I leave for the hotel I notice something: I just got my period. I feel it before I’m bleeding all over everything, thank goodness, and while it’s really not ideal I can’t help but laugh. Maybe that’s why I was crying so much on the trail yesterday! I go to the bathroom with a tampon and wonder to myself if I’m gonna be brave and use my diva cup this week or if I’m gonna be lazy and pack in and pack out tampons. We shall see.

Hot Legs The Saint offers to drive me and my pack to the lodge, and embarrassing as it is to accept a ride that close, I shamelessly do. The guy at the front desk gives me a bucket and some soap to do my laundry (to avoid guests doing it in the sink or bathtub) and then I’m set. I say bye to Hot Legs and settle into my huge luxurious cabin. It feels absurd to have this on night number five but it also feels amazing.

I call my mom and dad and chat for awhile. I talk to Alley, too. My brother calls me and we chat. I buy some junk food at the store before it closes and they have cans of Diet Coke and I am SO HAPPY about that. I realize I’ve only eaten chips and Nutella today – oops. I’ll do better tomorrow when I need good fuel for hiking. I’m really hoping to hike out tomorrow – fingers crossed.

I do my laundry in the bucket, I shower, I tend to my feet. I text friends, work on my blog. I talk to Alley again. Carrot comments on my Instagram post about my blisters and then messages me to see if I wanna talk on the phone about everything and I say yes so we do. She’s so comforting – any problem I have, it feels like she’s had too or knows someone who has and she’s just very matter of fact and relaxed about everything. “I’m so glad you’re on the trail,” she says, talking about how excited she was to read my blog post from day one. “Well I’m glad, because you’re the reason I’m on it,” I say. She laughs that off, but it’s true.

Maybe it’s silly to take a zero so early, but I’ve gotta admit I’m happy. I’m clean, I’ve spoken to so many people I love, I’m organized, and my feet are clean and drying out. Tomorrow I’ll eat eggs and bacon for breakfast and I’ll buy new shoes and resupply and hopefully, please please please, be able to hike out.

I continue to feel so lucky to have such an expressive cheering section. Thank you all for reading. More soon!

Day Four: Crying my way to Mt Laguna

Mile 32 to mile 42
10 miles hiked

It’s cool to wake up and see the beautiful campsite in the daylight.

My feet are a mess. I should have dealt with my blisters last night but I just couldn’t. Fuck. Cate and Mike are getting ready quickly this morning; I know they don’t want a repeat of yesterday and are anxious to get to Mt. Laguna. They have a box there and Cate wants to buy new shoes. I suspect I won’t hike with them at all today. (I’m right.)

I can’t decide if I should make hot breakfast – I haven’t done it yet this trip – but Cate encourages me to before she leaves. “It’ll make you feel amazing and it won’t take too long.” I think she’s right. I make two packets of oatmeal with chocolate hazelnut butter and dried blue berries and it’s incredible. I’ve gotta figure out a better system to wash my pot though – it’s kind of gross right now.

I chat with Lucky Strike and Hot Sauce about blisters and other hiking they’ve done before I leave. Lucky Strike asks about my trail name and I tell him the story; he says it’s one of the best ones he’s heard.

I head out of camp and know it’s going to be a rough day. My feet. They just hurt so much. Everyone starts to pass me, a pattern I usually don’t mind but feels offensive today.

I have to pee so I take my bag off and hide behind some bushes. I look around and it’s stunningly beautiful. But my blisters are making me go 1 mph on “easy” trail and I suddenly miss Alley so so much and then before I know it I’m crying. That will be a theme for today.

I check to see if I have service and I do. I don’t want to scare or upset anyone but I need to text my people. I send Alley a million texts explaining how sad I am but assuring her I’m okay, telling her I’ll be in town later and may even take a zero. I text my mom and dad too, then I write a dramatic Instagram caption because I’m nothing if not a true millennial. It’s honest though.

I put my phone back on airplane mode and keep hiking.

The day continues like that, basically. People stop to offer kind words or hugs if I happen to be crying. Lots of people hear about my blisters and everyone has advice though of course none of it is the same rendering it mostly overwhelming and unhelpful. I try to take more breaks, eat more than I did yesterday, take my socks off and air my feet, tape my hot spots and blisters. They are really gross – the threading method Hoosier Daddy taught me at Lake Morena is not working for me and when I pull out the thread from a couple yellow pus oozes out. Neat. I keep crying and walking. I’m getting to Mt. Laguna today no matter what.

I meet cool people but it’s hard to focus because of the pain in my feet. Dana and Ann Marie, a pair of women who have known each other since third grade and have been friends for more than 50 years. Claire and Hannah, a mother and daughter who are doing the first 100 miles together (and then mom is carrying on solo!). My friend Tim from Oregon who has a sun umbrella. Everyone is kind and generous but I just feel so crummy. I try to remind myself I want to be here, and I do, but walking 10 miles when your feet hurt is a task. I know there will be days that will be worse than this one and I’ve gotta buck up, but today this is really hard.

I pass a nice man and he tells me I’m about an hour and twenty minutes away. I thank him but mentally adjust it in my head – for me and my poor feet that probably means like, three hours. Can I hike faster?

I check to see if I have service and I do. Everyone has left the kindest messages on my dramatic Instagram post – 30+ little notes from friends and strangers that are so encouraging and wonderful I start sobbing again. Alley and my parents have texted me too. Everyone believes in me, can’t wait to talk to me. Okay okay okay I can do this let’s go!

After what seems like forever I start getting close. The terrain changes to remind me of home – tall pines and the perfect smell that accompanies them – and I’m a bit buoyed. There’s a restaurant in town and I’m going to get there before it closes. I’m going to drink a beer and eat a hamburger. I can do this. I just keep telling myself that, hoping to make it true.

And then I’m hobbling into town! My feet are on fire but there’s the restaurant! I drop my pack in “pack parking” on the porch and ease my poor feet inside. A whole group of hikers are there and they happily welcome me – Dana and Anne Marie, Claire and Anna, and some others I don’t recognize. I order and inhale a beer and a burger and then I’m off to find my friends and figure out where I’m sleeping tonight.

A few hundred feet up from the restaurant is the gear shop, and all my friends! They cheer for me and I cry again. Hi, guys. A bunch of dudes at the shop have been helping them all day and one takes one look at my feet and says “oh yeah, you need new shoes.” How does he know?! “My feet hurt so much,” I say. “Come back tomorrow and we’ll do an Epsom salt soak and I’ll check out your blisters and we’ll get you better shoes,” he says.

Who is this magician angel man?!? He introduces himself: he’s Hot Legs, he knows Carrot, and he’s seen my blog because she linked to it. “I’m Scissors,” I say. I love him immediately. This trail is filled with so much kindness. I plan to be at the gear shop at 10am. Thank goddess, please let this man fix my feet.

My friends tell me we can all camp at the campground for free and I’m happy. I may try to get a lodge room tomorrow night if my feet are still so bad – the rooms feel expensive ($90) but I have to fix this problem. But for tonight I get to be with my friends.

Cate and Mike finish up at the store while Sarah (who has acquired a trail name – Shakedown!) and Lynn and I walk to the campground. Well, they walk and I limp/hobble/try not to cry. They try to cheer me up.

“I think you’re really brave, Scissors,” Shakedown says. “You’ve never been backpacking before and you decide to take on the Pacific Crest Trail!” I laugh. “Yeah, what an idiot,” I say ruefully. “No!” she chides. “You’re not an idiot. You’re amazing. And I know you’re gonna make it, that’s the thing. You’re gonna get to Canada!”

I hope she’s right. I’ve just really gotta fix my feet first.

Day Three: Accidental Night Hiking

Mile 20 to mile 32
12 miles hiked

I have the hardest time waking up. I didn’t sleep well at all – I was buzzed on sugar from all the soda I drank throughout the day, plus I had to pee but I didn’t wanna get out of my tent because it was cold. Holding my pee just made me colder (neat fact: your body heats the urine instead of the rest of you!) and I woke up every couple of hours feeling uncomfortable.

At 6am I’m stoked that it’s morning even though I only slept about six hours. I throw my shoes on and hobble to the bathroom so I can finally empty my bladder but it’s being cleaned so no one can go in. I’m frustrated – I don’t mind just peeing on the ground by the building but that seems rude at a campground where families pay. So I stretch for a few minutes and then the bathroom cleaning is done. I thank the man as he exits and sprint into a stall. Relief.

I shuffle back to my tent and start slowly getting ready. Sarah’s said she’s gonna be out by 6:30 but she’s still packing up next to me. Avo and Gabs pack up quickly and I feel sad that they won’t be hiking with us for the next stretch – Avo has hiked the PCT already and he’s taking Gabs to section hiker Warner Springs through the Sierra, his favorite section. Gabs says she hopes we’ll catch up to them, but if their hiking skills are anything like their tent set up skills I know they’ll leave us (or me, at least) in the dust. It’s okay. I’m learning quickly that part of the PCT is meeting amazing people and then saying “see ya later” without much fanfare. We’ve all gotta keep hiking, ya know?

The trail angels have made coffee and set out breakfast, and I make my rounds saying goodbye and thank you. The Wolverines and the other volunteers are incredible – I thank Hoosier Daddy, Scott Climber, Love It or Leave It, Avo, and everyone else who has been so kind. They’re staying in Morena for the weekend to welcome more hikers as they come through, performing trail magic and making us feel special. I snap a few portraits and exchange some contact info, and then I make serious moves to leave. My blisters are taped up, my laces are tied in marathon knots, and I feel good. I’m aiming for a 12 mile day and I think I might make it. For the first time I leave before Cate and Mike and I’m off!

The landscape today is totally different. Tall trees, shade, gorgeous views in this valley. I’ve seen rabbits all three days so far and I like to pretend it’s always the same one, following me up the trail. I also see a lot of lizards, scurrying around and sunning themselves on rocks. There’s glorious shade and my feet don’t hurt too bad. I’m hiking alone, like usual, and I like it.

I make four miles in reasonable time, to the first water source of the day. I break for a while – four other hikers join me, including Cate and Mike. I’m so gleeful anytime we all meet up on trail. Friends!

I take my socks off and put my feet up and write some of this post. The others chit chat. I think I’m gonna have to dig a cat hole soon. It’s noon now and only getting hotter, so I put my shoes and socks back on and head out. I’ve still got 8 miles to make today, ideally. Let’s see what happens.

Cate and Mike leave the water source before I do, and I know I likely won’t see them much for the rest of the day. It was a mistake to take such a long break so early on because it’s only getting hotter. I stop to try to dig a cat hole and go to the bathroom but my body won’t cooperate. We are going to have to poop outside every day for the next five months, I sternly tell my intestines. Get. Over. It. But no luck right now. Frustrated, I put on my pack and keep going. Fuck, it’s so hot.

Scott Climber had described this part as “easy, I love my life hiking until the 8” and that’s fairly accurate, though the heat makes it intense. I get to the highway pass and start climbing. And climbing and climbing and climbing. I live on this ridge now I guess, I think. A couple of hikers pass me. Here we all are – living on this ridge.

I finally catch Mike and Cate. I thought they’d be swimming in a swimming hole we’d heard about, but they decided for the sake of time to keep walking instead. I ask if I can hike with them – I’m usually not fast enough to keep up but it’s late enough in the day that I’m worried about night hiking alone and I’d rather be together if that happens. Good thinking on my part, it turns out!

I feel myself going faster than usual to keep up, but it’s mostly okay. We’re all aiming for Fred Canyon but the heat has really changed the game today. I later discover there was an advisory warning to hikers today from the forest service – don’t hike if you can avoid it! But we can’t avoid it, and we didn’t know, so we hiked. “Is this what Mars feels like?” I wonder out loud. My feet are starting to hurt a lot.

On and on and on. I try to stop taking photos so I can keep up. Cate and Mike aren’t going particularly fast, they just are faster than me. It’s a fact. I learn more about them: how they met, how Cate’s moral compass works (very well!), their favorite flavor of Stinger waffle cookies (that they continue to share with me, like angels). I like them so much and am so glad to have met them that first night at Scout and Frodo’s.

We reach a road and see a sign where the trail picks up on the other side: trail magic at Cibbets Flats, a campground a little further than we intended to hike today. Tacos and cold beer. Ugh. Mike looks tempted. My feet are dying. “Listen, I’m not gonna be able to make it more than 12 miles,” I say, wondering if I will even make it the 12 we’ve planned. “But if you wanna go you should!” I’m scared of holding Cate and Mike back, don’t want to be the weakest link. But they decide not to go either. Cate says her feet hurt too – she thinks her shoes are too small and she’s hiking in her sandals. Have I mentioned how jealous I am of everyone who has camp shoes?!?

We keep going. It’s stunning. The sun is setting and we’re walking the ridge of a canyon and it’s kind of terrifying but also literally the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I see windmills in the distance and the sky is pale pink, pale blue, with white streaky clouds stretched across it all. My goddess.

But the thing is it’s getting late. I’ve been hiking almost 12 hours and I only slept 6 hours last night. I also don’t think I really ate enough today – the heat distracted me. Fuck. I know better than that. Mike makes Gatorade and shares it. Why are these people so nice to me?! And also ugh, why am I the weakest link. I mentally add powdered Gatorade to the list of things I’d like my mom to send me. Duh, how did I not think of that before.

And then it’s kind of dusky dark. We’re going to be hiking at night. On this ridge, in this canyon. Um. Night hiking is a thing people do, especially in the PCT heat, but I didn’t really anticipate doing it on Day 3. Well okay. Cate sees a small snake and screams – she almost stepped on it and is scared of snakes. Mike insists we all stop and put on our headlamps – a very good ideas. Minutes later it is actually dark dark, and we’re still on this ridge, and my feet hurt so bad, and I’m praying we don’t die, which is dramatic, and also that we make it to camp soon, which isn’t dramatic at all but feels impossible. WHERE IS FRED CANYON.

Dark dark dark, beauty beauty beauty. As the light leaves the landscape continues to transform into even more beautiful shadows and shades. We’re all really speeding now – I’m sweating from the effort even in the evening cool – and all I want is to eat dinner and be sleeping. We stop for a moment right before getting to the campground and look to our left – the mountain peaks are black silhouettes against the sky as the sun finally disappears, leaving bright orange and yellow streaks in its wake, the absolute finale to this gorgeous sunset. We all stop for a moment. “I know we’re in a rush to get to camp,” Cate says, “but oh my god. What a moment.” It is such a beautiful moment.

We push on and suddenly see headlamps! We’re here! Oh my god we’re here. Thank you, thank you.

It’s emptier than we anticipated because of the trail magic just a mile up, and I’m so relieved. We easily find space to pitch our tents and I do a pretty good job, if I do say so myself – I use the principles Avo taught me yesterday and make a nice tight geometrically sound shape out of the cuben fiber and guy lines. Cate and Mike continue to be actual angels and tell me, in hushed tones so as not to disturb the people already sleeping, that they have an extra premade dinner and do I want it? Yes yes yes. I know it has dairy in it when I accept it – they later feel so terrible about this but I’m an adult and it’s totally on me to have made that decision – but I am so excited anyway. I boil water and make it and then take it to my tent so I can finish up my bed chores and go to sleep!

I blow up my air mattress and set my things up how I like them, sort of. I’m still getting the hang of it. I shovel the dinner into my mouth so fast – it’s delicious, and the fake powdered cheese tastes incredible with the beef and spices. I’ll pay tomorrow, probably, but that’s tomorrow. I need to pee before bed and backtrack up the trail a bit to find a good spot.

Just as I’m about to drop my pants I see more headlamps – Hot Sauce and Lucky Strike, some hikers we met a few miles back, have night hiked here too. They tell me a few more hikers are following them so I try to pee fast and hurry back to my tent.

As soon as I lie down in my sleeping bag, expecting to feel immense relief, instead I feel panic – my butt feels weird. Do I have…the dreaded…BUTT CHAFE?!?

Are you kidding me, I think. My blisters are horrible, my knee is hurting, and now you’re gonna give me butt chafe too?!? ALL AT ONCE?! Hello Vanessa, welcome to the realities of a thru hike.

I want to nip this in the bud if I can so I rip off my long pants and apply so much Body Glide to my butt. Sorry for the TMI y’all, but this is real life. I decide to sleep naked on the bottom in the hopes of resolving this. I think hiking 10 miles tomorrow, all the way to Mt. Laguna like we’ve planned, with blisters AND butt chafe might actually kill me.

I expect to fall asleep immediately, exhausted from such a long day, but it actually takes a long time. Eventually I do.

Day Two: Trail Magic at Lake Morena

Mile 15.4 to mile 20
4.6 miles hiked

I wake up at 5am to quiet bustling all around me. A lot of people camped at Hauser Creek last night – there were maybe 10 tents when I fell asleep, and it seems a few more popped up afterwards – and now it seems there are a lot of people getting ready to hit the trail very early. I’m impressed, but not terribly motivated to get myself up just yet. I’m still feeling the strain of yesterday’s 15 miles, and anyway, I assume it will be cool until around 10am, like it was yesterday. Still hot, but totally manageable. This assumption turns out to be wrong, because of course it does.

Taking my tent down in the morning – it didn’t look much better than this when I put it up to be honest

 

The French couple that camped beside me and their friends leave at around 6am, and the campsite continues to empty out. I peer out of my poorly pitched tent to see if Cate and Mike have gotten out of theirs yet, but they haven’t, so I keep hanging out in mine. My stomach feels weird – I haven’t pooped in two days and I’m starting to worry that my body might be rejecting the idea of utilizing a cathole, which isn’t really gonna fly for 2,650 miles. I force myself to eat a Lara bar anyway and drink some water. I’m excited that it’s day two. Now I can officially say I’ve gone backpacking! Have I told you guys how the PCT is my first solo backpacking trip EVER? Surprise!

I start packing things up and eventually shimmy out of my sleep clothes and into my outfit of the day, which is the same outfit I wear every day. I decide not to wear my skirt – I like it, but I prefer the pockets in my shorts (no velcro and much deeper). I suspect I’ll really love the skirt in town, especially when I’m doing laundry. A lot of people wear their rain gear as a laundry day outfit, but I don’t have rain pants yet (I’ll probably have them mailed to Kennedy Meadows, in time for the Sierra) so I’ve been wondering what I’ll put on my lower half. Probably my skirt!

Anyway, once I’m dressed I hop out of my tent and continue to pack up. I see some people making coffee or hot breakfasts and wonder how long it will take to admit to myself that I am never going to turn my stove on in the morning and I may as well dump all my tea bags and powdered coconut milk out of my food bag now. Cate and Mike are now also up, and we discuss our game plan for the day. We’re undecided how far we’ll aim to hike today, but we all feel pretty confident that we’ll go further than Lake Morena. It’s only five miles, after all.

I wash my socks from yesterday out and safety pin them to the back of my pack to dry in the sun. Then I hit the “I’m starting my hike & I’m safe!” alert button on my SPOT, notifying Alley and my parents that day two is underway, and follow Cate and Mike out of the campsite and toward the steep climb that awaits us. It’s 7:30am, not bad.

Maybe I’m worn out from yesterday or maybe it’s hotter than I anticipated or maybe I’m just really out of shape, but the trail seems hard almost immediately and what I initially assumed might take me two and half hours quickly proves that it is going to take me more. I catch up to Cate and Mike and they offer me ibuprofen and a Stingers waffle cookie. I accept both gifts. They eat their cookies while we hike but I realize that eating ranks as one of the things I cannot do while moving (also can’t talk or really do anything other than try to keep my breath steady and put one foot in front of the other, to be honest) so I take a break and wave my new friends on. “I’ll catch up,” I say. I figured I’d see them again before Lake Morena but I’m wrong about that, just like I was wrong about the heat.

It’s 8:30am and it’s hot! I’m walking up up up and going slow slow slow. Something I’ve learned on the trail so far is that many people will say they’re slow, but I’m really slow. I often let someone pass me saying, “I’m slow, go ahead,” and they’ll say, “oh, I’m slow too!” and then we’ll hike for 5 minutes or so and they’re gone. I don’t mind being slow – it’s just the way I am – but it’s interesting and funny to see other peoples conception of the word. Maybe they really are slow in their minds, or compared to their friends. Maybe they’re trying to make me feel better? I don’t know! Anyway, I’m going up the trail really fucking slowly. We gain 1000 feet of elevation in two miles and I realize just how useless my training walks, two hours a day on flat paved neighborhood sidewalks in Portland, really were. “The only way to prepare for the PCT is to hike the PCT,” Carrot has said to me. Well here I am.

The incline continues and I try to remind myself how lucky I am to be out here. It’s beautiful, I say to myself, and it is. Lush green everywhere – so unusual for this landscape on a “regular” year. Water everywhere, too, though not on this particular stretch between Hauser and Lake Morena. I keep climbing up, slowly slowly, and suddenly it’s done. The trail dips down for a minute and then flattens out, turning into a perfectly pleasant flat-ish trek. I’m so happy! I did the first “hard climb”! It’s still only morning! My feet don’t even hurt too badly! I am totally gonna make it to Canada! (Haha!)

Soon I see three hikers I ran into yesterday, folks who are section hiking from Campo to Mt. Laguna. We chat about my gaiters and they ask about the scissors. I share that it’s my trail name, and they ask why. I anticipate this being a continuing theme. I tell them it’s ’cause I’m gay and their reaction makes me laugh. “Oh wow, we are learning a lot on this trail! I have some gay friends and I’ve never heard that before!”

“Are they gay guys?” I ask.

“Yeah…”

“Yeah, it’s kind of a gay lady thing. Anyway! See ya later!”

And I haul ass to scurry in front of them and stay there for just a little while.

They pass me soon enough and the guy has a phone in his hand. “This is our trail friend Scissors and she’s totally gonna make it to Canada!” he says, panning the phone over to me. I smile and wave, looking as charming as possible while shoving a chicken stick into my mouth. I think at first he is filming a video but then I realize he is probably FaceTiming a friend! Verizon doesn’t have any service in Lake Morena so I want to connect with Alley and my mom before I hit that point. I turn my phone off airplane mode and I have service! A few texts from both Al and my mom come through, and I text my mom back right away. Next I FaceTime Alley and she picks up! I just want to say hi and see her cute face, so that’s what we do.

I hang up with Al and keep hiking. I try to take “the perfect shot” of the beautiful tall flower growing out of a sharp cactus bush (a yucca plant maybe?) and I stupidly forget about how sharp a cactus spike is. In the pursuit of the picture I get too close and a spike pierces my knee. The pain hits quickly and I jump back immediately, yelping. I look down and sure enough there’s a shiny dot of blood on my knee. I laugh at myself – what a dumb injury. I debate putting a bandaid on or wiping it off, but I don’t have any bandaids, only Leuko tape, and it’s not really a big deal, just looks dramatic.

The cactus that attacked me

I keep hiking and there are a few more small climbs but nothing as intense as earlier. Soon enough I’m on a rock face staring down at a beautiful jewel of a blue lake – Lake Morena! This sounds so absurd, but in all the preparation for the PCT it never once occurred to me to dwell on the name Lake Morena. I knew it as the 20 mile marker, I knew it as the site of the now-defunct kick off event, I knew it as the first official place to get water on the trail in a regular dry year. But I never used my brain to think that the NAME OF THE SITE INDICATED WHAT IS PHYSICALLY THERE. I chide myself about this – come on, Vanessa. Get it together!

I leave the trail to stand on the rock and get some good photos of the view. It’s beautiful. Suede, the chatty Englishman who’s hiked the AT, trots by and I call out to him. I get back on the trail and just a second later I hear “SCISSORS!!” I turn around and there’s Sarah and Lynn, flying down the hill. I’m super impressed with all three of them – Suede camped at the 12 mile marker so must have been up early to make the time he did, and Sarah and Lynn both still had their tents up when I left Hauser. I let them all pass me and continue down slowly, excited to know I’m almost there.

Just as I approach Lake Morena two other hikers who also stayed at Scout and Frodo’s pass me. We all descend into the Lake Morena campground together and as I’m wondering how I’m going to find Cate and Mike, a group of dudes in neon green tshirts explode into applause. “Yeah, hikers!” “Hiker trash! Welcome!” It’s the PCT Wolverines, and they’ve set up some major trail magic.

Trail magic is anything unexpected or unplanned that occurs on the trail to help a hiker or brighten his or her day. It can be as simple as a ride when you really need one or a piece of fruit when you haven’t had fresh produce in a week, or as elaborate as…well, as what the Wolverines are doing. They’ve got a tent set up, coolers filled with sodas and beer, an array of food, and enough exuberance and kindness to charm the grouchiest hiker.

Hoosier Daddy checks in with me to see how I feel, and the answer is pretty great. My feet hurt a bit and I’m so jealous of everyone’s camp shoes – I wanted to bring a pair and all my ultralight friends said don’t bother, but fuck, I’m probably going to order a pair and get them sent to Warner Springs – I really, really wish I had camp shoes so I wouldn’t have to wear my trail runners and could be letting my blisters breath instead. More hikers keep coming down the hill and the Wolverines keep cheering. I drink a Coke and devour some asparagus and lime Tostitos.

The Wolverines are doing pack shakedowns, going over all the gear everyone has in their pack and suggesting things that are unnecessary and could be sent home, thus lightening the load. Cate loses a few pounds from her bag and later an Australian girl comes in with the biggest pack I’ve seen on the trail thus far and Hoosier Daddy helps her lose 22 pounds from it. I feel good about my pack but always like to hear from experienced hikers, so I ask for a shakedown, too. Love It or Leave It does mine, and he’s amazing.

Love It or Leave It is an older dude and a triple crowner – meaning he’s hiked all three major trails in the USA. He’s soft spoken and relaxed, with a casual confidence that I immediately trust. He looks me directly in the eye when he speaks. “I’m not going to tell you that you have to send anything home,” he says. “We’re just going to have a discussion.” So we do. We discuss my med kit and my toiletries, both of which can be minimized. We discuss the food in my food sack and what I should focus on eating out here (protein, he says – always protein). He tells me about the trail work he does around Lassen and advises me how to deal with my blisters. He suggests I figure out how much water I drink in a 10 mile stretch and then to only carry what I need, based on the next reliable water source. “You carried two liters of water you didn’t need yesterday, right? That’s 4 extra pounds,” he says. He’s right. He is really gentle and makes me feel good about my pack, solid about my choices. “Just always be reevaluating,” he says. “If you realize you’re not using something, get rid of it.” I take his photograph when we’re done, with my film camera.

Love It Or Leave It

 

After the shakedown I head to the bathroom building and I’m finally able to go; I immediately feel much better, but this only adds to my worry that my body is holding out exclusively for toilets that flush when it comes to pooping. “That is NOT gonna work, Body!” I tell myself. We’ll see.

More and more hikers continue to show up, and one of the Wolverines – Steve Climber – asks if I’m planning to spend the night here. He explains that this used to be kick off weekend, before it died, and The Wolverines are doing their best to make a mini kick off this year. It’s not a huge party but it’s turning into a really sweet gathering – honestly probably more my speed than the original kick off party was. Part of me wanted to do more miles today – 5 miles is a tiny day – but part of me thinks staying here would be ideal. “Canada’s not going anywhere,” Steve Climber points out. “You’ll still get there even if you spend the night here.” I know Cate and Mike were planning to hike on, and Sarah and Lynn too, and part of me definitely wants to keep up with my new friends. I know I’m supposed to hike my own hike but it’s hard when you’re stoked on connecting with new people!

The question resolves itself though as Cate launches into her epic pack shakedown, everyone starts drinking beer, and we learn that there is indeed a hamburger at the general store (I’d started that rumor based on a photo I’d seen on Instagram of @thebackcountrycook eating a burger here one week ago but wasn’t exactly sure where the burger could be acquired) AND the trail angels will be making a spaghetti feast later. Oh, and the angels purchased a huge group of campsites at the campground, so while PCT hikers usually pay $5 to camp, if we stay tonight it will be free. We all decide independently: we’re going to stay. When we realize we’ve each come to that conclusion on our own we’re excited. Our own little posse is forming – will we be a trail family?

It’s barely 2pm but I press the “evening check in” button on my SPOT. Alley and my parents now know I’m staying put for the evening.

Once we know we’re here for the night, we pitch our tents and get settled. Avo, an experienced thru-hiker who is here with his wife, Gabs, who I instantly adore, and who knows Chance from Bellingham, helps me set up my tent. I’d practiced in my backyard but the setup never looked the way it did on the zpacks website. With Avo’s help I learn how to set it up properly. It’s not so different from what I’ve been doing but it makes a huge difference. “My tent has never looked so good!” I gush. Avo doesn’t want any credit and keeps insisting I set up the tent, but it’s not true. I love him the way I love Love It or Leave It – I think I love anyone who has immense trail knowledge, could be a total jerk about it, but instead is kind and gentle and generous. Gabs is just as lovely as her husband, and we chat for a while about all sorts of things. She’s the woman I saw on trail yesterday section hiking southbound in a dress, and she looks effortlessly amazing, the way I wish I could look while hiking. I ask to take her picture and we set up a portrait under a tree. I’m excited about the portraits I’m taking of my new inspiring friends, the brilliant weird interesting people I’m meeting on this adventure. I can’t believe it’s only day two. I’m so glad I decided to spend the night here.

Gabs and Avo

 

Finally we – me, Cate, Mike, Sarah, and Lynn – all go to the store and order burgers. It is exactly as good as I imagined it would be. Sarah and I have a really nice long talk, the kind you have when you’re getting to know a new friend. She’s coming off a two year stint working in Alaska and she just blows me away with her experiences. We end up talking about politics a little bit and I’m so relieved about how open I’ve been able to be thus far on trail. The saying goes “don’t talk about religion or politics on trail” but so far, so good. At the end of our conversation Sarah tells me I’ve convinced her that voting is important and I feel honored and thrilled.


We eventually finish our meals, pay and tip, and mosey back to the campground. I got quarters at the store incase I decide to shower and I ask the group at the picnic table if I should, even though it’s kind of early. A shower after less than 48 hours? “Hiker trash don’t need no showers,” Hoosier Daddy scoffs, but Scott Climber, Avo, and Gabs all look at me like I’m crazy. “OF COURSE YOU SHOULD SHOWER!” Scott Climber looks at me very seriously and says, “I want you to be like the water and go with the flow. Take the path of least resistance. Be like a vessel and accept the things that come your way.” That settles it – I go to collect my shower things.

Hoosier Daddy and Scott Climber

 

My blisters are worse than I thought and I ask Hoosier Daddy for a very detailed crash course in how to best care for them. He tells me how to drain them and tape them properly, so I go to the shower with my quarters and my blister kit: a needle, thread, a lighter to sterilize the needle, gauze, and fresh socks. The shower lasts a luxurious ten minutes and I still have three quarters left over. I leave them in the stall to try to pay forward some of this kindness.

I’ve missed the spaghetti dinner while showering but I’m not super hungry after our late lunch and it’s getting late so I don’t worry about it. Our little crew sits at a picnic bench going over maps and water reports for tomorrow. Scott Climber had suggested camping at Fred Canyon, saying it was one of his favorite spots in this section of the trail. Cate, Mike, and I decide we’ll aim for that (a 12 mile day) but Sarah thinks she might go further. We’ll all see.

I filter more water while we sit, realizing I haven’t drunk any since arriving at Lake Morena. It’s easy to forget about hydrating when you’re not moving. We laugh and joke and tell each other stories. Cate and Mike dream of living in a renovated school bus, like the one at Barb and Susie’s. Sarah went to school for parks recreation administration and her first backpacking trip was a 20 day expedition! Avo and Gabs pass our table on their way to bed and they stay to chat for a while, too. They live in Montana and run a food truck together, Mountain Mama’s Burritos. We all joke that we’re going to move to their small town, where they don’t need social media to advertise their food and once a year all the women in town dress up as witches and go around cackling. (I’m not making this up.) Gabs notices my sparkly Smart Water bottles and I end up telling everyone about Alex, my magical sparkly unicorn friend who brings so much glitter into my life, and they are all totally charmed, as they should be. “You’re such a good story teller!” Gabs exclaims, and I’m touched.

The Wolverines have a fire going but its late and I still have to set up my bed and write this post. I say goodnight to everyone, filter another liter of water, and get ready for bed.

“I’ll just write a short post,” I think to myself. That was almost two hours ago. It’s okay. I know I can’t sustain this level of detail in my writing on the trail, at least not consistently, but I’m happy to do it when I get a chance.

I’m cozy in my quilt, lying in my perfectly pitched tent, listening to someone near me snore. The stars are out. I get to hike more tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. I’m so happy.


I’ll get a breakfast burrito from the store when it opens at 7am, I think to myself. And then I fall asleep.

Day One: Blisters and Blooms

Mile 0 to mile 15.4

15.4 miles hiked

I wake up in Scout and Frodo’s backyard at 1am, 3am, and then again at 4:30am. I finally let myself stay awake at 4:45. By 5:30am I’m packing up and inside eating breakfast that Scout, Frodo, and some other volunteers miraculously have ready for us. And I’m not talking about some random cereal selection – there’s a frittata, bagels, muffins, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, oatmeal…it’s a feast. I can’t accurately express how incredible Scout and Frodo’s hospitality is. I’m really blown away by it.

At 6am we all go outside to load up the cars. Another thing Scout and Frodo do (can you tell I’m in awe of them?) is organize volunteers in the area who want to drive hikers to the PCT trail head in Campo. It’s a good hour and a half south from where they live, so it’s quite a commitment. And yet, there are always enough volunteers.

I ride with Erika (hi Erika!) a kind, chatty, funny woman who hopes to hike the JMT for her 50th birthday in a few years (ideally with her kids!). Cate and Mike, a married couple from Virginia who I met yesterday, also ride with us, and Elyse, a woman from France who is here with her boyfriend (but he’s in another car). Erika tells us that she lives vicariously through PCT hikers because she’d love to do this trail. I ask if she plans to but she explains, “Nah, I’m kind of all in. You know, kids, house in the suburbs…” I thought that was a kind of neat way of saying it — “all in.” I’ll think about that a lot as I hike later in the day – what does it mean to be all in? All in on what? What do we each go all in on? And what about when the thing you committed to, “all in,” means you can’t do other things you’d love to do? I don’t have any firm answers – I just like thinking about it all. 

Our car is one of the first ones to arrive. We immediately see the wall that sits at the Mexico border and, of course, several border control vehicles cruising around. Later in the day, when I get to camp, I’ll hear border control helicopters circling above me and the other hikers as we sleep. It all makes me so mad. I want to take this moment to remind everyone about No More Deaths, the organization Carrot currently works with and Nora recently fundraiser for. The work they are doing is so important – please check it out and learn more about it

Anyway, the wall. Erika asks if we want to go touch it/see it, so we do, so we can say we officially started our hike in Mexico. Then we walk up to the monument to take pictures, a hiker tradition.  

A sweet girl, Lydia, who has the same teal Purple Rain skirt as I do, notices my gaiters on our way over to the monument and compliments them. “Scissors! Are you a hair dresser?”, she asks sincerely. I pause for just a split second before deciding to go for it: “Nah, I’m gay,” I say. Everyone laughs, including me. It feels nice to decide that it is okay to be obviously out with this group of people, even if I’m not going to be hiking with them indefinitely. I feel like it sets the tone for how open I’ll be as I continue up the trail, and that’s exactly what I want – to be out and proud and open. And my scissoring gaiters are really really awesome.

We take a million photos at the monument. I am really vigilant about making sure people don’t accidentally cast their shadows in the photos I take and the photos people take of me – whenever I look at PCT terminus photos I cringe if I see a million shadows in the shot. Get outta there, y’all!

I find a random dollar bill on the ground and laugh a lot because Alex helped me make a Manifestation List for this adventure before I left Portland and when I talked about wanting to call in financial abundance and ease for the journey she said, “say you want to find money on the ground!” So I said “I want to find money on the ground!” And here on my very first day, I do. I silently thank Alex for being magical – thank goddess for my friends. 

After we finish taking all our photos a PCT volunteer, Terminus Tom, answers our questions and gives us some last minute info. People start to head to the trailhead after that, but I still have to pee and take a film photo of the monument, and then a man who is dropping off his daughter recognizes me from my blog (!), and when I finally mosey down to the orange traffic cones marking the beginning of the trail I am all alone.

I put my feet on the trail and start to hike the PCT!

I’m surpassed by a few people in the beginning but I just keep my pace and soon it feels as though I am the last person walking in a long spread out line. I don’t mind that at all – I love being at the back when hiking because I feel more comfortable setting my own pace and pausing whenever I want that way. I hadn’t expected to hike alone all day – I don’t know what I expected but I mean, 50+ humans left the monument at around the same time this morning – but I do, indeed, end up hiking alone for almost the whole day. And I love it!

The first few miles are easy. The desert is so green right now, thanks to our unusually wet winter, and the flowers are blooming and blooming and blooming. I have to be strict with myself about how many photos I can stop and take because if I take the amount I really want to, I’ll never reasonably make it to camp tonight, let alone to Canada. I keep thinking of Gibbs and Diana, because they’re the best of all my friends at identifying wildflowers. There are just so many colors – pinks and yellows and whites and oranges and purples and and and. I take a few photos but they do not do the sheer number of flowers blooming in the desert right now justice. It’s incredible. I also see lizards and a bunny and a bird/moth that I initially think is a hummingbird but is actually totally unidentifiable to me. If anyone knows what I mean please tell me what it is!



A wet winter also means lots of good water sources in what is usually a waterless stretch. I stop to gather water at a deep, hearty creek at mile 4.4 and at a fast flowing cricklet at mile 7.8. There are numerous other opportunities to fill up water bottles, I just don’t need to be carrying more than 4 liters and with those fills I have that amount. It’s a real gift, the water – usually the stretch to Lake Morena is said to be so challenging because it’s dry, so everyone is carrying 6-8 liters when they start out. Not this year!

Which is not to say that this section is not challenging to me. It is! It is very challenging! I want to officially go on record saying that: I think the PCT is hard so far!

At 3pm I reach mile 11 and to be honest, I’m ready to stop. But I know Cate and Mike will be at Hauser, 4.4 miles ahead. I want to get there to camp with them! “Are you letting your hike be influenced by other people?,” I ask myself in a rhetorical way. I have to hike my own hike! But also, I reason with myself, it makes a lot of sense to camp at Hauser, because then I’ll be set up nicely to climb it in the cool breeze of 8am tomorrow. So I push myself on, and I make it. It takes me 3 hours to do 4.5 more miles, but I get there. 

When I arrive at the site a lot of people from Scout and Frodo’s are there and Sarah and Lynn (two friends I made yesterday) and Mike and Cate all cheer for me and it feels really nice. Right after my arrival everyone does “group stretching” which sounds amazing actually but I’m so physically exhausted and my left heel feels like it’s going to explode so I throw my tent up (very poorly, it looks horrible and I’m only half convinced it will stay up tonight) and crawl inside. I lie on the floor of my tent for a long time, maybe half an hour, not moving. Finally I get up and crawl over to Mike and Cate’s tent. They’re eating dinner and I’m jealous of their prepared meals – the kind of trail food I told myself I didn’t need and wouldn’t want. I want it now. 

We chat about a million things and then Mike says, “I have a trail name suggestion for you but I’m not sure you’ll like it.” I’m excited – I’ve wondered a lot what my trail name, the nickname every hiker is given on trail based on a funny story or personality quirk, will be, but didn’t want to force it – it will find me on the trail, I’ve told Alley for the past couple of months. Is it about to find me? “Well earlier when we were wondering where you were, I asked if anyone had seen you. And Sarah said ‘oh, Scissors?’ But then she was like ‘uh oh I’m not sure if she’ll like that, is that offensive?'” I burst out laughing. “Like it? I love it! Yes, I accept!” We all laugh. I’m Scissors. 

I eventually crawl back to my tent and attempt to make my dehydrated mashed potato flakes. I add kale and olive oil and salt. I was so hungry when I arrived at the site but suddenly I’ve lost my appetite. I have to force myself to eat – it’s kind of gross and also the back of my throat hurts, like it’s been scratched. Is that a sign of dehydration? (That’s a real question – please weigh in!)

I finish my gross dinner and assess my body: I have several blisters, my right foot hurt for part of the day but feels okay now, both knees have been better, and the back of my throat is still inexplicably really sore. I roll my eyes at myself. Definitely went easy on myself, definitely didn’t wanna break myself on day one. Insert eye roll emoji here. 

Thank you again for all the kind messages y’all sent after my last blog post and just in general all the support I’m receiving. I’m realizing it will probably be impossible to respond to each comment/email/IG message individually in a timely fashion, but they seriously encourage me so much and make me feel really loved and special. I’m grateful. Thank you. 

It’s 9:25pm, 25 minutes after hiker midnight. Time for bed. 

Goodnight! And with that I’ve logged my first day on the PCT! Only 160ish more…

Day Zero: Feeling Anxious at Scout & Frodo’s

I’m sitting on a couch at Scout and Frodo’s in San Diego, surrounded by other hikers who are weighing their packs, writing blog posts, and snacking. Outside there are three white tents filled with sleeping bags and packs, USPS priority boxes and Smart Water bottles. Alley is with me, flipping through the beautiful coffee table book Scout made honoring the Pacific Crest Trail. I wasn’t sure if Alley would be able to stay with me for the day, but Rolling Thunder, the volunteer who gave us a tour when we arrived here, immediately invited her to stay for dinner. So she will. I’m so glad. I’m way more anxious than I expected to be. So, so nervous, actually, and I keep feeling like I might burst into tears. I’m excited — of course I am — but fuck, I’m also so nervous!! I didn’t anticipate feeling this way. 

Home for the night – Scout and Frodo set up 3 big white tents in their yard and hikers set up our sleeping bags inside!


I wrote that first paragraph at 2pm this afternoon and now it’s 8pm. I’m still anxious, but less so. 

The neighborhood where Scout and Frodo live is filled with beautiful gardens – I found some California poppies in front of their house and they momentarily calmed me. I remembered how Tita taught me you can make an anti-anxiety tincture out of California poppies and I felt grateful for the plant knowledge I know now that I didn’t just a few years ago, and I felt excited for the future knowledge I may obtain on this upcoming adventure. What will I know about flowers six months from now? What will I know about everything six months from now?

 

It’s been written a lot in many different trail blogs, but Scout and Frodo and their setup in San Diego is truly incredible. For readers who haven’t been researching the PCT obsessively for months, Scout and Frodo are legendary trail angels who host PCT hikers the night before they start the trail. You can learn more about them on their website. They’ve been hosting hikers for 10 years and this year they are going to host 900+ hikers! It’s pretty cool to feel like a small part of a greater whole — I am experiencing right now what so many hikers before me and after me have also experienced and will also experience. And I haven’t even set foot on the trail yet!

This is what you see when you arrive at Scout and Frodo’s!

There is still so much movement happening in the house, although it is now 9pm and we’re waking up at 5am to leave the house by 6. I want to sit and write but I’m also anxious about missing out on anything. Anxiety anxiety – seems to be the theme of my PCT-prep / life. Ugh. I wish it wasn’t so but I don’t know how to let go of it, or I’m not trying hard enough to let go of it? I’m not sure which is true. I saw my mom in LA a couple of days ago and I told her, “I can’t wait to get on the trail because then I won’t be able to worry about any of this stuff anymore; whatever isn’t done just won’t get done!” My mom pointed out how nice that is. “It is,” I agreed. “It’s part of why I’m doing this, I think.” Alley laughed. “It’s a huge reason why you’re doing this!” 

I was so relieved when my resupply boxes were packed! One less thing to worry about. Thank you Susie for being an amazing resupply angel!

She’s not wrong. I’ve always had trouble shutting off, slowing down, making my brain take a breath. I usually don’t mind – I pride myself on some of these traits and definitely appreciate my “East Coast Attitude,” my “Capricorn Nature,” etc etc. But the truth is it can be tiring and it can be really uncomfortable. Some people know how to calm themselves, how to relax. They shut off their phones or they declare Sunday a “no tech” day or they just don’t make that millionth to-do list. I haven’t figured out how to do those self regulations. So I take myself to the woods, because then I’m forced to put my phone on airplane mode and literally turn off for a while. And I feel calm, and safe, and happy. I feel good.

I’ve written versions of this story about myself before, but it never stops ringing true. 

At the end of a hike in Sisters, OR last summer. I feel so good outside – I love this photo of myself so much because I remember how happy I was in this moment.


Anyway! I’ll be going to sleep soon. A bunch of friends have texted me and called me to say goodbye and I love you and I’m proud of you and you got this, and every message means so much. The truth is – I’m scared. I didn’t feel scared until today but now I am. I know I can do this. I know I will! But I’ve been feeling pretty chill about the whole thing and today suddenly I was crying into Alley’s cheek as she got ready to leave me at Scout and Frodo’s with my 44 new friends (LOL), whispering: I’m scared, what if I can’t do this, I’m scared. So thanks, everyone who has sent me sweet motivational loving messages. They are seriously appreciated and I love you all. 

I’m gonna do this! I’m gonna walk from Mexico to Canada! I can do it!

But first, I’ve gotta sleep through tonight. Wish me luck…

My face looks weird because I was anxious and had been crying but look! My pack’s all ready! Gotta go bye!