Mile 47.5 – Mile 59.5 + .5 (walk from the campground back to the PCT) + .5 (walk from Sunrise Trail Junction to water trough)
It was cold last night! I’ve been bragging about how I haven’t been cold at all yet on the trail but okay, I get it – don’t brag about anything because the trail’s always in charge. Got it, PCT. You win.
I felt pretty alone falling asleep – my trail friends are ahead of me now and the people I was camping with were nice but not super social. That’s ok, I tell myself. You wanted some time out from the world. Look, you’re getting it! I read Carrot’s book before falling asleep last night – it’s really fun and funny to read it now that I’m actually doing this, not just dreaming of doing it. I was worried that reading it would make writing my blogs hard because I don’t want to accidentally steal her style, but as soon as I “opened” the book (on my Kindle app, ha!) I knew that wouldn’t be a problem. We have such different styles and we’re having such different experiences! Anyway, I still only let myself read up to where I am geographically now on the trail. Don’t want to spoil anything for myself.
I got a good early start today. Up at 6, out of camp by 7:30. That’s still not very fast though. I sort of want to stop cooking and just cold soak my food – cooking is always a pain in the ass, both in the morning and evening, but I know I need big calories at both times and my “big calorie” things require hot water. If anyone has any suggestions for no-cook breakfasts and/or dinners that are very high in calories I’m all ears. I didn’t think I’d ever want to ditch my stove but it just takes up so much time!
Anyway, I tried to take advantage of the pit toilet at the site but no luck. I changed my tampon (SORRY RACHEL I JUST CAN’T DO THE DIVA CUP JUST YET UGH IDK) and filled up with water. I knew there were water sources soon and Love It Or Leave It would probably say to just take a liter, or less, but I’m more anxious when I’m hiking totally alone (not knowing anyone in front or behind of me very well) and I would be so mad at myself if I accidentally ran out of water. So I carry an extra liter, an extra 2.2 pounds, just to feel secure. We carry our fears, I know. At least most of my fears in this bag are pink and sparkly.
My new shoes and socks are great so far. Shakedown said she feels like she can skip down the trail in them and I know what she means! The tape Hot Legs put around my blisters (all six of them) is holding up nicely and walking is easy compared to a few days ago. Oh, and I dig a cat hole just a few miles past camp! (Insert eye roll at my body for ignoring the perfectly good pit toilet.) All in all I start the day feeling very good.
The good feeling continues as I rack up miles. I think today is my favorite so far! I’m initially nervous about how my feet will do but I gain confidence quickly. I’m not going to say I’m pain-free — actually, as my feet begin to heal my left knee is using the opportunity to start speaking up — but I feel like a million dollars compared to the way I felt a few days ago.
The landscape is breathtaking, the weather is perfect, and my feet are okay! What more could a person ever want?!?
I’m in the mountains for this section but not actually doing much climbing up or down any mountains, which is the ultimate win-win scenario. The scenery all day takes my breath away – but the hiking itself does not! I’m basically cruising through some of the most stunning vistas I’ve ever seen while barely breaking a sweat. It’s a huge ego boost and I feel myself start to relax. I’m alone – very very alone, I barely even see any other hikers all day, just a handful when they pass me – but that’s fine! It’s great! There are flowers everywhere and enough water and the purple blooms smell so sweet – I pause when I walk by them anticipating their smell, like I do with jasmine in Portland. I’m so happy.
I make sure to eat a lot today. I plan to stop at Pioneer Mail Picnic Area for my lunch break. It’s about 5 miles from where I started my hike today and has water. When I get there I’m impressed with myself: it’s just barely 11am! Some people on trail are already doing big miles – one of the mottos is “10 before 10,” as in, 10 miles before 10am. There’s no way I could do that, unless I got up at like, 4am. Which I suppose I could, but I have not been doing. Anyway, 5 before 10 sounds pretty impressive to me. I’m proud of myself for getting to my designated lunch spot mostly pain-free and ready to eat a lot of calories!
I have a lot of chores to do at lunch: I check to see if I have service but of course I don’t. I have it for almost the whole day but not during my long break. Go figure. I take my shoes and socks off to air my feet, I inspect my blister tape (still solid!), I change my tampon, I apply sunscreen, I stretch, I fill and filter my water…oh, and I eat some food. Lots to do! I try not to take too long – I want to keep hiking! Taking long breaks sometimes bogs me down so I experiment with using an actual timer. It semi-works.
Just as I’m finishing my break Christine, a German woman who was at Scout and Frodo’s with me the night I was there, shows up. I ask how far she is planning to go today and she laughs. “In German we say I’ll go as far as my feet will drive me!” She makes a motion as if she’s steering a big wheel with her hands and wiggles her hips. I laugh and so does she. It’s nice to share these small moments with other hikers, even if they’re just in passing.
After lunch there’s more beautiful hiking to be had. My feet feel SO good. I can’t wait to have gnarly callused strong feet in a couple of months but for today this is pretty grand. The landscape shifts ever so slightly as I round a bend and suddenly there are huge rock formations everywhere. It reminds me of Utah a little bit. The first time I visited Utah my friend I was staying with, Molly, told me lots of Hollywood movies about outer space are filmed there, like Planet of the Apes, “because it doesn’t look like earth.” That’s true. This stretch of the PCT does look like earth, just like the absolute best part of it – maybe the part we haven’t fucked up yet? I don’t know. I know where I am but it’s a perfect version of itself, if that makes sense.
Hike hike hike, happy happy happy! My tummy is doing some weird stuff and my left knee isn’t behaving perfectly but nothing can bring my mood down today. I do have service for most of the day (just of course not at that long break) so I text Alley and my mom and upload some Instagram photos when I take short breaks. I try to take my shoes and socks off several times over the course of the day, even just for 10 minute intervals. At one break I take my phone off airplane mode and a text from Carrot comes through:
Did I ever tell you… that the 1st month of yr 1st long hike is incredibly painful, with an almost incomprehensible learning curve 🙂 But it gets better after a month or so I promise!!!
I feel so lucky that Carrot is my friend. What if I hadn’t gone to the Femme Fortress that night in 2014? What if I had never met Carrot or read about long distance hiking from her perspective? Would I be here right now? I love thought experiments like that. Why is life the way that it is? I dunno! But here we all are.
My goal is to get to Sunrise Trailhead Junction and then walk the extra .5 miles off trail to get water. I’m planning to make dinner there and then hike back to the trail and do a few more miles until I find a good spot. I’ve been wanting to make dinner somewhere different than where I sleep and I thought it might make me hate cooking less – if I do it earlier in the day then it’s more fuel in my body to finish my day’s hiking, plus it’s not one more chore to do when I get into camp with only an hour of daylight.
I leapfrog with Christine for the end of the day, and then also with some French girls, Camille and Juliet. They tell me they’ve been dubbed The Twins because they have identical gear and even walk the same. As I walk behind them for a bit I see that they’re right – they do indeed walk the exact same. We all reach the Sunrise Trailhead Junction together. It’s clearly marked, but even more exciting, I look down and someone has used small stones to write “Trail Magic,” with an arrow pointing toward the Junction. I wonder what it is!
Camille and Juliet go first, then me and Christine. I do need water, but not desperately, as I’ve been carrying extra out of fear. As we make the quick walk to the junction I see an RV, some tents, and…do I smell burgers? I tell myself not to get too excited. You can’t just expect burger trail magic, I sternly tell myself. There’s probably nothing there.
I get to the junction and there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that someone did something weird to the water faucet earlier and so there is currently no fresh water available, the only option is to filter the water out of the (disgusting looking) trough. BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS TOM THE TRAIL ANGEL IS MAKING BURGERS!!!!
I’m personally not too bummed about the water. I have enough and if I need to take the disgusting water from the trough, so be it. A group of hikers have congregated by Tom and his burger pan, and he asks how many people want one. We all do. He also has beer and soda in a cooler, and ice pops for dessert. I’m in heaven. I don’t have to make dinner tonight! I’m drinking a soda! I’m getting a burger with no cheese on it! LIFE IS MAGIC.
Tom says he’s going to make eggs and chorizo in the morning, and suddenly it sounds like a very good idea to stay. I’ve done 12 miles (13 if you count the extra side trips I’ve had to do today) and my feet feel fantastic. There’s no rush to get anywhere, not really, and eggs and chorizo?! Oh man. I never ended up having eggs in Mt. Laguna because I was prioritizing my feet and blister care, so that would be a huge treat.
The only thing is…I’m a little nervous about where to sleep. I ask the French girls if they’re staying and they are not. Everyone else is a dude. That’s okay, I just…ugh, it’s so annoying and hard to talk about. As a woman I believe I should be able to travel freely through the world, and I do! But also as a woman I know how the world can be and I’m often doing quick calculations in my head to see what’s probably okay and what might not be. It’s exhausting and shitty but real and I wish the trail magically erased those equations but it doesn’t. It can’t, because you know, we all live in the context of the patriarchy. SORRY IF YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE GONNA GET AWAY WITH READING THIS TRAIL BLOG WITHOUT HEARING ABOUT MY FEMINIST AGENDA. #notsorry
So I don’t usually like to pitch my tent near a road, for safety reasons EVEN IF IT IS PROBABLY FINE, but then Tom mentions he has an extra trailer with a bed that hikers have been staying in. What?! He shows me. It’s perfect. He used to pull it with his truck and sleep in it but then he got his motor home so now he sleeps there and let’s hikers sleep in the trailer. You guys, yes I have to think things through all the time when I’m a girl traveling solo in this world, but also I really like to think that people are mostly good, and I think they are. Like, this man, who lives in Kennedy Meadows, goes out of his way to do sweet things for hikers. Just because. I feel very lucky.
The dudes don’t seem to care who takes the bed so I say I want it and suddenly it’s mine. I feel like a princess! I drag my stuff into the trailer and put on warm clothes. I call my mom and text Alley and post some photos. Cate texts me a photo of her and Mike and Shakedown and Lynn eating pie together in Julian and I’m not even too sad, just stoked that they’re having a good time and happy that they texted me. I text back about the trail magic I’m experiencing and I’m happy we’re all happy. I watch the sunset. Holy shit.
Tom mentions he has a friend coming by who works at the Laguna Gear Shop who he hasn’t seen in forever. “I love those guys,” I say. “They saved my feet.” Tom asks if Cool Ranch helped me but that name is not familiar so I say no. I go to my trailer for the night and make myself at home, putting my small amount of stuff in the appropriate places (mostly all on the floor, ha!). I hear Tom’s friend arrive and wonder which gear shop dude it could be. Alley and I are texting and she asks if she can call and I say of course and figure I should go outside for better service. I open the trailer door and I hear someone say, “heyyyy Scissors!!!” It’s Mike!!! His trail name is Cool Ranch but I didn’t know! I’m SO HAPPY to see him! I give him a huge hug and excitedly tell him about how well my new shoes worked today. He’s so excited for me and I’m just so so happy. How is this day so perfect?!
I ask Mike if I can sit in his car while I talk to Alley so I’m not outside in the wind and he says of course. So I do. I tell her that I’ve come up with a hashtag for my hike – #hikingwithscissors. She loves it and I’m SO proud – Al is the one who is good at branding and coming up with copy, my brain just doesn’t work very well that way. But today I thought about hashtags for 12 miles and finally came up with this one and I hoped she would be impressed. She is, and I feel like a rockstar.
When I hang up with Al I give Mike back his keys and say goodnight to him and Tom. Then I climb into my home for the night, the perfect tiny trailer, and cozy up in bed (!!!) as the wind whips and hollers outside.
Maybe I’ll hike 17 miles tomorrow, all the way to Scissors Crossing, I think to myself. Could I do that? A 17 mile day? Maybe maybe. Who knows? Absolutely anything could happen next.