Day Eleven: 100 Miles!

Mile 96.5 to mile 109.5
13 miles

Sure enough, at 4am I hear Heidi leave. I don’t mind – she warned me she gets up early. Some people got to our campsite late last night after both Heidi and I were already asleep (and woke both of us up being loud, for the record) and they are all still sleeping. I halfheartedly think about getting up with Heidi but that’s not happening. I stare at the stars for awhile, then snooze some more until 5:30am.

It’s only 6:10am when I do hit the trail, and I’m quite proud of myself. My butt chafe has calmed down overnight and I apply copious amounts of Body Glide to try to mitigate the issue until I get to town. Today is the day I’m going to hit the 100 mile marker, get to Warner Springs, and finally see Cate, Mike, and Lynn! I’m hyper with excitement.

“If you can make it to Warner Springs you can make it to Canada!”

That’s what Ed, the kind man who gave me a ride from the trail to Julian a few days ago, said to me and the other hikers in his car as we drove down the winding roads away from the PCT and toward free pie and fun at Carmen’s. I think about that non-stop today: if I can make it to Warner Springs, I can make it to Canada! The words ring in my head like a spell, or a premonition.

The trail feels unusually busy; everyone is excited to get to Warner Springs. Many of us are planning to take zeros or neros there, and even if we’re not, it’s an exciting milestone on the trail. Just 9 miles past the 100 mile marker and the first place many people receive a resupply box. And for me, it will be the place I finally see my close friends again.

The morning air is still cool in the 6am hour and I tromp easily down the trail, excitedly looking out for the “100” that I know will be marked in stones on the side of the trail. I’m so close! I feel really excited and proud of myself; I’ve never hiked 100 miles consecutively before.

I’m walking as quickly as I can and then suddenly there it is! To my left, made out of large stones, the number 100 is marked on the trail! I feel emotional. I’m doing this! I’ve walked 100 miles! I’m gonna get to Warner Springs and I’m gonna get to Canada! I stop and take photos of my feet near the stones. I check to see if I have service and I do; I promptly send the photos to my mom and to Alley. Then I realize it’s already getting hot and I’ve got 9 more miles to hike. Time to keep moving.

Soon after that thrilling moment on the trail I get to Barrel Springs, today’s first water source. Tommy and his gang are all still there – it seems they haven’t started hiking yet. Tommy is leading his daily morning stretch class. They ask if I wanna join in but I don’t; instead, I take a short Instagram video of the group and filter my water out of the faucet attached to the container of water. I’m delighted that there’s a faucet.

My mistake today is dawdling once I get to the water source. I pause to chat with Alan and Tron, I stay and talk to some more folks. Then I start hiking out, toward Warner Springs and before that, Eagle Rock, and I feel slow and exhausted. Darn it. It’s hot, like it always is, and my body is craving the rest it will receive in Warner Springs. And of course my butt chafe is acting up. But I’ve still got 9 miles to go.

Eagle Rock is a rock formation on the PCT that looks like…you guessed it! A unicorn. No just kidding, Eagle Rock looks like an eagle. It’s just a few hundred feet off the PCT so almost all hikers stop to look at it. I didn’t realize this at first but it’s also a very popular destination for day hikers. When I arrive it’s very busy. Two women are posing on the eagle formation holding an American flag around them. It’s bizarre.

There’s a group of thru-hikers hanging around in a group waiting for the day hikers to finish taking their photos. The attitude some thru-hikers have towards day hikers irritates me – it’s a mix of superiority and disdain and it’s just bullshit. Day hikers are amazing and until two weeks ago I was one. Also, everyone deserves to enjoy outdoor spaces, not just people who wanna do it for five months in an intense way. Day hiking is rad and should be encouraged, not sneered at. All that said – the long photo shoot with an American flag was pretty weird.

Eventually we all get our photos taken with the rock. I wonder how it came to be; I have no idea. When I get home I’d like to do a better job of learning the history of the PCT and all of its magic and secrets.

After our own photo shoot it’s time to book it to Warner Springs. There’s only about 3 miles left but oh god, it feels like it’s millions of miles away.

I do my best to hustle. I stop and take a lot of water breaks. Some horses pass me (horses are allowed on the PCT). Every other hiker, it feels like, passes me. And then…the road! I’m here! Ahhhhhh!!!!

Warner Springs is a town, but the only real part of it that hikers see is the community center (and maybe also the post office and the one restaurant). The community center is set up to be a hub for hikers during Hiker Season, and it’s run entirely by amazing volunteers. I continue to be awed and humbled by the human beings who donate their time and resources to a bunch of weirdos who decided to walk from Mexico to Canada.

When I arrive at the center, which is just a few hundred feet off the trail, there are tons of packs outside the building and tons of hikers milling around. I drop my pack and walk inside, where a sweet woman at the front desk has me sign in and gives me the run down of the place. There’s a sign next to her that reminds hikers that Mother’s Day is coming up and says we can buy a card and have it mailed to Mom for $3 – I’m moved. That’s so sweet. I look behind the woman at the desk when she is finished explaining and it seems like every hiker I’ve ever met is sitting here in this room. Wow!

And then – I SEE MIKE AND CATE AND LYNN! They are so clean! I hug Mike anyway; I didn’t know I could feel so happy to see such a new friend. He laughs at me. “Well, I was so clean,” he says. Oh man, I’m so happy. I’m so happy.

My friends have been here for a day already and are hiking out tonight, which makes me really sad to hear, but I try to focus on being happy to see them. They repeat much of what the woman at the front desk has explained and show me where everything is.

There’s a huge lawn where hikers can set up their tents for free. Mike and Lynn help me set mine up in the intense wind and it’s the most perfect pitch I’ve achieved on this trip. There’s a bucket shower area in the back of the community center which is exactly what it sounds like – you fill a bucket and go into a stall and use a jug to dump water on your body. It reminds me of the baths I would give the toddlers I used to nanny, and it makes me miss them. (Hi Grayson and Finn and Jonathan!) Hikers can also do laundry in a bucket at the bucket shower station, and hang it on the chain link fence to dry. The center even has wifi! It’s like a perfect hiker oasis. I’m bummed that my friends are leaving but other than that I feel very happy.

Lots of stuff happens in the next few hours before they leave. Mike and Cate introduce me to Raw Hide, a girl from Portland who is remarkably similar to me. She’s been at Warner Springs recovering from blisters for a few days. She also experienced some horrible thigh chafing early on and suggests Vaseline to me for my own chafe issues. I like her immediately and we talk about hiking out together tomorrow.

I have been craving Diet Coke for what feels like forever so I attempt to purchase one. The fridge is stocked with soda but I don’t see any Diet Coke – like I’ve said, people don’t really think hikers want diet soda. It’s garbage. But it is all I want. I peer into the huge refrigerator filled with red cans of Coke and blue and green cans of Sprite. The volunteer helping me looks apologetic. But wait! I spy some silver at the back. “There are two cans of Diet Coke!” I say excitedly. The volunteer looks amused. “Wow, good eyes,” she says. I am so happy. I manifested myself Diet Coke! I buy one now and leave the other in the fridge so it remains cold. I hide it behind some cans of Coke so hopefully no one buys it before I get back to it. Now I am truly the happiest girl in the world.

The center has a closet stocked with donated clothes that hikers can “shop” so we can wear a clean outfit while we wash all our disgusting clothes. Cate helps me pick through the options and I we settle on something truly magical.

I shower, I do laundry, I chat with all the other hikers. I tend to my butt chafe. It seems to calm down as soon as I’m not hiking and not wearing spandex. I have a feeling I’m going to need new shorts.

Cate and Mike and Lynn keep trying to leave but they get held up when a volunteer starts cooking burgers and steaks! I pay $8 for a steak and potato dinner and I feel like a diva. I go back to the refrigerator to hopefully buy the second (hidden) Diet Coke and it is still there! Two Diet Cokes in one day! My friend Colleen’s dad meets her at the community center and brings a cooler of fruit for everyone. I have an apple for dessert and take two baby oranges for later. Life is good.

My friends finally hike out but we make plans to meet up in Idyllwild. It’s the next town on the trail, about 70 miles up. There is also a fire closure near the town so there are a few different ways one can hike or hitch there, covering different mileages and different portions of the actual PCT. My feet feel good and I feel healthy so I’m confident that I’ll be in Idyllwild on Friday, just like they will be. I’m so proud of myself for catching up with them. They say they will book a room for us for Friday and Saturday and I say that sounds perfect, count me in.

Then they leave and I check on my clothes that are drying on the fence and they’re mostly dry. I collect them and bring them to my tent and get cozy. There’s a lot of noise – the adage is if one hiker is awake, all hikers are awake. Many many hikers are definitely awake and having a rowdy time tonight, but I don’t mind. I’m spending the day here tomorrow before hiking out in the late afternoon, and I get to rest and eat and talk to Alley and my mom and everything is perfect. What a roller coaster this hiker life is, I think.

But I’m doing it. I made it to Warner Springs, the end of Section A on the Halfmile PCT maps. I think about Ed’s words again as I close my eyes. Canada. So far away. But attainable. If you make it to Warner Springs


Day Ten: Butt Chafe Is Forever

Mile 80 to mile 96.5
16.5 miles

At 5am it’s still dark and I wake up to a noise. I see a red light and realize someone is walking down the trail with their headlamp on the red setting so as to be unobtrusive. Well. Nothing like someone else overachieving to get my ass out of bed. I sit up and start getting ready for the day.

I eat the rest of my burrito from the night before for breakfast and pack up camp fast and then I’m back on the ridge, walking the miles I’d meant to make last night. It’s been so hot during the day it’s hard to hike effectively, so I’m attempting to do ten miles before 10am – just for efficiency.

I panic texted Hot Legs and Taylor last night to ask about the o-ring coming out of my Sawyer filter – Hot Legs because he is my hero, and Tay because she’s my go-to person when I want to learn more about my gear without enduring any mansplaining. Hot Legs has texted me back, bless him. “Call me if you have a minute and I’ll explain,” he writes. I have service and I’m entirely alone on this ridge – I literally haven’t seen a single other human being yet besides the person who passed my tent before I woke up today – so I call him. It’s 7:45am. The phone rings and he answers.

He explains that the o-ring on the Sawyer often comes out and that’s fine, you just need to pop it back in. He says I can buy some replacements at the next gear shop I get to, if that will make me feel more secure. Well okay then! I’m relieved that my filter isn’t broken and I don’t need to spend $40 on a new one and I’m bemused at how little I know about everything and I’m grateful, as always, to Hot Legs. I tell him my feet feel amazing and he sounds so genuinely thrilled.

After my early morning phone date I keep hiking. Sometimes when I’m in a rush I challenge myself not to take any photos until I’ve made a certain amount of miles. I love taking pictures while I hike – it’s a huge incentive for me to be out here – but to be honest I could probably hike 1-2 miles more every single day if I just didn’t take so many photos. That’s not to say I’ll stop – I would never, it brings me way too much joy – but it’s good to keep in mind when I’m trying to hustle or beat the heat. And I’m always trying to beat the heat; we all are. It’s so hot.

The next reliable water source is the only cache the PCTA recognizes on the entire trail, the Third Gate Cache. Water caches exist because there’s not enough water in the desert and people are angels and want to help hikers – they are spots on the trail where people literally just bring gallons of water and leave it for hikers to use. You can’t rely on caches because they might be empty when you get there – sometimes a cache is fine in the morning but by noon 200 hikers have gone through and all taken 2-3 liters and it’s pretty much done. But Ed, the sweet man who gave me a ride into Julian yesterday, told me that the Third Gate Cache is maintained by the PCTA and is the only cache on the whole trail that is considered a reliable source. There’s also a cistern there, so if the cache were empty there would still be that option. So I’m counting this cache as a reliable water source and I want to get there before noon so I can take a lengthy break there.

The hike is a bit of a climb but I feel good. My knee has relaxed since that intense day of down down down and the ridge I’m walking remains beautiful. It’s such a beautiful year to be hiking the desert. I wonder where all the people I saw in Julian yesterday are – Colleen and Amelia and Alan and Justin and Tommy and Rachel. I’m a little self-conscious about being so alone, which is unusual for me. I like being alone! But this is an intense journey and it’s nice to have a little group of people, a clique, I guess. I’m used to my close friends at home. I was used to hiking with Cate and Mike and Lynn and Shakedown. I feel a little unmoored now, a little jealous of everyone and their close friend groups. I’m just a bit on the outside.

As I’m walking I keep an eye out for shady spots, which are not abundant at all. I need to make sure I take my shoes and socks off and air out my feet to help my current blisters and prevent future blisters. And I need to be eating more. Nothing tastes good in the desert, it turns out – not a single thing in my food bag is appealing – but I need the calories. I can make myself feel a little excited about the Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter packets and the homemade jerky Susie sent me, but honestly, the heat just makes me crave cold water and Diet Coke.

I turn a ridge corner and see a familiar figure under a sun umbrella – Tim! I’m so stoked to see him, we haven’t seen one another since Mt. Laguna, which seems like ages ago! Last time he saw me I could barely walk because of my blisters! We share a sweaty hug and catch up for a bit. “It’s so nice to see you back on trail looking so happy,” he says. It makes me feel really nice. We leap frog each other all the way to the water source.

As I turn one of the last corners, I look down and yelp – a snake! It’s the first one I’ve seen in the daylight, and the first big one I’ve seen. The two tiny ones we saw while night hiking on the third day were somewhat anticlimactic. This snake is silver and beautiful and fast – she slithers off the trail before I can even take a good photo. Whew, okay. Bye, snake!

When I finally arrive I look at my phone: I didn’t make 10 miles by 10 but I did make 11 miles by 11:30! I’ll take it. Now to get water and rest.

A huge group of humans has congregated here, and I think once again how we are like a herd of animals moving through this landscape. What must the lizards think of us, the snakes, the bunnies? We are so weird.

I see Alan sitting with everyone else and feel very excited to see him. I don’t think he’s quite as excited to see me but he humors me. I am hungry for friendship right now; I don’t really like the feeling but I let it happen. It’s okay to be lonely, I tell myself.

I sit in the dirt and eat lunch: tortillas and a tuna packet and potato chips. It’s mediocre. Then I follow the water signs to the cache because Alan says it’s running low. He’s been at the water source since 9:30am and has no plans to hike during the day. He’s done with the sun, only wants to night hike now. I wish I felt brave enough to do that because the heat is brutal but I’m slow so I’d always be alone, and that makes me feel not great. I don’t know.

I walk down the hill where the cache is and pass a few more pockets of friends. I fill up my bottles and say a silent thanks to the people who keep this cache stocked. I’d be carrying 7+ liters of water (at 2.2 pounds a liter) if this source weren’t here. Thank you, thank you. With my water taken care of I climb back up the hill and go to find Alan and the little group he is resting with. Rachel, Tron, Alan, and Justin are lined up in a row under a shady tree. I ask if there’s space for one more and Alan and Justin kindly adjust to make space for me. I roll out my thin grey sleeping pad and join them. Siesta time.

We snooze, fuck around on our phones, eat snacks. The flies are obsessed with us; we smell disgusting, I guess. I realize I have to poop for the second time today and feel super annoyed. Every time I use the bathroom feels like an opportunity to irritate my dormant butt chafe. Sorry for being real y’all, but This Is Reality On A Thru-Hike. Anyway I’m gonna be here for hours and I really have to go, so I grab my bathroom bag (shovel, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, baggie to put used toilet paper in) and take a walk to find a private spot. Sure enough, when I’m all done my chafing feels irritated. Fuck. I’m also down to just a few squares of toilet paper. I thought I’d have more than enough to last me from Julian to Warner Springs, but I didn’t anticipate pooping more than once a day. I bet some of you are horrified to know so much about my bathroom habits. Regardless, now I’m worried about toilet paper. Will I ever get the hang of how this all works?! This all being my basic needs in the backcountry? I dunno.

I sadly head back to my spot under the tree with these people who are nice but aren’t really my friends. My butt chafe hurts and I just feel sort of blue. I have cell service so I can text with Alley, at least.

Eventually everyone gets tired of actually napping so we’re all just sort of sitting on our mats, chatting about nothing. Food, our feet. The usual. I think about if it’s appropriate to ask them if they have spare toilet paper. It’s kind of embarrassing but not having toilet paper would be horrible, right? I know I can theoretically use things around me – sticks, stones, leaves – but I don’t really want to. So.

“Hey, guys? I have kind of an embarrassing question to ask…” They all look at me. “Um, does anyone have any extra toilet paper…?” The boys all three dutifully go into their packs and pull out their bathroom bags. Soon I have three different shades of off-white TP sitting in my lap; they have each donated a small amount of their small stash. “My body only seems to go to the bathroom in town anyway, so I guess I don’t need any of this,” Tron jokes. I am intensely moved by their act of kindness. Sharing toilet paper on a thru-hike: maybe these people really are my true friends!

At around 3pm Rachel gets antsy and hikes out. I know she wants to catch up to her group. I’m alone, have no one I need to catch up to, but decide to hike out at 4:30pm anyway. I’ve been hanging out for a few hours and I’m ready to move. Aside from my butt chafe my body feels good and I want to see how many miles I can make today. I pack up and say bye to the boys and then I’m all alone again.

The hiking is hot. It seems like the earth just doesn’t want to cool down. The PCT is busy and many of the camp spots I think I might stay at already have 1-3 tents there. Damn.

I decide I’ll stop at mile 96.5 no matter what. I’m getting tired, it’s getting dark, and that will be a 16.5 mile day. Cool. At around the 95 mile marker I see Tim, setting up his sleeping pad and quilt in a little crevasse tucked away from the edge of the ridge. It’s not an official camping spot but it’s definitely big enough for one person. I’m jealous that he’s brave enough to cowboy camp! How cool. “Hey Scissors, there’s already a tent set up at that spot up ahead!” What? I’m crushed. I don’t want to walk anymore today! But how does he know? “I walked up that way because I thought I’d camp there, but then when I saw a tent I quickly scurried back to this spot!” Ugh. I can’t imagine turning around and walking 1.5 miles extra BACK to a sleeping spot. “I’ll figure it out,” I tell Tim. Maybe there will be room for my tent at the spot up ahead, too.

The next 1.5 miles are easy. I’m really booking it, so ready to be done, and also hyped on adrenaline. Will I be able to camp here? I arrive and see the tent Tim mentioned. It’s situated a bit above the trail, up a gentle slope. I climb up and survey the space – there’s a lot of room for another tent. The woman in the tent stirs – I’m not sure if she’s awake or asleep, if I should say anything or just let her be. Camp etiquette is confusing sometimes.

Then she sits up and looks at me so I say, “Hi!” I ask I can camp with her and she says of course. “I wake up really early though so I hope that doesn’t bother you,” she says. I tell her it’s no problem, I wake up early too. “Like how early,” I ask. “I like to be on trail by 4am,” she says. Oh! She explains she hates the heat and tries to get 10 miles done before 10am. That’s everyone’s motto, I guess! I say I’m not up that early but it’s fine, I’m a heavy sleeper. Worst case scenario she wakes me and I’ll roll over and look at the perfect sky before going back to sleep. I’m just so excited to be at camp.

We talk a tiny bit more. Her name is Heidi and she’s from Utah. Then she rolls over to go to sleep and I move away from our tents to cook my dinner. I make mashed potatoes with olive oil, kale flakes, teriyaki jerky, and seasoning salt. I let it sit in my homemade insulated pot holder to fully hydrate while I go about my other evening chores: take off shoes and wear flip flops, pitch my tent, blow up my mattress, change into sleep clothes.

Taking off my pants I realize my chafe is even worse than I thought. Fuck. I’ll sleep naked on the bottom to try to air things out but I really don’t know how to deal with this ongoing issue. My spandex shorts are amazing at stopping thigh chafe but they seem to encourage butt chafe. As an experienced nanny I can say with certainty: I’m basically getting diaper rash from the wet fabric up against my skin. CUTE! Hi Alley, don’t you love dating me? Ugh. What to do, what to do. I text Carrot: “Is butt chafe just something that never goes away and can attack at any moment?”

With all my chores done I get into my sleeping quilt and grab my dinner. It’s okay. I make myself eat all of it because what else is there to do, but by the time I’m done choking it down it’s dark out, and I just can’t bring myself to get out of my tent and clean my pot. The stars are out, my pants are off, and tomorrow I’m going to hit the 100 mile marker and then Warner Springs, a tiny town where I’ll apparently be able to take a bucket shower and hopefully finally catch up with Cate and Mike and Lynn.

I close my eyes and go to sleep.

Day Nine: Rejuvenation in Julian

Mile 73 to mile 80
7 miles

My alarm goes off at 5:30 and I think I do a pretty good job getting ready quickly. I hit snooze once (oops, old habits die hard) but then I’m up and eating breakfast and getting things together. When I pop my head out of my tent at 6:15 to say hi to Montana and Blueberry – they’re gone! Well. So much for feeling good about my early start. Oh well – they’re trying to make it to Warner Springs by tomorrow morning and I am definitely not.

I’ve got everything packed and ready to go when my body lets me know it’s time to dig a cat hole. At first I’m annoyed but then I chide myself – this is exactly the perfect time to take care of business! My pack’s not even on yet, I’m not on a ridge where I’d fall to my death if I so much as coughed, let alone tried to poop – this is exactly how things should be. Okay okay okay – I walk 70+ paces away from camp and the trail, dig my little hole, and get on with things. Good work, Body, I think. You’re getting used to this!

With everything taken care of I finally put my pack on and start moving. My only solid goal for the day is to get to Julian, and it’s just four miles before Scissors Crossing, the spot where everyone hitches the 13 miles to town. I may sleep in Julian tonight or I may just hang out there for the day. The only thing I know for certain is I’ll be getting a slice of free pie at Mom’s, a bakery that gives free pie to PCT hikers. I’m in a very good mood.

The miles to Scissors Crossing are easy. I’m well rested but they’re also just objectively easy. There’s a bit more ridge walking/climbing that I’m glad I didn’t attempt last night when my knee was hurting, and then suddenly I’m finished with the “down” portion of the day’s hike and it’s all flat flat flat. Suddenly I’m practically running! Pie! I’m coming for ya!

I’m alone for a long time, like always, and then I hear rustling behind me and a cheery, “Hi Scissors!” I love my trail name. I turn around and it’s Cory, one of the guys I met at the water source yesterday afternoon. He’s sweet. I ask if he’s stopping in Julian for pie but he says no. He wants to keep moving and maybe zero in Warner Springs. “Besides,” he says almost bashfully, “this has been the best week of my life, so I wanna keep going!” It’s such a sweet thing to say. And it makes me wonder – has this been the best week of my life? I’ve been on the trail 9 days – it’s been more than a week! But has it been the best? And if not, what was the best week of my life? I really don’t know. But I find his awe and joy very honest and uplifting, and I spend a lot of time thinking about it once he’s gone. And he is gone, so quickly, because he’s one of those Fast Hikers. “Bye Scissors!” he calls as he leaves. “See you at your crossing!”

I don’t see anyone after Cory and it’s just the smoothest trail. No elevation gains, no rocks, no excessive heat – I complete the 4 miles in less than 2 hours, getting to the side of the road at around 9:20am. Much to my surprise, there’s Cory! He’s waiting on his friend. I have him take my picture and then wave goodbye. I’ve gotta go attempt my first hitch hike!

I have no idea what this experience will be like – I’ve heard both that it’s an easy hitch and a difficult hitch – and I’ve never hitchhiked in this country before, so I’m a bit apprehensive. However the nerves are unnecessary because before I even hit the crossing where people usually hitch, a car slows down next to the trail (the PCT is often weirdly close to the road, like I can hear cars and it’s so odd to be in “the middle of nowhere” but also like, next to the highway, but for a tiny portion of today the trail actually paralleled the road exactly with just a wire fence separating the two) and a nice bearded dude asks if I need a ride. Yes please! He introduces himself as Brew-Hike and I say I’m Scissors. “Welcome to Scissors, Scissors!” he says. I grin. He says he’s just going to drive a bit further to see if any other hikers need a ride too and he’ll meet me at the road. Cool!

I get to the road and Brew-Hike isn’t there yet, but another kind man, Ed, is. He offers me a ride! Sheesh, if hitching were always this easy no one would own a car! I’m very grateful to both these men, even though Brew-Hike didn’t end up giving me a ride. Like I mentioned a couple of posts ago, being a girl alone in the world can sometimes be frustratingly scary, and it’s really cool when people go out of their way to make you feel safe.

Two other hikers ride with me and Ed to Julian. Once we’re there Ed drops us off at Carmen’s. I’ve heard Carmen, the owner of the restaurant of the same name, loves hikers, but nothing could have prepared me for the incredible woman I was about to meet. “Introduce yourself to Carmen,” Ed tells us. “She loves to meet all the hikers.”

Carmen is about my height, with long thick hair and a permanent grin on her face. She’s wearing white pants and a denim shirt and I can feel her personality radiating off her body. I timidly follow her into her restaurant and introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Scissors,” I say. She gives me a huge hug. “Hi honey! What can I get ya? Beer? Orange juice? Mimosa? If you have a mimosa I’ll have one with you!” Who can say no to an offer like that?!

Carmen makes us mimosas and tells me she’s about to make breakfast burritos. $3 for hikers. Yes she can make mine with no dairy. Her restaurant is currently closed to the public, but there’s a sign out front that says CLOSED – EXCEPT FOR HIKER TRASH. This lady is a saint. She loves hikers and let’s us hang at her restaurant all day long, do our laundry in her machine on the premises, and charge our devices in her numerous outlets. Oh – and she also lets hikers sleep on the floor of her restaurant for free! Trail magic is so real and so mind blowing.

I still don’t know if I’m going to spend the night in Julian or not but Carmen makes it sound tempting! I try to get some town chores going so I have the option of leaving or staying.

The two women from Australia who I briefly met yesterday and I group our laundry together and pop it in. Carmen makes us all breakfast burritos and I eat the whole thing easily, even though Ed said they’re big enough to be breakfast and lunch. And I hang out and make some friends.

I’ve been a little bit anti-social since splitting up from Mike and Cate and Shakedown and Lynn. Not intentionally, I don’t think – I just haven’t clicked with other people and I’ve felt a little intimidated by some of the larger groups that are obviously already very bonded. But sitting on the deck at Carmen’s I feel myself relax into me for the first time in a few days. I chat with Chelsey, a veterinarian from Alaska who is also hiking solo. I get excited to meet Tommy, a gay guy from Portland. (Another queer on the trail!) I meet Nirvana and Rachel, Brooke and her entire crew, and everyone is nice and relaxed and engaging and I’m relieved. The guys from the other night are also there – the ones who experienced Tom’s trail magic with me – and it’s nice to see them. Alan and I bond and talk shit for awhile and I have a feeling we could be good friends, if I can keep up with him.

Chelsey and her sprouts!

Once my laundry is hanging up to dry and I’ve scheduled some blog posts, I head to Mom’s for pie. Brooke comes with me and it’s fun chatting with a new person about our different experiences on the trail. She’s rolling deep with a crew of eight people and I’m a little envious. Anyway. I show the pie shop my hiking permit and I get apple cherry pie and apple cider and it’s delicious and I’m so happy. There’s definitely dairy in the pie and I may pay for it later but for now I don’t care.

We walk back to Carmen’s and I decide I should get back to the trail today. It doesn’t seem possible to hitch out of Julian early in the morning – everyone laughs about getting caught in the town/Carmen vortex – and there’s a steep climb out of Scissors Crossing that would be a nightmare to do in the major heat of the day. So the solution is to do it super early or in the afternoon – but unless I feel like waiting until tomorrow afternoon to get back on trail, it seems I should get moving. And I don’t want to wait that long. My body feels good, my feet are healing, and I’m in a good mental place. I want to be hiking!

Did another foot soak before getting back on the trail! My feet are healing well.

I try to be fast with the rest of my chores so I can hitch back to the trail with Alan and the other guys, but I’m slow. Oh well – I’ll have to go solo. I check on my feet – they’re healing so well! I treat them and tape them just like Hot Legs showed me. I continue to be so grateful to him. I go through all the trash in my bag and get rid of it, I pack away my laundry, I call Alley and my mom for quick chats. Carmen shows up while I’m on the phone with my mom and we quickly FaceTime so they can meet. My mom is overcome with gratitude for Carmen and thanks her profusely and Carmen is obsessed that my mom and I look identical. It’s very cute all around.

And then it’s time to go. I order a burrito for the road and fill up my water bottles. My Sawyer Squeeze water filter o-ring has broken which is not ideal. I’m not sure how to deal with it, actually. I have Aqua Mira drops if the Sawyer is ruined. I’ll get in touch with their customer service ASAP.

When all my chores are done I go stand in front of the post office with my thumb out. My first real hitch. Yikes!

Admittedly, I’m nervous. Who will pick me up?

I stand on the side of the road with my thumb out for a little while. Not too long. Maybe 10 minutes? Maybe 20? It’s kind of awkward. I smile to show I am a nice regular person – you totally want me in your car!

Finally, a pickup truck pulls up and a woman rolls down the passenger window. “Come on in, honey,” she tells me. “You can put your bag in the back!”

Honestly, I’m so relieved that this person is a woman. I do as she says and then we are zooming away! She knows I’m going to Scissors Crossing because of course I am. PCT culture is strong in these small towns off the trail. I try to be a good thru-hiker ambassador.

The woman who is driving me is named Irma, and we’re both delighted to discover I share a name (Vanessa, not Scissors) with her younger sister, who she named! They are both born on December 20 and I am born a day later, on December 21! She is so kind. She seems surprised and impressed that I’m walking all the way to Canada. She tells me about her daughters, and about her job, and about her belief that you can’t force religion on your kids. I really like her, feel so safe and comfortable in her car. Please let all my hitches feel this good, I send a prayer out into the world.

And then we’re at the trail, exactly where Ed picked me up this morning. I thank Irma profusely and take my pack out of her truck bed. I ask to take her picture and her response makes me sad – “Oh fine, but I’ll break the camera!” She is beautiful. I snap her photo and wave goodbye, and then she’s gone and I’m back at the PCT.

I was only in Julian for a few hours – from 10am to 5pm, maybe – but it feels like I have been In Town for So Long. I laugh to myself a bit – it reminds me of the way days off used to feel when I was a counselor at sleepover summer camp, or the way they depict “going into town for the afternoon” in Wet Hot American Summer. It really does take so little to feel so thoroughly rejuvenated.

The switchbacks out of Scissors Crossing are intimidating to say the least, and I’m so glad I’m not doing them at 12pm. It’s almost 6pm now and the air is cool, almost chilly. The climb is still tough, but it’s doable.

I am initially aiming to get to mile 85, where a bunch of other people who were in town were planning to camp, and I feel strong and capable. I talk to my body as I go up up up, praise it and coax it and let it know what’s going on. “This is what we do now, Body,” I actually say out loud. “We hike. This is just what we do.” My body seems to be listening, and I am grateful.

But it’s getting dark. The switchbacks are mostly ridges, and I’m not thrilled about the idea of night hiking along a ridge by myself in the dark. I let go of the idea of making it to mile 85. I decide I should camp by 7pm so I can eat my burrito and go to bed. I have a bit more time to walk so I do – up and up and up. I keep feeling as though I’m almost at the top but I’m not – but I’ve made good progress today and am still proud.

I finally reach a site where two other people have set up their tents. It looks like there is room for a third but I wonder if I should be brave and camp solo tonight. It would be my first time doing so on trail. I chat with one of the girls already camped for a minute – her name is Lauren and she tells me I can definitely set up my tent near hers. I tell her I’m going to see if there’s anything else a little ways up and if there isn’t I may be back.

I walk another half mile and sure enough, there’s a perfect little site! Just enough room for my tent. Okay, I think, I may not be ready to cowboy camp, but tonight I can camp solo!

And so I do. I feel powerful, like I can do anything. I eat half my burrito from Carmen’s then wiggle into my sleeping bag/quilt. There’s absolutely no wind tonight and soon I’m fast asleep.

Day Eight: Prickly Pear & Prickly Scissors

Mile 59.5 to mile 73 + .5 (walk from Sunrise Trail Junction parking lot to PCT)
14 miles

It doesn’t feel appropriate to complain about the wind last night, seeing as I was in a bed in a trailer and the other dudes were all in their tents, but…it was very windy. So windy that it was difficult to sleep, because it rattled the entire trailer. But I don’t mention this to the dudes, who are complaining that their tents almost blew away. That would be mean, I think.

I fell asleep last night convinced I would do 17 miles today, all the way to Scissors Crossing, but today I’m not so sure. Let’s just see what happens, I tell myself. My tummy feels weird and I worry it will always feel weird on trail. I have a tendency to do that – when I’m in pain or ill I panic that the feeling will never go away. It’s not productive. I try to be calm.

I am grateful for the pit toilet at this site and grateful for trail magic. Tom gives us each two breakfast burritos with eggs and chorizo and offers pastries, too. I thank him profusely but he just shrugs it off. I take his picture and soon I’m on my way. Most of the dudes have already left. I know I won’t catch them but that’s okay.

The first few miles are terrible. The wind is vigorous and the landscape is mediocre (it’s beautiful, really, but compared to yesterday it’s only “okay”) and there’s a lot of down hill stuff which really irritates my left knee. Oh, my left knee. Will I ever write a blog post on this trail where I don’t complain about some physical ailment? I text Alley to ask her this rhetorically but she answers honestly: “Probably not, at least not for a while. You really just started, boo.” Oh, yeah. I keep forgetting that I just started because it’s been a week (it’s been a week!) and also there are people on the trail who are so fast, they’re ahead of me and they started a few days after, so it makes me feel like I’ve actually been on the trail “for a long time.” Does that make sense? My brain feels foggy today and I’m irritated at myself. Yesterday was perfect! Why isn’t today perfect?

As I plod along in the intense wind, so strong is almost knocks me off my feet, I am passed by every one who stayed at Tom’s last night. No one is mean about it – not one single person on the trail has ever been mean to my face about my speed – but I am mean to myself about it today. You’re so slow, I berate myself. It’s fine to be slow but what if you’re the slowest person on the trail, what then? What if you’re too slow to make it to Canada? I thought you were gonna do 5 miles before 10am? I guess not, huh?

Why am I being so mean to myself?! I’m alarmed. There’s no reason to be cranky. Yesterday was magical beyond measure and today my blisters are still behaving. What’s my problem? Justin, one of the guy’s who stayed at Tom’s last night and the last one to pass me, appears. He got his buff covering almost his whole face and his headphones is. “This wind is terrible!” I nod. It’s nice that someone else thinks so too, I’m not crazy. “Put headphones in if you have them,” he advises. “It’s the only thing stopping me from going insane!” And then he’s gone.

That’s a good idea, I think. I take my headphones out and pull up the playlist Alex made me. I don’t always like listening to music while I hike, I’m discovering, but sometimes it really cheers me up and on. I need some of that today.

The trail continues to descend down down down. I know I should be grateful for the wind because the alternative is heat – it’s supposed to be 94 degrees today I heard on the Christian rock station Tom was playing this morning. And sure enough, as I continue to descend on the trail, the heat settles in, zapping me of my energy and any positivity I was trying to muster.

Is this just what the trail is like? I wonder. Like every day life. Sometimes things are incredible and sometimes you’re in a bad mood for no reason. That’s sobering. The trail is supposed to be transcendental, at least in my head, but maybe it’s just life. Well okay then.

I know I should stop and break more than I do today but I’m anxious to get to the water source – 10 miles away. I’m rationing water for the first time since the beginning of the hike because of the broken faucet at the last source, and I hate how that feels. I’m probably dehydrated but now I’m paranoid that something will be wrong with the upcoming water, too. Just get there and evaluate before you drink too much, I tell myself.

The desert does its best to cheer me up. Just as I’m complaining internally about the landscape a plethora of prickly pear cacti appear, all in full bloom. Fuchsia pink blooms on little baby cacti! Okay that’s pretty good, PCT. Well played.

I think I’m lonely today? I just feel very alone.

I finally get to the water source and it’s perfect. It’s around 1:30pm and I’ve done 9 miles. Not amazing but not bad. I’ve already decided I’m taking a siesta here. It’s hot today.
I’m not the only hiker to make that decision. When I arrive there is just one boy sitting in the shade, but over the course of the next two hours a dozen or more hikers come by. Water sources are becoming more spread out, much to my dismay, so we all congregate around the few that exist, like a herd. Most of the hikers resting here seem to know each other and seem to have started after I did, which adds to my sad mood. Many of them are talking about camping at the water source – there’s space to put up tents and the major upside is, of course, the water. I briefly mentally consider this but ultimately decide I want to hike on. I haven’t done enough miles yet today, and I don’t feel called to camp with any of the folk there.

So I walk on. My knee! Why oh why! I think to myself – if there just wasn’t so much downhill, this would be so easy. Then I am forced to laugh at myself – well, yeah. If the desert wasn’t so hot this would be so easy! If the Sierra weren’t so snowy this would be so easy! Spoiler alert, Self – this is not easy! But you’ve chosen to do it so buck up!

The pep talk actually snaps me out of my day-long funk and I walk with a bit more pep in my step. I meet a boy named Andrew from Austin, TX who reminds me so much of Nate that I half expect them to know one another. I meet a Swiss woman but she quickly overtakes me. I keep walking.

In my head I was sort of aiming for Scissors Crossing – I fell asleep last night thinking about a 17 mile day and I want to be set up to do an easy hitch into Julian in the morning – but I’m getting really tired and it’s getting late. I decide I don’t want to night hike solo so I have to start looking for camp spots. The thing is I don’t really want to camp solo either. And yet…here I am.

I keep walking with the vague intention of stopping “when I see the right spot” but I have no idea what that is. Finally I see Montana, a woman I met at the last water source, who is out here with her partner, Blueberry. I’m so excited to see someone I know who looks like they might be ready to set up camp!

“Hi!” I call out. Montana smiles. “Um…are you guys camping here?” She says they are. I feel bad asking if I can camp with them – I always feel bad asking if I can third wheel with couples on this trail – but she’s super sweet about it. “Of course,” she says. So this is my spot for the night! My body is so ready to be done walking. I’ve done 14 miles, not 17, but that is quite alright.

The camp spot is beautiful. We’re tucked away against some rock face, close enough to the edge of the ridge to see a beautiful sunset but not so close that it’s scary. I get to work setting up my tent; I’m having trouble getting the stakes in the ground. I hear Blueberry and Montana finish with their tent set up and try to comfort myself: my Zpacks tent just takes a while to set up right. That’s fine. I glance over and see that they have the exact same Zpacks tent. Oh.

Okay fine, I just have to admit that they are clearly more experienced backpackers than I am. Fiiiiiine. I suck up my pride and say, “Hey, did y’all have trouble getting your tent stakes in the ground?” I know from experience on the 4th night that if I don’t get the stakes in well enough the wind will pull them out of the ground and my tent will collapse on me.

Blueberry comes over to help and he’s a total sweetheart about it. I’m my own biggest problem today – why am I being so hard on myself? He shows me a trick to getting my thin stakes in the ground without bending them – it’s hard to explain but you basically put your hands on either side of your shoe and push down gently with your foot, using your hands to steady it and guide the stake in straight. I feel like that’s a bad explanation but if anyone wants a demo I will happily show you in person. I am grateful for this trick and grateful to all the hikers who have so kindly shared their knowledge with me. This is how you learn, I tell myself. This is how you’ll grow.

It’s the first night on the trail where my tent is set up and I can cook dinner before dark! It feels like a huge deal. I decide to cook oatmeal, because it feels easy, and because I hate the idea of everything in my food bag. Sigh. I make a double serving and then take it to a rock near where Blueberry and Montana are eating their dinner.

They’re chatty, and I use the opportunity to pick their brains about all my questions. They’re from Seattle and have done a lot of backpacking. I want to know what they eat, if they cook or cold soak, if it’s okay that my knee is hurting. “Down always sucks,” Blueberry assures me. “Always has. Going down is hard.” It makes me feel so much better to know the day was hard on everyone. Whenever my knees act up I panic that I’m asking them to hold up too much weight. Body positivity is weird to navigate sometimes – I love my body, and I believe all bodies are good bodies and fuck patriarchal beauty standards, but also when I am fatter my body sometimes hurts in specific ways it does not when I am thinner, and that’s just hard to sort out in my head. Anyway. I mention my knee strain to Blueberry and Montana and ask if they think it’s serious.

“My opinion,” says Blueberry, “is you’re either hurt or injured. If you can still walk, you’re not injured.” Fair enough. I can still walk. I even found a special weird way to ease myself down hills with minimal pain today, as there were so many of them. (The method is sort of a slink – right foot walks normally and left foot turns out, so I descend sideways instead of face on…very charming and not bizarre looking at all, I’m sure.) So I’m not injured. And hurting is okay – even normal, on a thru-hike. Cool.

It’s getting dark and chilly quickly so I thank Blueberry and Montana for their advice and head to my tent.

It’s windy and at 1am my tent, carefully staked to prevent collapse, collapses on me. Well, just the one side does. I get out of my quilt in just my undies and unzip the tent door to fix it. I step outside and look up – holy fucking shit. The sky. Oh my god the sky. I didn’t know it could look like that. I can’t even describe it – just imagine the most beautiful breathtaking astounding starry night sky you could ever think of – it was 10x that. Why am I sleeping in a tent! I wonder. When will I get brave enough to cowboy camp, to sleep in just my sleeping bag on the ground with nothing above or around me?

Not tonight. I stare at the sky for a few more minutes, ignoring the cold wind that brought my tent down in the first place. Today was kind of weird but I’m here and I’m grateful. Thank you, I whisper to the stars. I mean it. I crawl back into my tent, now upright and more firmly staked, and fall asleep.

Day Seven: New Shoes Cure The Blues

Mile 47.5 – Mile 59.5 + .5 (walk from the campground back to the PCT) + .5 (walk from Sunrise Trail Junction to water trough)
13 miles

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.

Day Six: Going Solo

Mile 42 – Mile 47.5 +.5
6 miles

I wake up with my feet propped up and my pink down quilt wrapped around me. I was chilly in the cabin last night so used my sleeping bag/quilt for extra warmth. It’s kind of early – I anticipated sleeping in since I have this comfy bed – but since I’m up I decide to do some work on my blog. I schedule five posts to go up this week and feel very excited about it, although the WordPress app leaves a lot to be desired and uploading photos takes forever. I may end up not including as many photos in these posts and just directing you all to my Instagram. We’ll see.

I do a quick and dirty resupply at the little general store – I have some food left over from the beginning of the hike but definitely need to supplement – and then I organize my belongings so I can check out of the room. As soon as I’ve settled all that I head to the gear shop. I’ve got a date with Hot Legs to buy new shoes.

Everyone at the store knows me now and they all greet me enthusiastically. I’ve told Alley all about Hot Legs, of course, and she teases me, calling him my new boyfriend. I tell Hot Legs this and he laughs. “I’ve got you a huge fan base,” I say, “but they’re mostly queer women. Plus my mom. Sorry!” He laughs some more. Bless this man, truly.

We resupply my med kit with all the blister stuff we used up yesterday. We try on new socks and shoes. I settle on injinji midweight merino wool socks and Altra Lone Peaks shoes in a size 8.5. Please let this work. Hot Legs tapes up my blisters again. We go over my potential routes for the next few days. We go over how to pack my pack most efficiently. I buy the things we’ve picked out. It’s time to say bye.

I don’t really want to, is the thing. Once I leave the gear shop I’ll be really solo again – no trail friends, no pretend trail boyfriend, no one I know – just me, trying to get to Laguna Campground tonight. I know I’m hiking alone, but I’ve enjoyed this camaraderie so much. I’m sad to say goodbye.

Hot Legs gives me a huge hug and tells me I’m amazing. “I can’t wait to see photos of you at the northern monument,” he says, and I try not to cry. Story of my life, honestly.

I pop by the post office to mail a few things home, call Susie about my Idyllwild resupply and call mom and Alley, and then I’m off. Gonna make some miles in some new shoes! Yeah!

I don’t want to jinx it, but the shoes feel…okay. Let’s not talk about it until I’ve hiked more than 6 miles, right?

The hiking is beautiful, maybe my favorite stretch of trail so far. Super green and lush, pinecones the size of my head, lots of pink flowers, and eventually mountains in the distance, so breathtaking I stop and say “what the fuck.” It’s like the trail knows I need a morale boost after yesterday. I do like hiking alone – I’m not sad to be solo on the trail, just a little apprehensive for this evening. But the one foot in front of the other stuff is very pleasant by myself. I stop and take photos; I finish my second roll of film. The earth smells so good. My feet do hurt but not too badly. Everything is okay.

I leap frog a few times with two other hikers who are together and eventually we’re all walking towards the campground. I did it! The miles I intended to do today I did!

We find some other PCT hikers who have already paid for an 8 person site so we ask if we can pitch our tents there. The hiker who paid, Pat, refuses to take any money. He’s sweet but none of us chat very much – he tells me he’ll be getting up very early and he hopes he won’t bother me. Nope. I hope I’ll get up early too. I’m a little anxious about tomorrow – how far I’ll hike, where I’ll camp, if I’ll ever have friends again. I guess we’ll just see.

I make dinner and it takes longer than I anticipate to soak into a hydrated state – Knorrs rice side, beef flavor, I think. So now it’s 9pm and I’ve got a full pot of somewhat soupy rice and I have to eat it…there’s nothing I’d like to do less. But all I ate today was Nutella (thanks hiker free boxes), a Clif Bar, a Pro Bar, and some jerky, and I know if I want my feet to recover and my body to stay strong I need more calories. I’ll try to choke this dinner down and then, bed.

It’s past hiker midnight, after all.

PS: Two things I forgot to tell you guys: I’ve officially dug a cat hole now (good job, Body!) and my tent fell over ON ME in a wind storm on night #4. Okay that’s really all for now! XO.