2014 Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike Photos

On my 2014 thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail I was amazed by how dramatically and how beautifully the land (and everything on it) changed as I hiked from Mexico to Canada! Though I posted some of the photos I took with my iPhone to Instagram (patchesthru) along the way, I also took thousands of photos with my ‘good’ camera (a Sony Nex 5N with two lenses:16 mm f/2.8 and 55-210mm, f/4.5-6.3). Now that I’m home, I’ve started going through my pictures and am falling in love with the trail all over again! The photos below (and those on this 2015 calender) are amongst my favorites so far:

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Ode to California

I’m not sure that this qualifies as an ode, but I figure that before I post what I wrote as I was leaving Oregon, I should post the one that I wrote as I was leaving California.

****

California, they said it
Was a mythical place
It’s where people headed
Done with the rat race

California is where dreams
Or nightmares come true
Hurry up and come join us
We’re waiting for you

My friends all head westwards
Abandoning the east
Heading to California
Where they hope to find peace

Now that I’ve been here
And seen it up close
It’s not all that different
Here on the wrong coast

I’ve walked through your deserts
your mountains, your plains
I’ve dealt with your weather,
Your heat, wind, and rains

I’ve been welcomed into your homes
Both fancy and poor
And wherever I’ve turned
Someone’s opened a door

California I’ve seen you
What you have at your core
Now I see what it is
That they all adore

Though I don’t want to move here
It’s too hot! It’s too dry!
I as I head into Oregon,
I’m not ready for goodbye!

Pancake Challenge (PCT Days 111-113)

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I was pretty sure that the PCT only went through three states: California, Oregon, and Washington. How was it then, that I found myself standing in front of the post office for a different state? And a state that I’d never even heard of before? I must have hit my head harder than I thought when I took that nose dive!

Though I’d never heard of the state of Jefferson (the 51st state) before, I liked their motto which was something like, “politicians: one term in office and one term in prison.” It was hot out, I was hungry, and in addition to having a post office, the state of Jefferson also had at least one cafe, the Seiad Valley Cafe.

It was gloriously air-conditioned inside, so I sat down and made myself comfortable. Before the menus even hit the table I ordered a root beer float. I’d been dreaming of ice cream for days! As I browsed the menu, I sipped on the root beer float that had magically appeared in front of me… Hmmm… What did I want to eat?

Pancakes… I definitely wanted pancakes. The only pancakes I saw on the menu were the pancakes for the pancake challenge (I’ll admit I wasn’t reading the menu all that carefully). The challenge was to eat five challenge-sized pancakes in under two hours… If you completed the challenge then you’d get your pancakes free of charge. Five pancakes in two hours… I felt hungry enough to do that… I wasn’t sure what challenge-size pancakes were, but I figured there was only one way to find out…

When the waitress came back I ordered the pancake challenge. “Are you sure?” she asked, “they’re really big.” I was sure… I was hungry, I wanted pancakes, and I wanted to see what the challenge was all about.

As she placed the order people around the cafe began to murmur… Someone had ordered the pancake challenge! I was sitting in the back room with Whitewater (he got bit by a rattler on the day I took my nosedive) and GearSlut. We were tucked in the corner, so none of the customers in the main room could see who had placed the order.

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GearSlut, overwhelmed with curiosity about my challenge-sized pancakes, got up to take some pictures of the pancakes on the griddle. One of the guys at the counter said to him, “You’re an awfully small guy, do you really think you can eat that many pancakes?” He responded with a smile, “they’re not for me, they’re for her,” and pointed towards me. It was a great redirect :) If they were dubious about his ability to eat those pancakes, they were definitely dubious about mine!

Eventually my curiosity got the best of me and I had to get up to take a look at these legendary pancakes as they were being cooked. They were definitely big! Not only were they at least a foot in diameter, they were also really thick, probably half an inch of bubbly white pancake between the golden edges. They were so big they needed a special spatula to flip them (it looked more like a shovel than a spatula to me!).

I watched as the first couple of pancakes were finished and she poured the next couple out onto the griddle… They looked good, and the longer I waited for them the hungrier I got!

Eventually all five challenge-sized pancakes were delivered to me on a silver platter. I could barely pick the platter up it weighed so much!!! This was definitely the largest stack of pancakes I had ever seen, never mind consumed. “Clock starts now,” said the waitress as she brought over a bowl of butter and two containers of Aunt Jemimah’s maple syrup. I lathered butter onto the top pancake and prepared to dig in.

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For some reason a fork didn’t seem up to the task to me, so I lifted the platter to my mouth and took a few bites before deciding that the platter was way too heavy to hold up while I was eating… I was going to have to employ a different strategy…

I picked up one of the pancakes with both hands and took a bite out of it. Not bad… little dry though, so I lathered on some more butter… Just right!

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In order to come even close to winning the challenge, I was going to have to eat each pancake in 30 minutes or less. I finished the first pancake in just under 30 minutes, I was still on target time wise!

However, just two bites into the second pancake I was starting to slow down. Though it might be hard to believe, I was starting to get full! I was also starting to get tired of pancakes…

With plenty of free wifi, I got distracted from my pancakes and started checking Facebook instead of eating… Every now and then I’d remember that the pancakes were there and nibble at them… I ate another couple of bites with marionberry jam, which made those bites more palatable, but it still wasn’t enough to encourage me to eat more than a couple of bites…

An hour into the challenge I was still working on that second pancake. I stared at the pile… Even with another whole hour there was no way that I would make it through all five pancakes… In a couple of hours my parents would be meeting up with me… I wanted to be able to hug them without worrying about covering them with partially digested pancake…

With that thought I decided that I was going to stop eating pancake before I got too uncomfortable… I continued nibbling at the second pancake for the rest of that hour, as I chatted with some local gold miners. The youngest of the group had ordered the challenge the previous week and had managed to eat one and a half pancakes before the time was up, so I set a new goal, I wasn’t going to try to eat all five pancakes anymore, I was just going to try to eat a little bit more than he had.

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When my two hours were up I’d managed to eat two or three bites more than one and a half pancakes… Just a smidge more than the youngest gold miner :) After the challenge was over I chatted with the waitress and the cook for a while… It turns out that only two people in the last five years had successfully completed the challenge.

Even though I hadn’t eaten all five pancakes I had a lot of fun trying… It reminded me that happiness often comes from just getting out there and trying things… That you don’t always have to win to have a good time (especially since in this case I’m pretty sure winning would have made me sick!).

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Where there’s smoke… (PCT Days 95-97)

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As I hiked up the hill leaving Baum Lake I started smelling smoke… It smelled like campfire smoke. Who in the world would have a campfire when the temperatures were in the 90s in July in Northern California during a drought? Didn’t they know that this place is just primed and ready to burn! Over the course of the next half mile or so the smell of smoke got stronger and I got grumpier. I was preparing to give the campers with the fire a stern talking to, whoever they were.

As I approached the crest of the hill I started to see smoke, but no signs of people anywhere! As I got even closer I saw plumes of smoke rising out of the bushes about five feet to the left of the trail. I leaned my hiking poles up against a nearby tree and then pushed through the bushes to check it out. This was not good… Not good at all!

There was a patch of ground covered with forest debris that was smoldering… It looked almost like the coals of a campfire that someone had tried to kick to break up, but more dispersed, and definitely no signs of a campsite… This was something different… Something that I’d never encountered in the woods before… It was an unintentional fire of some kind.

It was a patch of earth roughly 3 feet long and 3 feet wide with a dozen or so charred/smoking sticks and piles of leaves in it… There were no open flames, and it wasn’t spreading quickly. I tried to kick dirt over one of the small smoking piles and then tried stepping on it to put it out, but that didn’t come even close to subduing the smoke. This was going to require more water than I had, and more water than I could easily get. I needed help dealing with this thing. It was still so small that it didn’t seem like it warranted panicking (at least not yet), but it was Northern California, in a heat wave, in a drought… This thing needed to be contained and soon.

It looked like there was a road just up the hill from me and I thought I heard some kind of vehicle up there and maybe a radio. I called out, “hey, there’s a fire down here, is anybody up there?” But I didn’t hear a response so I started bushwhacking up the hill towards the road to find help as I pulled out my phone. My friend hotshot would know what I should do, so I tried calling her… I was pretty sure she’d just tell me to call 911 and get the fire department out there… She didn’t answer… 911 was next on my list…

As I got to what I thought was the road, I instead found a bunch of bulldozer tracks criss-crossed with fire hoses. A fire hose was exactly what I needed!! Well, that and somebody that knew how to use it! I heard another radio squelch… The fire department was already here, somewhere nearby… I just needed to find them.

As I starting walking towards the squelch I saw a very happy sight indeed, a fireman turning the corner and walking towards me with what looked to be another thru-hiker by his side. “There’s a patch of the forest smoldering by the trail,” I exclaimed.

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He nodded, “are there any flames yet?” I replied, “no, not yet… Just charring and smoking.” As I led the way back down to the scorched, smoking earth, the fireman explained to us that there had been a fire in the area yesterday that burned 68 of the adjacent acres, so this was probably just a spot fire that had escaped from the bigger fire. That made sense and explained why they were already in the area.

After we showed him where the fire was he thanked Easy Bee (the other thru-hiker) and me for our help, and for taking time out of our hikes to report the fire and followup on it. He then called it in to the rest of the crew who were going to get water and deal with this mess.

“Where is the trail from here?” He asked. We both pointed to the trail five feet below us. I then asked him a question that I’d been meaning to ask my friend hotshot for a while, “what should we, as hikers, do if/when we encounter a forest fire?”

1. Write down your GPS coordinates if you have them (halfmile’s apps will give them to us).
2. Call the local fire department or 911 to report it.
3. If you don’t have cell service make sure you get the GPS coordinates of the location of the fire, and the next time you get cell service call it in to report it.

If it is a small fire (like the one I encountered), he said that you can try to kick a perimeter around it down to the bare earth (it’s ok to include bushes within that perimeter if you need to). He kicked about a foot an a half to two foot wide buffer of cleared earth around the fire and said that that was likely to keep it contained. Even if you do that, still call it in.

If you come across a campfire that someone has unsuccessfully tried to put out, call it in. Chances are you won’t be able to completely put it out either. He said it’s funny the number of times they end up coming to an abandoned campfire site and find a note from a hiker saying they tried to put it out (signed with their trail name).

If there’s a large fire on the trail he said the biggest thing you need to do is keep your wits about you and pay attention to the wind directions. You want to go whichever direction the wind is coming from because it will be whipping the smokes and flames the other way. He said that usually you can tell just by looking at it which direction the fire is moving in… Don’t go that way, even if it means that you have to go back the way you came from. He also said that most fires around here burn to the northeast, so if you’re unsure which direction to go, you’ll probably be best off if you hike in a generally westerly direction. Avoid canyons, ravines, or anyplace that funnels the wind because that will also funnel the fire. Lastly, if you circle behind the fire, your best bet may be to walk along the edge of the section that has already been burned and charred… You know that that section isn’t going to burn again, even if the wind directions change.

I thanked him for his advice, and headed back up the trail. I hope that I don’t encounter anymore active burn sites on the trail, but at least I have a better understanding of what to do now if I find another fire.

p.s. Last night I saw another section of trees go up in flames in the valley from the overlook I was sleeping at. Be careful out there! For anyone near dunsmuir today:

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official news about the fire

Addendum:
I finally got a chance to talk to my friend Hotshot, who said:

“Only thing I would add to his ‘escape’ advice is that around here fire is often slope driven, not wind driven, going uphill from a fire can be really dangerous… No one can outrun a fire uphill.”

“Also, be careful walking through old burns… Fire weakened trees can be blown over pretty easily so try not to take a break or set up camp under them & keep your head up when you are hiking through a burn scar in the wind!! Welcome to west coast crazy:)”

Chomp, chomp, chomp! (94&95)

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“Snap! Crack! Boom!” Sure it was the 4th of July, but this wasn’t fireworks. It was 5:30 am and we were in the middle of a pine forest. “Crash! Boom! Bang!” The noise was startling and loud, and was a constant grinding/gnashing sound in the background. It was incredibly disconcerting, and it was getting closer!!!

We could hear it, but we couldn’t see it. What the heck was it? Where was it? Where was it going? Was it coming for us? It was just so loud and it sounded like pure destruction… It was downright scary.

As the sun continued to rise we saw the aftermath of whatever it was littering the forest floor. It wasn’t like the logging and lumbering areas we’d seen before. There, the stumps of the trees had cleanly cut edges, and so did the remaining felled logs. Here, there were plenty of stumps but they looked like they had been chewed up by a giant and then spit out all over the forest floor… It was really weird, and all of the shredded tree bits were fresh… Not more than a day or two old.

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“Griiiiiind! Smash! Crunch!” As the sky got brighter we saw bulldozer tracks criss-crossing the trail everywhere and we finally figured out what the noise was coming from. It had to be some kind of bulldozer/chipper combination… And it was headed our way… Would it be able to see us through the remaining trees? Did it know where the trail even was? Would we see the trees crashing down with plenty of time to get out of the way?

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I wasn’t sure and I didn’t want to find out, so I picked up my pace… I’d feel much better once we were out of this area. I kept looking back over my shoulder… I still couldn’t see the roving menace. I’d never heard anything like it before in my life, but the longer it went on, the more frightening it became. It had me looking over my shoulder even more often than I had the day that the mountain lion hissed at me!

Eventually we came to a dirt road, and on the other side of it a steep hill with untarnished forest on its slopes. I don’t think I have ever been so excited about going uphill before in my life! It meant that the chipper wasn’t going to get me! The whole scene reminded me of The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. As thru-hikers, I feel like we stand for the trees, and there are some things that are just hard to see.

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Bear?! (PCT Days 92 & 93)

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Every road crossing I’d come to yesterday had had signs posted asking my friend, and fellow thru-hiker, to call home to contact her family or to use her spot device ASAP. Initially I’d worried that maybe something had happened to her. This morning, when I saw some southbound hikers, I asked them if they’d seen her. Sure enough, they had, and just the day before. I was incredibly relieved. She was ok.

As I continued hiking I came across some dayhikers. “Are you J****?” They asked. I let them know that I wasn’t, but that I knew who she was and had heard this morning that she was ok. “Good,” they exclaimed, “the sheriff was out here looking for her yesterday.” The Sheriff was out looking for her too? That seemed strange. I was completely lost in thought and in my own world worrying about my friend and her family as I continued up the trail when suddenly… Bear.

Bear?! I’ve never been pulled back to the here and now so quickly before in my life. There was a big bear with golden fur standing in the middle of the trail staring at me!

I stopped and stared right back. I couldn’t help it, the bear standing less than 20-30 feet in front of me was absolutely magnificent. It was also the first bear on the west coast that I’d gotten a really good look at (the other one I saw was in brushy woods and took off as soon as it saw me). It definitely didn’t look like the black bears I’d seen on the east coast with its light, golden brown fur. It was also strange that it didn’t immediately run away like almost every other bear I’ve encountered. Perhaps I should have been scared or nervous, but there were no cubs around and both of us had seemingly come to the same conclusions: there would be no sudden movements, and it was way too hot out to run.

The bear had clearly seen me before I’d seen it… I like to imagine it watching my approach and wondering when I was going to figure it out. After cocking it’s head and taking one last look at me the bear slowly lumbered off into the woods.

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I should take a picture of him before he gets too far off I thought, but the best photo op had already passed… The moment I saw him, in the middle of the trail, with the sun making his golden fur glow, framing his head almost like a lion’s mane… That is the picture I wish I could share with you and that is the image that will remain in my memory forever. The pictures I actually managed to get are off his sunlit butt sauntering off (probably the most common picture that hikers get of bears) and then a couple more as he paused to look at me from the shade of the woods. At one point it looked like he might head back towards me… It was only then that I fully realized how big he was… He probably outweighed me by double or triple, though it can be hard to gauge… I’d love to get a good picture, but I definitely didn’t want him to intentionally come towards me, not even a little bit. At that point he and I both seemed to come to the same conclusion at the same time again… We decided that the best thing to do was to keep on walking… Me down the trail, and the bear up the mountain.

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Winter wonderland (PCT days 23-26)

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After dealing with my blister I took a few short days and prepared to meet up with my parents who were flying out to join me in “sunny California.” Although I’d hiked with snow covered mountains in the distance and had occasionally run into some patches of snow in the trail, the weather for the last week had mostly been sunny and warm.

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The day my parents met up with me the sun was shining and everything was right with the world :) After our reunion we made plans for mom to do some hiking with me and for dad to provide ground support and trail magic. Ahead of us on the trail there was a nice easy stretch of trail that mom could hike to get used to higher elevations and then the following day was one of the prettiest and hardest climbs on the PCT in Southern California, Mount Baden-Powell (elev 9,407 ft). Though it would be a hard day I was confident that if we took it slow mom could do it… No problem!

The trial hike went well, so we prepared for our ascent of Baden-Powell. Even though they say it’s always sunny in California and California is known for it’s lack of weather, I’d been rained on and hailed on enough that I still didn’t trust the weather, so I took advantage of the fact that I had cell service and checked the weather.

What I discovered was not what I expected, not only was a storm supposed to move in the following night, it was supposed to be a snowstorm!! At least it wasn’t supposed to snow until after 8pm, so it looked like we would be able to get up the mountain and down it before the snow came! We would delay our hike if we had to, but waiting until after the snow would mean that we would have to hike through the snow the following day and I wasn’t sure we were prepared for that either!

With bad weather in the forecast we double and triple checked the forecast before starting our hike. It still looked like we should be able to get both up and down the mountain before the storm arrived so we made sure we got an early start.20140501-211903.jpg

For the first half of our hike the weather was gorgeous, cool and sunny with clear skies. Mom didn’t have any trouble with the altitude and the summit of Baden-Powell was absolutely gorgeous!!!20140501-212218.jpg

As we began our descent, however, the clouds began to roll in and the winds picked up. Before we knew it we were enveloped in the clouds/fog. “I thought Southern California was supposed to be warm and sunny!” Mumbled my mom as it became clear that the winds and mist were going to stay. “California is just trying to make you feel like you’re back at home in the white mountains of New Hampshire,” I countered as the winds picked up.

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A couple of hours later and our cloud was getting damper… Occasionally even coalescing into tiny rain drops. “Don’t worry mom, it’s Southern California in a drought, I’m sure it’s not going to rain or snow on us… Not much anyway.”

This time I was pretty sure that rain/snow was coming, it was just a matter of when. In Southern California anytime it said that there was at least a 20% chance of rain I got wet and they were predicting a 90% chance of rain/snow that evening.

When we finally reached the road, we were met by our night in a shining red suburban, my dad. We piled into dad’s car and were really glad to be out of the whipping winds and mist/rain. Not quite snow, not yet anyway, since the temperatures were hovering at 34 degrees. I checked the forecast and the radar again from the warmth and safety of the car. We were definitely going to get rained on. 20140501-214636.jpg

I’d brought my parents out to sunny Southern California and into a snowstorm! Though it was perfect timing for me, I’m not sure that it was what they were expecting! As dad drove us out of the cold nasty weather my parents were definitely my heroes… Giving up their vacation to rescue me from a surprise winter storm and to bring me to a soft warm hotel bed.

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From our hotel room it was clear that the mountains had a beautiful fresh coat of snow on them the next morning and since the forecast said that even more snow was expected later that day we decided to have a nice relaxing day away from the trails and mountains to give the roads plenty of time to clear.

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When I first got to California I brought some rain storms with me. My parents come to visit and an even bigger and more unusual storm arrives… I’m beginning to wonder if rain clouds follow my family around when we are on vacation. The most memorable example of that was when our entire family flew to glacier national park in August for vacation and it rained for the entire two weeks we were there. It’s kind of awesome that when we are on vacation and under less pressure, but it would be nice if the local weather patterns didn’t go through the same low pressure swings especially since low pressure areas tend to bring rain/snow/clouds!

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P.S. Congratulations to mom and dad for surviving their first PCT adventure!

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! (PCT Days 14 – 16)

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Near one of the road intersections I came across the above sing warning hikers about potential mountain lions in the area and suggesting that “hikers should bear side arms.”

Over the winter I’d seen a mountain lion in my home state of Massachusetts and there had been a lot of discussion about why government officials might be reluctant to confirm sightings. Though I’m not sure whether the reluctance is real or not, signs like this one certainly make me understand why there may be a reluctance to confirm sightings. It seemed to me that the sign was trying to encourage fear, panic, and a shoot to kill attitude towards mountain lions (cougars).

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As I continued up the trail I kept my eyes open for cougars and rattlesnakes and bears, and whatever else might be lurking in the woods, but figured my odds of running into a mountain lion were probably just as good as they would be anywhere else on the trail (fairly low, and preferably at a distance).

Within the next five miles the trail intersected with a dirt road and saw what appeared to be mountain lion tracks. big mountain lion tracks. They made my men’s size 10 wide boots look small! Was it a hoax? It seemed a bit suspicious to me being so near the warning sign.

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I followed the tracks up the road and away from the trail and human tracks until I was confident that the tracks weren’t likely to be a hoax (if anybody knows a tracker that could provide verification or thoughts on the tracks I would be interested in hearing their thoughts!). The pressure, the variation, the spacing, and the number of tracks all suggested to me that the tracks were real though I have to admit I’m definitely not an expert tracker by any stretch of the imagination!

I have to admit, after seeing those giant tracks I may have slowed down a bit so that the friend hiking behind me could catch up to me. I figured the tracks were at least a day old and were going away from the trail, but it made me feel a bit better to hike near someone else for a while!

As I continued hiking I got the dialog from the wizard of oz stuck in my head, “do- do you suppose we’ll meet any wild animals?” Asks Dorothy and the tin man replies, “Um, some. Mostly lions and tigers and bears.” I almost skipped along to the chorus, “Lions and tigers and bears. oh my!” It seemed possible, even probably that at some point on my journey I would encounter mountain lions and bears, but I had no idea that later that same day I was going to encounter actual lions and tigers and bears!

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When I rounded the corner it was the smell that hit me first, kind of a fetid, rancid, nasty smell. I looked up and saw rows and rows of chain link fence. In the corner of one there was a large brown blob. As I approached, it became clear that it was a large brown bear intermittently panting in the sun and chewing on the metal bars. It appeared to be a 12×18 foot cage without any enrichment and without any shade. It seemed very sad to me. It was not the way I wanted to see a bear, or any animal really.

As I continued up the hill I saw more animals lying down in their cages in the sun. There were lions and tigers and bears, oh my! And they all looked very sad to me. I heard later that they were retired stunt animals. I just wish they at least had larger cages and some kind of environmental enrichment. If they spent their lives working to entertain us isn’t there something more that we could or perhaps even should do to make their lives better?

I may not feel comfortable seeing the big wild animals up close and personal in the wilderness, but I definitely think that that’s where they belong. We are guests in their world, and if we pull them into our world, we should treat them as respected guests if we can.

Do you wanna be a cowgirl? (PCT Days7&8)

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I rounded the corner and came face to face with a herd of cattle in the trail. Not one, not two, but a whole herd. In the trail.

When I was on the AT I’d run into cows in the trail, usually one or two that I could walk around, or a whole herd in a pasture, but this was different. There was no way to walk around them, and there was no where for them to go except up the trail or down the trail.

Two of the cows turned towards me and tried to stare me down. It looked like I was going to need to learn how to herd cattle… something that I’d never expected to do, but seemed sort of fitting out in this scrubby area of the desert.

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I pretended that it was a heard of black bears and I moved forward slowly and deliberately while talking to the cows in a calm, cool collected way. “Hey y’all, I’m sorry to disturb you, but you’re in the middle of the trail. If you could kindly move out of the way I’d really appreciate it.”

The herd did not respond in a cool and collected way. They started stampeding up the trail! I worried about what they would do if they encountered another hiker coming from the opposite direction? I hadn’t seen any southbounders so far and i hoped that trend would continue so I wouldn’t find out what the cattle would do with that kind of dilemma.

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After the initial stampede, I gave the cows some subtly words of encouragement and before long I had them marching single file up the trail in front of me. I felt like maybe I could handle this whole cowgirl thing afterall!

I envisioned myself as a cowgirl wandering the old west: thirsty, dirty, and with a herd of cattle to look after. California was certainly west, and I was definitely thirsty and dirty… The cows were even kicking up a fair amount of dust. I decided to call it close enough and claim my title as a modern cowgirl and started singing one of my favorite songs:

On the loose to climb a mountain
On the loose where I am free
On the loose to live my life
The way I think my life should be
For I only have a moment
And the whole world yet to see
I’ll be looking for tomorrow
On the loose!

I held onto this new image of myself until I met a real cowgirl, Gillian. The PCT is approved for both human and equestrian thru-hikers and Gillian (check out her webpage) is working on a doing a thru-hike with her horses. I kept pace with her and her horses for a while and chatted with her about her adventures, but their pace of 3-4 miles per hour was a bit much for me (my comfortable pace on that kind of terrain is more like 2-3 miles per hour). After meeting Gillian, I relinquished my title and gave it to her. Headed off on here solo ride of the PCT she seems to epitomize the modern cowgirl to me!

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The Bloomin’ Desert (PCT Days 5&6)

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I awoke to the pitter patter of rain on my tent. “I’m not coming out until it stops raining” I announced to the universe and anyone else that may have been close by. It was my fifth morning on the PCT and this now meant that it had rained on 4 out of the first 5 days of hiking in the Southern Californian desert. This just wasn’t supposed to happen. Up until this morning it had been kind of funny that a rain cloud was following me around, and I appreciated that it was good for California, which has been having a massive drought. This morning, however, I was a bit cranky about it.

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I gently reminded myself that this was not Virginia, that it was not the Appalachian Trail, and it was not going to rain 50 out of the first 60 days on the trail.

It shifted from a light rain to a misting fog as I clambered out of the tent and packed it up, sopping wet yet again. One of the good things about the rain was that it had been a much warmer night than the night before (it had dropped down to 20F causing water bottles and condensation to freeze at mount Laguna the night before) and I’d slept much better.

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By mid-day I’d hiked out of the fog and into the sunny, shadeless Californian desert. Unlike the rain and fog, which felt familiar to me, the long treeless expanse of the desert was definitely going to take some getting used to. At least it was gorgeous!

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As my rain cloud dissipated, the Californian desert revealed endless spectacular views and even though there wasn’t much vegetation, the vegetation there was seemed to be in bloom!

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I think I can get used to this!

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