A Day in the Life of a PCT Thru Hiker Part One

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016, 8:37pm, PCT day number 27, mile 401. The Full Moon is rising above the ridge in the East, so now I know exactly where the sun will rise tomorrow. This morning it rose 13 hours after the full moon did last night. This morning I was hiker lazy. I first woke at 6:30am, but felt seriously still quite tired, the “sleep vortex” sucked me back in for another hour. Since I woke so late I did not want to rush to get out of camp, so instead, I took my time. Sometimes I have to take my own advice, this is not a race. Enjoy it. So I sat and wrote in my journal while sipping my coffee and then cooked up an awesome breakfast of tempeh bacon, eggs and tortillas. It was quite the luxury. This was my first time actually sizzzzzling the bacon in my pan with a bunch ofcoconut oil, sizzle sizzle, just like at home! The eggs are dehydrated egg crystals and are very tasty. The only problem I have run into with this type of breakfast is it is more time consuming than, say, granola. The clean up takes more effort with the egg sticking to the pan and all. But oh how worth it it was this morning. I put the crispy bacon on the tortilla, and these tortillas are a blend of white corn and wheat, so they are supersoft and chewy, great when heated but also perfect right out of the package. I then added the eggs and some tapatillo sauce that I grabbed the other day at Jensen’s Grocery in Wrightwood. Wouldn’t you know I was procuring a plastic spoon to eat my yogurt with and they had tapatillo packets next to the salt & pepper & mustard, I could not resist!

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So, yes, this luxury meal was indeed amazing and I just sat there enjoying it and finishing off the last of my coffee thinking that if any other hikers happen to walk by they would be either impressed, jealous or laugh at me bacause I was still in camp at “hiker noon”.

I started off on the trail finally by 10:00am. There is a saying amongst thru-hikers “10 by 10” meaning 10 miles by 10 am. Ha! Obviously thats not me! Well, 10 was a pretty late start, but I knew I had a big climb to start out the day and I wanted to feel strong, which I did after the extra rest snd duper-hero breakfast. I also wanted to stay cool and hydrated, so I filled up on cold fresh water, got my head wet and my bandana wet, and started on up, up, up.

The first 3 miles took me 2 hours, slow, slow, slow. I stopped frequently to cool down in what shade there was, and drink water, and stretch my back. I’ve been having a sharp stabbing pain in my upper back for the past 250 miles. Jeez, that sounds so bad when you write it out that way! But it’s true, I have even considered going to see a chiropractor. But everytime I take my pack off it goes away, and I feel better. In particular it is worse when going uphill because I use my trekking poles (and therefore my arms and shoulders) to climb. I am able to stretch it, crack my spine and use acupressure to get it to go away temporarily, but it just keeps sneaking up on me. I will be feeling really good and suddenly “zap” it shoots and stabs and cramps up and hurts like hell. Well, I am not complaining, just sharing the things that we hikers face out here. If it were not for that, I would be feeling perfect! 

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Well, except for those little bugs. Let me just tell you, there are these little super annoying bugs that seem to come out of nowhere, and it seems like they are more prevalent in the heat, when you have less patience already. These little bugs (are not mosquitoes), just swarm around your face, hovering right in front of your line of vision, and they buzz in your ears, and occasionally land on your ears or face, and I even had one crawl up my nose today! They get whisked away by a breeze, which is so wonderful, but otherwise they are capable of following you at 3 mph and managing to stay right there with you. At times there have been maybe 40 of them just hovering and buzzing and bugging. Sometimes I feel like I am on some show like Hunger Games and the Game Makers are sitting there saying “ok, throw the bugs back at her”. I try my best to just deal with them, and ignore them, but occasionally I find myself talking to them, telling them to “get out of my face!”

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Interestingly enough, when I stop at a stream crossing to get water and take a break, they are suddenly gone. It is wonderful! I can actually take a nice rest break in peace. Today, after hiking about 6 miles I came across a lovely flowing creek and decided to take a short break. One of my favorite things to do on a hot day in particular, is filter the icy cold water from a creek and just guzzle it immediately. I can feel it’s coolness soothing me from the inside out and then I splash it on my face, head and arms and let the water drip down onto my neck and shoulders and it gives me goose bumps. 

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The temperature was about 80 degrees in the shade today, nothing crazy, but hot enough for hiking on exposed ridges in the full sun…and I knew after this creek crossing there was more climbing ahead. I had been on a PCT double detour since yesterday, where I first had to bypass Mt. Baden-Powell due to extreme ice and snow making the trail impassable. After that I had to bypass a 4 mile section of the PCT for Endangered Species Protection, it’s for a frog that is nearly extinct, so we can’t hike through there. The detour has been in effect for several years, but in order to bypass those 4 miles, you hike a 20 mile detour, on a trail that is less pretty and less well maintained than the PCT. Well, since this morning I had 7 miles to hike before I was to re-unite with the PCT again at mile 394. I was so happy to finally be back on “my trail” again. It’s funny, but the PCT definitely has it’s own personality and it is really a very nice trail. I especially like it when I know I am on it, because it leads me all the way to Canada! For now, it really is home sweet home.

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It was like stepping through the looking glass at this point, as I entered into a section of trail dense with conifers. There was plenty of shade given by giant cedars, white firs, sugar and jeffrey pines. The forest smelled of butterscotch and vanilla from the pines, and as I climbed nearer to 7,000 ft, the air cooled considerably. This all made for a lovely afternoon of hiking, not to mention that those little bugs went away and I enjoyed several segments without pain in my back because I was cruising downhill! My goal for the day was to make it to mile 404.2 where there was reportedly a small campsite, but I would have to stop and gather plenty of water again before camp. On the second long climb of the day, I was “close to the top” several times, and then disappointed again and again. It wouldn’t have mattered if I was not so hungry! At about 4:00pm or so I finally reached the top of a climb and ate a snack of a Super Greens Macro Bar, full of healthy stuff that alkalizes your body and has probiotics. It was good, but after that second big climb and letting myself go so long being hungry, I found myself in a little bit of a funky lull. Fortunately I just had 6 more miles to go and mostly downhill, so I pushed on and sang to myself a little. After 2 miles, guess what I came across? Well, it was none other than the 400 mile marker! It’s always exciting to get to a mile marker. I had not seen one since 200, so this was especially exciting, for I started to wonder if there would even be one at each hundred mile point. Well, as it turns out, after passing the 400 mile marker, in about 300 more yards, I passed another one. That’s funny, I thought, I guess some folks disagree as to where the “real” mile 400 is. I laughed and kept walking, until about 300 more yards later, there was yet a third 400 mile marker. That’s funny! I just walked 1200 miles in 3 minutes! But wait, that isn’t even half way….better not go there.

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For me, passing 400 miles makes it an entrance into new territory. The farthest continuous mileage I have ever hiked was around 370 (ish) this past Summer in France. However, that was 30 days and today is day 27 for me, so I have yet to surpass the longest time I have spent out in the woods. Well, that day will be here soon enough and I will be treading in dark waters for another 2200 miles or so! Well, passing that marker gave me a boost, and shortly after that I saw some other hikers setting up their camp for the night. I had not seen another person in over 24 hours, so I stopped to say hello. They are a mother and her 9 year old son, attempting a thru-hike! Pretty impressive all the challenges of hiking with a youngster, and he showed me some photos they had taken on his phone. I chatted with them for longer than I wanted to because it was getting close to 6:00 and I wanted to make it another 4 miles, and I desperately needed water for the night. I said goodbye and went in search for water, but I was not having much luck. The water tank from the map was not turned on, no water at the Boy Scout camp, but then I remembered my friend Denise had sent me a message telling me where she got water near here. Thanks to her, I was able to find water relatively soon, just on up the trail less than a mile. It was a tiny little creek with very little flow, but still enough. After flling up, I realized it was 6:30, and there was a lovely little camp site right there off the trail. I wrestled with my own desire to make the mileage I had set out to do….it’s only 3 more miles I thought to myself, I can do that in one hour and be there by 7:30. Yes, but then you will be getting to camp in the dark, and this spot is here, why push the extra miles? I had to take my own advice again, this is not a race. Enjoy it. I can just leave an hour earlier tomorrow to make up those miles. So, I crept over some rocks and tufts of grass to the flat camping spot, and discovered that there was also a rock fire ring and plenty of left over firewood somebody had left behind. I have a rule about fires on the trail, and that is I only make one if there is a water source nearby so I can fully extinguish it. Well, things added up for me tonight, so I  made a cozy fire and sat by it cooking and eating my dinner (black beans with kale, carrots, green beans & mashed potato, seasoned with curry powder, salt & coconut oil, and more tortillas)….and I watched while the full moon rose above the ridge.

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4 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of a PCT Thru Hiker Part One

  1. Those freaking bugs. Ugh. Fortunately I carried a bug net from the start. I wasn’t too far behind you, on 4/20 I was at Deep Creek. It’s nice to see people that enjoy the trail as much as I do. Toward the end almost everyone I met was not digging it anymore. I enjoyed every single minute. So much so that I’ll be back out there next summer for at least 1000 miles, maybe more. Nice to ‘meet’ you. – Slingblade

    1. Thanks Slingblade! Yes, indeed, Im jonesing for more pct myself, you know when its all over you dont remember the crappy parts as being that bad, because even those are an integral part of the overarching happiness we experience out there. Thanks for reading and commenting. Maybe I will see you out there next Summer, do you know where youre headed?

      1. No definite plans as of yet. I’m looking at maybe doing the High Sierra Trail to Whitney then the JMT to Mammoth. I want to do Washington again with loops around Adams and Rainier. But I also want to be in the Wind River Range for the August eclipse. It’s possible that I might just start in Campo again. Or Rainy, who knows? Haha. All I know for sure is that I’ll be out hiking somewhere.

  2. Thank you for this sweet post, Mary Poppins! So nice to wake up to this, coffee in hand with snow falling outside my window. You are bringing back wonderful memories of the PCT for me. I think that I was only a day ahead of you here.

    Those dang eye flies!

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