Friday, July 27, 2012

Days 84 - 92: Hello Heat... We Meet Again

After leaving charming Chester, we made our way closer to the notorious section of Northern California that is hot, waterless and evokes flashbacks of the desert.

A days hike out, we came across our first bear! He was eating bugs and grubs out of fallen logs and we just watched him for about 10 minutes. We spent one night at the Drakesbad Guest Ranch, where we enjoyed food and a soak in their hot spring fed pool. It was relaxing and fun, with dozens of other hikers around.

The next day, we hit the Hat Creek Rim and a 33 mile stretch without water. It was hot and exposed and we found ourselves needing a break ever hour or so. We passed through the lovely Burney Falls State Park and were majorly impressed with the falls. We started hiking with Snausage, Zen and Wampus Cat, who's company we greatly enjoy. Having buddies in this section was great because we could walk and chat and the hours flew by. The heat presented new (old) problems like blisters and swollen feet.

Dinner in camp with Wampus, Zen and Snausage

Hat Creek Rim, Shasta in the distance. We could see the mountain for days before getting anywhere near it, and apparently we'll be able to see it for a few more weeks. 

No water, no problem.  Quesadillas for dinner.

Wampus diggin' in.


Burney Falls


We were weary and worn and by the time we rolled into Mt. Shasta City Wednesday night we were desperate for a day off. We hadn't zeroed since July 7th and our bodies felt it. Mt. Shasta is a wonderful little town and we made out first stop at The Goat Tavern for beers and burgers. Our zero yesterday was so enjoyable and today we are taking a half day and FINALLY seeing a matinee of Moonrise Kingdom. We'll hit the trail this afternoon and aim to hit Etna on Tuesday. Oregon is getting SO close!!

Day 83: Half way! Hooray!!

On July 18th we passed the PCT midpoint at mile 1325. It was quite an emotional and exciting moment for us both. Proud. Overwhelmed. Excited. And totally worth a photo shoot... see below.

We celebrated that evening with double bacon burgers, milkshakes and a room at a B&B in Chester... possibly the friendliest town on the trail. We made a stop by Dr. Webb DDS's office to pick up a goodie bag of toothpaste, floss, hand sanitizer and a new toothbrush. Everyone in this town was so happy to see hikers. Waving at us and chatting us up, and one woman, Sharon, went out of her way before work to take us back to the trail.

From here on out, the number of miles on the 'to Canada' side will be smaller than the 'from Mexico' side! Wahoo! Onward and Northward!

Tears. Of course. 

Nicest item in the register box: Nautica cologne 



Hey buddy.


Mexico, getting farther and farther away.

We're coming for you Canada!!!

Days 77 - 82: On The Move

We left Sierra City with our new tent and a totally boosted morale. Our minds shifted back into trail mode and we were enthusiastic to get our feet moving. The first few days out were a totally pleasant surprise for us. Being so familiar with the Sierra and Yosemite area, even up to Tahoe we were unsure what to expect from Northern California. We knew that a lot of hikers burn out in this region and people comment that it's repetitive and lackluster. We totally disagreed. The terrain presented tons of diversity, big trees and a shift into the cool, volcanic rock pockets. It was picturesque and the trail was well graded and easy to cruise through. We were making some of our best miles per hour and loving it. We also got to hike with a new crew of hiker friends that we really enjoyed. For a handful of nights we camped with Steady, Legion, Chili and Pepper, Shutterbug, Anchorman and One Ton. Camping with father/son duo Chili and Pepper was awesome. Chili is13, has already thru hiked the AT and has his sights set on the Continental Divide Trail for next year. His energy and quick wit were really fun to be around. Speaking of energetic, one night we had the pleasure of camping with Monkey and Mama Bear... Monkey is 8 (eight!!) and she has been begging her folks to hike the PCT since she was 6. As us 'old folks' sat around in camp commenting on knee pain after a 20 mile day, Monkey ran around camp, discovering slugs and bouncing off of trees. Being around her was pretty joyful.

One afternoon we swam in that deep green pool... and it was incredible. Best swimming hole ever. 

Creekside Cafe

On Sunday, July 15th we experienced some of the most generous magic yet. We had planned our resupply for the town of Quincy and bypassed a sign from Trail Angels Terry and Nancy Williams to get to Summit Road for a hitch. As we stood on the road, no cars passed our way until a large truck cruised right up and pulled over. Low and behold, it was Terry with a load of 3 other hikers heading into town to resupply. We did our errands and rode with Terry back to their family's cabin to stay the night. Along with 10 other hikers we enjoyed lots and lots of food, drinks, great conversation with the Williams, their nephews and niece AND (a huge highlight) a whiffle ball home run derby. They opened up the 'Hiker Hut' for us to do laundry and take showers and it was a great day of rest and fun.

First inning: off the deck


The peanut gallery 

More like strike out derby!

An incredible dinner!

The next day we cruised into Belden where we stayed with Trail Angels, the Braatens, and enjoyed famous blackberry milkshakes at Caribou Corner.

After our rough previous week, it felt wonderful to get back in the groove. We hiked with good people, ate good food on and off trail, and got a solid number of miles under our feet.

As we approached Lassen National Park and got incredible views of Mt. Lassen, we were grateful and glad to still be on trail. It's hard. It's long days and sore bodies. It's missing family and friends. But it's totally worth it.

Many thanks for the comments, texts, and emails of support on our last two posts. It's pretty awesome to feel like we have so many people behind us.

Friday, July 13, 2012

We All Have Our Mountains

This post is a bit overdue, but it's important, so here goes.

A month ago today, on June 13th, we summited Mt. Whitney and throughout the challenging ascent I had many things on my mind.  The biggest and most important of these things was my mom. See, one month before our big Whitney climb, she quit smoking. After over four decades of being a smoker. It was time, and her health and wellness demanded it.  And like a total champion, she's not going back.

As I climbed to 14,500 feet I could feel just about every breath I took. I felt my lungs pumping, working.  I thought about my lungs.  I thought about hers. This is going to be a rough time for those lungs of hers, but they will come out stronger. Healthier.

In one of our first resupply packages, she sent this Texas flag post card and I carried it with me up to the summit. I decided weeks prior that my climb would be dedicated to her and the uphill climb she's on too. And I'm carrying this postcard to Canada as a constant reminder for me that every day I walk this trail is another day she's not smoking. How awesome is that? 

We love you, Mom, and I'm so incredibly proud of you. Thanks for all that you've done for us as we've hiked and for being such an example of strength and commitment.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Days 73 - 76: Trying To Get Back In The Groove

Well, I can honestly say this has been the hardest few days so far.  Emotionally we both just felt exhausted. Homesick. Depleted. And a little defeated.

It stemmed from a lot of things... our tent zipper totally broke and we were being kept awake by mosquitoes all night. We ended up spending more money on a new tent than we were planning on and that triggered money stress.  I've had an eye twitch for 4 days, had a migraine yesterday and Yankee Son was having stomach issues.  We were also a day away from crossing highway I-80, which goes directly to Oakland and San Francisco: my brother, our friends, our former home. It was just too close and tempting.  It was like everything piled up at once. Out here the days feel very long so three days of feeling sad feel like an eternity. 

At the root of it, we both just felt majorly homesick. Homesick for any sense of home at all.  We've been on the road, moving from place to place since August 31 when we moved out of our apartment, and it just caught up to us.  Spending such a cozy weekend with some of our nearest and dearest friends reminded us how much we miss seeing our nearest and dearest regularly. Missing a best friend's wedding made me tired of missing out on things. Trying to catch up with family when you only have 2 days of cell service just gets tiring and never feels sufficient.

We hiked out of Echo Lake Sunday afternoon and have been working hard ever since to find our groove again.  The days were long but walking seemed to help us both clear our minds.  Getting to camp in the afternoon we were glad we had each other to share these rough days with.  Last night it seemed to overflow a little bit and we woke up this morning hoping for a solution, an energy boost, a pick-me-up. The hike this morning felt good. We made good time, the scenery was beautiful and we kept meeting day hikers that were SO pumped on what we were doing. 'Canada!!' they'd exclaim and then pepper us with enthusiastic questions.  Providing them answers made me feel proud. It gave me some perspective. And then, as we rolled into the parking lot at Donner Pass, the best (literal) pick-me-up: Just Retired and his wife Joyce (who we've been calling Joyce Retired) in their rent car, on their vacation, waiting to take us to lunch.  It was wonderful to share their company and a good meal.  Over lunch as we told them about our tough few days we mentioned that we had a new tent coming to Sierra City and that we just wanted to get there. That we needed this little section to be over. When he offered to give us a lift to Sierra City, we took it.  At first we were unsure how we'd feel about skipping a 40 mile section.  Would it discount our thru hike? Would it make it incomplete? Then we realized that it's OUR hike... we need to do what we need to do. If skipping this 40 miles means that we keep our sanity, get out of this funk and finish the remaining 1,500 miles, then it is well worth it. 

When we arrived in Sierra City this afternoon, our hearts and spirits lifted.  We caught a bunch of our hiker friends and in talking to them realized that we weren't the only one struggling through this section. Most hikers we've talked to tonight have felt this way at some point or another.  The trail is awesome and amazing, but it's tough too. Emotionally, mentally and of course physically. 

The funk is lifting. We will head back on trial tomorrow with our new tent, clean laundry, full bellies, good company and a big boost of morale.  This wave of homesickness was tough and totally understandable, but we're ready to find the groove again.  

Well, thanks for listening reading, friends. We've got an awesome amount of support out there, and it means a helluva lot. 

And now some photos:

Another 100 down!

Lake Tahoe

PCT trail maker with chair lifts in the background

We had a great stay at the Red Moose Inn. Thanks Bill and Margaret!

The awesome Red Moose Inn

Waiting for breakfast and coffee

Be sure to read all of the new posts below... we're all up to date!

Days 70, 71 & 72: Tahoe! Oh yeah!

One of these things is not like the others.  

After Kim picked us up in Echo Lake we went to lunch and then made our way to Reno, where we got a ridiculously cheap room at Harrah's.   As I stood back and looked at Trav waiting in line to check in I realized just how far removed we are from American culture sometimes.  Reno was quite a shock to our systems and we were happy to close our door, get some good sleep and scram the next morning.  The next day we took care of all of our errands in Reno, as they have the only REI and Patagonia store in the area.  At Patagonia I picked up my new, shiny hiking shirt...  the one I've worn for almost 1,100 miles was worn completely sheer on the backside.  The folks at the Patagonia store were awesome and super helpful to us.  We are also so thankful for our friends at the Patagonia store in S.F. who tracked down the items we needed and shipped them to Reno. THANKS Patagonia buds!

Friday afternoon we made our way to Truckee to wait for the Conley Crew.  While we waited we took care of our trail chores so that we could maximize our fun time over the weekend.  Joanie, Larry, Wendy and Dan drove up from L.A and Susie and Brian came over from S.F. and the whole gang got a big cabin. 

Food organizing

New shoes!

Saturday afternoon Kim, Joanie and Larry headed to a friend's wedding and the rest of us went to the beach at Donner Lake. We enjoyed a little fun in the sun before going back to the cabin to grill up some stellar dinner. 

I love this group of folks so much and it was so nice to spend time with friends.

Whew! That's a lot of blog updating and now we're up to date (as of Sunday, July 7th).

As always, our PCT Info Page.