1. Taking a nap… at mile 3. Little did I know this fatigue was one of the first symptoms of heat exhaustion, and I ended up with a splitting headache and a case of the dizzy vomits just 3.5 more miles after that. Live and learn!
2. Leaving our campsite at mile 8.8 that morning, we found a bag of extra water. It was left by one hiker for another, both of whom we ended up walking with in the big bubble through the Sierras.
3. After my heat exhaustion episode, we took extra measure to make sure I didn’t get overheated. We found a bastion of shade in Hauser Canyon, just before a big, brutally hot climb.
4. The Lake Morena campground, the first day finish line for the vast majority of thruhikers. Make no mistake, it is a long, hard first day, and an unusually brutal introduction to the trail.
5. A group sits and snacks on the porch of the general store in the community of Lake Morena, the first major resupply stop on the trail.
6. Indiana helps tape up my blisters in the morning. His lack of hair compared to later on in the trail is astounding to me. Also notice the distinct hat tan.
7. A group of hikers gather in some shade and chat away the midday sun.
8. This was a lot of dirt to us at the time. Even with socks, the breathable mesh in your shoes lets in plenty of dirt, so your feet have a nice coating around the toes at the end of each day.
9. Free pie and ice cream for thruhikers. And it was actually really good pie and ice cream. Only at Mom’s Pies in Julian, CA.
10. Walking Home and I work on our blogs at the local library in Julian, CA.
11. Round, smooth rocks at knee height? Time to take a sitting break!
12. Out back at a trail angel’s house. Free food was served, but donations were suggested.
13. Pinky toe blisters. These ruled my life for the first week and a half. After they stopped being puss filled they were sore 100% of the time.
14. Impromptu hiker party in Banning, CA to escape the cold and rainy storm system that was passing through.
15. Some of our gang setting out at night for the ranger station 8 miles away. One of my favorite memories from the trail.
16. This is life in the desert: Poodle Dog Bush. It is a vile plant that likes to grow in areas ravaged by fire. Touching it leads to a severe allergic reaction, much worse than poison ivy. Not touching it requires smooth dance moves.
17. You don’t have to be that gross. Wash your socks and underwear. If mine weren’t dry by the morning, I tied everything up in a line on some parachord and let it hang off my pack to dry as I hiked all day.
18. Uh oh. Eyes still too big for the stomach. Border Patrol wasn’t able to finish the 6 jumbo pancake challenge. Next time!
19. Indiana setting up our stove to cook that night’s dinner at our site on the Mojave River. Funny story: while I was setting up the tent, I didn’t stake the rainfly and I hadn’t put anything in the tent yet and when I turned around a gust of wind blew the tent over backwards and into the river. The current wasn’t strong enough to carry it away, and thankfully the rainfly was on, otherwise it would have sank and gotten soaked.
20. Our evening set up. Therm-a-Rest is the bomb. Blowing them up only seems like it’s going to be difficult, and these air pads are well worth the comfort.
21. Our Z-Packs bag was a great piece of gear, but the 900 fill power was not at all moisture resistant, so it needed to dry out frequently. We’d usually do this by draping it over the tent in the morning while we ate, or against a rock while we took a break. This section of trail was rocky and ridge-y for miles, so we took turns standing underneath it (arms straight up) until the sun dried it out.
22. THIS, my friends, is trail magic. You’re hiking along through the desert and then, all of a sudden, under a bush is a family size box of rice crispie treats and a jug of water. Thank you, trail angels!
23. There are a few tunnels in the areas around Cajon Pass and Agua Dulce. Fun to walk through!
24. The view climbing out of Cajon Pass in the morning. We were surprised at the amount of cloud cover in the desert.
25. Taking a rest and signing the trail ledger on top of Mount Baden-Powell, outside of Wrightwood, CA.
26. Breakfast at Little Jimmie Springs the next morning. I love picnic tables, they are the lap of luxury on the trail.
27. We were taking a break off the trail and spotted J-Walk and Thin Mint walking towards us, both flapping their hands in front of their faces because the gnats were so bad. We made them repeat it for a photo.
28. ‘Yogi Destroyed Hiker Heaven,’ written on a trail maker going into Agua Dulce. Trail drama. *eyeroll*
29. Getting to, no, encouraged to pet a tamed Mustang to help her get over her apprehension towards backpackers. How cute is that?!
30. Hiker laundry, mostly socks, dryingin the sun atop fence posts. Socks can get stiff with dried sweat and dirt and its important to wash them frequently. I tried to at least rinse my socks out after each use.
31. Chilling in the wind and shade in Hikertown.
32. Walking through the wind farms. One of my favorite parts of the trail. I love the turbines.
33. A worn out pair of Brooks running shoes over 600 miles into the trail. We’ve seen some really worn out shoes during our hike.
34. Trying to stay cool during a break. Notice how much tanner my shins are than my back.
35. WATER. This was the first big, river-sized, water source on the PCT yet. That’s 700 miles of small, trickling water sources. Of course we took off our shoes and clothes and splashed around.
36. A big fat rattler. Many hikers reported seeing them all the time, but this was the first adult rattler we saw, and it was after Kennedy Meadows! No longer in the desert. We snuck up on him, and though the encounter lasted no more than a second, I’m pretty sure he lunged at me for a bite. Indiana was so startled he jumped back in an odd way and ended up spraining his hamstring, which took weeks to heal.
37. A thinner section of the same river from two photos back. Hikers congregate around flowing water and soft, green grass. After rocky, scratchy desert terrain, the Sierras were starting to feel really nice.
38. A hiker sets up her tent pad, sleeping pad and sleeping bag for a night of cowboy camping, about 20 miles into the South Sierra Wilderness. I love the colors in this photo.
39. Indiana getting excited for food as he cooks us up some dinner! This was a great night- we camped next to our first alpine lake, Chicken Spring Lake and had so much water available, we made soup and two cups of hot chocolate!
40. An outdoorsy dude, I think he was prospecting, drives his horse and a chain of mules along the trail through Kings Canyon National Park.
41. The hostel dorm room where we stayed in The Hostel California in Bishop, CA. You’ll be amazed at how much stuff hikers can unpack out of those packs. It was an obstacle course just to get to our bed.
42. My trail ‘do. Lots of little braids keep my hair from matting and tangling. I spend some time braiding it up while I’m in town, but once on the trail I don’t have to worry about it. Downside- a lot of my scalp gets exposed and can get sunburned 🙁
43. Switchback after switchback. ‘Graded for equestrian use’ means the trail has to be pretty gradual the whole time. When going down steep slopes, the trail uses switchbacks to control the grade.
44. Relaxing at Guitar Lake before the big climb up to Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the 48 states!
45. Bathtub laundry in our motel room tub. The brown stuff is just dirt. All dirt. I rinsed several times and it didn’t get much better.
46. Enjoying the view of Palisade Lake in the Sierras.
47. A mother and baby grouse walk slowly through the brush as they forage. We saw two of these families in the Sierras. They crossed the trail right in front of us and did not seem that all bothered by our presence. When I saw them the first time, I was so stunned by cuteness all I could say to Indiana was, BEHBEHS! Behbehs! Behbehs!’
48. A mountainside damaged by fire. It’s ugly and there’s no shade, but this is unfortunately a lot of what you see when you’re on the Pacific Crest Trail.
49. This was a fun climb- Sonora Pass. These green slopes gave way to earthy, red rock, but were no less steep.
50. The sunset from Sonora Pass that evening. With the alternating deep greys and oranges of the rock, the reds of the sunset and the purple-shaded mountains, it really felt like we were on another planet.
51. Hiking out of Sonora Pass in the morning sun.
52. We got a hitch with our friends (from left) slow poke, MacGuyver and Big Foot. The driver really crammed us and all 5 of our packs in there!
53. Isn’t the word ‘nonconformity?’ Or maybe that’s the point… Either way it was good water. Nice flow.
54. The contrast of fire-ravaged trees with bright green undergrowth was unusual. This was just near the southern tip of Mount Lassen National Park.
55. Attempting to get a hitch in Chester California. See my face? That’s the face of experiencing rejection. It stings.
56. Up to Washington- this is what it looks like when you’re just a few miles from one of the biggest fires actively burning in the state’s record wildfire season. Smoke from the Wolverine Fire hangs heavy over Lake Chelan, which was eventually evacuated due to another fire.
57. Like foraging? Washington offers up plenty of edible wild berries in the late summer and fall. Locals go absolutely nuts for huckleberries, like these berries. Just be watchful for bears if you find yourself on a hillside with a particularly good harvest.
58. Paint Your Wagon. This real hiking viking is in his 60s and continues to do the PCT, albeit in pieces, each season. He’s quite the character on trail and further proof that you don’t have to be young to enjoy adventuring out of doors.
59. A great breakfast: tortillas slathered in Nutella and an English Muffin filled with sliced cheese. After months of hard hiking, this is what you need to get through the first 3 or so hours of the morning before you start to starve again.
60. A beautiful morning in the Northern Cascades, just past Snoqualmie Pass. The mountain range seems to go one forever, and cascades in all directions. Maybe that’s where the name came from? Maybe. I suppose I could just Google it.
61. Indiana enjoys a break to warm up in the sun on top of a windy ridge in the Goat Rocks Wilderness.