We’ve been on the Pacific Crest Trail for two weeks now. TWO WEEKS. 14 DAYS. It feels like a lot longer than that, but somehow not that long at all- time no longer holds any relevance to me.
This week felt like we were getting the hang of things. While the pain of non-stop walking is still there, it’s starting to become an aspect of everyday life, and less of a problem. We’ve gotten into the the rhythm of trail life, and I was wide awake today before 7 AM even though we weren’t hiking.
Here’s a little overview of what the trail has revealed to us this week:
Bet you didn’t see that coming. I didn’t either.
Actually I did, because there has been cow poop for MILES, but we finally encountered our first cows this week.
They’re awesome and cute and I want some.
Guess what happened while we were in the desert? A rainstorm. Lots of rain (so much that a lot of our stuff was soaked inside the tent), in the DESERT.
Bringing in the rain was a lot of wind. Constant wind with 35-45 mph gusts that would hit you as you turned the corner, nearly blowing you over. As we walked I watched ants on the ground, moving slowly as they clung to the sand and getting blown away in big gusts.
This lasted for hours as we worked our way along the narrow trail, winding through the foothills. It sounds terrifying, but I didn’t feel scared at all. It was completely exhilarating.
For the hikers just 1-2 days ahead of us, the trail progressed through higher elevation and many of them were waylaid in almost a foot of snow.
So, snow and rain in the desert. It happens.
Trail Legs, Trail Feet
Last week my biggest pain was these friggin’ blisters, man. This week? They crusted up real nice like, and I have a feeling that in the next couple of weeks they’ll be sharp enough to use as cutting tools.
I’ve learned that all of the pain, tiredness and swelling in the feet can be healed with a little rest and elevation- basically not stomping out 20 more miles for a day. At the same time, here I am complaining about 3 blisters that I had, and a trail friend of ours is basically breaking in new hiking boots with about 7 on each foot. And he did more miles than me. Oh well. I’m done comparing myself to other hikers and their miles.
While I seemed to crack immediately on the trail, I think Nikita is just beginning to. He found blisters to call his own, and says that it feels like he is “walking on bruises.” This is the most I can get out of him. Stoic.
Overall I think our feet feel less tired. We can go a bit further each day without feeling like our feet are going to fall off. We may be finally getting our trail legs, as they say.
Our miles are on the up!
The first week consisted of: 8, 12, 17, 4, 6, 12, 13. After that we took a zero day, and by the end of the first week, we had taken two near-os* and a zero**
The second week: 0, 12, 11, 18, 20, 13, 0. The 12 was a half day, and the 11 was a day so besieged by rain that we stopped in the early afternoon just to get away from the cold and wet. If you’ll notice, we hit our first 20 this week, and the 13 we actually did all before 1pm- the fastest we’ve hiked yet!
Right now, we’re taking a zero in the extremely hiker-friendly town of Idyllwild. Coming into town we saw a lot of familiar faces we thought had passed us for good by mid last week. Initially we were so stressed over how slow we thought we were going, it feels good now to see that we’re not really falling behind as much as we had thought. Everyone moves at different speeds, and has to stop to take zeros at some point or another.
*a near-o is a hiking day that consists of very few miles. I’d say less than 10, but every hiker has their own opinion
**a zero is a day where you don’t hike at all. No miles, but your feet will thank you!
If you’re interested, pooping in the woods isn’t the freak out-inducing act it’s cracked up to be. It’s actually kind of… nice. And though having weeds tickle your butt and feeling like a wild animal will stumble upon you at your most vulnerable, squatting down to poop is 1 million times better than sitting down chair-style to do it.
I could go on, but I think many of you have already reached your threshold for horror, so I’ll leave it at that.
We’ve done enough pooping in the wilderness now that it’s no big deal. There are so many more things on the trail that require getting the hang of besides pooping. Sleeping, even.
So uh yeah, pooping. Check.
Becoming a Thru Hiker
This week we successfully hitchhiked to town 3 times. It was our first time hitch hiking and was not at all the scary murder trap society makes it out to be. 2 out of the 3 times we were picked up by local women who have been routinely giving hikers rides into town this season.
Even off trail, people are warm and giving.
We have trail names. Most thru-hikers acquire a trail name over the course of the Pacific Crest Trail, unique names given by other hikers that describe you or what you do a lot on the trail. So without further adieu…
I’m Chunks, pleased to meet you. “Chunks” because I threw up on the first day. Lovely, I know. I resisted it for the first week or so, but it grew on me, and as no other name presented itself, I have accepted it as my trail name. I’ve learned that it’s actually quite popular, and when I introduce myself I get, “Oh you’re Chunks?” For better or for worse, Chunks.
Nikita is “Indiana,” after Indiana Jones, who shares a similar phobia of snakes. He really is quite scared of them, and we’ve only seen 6 snakes in our 2 weeks.
Chunks and Indiana it is.
We’ve finally been on the trail long enough to experience trail magic: the unexpected gifts and graciousness bestowed on hikers, just for being hikers. At the end of this week, our water stop for the day turned out to be a trail angel’s* house, where beans, chicken and pancakes were being served. Free of charge.
In the small community of Warner Springs, residents provided rides to the post office, hotdogs and hamburgers and homemade apple bread to hikers. We even occupied a gazebo for a few hours to dry out our stuff. It wasn’t much, but it was complete rejuvenation for us. Magic, basically.
*a trail angel is someone who helps hikers by providing rides, food, a place to stay or by maintaining water caches along the trail, all for free and out of the goodness of their own hearts
More Scenes From Week Two
We’re heading out of Idyllwild tomorrow morning at 8:15 AM (late in hiker hours) and I have a feeling that we’ll be pushing for 15-20 mile days and ending up in Big Bear by the end of the week. Until then, happy trails!