I finished the trail on September 17th, 2001. You can read that journal, also at Pacific Crest Trail 2001.
Thursday at 9:30, Rainmaker and I gave our home one last inspection, locked the doors, and began our drive to Sonora Pass, California.
They say you never know a person until you live with them and I venture to say embarking on a cross country trip holds the same revelations. Rainmaker kept me laughing at his astute observations like, "Just a minute, I'll take that cream cheese bagel after this washing machine passes us." Sure enough, this white boxy thing passed us on the left, and the interstate was once more safe for motor vehicles.
After refueling at one stop, he got on the newly paved road, and demanded incredulously,"Can I have a lane, please???"
It was warm, even with the air conditioning running full blast. David offered me his Apple Cider Burst while I was driving."Aren't you concerned about me drinking and driving," I teased.
"It's the peeing and driving that I'm concerned about." We were making alot of "rest" stops as a result of our efforts to stay hydrated.
We drove 27 hours straight, finally leaving Kansas, and got a motel on Friday morning in Limon, Colorado. With a look of studious contemplation, Rain asked me,"If its Friday, but you're in Kansas, is it still the weekend?"
I countered,"If its summer, but you're in Kansas, are you still on vacation?" We look forward to maximizing our 23 hours use of this motel (which includes an outdoor pool).
Saturday, after a leisurely breakfast in bed, we're preparing to pack up and head out in The Rocket, the name Rainmaker has given the Geo Metro. There is a hilarious differing of opinions concerning speed. Yesterday Rain commented, "You know you're getting old if you have more trouble keeping your speed up than keeping it down; like if the speed limit says 70 and you look down and you're going 56. And you have to watch it or next thing you know you'll be going 53."
I, on the other hand, press the outside limits, hating to be anywhere near semis, and so in the interest of self-preservation, feel compelled to pass every last one. He feels the shaking and shuddering The Rocket does at 75 mph is a sign of impending breakdown. I wonder if perhaps it isn't orgasmic. Kind of like, come on baby, lets go.
Leaving the plains behind us, we crossed through Colorado. Denver is a huge city with the Rockies for a backyard. Apparently some major bicycling event was on. We saw literally hundreds of helmeted lycra clad riders on the shoulder of I-70. One recumbant, 7 tandems, 25-30 mountain bikes, and the remaining skinny tires convinced me this was no race, just a colorful event.
The beautiful panorama that opened up to us after leaving Denver behind was breathtaking. All across the western horizon, distant snowcapped mountains loomed. Signs invited us to Scenic Views, but we were too busy looking at all the fantastic scenery along the highway to stop.
A sign warned us "Curves Tighten". Next: "High Winds Likely". Immediately following: "Falling Rocks". In spite of all these problems, the speed limit was still 75 mph.
Utah stateline was within sight as we crested the hill. An enormous expanse of browns met us as we decended into it. A sign told us "Now Leaving Colorful Colorado". Just beyond it a brilliantly painted sign with a royal blue sky, skier leaping from a slope, welcomed us to Utah. Is there some sort of state rivalry here?
We spent the night at a beautiful motel in Salina, Utah.
Sunday we left out around 10:30 and took Hwy 50, billed as the Loneliest Road in America. We went through Eureka, billed as the Loneliest Town On The Loneliest Road In America. You have to feel sorry for a teenage girl stuck there, I guess. I mean, what could her prospects be?
A sign invited us "U-dig Fossils". Rain asked me, "Would you look over there and tell me what we're looking at?" To the best of my imagination, I guessed it to be a salt flat. Isn't that some sort of geographical wonder?
It was along this loneliest stretch that we paid a whopping $2.15 per gallon for gas. The Rocket was getting between 40-45 miles per gallon, so it didn't burn us too bad.
We arrived at my sister Karen's house around 8 p.m.
Wednesday we went up to Frenchman Lake in California and saw my sister's and her husband's property. Its a beautiful place in the mountains, exactly like what Rainmaker has told me the PCT will be like. It smells great. It looks great. Everything is wonderfully wild. We leave tomorrow after supper to drive to Sonora Pass, where we will all camp. Then Friday early, Rain and I will say adios to our family, and head out. Rain told me once, "The first step in making your dreams come true is to wake up."
I think I have seen the sunrise!
July 14, Friday(14 miles)
After an extremely windy night camping, Rainmaker and I packed up and headed out from Sonora Pass at 7:00 a.m. We hiked through the most beautiful flower garden, with every color, size, and shape clustered in artistic arrangements. With a backdrop of 10,000 ft. mountains we crossed two sections of trail with snow. Several different people had told us there was no snow north of Sonora Pass.
There was plenty of water; many runoffs from snowmelt, a couple rivers and a lake. In some places the trail went straight up a snowmelt or crossed a river. If Rain hadn't been there, in a couple of places, I figure I'd still be wandering around through those wildflowers.
We hiked up to Boulder Creek, 14 miles from Sonora Pass. Considering we had packs with food for 6 days, several quarts of water, and this was our first day on trail, we were happy with our progress. Another thru hiker, a young man from Oregon, camped with us tonight. His trail name is Wonder. He started in Campo on April 29th.
Today is day one of the "Red Spoon Challenge". I always used just a regular plastic spoon for my gear. When we were at Dairy Queen two weeks ago, Rainmaker handed me his red sundae spoon and teasingly said, "Since you won't buy a regular lexan spoon, here's a PCT spoon for you. See if it will make 800 miles!" Please stay tuned for updates on "Red"
July 15th, Saturday (15 miles, 29 total)
Today we hiked 15 miles up to Noble Canyon. There was plenty of water all along the trail and I'm finally getting the idea that it's not necessary to carry 2-3 quarts at all times. Wonder hiked with us for a while and we learned from Rainmaker the names of quite a few desert flowers and plants. I saw some black fur on the trail and picked it up and asked Rain, "Is this bear fur?" To which Rain replied, "Ah, that's mouse fur that an owl digested." Oopsey! A Handiwipe moment!
There were at least two more "No Snow from Sonora Pass" sections. The scenery is beyond description. I'm hooked. Words can't describe the splendor, photography can't capture it, a video camera would fail miserably to convey the beauty. I guess eventually I will stop acting like a country girl in New York; mouth agape, wide eyed, stopping frequently to marvel at the sights.
Just before stopping for the day, we worked our way down some treacherous trail. The PCT is nothing to play with. A misstep could be fatal. I saw Rain ahead of me, and thought, what a paradox. Here we are in a wild, unforgiving place, with wind, heat, snow, narrow loose trail, and enormous blow downs. Then, here is a man, prepared to meet it all with just what's on his back. And he's comfortable with this. I just feel so fortunate to be here.
One sad note however. "Red" bit the dust when I stepped on him. I tried taping him back together with electrical tape, then realized this is beyond frugal, it's INSANITY!! I am now using my spare.
July 16th, Sunday (13 miles, 42 total)
Today we hiked 13 miles. We crossed several "No Snow from Sonora Pass Sections", and met Rich, another thru hiker from Arizona. We also saw another woman hiker who was with her husband; they were weekenders. There were beautiful pink rocks, orange moss, and turquoise colored stones.
This is the third night we will sleep with our food in our tent, due to the fact that the bears are wild here and we must defend our food. Our goal for today had been a bit farther, but due to the sudden thunderstorm, which kept us pinned down in the shelter of a stand of tall pines, we only reached a modest 13 miles.
Around 3pm, these thunder clouds rolled in from the south. Neither Rain nor I are adverse to hiking in the rain, but when open ground presented itself and the thunder began to sound, we decided to hike quickly to the cover of trees. Quickly covering our packs with pack covers, I grabbed the Tyvek ground cloth, Rain grabbed some candy bars, and we decided to sit it out. After awhile, it quit so we packed up and started hiking. As we crossed some open areas, the thunder started up, and it began to rain again. It was like we were playing tag with the Thunder Gods. Under the cover of the trees, sunlight shone through, while it poured rain, thundered and lightninged. As we sit, camped on an island, streams on either side of us, I feel content. No casualties today.
Rain and I were discussing the differences in the AT and the PCT. The AT is well blazed, whether it needs it or not. The PCT attitude in Rains words seems to be, "We built it, you find it!" If the AT wants you to go over a mountain or down it, it gets right to it, while the PCT wanders around, teasing and making you wish desperately it would get it over with for heavens sakes. The AT clears blow downs, the PCT reroutes around them. On the AT, you will most likely encounter "Trail Magic", i.e. food, water, and help from 'Trail Angels", whereas on the PCT, "Trail Magic" is being alive at the end of the Day.
I am learning so much here. Rainmaker gave me a good lesson on maps and navigation today.
July 17th, Monday (14 miles, 56 total)
We hiked 14 miles today, setting up camp tonight by a beautiful pond sheltered among rocks, trees, and a huge blowdown. We really need some respite from this wind.
Today for over an hour, we hiked a narrow loose rocky ledge along a mountain ridge. 1000 feet below us was Blue Lake. The gale force winds made it very difficult to breath, much less make progress. About half way, I heard a helicopter. I couldn't locate it, but it seemed to be getting closer. Rain had stopped for a moment, and when I caught up to him, I said, "That's my rescue helicopter, see ya!" We laughed and said, "It's not often you see a helicopter flying below you." We rounded a peak to the other side. The wind seemed to stop, momentarily. Unfortunately, the other side of the mountain had its updraft too. I asked Rain, "Is this the other half of the Tornado?" We both managed to keep our hats, which were tightly cinched on.
Let nobody tell you it's summer here. I wear all the clothes I brought just about every night. I sleep in a 20 degree bag. Rain has on thermal underwear, a balaclava, fleece hat, and rain parka.
We met two thru hikers from England, UK Ray and his son, Sonray. I was saddened to hear that they are leaving the trail at Echo Lake because UK Ray got a hernia while on the PCT from lifting his pack. His son lifts it for him now, but the injury is forcing him to end his hike for now.
July 18th, Tuesday (15 miles, 70 total)
We woke before six. While cooking and eating breakfast, I saw three deer across the mountain meadow. As we neared Carson Pass, we met many day hikers out for a view of the wildflowers. At Carson Pass, we took a break. We dropped our packs and went into the information center, asking if they sold candy bars. The lady there asked us if we were hiking the PCT and when I told her yes, she brought out a jar of wonderful homemade cookies and a jar of candy. It was heaven. The gentleman that was working with her gave us Gala apples. A lady outside was waiting for a friend, and we talked with her for a while. . She told us it was 34 degrees last night. She gave us sun block, granola bars and tic-tacs. I was really impressed with their kindness and interest in our hike. May it all return to them a hundredfold.
In the afternoon, we met a southbound section hiker, Jerry who was taking names of hikers he'd met and passing along valuable information about Echo Lake, our stop ahead. UK Ray, Sonray, and Wonder are ahead of us. Tomorrow we plan to quickly hike the remaining 5 miles to Echo Lake, where I will check mail, and send this to Opie. I look forward to a real bath and hope to remove most of the Government soil from my body and clothes.
July 20, Thursday am
As we relax while waiting for our taxi to come take us back to the PCT in Echo Lake, I'm reflecting on the last 24 hours. We woke up early Wed morning (5:30 am) dressed and packed and were on trail by 6 a.m. It was so cold, I kept all my layers on except my rainpants and jacket. We quickly covered the 5 miles to the resort. It's obvious they have no interest in generating hiker business. The prices at the store were horrendous; a small cup of coffee going for $1.40. Since neither Rainmaker nor I had our morning coffee, that was a terrific blow.
We got a ride into S. Lake Tahoe from a really nice guy and his wife. Ate breakfast at Mc Donalds and got a motel, where we relaxed, scrubbed, and prepared to resupply and do laundry. Resupplying for 106 miles is quite an endeavor. We estimate 8 days on the trail. We are cooking separately which is much easier than trying to negotiate what to have for meals and snacks. This section I've opted for SUGAR! Last section I had mixed nuts and granola, jerky, high fat, little sugar. This time I'm giving into complex and simple carbohydrates.
What follows are directions on how to resupply food:
1. Find a decent grocery store and/or a Big K
2. Buy everything you're craving, think you might crave, looks good and is cheap
3. Carry it "home"
4. Dump onto your bed all food leftover from last week's section
5. Dump all the food you just bought onto the bed
6. Groan, grimace and swear!
7. Remove all excess packing, piling into, covering and burying what used to be a waste can
8. Condense various foodstuffs into plastic zip-lock bags, placing them into food stuff bags
9. Shuffle backpack contents over and over till this mass fits and is reasonably stable for carrying through the Desolation Wilderness.
We've mailed our ice axes home, and a few non-essential things. I'm anxious to get back to the peace and solitude of the mountains.
July 21, Friday
Hiked 8 miles yesterday after getting back on trail from town and 12 miles today. We're really weighed down with food for the 106 miles to Sierra City.
I take great pleasure in killing the numerous flies and mosquitos that plague me. Until now, I couldn't swat them bare handed, but honey, how things change out here. Rain, on the other hand, has confessed a delight in wounding these pests, and leaving them helpless for ants to drag kicking and screaming into their burrows. These maimed flies are then eaten eyes first, then a wing or legs; eaten and devoured alive. I wonder what kind of sadistic man I am hiking with, but yes, he did thru-hike the AT. My mommy never warned me about this.
Lunch breaks, we have been stopping by some lakes and cooling off in the ice cold alpine water. We've met a lot of weekenders and forest service men and other thru-hikers. My opinion of long distance hikers has grown. They are all intelligent, articulate, and very kind. I guess I have officially joined their ranks, having resupplied and recommitted myself to this wonderful wilderness experience.
List of Afflictions:
Rainmaker in his own words:
· Lack of caffeine
· Allergies and sinuses acting up. Eyes are burning, sneezing, difficulty breathing
· Sore shoulders, nothing out of the ordinary. Back is doing pretty good so far. Mild sprain of ligaments in right knee (while stepping off snow pack in 95 damn degree heat). Mild tendonitis in right achilles tendon. No big deal yet. One raw spot on each heel, caused by Adidas Trail Running Shoes. Will go back to new Balance 803's next year. Big toe nail on left foot slowly dying (brand new nail, just grew back from losing it last year on PCT)
· Sunburn, due to not taking Rain seriously about sunblock
· Shoulders are asking me "What gives??"
· Cut on thumb; don't know where from. Sore hip bones, but that's better since I lowered my hip belt (Thanks for the tip Rain!). My knees are telling me to take it easy (smaller steps). Right arch demanded the cushy boot inserts to be reinstalled (and I was going to send them home).
Rain and I have concurred that on the trail; "WHAT DON'T KILL YOU, HURTS LIKE HELL!"
July 22, Saturday
We hiked approximately 14 miles today and are now camped at Barker Pass. When we got here, tired and worn out, there was a picnic going on and the people fed us sandwiches, bananas, chips and a lot more. They were very kind and interested in our hike and gear. They were 7th day Adventists and prayed with us before leaving. We have 70 miles remaining until Sierra City.
A special Poem from Brawny
Hiking to a whore house in Sierra City
They say them gals are mighty pretty
Best little place in Californy
Hope my man don't get too horny.
Gonna eat till I burst, drink till I drown
Have one hell of a time in town
Leave flies and skeeters way behind
Wounded and maimed for ants to find
Thistles for supper, a little ramen on top
Figure anyone could make me stop?
Hiking thru the Wilderness of Desolation
Sierra City is my destination
July 23rd, Sunday
It's great how quickly you lose track of the days and numbers on a calendar. The only difference it makes to us is if we see a lot of weekenders or if we'll get to the post office in time to pick up our much needed drop/bounce boxes.Besides our Hex (fuel) tablets, they hold various medicines and coffee!
We hiked about 1 mile along a windy ledge on the crest. Rain and I are both very serious about the dangers here. One slip could be fatal. We watch the trail ahead, not talking or laughing, but concentrating fully. Much to my amazement, suddenly these mountain bikers approach. It was tight squeeze for them to get by us, besides the fact that it's illegal for them to be there. We greeted each other amicably and I remarked in surprise, "Didn't know bikes could be up here !!It's very dangerous up ahead." "Thanks, we'll be careful" one replied.
We hiked 16 miles today, camping by the only water for the next 15 miles. Carry 3 qts of water tomorrow, we should make Donner Pass, and water.
Rainmaker sets a fast pace, and we were able to pull into camp around 5 p.m. This gives us lots of time to eat supper, relax and write in our journals.
July 24th Monday
Hiked a long and hard 17 miles, fell into camp around 6:30 pm, but we did it! Covered the waterless stretch, got past Interstate 80, and camped a mile past that. Heat, wind, dangerous ledges, and rock strewn trail all contributed to our terrific sense of fatigue by day's end.
I used to care if anything was in my drinking/cooking water. Now I just think in terms of parts per million.
July 25th, Tuesday
After the grueling hike yesterday, today we proposed to have an easy 9 miles. Rainmaker's left tendon is aching, so we must take it easy to let it heal, if possible. Still, we must make it to the post office in Sierra City on Friday, and our food supplies are dwindling.
During our lunch break at a nice bridge spanning a creek, we left our packs near a tree and washed (without soap) and ate at the bridge. I heard a loud crash in the woods but said nothing. After lunch we went to get our packs and heard more crashing around. Rain looked at me and said, "I think it's a bear". Just then, craning my head to see, not 50 ft. from us a cinnamon black bear was doing the same. Rain had his pack on already, and said, "Carol, get your pack on". Then we stood watching the bear. Suddenly he started walking down the trail towards us. Rain moved off to the left and I followed close behind him. He picked up some rocks, so I grabbed a big one too. The bear swerved to the left, then Rain moved back on the trail. We watched as the bear ambled off into the woods, then Rain told me, "He's been cut loose from his mother and is looking for something to eat." I remember the trout we saw swimming in our lunch time creek and hoped he would catch some. This was my first live bear encounter ever, and I was very glad Rainmaker was there. We loaded up with water at the last creek and were simply tormented by flies and mosquitoes. We decided to carry approximately 4 qts. each to a better campsite. Nothing was available until we climbed, for a mile switch-backing to a level mountain top site. It's absolutely beautiful. I can see for miles over mountain tops, the sunset promising to be wonderful once again.
July 26th, Wednesday
We are camped 11 miles from Hwy. 49 (Sierra City is another 2 miles down the road). We hiked 16 miles today. Rain's ankle is much better.
Some things I have learned so far:
· A hiking boot makes a great cup holder
· Don't hike with your shorts on crooked
· Thistles may be hallucinogenic
· Becoming chemically dependent as a long distance hiker is highly probable.
· Have everything firmly secured to your pack, or it may become history.
· Leave no trace, Protect and Enjoy signs do not apply to Forest Service Loggers
· We only have here and now
July 27th, Thursday
Hiked to Hwy. 49 and tried to hitchhike into Sierra City. No one wanted to risk giving two such dirty individuals a ride, so we walked the 1.5 miles on the blacktop. Met Rich coming out of town, another thru hiker, laden for the trail. Woody was in town also, and so was Madam Butterfly. M. Butterfly and I have a sisterhood and a super bond (not sure about this, B's writing was a little haphazard at this point) it seems, and as they left town, we promised to stay in touch. We exchanged e-mail addresses and a hug.
We ate supper at a nice restaurant and have 2 nights in Sierra Buttes Hotel, which is reputed to have been a brothel in the old days. We are both content.
There is no adequate way to describe the climb out of Sierra City. We resupplied, filled 2 1/2 qts of water bottles, firmly attached our hiking poles to our packs and went to hitchhike. That was the first warning. We got a ride right away from two young men with a coon hound in the back seat and gear piled high in the bed. The man lifted my pack and groaned, looking at me.
We got to the trail and began the 2,500' climb at 11:00am. The first few miles switchbacked through shady glades - then we were within a hot, brutal sun, temps. topping out at 102, dangerous ledges and no place to stop, we kept forcing ourselves onward. In my best southern drawl I tell Rain, "Now General, if you are ready, why don't you just go take that hill". We trade "Gettysburg" lines, with Rain's final "Damn Yankees" bringing laughter. By 3:30, we summitted the "hill", 7 miles up Sierra Buttes. Hot and exhausted, we are now camped near a small spring.
A word on bounce versus drop boxes. Rain has used and is now using a bounce box. It started out weighing about 19 pounds. He ships it parcel post, insured. I used a drop box (have 2 more being sent by my baby sister). Mine weighed around 3 1/2 pounds, is uninsured. Rain is able to shift through his entire inventory, choosing what he needs, whereas I had to buy stuff I know is in my next box! He only paid $1 more in postage than I did. Hopefully this personal account will help others in making their plans next year. I will definitely opt for a bounce box.
Hiked over 15 miles today and saw a lot of people including lots of mountain bikers and day hikers. A couple men who told us they started in Campo, California 10 years ago, a group of men, women, and children going southbound met us on the trail. They asked if we'd met the bikers and we said yeah, almost got run over when they came up behind us, not saying a word. It's very dangerous. We chatted awhile with the hikers, and as they continued we heard them say, "Here comes some more bikers!" and a man's voice, "Give 'em hell Edith!"
We found water finally, 6 miles after our hike down to Oakland Pond, and back. Rain had to "miracle" a campsite again. He's exceptionally good at this, finding a campsite where none ought to exist because of the steep, sloping sides of the trail.
A few truisms I've discovered:
Happiness is an empty bladder.
Happiness is a trail marker that has useful information.
Happiness is a bugless Ramen Delight
Happiness is hiking with your best friend.Next