Day 3 – Lake Morena to Cibbets Flat Campground

20160418_085714April 18,2016: Wild turkeys gobbling loudly and a truck doing wheelies around the campground meant little sleep for us.  Woke to ice on our tents and everyone needed something hot to get going.  Lorian and I started our hike out of Lake Morena to a beautiful day nonetheless and a deceptively easy hike through lush meadow lands into the Boulder Oaks campground near Cottonwood Creek.

Eddie and Alicia already there and lunching and we stayed for a while to dry out our tents on the horse corrals.  The campgound was closed to actual overnight camping, however, as it is apparently toad mating season…

Alicia and I set out after lunch with the goal of reaching the Fred Canyon campsite.  The hike again started in lush meadows crossing Interstate 8, but then turned to a steep climb up a mostly exposed, rocky ridgeline 100 feet anove Kitchen Creek.

During this climb, I had my first encounter with a rattlesnake.  As I put my trekking pole down preparing to walk through a narrow opening between the rock wall and the rocks and brush on the ledge, the viper warned me quite loudly that he was present underneath one of the rocks.  I stopped, backed up about 10 feet, and felt the little pangs of panic setting in.  I had no choice but to walk within inches of whichever rock he was under.  Perhaps I could avoid this fate if only I knew which rock!  Even after tossing rocks toward the ominous rattle, he would not reveal his stealthy location.

So, I waited once the rattling of both viper and my nerves subsided, I did what any brave PCT Hiker would do – I hugged the rock wall and chimmied sideways trying to get the farthest away from Mr. Rattles home while still moving as quickly as I could.  I then hiked on at an incredible pace due to my heart pounding at a rather punk rock rhythm, until finally I stopped shaky. About 15 minutes later – I caught up to Alicia.  The rattler did not appear to have been interested or awake when she passed!

We continued hiking through the heat of the day and arrived at the Fred Canyon campsite rather dispirited.  The campsite,while shady under the growing treeline, was also buggy and waterless. We had to press on – and did so to the Cibbets Flat Campground in the Cleveland National Forest.

We met up with Jeffrey – “Pine” as his trail name goes, and several more hikers there, Lorian and Eddie coming along after I was tucked into my tent.  Alicia, Pine and I decided before turning in that we would leave in the dark by headlamp the next morning to avoid the heat of the day as we would have more climbing to do than even we did today.

Miles: 13.2

Elevation gained/lost:  2193/-860ft

Day 2 – Hauser Creek to Lake Morena

20160417_094606

April 17, 2016: Morning started eventfully – went to dig my first cathole and left my tent with my backup glasses on for the chore.  Found a nice secluded spot, dug and everything successful until my glasses fell off my face.  Now, to give you an idea of my distress, I am very, very blind and my glasses are black rimmed.   So, here I am, patting the twig, rock strewn ground trying desperately to find my glasses by touch.  And, not exactly the moment one wants to call out to fellow campers for help!  Just when I was about to give up and walk back to my tent, put contacts in, and walk to my potty site to continue the search, I found them!  Yeah!

It would have been better not to see the blisters on my feet though.  Looking at my blisters and the steep climb up Morena Butte ahead into Lake Morena, I decided a mere five mile day was in store for this novice hiker.

Hiked out of camp with Alicia and Lorian — Eddie trudged ahead of us all.  Lorian fell behind to take care of some of her own business, and Alicia and I limped ahead.  Both exhausted.  We made it to Lake Morena, set up camp, and immediately went to the Oak Shore Grocery and Deli down the road for a good greasy burger and some minor resupply, including marshmallows for the campfire that evening.  The folks at Oak Shore were amazing!  We love them.

Trail angels (people who supply random acts of kindness to hikers) brought beer and Eddie supplied more and we enjoyed a night of toasted marshmallows and beer after a nice warm shower!  Ah — life is good again!

Miles: 4.6

Elevation gained/lost: 1376/-619ft

Day 1 – Mexican Border to Hauser Creek

20160416_072649April 16, 2016:  All nerves getting up this morning and not much sleep because of the same last night.  We started the trail at around 7:30 am after the drive from San Diego and photos at the border.  I put on my pack and immediately fell straight on my bum — so embarrasing!  Water weighs a ridiculous amount and I know I packed way too much food.  Still, it was a beautiful morning!

Spring is here and the hills around San Diego are in full bloom.  Still, as this is the Pacific Crest Trail, we had some climbing to do and it was much harder than one could anticipate.  Wanted to make a solid 20 miles but exhaustion and blisters held my progress at around 15 to Hauser Creek.  Many many hikers in the trail today – only got a few moments of hiking solo.  But, during those few moments, while stopping to rest, five eagles flew above me playing in the wind, and two border patrol officers came by and chatted for a bit about the hike and how many of us hikers they had seen that day.

Camped with Katie and her family,Eddie and Lorian,and Alicia.  There were several other hikers camping gear near the Creek – all of us having started the day saying we would make it to Lake Morena – Ha! As one descended to Hauser Creek, one could see the next climb up the hill side toward Morena and just knew it couldn’t be done on such tired feet!  To bed now….

Miles: 15.36

Elevation gained/lost: 1442/-1789ft

 

Day 0 – April 15 in San Diego

April 15, 2016: Arrived at Scout’s and Frodo’s (no, their parents were not twisted – these are “trail names”) house in San Diego and about 20+ hikers and I were treated to snacks, the most amazing dinner (thank you chef Joker!) and a pep and preparation talk.  Scout was at a PCTA meeting but I was fortunate enough to meet Frodo — they are they most amazing trail angels and I really could not believe all they do for the hikers all season long.  Meeting people like this is just one of many reasons I wanted to hike the PCT.  Met the hikers I would start the trail with and many more that I would see along the way.  There are so many hikers coming from around the world to hike the PCT — I was picked up at the San Diego airport with two Aussies and one Swiss, and met more from Germany, UK, Ireland.  This will be a trip to remember in so many ways.

We are all nervous and will be having breakfast at 5 am tomorrow before even more volunteers pick us up to drive us to the Mexican border tomorrow at 6 am.  We weighed our packs and, with food and water for a 20 mile waterless stretch, my pack weighed a soul crushing 39 pounds!  I was not in the minority.  Still, cannot wait to be on the way!

Because We LOVE Them…

image

Because we love them, and hate to ever leave them behind, long distance hikers and their best friends suffer extreme separation anxiety. For most of us, we will be leaving our loving companions in the care or equally loving family and friends who will, no doubt watch over our furry friends for 5-6 months while we complete the PCT.

However, so many animals are just not as fortunate to find loving humans. Homelessness and neglect face many animals, and in too many cases outright abuse and cruelty. Please let my hike serve as a way to help animals in need and donate to the Humane Society of the United States. Go to https://www.crowdrise.com/loris-humane-hike to start donating today!!

Time for a Change…

Yes! Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!

…Rosalind Russell, perf.  Antie Mame.  Warner Brothers, 1958. Film.

Why hike for five months?  Out in the wilderness — with no bathroom!?    While I am not going to journal all of my reasons, hopes and mental insights for the world to see, I will share the following – once – no questions allowed about the “why” thereafter.

From the time I was in middle school, I wanted to be a lawyer — wasn’t quite sure what that entailed, having no lawyers in the family, and nobody who had even graduated with a degree in my family, but was somehow determined to do it.  I joked that I was going to Harvard.  This joke particularly irritated my grandmother who advised that I stay in Spokane, go to a small local college and get a good solid office job because that was the sensible thing to do (the irony of this advice will be clear below).  She predicted that if I went to some fancy university away from home I would go broke and come back home in a year.

I was determined to do exactly the opposite of her “good advice.”  Having no money to fund even undergrad, I put nose to the grind early and made sure grades and scores were top notch to help get scholarships and grants to defray some costs, and worked after school and during summers to raise money.   And then yes, I too started to sign the dotted lines allowing me to take loans to make up the rest of what was needed for tuition and living.  Made it to Seattle University (some fancy university away from home) and, though predictably broke, I did not come home in a year — I ate lots of ramen noodles and kept going.   In practicing for the LSATs, I realized that Harvard could actually become a reality. Got into Harvard Law (yes, another fancy university away from home) and signed more dotted lines to obtain another mountain of student loans to eventually pay off despite receiving grants, scholarships and income from working all through high school, college and law school.  Never backpacked across Europe or even took a Spring Break trip – always worked extra over the school breaks – always had to.  Nevertheless, I started my (first?) career with the equivalent of a home mortgage with no home.  And guess what?  (I know this will come as a real shocker.)  Not at all satisfied….  Loved my clients, loved the intellectual nature of the pursuit, loved being in court, loved arguing.  But, as all too often happens, every other part of what makes me me suffered.  And the worst part is — I let it happen.

After providing care for my grandmother for three and a half months and watching the process of her passing away, I realize that my life does not even come close to having most of the experiences that colored hers.  Growing up with my grandparents, my sister and I were often treated to a walk down their memory lane — a lane that included traveling and living around the world, growing up during the depression, surviving multiple wars, retiring and traveling the U.S. some more (my grandfather’s favorite travel song — “On The Road Again” of course — thank you Mr. Nelson!)  all while actually having a lot of love and a lot of laughs to look back upon.  By contrast, while I have lived in several crazy great cities (Seattle, Boston, Chicago, New York) and work traveled to so many, many others, I never had an opportunity to truly enjoy what those places had to offer as I was usually struggling to simply pay off my debt, pay exorbitant rent and bills, pay even more for the licensing and mandatory continuing education required for the pleasure of practicing my profession, and try to grab a trip home to Spokane, WA every once in a while to see my family, usually while still having ridiculous amounts of work to do while on “vacation”.   While I do not regret the experience of my (first?) career, I am looking for something new — something a bit…more.

Now, I am debt free!  Mind you, I have no assets and did not “invest” in an actual home mortgage, marriage or babies, but I also have no debt.  I sold most of my belongings and scraped together a little savings to move back to Spokane to help with my grandmother’s care and after she passed to take time to put a little life back in my life.  Yes — I am temporarily back home — but not in the way my grandmother feared, or perhaps in all of the ways she feared.   After all, I have not and am not doing the “sensible” thing — yet again.   But I know it is the right thing – for me – for now.  I needed the three months with my grandmother, and will never regret spending that precious time with her.  I am glad that I was fortunate enough to have been a penny pincher over the years to enable me to do it.  And I miss her.  Terribly.

But, I also came back with the intention of embarking on a new adventure.  My (first?) career forced me to see a lot of death of people I had come to admire and love.  And then my grandfather died.  And then my father, unexpectedly.  And now my grandmother.  And from this I know we should try to get the most out of time we are given here.  After years of envy for those experiences that really enriched my grandparents’ lives, I do not regret the decision to regroup and get a few of my own experiences from which I can look fondly and hilariously back upon and pull from in times of need.

For years I have had my nose stuck in books (and the web) for my escape –living vicariously through the stories, whether true, historical or totally fictitious, of others who were brave (or foolish) enough to set aside their ordinary or expected work-a-day lives to go on a journey.  Journeying across the West was naturally exciting to me having been born, raised and lived more than half of my life here.  It is home to and yet remains so unexplored in any meaningful way by me.  What better next life adventure than to hike the beautiful western U.S.?  So, that is what I will do.  I will hike approximately 2650 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail starting in April.  It will, in all likelihood, kick my ass.  It will take me a full five months if not more.  My feet will never be the same.  But I am going to do it anyway.  Why?  Because that’s what I do.

Most people, my family included, can think of “better” ways to spend one’s time.  As another long distance hiker said in her writing — they will simply never understand.  Never understand that the journey — and all it entails, both enthralling and punishing — is a test and a reward.  It is not simply about traveling — it is about immersion, a different way of living, a different way of surviving.   It is a type of journey often enjoyed more after the fact, and endured more in the present.  Moreover, it is not intended as a journey of “self discovery.”  I am not confident that I will find some hidden inner-self secrets along the way and even if I do, most of the personal stuff that I do experience will be something that, while I may someday reveal, will not be revealed yet — and not here.

I am confident that I will see amazing places, meet amazing people and challenge myself in new, exciting, excruciating, absurd, comical and ultimately entertaining ways, all of which will be fodder for this journal.  And if someone can live vicariously through my journal as I have lived through many others’ before, then I will be quite satisfied.

As my grandmother said many times regarding her own life, we never had any money but had a lot of love, a lot of laughs and, overall, the good times far outweighed the bad.  Will I be able to say the same?  I hope so!  So I am taking the time to live …for now.