Pacific Crest Trail Update: Plan Z
Feeling pretty worked, I took two zero’s (zero miles hiking on these days) after coming out at Tuolumne Meadows and then reluctantly ventured out on the trail again. Reluctantly, because when I said good bye to my husband, Chris, I felt enormous hesitation. My typical mode of steady confidence felt shot. I wasn’t “right” going into the next remote 5-day stretch of trail. Everything felt off. I’d been having on and off stomach problems for a couple weeks. The main symptom is nausea and lack of appetite, even off trail, which translates to everything going south and the gas tank running on empty. When other hikers are enjoying “hiker-hunger” I was dealing with anti-hiker-hunger. Yikes. Its difficult to walk for 10+ hours a day when you can’t put calories in.
As an athlete I am mostly wired to forge ahead when things go south, so I said a teary so-long to Chris, thinking I’d sort myself out somehow (also something I enjoy doing as an athlete). Instead over the next 12 miles I felt worse. I couldn’t eat, again, and my pace slowed to a crawl.
It is easy to pull the plug on any sort of athletic participation when there is obvious trauma or an injury. When an issue is nebulous—like a stomach issue—its tough to know when to suck it up and when to stop.
After significant deliberation while sitting on a rock near a stream getting eaten by mosquitoes, I turned around and walked backwards on the trail to the nearest road.
And I hated every single step of it.
And I did it anyway.
My plan was to get some tests done to rule out obvious issues. And to rest for a bit. The times in the past when I’ve had this stomach issue doing endurance sport, it was simply from prolonged extreme over-exertion in extreme conditions. Which is a tough issue to rectify when you are hiking day after day on a really long trail!
After several days off trail the stomach started to settle a bit. A few days later I felt like doing a bit more than laying on the couch. After about 10 days I started to feel normal energy levels come back and eating became enjoyable rather than a chore.
I was very much hoping I’d be on the PCT for my 60th birthday, but the old bod had another crazy idea in mind—a bit of rest. So Instead I spent a quiet birthday with my husband in our gorgeous new home. Not a bad consolation, but my mind has been on the trail. So I’ve created an alternate plan of attack.
Due to; proximity (I’m in WA), timing for a couple of early October personal obligations I have off trail, and weather considerations over the next few months, I am going to flip-forward from when I came off trail in Yosemite, to Northern California near the OR-CA border and head north. Flipping (changing your location to hike a different section or direction of trail) is common hiker strategy for many reasons. I wasn’t intending on flipping any portion of the trail when I started this, but it makes a lot of sense for me to do so now.
My plan is to do Oregon and Washington northbound, and then come back to Nor Cal in mid October, after a brief stint off trail for a couple of personal events, and complete the section I am flipping over before winter sets in. So I’m doing the trail but just in a different order. I do have the luxury of doing this since I live in WA and CA. I am also hoping the timing on this change will allow my hiking partner, Guppy, to join me in Nor Cal once her injury heals! This is an unintended Plan Z move I am not happy with, but so be it. If there is a couple, of many, things we learn while thru hiking it is to be creative and adaptable. I’ll keep you posted on how this particular plan plays out.
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Thanks for sharing your story. Hikers talk a lot about “hiker hunger” and less about the “anti-hunger” that often sets in at the start of the hike while the body is still figuring out what the heck you are doing. My hiker went nearly 250 miles before resupplying because she wasn’t able to eat much. It is a tough time when you run on a calorie deficit. Something to plan for starting a long hike. Journey on, enjoy and stay safe!