Hiker Trash Vogue – And the Sierra
As I was reaching the aqueduct, the yellow dead-end street sign read “End,” with the desert mountains we would soon climb in the background. The sign was reminding me that this wasn’t the end, but the actual beginning of my second attempt at a thru-hike. After 500 miles of desert, I felt like this sign was being playfully contradictory and welcoming me to the real adventures and challenges
Last year, the 17-mile Los Angeles Aqueduct section was so mentally and physically challenging for me. It’s completely flat. Easy, right? No. Walking (limping) on hard ground for 17 miles in the middle of the night, and being frustrated you can’t keep up on a section that should be easy, was quite possibly the most difficult part of my attempted thru hike.
This year has been fantastic compared to last year. Most days I wake up and don’t even feel like I’ve hiked the day before. I can run, I can dance, I can drop it like it’s hot, and my legs can do bigger miles without the constant thought of wanting to set up camp early. I feel so damn good and I actually give myself credit for the fact that I am strong and can hike my ass off.
I’m currently at the Best Western in Tehachapi taking a zero. After passing around ideas of what to do about the snow that recently fell in the Sierra and obsessing over Instagram posts of other hikers bailing out, I finally went to take a long shower. I sat in the shower for 30 minutes with my head down and cried, hoping the noise of the water would muffle my sobs.
The frustrations and fearmongering of the Sierra snowpack is starting to heat up again. I remember these feelings too vividly from last year. The conflict in my head of skipping and southbounding from NorCal or hiking through and possibly having to find a new group evokes emotions I haven’t felt in a while. To be honest, I felt like that weak 29-year-old kid who just last year was afraid of snow and river crossings and skipped to NorCal. The possibility of feeling that weakness again got the best of me this morning.
I’m not that kid anymore. I worked my ass off to be back on trail this year, and I’m working it even harder to stay on trail to make it to Canada. While my decision is about 90 percent made up to just buck up and walk through the Sierra without skipping out, I’m still terrified that I might crack. I’m afraid of feeling unskilled enough again and not being worthy of the title of thru-hiker. And while that term is subjective, I guess I’ve over-romanticized the definition enough to know what I need to do to earn it.
Something I would tell myself a lot last year as I would walk was, “You can’t do this.” Pretty much every day was a mental and physical battle. I always felt slow, weak ,and somewhat embarrassed that I couldn’t keep up. This year, I constantly say to myself, “You’ll get through this” and know I am going to see Canada, even if that means some pain and misery in the Sierra. I am too inspired by the people and the trail to back out of what is said to be the most beautiful section.
Now, here are some Hiker Trash Vogue photographs that I’ve been taking of the beautiful people on trail.
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