369 Miles and Counting
Somehow, in the blink of an eye, I am 369 miles and 25 days into this journey. As soon as my feet hit the trail, the days were full and exhausting and I found it hard to make time to write. Whilst I walked during the day, I would think about all the things I had to say, but as soon as it came to making camp there would be too many tiny chores and I would fall asleep too early to actually put the words together. So here is my first update, already halfway done with the desert section.
The first few days
As I knew they would, all my nerves dissipated from the moment I started walking. I had built this hike up in my head as something different from my previous hikes because it was so big and long, but I quickly realized that, despite the new environment and people, walking is just walking and it felt much like my two-week hikes back at home. I actually got a bit of home as I hiked up to Lake Morena on morning two in the freezing rain, but since then it has been completely dry.
In many ways hiking in the desert takes away some of the challenges I have previously had to contend with. It’s amazing how much easier it is to be happy when you are never cold or wet and your belongings stay dry without effort. But instead we have to battle with the heat. So far I have only experienced 4 to 5 really hot days, but those days have taken so much out of me. Despite taking long siestas in the middle of the day, I have found myself struggling on those days: each step a little victory and each tiny patch of shade under a bush or rock a miracle.
On one of these days, my group and I decided to push through the midday heat to make it to Mary’s: a trail angel’s property with a water tank. Getting there felt like the hardest thing in the world, but we made it at about one p.m. When we turned up, Mary was there cooking burgers and there was a cooler full of cold drinks and a table covered in pies. Although I had already experienced some trail magic, this was the first time that it truly felt like magic: unexpected kindness given at the exact moment we needed it most. To top it off, Mary told us she only did this once a year, so the timing felt very fortuitous.
Into the Mountains
After almost two weeks of walking, we finally entered our first mountain range. Climbing up into the San Jacinto Mountains made me realize how easy the walking had been so far: even the steep hills had been made gentle by switchbacks. But this new mountain range brought lots of climbing and I suddenly felt very unfit as I panted my way to the top of the peaks. The change of scenery was refreshing though, bringing cooler temperatures, new views, and some beautiful campsites.
After 24 hours off trail in the quirky town of Idyllwild (their mayor is a golden retriever called Max), we climbed up to our highest point yet: the peak of San Jacinto. At 10,834 feet high (that’s a whole 6,000 feet higher than the highest point in the UK) I’m pretty sure this is the tallest peak I’ve ever climbed. It didn’t actually feel like too challenging a climb because we had done the ascent over several days and there wasn’t that much snow left by the time we got there.
Settling into trail life
I’ve been surprised at how quickly the time has passed. 25 days sounds like a really long time to be out hiking, but it has gone by so fast. I was so anxious about making friends before I got here, but the thing is that it’s easy on trail. I have a couple of people I’ve been hiking with for weeks, but almost every day we meet new faces. Maybe we only spend an hour with them, or hike for a day together, or spend a night together in one of the trail towns. But out here friendships are formed quickly, and people you met just that morning can feel like lifelong friends. It seems like my social circle will keep changing for a long time to come, as we all slowly find our hiker legs and battle with injuries.
My body has felt surprisingly good too, with blisters from too small shoes being my worst complaint. In the last stretch, from Big Bear to Wrightwood, I started doing bigger days, with most of them being between 20 and 26 miles, and by the end, my body felt pretty sore. But some time off trail resting has sorted that out quickly. Fingers crossed that it continues this way!
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Love the trail hiking stories.
What I think 🤔 is you are a lucky young girl.
I hope you are able to get up early and watch the sun rise and maybe get to see the stars fade into the day.
Keep up on your glucosamine and such. It makes the long trail smoother. 👍👍
Go girl!.. living my dream
I’m a socal resident, I love reading the blogs when the hikers pass my backyard. Beautiful pic looking back at the San jacinto ridge peaks you’d hiked.