A Big Update and Getting Ready for the Sierras
The last time I updated the blog I had gotten down San Jacinto. I was stoked to get into Cabazon to eat Raising Cane’s Chicken and to resupply at a Walmart, arguably the best place to resupply. That was around mile 200.
Now, I’m sitting at the Kennedy Meadows General Store, mile 703.4, planning the Sierras.
The Past 500ish Miles
I hit 300 miles, then 400, 500, 600… all of them big milestones for me. I had been hiking with a group out of PVC but I lost them around Whitewater. I woke up early expecting them to be right behind me but I didn’t see them again for days. Over the next couple hundred miles I would find them at random points. Although I love hiking alone, I had to get used to it again. At times it was tough, but I learned to find gratitude in my solitude.
McDonalds Challenge and Shin Splints
I got shin splints the day I got to Cajon Pass which is also where the McDonald’s challenge started. I ate only McDonald’s until I got to Wrightwood, about 40 miles. I packed out a bunch of nuggets, McDoubles, McGriddles, some apple pies and hit the trail.
Double Zero In Wrightwood
By the time I got to Wrightwood I was nauseous from eating McDoubles and my shin hurt so bad I may have shed a couple tears. I decided to take two zeros in Wrightwood. Wrightwood has been my favorite town besides Idyllwild. Everything was easily accessible and there were lots of free things for hikers, even a yoga class. Leaving town, I road walked on the Angeles Crest Highway until mile 398 where I’d get back on the PCT. This way I could pass Baden-Powell and Mt Williamson. These peaks were covered in snow and I knew my shin would get worse if I had gone through. I played it safe, I wanted to make sure my shin was healed by the time I got to Kennedy Meadows.
Ditching Snow Gear
Once I got to Acton, mile 444, I shipped my snow gear up to KMS. I certainly wouldn’t need it for the next section. Especially the LA Acuaduct, a 17 mile stretch of zero shade and zero water. I hiked the aqueduct at night to avoid the heat of the day. I eventually had long water carries of 20+ miles. Thankfully there are trail angels who put water caches in parts of the desert where the trail crosses a dirt road!
Around mile 500 is when I really got my trail legs. I began to hike 24 mile days consecutively, no more blisters and no more shin splints! I’m feeling strong, fast, and ready for the Sierras.
Kennedy Meadows South
I was so excited for Kennedy Meadows, the end of the desert section! I got there at 1:00 on May 27th. Everyone on the porch was clapping and cheering me in as I walked up, it was such a heartwarming feeling. I was so proud of myself. Before I began this journey I had never backpacked more than one night.
I sat on the porch for a while and caught up with hikers I hadn’t seen for awhile. We cheered in hikers as we saw them walking up to the store.
Soon the conversation changed to our plans for the Sierras. Many people are hiking North into the Sierras, some are flipping to various places, some are going home for a week or two to let snow melt and then will flip up North.
I’m going into the Sierras and reassessing at the next resupply location. I could either go 40 miles to Lone Pine, or 87 to Kearsarge pass. I’ll see if I want to continue hiking in the snow for an extended period of time. I’ll see how long I can embrace the suck of waking up at 1am everyday and having wet feet constantly. Since it’s not safe to go alone I’m also searching for a group to go in with. I want to find a group with a similar pace and the same planned exit point.
After hearing many different plans and some minor but present fear mongering, I was uneasy. I was getting tired of hearing nonstop conversation of the conditions, strategies, different exit points, how “if we fall here we will die”. Awareness of the dangers and risks is important and conversing about different strategies is very helpful. The hikers at KMS need information from the ones who are already in or through parts of the Sierra.
However, it eventually becomes redundant. We can only get so much information without going in to see for ourselves. Decisions need to be made for ones own comfortability and skill level. A lot of hikers spend multiple days in Kennedy Meadows including myself. I got here on a Saturday but my packages won’t be here until Tuesday. It leaves a lot of time to think and there’s not a lot to do while we wait.
At the Chimney Creek Campground, the day before I got to KMS, I met No Hawk and Gary who promptly invited me over for some trail magic. It was their 9th annual memorial weekend trail magic. They passed around photos, told us stories of the trail in the 70s, and of their friend Greg “Strider” who had passed a couple years ago. They now put the trail magic together in memory of him.
One of the first things they said to me when I met them was there’s no need to get to Kennedy Meadows soon, there will still be snow when we get there.
There’s No Schedule
I had been in a rush, I wanted to do 25 miles that day, I still had 8 more to do, but I couldn’t pass up trail magic. As hikers left, No Hawk asked what the hurry was. “There’s no schedule”, he explained to us.
I realized, I don’t need to be anywhere. I don’t have a big girl job back in New Hampshire. I have zero obligations right now. I’m 20 years old and I’m not in college. That’s a huge part in why I decided to hike the trail now. It’s an interesting year with the snow to say the least but I’m so happy to be out here living a dream.
No Hawks words prompted me to think about the feeling of urgency I’m experiencing. Do I feel pressure to hike into the Sierras? I’m fighting the idea of flipping, though I may need to eventually. I want so badly to have a normal thru hike. I look at the map and wish I could just hike straight up North on the red line.
I worry I’ll regret flipping. I worry I won’t be able to finish due to fires or crazy river crossings. I can’t control Mother Nature. It’s unknown and I’ve realized that worrying about it is going to ruin this experience. I need to let things happen naturally. This will not be a normal thru hike, but that does not take away from the beauty of the trail or how I decide to enjoy this adventure.
I wish everyone out on the PCT a safe hike, to have fun, to relax, and to find excitement in the chaos, not to fear it.
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