Up, Down, and All Around: The PCT is a Mental, Physical, and Emotional Rollercoaster
From Warner Springs to Big Bear
First Things First
Over the past few years I’ve heard, and used, verbiage like “failed attempt,” “quit their thru-hike,” or “ended their journey early.” To all my thru turned section hikers, I have something to tell you. If you have even taken one step on this trail, I am so unbelievably proud of you and love you in a way only hikers can understand. I’m a big believer that language matters, so from now on “failed,” “quit,” and “ended early” are not part of my vocabulary. Your journey was exactly what it was supposed to be and you are amazing. This trail is full of ups and downs (physically and figuratively) and not a day goes by that I don’t consider becoming a section hiker. However, this trail isn’t quite done with me yet. My sights are still set on that border monument, and so my journey continues.
Time Moves Differently on Trail
It simultaneously feels as though my last blog was an eternity ago, and Warner Springs was yesterday. Sometimes I think I’ve known my fellow hikers all my life and sometimes it feels as though I Just got here. It’s hard to believe that it was just over a week ago, that I had my biggest day yet on trail.
I awoke just before my alarm went off at 5am, knowing it was going to be a good day. Feeling refreshed from Warner Springs, I set out without a plan, just letting my legs decide how far we’d go today. In my first few miles I had a great morning coffee chat with Deep Thoughts, a great way to start the day. I pressed ahead and took a breakfast break. That’s when Prom King caught up. After finishing up my strawberry Pop-Tart we took off. We pushed each other, laughed, and pressed on until we collapsed at a tent site we’d decided on at lunch.
Exhausted and beat we logged into Guthooks and realized we’d hiked 25.3 miles. Because we’re the kings of good decisions we looked at each other and said “OMG .9 miles and we’ll have hiked a marathon!” Meep Morp came around the corner and we told her weren’t done yet! I’m 90% sure she hated me in that moment, but agreed. We were doing the marathon. We, slowly and painfully, shrugged on our packs, and began to walk. In a state of what can only be described as hiker delerium, we danced, runway strutted to Lizzo, and laughed for nearly a mile. We quickly set up camp and made a much over do dinner, and just when I thought it couldn’t get better, Deep Thoughts rounded the corner and the day ended the same way it started. A perfect full circle marathon day.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
After an amazing marathon day, my body was exhausted. My calorie intake wasn’t quite matching my output, which takes a physical and a mental/emotional toll. The only thing keeping me going was the thought of cheeseburgers at Paradise Cafe, a popular stop for hikers near Idyllwild. The more steps I took, the worse I felt. I don’t have many pictures of this section. For the first time I considered becoming a section hiker and saying “to hell with Canada, I want my bed!” The trail seemed to stretch on forever, into ominous rain clouds, with storms predicted in the days ahead to Idyllwild.
Even when we made it to Paradise Cafe, I just wanted to crawl under the table and cry. This was the first time I’d felt like a failure. Not wanting to bum out the other hikers, I hitched into Idyllwild two days early and got my own room. This is when I discovered a warm bed, pizza, and binging Criminal Minds, can fix anything.
Feeling better, I meditated and asked for a sign. I went for a walk into town for second dinner and saw my sign. The famous mayor of Idyllwild next there. MAYOR MAX! Idyllwild is so awesome, that humans aren’t their politicians. The mayor and his security team are the most handsome boys you’ll ever meet, a team of golden retrievers. My mood skyrocketed. I knew the trail wasn’t done with me yet. I’d hike out tomorrow.
The Roller Coaster Continues
From Idyllwild, I hitched back to Paradise Cafe, feeling rejuvenated and ready! I wish I could tell you that it was all sunshine and lollipops from there; that my mindset had changed, and I was a thru-hiker having all the amazing times you see on Instagram! That would be lovely but that wouldn’t be reality.
The truth is, the trail becomes home, and just like at home, you’re happy, sad, experience true ecstasy and pure misery. All of these feelings are just accelerated and enhanced by trail life. My daily routine is: morning coffee, fear of sounds in bushes or falling off a mountain, peaceful meditation, mental breakdown, considering getting off trail, ALL THE FUN, nap, more fun, imagine Canada, dinner, friend time, sleep. This routine solidified a trail name proposed by PK earlier in the hike. You can now call me Hot Mess. To wrap things up, a few highlights from Idyllwild to Big Bear.
Coming up to San Jacinto, the weather looked sketch, there was still snow, and I was alone. I skipped the summit, and hoped I’d run into other hikers before Fuller Ridge. Fuller Ridge was rumored to be scary and dangerous this time of year. They say “the trail provides” and right after I stopped off for a pee break, I ran into Wild Turkey, Silverback, Corn Cob and Gypsy. FRIENDS! Fuller Ridge was challenging, but so fun! We slipped and slid and sloshed but did the whole thing together.
One thing was on everyone’s mind when we began the long decent of San Jacinto. In and Out Burger. We sped down the mountain in no time, bodies taking a beating, knowing at the bottom was cheeseburgers, animal style, with unlimited soda. We took Gypsy and Corn Cob on a tour of American fast food, hitting In and Out, Taco Bell, and Starbucks. I hope that someday I meet someone who looks at me the way Gypsy looks at a Frappuccino.
Chase the ZERO
The next couple days were more ups and downs, figuratively and literally. We new Big Bear Lake was ahead. I’m learning to manage the lows and embrace the highs. I can handstand on the top of the world, and survive the cold nights. Like moving to any new home, there is an adjustment period. I’m learning more from this two foot strip of dirt than any home I’ve had before. After downing a big breakfast, we settled into Big Bear Lake for a zero day (a no hiking day).
Tomorrow I’ll hike back out. I’ll have more lessons, more adventures, and more awesome people. One thing is for sure. I’m excited to continue.
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