Gaining Some Speed


Current LocationWrightwood, CA
Miles Hiked369.3
Miles to Go2,285.9
Percent of Trail Completed13.9%


In the first few weeks of the PCT, I wanted to ease back into the hiking life. Not wanting to stretch my body too hard, I aimed for a moderate 15ish miles per day. Now that I’m almost a month into it, I am beginning to get some trail legs under me. I am starting to pick up the pace a little bit, putting in more 20+ mile days.

You may think my faster hiking is motivated by some athletic goal or seasonal timing. I do have a limited weather window to make it to Canada and need to keep my pace on track. On a daily level, however, my reasons for pushing longer days are much more simple.

Motivations to hike faster

1. Food

Food has always been and will always be a great motivator for hungry hikers. I pushed a long day the day before arriving in Big Bear Lake, mile 266, in order to make it to town in time for the famously huge pancakes at the Grizzly Manor Cafe. Worth it!

Look at the size of this chocolate chip pancake

Several days later, after arriving at my planned campsite for the day, I decided to hike an additional 6.5 miles just to be able to get dinner at McDonald’s.

The famed Cajon Pass McDonald’s, mile 342, is just a quarter mile off trail. In my pre-thru-hiking life I would have poo-pooed McDonald’s, but now I have a real affinity for the place. Inexpensive comfort calories? An unassuming environment, where they are generally happy to let stinky hikers sit for hours? A place to charge phones and use the free WiFi? Bada ba ba ba, I’m lovin it!

After the counter closed down, we moved to the drive through – on foot – for another round

2. Friends

One of the special things about thru-hiking is the friends you meet along the way. I have genuinely enjoyed the company of the hikers around me. I have met people from Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Iceland, England, Ireland, Switzerland, Israel, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and all over the U.S.

It’s an imperfect science to balance the mantra of “hike your own hike” while also enjoying the wonderful camaraderie on trail. Sometimes you have to do your own thing to take care of your own needs; other times you amend your plans in order to stick with friends. It’s a give and take.

Several times I’ve gotten behind my friend group – when I had to take a third zero in Banning to recover from rotavirus, when I had to take an extra half day in Idyllwild to wait for a package to arrive, or when I’ve just run out of steam for the day.

I always catch up though. When I’m dragging at the end of the day, knowing there are friendly faces a few miles ahead will push me a little farther.

The other day, for example, though I was tired, I hiked a 24-mile day to camp with friends at the Deep Creek Hot Springs. The hot springs are right on the trail and provide a lovely oasis for hikers. Multiple pools are nestled into the cliff side with varying temperatures from cold to warm to piping hot. A warm soak with good company is the perfect reward for a long day’s hike.

3. Being chased by a monster

After downing big restaurant meals in Big Bear Lake, I went to bed in the hostel, with a happy full belly. I was relieved to finally have my appetite back, after a nasty bout of rotavirus.

I awoke abruptly two hours later to the sound of someone vomiting. Soon another hiker in the bunk room joined in, and the two continued their vomiting duet throughout the night.

When morning finally came, I packed up quickly and got the hell out of there. It didn’t take long for the word to begin to spread on trail— the infamous norovirus was rearing its ugly head. There are multiple reports of noro outbreaks in and around Big Bear.

Booking it out of town, I hoped to gain as much distance away from the hot spot as possible. The virus is likely to continue to spread north with the movement of hikers, but my hope is to outrun it. I want nothing to do with noro and thus feel motivated to keep ahead of this nasty monster.

Mile 300


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Comments 1

  • HSG : May 10th

    Nice update! I’m surprised at all the people that illegally camp at deep creek. That place takes such a huge level of abuse. Camping where you are not supposed to bc of the environment isn’t cool.


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