Mom…my sponges are gone.

My whole backpacking life I have had something between my collar bones and shoulder straps to prevent the straps from pulling too much on my shoulders. Even though everyone knows most of your weight should be on your hips. I can’t even remember what it started with, but I know at one point we were using weird shoe gels stitched onto the straps. We finally found success in kitchen sponges. They offered enough padding to shush my tantrums and allow everyone to have a peaceful backpacking trip.

They were my last purchase before heading down to San Diego. I figured it was more of a mental thing at this point, but I wasn’t about to start a five month journey sans sponges. Other thru-hikers always asked about em, made some good-hearted fun, and one even has the same problem and wanted to try it out. They were a good conversation starter and shoulder saver.

Well, 370 miles later, I ditched em. Sort of not on purpose. I was getting a ride with Legend to an REI and they fell out of my pack into the depths of his Mary Poppins truck. I noticed they were gone right away but figured it was time to callus my collar bones. And guess what Mom? They’re fine. I climbed 5000 feet with five liters of water, aka a really freaking heavy pack, and my shoulders were fine. Maybe I’ll regret it later but right now I have graduated from the sponges.

Day 18: Ridge past Big Bear, Mile 280.2

So I forgot to mention that yesterday, a friend of mine showed up who I hadn’t seen in over a year. Shout out to Alex Rosema for hiking three days with me! And to Stewart and Jacob for writing me awesome letters in Idyllwild. Snail mail is the best. And and shout out to Banchi for doing all my social media so I don’t have to. You da best.

I had totally forgotten Alex was coming, who we deemed “Nuts” because he only brought nuts and granola as his food, and the minute I turned my phone off airplane mode I got a call from him asking where I was. Whoops. Sorry bud. He met me at the trail angel house and we started off the next day with another hiker, Blue.

It was our shortest day yet, only fourteen miles, but better to ease the noobs into this lifestyle. It was also the first time I left my original tramily. I had to say goodbye to Pony, Fire Ant, Dandilion, Wilder and Roller. And by goodbye I mean I texted them cause I freaking hate goodbyes. They are the WORST. The. Worst. I know I’d see them in Wrightwood but after that who knows cause I got this wedding to go to.  It was definitely hard leaving Pony cause she has done so much and we’ve been hiking since mile two. Only two and a half weeks, but pretty much spending 24 hours together. Ok, done thinking about it. Long story short, it sucked.

Anyhoo, we got offered four million hitches to the trailhead just by looking homeless in front of the Dollar Tree. Pretty amazing. And the Dollar Tree was a dope restock. Cheap and actually good food! Our hitch ended up being a guy who teaches Adaptive skiing at Big Bear so I was stoked.

We pretty much just walked and talked and the miles rolled behind us. Both Nuts and Blue don’t have tents so I was persuaded to cowboy camp with them. And now I am hooked. You don’t have to pitch a tent, you get to watch stars (so I got less sleep than normal cause everytime I woke up I stared in awe above me), and see the sunrise. It was absolutely totally beautiful and peaceful.

Day 19: Deep Creek Spring, Mile 298.5

Woke up to the sunrise and began our eighteen mile day.

We passed Holcomb Creek and desert – we keep going in and out of the desert – and saw trees and creek landscapes as well. When you walk fifteen plus miles everyday, you see so many different types of earth. And fifteen miles is nothing compared to the whole planet! But we get to walk through shrub, water, massive trees, all in one day. Which means different animals, trails (rock, dirt, sand)…your senses are constantly taking in new information as your surroundings change.

We walked to Deep Creek, which has been my favorite campsite so far. We got to sleep at a water source, I can’t tell you the last time we got to do that. I cowboy camped again and got to fall asleep to the sound of water trickling down stream.

Day 20: Grass Valley Spring, Mile 318

Woke up before Blue and Nuts again and hiked a good while till they caught up. We hiked nine miles to the Deep Creek hot spring and hung out there for…six hours. It was magical. I got in the cold water first and got to semi wash my shirt and my lovely smelling armpits.  It is so nice being able to swim. We’ve been hiking from tiny stream to tiny stream so actually being able to submerge our entire filthy, dirt-covered bodies is a wonderful luxury.

There were five pools with varying degrees of temperatures and varying degrees of nudity. I feel like it’s always elderly men who enjoy relaxing in their birthday suits in these types of places. So that’s what we saw. Whatever floats your boat. The water felt so good and and it was hard to walk away from it. But when you are walking everyday, a lot of the memorable moments are when you are not walking. When you stop, you have time to have conversations with people who walk at different paces than you and learn about things beyond what is one step ahead of you or one step behind. There is more time to take in your surroundings and really appreciate where you are. Even though we are out in nature, it is easy to get into the “go, go, go” mentality and just walk, walk, walk. There is always some pressure to get miles in but taking the moments, or hours, to stop and sit for a bit is always worth it.

Nuts met someone who could drive him back to L.A. from the springs and said goodbye. Probably won’t see him again for another year. After he left, we walked seven miles past the hot spring and finally hit the legit desert. The Mojave. And it wasn’t even that hot! Passed the spillway and cowboy camped with Harvest and Crash, an Aussie who hiked the PCT in 2015 in 99 days (most people take 150ish)! Oh! And we passed mile 300 today!

Day 21: Dry Creek Bed, Mile 334.6

I hiked with Harvest all day today. Holy shit she is cool. She’s pointed out chia plants, plants that help you remember your dreams, and a lettuce. I ate a radish plant leaf, put mint in my water, and she cooked yucca flowers. Who needs Top Ramen and tuna packets? She also made gnocchi on trail, her lunch once was chapati with carmelized onion and ricotta spread, and so far she has eaten NONE power bars. Freaking champ. Makes me wish I had prepped more meals but ah well.

We hiked around Silverwood Lake, found a box of donuts on the trail and ate one each, and took an hour and a half nap on some concrete ground in a picnic area. It was great. We wanted to wait out the heat cause it was getting warm again.
Before leaving I ate the grossest meal yet. I’m not a fan of tuna so I tried spam. Fucking disgusting. Never again. Forcing myself to like tuna. Ugh. Yay camp food. We hiked till dark and decided to sleep in a dry creek bed that was home to some massive toads. We heard the rustling and saw a toad the size of my hand. Stayed there anyways cause…why not? Obviously we didn’t sleep so well but life goes on.

Day 22: Ridge Above Cajon Pass, Mile 349.9

We woke up at 5 am to get to Cajon Pass before it got too hot. Harvest and I ran into Airplane Mode, who cowboy camped on a cliff. We all walked into Cajon Pass together through not super exciting terrain. BUT what was sadly very, very exciting was the McDonald’s we got to eat.

Cajon Pass is just a rest stop off I-15 complete with Mickey D’s, a Chevron, Best Western, and Subway. Total Paradise. And guess who was here? LEGEND! Making his pancakes again. What a guy. So we ate some pancakes and then McDonald’s.

Harvest and I had met a couple back at Silverwood Lake and they caught up to usbat Cajon. We had also been talking about getting a milkshake at McDonald’s for three days. Well, I come out of the bathroom after attemping to furtively clean my underwear and socks in the sink, and a cookies and cream McFlurry had appeared on my table. The couple we met bought us one! I almost cried I was so happy.

After spending way too much at McD’s, and making the lost sponges trip to REI, we began our 5000 foot climb and 22.5 miles without water. I packed out five liters, so another uphill stretch with a heavy pack.

Turns out there was a water cache five miles in but most people carried enough water for the 22.5 miles just incase. We passed it and hiked up into the hills at night.

It was a bit sketchy: it was sheer drop off on one side and quite dark. We had our headlamps but they only shine so far, and there were a couple times when my trekking pole did not touch solid ground. So I hit the edge of my comfort zone. Still didn’t see any freaking scorpians or tarantulas!!! Gah. I wanna see that or a flipping rattlesnake so bad. Everyone else has.

I found us a camp spot on a ridge. Probably one of my favorite so far. We were at about 4800 feet, totally isolated out on a desert hill, immersed in nature, but we could see I-15 miles away from us, trains coming and going, and the lights of San Bernadino off in the distance. We were far away enough to still see awesome stars but normal society seemed so…close. It was another moment of people doing their daily life, and little do they know there are three women perched on a ridge  in the hills they drive by everyday cooking their shitty camp meals. And loads more of people doing the same thing every night. I dunno why I think that is so cool, but it is.

Day 23: Wrightwood, Mile 369.4

My supposed to be fourteen mile day turned into nineteen. We got up early to finish out the dry stretch in the cool.

It was mostly desert and then BOOM. I rounded one ridge and there were trees. Not even kidding. One right turn and the landscape totally changed.

When we got to the water source it was a drip. Practially dry and completely unreliable. So I couldn’t camp there. We filled up and hauled the last five miles into Wrightwood. We walked through a ski resort, felt like home, so naturally I climbed a lift tower.

We got an easy hitch into town and ate an entire rotisserie chicken outside of the grocery store. We didn’t know where we were gonna stay but luckily looking homeless enough in a town like this makes total strangers offer you a place. A man with a pickup truck offered spots in his bunk house so we jumped on it. Or in it.

We drank some delicious root beer floats and passed out. Best sleep I have had in a while.

Day 24: Wrightwood/L.A. Mile 369.4

Well. Not gonna be writing for a while cause it is time for…Molly’s wedding!! I got a six day break from the trail, which is actually really hard. I love the people I have been hiking with and now they are gonna be pretty much uncatchable.

My old tramily rolled into Wrightwood before I got picked up so I got to see them again before I don’t see them for a really, really long time. It was awesome to see them again. And I know I’ll see them later in life, not on the trail. Maybe…maybe I’ll catch up. But probably not.

My cousin Eryka drove an hour and a half to come get me and is driving me back too. Even off the trail I am lucky and people are doing generous things. I’m stoked to see my college friends, not stoked to wear a dress or probably get tortured into makeup. I want my dirt back! But here’s to a week of being clean and attempting to look like a human again. See you in a week PCT.

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Comments 1

  • Nancy Huber : May 26th

    You are bringing back so many great memories….. cowboy camping, elderly men, how looking homeless helps, all the little things of trail life. Enjoy your time off the trail. There are so many other wonderful hikers you have yet to meet once you get back out there. But it’s so, so hard to leave the ones you know. Hugs.


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