Pacific Crest Trail: From the LA Aqueduct to the ER

Hello lovely people! I’m writing this from Kennedy Meadows, so you don’t have to worry. I made it here! The gateway to the high Sierra, the next chapter of the PCT. But it wasn’t smooth sailing. Read on to hear all about what happened in the past weeks.

The Los Angeles Aqueduct

Hikertown! I’ve seen it in YouTube videos, and it’s almost surreal to walk through the gates. Sometimes it still hits me; I’m on the PCT! Hikertown looks like an old western movie set. It was 8 a.m. and already burning hot. Welcome to the Mojave desert, the hottest stretch of the PCT lies ahead of us. Will I be able to do it? I think about what my brother jokingly said before I left; ‘if Reese Witherspoon can do it, you can do it!’ (If you don’t get this joke, come on! watch the movie Wild already!) The whole day we relaxed and prepared for the infamous stretch on the LA aqueduct, a 20-mile section of the trail straight through the desert. Flat, hot & exposed. There is plenty of water in the aqueduct underneath our feet, but nothing on trail. To avoid the heat, most hikers do this section at night.

Night Hike

My foot is bothering me for the last couple of days, but I will be OK, right? I ice my foot for the most part of the day and try not to think about it. We leave hiker town around 6.30 p.m. Armed with glow sticks and glow-in-the-dark face paint, we head out into the sunset. We look ready for a rave, which we kind of create with music & dancing on the aqueduct. The day slowly turned into night, more stars appeared every minute. Of course, I managed to lose my friends in the dark night. That hour I felt all alone on this planet, not in a bad way, I was totally absorbed in the beauty of the night. The dark silhouettes of the Joshua trees & silence surrounding me.

Dark Night

As the night progressed, everyone was getting tired, it was way after hiker midnight! My foot started to hurt more and more and I lost my group again. At 4.30 a.m., I was done, I couldn’t do any more steps. I cowboy camped alone for the first time, too tired to worry about anything. When I woke up, it was light! But it was only 1 hour later. As I got up to pee, I couldn’t even put pressure on my foot anymore. It finally hit me, my foot is bad. No more head-in-the-sand. Now what? I cried the first half-hour heading up the hills. The sun came up and it got hot immediately. To take a break and start hiking again hurt more than to push through, so I did just that. Push through the miles. Tired, dirty, and in pain, I stood at the side of the road to hitch to Tehachapi. A woman pulled over, and after I explained my night, she excitedly exclaimed, ‘Girl! You did the Tehachapi challenge! Congratulations!’ We both laughed. In 24 hours I walked 40 miles (64 km).

The ER

After a day of rest, I went to the ER. I had to know if it was a stress fracture, the most feared injury on long-distance trails. It means that the trail is over. I was so worried! Luckily, I had my friends for support. Everyone in the hospital was super friendly. They get a lot of hikers, unfortunately. An X-ray was made. A few minutes later the doctor returned with the best news, no fracture! Turns out I have extensor tendonitis, inflammation of the tendons on top of my foot (any tips are very welcome!) I was mad at myself. Should I have changed shoes earlier? Do fewer miles? Zero more? But the doctor dismissed all of this and said, ‘Some of you hike 30-mile days from the beginning and have nothing, and some of you just have bad luck.’ I tried to really take this in. Not blame myself and just accept the situation at hand. I got dropped off at my motel by the mother of one of the nurses. So sweet! She was the first of many trail angels that I met in Tehachapi! The most hiker-friendly town so far!

Rest

The doctor prescribed medicine and rest. Absolutely no walking for four days, which was hard after 5 weeks of walking. But I switched my mindset. First I felt like my body betrayed me, inflaming just like that! How could my foot?! I learned that it’s easier for me to push through than to stand still and accept, which is sometimes better than pushing. I needed to stand still to be able to continue on this journey. With the help of binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy, I could. Rest & restore. Now I’m sitting here in Kennedy Meadows, the end of the desert section. I had to say goodbye to friends, but I met up with friends that I hadn’t seen since the beginning of trail. Plans are being made. It’s time for the next chapter! The Sierra Nevada! A big thanks to all the trail angels in Tehachapi. Special thanks to Hippy Hiker Haven & Barbara!

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Comments 3

  • Jhony : Jun 23rd

    Glad no stress fracture. I know kind of a kick in the rear but new adventures await.
    I truly enjoy your writing.
    BTW, you do know that Cheryl Strayed/ Reese never walked the LA aquaduct? She started in Mojave.

    Reply
    • Jhony : Jun 23rd

      The city of Mojave CA 🙂

      Reply
  • Janis : Jun 24th

    Petri, thank you for sharing your story of being smart about a setback. I am sure resting for 4 days felt like an eternity, but it got you back on the trail. All the best – you’re gonna do this!

    Reply

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