The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
I am now two weeks into my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike and currently chilling in the awesome town of Idyllwild. Now would be a good time to share some thoughts and observations. Let’s start with the nasty stuff first.
My feet! I think ugly is a bit of a euphemism here because damn they’re nasty. They’re not doing their job without plenty of complaining. They’re like disgruntled workers constantly bitching and moaning about how hard they’ve got it. Never missing an opportunity to tell me just how difficult their life is. Honestly, though, I do feel for them. Pounding up and down on rocks, through dust and snow. Encased in socks all day so crusty that they could double up as beer holders. They’re working hard for their living but getting the job done, albeit slower than I like. Pretty sure I am going to have California desert under my toenails for years to come. In their defense, though, they have spared me from joining the blister brigade so far. On a plus note as well (I guess) my manky toes are painted every day with a sparkly gray veneer from the desert sand minerals like a teenage girl.
My tent! I have to say I am not loving my tent so far and I don’t think it loves me either. It’s light, oh so, so light but (cover your ears ultralighters) there’s more to life than just being lightweight. The condensation has been terrible, soaking our quilts by morning and the desert winds have threatened to tear it apart on several nights. There is just so many times I am prepared to be slapped in the face by wet Dyneema at 3 in the morning. Like most things gear-related there is compromise. I opted for lightweight over comfort here and must live with my choice. When the weather is good the tent is fantastic but I am slightly anxious whenever the bad weather rolls in. I am still hoping we will bond and develop a loving relationship, but right now it’s been behaving like a little shit.
Now that I’ve got the nasty stuff out of the way I can get to the good things about this trail. There has been so much good I’ve experienced in my short two weeks thus far it will be impossible to compress it all in. The PCT comprises two very important elements—the trail itself, which includes the beautiful countryside, flora, and fauna, and then the people and community that exist around it. The two cannot be separate from each other.
The beautiful terrain that I have passed through has been breathtaking. The desert has been enhanced by a high rainfall season. Green is the color of the moment, flowers erupt alongside the trail in vast carpets of yellow, purple, and pink, and lizards, snakes, and bugs cajole for attention. The creeks are full of good, sweet water, which means all of us hikers are in the very fortunate position of carrying less. The most I’ve had to carry is three liters, with often only a liter needed between stretches.
Every day is marked with variation. From extracting a weary body from warm quilt out into frigid mornings. Broiling days on flat, dusty rolling plains peppered with cacti. Then suddenly finding oneself on grueling ascents up into majestic alpine woods with icy snow. Then just as abruptly plunging back down to the desert floor with a knee-crushing swirl. There is always something that surprises.
Then there are the people themselves. From the fellow hikers who bond in camaraderie of shared experiences to the trail angels and characters who live and work alongside the trail. It has been nothing short of amazing. Rolling into a trail town and seeing new hiker friends dirt caked, smiling faces to swap stories over a cold beer and burger is priceless.
Meeting trail angels like Scout and Frodo, Strange Bird, Twerk and Cyclops have been incredible experiences. From being herded into a drainage ditch for a hiker trash vogue fashion shoot after being fed beers and sandwiches. To staggering out of the cold into the wood-fired warmth of Mike’s Place. Been fed cups of hot coffee, 15-year-old Himalayan tea and grilled cheese sandwiches. Listening to crazy stories about weed-powered time machines, impromptu jams, flashing pyramids, and off-the-wall theories.
Sleeping like the homeless people we are on the porch of Paradise Valley Cafe after a night of drinking and stuffing our faces with town food. Laughing our heads off with new friends while enjoying the exceptional kindness of the locals.
To David in Idyllwild, who has a sign outside his home offering free rides to PCT hikers. He gave us a tour around town before dropping us off at our zero day hotel.
The kindness shown to strangers out here is something one just doesn’t come across in the real world very often. It is humbling and is something that is making this hike quite exceptional.
I cannot wait to see where the next twist in the trail takes me.
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