Before I left for the PCT, someone close to me told me about a dream she’d had that took place in a house. The house had four rooms: one for her, one for her ex husband, one for a current ill-fitting partner, and one for an ex who hadn’t treated her well. In the dream, she couldn’t figure out what to do with these three men in their three separate rooms. As I was walking the PCT, the trail bordered in flowers, butterflies floating by, I rounded a bend with a stunning view of Mt. Shasta. I found myself thinking about her dream, and when I got back into cell service I immediately sent her a text:
Get the f*ck out of the house. Set free the partner who isn’t fulfilling you, forgive yourself for breaking your ex husband’s heart, let go of the man whose neglect has manifested as bitterness. Do you have any idea how big this world is? Get out of the house.
I’ve been thinking a lot about gear these first days. There’s a movement towards ultralight equipment in the thru-hiker niche that has motivated a lot of posts with gear lists (and if you’re a gear nerd, they’re definitely something to drool over). But I never made a gear list, partly because I didn’t want to spend the time and partly because I didn’t care enough to do it. It doesn’t matter to me that my sleeping quilt weights 20 ounces, it matters that it’s hot pink. Am I right? So here are the most important things that I carry.
I carry a metal hair clip with a flower design that I swiped from Julia’s shelf because it reminds me of how much she loves being in her garden. I wear a fluorescent yellow watch that reminds me of my mom and her insistence on choosing the most insanely bright outdoor gear. I carry a ridiculous pink camo knife that Chandani gave me because it reminds me of her beautiful big doe eyes, her massive heart and her inspirational marriage. I carry a pair of compression socks and a knit beanie that Ali gave me because I forgot mine in a dryer in Seattle and she insisted on buying them for me. I carry Benadryl tabs from Diana, which she personally cut in half in case the full tab made me too groggy. I carry a small roll of toilet paper that Jessica nabbed from work and half a toothbrush that was snapped by Dave.
I wear hair wraps in my hair because I’ve had them for the 8 months since I was in Guatemala, but mostly because they remind me of the time Yvonne and I put hair wraps in our hair while we waited in the entrance line to Burning Man. I carry a sticker from my coworker Kelly that says ‘Into the forest I go, to lose myself and find my soul,’ because it made her think of me when she saw it and it makes me think of her when I see it now. I carry a Good To Go dehydrated dinner that Anna snuck in my first resupply box. I tie my shoes with a box knot (or was it a square knot?) because my therapist taught me how to do it in our last session in Seattle and it reminds me of how safe I’d feel in that space in the one hour I’d be there. So in long and in short, the most important thing that I carry is all of you. Your support, your encouragement, are what make the most difficult moments a little easier and the incredible moments exciting to share. I love carrying you. Thank you for gifting me these things.
But should you ever fall under the illusion that this is easy…
I’ll be happy to remind you how hard we work for the stunning views. There comes a point early on where you’re afraid to take off your shoes at the end of the day in fear of what awaits you. I had a lot of trouble picking shoes. A LOT. The thru hiker mode of thought is that trail runners are the way to go because they’re lightweight and breathable. I tried Brooks Cascadias, Hoka One Ones and finally Altra Lone Peaks. Turns out Altra hates me, and I’m happy to hate them right back. Thankfully Anna has graciously mailed my Hokas to my next resupply stop, so hopefully there will be less medical tape in my future (thanks Anna!).
I hit my first resupply – Crater Lake’s Mazama Village, a day earlier than expected. I took a shower, did laundry, organized my resupply and felt really, really uncomfortable among the tourists. In thru-hiker culture, we refer to ourselves as Hiker Trash because we look, uh, like trash. We’re dirty and smelly and have a keen nose for exactly the type of shampoo a day hiker has used. We hang out in our corner table by the camp store while you all gape at us or dare get close enough to ask a question. It’s a weird paradigm to adjust to, and I wanted out ASAP.
I decided to take the rim trail, a PCT alternate, around Crater Lake despite postings and warnings about snow on the upper rim. Most everyone was saying they’d take the risk, so I opted in.
Along the rim, I met a fellow thru-hiker named Zelzin who is from Mexico City and had done the entire trail up to that point, including the Sierras (in May!). I told her about the reports of snow ahead and she asked if I’d like to do it together, and like most relationships on the PCT, we became instant buds. She was carrying all of her food for Oregon in her backpack because she was running low on money and couldn’t ship it. She’d hiked 35 miles the day before, probably weighed 100 pounds soaking wet, and all of the English she knew had been learned on the trail. Did I mention she hiked the snow-packed Sierras in May? She hiked the Sierras in May guys. She’s a rockstar, incredibly kind and within an hour had offered me a home should I ever visit Mexico City.
We continued along the rim, stopping often to take in the views. There was hardly any snow (I need to stop psyching myself out) and in the places we lost the trail, Zelzin would just march off into the wilderness until she found it again. She was a confidence booster, little Zelzin, and she dropped me off at my campsite with a hug before continuing on.
The next day, I hit a wall. You can try your absolute hardest to dance with the mosquitos, ignore your foot pain, paint a mirage of flowing water when your dehydrated body knows you have 18 miles until you hit the next creek. You can ignore the heat of the headnet you have to wear, take more ibuprofen, drink more of your water supply while pretending not to worry about it, but sometimes the trail just wins.
I crossed a major highway and caught a hitch to a nearby resort, where I rented a room and took a shower that wasn’t limited to the number of coins I put in the machine. I consciously scrubbed behind my ears for the first time in my life, ate my first non-trail food, figured I should hydrate but bought a beer instead. I hung out on the beach, I walked the lake, I mailed my hammock home. I let the blisters on my feet air out and I wrote this blog and I tried to remind myself that low moments are bound to happen.
Can I blame my period?
I hadn’t had a period in months (thanks Mirena!), but then I became good friends with Julia. If you haven’t heard about this, let me enlighten you. Women sometimes have this weird thing happen where our periods sync up if we’re spending a lot of time together. My theory is that my body caught on that I’d be leaving soon, so Julia and I became tampon twins, which is just great. Thanks Julia.
Trail periods are a genre unto themselves. I’d packed one set of tampons that Jessica said no to, but I kept them anyways. Then Ali said no to them too, so I took the tiny tampons she gave me. But the fun part is that tampons are just not a thing on the trail. In fact, period maintenance in general isn’t a trail thing. At least not for me. I tried it out for a day and I was like nah, I got other things to do. It reminded me of a time I was traveling in India with a friend who got her period while we were inconveniently in a temple in Delhi. She cried in the corner in her skirt while blood ran down her legs. Now here I am, just letting it flow like the wild dirt collector I’ve come to embody. I hear menstrual blood is good for plants anyways. The tampons are going in the trash. Have a wonderful week everyone!
Vaya bien! Besos!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.