The Little Moments
Beastie Boy (Mike Dennis), 32 from Los Angeles, CA.
Twerk (Me AKA Tommy Corey), 29 from Portland, OR.
Mike and I started the PCT from Campo about a week apart. To this day, we have never officially met, but keep in contact as if we had actually hiked together. I always feel a strong connection to other hikers who are artistic, especially those who you can see passion in the art they produce.
Mike has called himself an amateur photographer, but I have to highly disagree, especially after seeing his gallery of PCT photographs. It’s incredible to see the the trail through another photographer’s eyes. Since the start we had talked about collaborating on an article together, and now, we finally have.
We both sent each other about 40 of our favorite trail photos. We then chose seven of those photos for the other person to write about. Here are the seven we chose…..
Beastie Boy: Glen Pass
In my pre-trail life I was a dedicated community organizer in Los Angeles. An organization very near and dear to my heart helped fight a campaign in Los Angeles to legalize street vendors, many of which were undocumented. We organized thousands and built a movement in LA. I had the privilege of play a key role in some of the campaign’s major advances, and I couldn’t shake this side of me off when I got on the PCT. When I let everyone know that I was planning to do this long hike, they all thought I was nuts. I promised my comrades, organizers, and street vendors back home that I would make a sign and carry it with me for a photo op on every mountain pass we climbed. During my regularly scheduled post-climb cigarette break, I busted the flag out and asked a friend to snap this with my camera. This day was so fun, we had finally gotten used to the terrain and were hitting our stride.
Twerk: Rhino Jr.
I refer to this hiker as Rhino Jr. because there was another older woman hiker named ‘Rhino’ from South Africa. This was my 4th day on trail, right out of Mount Laguna. A few miles before this, we had stopped on a ridge and taken photos of the desert valley below. I had just bought this super cute Patagonia hat in San Diego before I left for the trail that I was excited to be sportin’ during my hike. Well, it was so windy that day that my new had went flying off the ridge. They say leave no trace, but at this point, I had no option but to watch it fly hundreds of feet down off the cliff. After that, I hiked with Rhino here for a few miles and had some good conversation. I remember feeling like a newbie because he had hiked the AT in 2015 and I kind of felt like the new kid at school. We camped together with some other hikers that night in this boulder field. Him and these other hikers laughed as I tried to hook my tarp over my tent in really high winds. He then tried to name me “Wind Force” which I didn’t take because I knew with the miles ahead of me, I would get myself into more shenanigans than just stuff blowing away.
Beastie Boy: Approaching Tahoe
After hiking for almost 5 weeks through rough and chewed up terrain, with trail rarely in sight, we began to drop elevation and haul ass. This was one of the first days in a month that I saw continuous stretches of dry trail. The area turned into arid desert-like climate, with big red jagged volcanic peaks. They look like they had been there longer than any of the passes we came through. The sun cooked us pretty good this day, but I was happy to have it. We were just a day away from the South Lake Tahoe area, and I was incredibly eager to get the hell into town and see my family. It was a damn good feeling to know that I had made it this far. My legs were solid as bricks, and my head was clear.
This sunset was the night before we hit Julian. I remember this day I was pissed off because we hiked 1.4 miles roundtrip to get water off trail. However, when the sun started to set, I was enamored with the colors the sky was producing. This is my buddy Nirvana from Seattle. I knew I couldn’t let those beautiful locks go to waste, so I had him do some Willow Smith and whip his hair back and forth.
Beastie Boy: Milky Way Over Muir Pass
I didn’t realize it at the time but the climb to the summit of Muir Pass is long and brutal through frozen snowfields. We slowly made our way up and it was getting late in the afternoon. Climbing from 8,700 ft to 12,000 ft in one day is taxing on the body. But I’ve never seen so much beauty. I took a boatload of pictures today. Ascending up the summit to the Pass was like hiking through another planet. Most passes are razor sharp and cleanly divide two separate valleys. Muir Pass sort of snakes around a couple ranges so you can’t ever actually see it until you reach it. There is tons of snow up here. It looks like December. While hiking up, I had a weird moment of existential clarity. I was washed with emotions, a recurring thing for me out here. I have to stop and just stare. Climbing up took every ounce of energy out of me. Not like on Mather Pass, where I was just scared shitless from the steeps, but not exhausted. Muir Pass makes you tired. You want to quit. But everything around you keeps you moving. On the summit there is the iconic Muir Pass Hut that was built by the Sierra Club in 1930. The weather was so clear and we were soaking wet so we all decided to pile in the hut and stay up here tonight. I’ve never camped at 12,000 ft with 360 degree views of the beautiful High Sierra. Hanging out at the hut was fun. Everyone was farting on each other and smelling up the place. I stayed out of the fray. It’s cold so we have to huddle. Me plus 11 other smelly hikers lined every crevice of the 40 square foot hut for the night. Weird smells and all. Around midnight me and another hiker named Harley got up to take some shots of the Milky Way over the pass.
Twerk: Dirty Hand
This was only my 5th day on trail and I couldn’t believe how dirty my hands were. I’ve never been a prissy man, but I do like to keep appearances; being without a shower for this long was very new to me. Looking at my hands was liberating, however. As a gay man, I feel this pressure to always be as good looking as I can – it’s kind of the cliche’ of the culture, unfortunately. The fact that I was dirty, sweaty and oooohhh so smelly, made me feel really good. Like, really fucking good. In fact, the most attractive I have ever felt in my life, was my time on trail. I was tan, my legs looked swole and I was happier than I’ve ever been. It’s amazing how your confidence is higher the happier you are. I knew I wanted to document this as a reminder to myself for whenever I got off trail that I’m only as beautiful as I feel inside.
Beastie Boy: Sunrise below Donahue Pass
We camped at the base of Donohue Pass, about 4 or 5 miles south of it I believe. We had just spent a long couple of zeros in Mammoth for July 4th and I was still walking my fat ass off. I had decided (along with a few of my mates) that it was time to starting cranking out bigger miles because of our location on the PCT and the fact that I was absolutely fucking sick of hiking through snow and rough terrain. When I woke up this morning, it was particularly cold. But not enough to fully frost my gear. I dragged ass, smoked a cigarette, made some oatmeal (I never cook breakfast), and then decided I should start packing up to make the climb over the last big pass. The sun slowly rose, burning off the cold. The beginning of the end of the Sierra felt real. We were making progress.
Twerk: Baby Jesus at Sunset
We had left Julian that day. I was having this insane high from the trail this day. Meeting Carmen and experiencing the amount of kindness of trail angels first hand was making me fall deep in love with this new lifestyle. I met this kid, Baby Jesus, in Julian. We had all went to an Italian restaurant in town the night before. There were 7 of us so we had to split into 4 and 3. Baby J, Picnic and I sat together until Picnic decided she wasn’t hungry and soon left. It was awkward at first I felt because your first few weeks really does feel like the first few weeks of school. You’re meeting all these new people and deciding who you’re going to be friends with – only this is more challenging because you also have to KEEP PACE if you want to spend times with your friends. The conversation was your typical where do you work, where do you live, family kind of stuff, but we did have being Mexican in common. It wasn’t until this night that Baby Jesus and our group of friends really bonded. We cowboy camped right off trail with Birdie, Nirvana, Mouse Trap and Tarantino. We packed out some whiskey and tequila, stayed up a little later than usual and laid around having meaningful conversations about our lives. Tarantino talked about our experience as kids being bullied and teased; Birdie and Nirvana shared stories of growing up in religious households and how it has effected their adult lives. It was probably one of my favorite nights on trail because I was finally feeling that raw human connection that the trail seems to inspire.
Beastie Boy: WingIt Portrait
When I got back on the trail after a month-long injury, I ended up in the same trail orbit as this dude, Mahesh aka “WingIt”. He was sort of a lone traveler, and the first impression I got from him was that he was more hardcore than I. His pack was filthy, and he walked at an incredibly measured pace with a conspicuous smile on his face. After a couple days of seeing WingIt, I finally introduced myself and asked him if I could take his photo. I only had my 14mm lens with me so I had to get all up in his face to make the shot scale right. He had just doused his whole sweaty head in water after a long hot day of hiking. I don’t think he expected me to invade his space bubble, and he was slightly shy about his portrait being taken. We ended up hiking through all of the Sierra Nevada together, along with the rest of our crew – the infamous Lazy Fucks. This photo was taken somewhere on the trail between Tehachapi and Lake Isabella, a section I will never miss.
Twerk: Rhino from South Africa
THIS WOMAN. Rhino was definitely one of the most interesting and sweetest people I met on the trail. This night was spent at the KOA before Hiker Heaven. We had bought a bunch of beer and a bottle of Tequila. We saw Rhino wandering back to her tent and I called out to her, “Rhino! Come have some tequila with us!” In which she responded, “OH! That reminds me of my college days!” She told us some other hysterical stories about her days as a 20-something, her long distance relationship and how she was hiking for Rhino poaching conservation. She’s a very passionate woman; it was inspiring to me. This was one of the funnest days on trail as we got her a bit tipsy that night and she shared some other hilarious stories that had us rolling. My favorite part was when she came to my tent about 45 minutes after we all went to bed, asking if I had seen her phone. Well, come to find out, it was in her jacket pocket.
Beastie Boy: Sunrise over Shasta
After being off trail for a week to deal with things on the home front, I was back out in the woods just outside of Shasta along the Castle Crags. Most of my group had fanned out across the northern part of the state and I was on my own. I managed to run into a couple of my old crew mates from the Sierra stretch and loosely paced with them. I remember it being insanely hot this day, and very humid. I also remember being so thirsty that I filtered some smelly water, which later gave me a stomach ache. Later that night I ran into a couple of high-mileage freak hikers that some would know as Dirty Avocado and Bamboo. I cowboy camped with them that night expecting bugs to basically be out of my life for good. Man was I wrong. The whole night they terrorized me, biting any damn inch of skin they could sink their evil needles into. The next morning I woke up, the freaks were gone and all I was left with was this incredibly vivid sunrise. The smoke from nearby fires mixed with the humidity pulsing off the forest floor made for some lovely light textures. 2 days after I took this photo I reinsured my knee and had to quit the trail for good. It was one of the last good sunrises I saw.
Twerk: The Storm on San Jacinto
One of the most intense days on trail was coming down Mt. San Jacinto where we could literally see the storm coming towards us in the distance. We did about 18 miles that day. We made it to the Fuller’s Ridge Campground where a man and his dog had a nice fire going. It was raining down and we were all deciding whether to stay or not. Inevitably, we decided to do 10 more miles (we made it about 8) in the storm. We were going pretty quick and the storm was getting more intense. On the ridge, I was getting pretty terrified it would blow my skinny little ass off into the abyss, so I kept a slower pace on those parts out of fear. We set up camp and I fell asleep to my tent blowing back and forth, and back and forth, very aggressively. I woke up around 2am to pee and fix my tent pole that came loose to find Shade and Baby Jesus’s tarp tents flattened over their bodies. It was actually quite humorous and we all laughed about it as the storm continued. Coming down the 12 miles off the mountain the next we experienced some much needed trail magic under the I-10 Bridge from a woman named Mama Bear. It was as if she knew we would need it that day.
Beastie Boy: Goat Wars
The day we had planned to get back on the trail from Mojave, I got a ride over to meet my friends at a bakery in Tehachapi. When I arrived, they were hanging out with this trail angel named Jim. He is a retired Naval Officer who lived with his wife on a 4 acre ranch outside of town. He and his wife named it Rocking JK Ranch, in case you ever want to look it up. He likes to help out hikers, and had his name posted at the Casa de Luna bulletin board for local trail angels. He’s a tall white guy with a soft voice and a brain full of stories. Our plan was to do a night hike out of Tehachapi that evening to avoid the desert heat. He offered to give us a ride to the trailhead AFTER we went to his ranch to meet his goats and horses. Of course we obliged, and jumped in his truck. We took a bumpy ride to his ranch. His barn was the ultimate man-cave. He brews his own beer, and he loves sharing the space with outsiders. He gave us a tour of his ranch, and let his animals out to run around. One of his goats kept trying to head bunt me in the ass and crotch. Jim walked over and started wrestling the goat, which is when I captured this image.
I feel like I tell this story a lot, so I am going to keep this short and sweet. This was my 1 month (out of 2 months on trail because I’m a bitch) trail anniversary. We were on Mt. Baden-Powell with Nirvana that evening after a long hot day of uphills and all that BS. We found an amazing camp spot on the side of the mountain and set up to cowboy camp. After setting up, we made dinner and sat against a log and listened to Explosions in the Sky. I cried this night because it was the happiest I had ever felt. Everything was simple and beautiful. The cotton candy sunset stained the sky above the twinkly lights of the city below it. My friends and I shared very personal stories and had a moment I’ll never forget. It was then and there when I realized how “the trail provides”. I had thought about it a lot before this moment, but that simple, pure and magical sliver in time had solidified why I was out there. I’ll never forget this night or that sunset with my buddies.
Follow Beastie Boy on Instagram: @fraudfix
Follow Twerk on Instgram: @tommycoreyphoto
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