The New Normal

Trail life has become my new normal. Waking up and boiling water for my oatmeal while still in my quilt, filtering water just to be able to drink it, and blowing up my pad before bed (and re-inflating it multiple times a night) have all become part of my routine. Walking for hours without taking a break, eating pieces of dirt in all my meals (trail spice!), and falling asleep to the sound of the wind feel so normal.

Waking up for sunrise is one of my favorite parts of trail

At Deep Creek hot springs, I cowboy camped next to my tramily and as we started to head to sleep, I saw day hikers heading back to their car. I thought about the nice drive home they would have listening to music, maybe stopping at In and Out for dinner. They would shower and go to sleep in their cozy beds.

How nice that sounds…but does it? It made me think of everything they don’t get to see and do. The stunning sunrises, barren desert landscapes, and snow capped mountains that I have been walking through popped into my mind. I am happy to be choosing uncomfortably and adventure over a simple mundane life, at least for these five months.

A simple life

The last couple of weeks on trail have been amazing, challenging, and rewarding as trail life becomes my new normal. After Idyllwild I climbed back into the mountains via Black Mountain Road, just to immediately descend over 5,000 feet into the hot desert. After a quick resupply at Walmart, I continued onto the next challenge of Mission Creek.

Mission Creek is an area that was washed out last August during Hurricane Hillary. Since the trail is washed away, it requires route finding. My tramily woke up as the sun came up, and began the journey through the wash. The morning was fun, it felt like an exciting adventure different from regular trail. But eventually the heat and 50 river crossings wore me down. We took a long lunch break under a tree, the only shade we could find, before heading out on the second challenge of the day: the ridge line traverse.

9 miles of walking along mission creek

The morning route finding was easy, just following the river for nine miles. The ridge line traverse that allowed us to climb back to trail was extremely steep, gaining over 1,000 feet per mile left me gasping for air as we neared 8,000 feet. Finally, I was back on the foot wide trail again, my home for five months.

The following days of trail were uneventful in the best way. Waking up with the sun, hiking until I was hungry, eating, hiking until I got to a camp spot, eating dinner, sleeping. The simplicity allowed me to enjoy the little moments; the hour long conversations with Poppins as we hiked through stunning forests, the purple puff ball flowers that reminded me of the Lorax, and lizards running from warm rock to warm rock.

I love hiking with Poppins

We finally reached Mount Baden Powell, our last snow challenge before the sending our ice axes and spikes to the Sierra. I camped in a pull out on the side of an abandoned highway with my tramily, setting ourselves up for a sunrise summit.

Climbing up to Baden Powell

The next morning we woke up at 2:30am and were hiking by 3:30am. Within a mile we had hit intense snow, the boot pack going straight up the mountain rather than following the switchbacks buried underneath. I had a moment of doubt. There is a road walk around Baden Powell, which is a common route for PCTers to take when the mountain is still snow covered. But after a moment of hesitation I decided to push on. The next two hours were some of the hardest on trail. One mile an hour we marched, gaining thousands of feet of elevation as we went. In the dark, I could only see two steps in front of me at a time. Finally, the sun started to rise and at 6:30am we reached the summit at 9,407 feet.

Poppins and I on Baden Powell

After a quick celebration, we headed down with freezing fingers. The snow started to melt and get slushy as the sun began beating down which caused our spikes and ice axes to work less. It was fun (and slightly scary) sliding down the mountain, going slow and being careful. We finally reached the road on the other side of the mountain and decided to camp there for the night.

Camped on the side of the road

I felt so proud of myself and my group for summiting Baden Powell and making it safely down. It was one of my favorite challenges so far on trail, and I am excited to continue the snow hiking in 250 miles when we reach the Sierras. But for now, my spikes, ice axe, and warm layers are in the mail as I take on the next section of warm desert. I love my new normal, I love trail life. 

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Comments 4

  • Keith : Apr 28th

    So inspiring!!! Well written and makes us long to enjoy the beauty of trail life with you!!! Thanks for taking the time to write and send pics!!! See you in the Sierra!!

  • Stuart Manson : Apr 29th

    Looks like you’re having a fantastic time, some of the scenery in your photos is amazing! I hope the rest of your journey brings some really good times and unforgettable memories, I wish you well on your future travels 🥾

  • Pcs : Apr 29th

    Yer photos are fantastic…

  • Michael Zipparo : Apr 30th

    Your experience sounds amazing! Your posts are so well written and contain a moving personal element that makes it feel like I am there with you. Thank you for letting me live vicariously through your posts!!!


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