The One with the Desert

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt!”-John Muir

A wide, dry wasteland with sand wherever you look. No shade to hide under and no water. The sun high up in the sky, burning down on you while you wipe the salty sweat out of your face. You walk in a straight line for hours in search of a good place to set up camp. The hallucinations continue, and you realize your mind is playing games. The desert is not flat!

No matter what some may tell you or how many hours you spend looking through YouTube vlogs, this is NOT what the desert is like! It’s better. I have just walked 702 miles from Mexico to Kennedy Meadows to learn that important lesson! 🙂

 

I can’t even tell you guys how excited I was getting up that morning and walking, no sorry, speed walking those eight miles into Kennedy Meadows! My tramily and I hiked out of Tehachapi with a full five to six liters of water and a food bag that contained six days worth of food with the mission of hiking 100 miles in four days—just to see if we could do it—and because we didn’t want to carry more food and stop for another resupply in town. 

I reached the Kennedy Meadows sign and then started walking towards the general store. I had so many expectations for this store. Being greeted by people clapping and celebrating and cheering for me on finishing the desert section! My experience was a little bit different, though. I walked in around 9 a.m. on May 1. No one was there… probably still asleep! The store had just opened and the generator wasn’t even on yet. But as I sat there in silence eating my KitKat, crisps, and drinking an ice cold Sprite, I couldn’t feel anything but pride. Here I was, 702 miles later, sitting on the porch of a little store that was the gateway to the Sierra, that was the border of a whole new chapter of my hike!

It was a very interesting part of the PCT. You are leaving a section that is known to have little to no water on trail and are entering a section that everybody is freaking out about. You leave the heat of the desert and have to start embracing the crazy amount of snow north. But…

“All the Snow up in the Sierras has provided for the People in the desert!”-DaddyLlama

So we may complain about the snow a lot (and I have been one of them at times) but as DaddyLlama perfectly puts it, without this high snow year we wouldn’t have had so many streams flowing, we didn’t need to worry about long dry stretches without water, and we would have never experienced such a beautiful, green and colorful desert with hundreds of flowers and cacti in superbloom.

I have seen some very interesting, cute, and dangerous animals and embraced weather that went beyond what I expected. I went through sun, clouds, and very strong winds. I walked through snow, over ice, and through hail. I climbed mountains in the heat and the cold. I slept in a dry, wet, and frozen sleeping bag and have experienced some of the most incredible sunrises and sunsets of my life.

The people here on trail have been absolutely incredible and I always like to say that hiking the PCT has restored my faith in humanity 100%! The amount of love, support, and generosity of trail angels here on trail blows my mind every single day. I am so grateful for everything we have received and I can’t wait to continue hiking.

Animal Count

Rattlesnakes: two

Friendly snakes (I nearly stepped on): five

Coyotes: two

Lizards: 135929990000000

Spider: one, RIP

Cows: four

Dogs: eight

Cats: three

Roosters: three

Birds: 39272500003000

Horses: five

Possible mountain lion or bear (possible it was an army of squirrels): one

Squirrels: six

My Best Day on Trail

Every day has been absolutely special! But my favorite days on trail are the ones that happen after a really bad one. I always say never quit on a bad day and looking back on some I’m glad I didn’t. Hitting the 500-mile marker was definitely a huge milestone for me. Something I had been looking forward to for a very long time! And listening and dancing to the Proclaimers with my tramily was a moment I will never forget.

My Worst Day on Trail

Coming off San Jacinto was one of the days we all hope never happens to us. I set up camp at night and wanted to send my mom the nightly Garmin update on where I am, when I saw about ten messages. Which is never a good sign. Having a Garmin is great but messages arrive a bit late and in the wrong order. My grandma had an accident and would not wake up again after having an emergency brain operation. The message basically said that they were taking her off life support in the next few days! A couple of days later I got the message that she had passed away. What do you do in such a situation, especially as an international PCT hiker when you are in the middle of the wilderness with no way to quickly fly home? I was devastated and I think most of all just felt helpless and selfish for not being able to get home. I  texted my mom, who talked with my grandpa and dad, who both decided that I should stay and continue my trip. They didn’t want me to quit my dream and that I should do it for her and that she wouldn’t have wanted me to quit! So I stayed, got up the next day and continued walking. When you are so far away it sometimes feels like a bad dream and there are days you hike and have a great time but I also had days where the realization hits and you spend hours hiking with tears in your eyes or trying to pull yourself together so you can focus and cross that sketchy ridge line. It is a day at a time kind of process and I will get into how I dealt with grief of trail in a separate blog post. Some days are good, some are bad, but I’m out here to make her proud and to continue living my dream.

Call it selfish, call it stubborn, call it passionate. I’m out here and I’m  walking!

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Comments 1

  • Avatar
    Zach : May 5th

    Loved this update, Oreo. You’ve got a great perspective. My condolences go out to you and your family re: the news of your grandma. You’ve got a great family for encouraging you to stay on trail.

    Reply

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