Trail Names, Moral Dilemmas, and a Recharge

When I get to a new place, especially a mountain town, I love spending time at libraries and coffee shops. I am writing from the beautiful Idyllwild library and I enjoyed reading a magazine at Higher Grounds Coffee earlier today. After two weeks of hiking, Idyllwild has been a great place to recharge, both physically and mentally, get new shoes, resupply, shower, and have a great sleep in a bed in a cabin shared with five of my trail friends.

Flamingo Sunrise strolling through Idyllwild.

I’ve been thinking lots lately about the set of principles that I’d like to adhere to during my hike. In preparing for the PCT I read a bit about thru-hiking “purism” – walking every mile of the PCT and/or walking a continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada. It gets complicated due to the ever-changing state of the trail; certain sections may be closed due to fire, conservation issues, or for other reasons. Therefore, actually hiking all of the open miles of the PCT or walking a continuous footpath may prove logistically challenging because it would inevitably require lots of road walking and/or long alternate trails.

When I started out, I planned to hike all of the open sections of the PCT that I could to maximize my experience on the trail. So far, I have hiked all of the open sections of PCT up to the mountain fire closure, around mile 168, where I hiked down about six miles of the alternate trail before getting a ride into Idyllwild. However, I will probably end up missing about a mile and a half of the PCT later today because I would have to either backtrack or hike an additional seven miles to avoid skipping that section where the trail reopens. Furthermore, I am planning to summit Mt. San Jacinto, which is a side trail and would mean missing a part of the PCT anyway. There are also other side trails that I want to hike later on. I’ve taken all of these things into account when deciding how I’d like to proceed with my hike.

Which way?

In summary, my plan is as follows:

1. When making decisions, ask myself, “Is this adding to or taking away from my experience?”

2. Hike as much of the open PCT as possible, unless overly inconvenient or logistically challenging.

3. When a section is closed, hike the alternate trail to make up for the closed miles – unless there is excessive road walking and/or dangerous sections.

4. Remember that I’m out here for the experience of being on trail for five months – this is the ultimate choose your own adventure and I’m going to make decisions so that I can hike without regrets.

High five for hiking the way that you want to.

I am glad that I have spent time reflecting and asking myself these questions over the past couple of days. I think that one of the great parts of the trail is how everyone gets to hike the way they want to and do what fulfills them. Yesterday I made the decision to hike the two miles before the fire closure and then take the alternate trail, and I was the only one in the group I was hiking with to do so. While it meant going off on my own for the day, I am glad that I had the confidence to make that decision and those miles ended up being some of my favorites. Plus, I was reunited with the crew in Idyllwild and they already had a cabin booked.

Trail Names

Alright, that’s enough about my PCT moral dilemma – it’s time for trail name stories. Three of us now have trail names that seem to have stuck, so I’ll focus on those for now.

Flamingo Sunrise, aka Diane

This photo captures the essence of Flamingo Sunrise.

Flamingo Sunrise was a name that developed with time. Someone that Diane lead a trip with sent her an inflatable flamingo to Warner Springs and it has made a few appearances on her pack since. The trail name Flamingo seemed a bit too obvious, and one day we got to enjoy a beautiful sunrise while hiking. Therefore, Flamingo Sunrise was born and most people appreciate how majestic the name sounds. I think a Flamingo Sunrise should also be a fancy drink you could get at an all-inclusive resort.

Flamingo Sunrise absorbing some evening rays at a water cache.

Hot Tuna, aka Michelle

Hot Tuna has been a fan favorite on the trail. As we were hiking one day, I pointed out that Michelle had a packet of tuna on the outside of her pack in the mesh pocket, and I mentioned it would be toasty tuna. Later, she said something to the effect of “what did you call me, Hot Tuna?” and we loved it. Later on, I was guessing what Michelle and Diane did for work and I said I thought she had the essence of a fisheries biologist. I wasn’t quite right – she works in sustainable agriculture – but it helped make the name Hot Tuna stick nonetheless.

Hot Tuna and Flamingo Sunrise being sassy in Idyllwild.

Canadian Treasure, aka Taylor

On the day that we hiked into Warner Springs, we were talking about different people – mainly female singers and soccer players – that we considered to be Canadian (e.g., Shania Twain, Christine Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi, K.D. Lang, Clara Hughes) or American treasures. This term kept coming up as we talked about music and sports. Eventually, Flamingo Sunrise and Hot Tuna said something about having a Canadian Treasure in their midst, and my trail name was born.

Stoked and sun safe at the 150 mile marker.


Part of the PCT before the mountain fire closure. Beautiful area with lots of birds, snakes, and lizards.

The Struggle

Life isn’t all glamorous out here. The other day it was 95 degrees in the shade during our five-hour siesta.

Finding shade is key.

Got to elevate those feet during break time!

Our days also revolve around finding water. Flamingo Sunrise also has great flexibility as shown by her interesting stance in this photo.

New size W 12 shoes feel great after outgrowing the W 10.5 that I started the trail with. All the hiking and heat make your feet big.

That’s it for now, folks. We are getting back on trail and I’m excited to see what happens next. Thanks for all the encouragement and interest everyone has shown so far.

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Comments 4

  • Pat Donnelly : May 15th

    ‘Keep on truckin’ Taylor. I think you’re possibly onto an innovative new drink called the “Flamingo Sunrise”for breakfast.
    Perhaps, it could be a hyper-hydrating drink for avid fitness enthusiasts
    to drink prior to their morning of activity. Cheers!

    • Taylor Weixl : Jun 5th

      Thanks for the message Pat!

  • Jen : Jun 1st

    I support the choice of “Canadian Treasure”! You rock.


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