Weeks Two and Three on the PCT: Growing Pains and Storms and Sunshine
Week Two: Growing Pains and Storms
Let’s talk about what most of us don’t talk about when we hit the trail: low self-esteem. Yes, we know we will have low morale days, in-our-head days and bad hiking days. But we don’t expect how soon, how late or how hard it may hit us personally. My experience hit early and hard.
I knew I was going to have growing pains since I am an only child and close to family. This is my first time actually being alone and dependent on myself and my knowledge. Even though I knew I would be lonely, I thought it would be gradual. However, just because I am feeling this way does not mean others experience this like me. It’s my journey that I’m still figuring out, and I will keep moving on with support from family and friends. I’m not giving up and neither should you if you’re growing uncomfortably. We all have our limits, and this is the time to use them wisely.
Zero day. No miles! Today is my last day to spend with my mom and grandma before they head back home to Washington state. We went up to Idyllwild to spend the day hanging and scoping things out.
At a gift shop this lady holding a really cute rescue raccoon thinking, “is that really what I think that is?” I was allowed to take a photo, so I’m happy with the cuteness. Then we waited until I was able to meet the mayor: Max the golden retriever. He’s such a good boy, he poses for treats, and he loves selfies. We had an early dinner at Paradise Valley Cafe to drop off my resupply box. When I was there I overheard that someone saw a mountain lion, which made me a little nervous.
Tonight I stressed out while trying to pack my pack and my food bag since I won’t have easy access to change things up. I changed my sleeping bag to my 15° marmot plasma, and I lightened my load up by leaving one shirt and my skirt. I hope I made the right decision.
My grandma gave me a bracelet to wear for the trip to help me remind me that I’m doing great and to have more faith in myself. The bracelet says “stronger than yesterday,” which is true each day on the trail for me.
It was so hard to say goodbye to my mom and grandma today. I didn’t necessarily want my mom to leave me yet, and I wanted to go home. However, I knew I needed to keep going since this is my dream. My dad likes to remind me of that when I’m having a bad mental day. Grandma’s last words to me were, “Remember, wake up, kick ass, and repeat.”
Now I’m truly by myself and don’t have all my gear at my disposal to change up. After hearing about the mountain lion, I guess I was in my head a bit more, being afraid of seeing animals that I haven’t before. At the end of my first day on the trail I saw my first rattlesnake. When will I see a bear?
The day got better once I saw trail friends and new ones. We were all headed to the same place: Mike’s place. Now I have been contemplating about here since some friends have left and some have reservations, but I found it to be a good place with good company. It’s out of my normal scene and comfort zone, but I could see both sides to what people have been saying.
We had a good dinner of chicken and homemade pizzas made by the volunteer, Scotty, with help from fellow PCT hikers. Scotty invited me and two of my friends to sleep inside the house next to the fireplace. That was so nice of Scotty to let us stay nice and cozy for the night.
I don’t know what was going on with me today. I was just in a bad mood and mentally gone. It could be a combination of hormones, emotions, tiredness, homesickness, and even contemplation if what I was doing was even sane for me to do.
I got an unexpected butt dial but it turned into a good conversation with one of my best friends, giving me support. This was followed by phone calls from my parents to get me through the mornings.
Mornings lately are the roughest for me mentally. Maybe it’s because I’m exhausted from waking up early and being out of my normal element? I did a lot of miles before stopping for lunch. That was a good burst of energy, and it got me to the water cache. I was one of the last hikers to be able to get water from the cache, but there weren’t many there. The water caches may not be reliable.
Then I had snacks to get me the last few miles to camp at Mary’s place. She has a very cute little hiker oasis with a very clean pit toilet, a bucket shower, picnic tables, water, and a library.
This is the second day that it had rained on me just miles outside of town. I brought my heavier rain jacket with me since I had a feeling it would be a wet and cold week. The weather forecast didn’t tell me how bad the storms that were coming we’re going to be.
While hiking today I was at first annoyed and angry with the rain but as I got closer to food it started to look mystical. In the misting rain, the ridges looked magical even in the rain. Without realizing it, I passed the 150 mile marker, which I later found out I took a photo of the heart made of rocks.
It was hard to hitch to the cafe because of the pouring rain, so I and two others ended up walking to the cafe and made plans to stay in Idyllwild for the night. In the cafe I saw a hiker who looked like he had pre-hypothermia symptoms. Others told me that they turned around when they saw icy and snow conditions ahead. So it was the right call for booking a room; looked like that was everyone’s plans.
We tried to hitch again from the cafe in the rain. It took awhile but four of us got a ride in the back of a couple’s truck. I joined a group at the pizza place for dinner and had good conversations about trail life and outside of trail life.
With the storms coming and making the trail bad with ice and snow, a lot of hikers hunkered down for the week or at least a few days. Some are trying to push through the one day of good weather, some are waiting out the entire storm, and some are skipping ahead.
After I had a bunch of conversations with locals, the nomad store, a trail angel (Grumpy), and parents, I made the decision to stay a couple days. Then I would head out on the stretch of good days even with snow on the ground. It would be dry while hiking and during the night. I ended up having to pick up a pair of Microspikes.
I’ve been meeting several hikers and catching up with friends who I haven’t seen for a few days. I have been spending my zero days in Idyllwild. Activities included looking at reports of weather, collecting water, resupplying, drying out gear, laundry and talking with others about plans. There is no set answer to our storm problem since it’s hitting almost everywhere.
Lessons and Reminders of the Week
- Days get better at some point; don’t give up because you’re in you’re head for a couple hours.
- Even on the worst days of hiking, good things can happen.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out for support from friends, family, and fellow hikers if you are having a bad day. We all go through it.
- Remember what grandma said: “Wake up, kick ass, and repeat.”
- Look at the bracelet grandma got me that says: “stronger than yesterday.”
- Things unexpectedly change your plans. Go with the flow and your gut.
Week Three: Chasing Sunshine and Better Days
This is a day to remember. Despite being hopeful for it to be good, the weather storm continued to be terrible. As planned my friends and I had decided to continue and go out on trail. It meant we had to skip miles from paradise valley to black mountain road. This is after fuller ridge and was supposedly the worst to travel at this time.
Before heading out, one of my friends had ripped their brand new Frogg Toggs down the crotch seam. I offered him my zebra design heart duct tape to make a quick fix, and that was really funny. We finally headed out to the trail. The first couple miles were fine, but then more snow came with downpour rain as we went. When I started to slip and slide, I just got a really bad feeling, so I headed back down the road back to town.
The sheriffs had heard there were hikers trying to go out, so they went out to get us to come down. As they continued past me, they started to slide in the patrol car, then turned around and offered me a ride back into town. I climbed out of the back of the patrol vehicle when we arrived at the cafe. The town people asked if I was okay and if I needed anything. I said I was fine just cold and wet just wanting something warm to drink. That was an eventful morning. I decided to just skip ahead and meet my dad in Cabazon.
Another hiker and I got a ride to Cabazon and Palm Springs; she needed to go home. Once I got to the underpass I found another hiker which ended up being one of my friends. I was happy to see him, and we ended up spending most of the afternoon just hanging out in front and eating. Two of our other friends had arrived and as we all shared a tub of ice cream.
They were talking about what my trail name would be, and I told them the story of riding in the sheriff’s car the day before. The golden moment arrived: my trail name Fugitive. I’ve been waiting for this moment and excited to know what it would be. It could have been my food choices, something to do with Dodger, or my acts of being clumsy on the trail. Instead, I got a good story and a bad-ass name as some would say.
We hitched back to the underpass to say goodbye to my friends for now knowing I will see them later. I headed SOBO (southbound) to make up for some lost miles while waiting for my dad. Once I saw my dad, I told him that I thought I finally got my trail name, and he immediately liked it and the story.
I hiked all day with dad. We decided to do a slackpack day to white water reserve and back out to get me eased back in. This was the first day hiking after taking 5 zero mile days. I tried my shoes without inserts, which was a terrible idea. My feet hurt worse with a light pack and no inserts than with a heavy pack and inserts.
We hung out at the Tiki Hut at the Mesa wind farms, and they provided ice cold water thankfully. I was happy to have my hiking partner back since I’ve been basically alone for the last week hiking. As we came out we gave rides to a couple hikers who just showed up to the underpass to in and out. That night we had changed out my gear again to fit the next stretch of miles until I see my mom again. Mostly we got rid of my snow and heavy rain gear. We ate at Sizzlers, having a steak and lobster dinner.
I didn’t want to redo the miles we just had done yesterday, so my dad dropped me off at the next road crossing which ended up being the private zoo that had the animals for movies. This time saying goodbye was easier than the last, but it still made me sad. I hiked for a few miles then got surprised to see my dad walking towards me on trail. He wanted to do a couple more miles with me before leaving and dropping off my resupply box.
Our weather apps warned us about another storm coming through. “Great,” I thought, “not another.” I pushed into Big Bear even though I was supposed to take it easy. Getting closer to Big Bear I hit the 10% marker, realizing that I already passed the 250 mile marker. I was thankful that I could stay with trail angels papa smurf and mountain mama with 21 other hikers – full house! We made the record for most inside the house but not hosted.
We played a couple rounds of a card game after dinner which that was fun. The cute new pup they have, with its long body and ears, made me nervous that it might pop my mattress. It kept jumping on me throughout the night.
We started late, but I was happy with that. By the time we started on the trail, the snow had melted and it was a nice hot day. Weird how weather works. It was a tough day, carrying lots of food for the next stretch to Cajon pass and hiked a serious elevation gain. The climb almost kicked my butt, but I was happy I stayed with my friends at camp. It was pretty cold, but I was fine.
I hiked almost 20 miles today. The day started easy, being mostly down hill, then I hiked with a lady I met the previous day. We talked about snakes and how she could be named “snake finder” because she likes them and seems to see them quite often. While we were talking, we ended up seeing one and it scared me because we were busy talking.
Everything was good until about lunch time when my feet started to hurt. The last couple of days I felt good coming into paradise before the zeros but after zeros – ouch! I pushed on farther than my set limit of 14 miles so I could camp with my friends. Staying under the bridge with the creek was a good idea because my feet were hurting pretty bad when coming into camp.
I was lazy coming out of camp this morning but it was fine. A guy who I camped with ended up hiking out with me most of the day. It was nice to have conversation during the day. It was a fast early couple miles to the 300 mile marker – good high after a couple tough days. We got to the creek, hung out, soaked our feet and ate snacks.
Then after that, we stopped again at the hot springs which was quite an experience itself to me since I have never been really exposed to the nudist community. It was fine but still not my typical cup of tea. He talked me into just putting my feet in the hot springs to help my ankle feel better. And it did, since I ended up being able to fly the last few miles to camp that night.
I learned my lesson on getting water when I get the chance because things – supposedly reliable – are not always the case. I was fine with what I had but my friends nicely gave me some of their water just as a safety precaution. Today had been hot but enjoyable with the water hangouts.
Tips and Reminders
- There is sunshine after storms.
- Days get better as promised.
- Get water when a chance appears no matter what.
- Trail names come naturally even when you’re excited to have one.
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.