What Has Surprised Me So Far (May 15)

At this point, I’ve been hiking on the PCT for just about three weeks.  These are just a few things that I’ve taken in and been surprised by in that time.

The climate.  So much to say here, but for one thing, it’s been a wonder to walk through and over different kinds of mountains, within a few miles of each other.  Some mountains tend to catch the rain, while others get very little.  Some mountains are green, while others are so very brown, with very little plant life.  The difference in coloring and plant life is stark.

A good example of greener mountains beyond.






Lack of water.  I had been told to count on hiking long intervals throughout the desert with little water.  There are times that those dry intervals are over 15 miles!  It requires a lot of planning, and some heavy packs containing full water bottles, to begin those dry stretches.

Water cache in the middle of the desert, near the trail.

Supply of water where the trail crosses under a highway. I can’t tell you how thankful we were for the shade there, and the water supply. I never expected to love an underpass so much, ha.

We’ve all been grateful to the trail angels (kind people) who support hikers by refilling water caches, supplying water in the desert.  I spoke with one trail angel who lives near the trail- she spends a full day, every two weeks during hiker season, driving down to the valley, filling up enough water jugs to fill her truck bed, driving back up to the trail, and lifting those jugs up to the rim of a large water tank, which hikers then draw water from.  What a sacrifice and gift!

Wildlife.  Lizards are bountiful, constantly scurrying across the trail in front of hikers.  Snakes are also plentiful, with plenty of rattlesnakes.  (Most of us have had close encounters, but try to take care to warn another.)  One misty morning I saw a bobcat, who just calmly sat and stared at me from several feet away!  I’ve heard coyotes, and a possible mountain lion.  We’ve all heard owls “hooing” at night, and I’ve seen several flying around the desert.

Wide-open views.  Without large trees covering the mountainsides, the views are wide open.  You can often find the trail weaving back over the landscape behind you, or look ahead to where it winds up a mountain to come.

My friend Hannah, ducking under a very large pine!

Giant Jeffrey or Ponderosa Pine.

Wide-open view. We’ve walked through a lot of fire damage like this in California.

Large pines.  The pine trees I’ve seen at higher elevations are stunning!

Positive spirits.  In general, I hear little complaining from the hikers around me.  It feels to me like most hikers are glad to be out here and enthusiastic about all that can be seen and experienced in a day’s time.

Dirtiness.  I think most of us hiking have never felt so dirty before in our lives.  The desert dust gets everywhere!  We all hike with salty dirt stains on our clothing, all the time.

Whenever I get to a town and in front of a mirror, it’s a shock to see the grime and dust and sunburn on my face.  Fortunately, we’re all in it together, and it’s an unspoken code that you don’t point out anyone else’s stains or dirtiness, because obviously, we can’t see ourselves.

Gratitude.  Yesterday there was a McDonald’s near the trail, and you wouldn’t believe how excited most of us were, to wake up early in the morning and hike a few miles to a McDonald’s breakfast.  I can’t describe how good it felt to sit in a chair with my friends, eat a few McGriddles and drink some coffee.  That altered perspective that comes from being away from the common conveniences…how amusing it is to us, and also, what a gift.

There’s probably a lot more that could be said, but these are a few things that come to mind from the past few weeks.


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