Edited on Trail
Greetings from the sunny Lake Isabella, California. It’s going to hit triple digit temperatures here in a few days, but lucky for me I’ll be beating the heat, gaining some elevation and climbing into the fabled High Sierra Mountains before then. It’s taken me over 650 miles and nearly 50 days to make it this far, but hey, that’s okay, because the last one to Canada wins and the last long stretch of trail has given me plenty of time to learn a few things about life in the dirt and days spent conquering mountains.
Since I last checked in (Mile 454), the landscape and scenery has been a consistent shrub desert with noticeably sweaty conditions starting around 7:30 a.m. Because of these sun-blistering conditions, the switch to the siesta schedule had to be made. That meant hiking between the hours of 4 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. & 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., and sleeping anywhere in between.
With the siesta schedule I hiked 20 miles along the L.A. aqueduct in the middle of the night, found some great shade-inspired sleeping spots during the heat of the day and perhaps passed through the toughest mental challenge on trail yet because hiking 20 miles in a day is already a difficult task to begin with, and doing it with an augmented sleep cycle doesn’t make anything easier.
In those moments between sleep and steps though, the desert has treated me well, and beneath that mid-day heat, and especially in those moments when the sun slowly sets down beneath the mountainous horizon, it doesn’t take much more then a glance to take inventory as to why I came out here in the first place.
Everyday is something new on the Pacific Crest Trail. New views, new body ailments and new objectives to meet. Whether it is getting 23 miles in to the next water source or scouting out the best spot to sleep as the thermometer reaches its peak, it’s exciting, it’s challenging and most importantly it’s fulfilling to wake up each day with with a new set of tangible tasks at hand, all of which won’t be accomplished unless you see to accomplish them. And with the real goal of 2,600+ miles (plus the fantastic scenery), the hiking might find a little routine, but the days never get old.
It’s hard to believe that 50 days of trail are nearly behind me, and I see it as a milestone for sure, for that is a good chunk of time to devote to anything. I’ve seen and experienced a lot in these last 50 days with some of the first things to come in mind including racing up Mt. Baden-Powell with a fully resupplied pack on (and feeling good about it); waking up on a narrow mountain ridge, sore-shouldered and feet swollen, only to see the sun rising steadily over the mountain and onto a new day; and one particular instance of putting my pack on, unbeknownst to the ants in my shirt, and feeling a sharp pain of surprise that woke me back up to life.
There have been a lot of new thoughts in the last 50 days as well, or just intrinsic thoughts that have been more audible amongst the long days of hiking, and while it is easy to “talk the talk”, I hope these new trail insights, the ups and downs on the journey so far, come back with me once I reach Canada. For now, I’m keeping close to my mind the words of a trail angel known as Dan Running Bear – “whatever you do, don’t go back home as the same person you were before leaving.”
With some of the niceties said about the desert, it has been unforgivably hot (just ask my hiking partner, aka “Sunburn”), increasingly dry and filled with enough microscopic sand to fill in every single pore of my body. That’s what makes my recent mileage so special however, because in a short 50 miles (all uphill), I’ll have landed in the much talked about Kennedy Meadows, the gateway to the Sierra Mountains on the PCT.
I’ll be trading in water shortages for pristine and abundant alpine lakes, hot days for cold nights, and regular sightings of rattlesnakes (I’ve seen 6 so far, including the Green Mojave Rattlesnake) for new Bear precautions. Above all, I’ll be in the mountains that inspired National Parks to be built, some scenery that will surely be surreal and will be continuing this story in the heart of the Sierra Mountains.
Over and Out,