I’ve begun my hike to Washington on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I started at the Sonora Pass Trailhead in California with a 55 pound backpack.
My mom, nieces, and sister-in-law walked the first mile with me. It’s such a blessing to have started my journey with their love and support.
I hang my food in a tree every night (aka: a bear bag). My very first time took me nearly 45 minutes. The more I do it, the easier it gets.
I started out hiking slow, setting my own pace. Today was mostly all up hill as I began my climb above 10,000 feet.
Tonight as I attempted to hang my food bag, the counter-weight got stuck in the tree branches and I couldn’t get it down. Oops! I tried and I tried to get it down, but it wasn’t budging. I had to cut the rope. By doing so, I lost about 11 feet of my rope and a perfectly good carabiner clip. I had to leave it there hanging and go find another spot.
I found another tree and quickly went through the entire process of hanging my food again. It was successful. As I was finishing, a passing hiker yelled, “Nice bear hang!” That made me smile. Obviously he hadn’t seen my first attempt. LOL
I crossed my very first snowy patch today.
Then I soon approached the second snowy patch, which was on a much steeper slope. I saw big foot imprints to follow, so I did. I got halfway through and started to see where the footprints began slipping and sloshing in the snow. I froze as I suddenly became aware of the melting snow under my feet. I was over half way to the other side, but I felt unstable, so I decided to turn around and find a path around this snowy patch.
For some reason, my mind shifted to worse case scenario…I thought to myself that I could just slowly slide down the snow to the dirt, then walk around.
And before I knew it, my right foot slipped in the slush and broke over the outer edge. I knew I was going down! I relaxed my body and went with it. I turned quickly so that I was sliding down with my back against the snow. I had to control the 55 pounds on my back, otherwise it would control me as I tumble out of control lower and lower down this steep slope.
As I was sliding down fast, I dug my heals into the dirt to slow me down. Then I used my left hand to help stop me. It all happened so quick, yet felt like slow motion at the same time. I slid about 35 feet below the snowy patch. Soon I came to a stop and the first thing I did was assess my injuries. No broken bones! Good! There I was on the side of this horribly steep slope. I used the one hiking stick that my hand was still gripping and stood up. With rocks and dirt slipping under me, slowly but surely, I climbed up to the trail.
As I was safely resting directly across from where I fell I could see my other hiking pole still on the side of the slope and the slide mark I made in the snow. A passing hiker stopped to say hi. I told him what had just happened and he volunteered to go down and get my other hiking stick. OMGoodness!
I could’ve turned back, but I didn’t. I kept moving forward. I had to cross more than a dozen other snowy patches today. I said a prayer before each and every one of them!
It was not even noon yet, and I was still climbing in altitude. It seemed like the trail just kept going up and up and up. I kept going. I had to…it was constant cliff after cliff, so I had to make it to a decent place to set up camp.
Then it was down hill through huge boulders, multiple streams, mud, snow, and heat. The streams from the melting snow washed the trail away. Soon it was not visible at all! I looked around for other hikers, but there were none in sight. I said a prayer, then searched for footprints. I found some to follow! Yay!
Then mid-way through another snow crossing, I took a step with my right foot and sunk into the snow all the way up to my thigh. Luckily I had both my hiking poles to help me out.
I descended down to a beautiful enchanting heavily forested valley and hiked a couple more hours before finally finding a campsite at about 7:15pm. As I climbed into my tent and changed into my night clothes, I saw my poor legs. Scraped and bleeding, bruised and throbbing, I felt the beating that my legs took in that fall and in the miles I walked afterwards. I tossed and turned all night.
Day #3 was definitely one I’ll always remember.
I took what hikers on the PCT call a “zero” day, which means I stayed in camp all day. Rested. There was a stream nearby, so I filtered water to drink, rinsed a pair of clothes, and soaked my feet and legs in the ice cold water. I ate, even though I wasn’t hungry. But I knew my body needed nutrients and healing after yesterday.
I went through the process of taking down camp and started hiking about 9:30am. The scenery was beautiful today. I passed 3 waterfalls. And I had my first log crossing at a stream today. I absolutely love crossing streams and hopping from rock to rock trying to keep my feet dry. Every time I hopped over or forded a stream, I got a huge smile on my face. It made me feel good.
It was cold this morning! My hike started out all up hill today. My legs felt like jello. I stayed hydrated and I kept telling myself positive affirmations. Then the trail evened out a bit and I got a good pace going. Then the next summit approached and it was UP hill again. The view is breathtaking at the top of each and every summit. So worth it!
I camped near a stream again tonight so that I could filter more water to drink and give myself a little bird bath. Hanging my food bag has gotten easier and takes me only about 15 minutes, on average, to do now.
I took another zero day today to rest my painful legs. I soaked them in an ice cold stream again.
More UP and DOWN hiking today. More snowy patches. And more beautiful scenery! I reached Noble Lake and decided to make camp there for the night. It’s a peaceful little lake nestled in the mountains.
Today started out all DOWN hill, which was nice.
At about 2pm I reached HWY 4. And I still had no cell phone service. I had to hitchhike! It was my very first time hitchhiking ever. It felt so strange at first, but I got a ride within an hour. Soon, I was able to check-in with my mom and family for the very first time in 9 days.
I checked my phone and saw that my sweet husband had tried calling me every day since I was on the trail. It’s so comforting knowing that I have his love and support. I think about him every single day. He is my shining star! I love and miss him so much.
My mom drove up to meet me. We spent 2 wonderfully relaxing days together. Thank you, Mom!
One life lesson that I’ve been learning is to finish what I start. There is no easy way out and there’s no quitting, especially in the middle of the wilderness. I must always make forward progress one step at a time. Obstacles let me know that I am alive and living.
I’ve got bear spray, an air horn, rope, and a pocket knife…but none of those objects helped me off that cliff after I slid down. I had to rely on my own individual strength and intelligence in that situation. After I climbed outta that, I felt a sense of success inside me. I can do this! I am doing this!
There has been challenging moments for me out there, moments when I wanted to quit and go home. But I kept pushing forward towards Washington.
At times while struggling UP hill, I’d cry my eyes out as I put one foot in front of the other. I soon realized that my tears weren’t just from the pain of hiking, but from other parts of my life where I was struggling. Hiking has been a way for me to release those pent-up emotions, and to turn my fear into faith.
I’m excited to continue on my journey and to see all the beauty out there, and to recognize the beauty and strength inside of me.
My next section of the trail is 90+ miles long. Wish me luck! Thank you all so much for the love, support, and the prayers. I feel them so strongly.
NOTE: My husband and I got a divorce in October of 2019. The above post was written while we were still married.
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