Nearo days (days with less than 10 miles hiked, usually heading in or out of a town): 4
Rainy days: 13
I originally started this post as we hit our 4 week mark, but then got totally distracted by walking(and not walking…), nature, friends, my daily blog, and probably all of my snacks…
Then I thought, “500 miles! That’s a brilliant time to reflect”… which clearly didn’t happen either.
BUT, on Monday we hit another pretty big milestone: we finished our first “map” and completed section “E.”
The Pacific Crest Trail is broken down into 5 sections: the Desert, the Sierras, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, each with their own map. While we all consider miles 0-702 as the desert section and 702 as the start of the Sierras, for whatever reason our first map considers the desert section miles 0-566.
SO, thoughts, realizations, and some (gross)stories from the Desert section of the trail:
1. Names. I have found it is SO much easier to remember people’s names, and I’m not the only one who has noticed this! It’s a crazy phenomenon and I don’t hate it!! In the “real world” everything is so fast paced and there are so many distractions; our brains are constantly processing so much information and are full of so much shit that I feel like I don’t have the brain capacity to remember people’s names!! But here in the wilderness we have limited stress, peace and quiet, all of the time in the world, and a hundred names that I can actually put to faces!! It also helps that many now have trail names, so we have a face, a name, and a story to help remember.
2. Hand-washing & hygiene. It’s no shock to anyone that I’m totally fine sweating and getting dirty and not showering- Matt used to practically beg me to shower at home!! On-trail we have gone as many as 9 days between showers and it didn’t phase me at all BUT I cannot stand not washing my hands and knowing that others are not washing their hands either. We do what we can with what we have (hand sanitizer and wet wipes!) but still!! Eww!!
It took a few weeks, but I finally came to terms with the fact that I have to brush my teeth with dirt under my fingernails. I ended up ditching my floss ’cause that’s just too intimate for dirty hands.
People think I’m crazy neurotic (/I am) when I demand hands are washed when sharing food in town and how I generally won’t eat shared food on trail*, but in years past there have definitely been norovirus outbreaks within the thru-hiker community! *I accidently succumbed to hiker-hunger back at mile 100 and ate those darn pretzels- and for whatever reason Watercolor always has the best foods to share when I’m craving desserts: Oreos? M&M’s? Damnit I can’t say no!!
A few weeks ago a man posted on the PCT Facebook page that he was diagnosed with CDiff- a ridiculously contagious and dreaded infection that causes terrible diarrhea and stomach pains- people can die from that shit!!! It’s spread by spores and hand sanitizer is useless against it- only soap and water can stop the spread. (CDiff patients in the hospital are put on “special/enhanced” isolation- ugh!) Annnyways, legit 4 days prior to the start of his symptoms, Matthew and I had met this man and definitely touched some of his camping equipment. Ewwww!!! I spent a solid weekend worrying about getting CDiff.
3. Life. I really love my life on trail: I love the views, I love the people, I love the towns, I love the lifestyle. I have never once felt homesick or thought about quitting- I. Am So. Frickin. Happy. Matt has even commented about how I am overall more pleasant! I’ve noticed that, too! At home I never wanted to go out- I was constantly tired and drained from work and slept a ton. Now I am so much more bubbly and love being with our trail family…I am genuinely happy and really nervous about post-trail depression- it’s a real thing, and already the thought of leaving trail leaves me feeling empty!
4. Ugh. While I love most everything about the trail, I do not love all of the poodle dog bush and poison oak- both are undeniably my least favorite parts of trail life- I swear that they are both out to get me all of the time, always sneaking up where I least expect them!! I’m always convinced that I touched one or the other somewhere- at times they are covering the entire trail, requiring you to do some crazy-ass acrobatics to avoid touching them- and I swear the wind always picks up as I pass them! I have watched myself touch each plant at least once. Fuck.
I told my trail fam that symptoms can manifest in 1-2 days or up to a week after contact, and they joked that the symptoms only pop up on business days, never weekends, so they would ask how many more business days I had until I was in the clear! ❤ them!
5. Community. I read somewhere (I think it was the book Pacific Crest Trials?) that you will never feel more comfortable farting in front of someone that you just met than on a thru-hike, and damn that sure is true!! We know each other’s poop schedules (one is a first thing in the AM goer, another usually around 0830…and if certain people go twice in a day we know that that’s out of the ordinary!!) It isn’t uncommon for one to say, “sorry it took a while, I got caught up in a business meeting…” It’s weird, but hey, it’s trail life.
Farting/poo aside, I have never felt more comfortable and have a sense of belonging with a group as quickly as I have had with this thru-hiker community. Princess tendencies aside (I still don’t set up the tent by myself or turn on the stove!), I belong. There was no period of shyness or questioning what I was doing- I have legit never had that before. Matt and I are surprised that we are both so open to sharing hotel rooms with numerous people- for two people that like their alone time, we have shared a hotel room with as many as 9 people! And we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
As Arc puts it, our trail family functions like a real family- we camp together at night, then in the am we all take off for our day jobs, which in this case is walking. We will usually meet up for lunch together, but if not, we all meet up at “home,” our planned campsite for the night, where we talk about our day and the plan off attack for the next one.
6. Anxiety. Turns out I am just an anxious person. I am definitely not as anxious as I am when I’m working, but two or three times now there has been something that has set my anxiety off- it’s short-lived, very mild, and definitely an improvement from the 2-3times/shift AT LEAST panics!
7. Snot rockets. Story time! So gross! But when you don’t got tissues, you gotta do something! Twice now I have nearly given myself a black eye or fat lip from plugging a nostril with one hand while still walking and holding my trekking pole, then punching myself when the bottom of the pole jammed into a rock! Ouch!!
And ew, even worse!! Matt had a snot rocket gone wrong, getting snot all over his finger! And when he tried to fling it off, it frickin landed in my eye!!!!!! Omgggg ewww
8. Food. I wanted to eat healthy and lose weight, but I learned within the first three weeks that I needed to up my caloric intake to be able to walk the miles. I am loving eating all of the snacks and indulging in terrible town food (baked goods, pizza, etc!) but have been discouraged to find that I haven’t lost any weight, while Mr. Wizard has lost 10-15lbs!! Ugh! But as he pointed out, I have eaten ALL the foods and not gained any weight either, which is awesome!!
To be “healthy” while on trail we try to drink a “super greens” drink daily and eat as many fruits and veggies as we can, even if they are dried or salted 😉
9. Purrrrr. The other day while passing by a bunch of trees and shrubs I heard what sounded like purring. I decided that it was a tree branch blowing in the wind, cause, you know, tree branches purr, right?? A while later we got a message from Big Momma who was a little ways behind us- she had just seen a baby mountain lion!! And by our descriptions, my purring and her kitten were in a similar area!! AND, Bambi and Chief Lizard saw two sets of prints, one small and one large, in the same area! And shit! Others had seen mountain lions around there too!!
I’m glad Arc was not far behind Big Momma- Arc called out “please don’t eat me, kitty!” and, “go home kitty!” Definitely a life saver 🙂
10. Probably the biggest, baddest news yet, and definitely the most shocking for everyone on trail!! I do believe that Matthew and I have set a record, at least for this year!! Neither of us have had to dig a cat-hole yet to 💩!!!!! That’s over 566 miles of not pooping in the woods!!!!!!! Pretty much unheard of. One man told us he dug his first hole in the first 11miles!! Totally a Power Couple 🙂 I feel so special when people check in and ask if we are still hole-less and yes, yes we are!!!