Coming out of the High Sierras and into Yosemite I hit a mental low. It was Father’s Day weekend and being in Yosemite there were a lot of families. I was feeling the homesick blues. It felt even more terrible to be in one of the most beautiful places and not feel the appreciation.But, the universe aligned for us once again. After a very long ten miles of feeling in the pits, there arrived the most beautiful sign. PCT thru-hikers this way! We quickly scurried to the picnic area where there was the most magical scene. Sonic, Fish, Bud Lite and Sonic’s family making burgers and hot dogs for hikers. It was an amazing scene of a thru-hiking family coming together. The food was great but mostly it was the much needed boost of good friends and celebration. We sang Happy Birthday to Sonic and ate cake, bringing back the normalities that we miss on trail.
We were one of few hikers who decided to hike on. It was 430 when we left but we hiked another 9 miles, feeling on top of the world. The trail suddenly felt different, hikers interacting more openly. The groups people had been hiking with had slowly been diminishing. The trail had pummeled people down…
The next day we hiked Benson Pass barely seeing anyone until the end of the day. It felt like the whole trail was our own big backyard. We were hiking in little prairie lands surrounded by mountains. All day we hiked quickly due to mosquitvation (motivation due to terrible mosquitoes).
We woke up and got moving slowly knowing it was a long 20 mile day of over 5,000 feet of uphill climbs. Oddly enough this was by far my favorite day. I did take a tumble in the morning over a log, but I kept cruising along. The uphill was oddly serene due to my ear being plugged and my arm stinging. It brought all the focus to hearing my breath and feeling the pain. Very meditative. Throughout the day the wildflowers were magical, rainbows of colors just painted along the trail. Then just to add a cherry to my day there was a deer laying near a tree only a few feet away. It was not skiddish, just laying and looking me in the eye. I felt like that deer embodied all those people looking after me. I couldn’t stop smiling for an hour. As I told Level about the moment I started crying happy tears. Days like that reaffirm why I love being out here.
It’s a good thing that happened because the last four miles of the day were hellish. As we crossed a stream we noticed a lot of mosquitos so we hiked quickly. But the more north we hiked the worse the mosquitoes became. At one point I couldn’t take it I was running like a maniac down the trail. I wanted to put more layers so they couldn’t get to me. When I threw my bag down my whole body was black with hundreds of them on me. I had no time to change so I just ran, yelled, flailing my limbs. I saw a stream about waist deep and without stopping splashed through the water. I saw a smokey fire and put my layers on in the smoke clouds, happy to have a moment of less mosquitoes. We hiked on only a short bit and set up tent in record speed. It was a cook in the tent kind of night as we watched over 100 mosquitoes swarm our tent.
Happily awoke to less mosquitoes but I kept a lot of layers on just in case. I was glad I did because the climb to Dorothy Lake was another mosquito horror. We didn’t stop until long after we got to the top. When trying to get water I inhaled a nest of baby mosquitoes. On the bright side I’m sure I got extra protein, yum! Luckily the rest of the day was easy breezy with no bugs. We saw Wallet and met Shenanigans, chatting with them as we filtered water for the 8 mile dry stretch. It was awesome going from woods back to ridge lines. We did climb up a lot of skree with some snowy vertical stretches. It was a big climb but had no name, so we named it Level’s Pass. He loved the pass, giving us incredible views. It was very windy so we tented in some trees and drank tequila.
Short morning to get to a road where we planned to hitch into town. We heard the resupply was slim and the hitch was proving difficult so we moseyed up to a parking area. We saw Wallet and Shenanigans at a big truck, cooking up veggies. The truck was a nice guy giving away Mountain House meals because they were expired. Rather than going to town we got to resupply for free there. We got beer and veggie stir fry, another unbelievable day.
Because we resupplied from a hiker box rather than town we were skimping on our food. We knew we had close to enough but hardly any snack foods to keep us going throughout the day. About mid way through the day we got wind of trail magic 10 miles ahead. It would be a rush to get there so we decided to try to use that to motivate us. Instead, the next miles felt too rushed. I was hungry but all our food had to be cooked so I trudged on. I wasn’t enjoying myself so when I met Level at the top of the mountain we decided to slow down. Stick to our original plan and enjoy ourselves.
That morning was another magical scene. The trail magic we had heard about was still going. Baked goods, fruits, chai tea, homemade kombucha. It was more than my imagination had made up. The man, Allan who was putting on the trail magic called it Limit Situation. He explained the concept of hikers hitting their limit situation of difficulty and rather than quitting you overcome it and transcend into your ‘true self.’ It is such an interesting and beautiful concept and over the next few weeks I would think of it often. Before we left he told Level and I to remember in life to keep our relationship a priority and to stay true to ourselves.
Along the next week we dove into the trail not only physically but mentally more than ever. Getting past what I felt to be my mental limit back in Yosemite made me appreciate the trail all the more. It became harder for me to write because I just wanted to be present in the moment. The pull to be connected to the outer world slowly dissipated and I felt truly free. Twenty mile days became a norm and while hiking later into the night left little time for camp, I was enjoying the push. One of my favorite moments on trail was at Tinker Knob, a popular day hike. After a long day we arrived at 7 right as the sun was starting to go down, outlining the mountains. After dinner I sat alone in a field of flowers and watched the sun set behind the mountains.
In the morning we quickly hiked down to the town of Truckee, excited to meet my sister & Sean. We did all our town chores & sat outside of Safeway to wait for them. As we sat outside the store we watched as everyone was buzzing around preparing for 4th of July weekend. It was humorous to watch and remember how quick the outside world functions. People drive their cars around and around when it is only a short walk to and from each store. But, our society places so much importance on efficiency and getting things done quick as can be that it will be tough not to get back into that mentality when we are done with the trail.
When Val & Sean arrived we headed to the trail and had a short hike in to set up camp before dark. Their visit was a nice mental boost as we all caught up about life & shared the difficulties of thru-hiking. They made us realize how strong we have become and how much we love being out here. It was a priceless visit & as our friend Robert joined us it felt like a little party on trail for the fourth of July weekend.