Beck vs The Yellow Frog

410.6- 25.1 miles!!

I went to sleep with great intentions of getting up and out of bear country quickly. My alarm goes off at 445am but I decide an extra hour sleep sounds much more appealing. It’s a chilly morning so for the first time on trail I make myself some hot oatmeal in the tent vestibule while snuggled in my quilt. I’m in a quiet little forest surrounded by tall trees and hot brekkie is perfect.  I would love to do this every morning, but it takes time and I I’m always keen to get up and out quickly.

I cross a dirt road and  the trail descends quickly to a road crossing with a little trailhead stop containing toilets and rubbish bins! The excitement!
The official PCT is closed in this section indefinitrly due to a rare yellow frog. There is an attempt by the officials to create an alternate, but this is 24.7 miles  to hike for a 5.8 mile closure. I opt for the alternate alternate which is a 7 miled road walk. Not pretty or exciting, but not a stupid extra 18.9 miles. The alternate is also not maintained, so there are a lot of fallen trees and washed out sections of the trail.
The road heads up and I wish for a car to come by that I can hitch with. My excuse is that road walking is dangerous (there’s no shoulder along a lot of this road and it winds around a lot of bends)…but there aren’t any cars that pass me so my dangerous argument goes out the window. I just don’t like hiking on bitumen.  It bloody hurts.

My next water source is inside a campground that the alternate passes through. I find the working tap, fill up and filter my water while trying to get some charge into my phone from my solar charger. Another hiker rocks up, Sam/ Two Patch who tells me he just zeroed in Vegas with a crew after hitching from Cajon Pass. Now that is a good zero!

 I kick on and the real trail starts again a couple of miles. I know I’m somewhere near the 400 marker so I sit briefly to check HalfMile (the amazing maps and app off the PCT. It tells you exactly what mile you are at on the trail). I hear people coming chatting loudly, so I’m now in that awkward space where I was about to stand and leave, but if I leave now it will look like I’m avoiding them. So I wait and meet Rodrigo from Mexico and Just Kyle (his response when asked if has a trail name) from San Francisco. So I jump up amd head out behind them and we all pass the 400 mark together! Woohoo! Dance dance time 🙂

The verandah of a little locked up camp house of some sort is the chosen spot for lunch, as it also has water there.
 I feel like I’ve just stepped into the set of a PCT tv show -meeting characters and learning about a bunch of others. Kyle and Rodrigo ask if I’ve seen a bunch of people -Sam who I just met and Serena who I actually met in the supermarket in Wrightwood. They were all in Vegas together and have some animated stories. Serena (aka cookie monster) turns up shortly thereafter. We hang out in the shade of the building cooking food and waiting out a bit of the heat of the day.
We all head out together around the same time. I feel a little strange like I’ve just crashed someone’s party, but it’s when I was leaving anyway. There is a little water cache that I take advantage of a few miles away – the water from the lunch spot was yellow and very hot.
We spread out as we hike up the mountain and some pretty scenery.

I’m done by sunset  -it’s been a long day and I find a gorgeous spot at the top. I put my tent up, Kyle and Cookie keep walking a little ways. I have enough light and time to stretch and massage feet for once without promptly passing out as soon as my tent is up. Rodrigo eventually makes it to the top and camps there too. Then finally Sam (who everyone was sure was walking ahead of them) arrives. The whole TV cast! I pull out my sleep pad and sit on it outside my tent as we chat, eat bits of food then off to sleep.

Beck vs Day 21

370.9 – 385.1

Guess what!  Today I make us all a green smoothie for brekkie! I get a green smoothie for brekkie!!!  I’m so excited I’m bouncing of the walls. It’s tasty and green and full of all the things I should be eating but cannot on the trail. Despite my extra energy it still takes a long time to get back to trail as I have to spend time on my phone ordering new things and replacement things and using the wifi while I have it.  I have a delicious mini cup of blueberry coffee with almond milk for FREE from the café and have my photo taken for their PCT hiker log.

We grab a hitch from town and are on the trail around 1115.  Raven, Little Foot and I get stopped about 5 times by a school group that is hiking through the area today. Each time we answer questions about the trail, our packs, bears, out trail names and how far we walk.  It’s quite fun but eats up a lot of time!  We come across a group of older hikers who hold out bananas and grapes and snickers (I pass mine on!) for us as we walk past! Moving trail magic! I love it 😉  They are a local hiking group who are used to the PCT hikers and our appetites 🙂

We stop at the bottom of Baden Powell to eat some food to reduce a tiny fraction of the weight on our backs and then start to tackle it. Holy poo. This is a tough one. I stop waaaaaay too many times. I think my pace is about .2 miles per hour. Lots of heaving breathing. Crazy steep steep ups.

It takes forever but I am finally at the top. I waste too much time trying to take selfies with the giant American flag and a beautiful 1500 year old tree at the top (that some w*nker has put their initials in. Grrrr).

It’s a beautiful trail down from there. All heading down and towards my next water source. I hustle because there is a campground close by that is notorious for bear activity and I want to be nowhere near there when I sleep!  The spring is gorgeous and I’m sad I didn’t get there earlier to spend some time, but I collect water and march on, past the scary bear land and down the trail a little way.  It is getting dark so I start to panic that bears will be out and about, so I sing a fabulous Beach Boys medley to keep them away.  (It’s common forest knowledge that Bears aren’t Beach Boys Fans… or maybe that they are scared away by out of breath, out of tune, loud singing). I cross my fingers that I don’t encounter anyone else along the way! haha.
A great little spot presents itself about .7 miles from the campground, and I set up my tent.  Unfortunately every little noise in the woods tonight belongs to a bear that is coming to eat me, so sleep is a little tricky. But my eyes and tired body are masters over my overactive mind these days, so I’m off to dreamland in the quickest of blinks. zzzzzzz.

 

Beck vs Day 19

23.4 miles – 312 to 335.4

As expected the night was not a particularly restful one!  I head out early, keen to get off the stupid ridge and away from the mean rattlesnake.  Thankfully he has finally moved on and I can get through.

I cross a stream and take my shoes and socks of to wade through, passing some sleeping cowboy campers on the banks. I cross a road and on the other side is some beautiful water for hikers! And a rubbish bin!  Exciting times on the trail! YAY!

I start heading up the hill and after a couple of hours find a dirt road to sit myself on and make some brekkie.  I create a fabulous dish of museli with dehydrated PB and freeze dried strawberries. It’s a party in my mouth – so much om nom nom!   I march on, again enjoying the morning and my fresh legs and keen to do as much as possible before 12.

After winding through the hills for a while the trail heads down into a particularly ugly area next to a road. Thankfully it doesn’t last long, and just as I’m thinking “this would be a lovely place for some trial magic” a blue esky appears! WOOHOO!  GRAPES! WATER! CADBURY CREAM EGGS! I eat a lovely bunch of grapes and gulp down some water and am joined my Jonathon who is heading all the way to Cajon Pass to hitch up to Kennedy Meadows. That’s a giant day in this heat!

Out of the shade of the cache area I head up the hill. I’m greeted by a lovely breeze and a beautiful view of a big lake!! The very first opportunity I have I head through the scrub to the lakeside and jump in.  There are a couple of families in the little bay parked up with their boats who are a little bemused by me.  I do not care – cold cold beautiful lake. I’m in love.  One family offers me some of their BBQ (one day I’ll find some Vegan trail magic! haha) which I decline but spend some time answering their questions.  We are strange smelly animals us PCT-ers 🙂

I reluctantly put my clothes on that I have rinsed out (which have dried in 5 minutes!) and head on to the campground area where there is water. Chicken Fat catches up and there is a little posse of a bunch of hikers spread out across tables. I discover too late that you can order in take-away to the campground (I’ve already eaten my lunch), but hike out of there eager to get in as many miles today so that I can hit Cajon Pass in the morning.

Down down down the trail goes.  I find a windy but pretty spot. I am beat – my biggest day yet.  Off to the land of nod.

Beck vs The Nudists and The Rattlesnake (Day 18)

290.2 to 312 – 22 miles

Up and out!  Always early. I can’t sleep in anymore these days which is good as the sun is getting pretty feisty.

The trail follows a creek for a while and I find a nice spot to stop and collect water and rinse out sock. I giggle to myself as there is a sign saying “A Rare Toad Lives Here” making it perfect for me! (my nickname as a kid, courtesy of a rotten/ awesome uncle was Toad).

It’s hot!  And the trail is very exposed.  I find a tiny tiny tiny place for my sleeping pad and sit out the worst of the day, with a little nap and eating of random things.  Today there are two exciting things – 300!!! AND HOT SPRINGS! I want to get there as early as possible so that I can waste few hours in the water.  It is popular with locals and I can tell I am getting closer as there is a lot of rubbish and graffiti on the trail. It’s Saturday so I’m expecting a lot of people. Finally I am there! And so are a lot of naked people! eeeeps. And of course not the kind of naked people anyone would actually want to see. I have a hard time scanning the crowd to look for hiker friends without actually “looking”. Chicken Fat and Rideordieh call me over! “YAy people I know.  Lobo and Sensee are there too, as well as a couple of people I haven’t met before.  The hot springs clearly also attracts people who are interested in the healing properties of hot springs as there are a lot of ‘medicinal herbs’ being smoked.
I spend a couple of glorious hours alternating between the hot hot hot water and the cool water.  My legs are happy. There is no camping (technically, but many are camping) around the springs so as the sun starts disappearing I hike out.

There is nowhere to camp close by. Nowhere. Bugger. This means some night hiking. I march on through the dodgy graffiti and try and find somewhere I can stay for the night.  I have a destination in mind which will take me of the narrow ridge walk. The sun is gone and my headlamp is on. I’m .2 miles away from where I want to be when I hear a RATTLE. CRAP. Nearly stepped on a bloody rattlesnake!  eeeeeeeps!!!  I walk slowly backwards and wait. It doesn’t move and keeps rattling. I throw rocks in it’s direction to scare it. It doesn’t move. BAH. I wait for about 30 minutes total and finally the rattlesnake wins and I have to backtrack as I am shattered and need some sleep. I shake my fist at you mother nature!!!  I find a terrible spot in a tiny tiny ditch next to the trail, and end up going backwards .5 miles. Bugger. I’m in for a windy restless, rattlesnake-dreamy night.

 

Beck vs Town (Day 16 & Day 17)

I wake and decide to hit the Grizzly Bear Cafe as its a reknowned hiker breakfast spot. I settle for toast and hash browns with coffee and do not feel good afterwards! I don’t know if its dodgy grease or coffee not sitting well.
Big Bear Lake is not hiker friendly- everything is waaay spread out so my zero turns into a nearo and I walk about 6 miles around town.

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I sort out my resupply which entails me wandering up and down and up and down aisles waiting for inspiration to hit. Sensee and Jonathon are getting food too so i manage to hitch a ride back to the hotel with their trail angel. Then it’s massage time! My shoulders are soooooore so I get some work done on them before buying some Thai for dinner and wasting ALL the hours. No idea what I do with them and suddenly it’s tomorrow and I have to hike out.

I find a smoothie for brekkie (woohoo!!) then head out to the road to hitch. I end up joining forces with Lobo who I find out on the road. The ride takes years as the couple who picks us up just has to make a “quick stop” which turns into a 1 hour drive for what should have been 15 minutes.

The trail up is steep and hot as it’s 11ish by this stage. I packed out a delicious sandwich and stop when I see a lovely view of the lake below. Plus I just want an excuse to reduce the weight of my pack that is full with my new food supply.

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I’m sleepy and heavy after town but lunch perks me up and I hike on until mile 109.2 at 645pm, only stopping to fill my water. It is a stunning sunset that greets me back on trail. I’m excited I haven’t forgotten how to hike- my legs have settled back in after my brief rest and are ready for more ☺

Beck vs Day 15

248.3 – Big Bear Lake

Another early start! It’s a town day and probably a hot one so I want to go as far as possible before the heat sets in.

I’m planning on taking a proper zero (zero miles walked) in Big Bear Lake – my first day off in two weeks!! my feet and knees are very excited.
I pass the saddest of sad sights on the PCT – a zoo where a bunch of animals from Hollywood films have basically been caged up to die.  They are kept in horribly small wire cages in the sun and it is very sad to see. I try and take a few photos but a big German Shephard and sign saying “armed response” make me not get too close.

It’s a lovely wooded walk, and on top off a hill there is a water cache! One of the local Big Bear trail angels maintains this one and it is very much appreciated. A drink up a little and head on a few more miles, going pretty speedily.  Then – more trail magic!  A big container with information on the Big Bear Hostel and A COUCH!  Things to sit on are amazing out here. I spend way too much time evaluating boulders for their sitting comfort.  A five star boulder has a nice angle, a boulder behind to lean on and a rock in front for your feet. Most I find, however, are about 2 stars. Making the couch about a billion stars.  I take a photo of me on the couch as requested by the magic -maintainers and send it in, only to get a response that the hostel is closed for the week so I’ll have to figure out another place to stay.

Somehow I’ve miscalculated the amount of water I need, or I am drinking too much because I only have a tiny bit left and still a few miles to town. Of course in the hottest part of the day and the trail is now going through a sandy hot exposed area. One sip every 15 minutes. I try and walk faster so that I can get off the mountain. One sip. I have one more down and then a little up and I can have one more sip. One sip. I stop for a few breaths in every tiny patch of shade I can find. One sip. I dream of trail magic. I visualize a stand with lemonade around the corner. Even better – Arnold Palmer. A magic invention of half real lemonade and half iced tea. Well done America.  One sip.
I come around the last bend and I can see the carpark at the trailhead!  YAY!  My dizzy head marches on and as the trail descends there is WATER! Hot, but wet and perfect.  I gulp some down and race to the carpark as there is a car waiting in the lot that I can hopefully hitch with.

Noone in the car and I wander around dazed and hot and dehydrated trying to figure out which way I need to hitch. A car pulls up and some hikers fall out – the fabulous Jose is the driver and takes me back with him into town!  I find a hotel with a bathtub. A BATHTUB. Amazing. The only information I need.

Now I am still in a daze but I’m standing in a beautifully cool shower. I’m too exhausted to stand so I sit and let the water run over me while I attack the layer upon layer of dirt that turns the water into coffee. I scrub for what seems hours and finally feel in a respectable state. I mentally catalogue all the new bumps and bruises and cuts and injuries that I have no recollection of making. It’s strange how little I look at myself out here. Or maybe strange how much we look at ourselves in “normal life.”

Now I’m not on the trail but have somehow stumbled down the road for the next town chore – laundry. The room is hot, I’m wearing my rain gear and whir of the machines is putting me to sleep. I try and send emails and chat to people with my phone plugged into the wall… and it takes all my effort to keep my eyes open.

I need food and it is now dinner time. Where does the time go in town??? I find a Himalayan restaurant and eat  some lovely veggies before stumbling back to the hotel. There is a magic device that controls a screen in the corner of the room. I lie in bed for too long flicking through and watching nothing until I fall asleeeeeeeeep. zzzzzzz.

Beck vs Day 2

 

I wake at 545am to the sounds of hikers shaking out tents, a crow cawing to his mates and a turkey gobbling his way through the campground… naturally..doesn’t every campground have a turkey?

Around 6am I start faffing about with all my gear and get it packed away. You’d think that with just one 65L bag to fill up it wouldn’t take too long. It takes sooooo long.  Inevitably the few things I pack away I need, so I unpack, and then lose things and forget things and pack more things away.

Finally I am on my way at 745am. 1h45!! Insane. I slurp down a pouch of squeezy fruit as I walk. The path takes me through some meadows before veering off to a track that eventually leads up a rocky path.  About 1h30 in there is a nice rocky seat which I take to eat my museli.  Turns out eating big portions of food and immediately hiking are not advisable for me. I’ve packed way too much food anyway,  and haven’t been overly hungry. They say “hiker hunger” kicks in around week 2, once you’ve burned off a bunch of fat and your body starts suspecting that this is more than your average weekend walk. Hiker hunger is when you want to eat ALL THE TIME.  It makes me think of that scene from back to the future 3 where they are shoving wood and explosives into the train to make it go faster and faster- it’s never enough!

There’s a bridge I have to walk under and see it has been ‘decorated’ with the names of hikers past. It’s cool reading all the names- some with trail names already.
In the distance I hear a strange animal sounds which at first I mistake for horses,  then think it’s dogs and finally turn a corner to see a coyote! He eyes me for a second before trotting off making more noise.  A few minutes later I see the friend he was talking to – one a pale brown and the other a lovely dark brown colour. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be scared of them,  so I just pretend they are dogs and keep walking.

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I take a break at a little campground that has horse yards in it before marching on. The trail starts climbing up and up giving a great view of the valley below.

The wind kicks in.  And then kicks in some more. I have to take a rotten sidetrail tp a campground to get water, and it turns out the .6 mile trail is doooown down down all the elevation I just gained. Bugger.
It is freezing when I get to the campground below and the wind is relentless so I pitch my tent to have a break and a nap to see if it dies down.
It does not. I pack up my stuff and poke my head out of my tent to see rain. I was all ready to hit another 2 or 3 miles, but decide setting up on the ridge in the wind and rain doesn’t sound very appealing.
So I bunker down really really really early. Fabulously early. For a much needed early night and loong sleep.

 

Random song stuck in my head of the day: Wouldn’t it be nice – Beach Boys

Beck vs Hauser Creek Canyon

Day: 1
Miles: 20 – Campo to Lake Morena

I wake up after a fitful 4 hours sleeping in trail angel Bob’s trailer.  I arrived really late after all my fellow hikers were already asleep so I just lay down in exactly what I was wearing and pulled a blanket over me.

430am was the wakeup call,  5 am 8 of us  piled into the 7 seater van (plus packs). My seat is the little space on the ground next to the sliding door. Names are exchanged but it is dark and I have buckleys chance of remembering any.

1 hour and a very numb bum later we arrive at the border.  THE BORDER.  A massive f-off we’re full metal fence that covers more than half the US border and is 0% effective (well maybe a bit better than that.  I actually have no  expertise in this,  but this is what my fellow hikers tell me).  I think it should be a new tough mudder obstacle – jump over this metal fence while we shoot at you.

We take photos,  peer through the fence at Mexico, turn to face north then walk.
It is chilly and foggy. Good hiking weather.

The trail divides us pretty quickly and soon I am alone with the sound of my thoughts and my feet crunching. And my heavy heavy pack.  The advice for today is 4-5L if you are a strong hiker and know you will make it to lake Morena,  or 6-7L if you plan to dry camp (camp where there is no water source) at Hauser Creek. I decide on 6L.

The sun burns through the fog and I get to test out my nifty little sun umbrella. I stop under a tree for a tasty lunch of banana with almond maple butter and put my feet up for 20min. I meet a couple of hikers as they pass me by, doze for about 2 min before ants crawl over my face and pack up.

Finally the trail turns a corner and before me is Hauser Canyon. It’s a giant drop down followed by a giant heart attack climb up. I can make out the tiny specks odd hikers marching up to the top across the canyon. Holy giant canyon batman.
The choices now are hike down the bottom and camp down there at the little campground or continue up the giant hill. I get to the bottom and try to rest my feet for 10 min before deciding.  I’m conscious about not overdoing it on my first day and my plantar fasciitis which I am determined to keep at bay.
The decision is made by the little army of midgies that assault me – up I go!!!
I eat a gel, turn on my podcasts and climb the giant hill that never ends.

Until it does.  However the next 3 miles until Lake Morena never ever end . I stop a stupid amount of times. I give myself markers where I’m allowed to check my watch and my phone.
Eventually I’m feeling good and hit my stride. I dare to check my phone to see how speedy I’ve been.
Apparently about as speedy as a new born walking.  Bugger bugger bugger. I pass a lot of little lizards and some cat tracks!!! I think it’s maybe too small for a mountain lion but it may be a bobcat.

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Finally I see a Lake! And buildings!  I hike down down down and arrive to the applause of some from the carload this morning.  Pitch my tent, check in with the ranger, buy some nutritious fries from the cafe, have a glorious hot shower (it got cooold!), pull on my long johns, cozy down into my sleeping quilt and paaaaassss out.
20 miles done – I pat myself in the back. Only 2640 to go.
Zzzz.

Thought of the day: What goes up, must go down. And then up. And then down.

Crickets In My Head: When Brain Stops and Holiday Begins

To get an idea what the last two weeks have been like, stick your head out the car side window like your dog, drive at 200km/h, through a swarm of bees, blindfolded.
So. Much. To. Do.

I’m not sure if I got it all done, but I gave it my best and I have great people on the ground to help clean up whatever I have left behind! (I already know I’ve left my bloody eftpos card behind!! 😣).

When my lovely friend Kaarin arrived with an hour to spare before taking me to the airport, I still wasn’t  packed. You know when you are so stressed you can’t actually form a sentence either in your head or out loud? When the hamsters on their little wheels inside your head have spun so fast they fell off and are lying dizzy flat on the ground with their little wheels left hamsterless making creepy rusted squeaky noises like in horror movies? Yeah. Something like that. Kaarin missed her calling as a drill sergeant and took on the role of being my brain for the next hour and suddenly-  it was done.

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Stuff and things
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Mission control 1h before leaving

50000000 cuddles with my doggies later we left. I’m going to miss those little bundles of awesome so much!!! Especially when it’s cold – they are awesome hot water puppies.

Managed to get us all in the lounge at the airport and had a last celebratory glass of wine before jumping on the plane.

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We so pretty

This whole crazy idea of a trip has not felt real at all. It’s only ever existed as theory in my head, and I’ve been so busy I was convinced that once I stepped in the plane it would all make magical sense. Nup.  My new theory is that once I start walking it will feel more real. Only a few more days and I’ll see!

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Walk on The Wild Side

I have my permit!!!
A little electronic collection of pixels that somehow give me magical powers to walk a superhero distance carrying superhero weight on my back.
This almost-a-piece-of-paper that is my little key to adventure and pain and excitement and a whole new world of experiences I haven’t yet imagined.

This is kind of the middle of the story, but is also the start. There should be all the decisions and the whys and the how did I come to be here with this almost-paper, but none of those things meant anything until the permit arrived. Now there is a story, because with the paper I can get my VISA, book my flight and make my way over to the US to walk along a beautifully brutal footpath in the wilderness called the PCT.

So we may get to some whys and hows later, but for now the story is I AM GOING!  I have a bag full of obsessively researched things, a head full of mysterious words like ‘Campo’, ‘Sierra’, ‘Tehachapi’, ‘Stehekin’, ‘Nero’, ‘Zero’ that all have book meaning to me, but not yet the experience. I have things to pack, things to buy, maps to study (studying on how to study a map), so many many lists.

So much excitement, and stress. And possibility. Here is one little “WHY?” (there are so many) – because I can :).