Blood Mtn 1 Me 0

Day one was great! Did the Approach Trail up the bizillon steps, 8 miles later I was at the start of the AT. The falls were beautiful. Camped at Hawk Mtn shelter with a fun group.

stairs

After a 17 mile first day I was set to do 22 to get to Neel Gap. Only one other guy was planning the same miles. Headed out feeling good, got over Sassafras Mtn still thought t I could make it. Unfortunately by the time I got to Woody Gap I realized I was behind and had a choice to make. See the last 5 miles into Neel Gap a bear canister is required (to camp). I don’t have one & there is a $300 fine if you get caught. So I would HAVE to push all the way over Blood Mtn, possibly night making it til 9pm.

Or hike only 4 miles, camp get the next morning. I really hated not making it and figured the other guy was well ahead of me. But then the guy walks up while I’m sulking. Oh he says glad to see ya, I was sure you were up ahead!

Turns out neither of us had it in us to make that push over Blood Mtn. Oh well we found a great camp spot and are resting up to tackle it tomorrow. On the AT it’s not the miles that get ya, it’s the mountains!

For my first trail magic today! A while bags of mini Snickers, Twix and rice krispy treats from a guy named Dr Pepper with the outdoors ministries! Also talked to some Army Rangers who were training. Later when I saw them at their base camp they flagged me down. One the guys says I got something for ya. He says it’s not alcohol (we had talked about doing shots earlier). He have me some fruity hand sanitizer! Didn’t make Neel Gap but it was a good day!

Thanks to everyone that helped me get to the trail! My sister for driving out from Mississippi and grabbing me at the airport. Thanks to my old friend JD for taking me out for a tasty lunch before dropping me at the transit center to catch the shuttle to the hostel.

Gear Breakdown

When I did my preparation, I compared gear reviews from a bunch of blogs, journals and websites. It was my intention to forgo comfort for less weight. That sorta happened. They say you pack your fears and mine was cold. So I carried cold weather gear the whole trip weight be darned. So let’s get started.

Tent: Six moon – Scout

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tent inside teepee, yes!!

Upside: Light weight
Downside: Honestly I wasn’t too happy with this choice. Anybody around when I put it up knows of my displeasure. Using trekking poles as tent poles is great til you break your poles in the middle of the woods. Plus staking it down was kinda a pain, especially setting up in the rain or snow.

Sleeping bag: Big Agnes Mirror 20 degree
Upside: Simply put, warm. Even when I cowboy camped and it got all wet, I was warm inside. When it was warm I just threw it over me, still great.

Backpack: ULA Circuit
train track_preview

Upside: Light weight, the fit was great, held more than enough stuff and really sturdy.
Downside: Could use like two more pockets. Also wish there was a way to put away and get poles without having to take off my pack. Like if I could whip them on the pack all ninja style would be cool. But maybe that’s asking too much.

Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Z/MSR. Talus Sure lock

Upside: The Black Diamond was great & light weight, til they broke. Not even sure how, it just snapped at the z part. First one then the other. But they lasted all but 2 weeks. The MSR were a tad bit heavier, but super sturdy. (thanks Dinsmore’s for the poles)

Downside: I really only use the poles when I want to really move or crossing water. Most of the time they are strapped to my pack. However, they were necessary for my tent.

Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 9/New Balance

Ok, so here is the shoe situation. August 2014 I got my Brooks to tryout, loved them. So I trained in them and started the PCT in them. So great comfy, light weight and no blisters. I was happy as a chipmunk, however they had plenty of miles from the jump. So by the time I went to order more (around the Sierras), too late. I could only find Brooks 10 in my size (not my fav). My bad. So I picked up some New Balance and shipped my lovingly used Brooks to Ashland. The NB did not work for me, my feet are flat and weird, but they got me to Ashland where I slipped back into my old Brooks. Now yes I should have gotten new shoes, but I tend to make do and I wanted to ride it out. So I slipped in some inserts and made it to Canada. I don’t recommend this. Ok enough about shoes.

Rain gear: Or lack the of =poncho

I did not have adequate rain gear. There I said it. A rain poncho works well….until it doesn’t. Lesson learned, invest in rain jacket and pack cover. Even though nothing in my pack got wet, except for when I spilled water in there.

Energizer Headlamp: It was inexpensive and worked like it was, but it worked. Basically it just wasn’t very bright.

Cold Weather Gear:

Walker pass_preview

Laundry Puffy jacket-not the lightest, but inexpensive and warm
Cool Max long sleeve top- loved it, kept me super warm!

Wool hat, fingerless gloves (camo insulated gloves for Sierras), leggings, cropped workout pants. Surprisingly this all kept me toasty enough.

Socks- I had a lot of socks, so weird, I lost some, bought some, was gifted some. I really liked the Thorlos and the Darn Tough the best though.

Well I think that is it. I really didn’t have that much stuff. Daily I wore my black skirt (found at a thrift store years ago and used to bike in, that skirt could tell some stories). Topped it off with a Columbia short sleeved shirt (loved it even more when I found the hidden pocket), dirty girl gaiters (all the kids are wearing um) sports bra and my Pat hat!

So time ton start working on my new gear list…….I’m gonna need some things!!!

Oh Canada

Well if you haven’t heard I freakin made it to Canada! I can’t believe it! Got to the northern terminus on August 13, 2015 at 9am!

Left Skykomich (thanks for the ride Matt!) and took the ferry from Chelan to Stehekin. Steheken is a great place you can only get to by ferry, float plan, or hiking. The fire was just across the lake, we could see flames from our campsite. (thanks to those fighting the fires, you guys are incredible). Got to stop in the famous bakery. Had ice cream, a cookie, monster cinnamon roll, and the biggest croissant every filled with cheese & bacon. So much yummy goodness! Visit Stehekin, the people are so nice, the lake is beautiful and bring me one of those croissants!

After stuffing myself we hiked on to Rainy Pass and hitched into Mazama. I was worried my last package won’t make it, since we had to change the shipping at the last minute. But Leslie was on the ball, and it got there just minutes before I did! After a quick resupply Goat and I headed for Harts Pass. There was trail magic there, muffins, fruits and drinks! Thanks Meander!

We camped 6 miles out from the border and celebrated a bit! I woke the next day in a mood, due a lack of sleep. There was a deer (with a huge rack) eating outside my tent all night, seriously I could hear it chewing. Guess we were in his dinner spot! My mood improved once we started those last miles, to the monument.

I’ll tell ya it was kinda weird when we got there. I had imagined it for so long. So hard to believe it was over and I had made it. That and I also had 30 more miles back to Harts pass, so it wasn’t really over for me.

After many pictures, signing the register and some mashed potatoes (I was super hungry) we said our goodbyes and Goat headed into Canada while I headed back to Harts pass. (Goat you were a great hiking partner! Thanks for the laughs, trail chat, pushing me and putting up with my crazy especially in the rain! Lol)

goat canada

The 30 mile hike back was a great decompression. Plus I got to see many friends headed to the border. Came around one corner there was Toasted Toad! Happy trails to you man I will never forget Forester Pass!

Did I mention how beautiful Washington is? I will definitely be back! The views, lakes, mountains, only second to the Sierras, in my opinion. I was told there was another fire the smoke & helicopters confirmed it. We were very lucky to get through before the northern fire closures. There is a reroute so people can still get through! Good luck to all those still pushing to the border! Stay safe and happy trails!

To all those I hiked with or crossed paths with on trail, let me just say Thru Hikers are a special kind of crazy and I wouldn’t want it any other way! Thanks for being part of my journey. See you on the next trail….yes there will be more!!!

 

 

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It never rains in Southern California

Yea….that’s crap. It rains and it’s super chilly. I’ve been cold pretty much since Mt Laguna, weird since this is the desert portion.

For the most part it is a blessing, climbing those last mountains would have sucked in the heat. I’ve been hiking with the 3 wise men (Stewart, Willie and Little Brown) since about Cajon Pass. They are a joy and a challenge. I struggle to keep up on the uphill as they fly up, then I catch up on the downhill. They may be older but they have serious hiker legs. They’re also pretty cool to chat with.

Willie
Willie -This guy can really move!

Stewart had to hop off the trail for a bit and Willie had to wait for a package, so I have been chasing Little Brown up the hills the last couple of miles.

A quick stop at trail angels the Anderson’s -Casa de Luna. (thanks Terry for the hot chocolate, bandanna, ride back to the trail….! Wish I could have stayed longer and had taco salad, but the trail calls) The weather caught up to us last night, just made it to camp before it really started to rain. (If you happen to be in Lake Hughes, CA stop in the Rock Inn neat place, good food) Anyway, I stayed dry (so I guess my seam sealing worked, yeah!). I took the 10 mile road walk detour made it to Hikertown to let my tent dry out,order shoes and figure out this next section.

All in all I have been chilly but lucky. Some hikers got hail or snow. Stay safe & warm out there wherever you are.

I’m on the TRAIL!!!

So I have officially been on the trail for a week. It’s been everything I imagined and so much more. I don’t have a snappy Iphone so updating from the trail just is not gonna be happening. I am currently in Idyllwild.

How’s it been? Let me quickly catch you up. Well I got off to a roaring start I cranked out 20 miles to Lake Moreno, then 21 miles the next day into Mt Laguna. That hiker hunger people talk about has not hit me yet. So I hit a major wall going in to Mt Laguna, I was really dragging finally made it like 8:45 pm it was cold, dark and my mp3 battery died. I ended up stealth camping alone and meeting up with a friend Andrew the next morning because I just couldn’t make it another mile.

The hike to Julian was lovely and hot. For the first time ever I hitchhiked, it took me a bit to get a ride into town. Oh and no I did not have the pie. Man what is with people and the Julian pie. I did stop by the local grocery and picked up some cheese! Next time you are in Julian try the cheese, it’s tasty. I was trying to hitch out of Julian back to the trail when a sheriff pulled up. (doah, I thought he was going to tell me not hitching) But nope! Instead he gave me a ride! Woohoo!

Got a little trail magic on my way to Warner Springs. Rolled into the campsite and there was this girl ‘Veggie’ just making up chocolate pancakes and handing out beers! Amazing how the littlest things are so great out here. I about danced a jig when I saw the Warner Springs sign that stated showers, laundry and food! Speaking of Warner Springs, man are they hiker friendly. There were ladies there just waiting to ride to the post office and back. I got resupplied clean clothes, clean me, food and I was back on the trail in no time!

I hiked with fun group of ladies out of Warner Springs, it was good to hook up with a group for a bit and kinda slow it down for a while.

Mostly I hike by myself, which I like. Then I can go my own pace be that fast or slow and talk to myself without distraction. I keep running in the same people in the last few days anyway. We leap frog and the end up camping in the same areas. Met a nice kid ‘SnackMaster’ from Washington, we hiked together one morning he was quite fun to talk to. So many interesting people you meet out here.

All in all I have to say I’m pretty happy with the way my body is holding up. 150 miles in and she is still purring like a kitten. No blisters and no pains that haven’t resolved themselves with a little vitamin I and some sleep.

I have to mention all there are so many great trail angels out here! TA Mike/Tom/Mary thanks for the water, food, soda, beer and places to camp.

So I am leaving Idyllwild this afternoon, skipping the road walk.

I will try to keep updating as much as possible but I learning on the trail you just never know.

Happy Trails ~ chardonnay

Solo but not alone

Often when I tell people I’m hiking the PCT one of the first questions is “are you going alone?”. I confidently and quickly say yes! I consider myself a solo hiker. 9 times out of 10 when I hike I go it alone. Mostly I just enjoy the ‘me’ time or if it’s a training hike I need to focus on pace/speed/route and what not. More likely it’s spur of the moment (my packs always in the car) no time to organize a group. Don’t get me wrong I love to have company, it just tends to be a different kind a hike.

More than once I have taking someone out hiking with me, got to chatting and next thing you know I’ve taken a wrong turn, or two! My hiking buddy Pat is great he tends to take me to places I never been; he leads so I can just follow, take in the views and chat my little head off.

Yeah solo is how I tend to roll. But I am not alone.

As I prepare for this mighty adventure I am more aware than ever that I am not alone. I won’t be on the trail alone, I’ll have all of you! This would not be possible without YOU! The support and encouragement I’ve received has been just crazy. Prior thru-hikers giving me tips and suggestions. Friends and family donating to my fundraiser, offering rides (if I want to come home), help on the trail(mailing me french fries!), buying me gear, walking the trails (not complaining when I get us lost), listening to me (obsess about planning)….It is quite overwhelming.

When I leave from the PCT’s southern terminus I will be a solo hiker……but I will not be alone.

So I hope you guys are ready we’re doing this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!