Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 27

Day 27
Miles 308-313.36
-Hanging at Deep Creek Hot Springs all day... waiting to hike out until night time when it cools down
-Police helicopters flew by and blared horns over the creek... not sure why police would do that in a PUBLIC USE area. We weren't doing anything wrong. Maybe the police have something against good hearted people who enjoy nature?!?! I'm not sure why law enforcement felt the need to ruin my wilderness experience with intimidation tactics to scare us off land that I have a permit to be on. It really pissed me off. I appreciate it when law enforcement actually PROTECTS AND SERVES... but when law enforcement gets on their high horse and decides a to bully a certain demographic of people for the pure sake of puffing up their feathers, it REALLY makes my blood boil. The fact that I live an alternative life that differs from mainstream society is not an invitation for law enforcement to step in and keep a closer eye on me than they would on anyone else. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!! 
-Ate tons of candy, cheesecake, and drank beer that towns people brought down to us. 
-I night hiked out with Tin Man and a new kid named Black Swan. The full belly, full moon, smooth trail, cool breeze, good weather and our 3 personalities all meshed together PERFECTLY. We had the best time ever, just laughing and laughing our way down the trail. We had such a great connection and that's one of the best nights I have had on the trail this year. We didn't use our headlamps because the moonlight was outrageously bright. We had so much fun and talked a ton... so we only hiked out 5 miles... but it doesn't matter. The hike was fantastic.
-Black Swan's awesome commentaries
-Moonrise... between the mountain and the clouds
-Rats nest
-MF (Spillway) Gutter Rats
-"Questions of Speculation"
-Moonlit pools, the plateau
-The stone throne
-Skinned knee
-Dancing through poison oak
-Echoes at the spillway
-Ended up at the MF Spillway

Day 26

Day 26
Miles: 298.32-308
-OMG! Woke up and hung out with lots of hikers on the beach at the river all morning. 
-Tin Man and I eventually hiked out and it was SOOOO HOT!!!!!! Ugh! It was miserable hiking weather. 
-Passed the 300 mile marker which was exciting. 
-Made it to Deep Creek Hot Springs where I relaxed in both the river and the hot springs. I didn't put my head in the water because there was a rumor about some bacteria in the water that can kill you. It was so nice to relax in the hot springs. 
-Tin Man, Mountain Mama, and I decided to hike out at night. Once we were a little ways up the trail, we all realized we were tired and wanted to go back to the hot springs... so we turned around and back tracked! Hahaha... I can't believe we went back. 
-Set up camp in the exact same place I camped last year. 
-It was a full moon... so TONS of local hippies came out to the hot springs for a moon gathering. It was an interesting crowd to hang out with, but lots of fun. Hippies and hikers usually get along pretty well. There were nude people everywhere as well. 
-Right before I was going to bed, Tin Man and I were looking out over the river and at the canyon walls surrounding us. We saw a hiker coming down an insanely steep part of the canyon. I thought the dude must be a jackass for hiking in such a precarious spot at night. I was half way concerned for him, and half way amused by him. We watched the hiker make it safely down the cliff and cross the river. Then, the hiker walked our way and asked where the hot springs were. Tin Man told him how to get there. The hiker recognized Tin Man's voice and said "Is that Tin Man?" Tin Man replied that it was him, and he asked the hiker for his name. The hiker said "I'm 1-track!" Tin Man and I knew 1-Track and we both were excited to see him... but I couldn't quite remember exactly who 1-Track was. After a few seconds of trying to remember, I realized that 1-Track is my older BROTHER!!!! How crazy is that?!?! 1-Track flew back to Texas for knee surgery and I knew he had flown back out to get back on trail, but neither of us knew where the other was. It was 100% pure happenstance that my brother and I ran into one another at Deep Creek! How kismet! Yay!
-I'm happy I turned around and went back to Deep Creek, because I ran into my brother!

Day 25

Day 25
Miles: 280.46-291.33 (Holcomb Creek)-298.32 (Deep Creek Bridge/Splinter's Cabin)
-While taking a siesta at Holcomb Creek with Tin Man, a girl came down the trail. She was absolutely beat and having a hard day. I convinced her to put her pack down and to rest with me and Tin Man. I told her our plan to night hike and invited her to come along. She was really hesitant because she wanted to make her miles for the day, but eventually she agreed to rest up and hike out with us once it got cooler. Her name is Kathleen. 
-Once the sun went down, Kathleen, Tin Man, and I hiked to the Deep Creek Bridge/Splinter's Cabin area. We found a nice little beach right in the river where we slept.  

Day 24

Day 24
Miles: 266-280.46
-Nice to FINALLY be back on trail after taking what seems like a million zero days in Big Bear Lake. I was getting sucked into the comforts of town. 
-My pack is HEAVY, HEAVY, HEAVY because of all the fruits and veggies inside of it. 

Day 23

Day 23
Miles: Zero Day in Big Bear Lake
-Mother's Day... took pictures with my heart shaped hot pink dry erase board that had a Mother's Day message written on it. All the other hikers loved my idea, so I took pictures of everyone with the sign so they could send their picture to their moms. Moms are great and mine is the BEST! I LOVE YOU MOM!!!!
-Grocery store... bought tons of fresh food to pack out. Also got rear ended on the ride to the store, but no one was injured. 
-Tin Man, Bow Tie, Julia "Button", and I got a ride out of town and back to the trail with the Big Bear Lake city planner, Janice Etter. What a sweet lady! I really appreciate her help and generosity. Thank you Janice! :)
-We didn't arrive to the trail head until later in the evening. Bow Tie and Julia "Button" hiked out, but Tin Man and I ran into hiker angels Rock Ocean and Camel... so we camped at the trail head, ate really well, and hung out with those guys. 
-Offered a seasonal job at the hostel. I'm considering this as a work option in the future... but I'm still not too sure what I should do with my life. Maybe all I should do is focus on actually LIVING my life, and let that concept guide my decision making. I spoke to my mom who said I should do whatever makes me happy in life, and if seasonal work makes me happy and allows me to live the life I want, then that's what I can do. 

Day 22

Day 22
Miles: Zero Day in Big Bear Lake
-Checked out of cabin and went back to the hostel because it was less expensive than the cabins. I saw so many hiker friends at the hostel: Solstice, Mountain Mama, Funny MoFo, Terra, Tin Man, Man Bear Pig, Doc, Snake Charmer, Sarge, Spirit, Mover, and many others. 
-Mailed my bucket and tent forward
-Went back to the sports bar for the best fried pickles ever where I played a game of pool with Snake Charmer, Doc, and Salsa. Had lots of fun and I taught the guys how to 2-step. 
-There was an issue at the sports bar, so we left and went back to the hostel. At the hostel, Man Bear Pig and I decided to walk over to Murray's Bar to meet Mover & Tin Man. Then we relocated to a bar called Avalanche where I really wasn't on the same vibe (crazy club music and young girls tripping all over their high heels). Even though the club sucked, I got to know Man Bear Pig better. He is a cool kid and he has a VERY INTERESTING life story. He has been straightening out his life by thru-hiking... we have a good deal in common. 
-Went back to the hostel and crashed on my top bunk. 

Day 21

Day 21
Miles: Zero Day in Big Bear Lake
-Loved the cabin and jacuzzi so much that I rented my own cabin for privacy. The hostel was great and so was sharing Jacuzzi Dude's hot tub... but I needed my own space and privacy for a night. 
-Accidentally mailed my bounce bucket to Big Bear CITY instead of Big Bear LAKE. Both are located next to one another, but it's still a long distance from a backpacker's on-foot-perspective. The hostel owner (Grayson) have me a ride to the post office so I could get my mail. I gave him money for gas. 
-I later ate pizza in town, took a shower and a bath, did my hair and make up, and did my laundry. It felt great to get cleaned up and relaxed after an all-nighter!

Day 20

Day 20
Miles 250.15-266
-Woke up and drank coffee while looking at all of Hollywood's lions, tigers, and bears in their cages. 
-Excited to hike into Big Bear. I'm low... VERY LOW... on food. 
-Right before reaching the road that leads to Big Bear, Moxa, Strawberry, Tin Man, and I found an insanely awesome trail magic spot which included a sofa to sit on and a dumpster filled with fresh food and sodas. TONS of us hikers gathered there and indulged in the magic provided by the Big Bear Hostel folks (Grayson & Sarge). I began hiding in the dumpster and scaring other hikers as they opened the dumpster door. It was so much fun surprising everyone! 
-Made it to mile 266 late in the day and luckily hitched a ride into Big Bear Lake. 
-Got to the Big Bear Hostel late at night. Tin Man was with me. We dropped our packs off and then headed to the sports bar for food and beer. While there, we ran into Doc and Snake Charmer. The bar closed early so we went to another local bar called Murray's where we ran into another hiker named Dave. I had met Dave in Warner Springs. Dave invited us all back to his cabin that had a hot tub. A few of us joined Dave as we crammed ourselves together like sardines and soaked in the hot tub until around 6:00am! Lol. I love hot tubs!!!! We dubbed Dave as "Jacuzzi Dude" which he accepted as his trail name. 
-I didn't sleep a wink, but it's okay because I had tons of fun with such great people!

Day 19

Day 19
Miles 235.47-250.15
-Better weather, but I was freezing when I woke up
-Had a big climb but the mountains were beautiful
-Ran into Doc and Snake Charmer
-Hiked to the animal cages where I slept next to lions, tigers, and bears... Literally! The animals are Hollywood stunt animals that live in cages located directly on the PCT. It was sad to see these giant animals in their cages, but I guess they have nowhere else to go. 
-Next to the animal cages where I slept was a dirt road. Tin Man, Doc, Snake Charmer, and I joked about ordering a pizza to the middle of nowhere. It's a good thing I didn't have any cell reception or else I would have placed a ridiculous pizza order. All I could think about was pizza!!!!
-Moxa and Strawberry were also camped nearby, but I didn't know them very well. 

Day 18

Day 18
Miles 221.80-235.47
-A nice day in the desert with some cloud cover turned into a BAD day due to a storm that blew in. Cold weather wasn't so bad in the desert, but it began raining and snowing as Tin Man and I began gaining altitude as we climbed up into the foothills of San Gorgonio Mountain. The weather was miserable and unexpected, but I was happy to not be alone and to have Tin Man's company. The more we tried to hike towards the closest campsite we could find, the worse the weather became. We couldn't find any decent places to camp and the search was getting desperate. Good camp spots aren't easy to come by when walking up a canyon. I was at a mental breaking point and could have become hypothermic in the weather conditions. I started getting scared, but Tin Man insisted we keep moving and not give up. I was hiking slowly, even though I was 1 mile out from a campsite listed on my maps... so Tin Man hiked on to find the camp. I FINALLY reached the campsite and Tin Man had everything set up so that I didn't have to do any work. He even had coffee ready for me when I arrived which was a treat since I'm not currently carrying a stove. Other hikers were at the campsite too. It was great to warm up and get some rest. I'm happy I'm not alone out here. 

Day 17

Day 17
Miles 218.54-221.80
-Slept all day at Whitewater Preserve to escape the heat of the day because I was tired from the night hike. 
-Did laundry in the sink at Whitewater Preserve. Reminded me of how I did my laundry in Kenya. 
-Did a low mileage day since I was tired. Shrek hiked on. Tin Man stayed with me. It seems Tin Man and I are becoming more solid hiking partners which is cool. We mesh well together. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Day 16

Day 16
Miles 197.17-209.47-218.54

-Hiked down Fuller Ridge with Tin Man, Shrek, and Fire Gypsy. 
-Still hot as all get out!
-Shrek wears a Tyvec suit- seriously! It's funny looking but it does make sense. For those of y'all who don't know, Tyvec is the best material ever. Builders use it to wrap a house up before the exterior is applied because Tyvec is all weather proof and extremely durable. I use Tyvec for a ground cloth and a possible rain cover. Shrek made an outfit out if it... genius. 
-Fire Gypsy (Amy) happens to know my hiking friend from last year- Magic Mullet. She said he is one of the main reasons why she is on the PCT! Such a small world!
-The hike was ridiculously hot and we were all struggling with the heat, lack of water, and nausea. Approaching the Interstate 10 overpass was the worst... sand, sand, and more sand. Sand is incredibly difficult to walk through because it pulls your feet back and it feels as though you are getting nowhere. Cars on the interstate were flying by as I slowly trudged through the relentless sand and heat. Ugh!
-As Fire Gypsy, Tin Man, Shrek, and I made it to the I-10 overpass, we saw a cooler under the highway. We ran towards the cooler, opened it up, and discovered water, soda, beer, cookies, and fresh fruit!!!!!!! I had died and gone to heaven! All of us were in heaven! Who knew sitting under a major overpass could be so rewarding?! Amazing trail magic!
-While indulging in the amazing magic, the trail angels who had provided the magic showed up on their ATVs. It was so nice to actually meet the kind hearted folks who had helped bring us such relief. 
-One of the angels had his car nearby, so he gave me, Tin Man, Fire Gypsy, and Shrek a ride to the grocery store and back. 
-After getting back to the overpass, we hiked on to Ziggy and The Bear's. Ziggy and The Bear are trail angels in Cabazon who open up their home to thru-hikers during hiker season. They provide food, mail services, showers, towels, laundry, foot soaks, and big tents for hikers to sleep under. They are very nice people. We ate and showered at Ziggy and The Bear's... but we got there late and everyone was winding down while we were still charged with energy from our hike and from the epic trail magic we had just received. We couldn't just lay down and go to bed! And we had beer to drink which isn't allowed at Ziggy and The Bear's. 
-Tin Man, Shrek, and I decided to hike out of Ziggy and The Bear's to the Whitewater Preserve. Thank God we hiked out at night because it was all uphill. I couldn't imagine trying to tackle that climb in the blazing sun... it would have been miserable!
-Night hiking with Tin Man and Shrek was tons of fun. 
-Biggest mileage day yet on the PCT this year. Woohoo! :)

Day 15

Day 15
Miles: Just south of the Mt. San Jacinto summit to 197.17

-Woke up just south of Mt. San Jacinto / just north of Deer Springs. 
-Tin Man made coffee and shared with me... it was so nice! I love coffee! For some reason I like black coffee on the trail, but have a hard time taking my coffee black without creamer and sugar in town. 
-Hiked out and met back up with the PCT at mile 185 where we saw Captain. 
-Continued hiking on to Fuller Ridge. I haven't done this section before, so it's exciting to not know what's around the next bend. 
-Hot as hell... Hot! Hot! HOT! HOT! HOT! Aggghhhhhhh!!!!! So hot! My skin is burning! 
-Slept on a saddle at mile 197.17 with Tin Man. Captain hiked on. 

Day 14

Day 14
Miles: Devil's Slide Trail - Summit of Mt. San Jacinto - Just south of the summit

-No idea what my mileage was, but it was a full day of hiking!
-Hiked out of Idyllwild with 1-Track via the Devil's Slide Trail. We decided to summit Mt. San Jacinto because it only added about 2 miles to the hike we would do if we were to only stick to the PCT. With a summit not too far off trail, we decided it would be silly to pass up the opportunity. On our way up the trail, Tin Man showed up! It was perfect timing. 1-Track was hiking too fast for me to keep up with him, so Tin Man and I ended up hiking together. When we had almost reached the summit, we came to a cabin. There was a snow bank along the side of the cabin, and I found a can of Rolling Rock beer sitting in the snow! Tin Man and I were thrilled to find this beer! We went to the highest point possible on Mt. San Jacinto where we cracked open that beer and soaked in the stellar view. Magic!
-At the top of San Jacinto, Tin Man and I ran into other hikers who had seen 1-Track. They told us that 1-Track thought Tin Man and I decided not to summit and that we hiked on down the trail, so 1-Track left the summit to catch up with us. 1-Track didn't realize how slow we were hiking! Instead of hurrying down the trail to catch up to my brother, Tin Man and I decided to take our time and enjoy the view which we had worked so hard to reach. We knew we would see 1-Track again at some point. 
-After soaking in the sun and the amazing views, Tin Man and I hiked down the mountain a little bit and found a good camping spot just before reaching Deer Springs. The sunset was beautiful and all seemed right with the world. 

Day 13

Day 13
Miles: zero day @ Idyllwild

-Checked out of cabin and went to the Idyllwild campground for $3.00. I set up my tent, went to the grocery store, ate food, and relaxed with 1-Track, Tin Man, Magellan, and Jack Rabbit. 

Day 12

Day 12
Miles 137-Paradise Valley Cafe-Idyllwild (Mile 179.4)

-Woke up at 3:00am. 1-Track and I are testing out our friend Magellan's approach to night hiking; instead of hiking from around 6:00pm-2:00am, we are trying going to bed at around 7:00pm, waking up at 3:00am, and hiking until it's too hot to hike. 
-I have 15 miles until I reach Paradise Cafe. Yay! I have 3 miles of tame downhill, followed by a lot of uphill miles. I hope I can knock this out and get to the cafe before it closes at 3:00pm!
-Windy! Windy! Windy! For the love of God where did this wind come from?!?!? It's hard to hike in wind because you can't escape it. I was on ridgelines and mountain passes all day, and incredibly strong gusts of wind were coming at me from every angle, literally. It was a crazy hike but very pretty. 
-I got to Paradise Valley Cafe in the afternoon. My knees were weak and my legs were wobbly. I ate a salad and burger at Paradise Valley Cade... yum!!!!!
-Hitch hiked out of Paradise Valley Cafe due to the trail being closed. A detour hike was available, but the PCTA (Pacific Crest Trail Association) strongly recommended hitching a ride into Idyllwild rather than trying to hike into town. A really nice woman picked me, 1-Track, and another hiker up. We threw our packs in the bed of her truck. While we were driving, my hot pink heart-shaped dry erase board flew out of the truck. We turned around to pick it up, but we couldn't find the heart. I wasn't too concerned with loosing it; but I hated the thought of that heart littering our Mother Nature. When we got to town, I received a text message from my hiking buddy Zog. He decided to walk into Idyllwild and during his walk, my hot pink heart blew right into his face! He recognized the heart and knew it was mine, so he picked up my heart and brought it to me! How sweet! I love how ironic this story is. 
-1-Track and I got into Idyllwild and rented a cabin. The cabin was a walk to the outskirts of town. While we were walking, Tin Man, Magellan, and Jack Rabbit drove by us. They texted me and we shared our cabin with them. It was nice having friends in town with a vehicle... especially since our cabin was so out of the way from town. 
-We were able to do laundry in town while we sipped margaritas from a Mexican restaurant around the corner. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Trail Magic!

Another Desert Flower!

So many desert flowers in bloom!

Mike's Trail Magic!

A Message for Mom & Dad...

Kick Off Reunion

Eagle Rock

MILE 100!

Virtual Hitch Hiking!

Hiking the Anza Borego Desert

Night Hiking! (Girly Girl & 1-Track)

Day 11

Day 11
Miles 127-137
-Woke up around 7:30am. The wind was pushing my tent over. There is a small plastic piece on my tent poles that has cracked. I think the crack is why the wind was able to easily collapse my tent. I have to get this fixed ASAP. 
-My Sunnto Core watch is all foggy. I can't use it. This really sucks because it's a $400 watch. I've gotta get this gear fixed as well. 
-1-Track had pancakes, but I missed them. I'm kind of bummed about that. Oh well. I have food of my own to eat. 
-Hung out with other hikers. Met Doc who is a physical therapist that helped teach me how to properly apply KT Tape to my right knee. Also met Mama Bear and Mover. Tom and Kushy were there too. Ate a tuna wrap and packed up my site. Hit the trail by 11:30am. 
-Sitting in the shade under a tree. I love it out here. I've never hiked this section of the PCT before, so I am feeling a new kind of excitement since I don't know what's around the next bend. 
-I have seen the following animals: lizards, beatles, bugs, non-venomous snakes, a variation of birds to include a small owl, bats, rats, mice, coyote, fox, a huge herd of cows, and butterflies. 

Day 10

Day 10
Miles 109-127.5
-Woke up at Lake Morena ready to hike. 
-Puff gave 1-Track and I a ride into Julian for breakfast and the post office on our way to be dropped off at the Warner Springs community center. It was sad saying goodbye to Puff. We became such good friends on the trail last year and it feels strange hiking out without him! The same goes for Moist too. I miss my trail family from 2013 and seeing them at Kick Off was incredible. I have hope I will find amazing friends this year as well. 
-Just swam in a stream (Mile 115.5). I loved it! This trail rejuvenates me and makes me feel healthy and happy. Met Captain from Oceanside and Berkley Bill from Berkley. Nice guys. Also met Cat, Cody, Hatchet, and Scotch on the Rocks. 
-Hiked out of Warner Springs at 2pm. It was hot. The siesta at the creek was incredible! I'm super relaxed right now. I'm about to gain 2,000ft elevation over 7 miles. It's not that bad... child's play actually. Ha! The sun is setting so the temperature should drop about 30 degrees. Yay! It's much better hiking in cooler weather because I use less water, have more energy, can take my time, and I can avoid sunburns. 
-I hiked until mile 127 where I reached Trail Angel Mike's Skyranch Sactuary. I got there pretty late- around midnight. I strolled in exhausted. My knee was hurting, and my eyes had been so focused on the light from my headlamp on the trail that my vision was all out of whack. I think my peripheral vision goes out the window when I night hike so I have to remind myself to look around me and to wake up. 
-Set up tent on Mike's property. It was windy but very comfortable. I was so happy have arrived there. 

Day 9

Day 9
Miles: 0 (@ Kick Off)
-Sunday. Kick Off is over. Time to pack up and leave. But wait. Shit. We just got invited to a party with The Andersons (amazing trail angels). Their Sunday after Kick Off party is a tradition. Kelso, Story Time, and Giggles left Lake Morena, but Puff, Moist, 1-Track and I decided to stay. It would be fun to be with everyone a bit longer, and I had to wait to mail a box home on Monday, so there was no point in hurrying. We moved to their camp, set up, mingled, drank, warmed up by the fire, and ate Terri Anderson's famous chili. I had a rice crispy treat from Kushy which was yummy too. 
-1-Track asked Puff and Moist for help "shaking down" his pack. A shake down means you empty your pack completely of every little thing. Then you comb through your gear with experienced ultralight backpackers and go over things you need and thing you can do without. Shakedowns are a way of life for a long distance backpacker. With every shakedown, you realize you can part with a few more items which, over time, will make your backpack weigh less and less. There is an "ultralight" school of thought when it comes to backpacking which uses Ray Jardin's mantra that "the fun goes up when the weight goes down." It's true. Having a lightweight backpack makes all the difference in the world. 1-Track had never had a shakedown, and I wasn't even going to try since no one likes it when little sister tries to tell you to get rid of your gear. I figured Moist and Puff would be better at offering their input. It was a success and 1-Track lightened his pack weight by about 3 pounds which was a great improvement (3 pounds is a lot of weight by backpacker standards). 

Day 8

Day 8
Miles: 0 because I was at Kick Off. 
-Woke up warm in Puff's car at Kick Off. Went to get a hot breakfast and coffee at the gas station down the street where a bunch of us hikers mingled a while. 
-Went back to the campground, showered, straightened my hair, took care of my skin, did my makeup, and hung out with Rainmaker, Solstice and Explagrance. The girl time was much needed! I love those ladies!!! I love feeling clean!!!
-Hung out with tons of people. Saw the preview to the PCT 2013 Class Video. I think the video will turn out really well. Hung out around camp fires and with friends. Loving life and this reunion. 
-Lots of my friends are hiking either the PCT in 2015 or the CDT in 2015. Both groups are asking me to join them. I want to, but I told myself that this years hike is my last thru-hike and then I'll return to the so-called real world. I've been excited about getting this hike done, getting a job, having a place of my own, having some money, etc. I would like a family of my own one day, so I should put down roots, right? What if that never happens though and I end up putting roots down (aka career and debt) when I don't need to be plugged in to civilization? Now that I'm out here and being reminded of how fulfilling this simple life is, I'm not sure what I want. I need to take the positives from civilization and the positives of the trail and put those together to form a life. I want to be happy, to have a garden, to eat better, to put more vitamins, minerals, and water into my body, to avoid prescription medicines, to use natural products, to move my body, to have a tiny home in some land with a hammock, and to live simply. I guess I need to plug in a little bit so I can have that life. But for now, I'll take the trail and the mountains and the stars any day. I guess I'll see how this hike goes, how my health is, and how other things play out in my life. I can't believe I'm already considering another thru-hike when I'm only 100 miles in on this hike... but life really is great out here. It's not complicated. It's not comfortable. There is community. Every step is a challenge. I have ultimate freedom. 

Day 7

Day 7
Miles 105.07-109-Kick Off
-Walked a few miles into Warner Springs. I finally saw Eagle Rock and loved it! What a cool rock formation! 
-The community center in Warner Springs sells food and showers to backpackers. I took a great shower and ate a burger. Eventually 1-Track showed up too. 
-My old friend Atlas from last year's hike was doing trail magic too! He brought me an orange... an homage to the past of my "fruit stand" ways. (I carried so much fruit last year that Atlas dubbed me "fruit stand.")
-Puff, one of my great friends from last year's hike who responded to my Instagram post asking for a ride, showed up in Warner Springs to give me and 1-Track a ride down to Kick Off. It was AMAZING to see Puff!
-Riding in a car was strange, partly because of how fast we were going, but also because we were backtracking south where we had just come from. It took us about a week to travel the same distance that took us 1 hour to travel in Puff's truck. 
-We drove down to Kick Off, checked in, and got our site squared away. I set up my camp without my rainfly because Story Time and Giggles had my bounce bucket and rain fly with them and I couldn't locate them. It looked like a storm would be rolling in, so I took my camp down and moved into Puff's truck to sleep in the back of it. I didn't want to risk all of my things getting wet. After getting squared away, I roamed around the campground and saw lots of old friends. While walking, I heard some guys say "Girly Girl!" I turned around to see Moist and Kelso standing there!!!!!!!!!!! Yaaaayyyyy!!!!! Trail family!!!!!!! Then I saw Rocket Llama! We jumped on each other, hugged, and danced- it was ridiculous and I was so happy to see my Rocket!!! Shortly after Rainbow showed up! Then Sierra Bum, Rainmaker, Solstice, Explagrance, Golden Boy, Apache, Puppy, Shotput, Cartwheel, Wagonwheel, The Andersons, Tom, Kushy, Mr. Green, and so many others! It was outrageous to see everyone. I felt much love in my heart for my friends. 
-Because a storm rolled in, and it was raining and cold, me, 1-Track, Puff, Moist & Kelso crammed ourselves into Puff's truck. We later squeezed in Rocket Llama, Rainbow, Giggles, Story Time, and maybe a few others. We had a great time. 
-I'm happy to be here. 

Day 6

Day 6
Miles 88.22-91-96-105.07
-Woke up with a beautiful view (7:30). Hiked to the 3rd piped gate and stopped to siesta since it's scorching hot and since 1-Track and I hiked so late last night. The plan is to start hiking to Warner Springs and be there by morning. From there we will hitch to Lake Morena for Kick Off. I can't stay at Kick Off too long because I don't want to loose my focus. 1-Track is thinking about not going to Kick Off at all for the same reason. But I need to go to see friends and pick up gear. 
-Spent all day at the 3rd pipe gate (mile 91) waiting for it to cool down. During my siesta, I used my dry erase board to make a sign saying 1-Track and I needed a ride to Kick Off. Since I had service at the 3rd pipe gate, I was able to take a picture of my note and post it on Instagram. It was a shot in the dark and I didn't think it would work, but my trail friend Puff from last year's hike saw my post and agreed to give us a ride to Kick Off! Yay! I'm so excited to see Puff! I love him! He is such a dear friend to me. I'm also excited to not have to hitch hike to Kick Off. 
- I left the 3rd pipe gate at 6:45pm towards Warner Springs. It's such a beautiful night. I am a bit in front of 1-Track, and I start freaking myself out when I hike alone at night, so I stopped at Billy Goat's Cave (mile 96) to wait for 1-Track. I did my bird call to him and shined my headlamp in his direction, but I didn't hear his bird call or see his head lamp. He must be on the other side of a ridge or something. Anyway, it's kind of chilly so I may have to get in my sleeping bag. Lol. 
-Slept next to a small stream just south of Eagle Rock and Warner Springs. 

Day 5

Day 5
Miles 77-88.22

-Woke up in the car at our campground at Pioneer Mail. It was beautiful outside when I woke up and it was nice and warm inside the car. 
-While we were packing everything up, we noticed some hikers heading southbound. (It is important for me to notice a hiker's direction because most of the people hiking southbound are hikers from last year who are hiking south to Kick Off at Lake Morena. If they are a returning hiker hiking to Kick Off, it means I probably know them from last year.) We walked over to the hikers and sure enough, they are old friends! We got to hang out with Puppy and other hikers who I know but whose names I forgot (Shotput?). Lol. It was a very happy reunion. I'll see them at Kick Off this weekend. 
-Tin Man hiked south to Lake Morena while his buddies Jack Rabbit and Magellan packed up their car and headed south to meet Tin Man at Kick Off.
-From what I can tell... Kick Off 2014 is going to be one outrageously fun party. There are so many more people showing up for Kick Off than from what I had expected. I'm sure many from PCT 2013's Vortex will show up. I'm thrilled to see everyone!
-We finally left and stopped by the outfitter shop in Mt. Laguna. I needed a new z-lite sleep pad and a sheet of Tyvec. While I was shopping I got to catch up with Dave Super and my old friend Rustic from last year in Washington. Rustic and I became very close friends towards the end of last years' hike and it was GREAT to see him alive and well!
-From the outfitter we headed down to Julian so 1-Track and I could get our mail from the PO, eat, and get dropped off back on the trail at Scissor's Crossing (mile 77). It's been a busy day!!!!!!! I've been working non-stop; everything is organized and I am ready to go back to the trail. 
-Storytime and Giggles are awesome. They have been more than helpful, patient, fun, and accommodating. Their trail magic is outrageously awesome. Words cannot express how amazing they truly are. 
- 1-Track and I got dropped off at Scissor's Crossing. We decided to relax in the shade of an overpass until the sun goes down since this next 14 miles is a constant incline up a mountain. On the PCT, this is a popular place because it is the only good rest spot and water cache in the desert maintained by a trail angel in the area. 
-The trail angel who maintains the Scissor's Crossing's cache is named is Larry. He has been bringing water down to this overpass for years, supplying hikers with a desperately needed water source. His water cache has a reputation of being very reliable. (***FYI: hikers should never expect trail magic no matter how reliable it has been in the past!!!!***)  Today, just as 1-Track and I got cozy under the bridge and ready to rest up for our big climb, Trail Angel Larry came stomping down beneath the overpass to the cache site where I was seated. Larry was angry, but composed. He didn't make eye contact and didn't come across as wanting to be sociable. I was taken back at first. So I introduced myself to Larry by saying hi and asking if he was the trail angel. He said he was indeed the trail angel but that he was quitting. He had had it. He was fed up. He was hurt to have to stop providing this magic, but he had to do what he had to do. These are the impressions I was getting out of his words and behavior. But I wasn't understanding exactly what the problem was. I decided to help him with whatever he needed help with anyway, without question. I started emptying water bottles and taking the bottles up to his car. After chatting, I learned that Larry has been maintaining this water cache for years, and due to the cache site being located on a state park, Larry has had to do some politicking in order to bring hikers water. Things were going well until some hikers recently trashed the cache site leaving a huge mess for Trail Angel Larry to clean up. Those hikers poorly represented the PCT community and all of the locals who are supportive of our hike. It's ashamed that a few bad seeds are ruining it for the rest of us... but I completely understand why Larry has to turn his back on the cache. He can't and shouldn't jeopardize smearing his name on our (hikers') behalf. Although finding myself in this encounter with Larry was a bit awkward and uncomfortable, I am glad to say that I learned a great deal from this experience. I learned how hard trail angels work to bring magic to us. I learned how large of an impact us hikers can have on the communities we pass through. I have always appreciated and loved trail magic and the angels who bring it, but now I really value all the behind-the-scenes action that angels are involved in. THANK YOU TRAIL ANGELS! YALL HELP MAKE THIS JOURNEY POSSIBLE. THIS JOURNEY HAS SAVED MY LIFE, AND YOU HAVE BEEN A PART OF IT. I AM FOREVER GRATEFUL. 
-Rustic showed up to the cache site a bit later. He weighed my pack. My base weight is 15.5 pounds! Yay! 
-My pack feels so light and organized! I hope I don't need a tent! Lol. 
-Valerie works at the Julian Post Office... one of the friendliest post offices on the entire PCT. She has been such a great help to me and my brother. Collectively, 1-Track and I went in to the post office about 5 times one day! Valerie was so friendly, sweet, motherly, patient, and supportive of us. I couldn't go without mentioning her and how thankful I am to have met her. :)
-Got to night hike with 1-Track. I really enjoyed hiking with him. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 4

Day 4
Miles 39-42

-Woke up at 4:30am. Hiked out at 5:00am. Got to the Mt. Laguna store before 6:30am. Everything was closed, so Zog and I just hung out on the porch outside of the store. 
-Storytime, my buddy from last years hike texted me saying he heard I was in the area, and that he was near me doing trail magic. 1-Track (my brother) was ahead of me on trail. 1-Track called me and said every southbound hiker he passed knew me. I guess word spread across the trail about my back going out and about me still being on the trail this year. Storytime must have caught wind of my whereabouts through word of mouth from other hikers which is how he knew I was around Mt. Laguna.
-So... while I was sitting there on the porch waiting for the store to open, 
and texting Storytime, my friend Apache hiked up! He exclaimed "GIRLY GIRL!" I jumped up and we hugged and laughed and hung out. I last saw Apache in Washington this last September. Apache has a big hat with bird feathers sticking up all around it. I'm proud to say that some of those feathers were from me during last year's hike. I had recently found a pretty feather, so I took it out of my pack and added it to Apache's hat. Apache is really cool- super chill, friendly, and a great hiker. I'm stoked I got to see him. 
-While Apache and I were hanging out, Storytime drove up to us. It was such a FUN reunion! It's crazy how hiking with someone for a few weeks forms such a strong bond that would take much longer to form with someone in real life. This was just the beginning of my reunion!
-Storytime picked me up and drove me down to Julian so I could meet up with my brother 1-Track. I had already hiked that stretch last year, so I didn't feel too bad about skipping it. I have it all on video. Lol. It was all downhill which I actually prefer and didn't want to skip... but Zog pointed out that I only get a chance to hike the PCT with my brother so many times in life, and that may be more important to me than hiking those 35 miles to Scissors Crossing. 
-I got to Julian this morning, reunited with 1-Track (my brother), took a shower in some other hikers' hotel room, ate, and was preparing to get back on the trail with 1-Track at mile 77. But then... Story Time said he was getting a group together to camp tonight and invited 1-Track and I to join. Storytime also ran into another hiker from last year he said I would be excited to see. It was Tin Man, Jack Rabbit, & Magellan!!!!!! Yaaayyyyy!
-1-Track, Storytime, and I headed down the road to pick up Giggles in San Diego, take 1-Track to the ATT store, swing by Target, and drive back towards Mt. Laguna to camp with a group of friends. 
-The campsite was cold and windy, so we chilled in the car drinking and listening to music. It was so much fun and a joy to be with everyone again. I passed out in the car. Lol. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Hiking Buddy "Zog"

Me & The Germans

Mt. Laguna (Mile 42)

Day 3

Day 3
Miles 25.5-39

-I was cold last night, even though I was in my 19 degree sleeping bag. I have not set up my tent yet. Woke up at 5:00am. Left around 6:15 am (Zog isn't used to hiking out so early) which was later than I had planned, but I am really enjoying his company and he is new to this.) He says he has already learned so much from me in the 24 hours we have known each other. 
-Stopped at a campground for water and so Zog could eat breakfast. Left at 7:00am. Hiked out. It started getting hot one hour in. I've got to become totally nocturnal because this heat is killing me! 
-Hiked till about 10:00am. Found an off-trail water source at a campground. It was a 2 mile round trip detour from the trail. Zog and I headed to the campground and paid the day use fee of $5 so we could relax and siesta during the heat of the day. Later, a hiker named Essie joined us, followed by the 2 Germans Work Hard and his wife Bridget. It was a fun reunion, but I had to leave for the trail in the evening. Zog and Essie decided to night hike with me. They were both amazed at how much nicer hiking is at night when it's about 30% F cooler than the day time. I am so happy I did this massive climb at night! It would have taken me forever if I had done it in the day. Essie camped early. Zog and I pushed on to mile 39. This was Zog's highest mileage day since he got on the PCT, and he was exhausted. We decided to wake up at 4:30am so we could hike into Mt. Laguna in the cool part of the morning. We did a total of 15.5 miles. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 2

Day 2
Miles 14-25.5

-Okay, on my "Day 1" entry the date says "4-10-2014." That was a typo. I meant to type 4-19-2014. Just had to set the record straight. 
-Left my camp spot at 6:15 and reached Lake Morena at mile 20 at 9:00am. I was moving slowly because of the uphill climb coupled with my back pain. I did, however, get close to 12 hours of sleep last night which seems to have made a big impact on how I am feeling today. I still feel uneasy, but I don't feel as defeated as I did yesterday. Yesterday was hell; maybe today will be better. 
-Arriving to Lake Morena was great. I used the restroom (a real one!), set my pack down at the designated PCT hiker campsite, and walked to the deli/gas station down the road. I ordered a cheeseburger, potato salad, and a chocolate malt. I only had 1/2 of the burger, about 3 small bites of potato salad, and about 3 sips of the malt. I think I was too tired to eat even though I didn't eat this morning. I did guzzle one large bottle of Gatorade and I purchased another bottle to go.
-It's only 11:00am here at Lake Morena, but it is really hot outside. I am laying underneath a big tree with lots of shade. I think I'll stay here until it cools down around 4:00 or 5:00pm. I want to hike at least 6 more miles, but I might shoot for 10. I'm not sure yet- it all depends on my back pain.
-I am at mile 25.5. I slept and relaxed all day at Lake Morena. I made some friends too. I was feeling better, so I decided to night hike about 5 miles to the next water source. One of the hikers, Zog, asked if he could join. He is an old, retired fire fighter and Vietnam veteran and has never hiked the PCT. Night hiking was a new concept for him, so I gave him some glow sticks and we hiked and talked. We just stopped to camp and can hear tons of Arroyo Toads in the distance. The hike went well, especially in the coolness of the night. My back is feeling better too. I think night hiking is the best way for me to hike from now on. I'm about to go to bed.

Day 1

Day 1
Miles 0-14

-Its hot. Really, really, really hot. I covered 5 miles in one hour, but then I started feeling overheated, nauseas, dizzy, and my skin was bright red. I'm only 7 miles in! I started thinking I might be having a heat stroke, so I told myself I would take a break at the first shady spot I came to. I walked over an hour until I could find some "decent" shade. Right now, I am in a tiny amount of shade underneath a manzanita tree. There is no room for me to lay down because I am on a ridge. I am so thankful for this tree!
-I feel a sense of urgency to catch up with my older brother who started 2 days before me. I began after him due to some last minute medical issues I had to take care of back in Texas. He is at least 32 miles ahead of me. I am trying to catch up to him, but it's pretty hard to catch a moving target. I have decided to hike my own hike, and to not get overwhelmed with catching up to him. If he wants to hike with me he can wait for me. I have to rest when I need to, as I'm doing now, otherwise I won't be able to finish this hike. 
-I take lithium because I am bipolar type II. The medication has really helped me, however it can become toxic and deadly with over exertion, excessive sweating, lack of water, sunlight, and heat. So basically everything I am doing right now and for the next 6 months is putting me at risk if I'm not careful. I get this competitive mindset where I want to keep up with everyone, and it's just not good for me- mentally or physically. This trail teaches me a ton about self acceptance, and I must accept that I have about a million medical hurdles to jump over... and I am a bad ass for even trying. I think part of my near-heat-stroke-experience is because of the lithium. I've gotta take it easy. 
-Girlscout (the trail angel who picked me up in San Diego both this year and last year) and other hikers poked fun at me. They said my trail name should be "Issues" since I'm constantly dealing with medical problems. Lol. I'm tempted to change my name to "Issues" because it's accurate and funny, but I think I'll stick with Girly Girl. She has become my warrior alter ego and she can do anything. She has no issues that will slow her down. :)
-I sat down to rest at 10:00am and it is now 11:00am. I'm feeling better and am going to hike on for a few more miles. 
-I hiked on and felt better (sort of). But then my back muscles started spasming around mile 11 or 12. It felt like a knife was digging into my low back and the pack rubbing against it didn't help. I kept trying to tell myself to stay positive, to not give up, not to cry, to keep moving forward, that it's not that bad, that it's all in my head, that I can trick the pain sensors in my brain if I just try hard enough. Pain started shooting down my legs and into my toes. The right side hurt the most. I started to cry. Then I panicked. How is it that I was doing 28 mile days in the Cascade Mountains just 6 months ago, and now I am ready to give up before even hiking 15 miles? To say I felt discouraged would be a massive understatement. I felt utterly defeated and good-for-nothing. It was as if my dream had turned to sand and it was rushing through my finger tips. 
-I hiked on because I knew a road that border patrol often uses was coming up at mile 14. I figured, worst case scenario, that they would eventually drive down the road and I could flag them down if I needed help. There weren't many flat places to camp, so I set up my camp on a slope underneath a manzanita tree.
-I sent the following texts to my family back home because I couldn't think straight: "My back is KILLING ME to the point that I'm fighting back tears. The pain is running all the way to my toes. I've been going REALLY slow and taking tons of breaks. I've been stretching. I don't know what to do. :/ It's been a very hard day. I'm at mile 13.37. Advice???? I'm about to be near a road." "If I camp where I am now (near the road that border patrol uses), then I have a HUGE 5 mile incline before I get to my first scheduled stop (Lake Morena) tomorrow. I'm not sure my back can handle this incline. It has taken me about 3 hours to go less than 5 miles. Should I camp at the road and see how I feel in the morning? I don't know what to do. This pain is outrageous. I've got pain pills but I really do not want to take them." "I just had a Phi Mu sorority sister who I met on trail last year text me (her name is Peanut and she is 55) . She said if I ever need help, she lives in SoCal and can help me with whatever. So I told her that I might be calling her tomorrow morning for help. I feel incredibly relieved to have her nearby and willing to help. I'm gonna go ahead and take a pain pill and rest up."
-While I was resting and trying to figure out what I should do, a hiker heading south approached me. He was older, had a long white beard, looked like a hippie, wore lots of necklaces that probably held some meaning, and all of his gear was really old school. He sat down on the trail and joined me for a chat. He said his name is Hard Way because he does everything the hard way. He asked why I was camping where I was camping because the spot I was in was definitely not the ideal camping spot. I told him about my back and how I didn't want to camp right on the road, and that this was my best option. I started crying as I explained how badly my head wants to hike and how my body is screaming for me to rest and slow down. He told me how he is sober for about a year, that the love of his life had been ripped away from him when she died, how angry he was, and how his life spiraled out of control. He said he knew our situations were different, but he could understand the feeling of being out of control. He said he was sorry for my pain, and he validated how frustrating it must be. He told me that no matter what, it will always be okay. He encouraged me to hang in there and to rest. He also said I look like his daughter. Hard Way talked about how much he loves to hike- that he doesn't care where or when he is going as long as he can just go. This resonated with me. It doesn't matter how much mileage I'm covering, as long as I can go. So who cares if I'm not hiking as many miles a day that I am used to hiking... I love being out here so if I can only go 5 miles then that's what I'll do. The point is for me not to give up or give in, but to just go. 
-Shortly after Hard Way left, a border patrol truck came around the bend. He approached me and could tell I was a PCT hiker and an American. He never asked for a form of ID. He did ask if I was okay, and I explained to him my situation. He asked if I needed a ride and I told him I wasn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. I asked if someone would be on patrol tomorrow if I decided I needed help, and he said yes. He was a really nice guy. He left 1 liter of spring water with me too which was incredibly nice. 
-I decided to camp at mile 14 for the night, but I was on a slope so I kept slipping throughout the night. I didn't use a tent. I put my ground cloth on the slope, followed with my blow up air mattress, with my sleeping bag on top and me in it. I put my backpack underneath my knees to alleviate the pressure on my back and to keep me from sliding a lot. I took a pain pill, my other medications, ibuprofen, and I watched Family Guy. I fell asleep around 6:30pm. I would occasionally wake when hikers would pass me. We would chat and then I'd go back to bed. I woke up around 10:30pm and could see that the valley below me was filled with mist that had rolled in off the Pacific Ocean. I watched the moonrise and looked at the stars. I fell back asleep and, aside from slowly sliding down onto the trail, I slept like a baby.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Here I Go...

I have decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) again! I cannot believe I am throwing myself into this journey for a second time! It is going to be challenging and painful but something deep within me says I have to do this. The trail is calling and I must go. 

It was easy to make a commitment to the trail last year because I was 100% naive as to what I was walking into. I had no idea how many challenges I would face, how many mountains I would climb, how much my body would ache, how difficult it would be to remain motivated and mentally sound, how hungry I would become, or how dirty and miserable I could get. I was clueless. This year, I know fair and square what exactly I am walking into... I've been having nightmares. What if the inclines never stop? What if I can't tolerate my back pain? What if I suffer a mental breakdown? What if I am too homesick? What if it's too hot? What if it gets too cold? What if I don't make any friends? What if I feel lonely? What if my asthma isn't helped by my inhaler? What if I run out of money? What if I'm not cut out for this? What if, what if, WHAT IF?!?!?!?!? Who in their right mind would willingly do this? Well, I guess... I would. Why, you ask? As stated above, I understand what I am about to do... but it's not all bad. The positives outweigh the so called 'negatives' for me:

The empowerment I gain from walking 2,665 miles is overwhelming. I remind myself how hard the simple act of walking downstairs was for me in the past. I once could not lift even a gallon of milk. I remind myself that I am no longer defined by spinal surgeries, pain medication, chronic pain, doctors appointments, and pity. I can do it... I WILL DO THIS! I will not go down without a fight. I am going to be healthy. I am walking this trail as if my life depends on it. 

Another benefit is getting to see things that most people never get a chance to see. The payoff is incredible and the sheer beauty of nature is more than anyone could ever imagine. When I hike into the wilderness and I reach a mountain pass, I often think about all the people I wish I could share the view with. I then think of all the reasons why those people cannot or will not be there with me, and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to see certain remote sights with my very own two eyes. It's the most amazing feeling knowing that only a handful of people have seen what I've seen.

I also enjoy feeling small and knowing that the world does not revolve around me. The stars are bigger, more abundant, and they shine brighter. The animals are bigger and they could easily overtake me. I could suffer heat stroke or be bit by a rattlesnake in the desert. I could face dehydration. The San Andreas Fault is often below my feet and it could open up and swallow me whole. The mountains could crumble, a flash flood could sweep me away, I could be engulfed and buried in a mudslide. I could be hit by lightening or caught in a forest fire. The forests are dark, mysterious, and full of foreign sounds from creatures hidden from sight. When I am hiking, I am facing the reality of the world I live in, and I am humbled. Mankind always thinks we are nĂºmero uno, the top of the food chain, the end-all-be-all, the kings of the earth. This is a lie, at least in my opinion. Try sleeping alone in the forest and hiking a few days without seeing a soul or any remnants of a human being, and you will quickly learn how powerless and vulnerable you really are. I admit, feeling small is scary. But after working through that fear and seeing myself for what I really am, I am able to peacefully surrender myself to God and the Universe. Everything is out of my control, and that is okay. I don't need to control, I have no need to be "right." All I need to do in this world is to take good care of myself the best I can, be kind to others, work hard, persevere, and have love and peace in my heart. 

Another positive from walking the PCT is that I am forced to step away from materialism and inauthenticity. I can carry everything I truly need on my back and survive for 6 months. In every day life we are bombarded by advertising and marketing schemes to the point that we don't even notice them. On the trail, I feel beautiful even when I haven't showered and am covered in dirt. In normal life, I feel so much pressure to be a certain way and to fit a specific image. When I am hiking, nothing matters other than my health and well-being. It is truly freeing to realize that my appearance and material possessions are absolutely worthless. The need for me to chase after some crazy and often unattainable American dream filled with luxurious items and being able to impress everyone has long escaped me and I do not want to pursue it. I already am living the dream. I have accepted myself and I am happy with who I am. 

I value the Human Experience found on the trail. Thru-hikers are all similar in a few ways... we value nature, hard work, peace, laughter, water, good food, music, determination, and hiking. We are all free spirits drawn onto the trail. We are looking for something bigger than ourselves. Many of us are fed up with society and the idea that one ought to live a certain way. We are adventurers. We are seekers. We are wanderers. We are challenging our bodies and our minds. We are seeking a certain kind of freedom. We all find this freedom, belonging, and sense of community on the trail and with one another. We are thru-hikers. Koo-wii!

So... as I sit on Delta Flight 1967 en route to San Diego... I think about all the good experiences I am about to encounter and become a part of. I tell myself this is worth it. I tell myself I must do this in order to break through to a different side of my soul's existence. I tell myself that the 'negatives' are the things that will build character, that the 'negatives' are what make the positives seem so positive, that the 'negatives' are the things I will overcome that will make me feel proud. No more nightmares; the time has come. I am ready to take on the trail.