-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.