Going Home: Sloppy, Wet Kisses From Old Men and Other Hitchhiking Adventures

I packed up everything that was so incredibly important to me for the past 3.5 months, everything that I didn’t even know how to properly use a year prior but now ensured my survival in the wilderness. Disheartened, I walked back to the little store in Toulomne Meadows, planted my feet on the curb, and faced north to stick my thumb out at the drivers heading south.

I don’t remember how long I stood there. 20 mins? An hour? More? I just remember trying not to cry as I, occasionally, saw a hiker I recognized and waved at them (this wasn’t often because most of the hikers I knew were way ahead of me by now; my injury took me off trail for a few weeks and when I began hiking again, I was still constantly in pain, and therefore, very slow). I remember getting a hug from Lapsang, whom I’d hiked with for a day and spent a few days in Bishop with. His parents were visiting, and he was showing them around Tuolomne as they gazed at their son proudly. I told him I was leaving. Saying it out loud hurt. Every word felt like a hammer pummeling me on the head, like a pickax beating down on a boulder until, finally, it gives way and crumbles . I rushed my goodbyes and went back to pleadingly gazing at every passing driver with my arm outstretched. I didn’t want to go home but neither did I want to be there, where happy hikers and proud parents explored Yosemite before wishing their children a pleasant journey as they embarked on the more-than-half of the hike that they still had the opportunity to experience. Was I jealous? You bet.

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Lapsang and I

A man in his late 50s/early 60s pulled into the parking lot and told me that he had some shopping to do but could take me southward in a little bit if I hadn’t found a ride before then. I accepted the offer, and when he was done and I was still there, got into his car. He headed toward Yosemite Junction (a much easier place to catch a ride), from where I told him I’d continue hitchhiking to Lee Vining and further south as he went on his way to Nevada. We saw another hitchhiker–a hiker I recognized–and I asked him if he wouldn’t mind picking him up too (I knew I’d feel safer as well). He turned around and came back for him, and I found out that that hiker–he’d never acquired a trail name and just went by his first name, which I’m not entirely sure about so I’ll omit it–said that he was getting off trail too, but to climb instead of hike. He said he was bored of the PCT. He didn’t like it much. I was astounded. My heart was ripping in two at the thought of leaving this beautiful trail, and here was a person who didn’t enjoy his time on the PCT at all. I get it, to each his own, but man… I wanted to throttle him, haha.

We dropped off the hiker I, luckily, refrained from throttling at the junction, and I got out to continue hitchhiking, when the man driving me said that he was in no rush to get to his hotel in Nevada and wouldn’t mind hearing more about the PCT if I’d let him drive me a little further south. He hadn’t made me feel uncomfortable in any way and seemed like a kind person (he even came back to pick up the hiker I recognized), so I said, “Sure, thank you.” It’d save me time searching out another ride. He drove me to Mammoth, bought me a crepe, and then he said asked for a hug as we said goodbye. As I leaned in for the hug, he planted a sloppy, wet kiss right on my lips. I pulled away and stood there blinking, mouth open. He began joking about how he wished he had a hotel for us here in Mammoth instead of in Nevada and how he really hoped he’d see me again, and could I give him my contact info, but I hurriedly grabbed my piece of cardboard with “SOUTH” scribbled on it and my hiking poles from his trunk. I was so shocked I was speechless. Laughing nervously (something stupid I can’t help but do in situations like this), and walked off.

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I stood beside a freeway on-ramp where people were heading further south. Eventually, after being ignored too many times, I walked onto the freeway itself, on the side of the road, a quarter of a mile from the on-ramp. A kind woman just a little older than my mother pulled over and offered to take me to Bishop, saying that her motherly instincts kicked in and that she hoped her daughter would never hitchhike and that I better know how to use a gun. She dropped me off, and I continued hitchhiking from Bishop.

A woman in her early-to-mid 30s stopped and told me she’s headed a good amount south and would consider giving me a ride, but she first has to get a feel for who I am as a person before I get in her car. I raised my eyebrows, wondering what she was going to suggest. “I’m hungry. Let’s grab a bite to eat,” she said. She drove us to a restaurant in Bishop that I’d just been to with my fellow hikers a few weeks ago. She ate, we chatted, and as she paid her bill, I asked, “So…did I pass the test?” “Definitely,” she answered. “So, here’s the deal. I’m headed all the way to Los Angeles and can drop you off anywhere on the way there. But I’m stopping by my house first, which is halfway there, and spending the night, before going to LA tomorrow. I’m extending the offer to you. I just first had to see if you’re the kind of person I’d like to invite to my house and spend so much time in the car with. And you definitely are.”

And so I showered, spent the night on a comfy couch in the room where she keeps all of her musical instruments (she’s a naval surgeon but a musician in her spare time), ate the lovely breakfast she made for us the next morning, and ended up home, in Los Angeles, where I’d stay with family (I left my home and job in Big Sur to go hiking and had nothing to come back to) until I healed and figured out what crazy thing I was going to do next.

Note: This is an old entry from a journal I kept while hiking the PCT in 2016. I am no longer on the PCT and had to get off of the trail due to my injury in late July. I wanted to share with you my last few days on the trail and explain how difficult of a decision it was to go home.

 

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If Grown Men Cry, Women Can Too

The next morning, still at Tuolomne Campground in Yosemite National Park, I couldn’t get out of my tent. I heard hikers all around me moving about and politely whispering so as not to wake the people still sleeping in their tents, but at 7 in the morning, the chatter gradually began to increase until I knew it was time to get up. But I couldn’t. I didn’t have the strength to get up, get dressed, brush my teeth, pack up, and go asking around for rides. I didn’t want to face anyone. I was so sad that I was going home and disappointed in myself that I felt too ashamed too face anyone. I wanted to continue hiking so badly, to do bigger and bigger mileage days until I made up for the 2.5 weeks off trail, to not skip another section, to get stronger and stronger, to complete my thru-hike of the PCT, and here I was, dejectedly going home. I wanted to cry. And so I tucked my knees beneath my chin and cried. Then I pulled myself together, told myself I deserved ice cream and hot coffee that did not come from an instant packet, and promised myself that I’d feel better if I got up and gave myself these things.

I went to the campground store and sat at the picnic tables outside amidst other hikers. But I did not feel like one of them anymore and I didn’t socialize with them. Besides, I didn’t know any of them. All of these people started nearly a month after me. I’d never even seen any of them before. I pulled out pen and paper and wrote my little sister a letter. Writing always made me feel better, especially when I’m addressing it to someone, and even more so when it’s directed toward someone I feel comfortable venting to. I wrote for hours. I bought coffee and terrible-tasting breakfast potatoes. I saved the ice cream as a reward for later, for when I managed to get myself out of my dark mood (although, in hindsight, maybe the ice cream would have gotten me out of my terrible mood earlier).

I talked to a few people eating breakfast and waiting for the shuttle and admitted that I was a defeated hiker heading home; I also asked everyone with cars if they were headed north that day or the next. No one was, but everyone was very apologetic about it. At least they were kind. I felt a little better. I went to get ice cream, but they’d run out the past hour. I resorted to a common hiker snack from my pack–Belvita crackers. A family came up and asked if they could sit at my table. We made small talk, and I shared about my injury and my unwillingness but need to go home. One of them happened to be a doctor, and I told him I actually no longer believed it was my tailbone that was the problem, but some other bone in the pelvic region. I explained how the pain was more focused on the left side of my upper back and was more pronounced when I stepped onto my left leg. He said he thought it was an inflamed (sacral?) joint, which would take a much longer time to heal than a tailbone. I didn’t want to hear that at the moment, so I changed the topic.

I heard a hiker at a nearby table say something about getting off trail and going home to San Diego. I was on the way home for him! My parents live in Los Angeles and that is where I planned to recover before I attempted regular life again. I debated between getting up and feeling pain or remaining sitting comfortably and missing an opportunity. I realized that I’d felt worse pain and told myself not to be so ridiculous about it and stood up and walked over to the group of hikers at the table to ask. Too late. There was a hiker who was indeed driving to San Diego, and he’s apparently “really cool” and would most definitely have taken me to LA, but he had just left. “Maybe you’ll get lucky again!” they called out as I walked away.

I slumped back onto my wooden bench. I resumed writing. A sweet elderly couple who was hiking the side trails in Yosemite struck up a conversation with me over my writing a letter and wished they were headed my way. I found out they were taking a bus to Mammoth, from where I could find transportation to LA much more easily, so I told them I’d be taking the bus down with them. My morning had been difficult and I still hadn’t brushed my teeth or packed up, so I walked back to the campground to do so.

Bending down hurt, so I took my time, moving slowly. I eventually decided to take a break and crawled in my tent and, instantly, feelings of weakness and frustration and defeat flooded me and soon overcame me. I bit my lip and tried not to let the pooling tears go beyond the rims of my eyelids again. A man walked up to my tent and asked if he could camp near me since most of the campground was full. I said, “Sure.” He left and the tears started pouring uncontrollably. I turned on music on my phone to block out my muffled sobs as he came back carrying camping gear from his car. He left for more gear, and I began to feel pathetic, sitting there crying in my hot tent in the middle of a nice summer day in a beautiful place. But I tried to be good to myself. I reminded myself that Rosco, my fellow hiker from my first trail family, with whom I told you I had lunch the previous day, had told me that he’s had many bad days on the trail (every 3 days or so) and that he’s been mentally processing a lot and that it’s okay for grown men to cry in the woods. “It’s okay that I needed to cry,” I said to myself. “I’m grieving the loss of a great adventure, a lifestyle that was supposed to be mine for 6 whole months, an accomplishment like no other.”

He came back just as I finished taking apart my tent and packed it away. I told him he could have my spot since I was injured and was getting off the trail to go recover with family in Southern CA. “San Diego?” he asked. “No, Los Angeles,” I answered. “Well, I’m going to San Diego tomorrow if you want to come.”

And then I was unpacking and setting up my tent once again, like a silly fool.

We had a campfire and I allowed myself to spend money I didn’t have on salami, cheese and crackers to entertain and show my gratitude (the Russian in me needs to feed everyone I am fond of/am grateful to/feel indebted to), none of which he ate. We stayed up talking about his wife and kids, most of them older than me, and then I was invited to go fishing with him the next day, which sounded much better than sitting around the campground waiting.

I hiked four miles north and four miles back on the same part of the trail I had just hiked fourteen miles north, turned around, and did fourteen miles back. (The same four miles were hiked four times!) I experienced minimal pain, but this was without a pack on, mind you. Everything was back at the campground except for my beloved Sawyer filter and uneaten salami, cheese, and crackers. These I snacked on while he fished. I lost sight of him at one point throughout the day (I’d closed my eyes and sunbathed for a while) and walked down the river for two miles searching for him, asking anyone if they’d seen him, etc. No one had. It’s like he had vanished.

I hiked back to the campsite and found his things gone. I assume that he waded up the river as I hiked up in the same direction but along the trail, where occasionally, I lost sight of the river, and that, at some point, he turned around and headed back while I continued going up in search of him. Eventually, by the time I hiked south, he had been at the campsite for some time, and decided not to wait for me and began his drive home.

And so my search for a ride home resumed.

Note: This is an old entry from a journal I kept while hiking the PCT in 2016. I am no longer on the PCT and had to get off of the trail due to my injury in late July. I wanted to share with you my last few days on the trail and explain how difficult of a decision it was to go home.

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Dear Mother, I Broke My Promise

Dear mother, I broke my promise to you.
I camped alone in Yosemite National Park. No one chose to camp next to me last night as they all passed by hurriedly. Maybe sleeping next to the rushing river seemed unappealing. The noise, perhaps? Or the condensation? My tent and sleeping bag was soaked both mornings and I had to let it dry before packing up on the second morning. But this is my fault. I didn’t put my rainfly on my tent and only had mesh separating me from the misty air around me, which let in all the moisture through its thin walls. But I can’t blame myself. I was in too much pain to put in any extra work that wasn’t very necessary. Bending down hurts. Setting up the tent was a must or I’d go insane from the mosquitoes (remember the 50 bites I acquired in only about 4-5 hours?), but any extra bending down to affix the extra cover over my tent would not be worth the pain. I’d rather wake up soaked.

But it wasn’t so bad. My new sleeping bag dries rather quickly. While in Bishop, I upgraded from the worst of the worst to the best. I got rid of my 27 degree Thermarest down sleeping bag, which was used when I purchased it, and with the loft flattened and missing in some places, it was only suitable for the desert. I instead purchased a new 5 degree Western Mountaineering bag. It is so warm and wonderful and lofty! It was actually rather difficult to get it into my backpack–it’s that fluffy–until I acquired a compression sack from a trail angel from an old bag they didn’t need, along with some extra tightening straps they cut off from a sleep mattress. These two combined allow me to compress my bag into a fourth or fifth of the size it is when uncompressed, and now it fits nicely into the bottom of my backpack. Speaking of which, I also now have a new backpack, but that will be in another post, another time.

Anyway, this morning, I awoke with less pain in my tailbone, but still enough for me to know that it’s much smarter to hike the 14 miles back to the campground rather than the 60 to Bridgeport. Once at the campground, I can attempt to find a ride somewhere where I can rest maybe another week, maybe even see a doctor. If it indeed is something serious, I may have made it worse by hiking 20 miles in a day, twice, with a 35-40 lb. pack resting right on my lower back, and this would not be good. I’d need to make sure I’m fully healed before I set out again next time. This, of course, is extremely frustrating. I want to be hiking, moving forward, advancing, getting further and further north so badly. I already feel so behind. I’m with the stragglers, with the hikers who have either been hurt as well, or took too much time off for fun, or who only hike 10 miles a day and plan to skip ahead or don’t plan to finish at all. I don’t want to skip a section again, but it looks like I’ll have to. Since I’ve already hiked 380ish miles in Northern CA (parts of CA sections L-O: Donner Pass to Burney Falls), I know I can always skip that, but I loved that section and wanted to do it again, to relive the memories, but in a better state of mind (last year’s hike was to get away from certain difficult circumstances in my life, to mentally process things and figure out what to do, and prepare myself for properly handling them when I get home). I may have to skip another section instead, or possibly even in addition to, and come back next year to fill in the gaps. That wouldn’t too terrible, as I love the PCT and plan to do many more section hikes and hopefully even another thru-hike of the same trail one day. Nevertheless, it is very disappointing to hike 14 miles backwards and get off the trail again.

But, today, I will not let myself feel down. Yesterday was my day for that. Today is a new day, and it’s going to be great! I felt blessed as I tucked my warm and poofy sleeping bag into my gifted compression sack. I have this wonderful new bag, and it’s warm, and comfortable, and even in my favorite color (blue). It provided me with my some decent sleep last night, too, and I am feeling rested. I have an awesome tent that is protecting me from the mosquitoes that are hovering around, ready to make my life miserable, but, ha! They can’t get in! There is a pretty butterfly right outside my tent sitting on a flower, flapping its wings. The sun is coming out more and more with each half hour. I have eaten breakfast biscuits and dried fruit with cold coffee, and am full and energized. The hike back shouldn’t be too terrible, and maybe even I’ll manage to do all 14 miles today and be at the campground by nightfall. Maybe not, and that’s okay too. I can camp somewhere beautiful, and after camping alone last night in bear country, I am not as nervous. I attended to the proper precautions of storing my bear can full of food a good distance away. And I actually enjoyed the solitude, just like last time.

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This morning went well. I finished reading “The Sea-Wolf” and loved how it ended. Its adventure stories lifted my spirits and made me want to go out there and seek my own adventure, which I’m sure I will have as soon as I pack up my tent and start hiking. I also found several errors in the book, although it is a classic that has been first released over a hundred years ago and proofread many times since, and proofreading is a passion of mine and I always feel great when I spot an error someone else missed (tsk, tsk, tsk, Townsend). Since I’ll be at the campground tonight or tomorrow, I don’t have to conserve my phone battery, so I’m playing one of my new favorite songs, “Hold On” by The Brevet. I like to think of it as my PCT motto song. As he sings, “Gain strength to put your boots back on,” I’m looking at my trail runners, all dry from sitting in the sun a full day and ready to be worn again, and I’m anticipating doing some hiking today. The part I just hiked the day before was beautiful, and I don’t mind seeing it again. I’m just hoping that my tailbone doesn’t bother me too much, but, if it does, I can always stop and set up camp wherever I choose to. The section where camping is not allowed is before Tuolomne Meadows, and I am going back to Tuolomne, but not before.

I broke my promise once already. I won’t be breaking my back trying to camp with someone else again. I’m only 14 miles from a public campground, and even though that doesn’t mean much since even the campground has strict rules in regards to putting all food into locked bear boxes at night and all trash cans have a chain and clip clasping them shut to keep bears out, I’ll be fine. I’m careful. I keep my bear not too close to my tent, and clean up well and don’t spread food smells everywhere when eating. I also sleep with my headlamp and whistle right next to me. I’ll be okay, mom. Don’t worry. I’m surrounded by beauty. I’ll be resting soon. I’m happy.

Note: This is an old entry from a journal I kept while hiking the PCT earlier in the year. I am no longer on the PCT and had to get off trail due to my injury in late July. I wanted to share with you my last few days on the trail and explain how difficult of a decision it was to go home.
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Friends, Joy, Pain, and Loneliness

I had taken the third day off, and my body repaired itself well. I felt absolutely ready to go hiking once again, as long as I was attentive to my body’s needs and warning signals and did not overwork myself again. I woke up at 8am and was going to hike out at 9, but when I went to the campground store to post a letter, I saw my friend, K-Bar, the one who the fire station captain told me was back on trail. K-Bar and I had met a few months before we began hiking the PCT and traveled to Utah to hike around Zion together and made a little detour to Vegas beforehand. We had an amazing weeklong trip full of all sorts of adventures  and knew we would be friends for life afterwards. Occasionally, I bump into him on the trail, but I hadn’t seen him since Lake Isabella, and it was very exciting to catch up a bit. We celebrated with hugs and double patty cheeseburgers (the generous soul bought me mine, along with a salad).

Full and happy, I hiked out on my own at 2pm. I wanted to do at least 8 miles that afternoon, if not 10 or 12, but I told myself that I couldn’t go beyond 12 no matter what because I knew my body didn’t want me to. After 6 or so miles, I ran into a hiker named Lost and Found, and hiked a good chunk of the day with him. We made it to 12 miles, and then split up as I sat down to take a break, with vague plans to camp at Lake McCabe where we were told by a passing hiker others would be camping. There was no flat ground to set up camp at mile 12, only rocky boulders, and so I had to go further. I hiked to mile 14 and found the trail that led to Lake McCabe, but it was an extra two miles until the lake itself. Most PCT hikers won’t hike an extra 4 (counting both there and back) for a campsite, and I worried that everyone who planned to camp there must have changed their minds and passed it when they realized how far it was off trail. But I checked my GPS to see what’s ahead on the PCT and saw no campsites for miles.

I was exhausted and unsure of what to do, but I remembered my promise to my mother and myself to camp with others in this section, and so I set out in the direction of the lake. A mile in, I noticed that the trail looked pretty unmaintained in some areas and probably wasn’t frequently used. Most importantly, I noticed that most of the recent footprints looked to be going in the opposite direction, away from the lake, and I began to suspect that it was more likely that fishermen used this lake early this morning, not PCT hikers, and had already left. But I had walked a mile, and I didn’t want to go back, and it would get dark soon. I hoped for company, maybe even a fire. I had almost done the two miles when the footprints began getting more faint, and I began getting more worried. If I got there and no one was there, and it got dark, I’d be two miles off the PCT by some isolated lake to which you could only get to via an unmaintained trail. That would not be good. I called out, “Are there people camping ahead of me?” several times, got no response, and turned around. I’d rather camp by myself along the PCT than two miles off trail and away from anyone. I now had to hike the two miles back. My feet hurt, my back hurt, it was getting to be very dark, and I was little nervous.

I got back on trail and still hoped there would be someone camping somewhere soon before me. It was now 9pm and pitch black. I tried to hurry and didn’t want to stop to get my headlamp out of my backpack. I hiked on in the dark, got to a sharp switchback that I didn’t notice and headed straight into the woods and off trail. Not more than 100 feet later, I realized there was no trail before me and found my way back to the curve I missed. I have no idea how–maybe exhaustion or nervousness?–but I somehow  got confused. One part of the curve was a downhill descent and then a sharp curve, and then still downhill but slightly more level ground. I couldn’t remember whether I had just descended the trail that went up before me or if that was where I should be heading next. I figured I must have descended, as it looked to be coming from the direction I came from, and so I continued on downwards. About half a mile down, I, for some reason, thought I made a mistake. I didn’t remember going down a steep downhill, and figured I hadn’t been on that part of the trail yet and must go up it. I turned around and did another half a mile back to that curve.

As I was heading back, a loud noise of twigs snapping caught my attention to my right. I called out, “Is someone there?” thought I knew no hiker would be in a densely forested part of the woods at nighttime. I knew that deer made noise, and smaller creatures too, but this was loud, as if the animal was heavy, and this was bear country. This was the part of the PCT where the most bears are seen and encountered. I put my whistle in my mouth just in case, ran past the noise, got to the curve in the trail, threw my pack down, and got my headlamp out. I then checked my Halfmile GPS application on my phone, and walked a few steps back and a few forward. I saw that when I went down, my mileage increased, and when I went up, my mileage decreased. But the mileage towards the next river decreased as I went down, and increased as I went up. This made sense. If I was at mile 955.5, then if I continued north on the PCT, my mileage would go up to 955.6, 955.7, and so on. And the river in front of me, if it was .67 miles away, would go down to .50, and then .40 miles away as I approached it.

For some reason, maybe the fear of having possibly just walked past a bear, I processed this backwards. I thought I had to go up the trail so that the decimal numbers after 955 would decrease. I started going up again, did almost half a mile, and then got my senses back. I realized that my mileage numbers decreasing and the distance between me and the river before me was increasing meant that I was walking southbound, in the direction I had just come from! I felt like such an idiot! I turned around and ran back down, past the place where I heard the twigs snapping, and hoped I wouldn’t hear anything this time. I didn’t, but I kept my whistle untangled and hanging from my backpack strap at an easily reachable distance.

My Halfmile map told me that there was a river ford about a mile ahead of me. I so hoped that I’d find a campsite before that so that I wouldn’t have to cross a river at nighttime. That was not the case. Just a rocky ridge walk to the river, and then there was nothing to do but cross. I looked for a log or rocks to hop in order to stay dry as I crossed the rather wide river, but no such luck. Just then my headlamp reflected something shiny across the water. Two bright, glowing circles. Eyes! I instantly turned cold as I feared that across the river was a bear. Then I realized they were too spread out, and it would be a very deformed bear, and beside the circles there were also two lines that reflected just as brightly. A tent! They were the guy-lines of a tent, made of reflective material. I plunged into the water happily, shoes and all, nearly toppling over due to the unexpected cold and force. I then realized there were deep spots in the river where I’d sink in at least to my waist, and the current was very strong. So I used my headlamp to find the biggest rocks that were closer to the surface, and tested each one out with one foot first to make sure they weren’t too slippery. I managed to get across without going more than knee-deep, and nearly skipped towards the tent.

A lady’s voice called out from inside, asking if I was looking for a campsite. I said, “Yes!” She told me where there was another flat spot over a log a few feet away from her, and I could have hugged her if she were not tucked away inside her tent. I pitched my tent as quickly as possible, climbed in to finally get away from the mosquitoes (my first day on trail after my break, I counted 50 bites…in under 5 hours!), and ate both lunch and dinner (I’d skipped lunch when I hiked with Lost and Found, mostly to keep his pace so I could camp next to someone, although I “lost” and never “found” him again), but also because anytime I stopped, the mosquitoes would eat me alive. It was now about 10:30pm. I was beat. Instead of 8 or 10 or 12, I had done another 20 mile day (at least one mile at the campground as I walked to the wilderness center to ask questions and then back to the store, then 14 to my current campsite, the four or so to the lake and back when I made the detour, and about one extra mile when I got lost). I fell asleep easily, with the soothing noise of the rushing river less than 50 feet from me, but woke up frequently due to some kind of pain somewhere. I didn’t yet realize what it was.

I woke up at 8:30. The lady near me had packed up her tent and was getting ready to go. I didn’t have my glasses on and all was blurry, but she never turned around enough for me to see her face anyways. I have no idea whom I slept next to. I felt a sharp pain and knew I’d overdone it again. Oh well, today I will do only 8 miles or so, I thought. I can sleep in and hike later. I woke up again at 11. Some hikers were sunbathing in the distance by the river. I got up to pee. As I bent down to climb out of my tent, I felt a familiar traveling electrical current in my lower back, followed by a dull ache. Oh no! My old tailbone pain was back, and with a vengeance. I spent most of the day cooking, eating, washing my utensils and clothes, drying my shoes and socks from last night, and hiding in my tent from the incessantly hungry mosquitoes. I took vitamins, allowed myself one pain killer, and hoped that the pain would be gone tomorrow. If not, I couldn’t hike the 60 miles to Bridgeport. I’d have to hike the 14 back to Tuolomne, in pain, and take another break, God knows for how long. I tried not to think about having to do that.

I felt really alone. I felt I could really use someone at that moment. I wanted to share my pain and frustration with someone. I wanted company, laughter, someone to lift my spirits.

I hoped someone would eventually camp beside me, maybe the people I knew who stayed behind at the campground in Tuolomne for extra night. Necktie and I had decided we weren’t going to be hiking partners, but I now secretly hoped he’d catch up and we’d camp together one more time. I realized that, during moments like these, one could really use a hiking partner. It’s great to learn to depend on yourself, but sometimes, when you’re in pain and scared that the injury hasn’t healed enough to hike and won’t for a long time and worried about having to hike back even if it’s only 14 miles and sad that you have to camp alone on a day when you’d rather have someone else beside you, you really understand the reason why people stick together, even if solitude can be beautiful at times.

Instead, I ended up eating a lot, journaling, and reading my book as I lounged on top of my sleeping bag, with my z-rest and most of my clothes thrown over my tent to provide shade. Such is life. Not all days are magical. Some simply sort of suck.

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Being Mistaken for the Hungry and Homeless

This blog post is a continuation of my PCT journal entries from late July. It picks up right after Marmots, Laughter, Crystal Lakes, and Tears and My In-Town Adventures (Post Injury).

I promise to share more of my in-town adventures the next day, and although I’m a few days late, I had to type up my chicken scratch handwriting from my PCT journal and this required a lot of determination! Anyway, here it is:

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“I woke up at the campground, surrounded by hikers of all sorts (PCT, JMT, and just day-hikers) and tourists from out of town, state, or country who were seeing Yosemite for the 1st or 50th time. Some hikers were given a bag of fresh cherries, strawberries, and grapes, and another one full of carrots, but they were hiking out and didn’t want to take food that spoiled, so they gave it to me. I munched on this as I hitchhiked to Mammoth. I was soon offered a ride with an ex-forest ranger who dropped me off at the Mammoth post office where a new cell phone screen should have been waiting for me. I’d purchased it at the prompting of a fire station captain who’d offered to fix my phone for free (a hobby of his) if I brought him a case. My screen and new filter (I had ordered a new filter because I was getting tired of the thin stream and effort required to drink from a Sawyer Mini; I ordered a Sawyer Squeeze to fix this problem) was not there because, apparently, Amazon can’t deliver mail to post offices, addressed to “c/o General Delivery,” which they’d done plenty of times before.

I had to contact another backup, a local phone repair guy in Mammoth named Matt Taylor. He was busy, and while I waited for him in the village and made backup plans, I scribbled “Tuolomne” and “Yosemite” on a piece of cardboard to use as my hitchhiking sign on the way back (in case my attempt to have my phone fixed failed). An older man with a cane came up to me and asked me if I had money for dinner. I told him I’m a PCT hiker and dinner was in my backpack, but he began rummaging in his wallet for money. I thought he’d gotten the wrong impression with my cardboard sign, and explained to him that this was a hitchhiking sign, not an, “I’m hungry,” sign, but he smiled, and said, “Still, dinner’s on me tonight.” I didn’t know how to accept money from a stranger, and said so, but he persisted. I took it, and he left  with so much joy on his face and in his heart that he would have skipped down the street if he didn’t have to walk with a cane.

Meanwhile, I had made plans to grab lunch with a friend I’d made the first time I was in Mammoth. The man who was to fix my phone freed up at the same time and offered to meet me where I was. I told him I was waiting for the bus to take me to a restaurant where I was to have lunch, and he offered to pick me up himself and take me there. While I ate tacos, he fixed my phone in 15 mins, and because the screen wasn’t brand new but had been tested, I got a nice discount (I recommend http://www.MyMammothTech.com to all other hikers!). Afterwards, the friend I ate lunch with let me take a shower at his place and took me grocery shopping, bought me ice cream,

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and dropped me off at the fire station where I said “hello,” to the wonderful man who had first offered to fix my phone for free. He shared with me the awesome news that one of my good friends, K-Bar, who’d gotten off the trail decided to get back on! Apparently, he’s also a taxi driver, besides a fire station captain and phone repair guy, and he had driven my friend to the trail just a few days before. We chatted for a bit, and then I left to go hitchhike back to Tuolomne to go hike out again the next day.

I attempted to get a ride for maybe 15 mins, and then a girl ran across the street and asked me where I’m going. I said, “At least to the 395 Hwy from where I’m more likely to find someone headed towards Yosemite.”  Although she wasn’t headed that way at all but was just a local hanging out in town, she drove me the 3 miles there, and then kept driving. I told her she could drop me off anywhere on the side of the highway where there’s room to pull off if someone wanted to pick me up, but she said she’d take me further, to June Lake. I asked if that’s where the mobile mart was, which I’d heard about but had never been to, and she said, “No, that’s another 25-30 miles past.” We soon passed June Lake, and I told her she could pull over anywhere to drop me off. She said she’d decided to take me all the way to the mobile mart, just because she was free that day and didn’t mind helping me out.

She dropped me off there and headed back home. I realized the mobile mart was right on the junction that goes towards Yosemite, a perfect spot to find a ride with someone going that way. Within 5 mins, someone offered me a ride. He was traveling around in his seatless travel van while the wife and kids were out-of-state for a wedding. He had me sit comfortably on a Thermarest mattress (remember, no seats in his van besides the driver seat) and served me an iced coconut water as we chatted about books and traveling the entire drive up.

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I was now back in Tuolomne Meadows, and although I didn’t know anyone there (two weeks off trail caused me to be one of the stragglers; almost everyone I knew was way ahead), I befriended many interesting new people (such as flip-flopping, former northbounder, current south bounder, Luk L’Pahitt, whose blog you can find on Facebook by searching up his fun, fake name). Soon, familiar faces began to arrive (hikers I knew from months ago who’d also taken time off in town for one reason or another). I had not expected this! I hadn’t seen many familiar in about 3 weeks, and this was such a pleasant surprise. We all had a bonfire, shared stories of past adventures, and then hid ourselves away in our tents to slumber peacefully.

Note: This is an old entry from a journal I kept while hiking the PCT earlier. I am no longer on the PCT and I had to get off of the trail due to my injury in late July. I just wanted to share my last few days on the trail with everyone who may be wondering.

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My In-Town Adventures (Post Injury)

As promised, I will now tell you about the day I hitchhiked back to Mammoth to have my phone fixed (as well as an interlude about several other towns in between). This would be my third time in Mammoth. I hitchhiked there when I first got injured and couldn’t hike (just to spend some time at least exploring new towns in order to pass the time while my body healed). During this trip, we stayed in a condo rented out by a bunch of hikers, slept in a church, visited the Davison hostel, where I lounged in a hammock and Necktie played guitar, listened to music and watched music videos at the library (the photo above is us listening to “Free,” by Rudimental, one of my new favorite songs/videos), opened packages of food (for some reason, filled with Mexican candy!) from my mother, and got Necktie some new gaiters (courtesy of my wonderful mother who makes them for half the price that Dirty Girl makes them; feel free to contact me for a custom order!). I also got to draw on people, Necktie got to play some music in a cafe and we all got free smoothies for it, and, as we hitchhiked to Tahoe, Necktie discovered a guitar in a truck wagon and played some music on it (the video that got pretty famous on Facebook is here).

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We then hitchhiked joined up with a fellow hiker, Tonka, and hitched north to Lee Vining, where we hung out at a cafe and camped in the middle of a football field and got free breakfast and showers from someone who is part of the firefighter crew due to the recent fire in their town. Then, we hitched to Tahoe (in an RV! with a puppy!) to spend the 4th of July somewhere we hadn’t been yet. Tahoe was interesting, and I was fascinated by how I could cross the street and no longer be in California but in Nevada, but it was a little too big and overwhelming for me (keep in mind I’m used to being in the woods alone most of the day). Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun at the beautiful Lake Tahoe, where we waded in the water and Necktie entertained locals and tourists with his music (you can see a video of him doing that here and here), met fun locals (one guy makes his own amazing natural hygiene products; check him out, I included a photo of his company–I even opted to carry more weight in my backpack so that I could have his massage cream and soap with me to make life better when I’m sore and achy and smell terrible), petted domesticated wolves, ate free pizza, and just walked around town, exploring, as injured town-exploring partners should do.

We then hitchhiked to Truckee on the night of the 4th with our patriotic hitchhiking signs and spent three days there in a trail angel’s vacation rental (seriously, if you’ve never been to Truckee, go! and stay in one of the beautiful homes by the river) where we ate gigantic slices of pizza, where Necktie discovered a street piano player who let him join in and earn some tips, after which some sweet ladies from out of town bought us drinks. The next day, we had the gigantic pizza one more time, Necktie played some Beatles in an ice cream shop, used Necktie’s street-playing earnings to have an at-home movie night with ice cream and popcorn (we watched my favorite movie, “Atonement), and the next morning, said goodbye to our favorite little town, and left.

Now our vacation was over. I was feeling capable of carrying a pack without the weight hurting my lower back, and it was time to return to Mammoth and hike from there. This would be my second time in Mammoth. We tried to hitchhike all the way there but ended up stranded in Gardnerville. It was getting dark as we asked around at the gas station if anyone was heading south, and we got hungry. Being the broke PCT hikers that we are, we bought four pieces of chicken at KFC and opted out of the biscuits when we found out they were $1.49 each. While waiting for our food, one of the staff members (I believe she was a manager?) gave us free sodas, and as a thank you, Necktie played her some music (the video is here). When our food was handed to us, we went outside to eat and discovered four free biscuits inside. That already made our night, but then, a man in line at the restaurant whom Necktie asked to take a photo of him with the KFC staff, came up to us and asked how we felt about staying at his house for the night. Seeing as late-night hitchhiking was unlikely to be successful this time (though we have done it before!), we agreed. This is where I took the black-and-white photo of Necktie playing guitar in a living room which I posted earlier, and where we received a feast-like Starbucks breakfast, where we were stocked up on snacks to go, and where we were invited to come again of we ever come through their town again. Then, we were back in Mammoth, where someone bought us free drinks as we walked by a bar, and then we slept soundly, and hiked out the next morning from the Agnew Meadows trailhead.

After this, we hiked for two days, ended up in Tuolomne Meadows campground, I had that painful, achy night when I cried myself to sleep, and the next morning, while Necktie took a bus to Yosemite to summit Half Dome, I hitchhiked to Mammoth to have my phone fixed.

This is post is already getting long and is full of so much trail magic and miracles nonstop, but there’s more I must share…tomorrow!

***Note: This blog post is a continuation of my PCT journal entries from late July. It picks up right after Marmots, Laughter, Crystal Lakes, and Tears. Reminder: This is an old entry from a journal I kept while hiking the PCT earlier. I am no longer on the PCT and I had to get off of the trail due to my injury in late July. I just wanted to share my last few days on the trail with everyone who may be wondering. There’s so much I didn’t have a chance to tell you!

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I’m Back!

I’m so sorry for my long absence, but I needed to get my head in the right place after three and a half months on trail and a debilitating injury that required a lot of attention afterwards. I wanted to share with you my journal entries from my last few days on trail, but I haven’t been able to do so because I couldn’t look at them. I couldn’t read them without instantly being transported back to the Pacific Crest Trail in my mind and the longing to be back would become so great and my heart would ache and my emotions would put a damper on my present life. I couldn’t do that to myself. Readjusting to normal life was already difficult enough. I didn’t want to make it worse.

It has now been almost three months since I’ve been back, and I am ready to share my story. I am prepared to tell you how extremely saddening and disappointing my last few days on trail were, and how hard I tried to stay out there and not go home. I am also going to share my source of joy out there, even while hurt, and how I tried to hold on to since–and have succeeded!

I have since had many more miniature adventures, and during the past week, I’ve relocated to a new state. I have so much to share with you all, but first… I’ll start off with what I wrote in my trail journal when I still thought I could successfully complete my through-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in the year of 2016.

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