I have been back on the trail for about a week, starting slow and getting back up there in miles, then slowing down again and resting for a full day. I tested my still tender achilles by cautiously hiking 5 miles each of the first two days, then 11 miles each of the following two days. I then tried a 14 mile day but that felt like a little too much for my foot (I also ran out of KT tape which I have learned is an amazing way of preventing an overextended tendon to continue to injure it itself every time I hike) so we took a day off. That day was a beautiful day full of eating Russian food and fresh berries, feeding baby goats, cuddling kittens and puppies and ducklings and many more interesting things. But that is a story for another blog post. This post is about leaving Big Bear on uncertain feet, not knowing how well they’ll fare and how far I’ll make it.
So, I hiked through breathtaking Big Bear with a forecast predicting two feet of snow. All I saw was sunshine. The next day, the faster hikers who caught up with me told me that they hiked through snow and hail! Turns out I beat it by a few hours. And guess who else caught up with me? Vanilla! After about a week apart, my hiking partner and I reunited with shouts of joy and awkward bear hugs (try hugging with a big, bulky backpack on). We hiked together while it drizzled for a few hours and then camped together under grove of majestic oak trees that hid us from the rain at night. We briefly considering sleeping inside the cluster of trees themselves, as it looked so comfortable! 🙂
Here is Vanilla showing you that it is possible…if you’re 5’4″. I have to mention the fact that we had an argument about his height, since he insisted he was 5’7″, but I’m 5’5″ and about an inch taller, so therefore, he couldn’t possibly be the height he thinks he is, and I have now shattered his delusion of grandeur. Haha!
But he has also witnessed me learn a thing or two, such as the fact that a 50cent emergency poncho looks like a yellow garbage bag and doesn’t substitute for a rain jacket (and yes, that is an actual garbage bag over my backpack since I don’t have a rain cover for my backpack).
We had a good laugh over my hilarious appearance and considered writing “hiker trash” in sharpie across the front of the trash bag–a term that hikers use to accurately describe a hikers appearance and behavior, especially in comparison to locals when we visit towns; the first time you show up in town wearing smelly, stained, sweaty, salt-crusted clothes with knots and leaves in your hair, you don’t know where to hide, but the initial embarrassment soon fades when you realize you’re not the only one and there are plenty of hikers who look and smell much worse.
What else did I do? I celebrated hiking 300 miles with a smiling photo of a beautiful place near the spot my GPS told me was the 300 mile marker.
Here is also one of me, much earlier, posing by the 100 mile marker someone made (unfortunately there was none for 200 or 300, so I had to make do with a sharpie and my hand). 100 miles was a huge milestone for many. At that point, we were all still adjusting, our bodies felt broken, and the ones who realized long-distance backpacking was not for them had started to disappear from the herd little by little. Making it 100 miles felt like a big accomplishment, a confirmation that we were all actually on this long trek that consisted of many miles, and a reminder of how many more miles we had to go (approximately 2,550!).
I also drank some of the freshest stream water (with a waterfall filling up my bottle faster than any faucet).
I crossed a rainbow bridge with two Native American guys in traditional attire that I hiked with for a while.
And so much more that I’ll share with you later. Way too much is happening way too fast and I can’t keep up! But I am loving every minute of it and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now than back on the PCT.