Escaping my Comfort Zone

Stomp The Stress Away

Two Weeks, Over 100 miles in. Multiple sunburns, poison Oak, several heat rashes, and more bug bites than you can shake a stick at. One blister, a lightly throbbing big toe, and the hips of an eighty-year-old construction worker, but still my body will toughen up as I go. And after countless conversations with my fellow backpackers I seem to be one of the lucky ones even! I have no major complaints honestly, most of these problems will slowly dwindle away, and (here’s hoping) I will be in peak physical condition. The best in my life!

Mentally, however…

Stress and anxiety seem to be my biggest hurdles, having a couple melt-downs and teary-eyed nights. I miss my cats. I miss my friends. Hell, I miss my job even. But still, luckier than most, I can get these back at the end. I just need to hold strong and take it one step at a time. I didn’t even come close to preparing myself emotionally for life on the trail. I thought it would be simple. Walk a bit, sleep, rinse-dry-repeat. F*****g hell, was I wrong…

BUT!

In all, I am content. I find amusement in nature. Goofy looking trees with knots for eyes, a rather phallic-looking stick, simple practical jokes, and very weird conversations (with even weirder people). You meet some interesting characters on the PCT, and by characters I mean actual comedic-road-trip-movie style people. Some funny, some that scare the crap out of me. Hippies and hobos, gun-toting cowboys with a dark sense of humor, large mountain men who look for rattlesnakes for fun. Honestly I feel like I fit in. FINALLY people who don’t judge me (or if they do, they keep it to themselves). I love making people laugh, it makes me happy to see others happy. Quite frankly, I’m done with city life after this, I just wan’t to be free. Right now I am free, but only for another 2,000 miles or so…

Freedom is a state of mind to me. I’m in a good place right now. Mental breakdowns aside, I’m happy. The trail provides.

 

 

See you in another two weeks or so…

-Bones

But It Builds Character, Right?

Woah, dude.

I don’t even know what day of the hike this is. Let’s see, if we started on April 30th and today is May 11th… this is day 12. Almost 2 weeks on the trail, with only one zero day. We’ve hiked about 127 miles so far.

And my feet are screaming at me.

I have very few blisters, maybe three. They’re small and inconsequential. Those aren’t the problem. The problem is I don’t know what is wrong with my feet. I feel as if a hammer has been swung at them; from my toes to my ankle. Walking is the worst, and walking is the name of this game called Thru-Hiking.

They’ve been hurting like this for a few days, and it hurts more than my knee. I’m worried that I may have hairline fractures in my metatarsal bones (the bones between your toes and your ankles). They’re common stress fractures for thru hikers that carry packs heavier than their feet can handle. But I’m staying positive and hoping I just inflamed the tendons in my feet.

Currently we’re at a trail angel’s place in the middle of bum fucked Egypt, somebody called Mike (although Mike ain’t here). We think we’re going to take a zero tomorrow and see what happens. Maybe if I rest my feet for a day they’ll get better. That’s all we can hope for.

Oh yeah, totally legit.

Oh, and we walked through a fucking mess of poison oak and ivy earlier today, and for a while I thought I was surrounded by poodle dog bush. It was not a good day.

But.

But.

I still hiked fourteen miles today.

Not bad for some fucked up feet.

As long as I didn’t fuck them up more with those fourteen miles.

 

Day 13

If I had to pick any place for a cheap zero day, it would be this place. I spent at least 75% of my time in a cushioned couch swing, 10% napping, and the other 15% eating homemade veggie pizza.

 

A lot of folks showed up with similar injuries, and I spoke to someone who recently switched from the shoes I’m currently wearing. They said something about a rock bruise on the ball of their foot and the potential for bone breakage. They had switched to Altra Lone Peaks (I’m wearing the lesser grade Altra Superiors) and their feet had improved in just a day or so.

That’s it. I give in. My stubbornness can only go so far. Someone mentioned seeing an older pair of Lone Peaks in the hiker box, and I went to find them.

I don’t consider myself a lucky person, most of my circumstances are through hard work and good planning. But those Lone Peaks in the hiker box? They weren’t as old or worn down as I thought, and they were a men’s size 10.5. A perfect fit for my women’s size 10. They fit like they’re brand new and I instantly felt the difference on the top of my feet.

It’s now morning of the 14th day… 2 weeks on the trail… my feet aren’t perfect, but they feel so much better than they did. I’m optimistic for the hike out of here and into Idylwild.

My next challenge is figuring out my back pain, and I think I’m willing to switch out to a different pack at this point.

 

Day 17

The Lone Peaks gave me blisters.

I just can’t win. Not only are my extender tendons hurting on both feet, but now I have a big ol’ blister by my big toe on both feet, and two on both heels. Blarg. I think my feet are too short for them, so my toes aren’t actually in the box. Also, they’re thick and my feet quickly turn into Hot Pockets. I’m back to wearing my Superiors again for the time being.

We’re in Idyllwild now, and have been for two and a half days. We overspent and got three nights in a lovely lodge (Silver Pines!) with Britney so we can all recover. Evan’s hips are hurting, Britney has hella blisters and knee issues, and then there’s me. Two days into our recovery and I’m still walking like my friends mother. Oh, and my back still hurts. It felt good yesterday, what gives??

At the time of writing I’m sitting in a little laundromat washing my clothes for the first time since starting the trail. They’ve been rinsed in streams and bathtubs a few times but this is their first real wash. I’m excited to have a blue fleece again, not a gray one. They let us borrow clothes so we could wash *all* of them. In the extra clothes bin, I actually found an outfit that resembles my normal ‘front-country’ look. I feel like a proper gender-queer POS again instead of a femme hiker. That’s a good feeling.

 

When your socks have better posture than yourself, it’s time to do laundry.

Also, taking a shower tonight won’t be pointless because I won’t be putting on filthy clothing.

Never underestimate the sliminess of polyester saturated with old sweat.

Let’s see… after this I’m probably going to hit up the local gear shop for new shoes. I’ll pay money this time!! It is imperative that I get this figured out. I’ve got KT tape on both feet/ankles to try and help speed my recovery, because I know that even perfect shoes won’t be much good if I’m injured still.

And then we intend to hit up the library to do some real blogging and crap, and then I need to find some postcards to mail. All else fails I’ll make some out of watercolor paper (this town has an art supply store!! GAAASP), or out of poptart boxes.

The plan tomorrow is to hike out I guess, maybe climb Mt. San Jacinto. We went to the movies last night and for just two and a half hours I forgot I was supposed to be thru hiking. Talk about immersive experiences. I’m struggling with my decision lately. Why did I do this? Why am I spending so much money? To destroy my body? What happened to that craving for adventure? I feel so weak to be hesitant to continue just because I hurt.

This is why trail towns are black holes. A vortex. You feel so good here, to be vacationing on your vacation, and you don’t want to go back to the pain.

But you have to.

Otherwise you’re just a bum.

Resupply: Snackage

 

Day 17, part II

I tried on five different kinds of shoes. If I could tip the gals at Nomad Ventures, I would have. I’m sure they put up with problem hikers like me all the time, but I could really see it in one of the clerk’s face every time I said a pair of shoes wasn’t working for me. I tried three different types of Altras–men’s and women’s–and two different La Sportivas. In the end I ended up with the latter, because amazingly they didn’t rub against my already throbbing blisters (seriously, I can’t even feel them now), and they immediately relieved some of my tendon pain. Score!

…and then I decided I should get a new pack as well.

Lets be honest, most problems hikers have with their body (feet, ankles, knees, back, whatever) boil down to one thing: their packs and their pack weight. My Deuter ACT Lite 60+10, while honestly very comfortable, was not doing me any favors at this point. I have to wear it so high up on my waist to prevent shoulder pain that I feel my rib cage being constricted. It gives me so much possible volume to fill that I literally cram it full. When I left Warner Springs last week, it weighed 43 pounds. FORTY-THREE POUNDS!!! The upper limit of a backpacker’s pack weight should be no more than 15% of their body weight at the most. Last I checked I’m 165, so I shouldn’t be carrying more than 25.

My base weight out of Campo was around 19. That doesn’t leave much room for food and water.

So, I threw all caution to the wind and picked out a ULA Circuit. The pack itself weighs 2.5lbs less than my Deuter. It fits better, it fits higher, and the frame will keep me from arching my back in a way that has caused my lumbar issues. I couldn’t believe the difference when I loaded it with all my existing gear and threw it on my back. It’s like I’m wearing nothing! Granted, I wasn’t carrying full water (maybe somewhere around half capacity), but damn. 

I dropped nearly $300 on gear today, and walked out with just four items. The La Sportivas, the ULA pack, a new spork for Evan (the dummy was playing spoons with it and broke it in half. Don’t let him try and convince you that he was washing it. HE LIES), and a chocolate chip-peanut butter-banana Clif bar (the only flavor I accept now. All other bars are inferior and disgusting).

Sure. That’s a ton of money on two things. But these are big things. I honestly believe that these new items will make the difference between me getting to Canada or not. Hell, even just the next 100 miles.

I’m incredibly optimistic for the rest of this hike now, and no longer look at our hike out tomorrow with trepidation.

Yeaaaah boooii

Don’t forget to check out my Patreon, where you can support Evan and I financially, and have access to my sketchbook and comics as I hike!

 

Making Friends

Day 3

I awoke with a sore throat. What the heck? Maybe it was all the huffing and puffing I did up the hill yesterday, or maybe it was the mountain air. Maybe it was the fact that I finally spent more than 3 minutes talking to other people? The night before was full of jokes and laughing, and was a pretty good time.

We hiked out of Mt. Laguna, through sand and rock. The morning was already warm, and my legs were itchy with horsefly bites. Sand had gotten onto my thighs where I had smeared anti-chaff cream… which kind of defeated the purpose in the end. Despite the heat, I wore my wool leggings to prevent chaff.

But I was having a good morning. We hiked a bit, stopped at a cold steam under a bridge, hiked a bit more, then spent a few hours at another cold stream where I bathed and washed all my clothes. Apparently washing your clothes in streams is frowned upon… but I didn’t use soap, so… eh? While we were here Evan figured out he had a poison oak rash on his hands and chest, shit! Laundry day for him too then.

By this point we had been hiking with Brittany for two days now. She’s pretty cool, and I feel so much better about hiking with someone ‘on my level’. Poor girl was carrying waaay too much stuff though (fell victim to her mother’s worries).

The hike after lunch was brutal. My shoulder was screaming at me, Evan’s hands burned, and Brittany pulled a muscle. Could have been worse though. We took a break and another thru hiker came hobbling down the wrong way and said she misplaced her trekking poles, got lost, ran out of water, and her knees were about to give out on her. It’s all about perspective.

(We met up with her later and she had gotten her shit together and was on the right track again).

The views were great in this section, but we were all beyond tired. We stumbled into a full camp just before darkness settled in. There were so many bugs here… and spiders… uhg. What a night. I slept well, at least.

 

Day 4

It’s strange how you can wake up early but still not get your poop in a group with time to leave camp early. Breaking camp takes way more time than you expect, upwards of an hour sometimes. Even longer if you have to filter water and still have a god damned Sawyer Mini! After trying Brittany’s larger Sawyer Squeeze we decided to just upgrade. We’re so stubborn, but it literally just took 3 days to give up on the slower filter.

Thankfully, we were starting out that morning just 10 miles to Mt. Laguna where a gear shop waited for us.

But, those 10 miles were all uphill, over 1000 feet of elevation change.

In contrast to the other day, however, I breezed up those hills. I had to stop occasionally to cool down or catch my breath of course, but my chest never felt tight and I never felt like I was going to pass out.

Until, of course, I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake.

THEN I struggled to breath, THEN my chest felt tight, and then I immediately broke into sobs when I was far enough away from it and it slithered out of sight. I’ve never been so scared in my life. Thankfully Evan had been right behind me.

We were less than a half mile from the stream we planned to break at, and I cajoled Brittany out of a pack of ramen for my lunch. I needed comfort food after that panic attack, and it did the job.

The afternoon hike was filled with noise as I clicked my sticks together to scare snakes away. The 600 foot climb up was brutal, but the 2 mile level alpine forest walk into Laguna was dreamy. If you don’t mind 6 flies in your face at all times, no matter how much you swat.

In town we were treated to cold sodas and a hiker box full of food other backpackers didn’t want but we very much did. We spent WAY too much money on a new filter, some running shorts for me, and some other stuff I can’t remember. My memory doesn’t work that well lately. Then we bought some overpriced foods at the store ($0.75 for a pack of ramen!!), went back to the campground, and had a really good time with all the folks there.

I really like the people on this trail, especially the people my age. I’ve never connected well with my peers, always gravitating towards the older folks or the younger, but finally I’ve met *my* people! Jeanie, Ryan(?), Jason, Sara, all of em. All good people ✌️

The good people in question.

We sipped some vodka, ate more ramen, burnt my tongue impatiently eating my queso noodles and rolled into bed.

No shame, tonight was the first time I had brushed my teeth so far.

Meh *shrugs*

 

Day 5

I’m still in Mt Laguna we’re taking a nearo* day and only hiking a few miles after lunch. We got breakfast and coffee (!!) at the Pine House Cafe, resupplied properly, did some sink laundry, and dumped some gear in the hiker box that we decided we didn’t want anymore. No more sleeping clothes for me, it’s just a bunch of stupid extra weight. Saved a pound there, and every one counts.

Our next town will be Julian in 2 days, hopefully before this storm hits. Heavy rain, and in the higher elevations they expect snow. Wee!

(*A ‘nearo’ day is when you hike a few miles for the day. A ‘zero’ day is when you take a rest day.)

The Hour of The Lizard

Day one.

 

My alarm startled me awake and I frantically turned it off so not to wake Sleuth or anyone else.

5am.

Scout and Frodo have a very strict schedule for us hikers, and I had 30 minutes to get my shit together and be ready for breakfast. Except when I finally got down there to eat, I didn’t have an appetite. I stared at my plate of oats, fruit, and muffin and felt more like throwing up than eating. Where did that ferocious need to consume that I had yesterday go? I didn’t even want the coffee (in that defense it wasn’t very good coffee. Sorry guys I’m spoiled by Portland java). I guiltily dropped half of my plate into the compost bin and slipped outside.

We piled our packs into cars, all 20 of us. It’s an hour and a half drive from University City to Campo down a small highway surrounded by round, golden hills. The sun was bright on the horizon and I felt sick.

Perhaps it was the silence and tension of the ride, as when we finally arrived and made our way up the hill to the terminus, those ill feelings were gone and I wanting nothing more than to walk. If you do nothing with your body, your mind picks up the slack. If you’re doing something with your body, you’ve got no time or energy to bother with thoughts.

We got up there, we took pictures, I almost fell off, and we got going. It’s time I start my thru hike.

The sun was still rising (it was 7am), and our shadows were long. After maybe 2 miles I had to stop and strip my base layers off. I was already soaked with sweat. Not much longer after that, I had to use my inhaler for the first time.

We found a small stream and rested for a bit, watering up. But soon after we left the stream I started to feel sick. My heart pounds in my head and I felt dizzy and like I needed to throw up. Seriously? Was the first stream everyone hit contaminated??

 

I rested behind a boulder. The sun was high and it was scorching. I checked the time. 10am. What the fuck. A) it’s early in the day and I’m already melting, how will I do when it’s high noon? B) it’s SPRING. I’ll be in the Mojave in less than 30 days.

I’m going to die.

I stayed behind that boulder until my head stopped pounding, but within a few yards I was miserable again.

Evan was not far ahead, waiting for me under another boulder. I rested here for another 10 minutes, applying a cold rag to my neck.

We walked a bit more, and when speaking to another hiker, she said that the hottest part of the day is 11 to 2. Hot damn. Screw this, we’re going to SIESTA.

It was a shitty siesta: our tarp wasn’t long enough to block the sun, and we were baking. Evan went up the trail to check out a water source and came back quickly to sweep me away to a watery heaven. Huge boulders lined a fast flowing stream of cold water. HALLELUJAH. Good timing too, because I was struck with a migraine.

 

5 hours and 7 different hikers later, we moved on. The headache pills I took gave me a big boost of caffeine and I flew down the rest of the trail. Our aim was Hauser Mountain to camp for the night. It was just 5 miles and we got there swiftly. Dinner was great; red curry lentils with EXTRA hot sauce.

The air was cool.

Until the huge fucking ants started crawling out of the rocks and biting us.

I don’t think we’ll ever set up our tent that fast again.

And although I had originally insisted on staying up to see the stars, I fell asleep immediately.

I know I said my sleeping pad wasn’t that comfortable, but let’s be real.

I slept like a god damned baby.

 

Day 2

 

We must have slept in, because the sun was already up by the time I opened my eyes. I checked the time, 7:30. Uhg. We broke camp, chatting with our camp mates (Frog, Brittany, Mike, and Tiffany), and started on our way. Joe arrived late last night and had to camp on the trail, but at least it seemed wide enough here.

Evan commented that sometime in the night he heard a group of people running down the trail speaking in hushed voices. Immigrants, probably.

I was in a mood. Aren’t I always in a mood? I’m just not a morning person, apparently, but maybe I’m just an asshole all the time.

9 o’clock is now deemed the hour of the lizard, as this is when all the little lizards come out to find their breakfast before the snakes find theirs. While road walking before Hauser Creek, Evan spotted a Diamondback in the grass. He always seems to spot the wildlife when I seem to be oblivious and step over them. I took some photos and we inched around it. For the next mile to the creek, we moved slowly and warily around rocks.

Snek.

 

The creek was great, if you don’t mind tons of flies and mosquitoes. We set up a small day camp to wait out the heat, and it took Evan over an hour to figure out he had bug spray. He offered some to Brittany and she snatched it from him and applied liberally with a sigh of relief. 

Despite the relaxing atmosphere, we began to bicker. I’m micromanaging things again–a known issue–and I denied like always. I’ve got to figure my shit out.

We hiked out of the creek, probably a little too early. It was hot hot hot, and steep steep steep. Before we left I used my inhaler, to help me power through it, but I don’t think it worked. My chest was tight, and I was gasping for air. The heat baked my skin. Everyone around me seemed fine and I felt defective.

Thinking about it, I figure I wasn’t actually having an asthma attack, which are described as the inflammation of the airways and the inability to exhale. I could inhale and exhale just fine, my chest was just so tight I couldn’t get it in. My heart was racing and pounding real hard. The conclusion I’m coming to is that I probably have a weak heart. Dammit. I was supposed to get this all figured out before we started. Hopefully as the rest of my body gets stronger, my heart won’t have to work so hard

Until then, I’ll be doing my uphill climbs VERY slowly, as in hike 30 steps, catch my breath, hike another 30, catch my breath. I did this for the rest of the mountain and I didn’t have another attack. Seems to work for me.

Soon enough we were at the Lake Mirena campground, and pigging out on veggie burgers, fries, and onion rings. I bought an apple juice and I must have screwed the cap on badly because I set the bag down for a second and suddenly it was sitting in a puddle. Dammit.

We forgot our headlamps when we went to the Deli, so we wandered back in the light of the crescent moon.

I did not quite sleep like a baby that night, courtesy of some chatty coyotes, turkeys, and hound dogs, but I slept well nonetheless.

 

Bored and Nervous to Tears

Although it technically stretched over three days, the train and bus trip blurs into one cohesive segment of time. I never actually ‘slept’, I simply lost consciousness for a bit. It was long, it was exhausting, it was boring.

The views were captivating, however.

At the very least, Evan and I eventually opened up and started talking to others. And by others I mean just one person, who very much looked like they were headed for the Southern Terminus as well. Their name was East, and within a few minutes of some awkward hellos they offered my starving face a vegan BBQ sandwich. I may have been a little excited and forced a hug on them. My bad. I must remember that not everyone is a hugger and most people are too polite to say no. Ask first, hug later.

Some thirty hours later, as well as too much money spent on train food (I regret this terrible bottle of wine so much), we arrived in San Diego around midnight and were whisked away by an amazing trail angel named Betty. She gave us a bed, a shower, vegan pancakes and sausage, and a ride to our hosts house in the morning.

Over the course of our trip, Evan’s nausea had evolved into a dizziness, the chills, and a high fever. Well shit. It didn’t improve by the time we woke up at Betty’s gorgeous house (we listened to the waves of the Pacific all night).

Seriously though. Look at that view!

We were driven to our second and main host: Scout and Frodo’s. These two are the trail angels to end all trail angels, and I don’t know how I can ever repay their kindness. We arrived and instead of setting up camp in their backyard in big party tents, we were placed in a bedroom where it was requested Evan stay for the day just in case he was contagious.

While he rested, I toured the neighborhood and got our errands out of the way. I picked up our munchies for the first few days of the trail, mailed half of current food to Warner Springs (so we don’t have to carry it all the way there!), all while allowing myself to enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather. I’ve always said that I sod never move someplace hot like the American Southwest, but… damn. It is so lovely here. It’s perfect.

That evening we were swept off to Adventure 16, a gear shop hosting the premier showing of the Class of 2016 PCT video. Let me say, I was honestly just expecting a few people hanging out and a video on a projector. I did not expect packed room with probably a hundred outdoor enthusiasts, as well as several members of the PCTA board. It was an inspiring evening, and while I knew there were tons of people who loved the trail, I’ve never seen them all in one place. This was a proper send off for this year’s class of hikers; filled with love, passion, and respect.

But tomorrow is our big day! Or at least I thought it was.

Evan’s condition had not improved as much as we would have liked, so Frodo generously allowed us a second day in her home.

Nerves and anxiety are terrifying things, and they can take control of your mind and your body. Take care of yourselves, folks.

I spent the following day mingling and trying to get out of my comfort zone. I’m trying to me friends, dammit!!

The view from Frodo’s. So many flowers!!

Anyways, long story short, we start tomorrow! No matter what, we’re putting our feet on that trail. I’m still not nervous, and I still don’t understand why. Am I repressing it to better support others? Did I get it out of the way a while back? Have I been ingrained with the ‘Fake it until you Make it’ mentality?

Who knows. I guess I’ll find out soon enough when I’m really smacked in the face with my new reality.

P. S: I’m currently locked out of my Patreon account and I’m trying to get back in. So if you’re a patron, I am SO SORRY that I’m not posting! I’ll get this fixed!

And if you want to receive updates via email whenever Evan or I post, look for the box at the bottom of this page (or on the sidebar to the right)!

Some more photos:

I *am* making comics! Don’t worry.
I’m bummed that I can’t keep this.
Look! At! How! Cheap! Corn! Is! In APRIL!
Local flora appreciation.
Do not upset the inky gods.

The Beginning before the Beginning

I’m on this train, right?

This actual train, heading toward California.

Seriously?

Union Station. Portland, OR

The previous week has been such a blur. One day I’m trying to decide which items to pack first based on household need, the next I’m sleeping on the floor of my now vacant dining room. I realize my sleeping pad is not actually all that comfortable; or do I just hurt from slinging boxes and furniture up and down three flights of stairs for two days? I roll over to check the time; I have a voicemail. That’s odd. Nobody ever calls me.

What I hoped would be a well wishing message from some friend or family member not in my contact list turned out to be a service alert from Amtrak. A landslide up north and a derailment down south has disrupted my route. I’m too tired to even complain. Customer service informs me that my 32-hour train ride to Los Angeles is to be split by a 8 hour bus ride, right in the middle of it. Great, effing great.

There is a full carafe of coffee on the counter from yesterday, but the microwave is now in storage. I clean the one pot not stored away to reheat half of the day-old liquid and pour it back into the press. What once was delicious is now equivalent to gas station coffee. My back hurts. When my roommate is sufficiently conscious, I invade her personal space and sooth my aching muscles on her bed. We hung out here for a while, Evan eventually joining us with a bout of mystery nausea.

Cuddle puddle.

I’m not good with emotions, and I struggle with admitting my love for friends. I’m almost reluctant to even say the words. We’ve lived together for almost four years, and now Evan and I are about to take off for five months while she moves elsewhere. We’re splitting up the family. Breaking up the band.

To avoid any unnecessary messy feelings, we depart like a ripped band-aid.

First the bus to the light rail, then two transfers, and a half hour wait at Union Station. While washing my hands in the restroom, transit police burst in and start pounding on the stall behind me; I escape quickly but I can only imagine they would soon be showing the door to a transient.

While in line, I panic. I can’t find my little baggie containing my tech charging kit. I’m texting my roommate and crafting ways for her to overnight it to Frodo and Scouts (our hosts) when Evan pulls it out of the extra day bag we brought. I feel like an idiot: I put it there!!

Neither me nor Evan have ridden a train before, so this adventure is just full of Firsts. He longs for a sleeper car; the nausea he woke up with hasn’t passed yet. Nervous, I guess. I start to wonder if I’m broken: I don’t feel anxious or nervous at all. I’m antsy to get a move on, but impatience isn’t anxiety. Maybe I got all of my worries and nerves out of the way in the weeks leading up to now, I did cry myself to dehydration a few times, so it’s not unlikely.

Now I’m on my way to San Diego!! Evan is sleeping off whatever bug he caught, and the train rocks too much to draw my comics. It’s also cloudy and rainy, so the views leave much to be desired. I’ll just twiddle my thumbs and try to resist biting my nails.

3 hours down, 29 to go.

Double the fun, double the mischief

See you soon, SoCal.

So Tell Me, My Man, You Happy Here In The Big World?

“Thrilled.”

-Korben Dallas

It is the twenty-first of April, in five days I will be escaping, with my partner in crime, from the tedium of every-day life in the city. Running off into the wilds of the South California backcountry to start along the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,659 mile long trail that runs north, from the border of Mexico to Canada. In one week we start on the adventure of a lifetime, or something like that…

Incoming Hobbit references.

Not to say that I don’t think of it in that way, but eventually you stop framing it like an adventure. The sense of adventure is still there, pins and needles mostly, only wanting to get out on the trail and go. But with the impending deadline, my concentration (or lack there-of), is more focused on the knot of anxiousness and self-doubt that is lodged in my chest. Kerstin and I are giving up a lot for this, we both worked long and hard to get to this point. I constantly worry that something will pop up at any minute that will keep us from going through with it.

This is something I have always wanted to do.

For me personally, backpacking the PCT will be the biggest challenge I have ever come across, and I need that in my life now more than ever. You’re pushing your body and mind to the breaking point. Being constantly on the move, taking breaks regularly at first, then more sparse until you hit your groove. Setting up camp every night, tearing it down every morning. Taking a day off at a lake or campground (Luxury!), or in town at a cheap hotel (Super Luxury!). But mostly just walking, enjoying the scenery, and being engulfed in nature. Accountable only to yourself.

Freedom.

To all my friends and family, I love you all. I wouldn’t be here without your love and support. Thank you.

Check out my blog on The Trek!

CORRECTION! I will still be blogging here, and so will my husband, Evan! 

But I will ALSO be blogging occasionally at TheTrek.co, covering more personal topics about trail life. Evan and I will make this a group project. 

 

Sorry for any confusion. I’ll set up a mailing list soon so you can subscribe here as well <3

This blog will be moving over to TheTrek.co, where I have more blogging tools and a wider audience! There you can also subscribe to the blog so you can receive updates whenever I post, as well as read the trail journals of other thru-hikers on the trail with me. 

 

 

A Backpacker’s Obsession with Food – Part II

It’s no secret I love food. I LOVE food. I wake up in the morning, eat food, and start thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner. This is an entirely privileged way to think about food, but circumstances have made it my experience so far in life. While backpacking, this love increases ten-fold. I become ravenous. Through particularly tough stretches I focus on my future dinner. I think about savory, creamy ramen… spicy, chunky chili… or creamy banana pudding… while I try to forget the pain in my toe as I just stubbed it for the fourth time that afternoon.

However, in the backcountry, your kitchen is lacking. In the middle of nowhere–carrying only what is on your back–you can’t exactly whip up a meal worthy of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Or at least, I can’t. As much as I would like to be Samwise Gamgee, I’m not willing to carry an entire kitchen set on my pack.

I appreciate your priorities, dearest Sam, but I think I appreciate my spine more.

Realistically, I have seen other hikers sporting frying pans, spatulas, pancake mix, etc, etc, etc… I don’t know if anyone thru-hikes bring those… but… dang. That’s commitment. Maybe the only thing scaring me away from getting more creative in the dirt kitchen is cleaning up the mess of more complicated cooking methods like sautéing and boiling. At the end of a long day of walking, the last thing I’m going to want to do for more than a minute is dishes. Fuel is also a concern, I need to stretch it out as far as possible.

HOWEVER, comma, while a backwoods foodie I am not, I’d like to toot my little horn and at least say I think my meals are better than some of those pre-packaged, freeze-dried meals you can pick up in sporting good stores. Y’know, the ones with overly huge bags, small portions, and pictures of happy, smiling faces of campers on the front?

Y’all look TOO clean to be eating outdoors. You’re missing out on the wonderful taste of sweat and dirt.

-THE MENU-

I created a menu of 15 different ‘meals’ and made 10 each for this thru-hike. I define a meal as anything that requires heat, hydration, or is more than 500 calories per serving. I tried to pick foods with a wide variety of flavors, textures, and nutrients; the last thing I want is to get bored of eating the same thing over and over again. Since we have 15 resupply boxes to be mailed out, each box gets (about) one of each meal. It’s unlikely we’ll be eating the same thing twice in a week unless it’s by choice.

Tortilla Soup Chili (3 different recipes) Chix Noodle Soup
Spaghetti Red Lentil Curry Curried Rice
Lentil Stew Cheezy Baco-bit Mashed Potatoes Chili Mac
Yellow Thai Curry Ramen Hot n’ Sour Ramen Curried Couscous
Veggie-tomato Couscous Oatmeal (5 different flavors) Pudding (5 different flavors)

Can you tell I like curry? Also, fair disclosure, I follow a plant-based diet, and all the foods I made are vegan.

Dehydrated meals aren’t as terrible as they sound, honestly. The texture is different, but it’s not horrible. Pasta is dehydrated, so are macaroni & cheese packets, and instant soup. I did dehydrate my own rice though, which actually has a different texture than Minute Rice, and I’m okay with that! It’s chewy and is less likely to become mushy.

Speaking of which, there are few things that turn me off food more than bad texture. If my jaws get tired while chewing it or it feels like I’m just gumming it, I won’t eat it. I don’t care how hungry I am, I will probably never eat instant hummus again. I also have chronic dry mouth, so anything that dries up my saliva glands will not make it past my teeth.

My camp kitchen: A 1 quart Imusa aluminum mug with a DIY cozy to keep it warm forever, and handle wrapped in paracord. A Light My Fire double-ended spoon/fork (because honestly, sporks suck). A Snow Peak Giga stove. A lighter, and a typical bag of food. 

Anyways! Food! I promised a recipe, didn’t I?

I’ve made this recipe for all of my backpacking trips to date, and it gets better every time. It’s a version of a soup I make the day after taco night, and it’s spicy, savory, and goes great with tortillas.

-Hiker’s Taco Soup-

2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup instant/dehydrated brown rice
  • ½ Cup dehydrated beans, any variety.*
  • ¼ Cup Textured Vegetable Protein
  • 2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated red enchilada sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tomato powder
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated chopped bell peppers
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated sliced cabbage
  • 1Tbsp dehydrated corn kernels
  • 1 cube vegetable bouillon
  • 1 tsp dehydrated minced onion
  • 1 tsp chili powder and granulated garlic
  • 1 packet Lime flavor crystals (optional)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds (optional)**
  • 4 tortillas (optional)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (on trail)

*Any variety EXCEPT instant refried beans.
**Chia seeds will add 60 calories per tbsp, as well as fiber, calcium, and iron, but are not required.Ingredients:

At Home: Place everything except for the tortillas and olive oil in a Ziploc bag. Pack with tortillas and your bottle of oil.

On Trail: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add mix (remember to unwrap the bouillon, and set aside lime packet), stir, and remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Stir in lime to taste, and add oil. Enjoy with tortillas!

Do you have any favorite trail recipes? Share them in the comments if you got ‘em! And happy trails (: