My PCT Blog

16 Feb

Hi,

This is just to let ya’ll know that I have decided to blog about the PCT over on Outsideways.com instead of here. As this is more of a private blog, and I want to be able to share my PCT posts publicly. Here is the blog URL: https://outsideways.com/members/Amelia/

I have just over 2 months until I leave for Campo to begin walking home again!

Amelia

Why I Am Hiking The Pacific Crest Trail

31 Dec

I had an epiphany two days ago. I am going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail this year. This is the summer.

This is how it fits together: I had just started a part-time job as a clerical assistant at my Dad’s work. So now I can make some money for my hike. I wouldn’t let myself hike and not help pay for it, even though I know my parents would. It just in a sense wouldn’t be my own hike, not in the same way. I was already judged on the John Muir Trail for not having a job, for being young, for having light gear – even though I work hard at my college classes and at home, and paid for a good portion of my gear myself. Of course, now I need to figure out how to quit tactfully in 3 month’s time…

I am taking two classes this spring at the community college, both of which end early (one is compressed into a half-semester, and the other is self-paced, at least so I’ve heard). So, I am faced with the opportunity of being able to start earlier, and not late in the season due to the semester ending May 12th. When else do I see myself being on this schedule while in college? Nada.

The other thing that was holding me back was me transfering from community college to a university this fall. You know what? Sacrifices must be made. There will never be a perfect time for a thru-hike. If I get off early, I can still take classes at either TMCC or UNR. Plus, I’ve already been doing community college classes for 3 years. Time for a break before another long stretch for completing my major.

So, why am I hiking the PCT in general? Other than having always wanted to do it, other than growing up backpacking on the PCT around Tahoe, here is a list of reasons:

  • Being outside in nature makes me ridiculously happy.
  • It will give me direction and purpose.
  • I love walking.
  • I do not see myself having this opportunity again during or immediately after college without making even bigger sacrifices.
  • If I don’t do it now, I’m afraid that I never will.
  • Trail family.
  • I want to gain a sense of independence.
  • I want to be unafraid about traveling without a plan.
  • Adventure.
  • I don’t get acne when I’m backpacking.
  • I have better things to do than take showers.
  • I need a break from the stress of school.
  • An unexamined life is not worth living: I want to examine my beliefs about our modern culture’s consumerism, ethicality and freneticism,  and also my expectations of what is necessary to survive.
  • Restore my faith in humanity.
  • I will be in very good shape.
  • I can eat as much (junk? junk!) food as I want.
  • Get away from computer screens (like this one).
  • There are two things that I have dreamed of doing since I was a little kid, that are a part of who I am. Deep Springs College and the PCT. Aaand Deep Springs College is still not co-ed. Forget you, Deep Springs. I am going to do the PCT in revenge…
  • A vacation from hearing about Donald Trump. I got to miss the Republican and Democratic national conventions last year on the JMT and it was an absolute privelege. Also, I have a vision of my kids asking me to help them on an assignment about what happened in the summer of 2017 and me saying, “I have no clue, hahahaha. I was walking from Mexico to Canada. Everything else was melting in the world and WWIII started and I can honestly say it was the best year of my life.”
  • I am concerned about the overcrowding, but I deserve this just as much as any of the other hikers.
  • I will murder with a knife my long-handled titanium spoon anyone who tries to talk to me about Wild, Cheryl Strayed, or Reese Witherspoon.
  • The last one wasn’t a reason I’m hiking the PCT.
  • :)

John Muir Trail Video, Fin!

7 Nov

Day One: An Auspicious Start

7 Nov

Day 1/July 10th: Tuolumne Meadows to just before Lyell Fork.  10.9 miles

I wake up around 7 or 8 to the sound of my mom taking down her tent. I pull my sleeping clothes off and dress- awkward in such a low tent- and poke my head outside. Mom’s tent is opposite me, our entrances facing each other, and she bustles around it, folding the tent poles. “Good Morning,” I murmur to her, my face still warm from sleeping. The people that set their tent up next to me last night are a ways off to the right. It’s quiet compared to last night, with only a few sleepy people awake and boiling water for coffee or oatmeal. The smell of dead campfires is laced in the nippy air. I wriggle out, shove my feet in my shoes. I pull my foam pad out with everything on it and start to pack up; we have to be at the permit office by 10:30 or we lose our permit.

I’m slow, but finally everything is in my backpack in more or less the right place. We stop to go to the bathroom one last time and go to meet Vicki and Barb at the Tuolumne Grill. I’m not hyper excited (it’s too cold for that) but my mood is reflective. We’re finally on our way, after months of planning, and I know all we have to do now is walk and make camp for a few weeks. The parking lot is empty, very different from how it was yesterday, and it’s 15 minutes until the grill opens. I set my pack next to a rock by the main park road and stand on top of the rock, trying to get warmth from the sun. I brandish my trekking poles. Here I come!

Cars start pulling in, right on cue, and we stand in front of the Grill doors to start a line. Vicki and Barb have to catch the YARTS bus down to Yosemite Valley, and after breakfast and a final phone charge the bus comes. We say goodbye and then start our walk to the permit office. We’re already on the JMT, and we see a lot of backpackers. We cross over the Tuolumne river for the first time, which we’ll follow all day. Lembert Dome dominates the view as we walk, a scalene triangle of dark-streaked Sierra granite. Mom’s backpack, a 45l parrot-green one, bobs up and down as she walks, her Platypus hose swaying loose in the air. It’s all so beautiful. This national parks thing is no joke, I think as we walk. On the right is a golden meadow and on the left is Tioga Pass Road. The sun shines bright over everything.

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We get to the permit station. People are camped outside in a line with folding chairs and warm clothes, their breath puffing up in clouds. They’re waiting for walk-up permits, probably for the John Muir Trail, and I feel guilty as we walk past them and squeeze inside. The ranger, a woman, gives us the talk and issues us a permit and wag bags for Whitney. We have to carry them the whole way. We stop at the picnic table to apply sunscreen and remove the extra TP and hand wipes from the wag bags, and a white guy who’s been waiting in line comes to ask us about our permits. I’m rubbing sunscreen on my face, and turn to mom. “Am I white?” I ask her, refering to the sunscreen on my face, and the man visibly recoils. “No! Wait-” I laugh self-consciously, “I was talking about sunscreen-” but the man has already moved away. My cheeks burn. … what did he really think? There’ve recently been Black Lives Matter protests in various cities. A sniper shot a bunch of police in riot gear, and then was blown up by a robot after he wouldn’t give himself up. It sounded like something crazy you’d make up to tell someone who’s been out backpacking for a few weeks.

Finally we get out of there, passing a couple that just got their permit and were laying their resupply out in the parking lot. “See you out there, maybe!” we say. The trail goes along the road a bit more, and then heads off into a dry granite-and-meadow-strewn forest. Tons of PCTers pass us, not wanting to chat, eager for real food. The trail isn’t that impressive: dry, littered with toilet paper, and full of grumpy weekenders with heavy boots and even heavier packs. It reaches the Tuolumne River again and we cross a series of foot bridges. The water runs between banks of granite, quick and smooth and incredibly hued- green and blue and golden-brown. We pass a ranger who’s out leading a wildflower identifying trip, and say hi. Our maps are still buried in the middle of our packs when we come to our first unmarked junction.

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We start heading down what we think is the right trail, but we double back to look at the posted map near the junction with a couple of other JMTers. The ranger comes by and my mom asks, “That way is the right trail, right? We’re on the JMT.”

He sighs, and walks over to the map. “If you’re on the JMT, you have to follow this trail. You go down Lyell Canyon for a day or two and eventually you go over Donahue Pass, right here, see?” I stare at my mom in disbelief.

“Yah, we know. We just want to know if that’s the right trail.” My mom points the way we were going.

The ranger keeps on talking. “You have maps, right? Maybe if you’re already lost you shouldn’t be hiking the JMT.” My mom and I move away in disgust, towards the other trail to get some breathing space. The ranger freaks out. “No! That’s the wrong trail. It’s that way.” He points to the one we were just going down a few minutes before.

“We know,” she says to him, and says to the guys who were looking at the map with us, “You know what mansplaining is, right? He was mansplaining us.” The guys had been just as “lost” as we were. We start walking down the trail, and I’m filled with hurt and anger for the next hour or so as we walk. This seems like an inauspicious start to the trail. The terrain is flat, more of the same dry meadows and small pine patches.

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As we reach Lyell Canyon proper, the twisted feeling in my stomach fades. The trail follows the edge of a green meadow full of purple daisies, the Tuolumne River a bright twisting stripe of turquoise winding through it. Rows of mountains march away on either side, chaotic, behemoth tumbles of granite with bases swallowed by green. There are dozens of little ground squirrels and their babies running around, and marmots. They seem too cute for their evil reputation. And Lyell Canyon is too beautiful and kind for me to believe its reputation for trouble bears. Amelia Earhart Peak is somewhere on the right, and I take a selfie with a mountain that I think is it, but later find out isn’t. We share a namesake, and so I feel like the mountain and I share a kinship.

We come upon Audrey, a girl that we met last night at the backpacker’s campground, and stop to talk and admire an especially bright-blue bend of the river. She says that she’s from Chicago, and that she’s been struggling already. We’ve only come maybe three miles so far, and she started a few hours earlier than us. Her pack is huge, taller than her waist when she puts it on the ground. She says its shoulder straps have been cutting into her shoulder. She proudly points out a rusted-steel garden trowel hanging from the outside, with a wooden handle. “My husband cut the handle off for me to save weight.” We give her encouragement and reassure her it’s okay to take it slow the first few days, and then head off. We leapfrog her for a bit when we take lunch, and the last I see of her is her resting down by the river under a patch of pine. “I hope she makes it at least to Red’s Meadow,” I say, and my mom agrees.

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We spend the rest of the day walking through flat Lyell Canyon. There’s a nice breeze, and no mosquitos. It really is a perfect, idyllic day of hiking, and although we contemplate the river we really smell too nice to justify getting in. We reach the end of the canyon as the sun is getting low and bright above the mountains, and begin an ascent. “Maybe we can get over Donahue tonight,” I say, thinking that this was the beginning of the pass. Tons of PCTers are coming down, and when we ask they shrug and tell us it’s ten minutes to the top. There’s a Korean couple that just bursts into laughter when we try to communicate to them in English, and a British guy who hikes in a formal tie. We reach a spot with a nice camp spot, and decide to stop for dinner and maybe go on after. We have Good-to-Go Pad Thai, which is fine but even finer when you’re hungry, and we pass the foil bag back and forth to avoid dishes. Mom makes the executive decision to stay here for the night, so we set up our tents and then walk to a granite overhang to watch the alpenglow slide up the mountains. We listen to the birds sing and write in our journals. Finally it gets too cold and I snuggle in my warm sleeping bag for the night.

It was a good day.

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Day Zero: Big Tuolumne Meadows

16 Sep

Day 0: Reno to Tuolumne Meadows. 2 miles.

We wake up early and move around the house, making breakfast and collecting gear. It’s the big day! I have a list of last-minute things that I need to do: make sure my phone is charged, fill my water bottles, turn off my computer… I didn’t pack completely yesterday, and now I carefully stuff my sleeping clothes and jackets around my bear can in my pack so it won’t poke into my back. I put my bright yellow stuffsack on top and close my pack. Everything seems in limbo- Mom and I doing our last-minute-nothings, I fidgeting and tidying my room. Finally we reach escape velocity. I take a picture of my finished pack sitting against my bed, and then I shoulder it, grab the plastic bag with my shoes and extra snacks, and squeeze through the front door.

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As we start getting into the car I joke that we could just stay home and photoshop ourselves into JMT pictures off the internet. We throw our packs and trekking poles in the back of the car, and pile into my dad’s blue Prius, named Sirius Blue. My dad and mom in the front with the dog, and me in the back with my brother. I feel a muted thrill of excitement in my stomach as we drive through our neighborhood and get on the highway. We pass through Reno and Sparks in the mid-morning dearth of traffic, through Washoe Valley looking up at the mountain ridges that we walked across on the Tahoe Rim Trail, through road construction in Carson, the sky a pale, stratified shade of blue. It’s a familiar road trip to me; although I haven’t been this way often, the landscape has been seared into my memory. It’s beautiful, with streaks of bright-green aspen and purple willow following springs up into the brown folds of the hills, the sagebrush, and of course the mountains always on the right. Eventually you can see the crown of pale granite peaks that is the Sierra towering behind the hills. Above Mono Lake we pass a section of road where the hill is seared black from fire.

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Then, finally, we are in Lee Vining. We stop at the visitor center and ask them if they know where the YARTS bus stop is. It’s a half mile back. We get there, a big parking lot filled with RVs, and wait, watching the highway for the bus. I kiss our dog as he sits in my shade, mussing his soft schnauzer ears and telling him incessantly that I love him. The bus finally comes, and my mom and I say goodbye to my dad and brother. And, of course, many kisses for the dog.

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Our packs are stashed and we find seats by the front of the bus. My stomach aches, tense from expectation, but I know that all of the stress will go away once we’re there. I barely pay attention to the view outside of the window as the bus turns into Lee Vining and begins its drive up into the mountains. Mom talks to the other people on the bus and I listen. There are two women from Texas, Vicki and Barb, who ended their JMT hike early to have a staycation at home. When we get to Tuolumne we end up getting off the bus together. I’m surprised to see a bunch of PCTers in front of the Tuolumne Grill. A few come over to talk to us. They’re holding beers and wearing the usual grubby trucker hats. They’re lean and starting to wear that hungry expression that becomes prominent in northern California. They’re happy to have food. One of the PCTers says we all look “legit” and I puff up a little bit inside.

 

We go with Vicki and Barb to find the Backpacker’s Campground. It’s behind the regular campgrounds and up a hill. We set up next to each other and then walk back together to the grill to get late lunch. I’ve been trying to be vegetarian but I get a burger.img_5097

To kill the afternoon, we hang out at some spaghetti trail-magic (an act of random kindness given to thruhikers). It’s being put together by a family that lives nearby. Someone leaves a bottle of wine at the table and we carry it up to the backpacker’s campground to pawn off on people. We give most of it to a table of thruhikers who have a neon green bong that they’re passing around. We talk for a while, the air heady and strong with a smell like burning rabbitbrush. I feel like I’m suffocating and wonder if I could get high from just the smell.

 

We go to a campfire program led by a ranger, who sings a song about “Big Tuolumne Meadows” to the tune of Big Rock Candy Mountain, and then stumble back to our tents in the dark. People are talking loudly and walking around, their headlights shining through the thin wall of my tarp tent and throwing shadows of pine needles onto my sleeping bag. Someone hums Big Rock Candy Mountain. I get up once to get my earplugs from the bear box and fall asleep to the muffled sound of someone setting up their tent nearby.

Hello Again, Faithful Friend!

16 Sep

It makes me sad to see my blog sitting here, lonely and dusty, without love. But, it will stay here waiting for me to write in it indefinitely (until North Korea decides to drop an atomic bomb on the Great Internet Hard Drive, wherever that may be, starting WW III. I plan on being somewhere up in the mountains when that happens).

The point is, I have been compelled to start writing something in here again. Here is what my life is like now, what is on my mind, and what I plan on doing in the future.

  • I hiked the JMT this summer. While I didn’t really feel like writing up a journal for the TRT, which was very fragmented due to it being a section hike, I want to write a series of journal blog posts for the JMT. I maintained a written journal up to the half-way point (MTR), at which point I was very behind in my writing and gave up. I also took video during the hike and plan on making another video like I did for the TRT.
  • I got two of my poems published in the TMCC literary journal, The Meadow, which can be found online here (my poems are on pages 57-58). I read one of them at a The Meadow poetry reading at Sundance Bookstore. My short story almost got in, too; I will have to settle with runner-up. While I want to continue writing poetry and fiction in my free time, it’s difficult with college classes and hiking.
  • The TMCC semester has started again. I am taking Modern US History (since the 2nd Industrial Revolution) and Philosophy on campus, and Women and Literature online. While I was super excited about the classes and teachers, I am only somewhat enchanted with my on-campus classes, and I like my online Women and Literature class the most. I am planning on taking only two classes next semester to rest up for the next semester when I go on to “real” college…
  • I am currently doing All The Fun College Application Stuff. I took the ACT + Writing test a weekend ago, am researching colleges and major programs, and we are working on making my transcript. October is the beginning of college application season, which means essays and filling in forms. There is also a Graduation to plan for the spring! Oh, the excitement of homeschooling and senior year… It’s like a whole other class! I am looking at outdoors-oriented schools that are preferably on the West Coast. Humboldt State looks promising. I want to major in writing of some kind, and Outdoor Education/Recreation Administration.
  • Amid other things, I also got to visit grandparents in both Florida and Cape Cod, at the beginning and end of the summer respectively! I am also now a cousin! Hi Lexi and Zoe!
  • I am planning a section hike of the PCT next summer. I want to do California sections I, J, K and L, which is from Sierra City to Tuolumne Meadows and is about 253 miles. I am just starting to research the route and resupply.

So, it’s been a busy summer and the school year ahead continues to promise a full schedule as well. I think that covers the catch-up. If my plan goes as promised, sometime soon I will be making good progress on my JMT journal posts, on my JMT video, and maybe a post on what I did/didn’t like about my gear setup.

Whew!

Heading Off to the John Muir Trail!

8 Jul

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My mom and I are leaving for the John Muir Trail early tomorrow! Dad will drive us to Lee Vining to catch the last YARTS bus, and we will be spending the night  in Tuolumne so we can get our permit on time. Then we hike!

I brought a small journal, so there may be reconstructed blog posts, and I think (due to popular demand) I will be doing another short video. Everything is set, all I need to do is to pack my pack and go…

I will be hiking with my mom until MTR/Blayney Meadows, where she will get off- we have a night at the tent cabins. I will hike for a week solo, to Kearsarge Pass, where my dad will be meeting me with resupply. He will do Forester Pass and Mt. Whitney with me. Then home!

I have the pre-hike jitters, and I don’t really want to leave my puppy.

Goodnight!