audio narrative

peeps of the PCT: Casey, Sonora Pass Resupply

In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.

Elizabeth Gilbert
"Goldilocks" picking up her bear canister and resupply at Sonora Pass resupply.
“Goldilocks” picking up her bear canister and resupply at Sonora Pass resupply.

It was a cold, blustery day with dark clouds threatening as I dropped down to the highway at Sonora Pass late last September on the Pacific Crest Trail. The wind was so intense, it literally took my breath away even as I paused to take pictures and enjoy this sensational scenery right on the edge of Yosemite National Park.

Ahead was the Emigrant Wilderness, an exposed crossing of over ten miles at high altitude and I was fairly certain this was a no go day for me, but I needed a resupply and that would require a hitch deep down into the valley. With weather like this, the trail was empty.

At the tiny turn out, a few scattered picnic tables stood watch over the approaching weather, along with a single RV. On its door read Sonora Pass Resupply. The proprietor, Casey Cox, was cozy warm inside with his beautiful, blue-eyed dog named Lucky.

audio narrative

peeps of the PCT: Joshua, fire manager

Firefighters never die, they just burn forever in the hearts of the people whose lives they saved. 

Susan Murphree
Joshua was leading a crew building a firebreak on the Pacific Crest Trail through Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California.
Joshua was leading a crew building a firebreak on the Pacific Crest Trail through Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California.

Last September, I walked through the final bit of the Cascades heading south, or SOBO, on the Pacific Crest Trail.

The hike through Lassen Volcanic National Park took one day, but it was a heavenly day of sunshine and cool air, most of the park all to myself, shared with with my thru-hiking friend, Klaus.

The park is full of lakes, and, though chilly in the morning shade, I was urged on by his jumping straight in, to ever so slowly wade into the deep azure of Lower Twin Lake. At that moment, my friends, I felt I’d never been so clean and refreshed in my entire life.

Yes, the best part of hiking south is that the trails were nearly empty in the fall and I finally found solitary campsites and deeply longed for quiet.

Lassen was no exception.

audio narrative

peeps of the PCT: Milk Jug

The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation. 

Pearl Buck
"Milk Jug" was the youngest solo thru-hiker on the PCT in 2019.
“Milk Jug” was the youngest solo thru-hiker on the PCT in 2019.

As I headed into the Blisstudio this morning to do my eLearning workout homework, I thought of a wonderful quote I read a while back about youth. I have to admit, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself starting all over in something new at age 55, needing to adopt a “beginner’s mind” while taking lessons from someone younger and more successful than me.

These are humbling times for all of us and I think it’s worth contemplating these words right now. They’re attributed to Luella F. Phelan, of whom I sadly can find absolutely nothing about on Dr. Google. If you have followed my blog at all, you’ll notice nearly every quote I refer to is from a woman. And if you know anything about women, our histories are often lost to time.

But at least we still have this amazing statement.

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind. People grow old only by deserting their ideals and by outgrowing the consciousness of youth. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul…. You are as old as your doubt, your fear, your despair. The way to keep young is to keep your faith young. Keep your self-confidence young. Keep your hope young.

Luella F. Phelan
hike blog

PCT Day 73, Mules Ear Creek to Highway 40 (Truckee) 26 miles

Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward. – Hillary Clinton

It’s cold now. I sleep in all my clothes and wrap my raincoat over my legs and do just fine. Richard has sent a liner and merino and I hope it’s enough for the high altitude I’ll walk. An animal came close in the night and I tell it to go away. Klaus tells me in the morning they don’t speak English.

We are both ready to roll at the same time, even though our tents are far apart. It’s up and up into biting wind, frost-covered Mules Ears and fantastic views. Snow still clings to a few spots as we pass 8,000 feet in this pre-Sierra where the wooded slopes begin to show slabs of white granite. A bird sings Chucka-cheedee! capturing my mood.

hike blog

PCT Day 72, Highway 49 to Mules Ear Creek, 16 miles

These things are ours, for God creates within our soul a mystic sense of wonder that we may hear allegro tunes among tall swaying cattails. —Gwen Frostic

Indeed, sleeping in a bed is absolutely wonderful. My legs splay akimbo, the covers are warm, swaddling my body, the mattress gives my muscles, joints and bones just the right support. I stay in my nest all morning with the river rushing musically below. I work on visual audio essays of interesting people I have met, sipping coffee and luxuriating.

By the cut off of 10, when Susan wants to clean the room, I’m finished. I am a good sound editor and work well on deadline. I come downstairs and Klaus still needs more time, so I catch up on email, call Richard, plan a visit with our amazing new friend, Mark from McCloud and set a date for my hiker friend to join me on the final weeks of this epic walk.

Klaus already has picked up a package I helped forward here from his long time friend. We share the food, maybe taking too much for the coming days but I am getting used to a heavy resupply, knowing by day two, I’m famished all the time. His friend Jeff adds a couple of small plastic wine bottles – a heavy, but delightful indulgence.

hike blog

PCT Day 71, A-Tree Spring to Highway 49 (Sierra City) 24 miles

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better. – J.K. Rowling

I wake to a purply-orange glow on the horizon and my owl’s “Hoohoo-hoo-hoo!” It’s cold and I wonder if I’ll be warm enough in the Sierra as I pack up and start the morning routine, surprised again to be ahead of Klaus. I use the time to send a message to Richard to reserve me a room tonight in Sierra City. I’m so dirty, I’ve got to clean my clothes and myself.

The trail heads up into the rock I saw lit orange by the sunset. From the ridge, I look down to myriad glacial lakes nestled into rocky bowls. The air is brisk and the wind chills me, so I move faster. Below, cowbells tinkle at different pitches. A man passes me wearing a milk jug tied diagonally to his chest.

hike blog

PCT Day 70, Middle Fork Feather River to A-tree spring, 30 miles

Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance. – Anne Lamott

I feel much better this morning and come to this conclusion – sleep matters. Still a blareathon light, but those hikers are far across this sandy, rocky, brush-strewn dry riverbed. I don’t understand the thinking, but glad I claimed my far off spot last night. And so glad I got here early to explore and swim at such a magical place. But now, it’s time to face a long day ahead, with water scarce and off trail. I’m suited up before Klaus, so head out to the bridge to take one last look at the rock, the boulder-drilled holes and the inviting deep swimming pools.

Klaus leads with over 5,000 feet to gain. It’s dark and cool in the forest and I keep my river water clean hair out from the Mad Hatter hat for now. He’s slow but steady uphill and I feel like I’m being pulled by a rope. It’s a strange phenomenon that walking with him makes it much easier for me. I sing Kermit the Frog’s ‘Rainbow Connection’ as we ascend.

hike blog

PCT Day 69, ridge above Belden to Middle Fork Feather River, 25 miles

You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute. – Tina Fey

I can’t sleep. The view from my tent is to smoke glowing hot pink above the mountains, the sky a deep velvety blueblack. Klaus mentions it might get cold before falling asleep, and when I agree he tells me, “I don’t care if you get cold,” with a big laugh. I’m stuck on the “I don’t care” part and feel lousy. At least it’s a magnificent sunrise, right in front of me as I pack up and have breakfast.

He takes off before me and I wonder if he’s mad because I suggested he not let out a huge Tarzan yell from the ridge last night. He argues it’s how he expresses joy, like yodelers. I’m concerned I have a double standard wanting quiet for me but condoning exuberance from friends. We never quite agree on the behavior and now I have a sleep deficit. It’s only walking, how hard can that be?

hike blog

PCT Day 68, Chips Creek to ridge above Belden, 21 miles

If you don’t get out of the box you’ve been raised in, you won’t understand how much bigger the world is. – Angelina Jolie

I wake to a light in my eyes. The hikers who joined us last night are filtering water with headlamps faced at my tent. Do people have so little awareness they can’t turn away or move ten feet up the trail? The creek is loud so they can’t hear me asking them to shine it away. So I pack up and take my breakfast to the beautiful rock in the middle of the exquisite private waterfall – which, oddly, these hikers so determined to share the space when one five minutes away could have been all theirs, never visit.

The trouble with me is I take everything personally. I simply melt down, first angry, then sad. Klaus tries to say a few things, but he’s mystified by my reaction, telling me to forget about it. That makes me feel more out of control. He walks up and sees the guy blaring his headlamp while brushing his teeth, then finally leaving so let’s me know, at least, they’re gone.

I don’t know why these things make me so crazy. Is it the blinding light so early in the morning or the totally inconsiderate behavior? Or is it feeling like I can’t do anything about it. I really didn’t want to share such tight quarters in the first place, not because I’m selfish but because I don’t want to deal with this.

hike blog

PCT Day 67, Lassen view to private waterfall on Chips Creek, 25 miles

If you can’t go straight ahead, you go around the corner. – Cher

Lightning streaks the sky, but there’s no boom. Maybe we got a few drops but my tent is dry by morning. Also no visitors, neither man nor beast. Klaus uses an alarm – ugh – but I decide to let it slide. I think he has a tendency to sleep in and truly the best part of the hiking day is the morning.

I sip my chococoffee and eat Clif Bars on my yellow sit pad watching the sun rise. The valley is filled with mist. Throughout this entire hike, I would spot a mountain for the first time, then walk towards it – sometimes getting right up on it – and finally the mountain recedes into my rear view mirror. It is one of my favorite features of the walk.