My trail family and I now have our second week of hiking on the PCT in the books. We have laughed our way through the last 100 miles on the trail. There are a lot of people who get injured out here whether it be from pushing themselves too hard too quickly or from a freak accident like rolling an ankle or falling to the face or knee on a rock.
Thank goodness there have been no major injuries in our family. Every one of us has dealt with blisters and a little bit of sunburn. Other than that, KitKat (Shannon) has been experiencing some discomfort in her leg and Amish (Glen) has felt some pain in his knee. Whenever Punchline (Pete) is tired or hungover, he hitches ahead into the next town and waits for us while the rest of us sweat and grunt our way along the trail. He makes a mean loaded Mac-N-Cheese dish so we keep him around.
The one thing that keeps us together and bonds our trail family so tightly isn’t the leukotape. It’s the constant laughter. The endless story telling. The jokes. The nonstop farting and talks of poop. The practical jokes we play on each other. The random outbursts of belly aching laughter. We’re loud and obnoxious, yet we stick together and make it through the really tough miles with enough energy to still smile at each other at the end of the day. I don’t care what the ultra lighters or serious thru-hikers say. Laughter is the best medicine on the PCT and it keeps us going strong out here.
The last piece of advice a trail host at the Southern Terminus gave to me on the day I started my PCT thru-hike two weeks ago was, “If you open yourself to it, something magical will happen every day on the trail.” That has proved to be a very true statement out here for me. I opened myself right away to the magic of the trail and it immediately started providing. On the first night out here, I met my trail family and got my trail name from an experienced PCT thru-hiker.
Since then, daily trail magic has come in many forms like getting to do a proper load of laundry in a laundromat with detergent and fabric softener sheets, stumbling upon a well-stocked water cache, meeting characters on the trail like Grit “I’m Still Alive” aka Pier-Luc, getting a hitch into town from the sheriff, watching epic sunrises while hiking up the side of the mountain, seeing cows on the trail, looking at rock formations shaped like a bald eagle, bucket showers, getting an Epsom salt foot bath while sipping on a root beer float and meeting other fellow thru-hikers who are now trail angels who give us everything we need while loading us up with invaluable advice. The trail provides. The magic out here is real.
For those of you at home who are interested, you can be part of this trail magic by being a trail angel along my journey up to Canada. Check out my PCT trip registry where you can sponsor amenities along the trail like meals in town, hot showers, loads of laundry, gear purchases needed on trail or even town stops.
I learned something really interesting about myself this week. I’ve always thought of myself as food motivated. I’ve been known to hike for tamales, burgers and chicken sandwiches smothered with Chick-Fil-A sauce. What I didn’t realize and learned early on out here on the trail is that I’m way more motivated with a fresh, clean load of laundry and a hot shower over my most favorite meals any day. The Rice Krispies Treats for breakfast and ice cold root beers at each town stop haven’t been too shabby either.
Here are some highlights from the trail over this past week:
- We took our first Zero Day in Julian and got free pie at Mom’s Pies. Yes the pie is just as good as everyone says it is. I even sent my little sister some pie from the trail since I can’t physically be at her wedding in September due to me finishing my hike.
- Stagecoach RV Park, outside of Julian is truly a thru-hiker’s oasis complete with cheap tent camping, charging stations at the tentsite, free WiFi, deli sandwiches, a store stocked with snacks, a laundromat, restrooms, free showers and a pool.
- Eagle Rock is a rock formation outside of Warner Springs that looks like a bald eagle. When we stopped here, we enjoyed a long break in the shade while listening to Steve Miler Band’s, “Fly Like An Eagle” because why wouldn’t I?
- There are cows on the trail and sometimes they refuse to move off the trail, even when stinky hikers ask them nicely. My all-time favorite quote on the trail so far comes from Bleeder when taking a picture of said cows said, “Cheese! I hope that wasn’t inappropriate.”
- Warner Springs Community Center has been my favorite stop on the trail so far. Another thru-hikers oasis complete with bucket showers, hand wash laundry, cold sodas, a hiker-friendly resupply store, $3 Epsom salt foot baths, root beer floats, a mobile outfitters on the premises, free WiFi, countless electrical outlets to charge electronics throughout the center, free shuttles into town from the Sheriff himself and the nicest ladies who run this place.
- My feet have stopped hurting. I haven’t had any new blisters since Warner Springs. My Salomon Odyssey Pros and Superfeet insoles have been rocking my feet out here like a champ!
- I started hiking with music during the long, hot desert days. I forgot how much music motivates me when I hike, especially when the trail keeps going up and up.
- I got to officially break in my shovel for the first time and pooped out in the woods. It’s not as bad as it sounds.
- I’m pretty sure another hiker saw me pooping off the trail. Sometimes there just aren’t enough good hiding spots on the trail. Hey, everyone poops!
- I’ve been drinking root beer every chance I get – at least one at each town stop. Sometimes up to three or four. I can’t be stopped. The addiction is real.
- I’ve quickly learned to embrace a whole new level of stinkiness. I haven’t used a lick of deodorant since I’ve been out here. You have to work really hard and hike a lot of miles each day in the hot sun to stink as bad as I do.
- I packed WAY too many clothes. I sent some home already and am getting ready to send more home. I’ve also discovered how comfortable it is to hike without underwear. It’s surprisingly liberating and one less thing to carry and wash.
- I packed WAY too much food. All of my overpacking has been winning the hearts of my trail family because I let them have first dibs on whatever I don’t want or can’t carry. No one is going hungry in Team Lagger!
- I bought my first pack of cigarettes. No Mom, they’re not for me! They’re to bribe Punchline. We all quickly learned one of Punchline’s weaknesses when he ran out of cigarettes in the middle of the desert, days away from the next town. To benefit from this weakness, I bought a pack to use as a bartering tool. So far these cigarettes have been a worthy investment. I got to lighten my pack load a bit from Paradise Valley Cafe to Idyllwild by giving everything I didn’t need for the next section to Punchline since he was hitching into Idyllwild and I was hiking. I’ve also had ice cold root beers waiting for me after one of the toughest days on the trail for me so far. I can’t wait to see what other treasures these cigarettes will bring me out here. They may very well become my 11th essential, and I don’t even smoke!
- I’ve rediscovered my love for Top Ramen, Gardettos, Whatchamacallits and Rice Krispies Treats. The 10-year old inside of me has been squealing with joy.
- Never leave town without resupplying baby wipes. Baby wipes are the next best thing to a real shower, bucket shower or soak in a random body of water. I’ve been religious about cleaning my feet at night before going to bed. Brushing my teeth before bed, not so much. Sorry Nichole!
- Shannon and Glen got trail names! Shannon is now “KitKat” because she LOVES her breaks…”Give me a break. Give me a break. Break me off a piece of that KitKat bar.” Glen is now “Amish”. He picked up an Amish-looking hat out of the Hiker Box in Warner Springs. Despite rocking the hat quite nicely, the Amish jokes and references have been flooding in daily ever since.
- Bleeder almost got a new trail name, “Whoopie Cushion”. At one of our intensely hot, mid afternoon breaks where we were desperately trying to stay in the shade and in dire need of some comic relief, Punchline sat on Bleeders chest so hard it caused him to fart. We all laughed until we were crying and doubled over in pain with belly aches from laughing so hard.
We’re having so much fun together, laughing all the time, even when we’re exhausted, hiking out in the intense sun with our heavy packs. It’s the laughter that keeps our crazy minds sane and our aching bodies out on this trail.
Let’s be honest. We all have to be a bit batshit crazy to want to hike this trail every single day for five months.