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Days 1-4 // the beginning...

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

Day 1 // 11.3 miles

PCT mile 11.3

Melissa dropped me off at the terminus around 8:30am this morning, after a great breakfast at IHOP in San Diego. The whole way there, I sort of felt like I might throw up, but I was also excited. There was so much adrenaline. I just kept thinking, "It's happening! It's real!"

There was a couple volunteering with the PCTA there to go over Leave No Trace principles with us and to take some photos of us at the terminus. They were super sweet. I think the lady's name was Patty.

Once we got photos by the terminus and by the wall, I gave Melissa a hug and set off! Once I was on the trail, I felt a huge wave of peace about everything. I know that the Lord has opened the doors for me to do this. I also know it's going to be dang hard and amazingly beautiful.

The first few miles were super easy, and I also introduced myself to a few hikers I bumped into. Bear Bait and her hiking buddy hiked the AT last year, and Snickers is an older guy from New York City who hiked it in sections over the past 19 years and then decided to quit his job and hike the PCT. He was super sweet, and we talked a bit about why we're hiking. I passed him, but he ended up finding my sun glove when I dropped it at my lunch spot and went back to get it.

I also met a few section hiker ladies doing all of Section A. (Kim, Judy, and her friend)

The flowers along the trail and the rocky formations were breathtaking. It was the perfect start to the trail - the skies were blue, the sun was out, and a nice breeze was keeping me cool. There were also flowing streams in this section that's usually dry! That was super exciting.

But this is the desert after all, and the afternoon sun came out, hot and unrelenting. I took a lunch break, but I kept pushing on in the heat. I had taken off my wind pants and put sunscreen on to cool off. Unfortunately, I didn't reapply well enough and they started to burn.

I rolled into the tentsite at 11.4 miles, tired and ready for a break. There were already a few tents set up - some Germans (including Tomas, I helped him set up his tent after a pole almost flew away). I also met Joy and her husband from Portland, Ally from Minnesota, and Juliana, who I had been chatting with on instagram.

I'm feeling pretty worn out and maybe a bit dehydrated - I am dry camping so I want to conserve water so I have enough to get to Hauser Creek tomorrow (4ish miles away). The feet are feeling okay though, and apart from the sunburn, today was a good start.

Still hard to believe I'm doing this! Maybe it will sink in when I wake up tomorrow.

Day 2 // 11.1 miles

PCT mile 22.4

After a mediocre night of sleep (I camped on an incline), I woke up around 5:30 and slowly started to pack up my stuff. I was pretty glad I brought no-cook breakfast... I didn't feel like boiling water for coffee or cooking anything. Maybe that will be my new normal, who knows.

I still wanted caffeine, so I just made a coffee shake-up with a Carnation instant breakfast and a packet of Trader Joe's coffee. It was surprisingly good! I pulled out a Clif bars to eat on my way and said goodbye to the Germans, who were having a slow morning. I made it out of camp around 7am, but the sun was already rising steadily, and warmed me up quickly.

I made the 4 mile descent to Hauser Creek at a steady pace and stopped to fill up my water. There I met Ben and Bina, and we began the climb to Lake Morena together. It was incredibly tough, especially considering that it was 9:30am already and the sun was beating down. Again, I was thankful for my sun umbrella.

Bina went on ahead, while Ben and I leapfrogged for awhile with taking breaks. Eventually we ended up just hiking together and encouraging one another. We met a few day hikers from Montana that were staying at the campground, and finally we made it.

Our first stop was the local malt shop and store, where we devoured some burgers and fries and enjoyed the company of other hikers on the porch. Bina was there already, and I met a few more cool folks like Chris, JD, Pat, and Number One. Number One is from Germany and earned his trail name for being the first in line for the permit system we all had to apply for :)

Soon after, Juliana showed up, and we all headed back to the campground. A park employee in a truck gave us our first free ride! So sweet! We talked for a while at a gazebo in the shade, and Pat offered us one of his beers he bought, so we toasted to the trail.

They had all decided to camp and maybe have a campfire in the pit at the campsite, but I was feeling refreshed and decided to stick to my plan of hiking out 2 more miles. I want to get in the habit of listening to my own inner voice instead of going along with others all the time, so I decided to get a chocolate malt from the shop, use the WiFi there, and hike out again at 5pm once the sun had gone down. I bumped into a few more familiar faces - Snickers, Ally, and Joy and her husband Hawkins.

Evening on the trail was beautiful, and I found a sweet camp spot to watch the sunset and cook dinner. This is my first night camping alone, which surprised me a bit, since I knew Bina and Ally went on ahead too. But I didn't mind the solitude after all the social time and excitement. I made sure my tent spot was perfectly flat this time. I took it all in, enjoying seeing the sky alive with color as a sliver of the moon hung above me.

I really hope to see some of my new friends soon. But I know God will provide the right people for me to join up with when the time comes. For now, we're all still just trying to figure out this new life that is hiking the PCT.

Day 3 // 11.9 miles

PCT mile 34.3

Today was all around a pretty fantastic day.

My alarm went off at 4am, but I slept in until 5, enjoying the warmth of my quilt immensely. I could hear the border patrol helicopters overhead most of the night, but I still slept soundly.

The stars above were absolutely unbelievable to me, especially since I've never lived in the country. I could definitely get used to this! The sunrise peaked as I packed up camp, and I was so filled with gratitude for this place that I got to call home, even if for just a night.

The morning was glorious. Cool and crisp, it felt worlds better to be hiking now than midday.

I crossed under an overpass and spotted where PCT hikers had signed. I saw a name that said Corey, 2019, and wondered if it was Second Chance Hiker! I hope so! Look him up :)

I also had some small stream crossings, and at Cottonwood Creek I took my shoes off and enjoyed the cold water against my feet. What a beautiful feeling!

Eventually I also passed under Highway 8, the road Melissa and I took to the trail. It was crazy to think how nervous I was as I approached the trail, and how happy I've been since starting. It's definitely been hard, but in the best way.

Pressing on, I bumped into a retired guy named Tony, and we chatted for a while. After a bit more hiking in the growing heat, we made it to a road crossing. And guess what was waiting for us... TRAIL MAGIC! A lady named Carrie was there with cold drinks and candy! I gulped down a pink lemonade and sat in an actual chair. Snickers was also there too.

Carrie's husband Tom is hiking the trail too, so she decided to come out to the trail with him for the first two days and "slackpack" him (taking most of his overnight gear for the day and meeting him at a road crossing so he could just carry a day pack). They also wanted to offer some trail magic to us hikers as we got started. SO thoughtful.

I hiked the next few miles with Snickers again, past beautiful wildflowers and basalt rock formations. Such an interesting stretch of trail, although the sun was getting oppressive. We walked with our umbrellas, and eventually I found out that Snickers is a UX/UI Designer too! So nuts. We talked about design, apps we use, our teams, work culture, and some of our hopes for the future. It was kind of funny to be thinking about that world on the trail. It seems so far away.

Finally we reached the glorious Oasis that is the Fred Canyon stream and tent sites. It was shady, and we just took siestas and sprawled out after refilling.our water. I had lunch and stayed for a few hours, then decided to head out again around 3:30.

I met Lara, a girl from Vancouver, and we hiked together to the next set of tent sites that were a couple miles further. We had dinner and camped at a cute little shady spot, and it was really fun getting to know her more. She's super sweet!

My eyes are drooping and I have an early start tomorrow, to get to Mount Laguna before the heat. So this is where I'll leave you.

Day 4 // 7.2 miles

PCT mile 41.5

Pushing a bit further yesterday meant I got to take a "near-o" day in Mount Laguna today. For anyone unfamiliar with hiker lingo, a zero day is a day where you don't hike any miles, and a "near-o" is a day under 10 miles.

I woke at 5 again and said hi to a couple of the early risers that camped at Fred Canyon as they passed me while I was packing up stuff. I caught up pretty quickly, and we hiked in the cool morning, enjoying the nice temps.

As the sun rose higher, eventually we got to a shadier part of the trail with tall pines. I did start to feel some pain in my left arch going downhill, so I stopped to stretch it against trees. I could feel my body starting to protest and my muscles tensing a bit on this last stretch into town. "Time to take it easy," I thought.

I dropped my pack on the porch of the Pine House Tavern and went in to order some food with the other hikers. After a bit of chatting with other hikers and texting mom, I went over to the store/motel to resupply and hang out on the porch until our room opened up.

After doing my laundry and taking a glorious shower, I'm ready for some good rest tonight!

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Laura Merchant
Laura Merchant
Apr 10, 2019

Thank you for the fantastic summary of each day - I love this and look forward to reading more. I think they folks who bring "trail magic" are amazing and what a great idea for the hikers to enjoy. It is really cool how social the hike is, I imagined you being mostly alone but it seems like you are running into other hikers a lot which is really great. I'm so glad you got to do this and hope the continued journey goes well. Praying for protection and strength as you continue on your hike.


Apr 10, 2019

What a fantastic start you are having and meeting so many new friends. Go Steph. I’m looking forward to your next post.


Lindsey Gamble
Lindsey Gamble
Apr 10, 2019

I am so happy you are

Blogging as you go... I am so thankful for the moments where I’ve gotten to get to know you a little like If Gathering a few years back. I am praying for your safety and for the Lord to be so near as you journey.


Sara Spasic
Sara Spasic
Apr 10, 2019

You are off to a great start! I'm so happy for you, and proud of you, for undertaking such an challenging adventure! I'm praying for you to experience God in new ways, to hear His voice more clearly, to rest securely in the His love and care, and bask freely in His glory . Thanks for sharing this journey with all of us!


Shannon Buckland
Shannon Buckland
Apr 10, 2019

Thank you so much for doing this blog and for the updates! What a wonderful adventure you're on! I appreciate being able to be a part of it...even if only by reading about your travels. Praying for strength and endurance and good weather and peace and protection as you travel. Blessings to you!!!

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