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Days 25-31 // getting stronger

Updated: May 9, 2019

Day 25 // 0 miles

PCT Mile 266.1

Today was such a nice zero day!

I got some extra sleep, and as I got ready to leave for breakfast, Three Bean and Foxtail told me they'd heard Grizzly Manor was the best breakfast in town. So I decided to go there instead of the Teddy Bear Restaurant again.

I was happy I did, because once I got there, I saw Tony (now Cool Hand), Chris and Bex, Martine, Versace, Diva, and Lady Bling! Yay for friends!

Chris and Bex were getting ready to hit the trail again after a few days off in Big Bear. They gave me advice on what to order, and I ended up getting "The Blob," a mound of biscuits and gravy topped with hash browns, scrambled eggs, and cheese. Basically it was a breakfast heart attack but it was tasty!

I sat and caught up with Cool Hand (Tony) for a while since I was surprised he was already in town. He had mentioned taking it slow this stretch, but he ended up wanting to get to town, so he hiked a 27 mile day! He got to the trailhead at 11:30pm and tried to hitch... not sketchy at all ;) Of course, no one picked him up, so he cowboy camped under a tree and got hailed on... poor guy. He cracks me up.

After breakfast, I needed to get to the other side of town to resupply, so I started walking that direction with my thumb out. I noticed a bus approaching and slowing down, which confused me a bit. Were they stopping for me? The doors opened and I happened to glance behind me - I was literally right in front of a bus stop sign. Hahaha. I got on the bus, and asked if they were headed towards Von's. The driver said, "Yeah, I can give you a ride, but not for free. It's a dollar fifty." When I told this story to 3 Bean and Foxtail, they laughed hysterically and said if I didn't have a trail name already, it would be "Bus Stop."

The bus driver and other riders were super nice. They didn't realize I was a hiker at first, since I was wearing my black leggings and a loaner USC sweatshirt from the hostel. The bus driver asked if I had an Instagram and added me later :)

After we made it to the shopping plaza, I hit up Dollar Tree first for some inexpensive snacks and smaller packages of stuff. It was kinda funny - the guy working there noticed my sweatshirt and started asking me about their football team this year. Another incognito hiker moment. Then I headed over to Von's, where I finished out my resupply and had some sushi, fruit, and kombucha for lunch.

I got a hitch back to the village with a friendly guy who is a actually an elder at the Big Bear Community Church. So nice! He invited me to their Wednesday night bible study and meal, but sadly I knew I was going to head out Wednesday morning.

After a little nap and some time updating the blog, I packed up all my food and repackaged stuff in ziplock bags.

I went out to this amazing Himalayan restaurant with 3 Bean and Foxtail - The tandoori chicken was soooo good.

We also met up with Lady Bling and her friend Brian for gelato before I headed back to the hostel to shower, organize my stuff, and then sleep.

What a nice day of rest!

Day 26 // 20.6 miles

PCT Mile 286.7

I got up early and quietly moved my stuff into the common area to pack up without waking my hostel roomie, Jackie.

After packing everything up, I went to the kitchen to make coffee and fill up my water. As I ate breakfast, Matt, another early riser, talked with me a bit about how this was his 2nd attempt at the PCT. Last time, he wasn't eating enough fats, and he started getting really sick :/ I guess I'll be eating more potato chips... haha.

Rose, a girl who works at the hostel, showed up around 7am and asked if I was ready for my ride to the trail. We headed out and we talked on the way there about our plans for the future. She likes abig Bear, but with all the tourists, she's hoping to move back to Grand Junction, CO where she used to live. She was really sweet though!

I said goodbye and set out. It was really cold - around 32 degrees - but I much prefer hiking when it's cool rather than hot, so I didn't mind.

The trail in the morning was a beautiful mix of gentle uphill and downhill. I noticed too that the types of plants were so interesting! Both Joshua Trees and pine trees were growing nearby, along with wildflowers and cactai.

A little later, I came across some German trail runners. The leader of the pack asked if I had seen a young man earlier, but I hadn't. A few more runners came up behind them. It sounded like this kid had gotten separated from the group, but soon the kids came up behind them and they continued past me.

After making 8 miles or so, I stopped near Caribou Creek for a siesta. Jan (pronounced like Yahn), a guy from the Czech that I met at the hostel, came up behind me as well. He asked if I had seen the Germans, and said they mentioned trail magic by the creek!

Jan investigated and came back with some cold cans of pop! It was really nice to chat with him and enjoy the rest. And soon, the Germans stopped by again! They ate their lunch with us, and as we talked, we found out they were teen track and field stars that were doing a 5-week high-altitude training program.

They had lots of questions for us too! I showed them a video of a rattlesnake I had seen and they were amazed. They offered me some hard boiled eggs and strawberries, and I happily accepted.

A bit after they left, I continued on, hoping to make it several more miles. It was only 1pm, and I was feeling good. Could this be my first twenty mile day?

The trail was so nice, weaving through pines, and I rounded the corner to a breathtaking view of Big Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains. What an awesome sight!

It continued past the north side of the lake, so I got to enjoy the view for a good chunk of the afternoon.

Eventually, I continued through a few more pretty piney areas and down towards a partially burnt area. I decided to check for service to see if I could video chat with my friend Rachel on her birthday. Thankfully, I was able to get it to work! She was celebrating with our community group, so I got to say hi to everyone. So fun!

After the call, I rounded the corner to some deer near the trail, and then kept going, taking breaks as I needed them. I was still feeling good, and with only 3ish miles to go, I knew I could make it. I rolled into camp around 6:45pm, with plenty of time to set up and make dinner before sundown. I had made it 20.6 miles! And it wasn't miserable, it was great!

Thankful for such a good day on the trail, I made my dinner and snuggled into my quilt for a good night's rest.

Day 27 // 17.2 miles

PCT Mile 303.9

I got out of camp a bit late this morning, because as I got dressed, I noticed a HUGE rip down the seam of my pants. Oops. I got my trusty dental floss and needle out and got to work sewing it up.

As I packed up, I saw my buddy Snickers pass again! I wasn't sure how far back he was since I hadn't seen him since the Paradise Valley Cafe. But his knee had been feeling good since then, so he was able to keep going at a good pace.

Shortly after, 3 Bean and Foxtail came up, and we all filtered water at a stream. They had been hiking since early morning, but since I was just starting, I got going with Snickers.

But after a mile or so, we bumped into Chris and Bex (now The Grind and Steep, because of their love for coffee and tea breaks). They were packing up camp, and it was like a friend reunion! 3 Bean and Foxtail came up behind us, and we just chatted for awhile. I could feel myself getting that thru-hiker restlessness that comes from being in one place for too long, but I pushed it down, because I these are the moments that are really special on trail. I don't want to blow past them.

Another lady walked up, going south bound (SOBO), and she was hiking the trail in chunks. We got to talk about snow conditions on Baden-Powell, and it sounds like we're going to hit it at just the right time, since it's quickly melting.

We continued on, and I chatted with Snickers as we walked. We saw rocky desert hills of boulders, purple flowers, and in the distance, some snow capped mountians including Mt. San Antonio and Baden-Powell.

After a bit, I pulled ahead, getting into my groove I crossed Holcomb Creek a few times, and the last stream crossing, I noticed a pair of underwear hanging from a tree - forgotten laundry.

Normally I like to carry stuff I find that belongs to someone else, hoping I can get it back to them, but this was a litte too much ;)

I pushed on, hoping to get to the next stram for a siesta. The miles were coming more slowly today, but once I got there, I enjoyed my long afternoon break.

Usually for lunch, I'll have a tortilla wrap - today it included cheese, summer sausage, and crushed cheez-it bits.

After lunch, my energy was dwindling, so I put on some music and podcasts. Pretty soon, I approached Deep Creek and mile 300! Woohoo!

I am so proud of how far this body has carried me already... and my feet are still doing really well. No blisters yet, since I've been pretty proactive about taping them any time I feel a hotspot. Different pains come and go - sometime my ankles hurt, sometimes my knees do, or my back or shoulders, but nothing too severe or out of the ordinary.

I was going to try and go a bit further, but as the sun sank lower, I saw Sarah and Jess had found a camp spot about 4 miles out from the hot springs. Exhausted and ready to get some sleep, I decided to camp there.

Steep and the Grind joined us as I finished setting up my tent. Long day, but it was a pretty good one!

Day 28 // 9.1 miles

PCT mile 313.0

Today I was headed for the Deep Creek Hot Springs! I didn't know exactly what to expect, but with the two big mile days before today, I knew I could stay and spend more time there if it was cool. I did also hear though that it was a "clothing optional" area so I was also sort of bracing myself for the possibility that it could be uncomfortable.

I left camp around 7:30ish, a bit behind Sarah and Jess. The trail continued to follow the creek, and eventually I got to a bigger water crossing. There I met a friendly guy with a red beard, Steve. We had camped near each other coming out of Big Bear, and I found out that he was from Michigan and we had hiked some of the same trails. He went to Calvin College & Grand Valley and was familiar with SpringHill, a camp I worked at in college. Kind of nice to meet someone from close to home.

I rock-hopped across the stream after filtering more water, and after just a few more miles, I saw what looked like a sandy beach with people camped there. It looked like mostly hikers though, so I wasn't overly worried. It was Friday, but it was still early in the day, so I was hoping there wouldn't be too many local crazies there :)

I saw Jan from the Czech, as well as Sarah and Jess and a few others. I asked Jan about the different pools, and he pointed out where they were. There was also a rope swing into the river! It was all super beautiful. I ate some snacks with Sarah and Jess in the shade, then I also saw Tom (Polka Dot) and Zohar. They had stayed overnight there and had spent most of yesterday there too.

After eating, I went to try out some of the different pools - some were super hot, but there was a really nice one in the middle that was the perfect temperature. I crawled down from the top pool and hopped in. It felt so good to soak my sore musles!

I met another hiker, Lady Magic Sunshine, who is from the Black Forest. It was fun chatting with her about Germany since I've been to that area.

After feeling toasty in the pool, I climbed down to the next few to try them out, and eventually hopped into the river to cool down. I dried off a bit in the shade, and saw more friends come by! Steven, Snickers, Lady Bling, Songbird, Foxtail and 3 Bean all eventually made it, and we had a good time enjoying the springs.

A former PCT hiker was there too and brought Coke and Pringles to share. Yessss!

Steve lost his glasses in the river after jumping off the rope swing - super bummer. But we did come up with a pretty awesome trail name for him! Since he now has to wear his prescription shades all the time, he's Stevie Wonder.

We took some lunch and snack breaks, and I noticed there were more unclothed people showing up, so I started to get the itch to leave.

I also met this hiker who had been hanging out at the springs for a full week - he was kind of weird and seemed to be mostly getting high and trying to tell us where the best spots were (but in an awkward/ condescending way). Super annoying and kinda sad.

So pretty soon after that, me and my friends packed up and headed out. It had been a wonderful change to relax on the beach with snacks, but it was also feeling skeezy at the end.

Songbird, Snickers and I camped 5 miles or so past the springs at a river where another large group of hikers was. It was a good flat spot, but super dusty. The wind was blowing, so we nicknamed it the dust bowl. All our stuff got pretty covered in dirt (if it wasn't already).

I made dinner, and miraculously, I'm still not out of fuel. This canister had been going strong since Warner Springs! I meant to get a new one in Big Bear, but to slipped my mind. I only cook dinner, and since I have a pot cozy, I just heat the water until it's boiling then turn the fuel off and let the food cook in the cozy. Still though, I am amazed.

All in all it was a mostly good but somewhat weird day on trail.

Day 29 // 15.1 miles

PCT mile 328.1

I woke up to the sound of other hikers packing up - the downside of a popular camping spot. I was moving pretty slow getting ready, and it was already a hot morning.

All my stuff was covered in dirt, which kinda sucked. It took a while for me to get my hands clean enough to put in contacts.

The morning hike was warm and the landscape dry. I decided to listen to some music, and I was in a pretty reflective mood.

I haven't shared that many of my really deep thoughts and things I've been processing here - some of that is just for me - but as I listened to Relient K's "Therapy," I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks. I don't know what it is about walking alone, but it can really bring things to the surface that you didn't realize you needed to process. I talked with God about how I wished I could have done this with a spouse in my life. I poured my heart out to him about how my life hasn't looked how I expected it would, and thought about some of my fears surrounding being really known and loved.

But there on that ridge I felt God near. I was reminded that in my singleness, I'm not just waiting. I'm living. I'm getting to experience all this beauty. And I can see the faithfulness of God in every step that has led me here.

Pretty soon after my pensive morning, I saw 3 Bean, Foxtail, Steve, and Songbird at the water source. We filled up and I ended up hiking around Songbird and Steve for a bit. There were some beautiful bushes with blooming yellow flowers, and Mt. San Antonio was on the horizon.

Eventually, we all broke out into our own paces. I took my lunch break in a shady spot, and shortly after a climb, I rounded the corner to another view that stopped me in my tracks.

Out of the dry desert, a beautiful blue lake had appeared! I knew I was getting close to Silverwood Lake, but I never could have expected it to be so huge or so beautiful. And the trail followed the edge of the lake from above, so it was some incredible hiking.

I stopped at a picnic area and bumped into Steve and a guy named Bill. We were pumped for the trash cans, toilets, and the cold water from the lake to freshen up in.

We had also heard that the Cleghorn Picnic Area that was close by could receive pizza deliveries! All of us headed there next. The trail around the lake was so gorgeous, and we weren't really paying attention to our navigation apps, so we blew past the road to to the picnic area and had to backtrack. But it was worth it!

When we got there, we saw a bunch of hikers with pizza boxes! Lady Bling had leftovers, so I paid her a few dollars and enjoyed some pizza and pop. What a sweet treat!

I met some of the other hikers, and several of us decided to camp at the picnic area (although we heard it was a good idea to wait to set up until the gates were closed at 8pm).

I had a really sweet conversation with a hiker named Carol who was camped next to me. I had just met her, but it's incredible how sharing a love for nature and this simple hiker life can spark deep conversations. I love that.

Another solid day on trail. So thankful.

Day 30 // 19.1 miles

PCT Mile 347.2

I slept in quite a bit today and I'm pretty sure.i was the last to leave the picnic area. But today I knew I would reach the infamous Cajon Pass McDonald's at I-15! And I was so happy to have an actual bathroom to use this morning.

I headed out and turned on a Tim Keller sermon about sharing our faith in joy. It was so good and convicting for me. Sometimes I feel the need to hide the fact that I am a Christian to please other people. Especially out here. I needed the reminder that when Jesus is the center of your life, he naturally will be a part of your interactions. And honestly, He IS where my joy comes from. I really do believe that I'm a sinner saved by the grace of God, and it has changed everything for me - how I treat others, how I look at my struggles, how I can have this hope even on hard days.

Again I looked out on the mountains, feeling the wind on my face and seeing the purple flowers dance in the breeze, and I felt surrounded by the love of my Creator.

The day seemed to pass quickly, maybe because I was in a hurry to get to Cajon Pass. I got into a good rhythm and was moving pretty quickly. I can definitely tell I'm powering up these hills much faster than before.

After my lunch break, the trail opened up to a mountain vista and I could see the highway below. I walked along a pretty exposed ridge for a good while, and finally, around 3pm, I reached the road to McDonalds! I had thought about going further down the road to get Del Taco or Subway, but honestly I was too tired to go explore further, so McDonalds it was.

Some of the hikers I met yesterday were there with Bill and Songbird, and KoolAid was there too!

I plugged in my phone to charge, and then ordered chicken nuggets, a McFlurry, and a large Coke. This is probably the best McDonalds has ever tasted to me.

I stopped by the convenience store at the gas station next door to replenish the food for the next two days, and then got ready to head out. I wanted to chat with my sister Charissa and brother in law Ryan, so as I headed out I called them up. It worked out super well (other than me losing the trail at the beginning of our call - lol). So good to hear from them.

I wound up some steep switchbacks and past beautiful purple and yellow wildflowers, hoping to get to camp soon. This is my longest dry stretch to date, and the 5 liters of water in my pack were not feeling great.

But I pressed on and got to the spot I wanted to camp. The clouds looked ominous, so I got ready for bed and braced myself for bad weather.

One month on trail!

Day 31 // 17.2 miles

PCT mile 364.4

I stepped out of my tent this morning to a complete fog. I was thankful it didn't rain last night though, and I packed up my stuff. Songbird and I headed out around the same time.

We signed our names in the trail register and headed up the mountain, knowing we had a full day of elevation gain ahead.

Most of the morning we were walking in the clouds so we couldn't see much besides the trail and the wildflowers around us. I missed the views,but I also was noticing more of the little plants on the trail.

We passed some creepy looking pine trees and I feel like I was in a creepy castle level of Super Mario.

I also saw some poodle-dog bush, a feared plant among thru hikers. Apparently it will give you a way worse reaction than anything poison ivy or poison oak would do. But thankfully it was easily avoidable.

Songbird and I stopped for lunch at a pretty spot where the clouds had cleared. The mountains were beautiful!

We kept heading up, up, up into the mountains rocking our music and podcasts to get us up the hill. It was already a cold day, and it just kept getting colder as we went up in elevation. I went ahead of Songbird, and eventually, it started to snow.

It wasn't too bad, but the clouds we're pretty thick. Near the top, I was freaked out by a huge crack of thunder and I saw lightning in the clouds. Yikes! Thankfully, the ridge wasn't exposed and I was surrounded by tall pines, so I wasn't likely to get hit by lightning. Still, I kept moving faster, hoping to get further down the mountain.

The snow became more gentle and the lightning stopped, so I paused for a Snickers break and then kept trudging on. I reached a few patches of snow, and got a little turned around at a side trail leading to Wrightwood. I planned to hitch to town via Highway 2, so I knew I needed to bypass the side trail.

Once I got my bearings, I checked the Guthook's app and saw I was only 0.2 miles from the next campsite and water source. But it was .2 straight up the side of the mountain. I huffed and puffed my way up, and caught the scent of a campfire near the top.

"If someone is having a campfire, I might just camp here," I told myself. Sure enough, some friendly section hikers, Stacy and Aaron were doing just that.

The snow had picked up, and on the ridge, it was cold and windy. I warmed myself by the fire and I introduced myself. They were impressed that I was hiking the whole trail, and they were really encouraging.

Songbird came up, and we decided to stay at this spot, Guffy Springs Campground. It had pit toilets and trash cans too, in addition to the fire and company.

We had to take a side trail down for more water though, and it was SO steep. The hike down and back up warmed us up, but after 17 miles of hiking, we were so done.

We made our dinner - I had Ramen thanks to my miracle fuel canister and chicken nuggets thanks to McDonald's. The clouds began to clear, and an incredible sunset appeared over the mountains. WOWWWW.

I could look down and see puffy clouds that looked like instant mashed potatoes.

So much majesty and beauty. I sat on a log and took it all in, trying to hold on to the moment forever.

345 views5 comments


Stephanie Seitz
Stephanie Seitz
May 15, 2019

Love you guys! All of your comments and encouragement are so appreciated!


Laura Merchant
Laura Merchant
May 14, 2019

Your blog and journey are beautiful like you. Love you Steph!


Brian Kessler
Brian Kessler
May 12, 2019

Thank you for sharing your trip. Look forward to reading more of your story.


May 12, 2019

Once again, just amazing pictures, so many neat experiences. I am sure you are a ray of sunshine to every one of your fellow hikers along the trail. I so appreciate the transparency in your deep thoughts. Hang tough every day. You are gathering a lifetime's worth of memories.


Gloria Seitz
May 09, 2019

The vistas and the desert bloom are amazing! I feel like I am right there with you as you describe your feelings, people you are meeting along the way, and, yes even the food!

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