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Days 47-59 // final days of the desert

Hey guys! Looks like there's been a weird issue with my email subscribers not getting notified of new posts. Sorry if this has happened to you! Hoping it's been fixed by now but there's not much I can do from the trail. Thanks for following along!

Day 47 // 0 Miles PCT mile 558.5 Today was my first zero day in Tehachapi! I headed over to the bakery with Cheer and KoolAid for breakfast and coffee, and then on our way to the hotel to pack up, we ran in to Stevie Wonder who had just gotten a ride from the highway. Cheer and I were going to get a ride to Brenda's house later, so we planned to get our resupply done before that. We did a bit of walking, since KMart didn't have much, and we needed to get fuel at Big 5 then finish resupplying at Albertson's. I got my largest resupply yet, just so I have the option of continuing all the way to Kennedy Meadows instead of stopping in Ridgecrest.

We grabbed some McDonald's for lunch and Baskin Robbins for dessert before calling to see if we could get a ride to Brenda's. She was asleep, preparing for her night shift as a nurse at the prison, but a hiker who had been there a few days was able to use her van to pickup up. Brenda's house was full of other hikers, so I just found a spot to blow up my mattress and sleep on the floor. But it was super nice - there was a theater room in the basement, and a hot tub on the deck. She also had some wild horses in the corral out back.

3 Bean and Foxtail were there too, and a hiker named Co-op was making burritos for dinner. It was super nice to chill and get our laundry done. I ended up snagging a living room couch, so I was able to sleep there instead. I also got to thank Brenda before she left for work that evening - such a sweet lady.

Day 48 // 0 miles PCT mile 558.5 Today was zero day 2 in Tehachapi - mostly it consisted of me eating a lot of good/fresh food, getting a massage, and grocery shopping so I could eat more food! Haha. Cheer and I got pizza at Hungry Howie's after our massages and saw Stevie Wonder and KoolAid walk by, so we got their attention and we all went to Baskin Robbins. Brenda picked us up from there and we got back to her house. I watched the Office while sorting an intense amount of food - I bought way too much. Cheer and I were hoping to go straight through to Kennedy Meadows. I got my stuff ready to head out the next day, I cludi g new shoes!

Day 49 // 8 miles PCT mile 566.5 Co-op made pancakes for everyone this morning - such a nice guy. We all ate and packed up our stuff before loading up in Doc's car. He is a hiker that had to take some time off, so he had been helping out different trail angels. A kiwi girl named Shuffles also came with us to get dropped off. I took 5 liters of water since we were starting from the first road to Tehachapi, so my pack was probably 45-50 lbs. It was SO heavy. We were back at the wind farm, although thankfully, today was much less windy. Even so, it was tough getting back on trail.

Our mega packs were hurting our backs, and we were taking lots of breaks because of how unmotivated we felt. We finally made it to Highway 58, 8 miles in, around lunchtime. We ate and soon Siesta, a guy we knew, came along. He was just going in to Tehachapi, so we told him to call Brenda for a ride and a place to stay. Once we knew she was coming, we sort of looked at each other and Cheer said, "I think I want to go back to Brenda's." We eventually caved and got sucked back into the vortex that is town :) We waited by the overpass for Brenda, and soon saw 3 Bean and Foxtail who had come a bit after us. We told them about our plans and they chuckled. They decided to keep going on, but were able to greet Brenda again when she came and got us. We headed back and said hi to a few of the hikers we had met at Brenda's - David was also there, and I hadn't seen him in a while! It was a relief to be back. Cheer and I went through our food, getting rid of stuff since we decided to just make it to Walker Pass and Ridgecrest for this next section. Brenda's daughter Starla wanted to have a movie night in their basement movie theater (which was totally legit, by the way.) We watched Rim of the World and then got ready for another cozy sleep. Cheer and I decided to stay two more days, since there was some yucky weather in the forecast.

Day 50 // 0 miles PCT mile 566.5 Tehachapi zero 3 I slept on the living room couch at Brenda's, so I woke up to sound of loud hikers eating breakfast. I put in my headphones and listened to some chill music so I could sleep in a little more. After eating a light breakfast, Brenda said she was going to make a town run, so I went downtown to the Kohnen's bakery with Starla and Cheer. It was super nice to relax and enjoy coffee, and it was fun to spend some time with Brenda's daughter. The three of us walked around town, stopped in some shops, and got Mediterranean food for lunch. Yum!

Brenda picked us up with another load of hikers. Since she had the day off, she was happy to give rides. We got back to the house, and I decided to enjoy the hot tub with Biscuit (David) and Lone Wolf (Erin). I helped make dinner, watched a movie, and enjoyed the extra rest, although I was starting to feel antsy about not hiking.

Day 51 // 0 miles PCT mile 566.5 Another day off! I decided to not go into town today, so today was mostly spent prepping my stuff to hike out, doing some Sierra research, playing games with Starla and Cheer, and cuddling the cute kitten that Brenda brought home from work a few days ago. A group of us made dinner with the communal food that Brenda had. I could tell I wasn't as hungry today since I hadn't been burning calories hiking! The weather really was pretty gross and rainy today, so I was thankful we decided to just leave tomorrow.

Day 52 // 16.8 miles PCT mile 583.3 Brenda dropped us at Highway 58 with some other hikers this morning. We said our goodbyes and thanked her for her kindness!

This was the same spot where Cheryl Strayed started her hike in the 90s and where the movie Wild was filmed.

The weather was gorgeous and our packs felt so much lighter than before. I was so glad to be back on trail! As we climbed, the wind picked up again, and soon we were hiking in a misty cloud. But we soon found a more wind protected spot to eat lunch.

Cheer and I stuck together, through most of the day. We climbed some decent hills and I was feeling pretty good, but eventually my knee started hurting on the downhill. We were hoping to at least make it to the spring, the first water source in almost 17 miles.

I told Cheer to go ahead, and I hobbled my way down the trail. I wasn't sure why my knee was having issues, but I suspected that maybe the time off in town had tightened up my leg muscles or something like that. The trail was pretty though, and I did my best to appreciate the views coming into camp.

A huge crew was at the spring, and I saw Downhill, a guy I met near Baden Powell. Cheer and I set up and ate our dinner, and I hoped that some rest would help my knee feel better.

Day 53 // 18.7 miles PCT Mile 602.0 I woke up to my knee still aching - not a great sign. I took my time getting ready, so I left around 9:30, just after Downhill. Some people came up to the spring as I packed up - Ketchup, Curly, and Pineapples. I had met Ketchup sitting outside the Idyllwild library, so it was sweet to see him again! He is from Georgia, and he's full of sarcastic dad jokes in a southern accent. Joy and Hawkins also came up too! Nice to see more people I knew even after so much time off. My knee was feeling achey as I went downhill, but the trail and weather were so lovely! I took lots of sit breaks and just accepted that I'd have a slow day.

There were some steep climbs today, but the good thing was that uphill didn't hurt my knee as badly. I tried to listen to audiobooks to take my mind off the pain when it flared up - but that doesn't always work. Thankfully there were some incredible views as I ascended amongst the pines. I also passed mile 600 after a foggy cloudy section!

Most of the day, I hiked alone, but towards the end, I did catch Downhill and we leapfrogged a bit as we got closer to Robin Bird Spring. When I rolled into camp at 7:45, there was a huge crowd. But I had caught Cheer, Songbird, and the crew from Tennessee. There was also a large trail family there, and I met Poppins, a girl I follow on Instagram who does awesome illustrations of the trail (@mariedraws_thepct). I told Cheer and the girls about my knee pain, and she offered her KT tape, and a sweet girl from Switzerland named Sherpa taped it up for me.

Crazy that I can still do 18.7 miles with a bum knee these days! I still remember how hard 11.4 miles was on day one!

Day 54 // 19.9 miles PCT mile 621.9 I got up around 7 this morning and could feel my knee still aching - noooooo. My body always aches the worst in the morning though, so I hoped it would go away. Nothing like staggering your way up a hill at 7am to dig a hole to go to the bathroom when your knee isn't cooperating. This is what thru-hiking is, guys. I saw Cheer heading out as I headed back to my tent - she was hoping to do 22 miles. I slowly packed up and said hi to Downhill as he got up and ready too. I took some ibuprofen for my knee and got going.

At first, the knee was doing okay as I went uphill, and just started aching a bit when I went downhill. I made it through the first 4 miles or so without too much pain. I stopped at a stream to get water for a long carry, and then it really started to flare up more. Even going uphill, it was pain with every step. I was bummed, because this really was a gorgeous stretch of trail, and I felt like I couldn't enjoy it well. I was just focused on moving my legs one at a time. I stopped frequently, since stopping would give me relief from the pain. I had a needed talk with God about surrendering my plans for this hike to him. Injury was not part of my plan. I was worried about having to take more time off, worried about the Sierra snow, worried that everything was falling apart. But I felt him asking me to trust. Trust that He loves me and had my best in mind. Trust that he can make this whole thing better and more beautiful than my perfect idea of hike should go. I put on the Crazy Love audiobook, took some Tylenol, and was able to make it up another hill where I ate lunch.

Eventually it stopped and I got to a long downhill section with a beautiful overlook of the desert. I was heading toward the Kelso Road water cache where I could refill my water. Thankfully, some southbounders told me there were hundreds of gallons left, so I didn't have to carry as much from the last stream. The pain relievers helped somewhat, but it was still slow going. And then, dark clouds moved in and it started to sleet. Perfect. I whipped out my rain jacket and kept hobbling down the trail. Thankfully, the sleet didn't last for more than an hour, and as I moved down the mountain, the sun came out and pretty much dried out my pack again. I took another long sit break, and when I got up, my knee didn't feel as bad. It felt weird, but not really painful. I picked up the pace and got myself down to the road with the water cache.

There was still tons of water left, thanks to some super generous trail angels. I'm pretty sure in a normal hiking season, they must put out thousands of gallons of water for us. A few minutes later, Ketchup, Curly, and Pineapples came down the trail. It was great to see familiar faces after hiking most of the day alone. They are a fun group. We all filled up water and chatted for a while, and soon, we saw a group of dirt bikers pull up on the road. They were asking about a man from Tennessee that was injured - I guess he was the dad of someone in the Tennessee crew. Apparently he was trying to get to the road so he could get a ride off trail. We didn't have much info for them, but it sounded like there was at least some kind of plan in place to help him out. The other three planned to just get to the next road, but with my knee suddenly feeling better, I decided to try to get in 6 more miles to make it around 20 for the day. My body was tired, but not in pain anymore, and I felt like I could finally truly enjoy the scenery.

It's amazing how being free of pain and bad weather makes you appreciate the good moments that much more. The evening felt glorious, with the sun lighting up the mountains and joshua tree groves just right.

I went up and around the hills as the sun sank lower, the weather perfect and my heart so happy. I made it to a spot with a picnic table and a nice view of the sunset, and I got camp set up. Today was a struggle, but ended in victory.

Day 55 // 22.7 miles PCT Mile 644.6

This morning when I got up, I noticed some cows a bit down the dirt road from where I was camped. It was a beautiful morning, and the blue sky against the Joshua trees was lovely. I got back in my tent to change and pack up, and soon I heard something walking not far from my tent.

I popped my head out and saw a whole herd of cows surrounding me! I did my best to shoot them away - I wasn't about to let a cow chew on my tent! Kind of a funny start to the morning :) I also had to shoo some cows off the trail so I could get started hiking. My knee was feeling achey and weird this morning, though not as painful as before. I popped an ibuprofen and tried to just keep going, hopeful that the pain would fade again. After about a mile, it did start feeling more normal, so I was able to really enjoy the trail. I had about 9 miles to go before the next water cache.

A few southbounders had told me there was plenty of water left, so I felt free to drink what I had. I thought about Psalm 63 where the psalmist talks about thirsting for God like being in a dry land without water. Out here, I'm constantly looking for the next place I can get water. I have to fill up continually. It would be foolish to only take one liter for a long dry stretch. But sometimes I do this with God. I forget that I need him continually, and I think I'll be fine with just a taste. And then I end up dry and weary. It's a good reminder to keep in step with him throughout the day. I made it up a steep hill, and the views were awesome. Huge desert mountains and valleys, with Joshua trees scattered through the landscape. I'm trying to soak in the last great views of the desert since I'm almost done with this section. I've loved it way more than I thought I would. On one bend of trail, I just paused and looked at the majestic view before me.

I thought about how few humans have gotten to look at this remote mountain landscape that you can only get to by foot. I felt so thankful in that moment to be exactly where I was. I continued down a hill until I reached the dirt road with the water cache. I'm so very thankful for the people who maintain it!

Otherwise this would be at least a 35 mile waterless stretch. I greeted the other girl who was there filling up too, and I saw that Cheer, Songbird, and Hop-Along were just ahead of me in the logbook. There were some funny comments about eating everything at the Ridgecrest Chinese buffet when we get to town. Afterwards, I continued up another big climb that had my legs burning. I could see the desert brush turn to pines as I gained elevation, and shortly after I made it to the top, the view opened up and I could see an amazing array of mountains, the Sierra Nevada in the distance. Wowowow. I walked to the Sierra Nevada, guys.

I bumped into a nice guy named Roundup who was very friendly. He said this is his 3rd thru attempt and he's been hiking since February. When I mentioned I was from South Bend, he smiled and said, "Oh, you guys have a great Mayor! I'm rooting for Mayor Pete." That made me smile. We admired the mountain landscape and I moved on, descending a bit through a nice tree lined bit of trail. My legs were growing weary, and I was taking a lot of sit breaks, hoping I would get to the water source soon.

Eventually the trail joined a dirt road, and after winding around lots of bends and ups and downs, I reached the stream. I didn't see Cheer or the others, but I knew there was a junction to a cabin just ahead. I filled up, and as I got ready to go, another guy came up and joined me. He introduced himself as Versace, and we both decided to try and get to the cabin. It was nice to have company - it took my mind off my aching feet. I found out he is from Maine but had lived in Washington and Oregon. Soon I realized we had been going for awhile and had definitely missed the turnoff, so I checked Guthook's and saw we we're already 0.8 past it. With no desire to do a pointless 1.6 miles for the day, I decided to just cowboy camp near the trail. Versace went on a bit further, and I got set up. It's been a while since I cowboy camped, and I was happy to finally have good weather for it!

I snuggled into my quilt and made my ramen noodles as the sun set. I did feel little worried to see a mouse scurry by, but I made sure my food was in the odor proof bag and tucked it into my pack. I woke up in the night to a few squeaky noises and checked for mice, but there were none attacking my stuff, thank goodness. I could see the milky way above me, more stars than I could ever count - another magical moment that reminded me that this is all worth it.

Day 56 // 7.5 miles PCT mile 652.1 I woke up early to the sunrise, a perk of sleeping under the stars. It was a lovely morning, and I knew I didn't have to rush to get to Walker Pass if I wanted to catch the bus. I did think that maybe I could get a hitch with the girls behind me. I leisurely made breakfast in my quilt and treated myself to some hot coffee. Usually I try to pack up quickly and don't feel like making it, but today it felt like a good idea. So nice!

Soon, Cheer, Hop-Along, and Songbird came by. They were so pumped to see me, since I didn't show.up at the cabin last night. They thought I was a few miles behind them still, but we all had decided to share a hotel in Ridgecrest so it was great that we could all get there around the same time. After I packed up, it was a nice morning of hiking downhill to Walker Pass. The views of the desert on one side and the Sierra on the other were too cool. I can't believe the desert section is almost done! It's been so beautiful for us, and even with all the precipitation, I'm thankful I got to hike it in such a pretty year.

My knee felt a little weird, but at least pain free. I was excited to get to rest it in Ridgecrest though. I reached the turnoff for Walker Pass campground and saw the other girls' names already in the register. When I reached the road though, I didn't see them. There was a note for Cheer and I that Hop Along and Songbird got a ride with a trail angel who would be back for us. I figured Cheer must have gotten a hitch though, so I sat and waited for Trail Angel Megan to come back. I sat and waited for about an hour until Megan's white Jeep Cherokee pulled up.

Megan is in the Navy and just moved to Ridgecrest two months ago. She shared about wanting to do the trail after she finished her service, and she's been picking up hikers to meet new people.

After getting dropped off at the hotel, I met up with the other girls who had eaten at the hotel restaurant and we decided to get ice cream! I picked up a sub on the way for lunch, and then after ice cream I was able to resupply at the grocery store. We headed back to the hotel and had our laundry picked up by a laundry service before enjoying our showers and the AC. Day 57 // 11.7 miles PCT mile 663.8 Hey guys! Here is the cliff notes version of my day today! Some days, this is all I can get down at night before I fall asleep since I'm so tired when I get into camp. Breakfast in Ridgecrest Megan dropped us at trailhead Big climb, awesome views

Stopped for lunch with others, Bambi and Chief Lizard from Britain Steep uphill and downhill

Pretty views, escaped the rain Started feeling hangry around 5

We were all pretty tired so stopped at Joshua Tree Spring. Had dinner with other hikers, including pineapples, ketchup, Hop Along, Cheer, Jason, Chief Lizard and Bambi. Really fun group. Pop top (Martine) came along too! Hadn't seen her since Big Bear!

Day 58 // 19.3 miles PCT mile 683.1

I slept in this morning, so I ended up being the last one to leave camp today around 8:30. The spring was 1/4 mile off the trail, so the morning started with a steep climb back up. It was pretty sunny and warm as I started another big climb. A few hikers passed me as I plodded up the hill slowly, listening to a podcast about the founders of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Most of the morning, I felt like I was moving slowly. Whether it was the elevation gain or the heat I'm not sure, but I had only gone around 8 miles by lunch time. (What the heck am I eating?)

Some days it's hard to hike 20 miles when all you want to do is rest. But I've learned to give myself grace, remember that it's okay to go slow, and just take one step after another.

I ate my lunch on the side of the trail and got back to it. Some dark clouds we're rolling in as I was on the top of the ridge. It sprinkled a bit at first, then let up. I thought maybe I'd avoid getting rained on. Then the sky broke loose. It started with driving rain, and then turned to hail. I pulled out my umbrella eventually since the hail was stinging. I was totally soaked, but the rain really got me moving. And eventually, it began to let up as I began the descent. I stopped for a Snickers break and then descended into a beautiful valley as the sun came out.

The evening ended up being a gorgeous one as I made it to Chimney Creek and made the final push uphill to the next spring, where I wanted to camp. The sun lit up the rocky trail as I got closer, and I gave thanks again for how much beauty I've gotten to see in the desert section of the PCT.

When I got to camp, I was reuinited with Cheer, Hop Along, Pop Top, and two other guys we had recently met.

We sat around and enjoyed dinner together. It was nice to have some social time after being alone most of the day. Kennedy Meadows tomorrow!

Day 59 // 19.1 miles (plus .7 mile road walk to the store) PCT mile 702.2

I made it out of camp around 7:15, ready to get to town! I had a 4.3 mile climb, and then downhill/mostly flat the rest of the day. I powered through the climb, and at the top, I could see the Sierra! Pop top was finishing a break, and I wasn't far behind the others.

I sat and talked with a sweet girl named Taylor for a while, then crushed the downhill quickly. My knee was feeling great, thankfully! Of course, the last day in the desert would not be complete without me almost stepping on a snake. Haha. Ready for a break from those guys.

I had a lunch break at the stream at the bottom, soaked my feet, and said hi to Ketchup and Pineapples who came up. I dried my wet gear and packed up. The next stretch to the Kern river was flat but pretty! Although when I reached the river I was super nervous that I had to cross it. It was raging quickly, but I realized the trail just followed along its bank.

Taylor and I breaked by a sandy bank and cooled off. Only 4ish miles of desert left! And it was beautiful. I felt like I was getting a taste of the Sierra.

I reached the road with Ketchup and Pineapples, and we roadwalked to the general store. As is tradition, everyone on the porch cheered and applauded us for finishing the first 700 miles of trail! Stevie Wonder and his dad were on the porch and greeted me before I went in to grab a cold Pepsi.

I got a ride to Grumpy Bear's retreat later where I camped. If there's any doubt that my hiker hunger had hit, the proof is that I finished Cheer and Snickers' leftovers, ate an entire pizza by myself, and half an order of cheese fries. Yikes :) Time to plan for the Sierra!

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