Below are the questions people asked, complete with my answer for each.
What was my “high” and “low” from living on the trail? What was my high and low from preparation for the hike to returning home?
High and Low is a game I first learned of from a movie called “The Story of Us”, with Michele Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis. It’s a game they played with their children each day to learn about their day. What was their high and low of the day. Meaning what was the best moment and what was the lowest moment. It’s an exercise several friends and I play from time to time. You can learn a lot from someone’s experience by hearing their highs and lows.
What was my high and low from living on the trail?
This is a rather difficult question as there were a lot of highs and many lows. My high would have to be the simplicity of trail life. As I told a friend of mine, I had 5 priorities on the trail. I hiked, I ate, I slept, I took care of my feet, and I wrote posts for my blog. Those were the basics every day. With this simplicity, it allowed for a lot of time in my head, which was the primary reason I was out there.
The low of trail life would have to be the absence of my friends and/or loved ones. I realized I am no longer the loner I used to be. I prefer the companionship of friends and family to share in the experience. as opposed to going alone. I needed the time alone to sort through some things, and found the time invaluable. I realized spending 5 months alone on the trail would have been nearly impossible for me.
What was my high and low from preparation for the hike to returning home?
The high in this instance is all the support I received from everyone. It was reaffirmed I have surrounded myself with amazing people.
The low. Not realizing sooner I wasn’t planning a thru hike. In actuality, by deciding to thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I in essence created a job for myself to focus on during a very difficult time in my career. It gave me something to focus on. It gave me clarity of purpose. I realized about two weeks before I left, the proceeding several months weren’t about a thru hike. It was about staying busy, and reaching the finish line of my job. However, since I had “planned” to do a thru hike, I set out on the trail. About two weeks into the trip, I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to hike to Canada, but I was getting trail therapy, and definitely needed it. By the time I reached Big Bear, I felt cleansed and accomplished and knew I could go home with my head held high. I had hiked 266 miles in less than 3 weeks.
Are you disappointed you didn’t make it to Canada?
Not in the least. The only disappointment I feel is I don’t have day to day trail life to share with my readers. Everyone that provided feedback and encouragement, thank you. I have learned I like to write, and I like the feedback I receive from writing.
Where do you go to the bathroom?
For number 1, I would step just off the trail and water a tree or shrub. For number 2, there are a few Leave No Trace principles that come into play. You should attempt to be 200 feet from the trail, and any water sources. You should dig your “cat hole” at least 7 inches deep. So basically, you dig a hole, squat over it, and do your business. Leave No Trace methods have changed in that depending on whom you ask, you are supposed to pack out your toilet paper, since it decomposes very slowly. Ultimately, I believe this has become a bigger issue since the majority of people don’t bother burying their feces deep enough and animals dig it up spreading the toilet paper all over. Personally, I always dug a hole a minimum of 8″ deep. Also if there were rocks available, I would bury everything after finished, and would cover my filled in hole with a few larger rocks. This served two purposes. 1, difficult for animals to move and dig up. 2, it signals other humans, hmmmm pile of rocks, I shouldn’t dig there. I did not pack out my toilet paper as I was confident my holes were deep enough.
Do you ever bathe while on the trail?
I only bathed once while physically on the trail. Handiwipes become your friend in that you can keep your private areas and arm pits relatively clean in between showers. At white water creek I splashed around in the creek and washed off the salt and grit from my body. By no means was this a formal “bath”. I did shower when in town. I showered in Warner Springs at the community center. I showered (multiple times) in Idyllwild when I had a couple of days rest. So while on the trail, I had a pretty serious smell about me. You become accustomed to your own smell very quickly. What becomes “smelly” is the sickly sweet smells of soap, hand sanitizer etc. Day hikers smell sickly sweet too from the soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and perfumes/colognes. The smells of the modern world.
What wildlife did I encounter?
The trail in Southern California is largely void of large wildlife. Near creeks and streams I would see many more birds than I would see on the side of a mountain. The “wildlife” that stood out most? Ants. There are ants EVERYWHERE. All shapes and sizes, all colors. Some bite, some don’t. All want anything edible you might have.
A list of large wildlife I saw is as follows:
- Red Tailed Hawks
- Blue birds
- various other birds that I have no idea what they were.
- Many species of lizards
- Bees! While bee populations might be struggling in crop rich areas due to insecticides and what not, Bees are thriving in the back country. On a daily basis I would pass active hives, and or trees and shrubs covered in flowers, and thousands of healthy bees.
- 4 donkeys
- 2 black bears (in captivity in cages, used as movie stunt animals)
- 2 mule deer
- A snake (no idea what kind)
- A rattle snake (eek)
- Several dogs (a couple were friendly, most were not, which is normal on the trail. Dogs become very protective in the back country)
Are there hookups on the trail?
From what I have heard and read, there are on trail romances. If I were in that position, any sort of sex would be reserved for AFTER a hot shower in the next town. Personally I don’t think I could get intimate with someone who hadn’t bathed in a week or longer. I’m sure there are those whom do partake, I just wouldn’t be one of them.
Was I ever “scared” while out there?
The short answer is, no. The longer answer is, there were a couple of days I was definitely more apprehensive than others. Hiking in Mission Creek where I encountered the rattle snake, and the 1 or 2 day old Mountain Lion tracks, had me on high alert. I would say this was my most tense day. In reality, mountain lions rarely attack people. However, being in the rather narrow canyon and seeing the prints added to the feeling of being trapped. I was happy to hike out of the canyon that afternoon.
How many blisters did I end up with?
This is a tough question to answer. I don’t know how many blisters I had overall, but I had 7 spots on my feet prone to blisters. 4 spots on my right foot, 3 spots on my left foot. After about a week, my feet rarely had issue with blisters. I did get a blister in a new spot hiking into Big Bear, which I thought rather strange. Overall my feet did really well and toughened up really quickly. The biggest thing I learned about foot care, if you feel a hot spot forming, stop immediately and tape it. Leukocyte tape and antibacterial cream became my friend. If a blister started to form, I would put a dab of ointment on it, so the tape wouldn’t stick to it, and tape over it. This generally kept the spot from getting any worse, and would allow it to start healing.
How are my feet now? Having been off the trail for 5 days.
In the days immediately following the trail, my feet were in bad shape. They were tremendously sore, and took about a week to recover. Every time I would stand up, I would hobble around a minute or so until my feet got warmed up. While on the trail, I was moving most hours of the day, so they really only had to get warmed up first thing in the morning. At home, this was not the case. My feet also widened/spread out while on the trail. My feet currently do not fit into most of the shoes I own. I am still wearing my hiking shoes, nearly every day. The days I don’t, I wear flip flops. I’m not sure if my feet will return to their normal width or not. Time will tell.
Since I am home early, will I attend Burning Man and camp with Uli Babas?
As much as I would love to, I will not be attending Burning Man this year. My mom has a milestone birthday this year, and it coincides with the burn, so I will not be going. Sad horn.
What did I miss the most while on the trail?
Aside from my social life, the item I missed the most on the trail, was a place to sit. I lamented in a couple of posts how I would love to find a picnic table to sit at. In a few rare instances I did find one. By and large you end up sitting anywhere you can get reasonably comfortable. Smooth rocks, the ground, etc. The worst was typing my blog while hunched over in my tent. I wouldn’t trade the experience however.