Here I am just casually sliding down Forrester Pass ( 13,124 ft). It was either do the slide or posthole down the whole way. We chose the slide 😉. Don’t worry it flattened out before it cliffed out
Be still my heart.
This. This is what I have been waiting for.
Short update: The last update was from Tehachapi, CA. We had 140 Miles to go until Kennedy Meadows, which is the official switch from desert to mountains. We took two zero days there to relax and prepare our weary bodies and minds.
Then it began. We headed off to the Sierra Nevada mountains beginning at 6,427 ft of elevation knowing that in just a few days I would be standing atop the tallest mountain in the continental US (Mt. Whitney 14,505 ft).
As silly as it may seem to some people, just sitting here writing this blog thinking about the last couple of days has me feeling emotional. This last stretch has been some of the hardest and best days of my life.
After working so hard for 700 Miles in the desert I have been given the most breathtaking reward.
For me it started with water. All of a sudden there was water, everywhere. Then the rocks, and the trees. We left sagebrush and Joshua trees behind and traded them for Sequoia and pine trees. The lizards disappeared and now marmots watch me and scan for any crumbs I leave behind. As we kept climbing and huffing up beneath the trees, I had no idea what was in store.
Then out of nowhere like a dream we arrived to this.
It only got better from there. In the following days we would walk through countless high alpine meadows, lakes, snow fields, climb Mt Whitney, go over THREE high mountain passes that looked impossible like this one below. All while carrying everything we need on our backs.
What a ride it has been. I’m ready to get back out there and do and see more. Bring it on!
Like Bilbo in the Fellowship of the Ring, Amanda and I have been dreaming about mountains for the last 750 miles and before when we were looking forward to this trip.
The desert of Southern California was alright. It had its moments, but 700 miles of it was more than enough. Kennedy Meadows, at mile 702, was the official end of the desert. We expected real mountains, but all we got was some dry, kinda desert kinda mountainous country. And at the legendary hiker spot, the Kennedy Meadows General Store, it was really just a huge crowd of hikers, bad resupply, and overflowing port-o-potties. And for some reason, they shut everything down at night, and I mean everything, except for the speakers blasting loud music at all hours of the night.
So we pushed past, ready for mountains, but for close to 50 miles, we just steadily gained elevation through more dry, kinda mountainous country.
Then three days ago we hit mountains, and damn has the high Sierra delivered. It has been three days of enormous peaks, broad alpine valleys, and more lakes than you can imagine. Check out Amanda’s instagram and you’ll see that we have been to some gorgeous places. But the last few days have probably been the most scenic hikes we have ever done.
The first day, we took a side trail to hike to the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous US at 14,505 feet tall. The next day, we hiked though some beautiful alpine valleys and braved the snow on Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT at 13,123 feet. The third day we hiked through Kearsarge Pass and viewed more pristine lakes and valleys. It was such a beautiful several days it was almost overwhelming.
There is something special about land when you get above timberline. It’s as if everything is a miracle. Every stream and cliff face is special. Take those same streams and cliffs and place them in low elevation desert and they wouldn’t be the same. But above the treeline they take on this different life that you just don’t get anywhere else.
Now we sit in a coffee shop in Bishop, CA. Our resupply is done. We just have a few more chores to take care of and we’ll be ready to hit the trail again. It will be just under 120 miles of more alpine beauty. I can’t wait.
500 Miles!! Actually we are at 566 Miles now in Tehachapi, CA.
For me (Amanda), this was a minimum. We had to at least walk 500 Miles so we could say we did it. But here I am sitting in some small laundromat writing a blog and cleaning my clothes for the next section up to Kennedy Meadows. Kennedy Meadows is 140 miles away and it is also the beginning of the Sierra Nevada mountains!!!! We could not be more excited. The desert has been a huge portion of this trail and we are ready for some different scenery and for some damn water.
This stretch that we just ended is one of the more notable and infamous stretches on the PCT. We hit three huge hiker stops Hiker Heaven, Casa de Luna, and Hiker Town. We also had to walk 17 Miles along the Los Angeles Aqueducts through the Mojave Desert with little to no water resupply. This means that the best thing you can do is night hike and “try” to sleep during the day. Fortunately for us, we happened to walk through this part during a rarity: it was cold, rainy, and overcast….. in the Mojave. Not only was it cold but in the middle of nowhere desert we also received trail magic from a Burning Man group! We were walking through some tremendous wind through a wind farm and before we saw it we heard electronic music and smelled incense. Upon arrival we were greeted by a huge tent set up of grills, snacks, cold drinks, puppies, chairs, music, charging stations, and facials! It was a wild experience.
We were greeted by trail magic twice more after that! Once from an cool, old Hippie from Tehachapi and second from a trail angel named Coppertone.
The trail has been completely different than we anticipated. Instead of solitude and quiet it is very social. Whenever we get to town we are greeted with open arms by trail angels who would be happy to drive us to the grocery store and the laundromat. After every resupply we have a new “tramily” of people to get to know for the next section. For two introverts we hope that the crowd thins like every says that it will in the Sierras, but we are also enjoying meeting new people and having different experiences.
Sage and Pinion
Corey’s thoughts about thru hiking so far:
1: I feel like I’m doing sports right now, like I’m in high school doing track or football. Hiking 20 miles in one day is tough. Hiking back to back 20 mile days for several days in a row is tougher. I thought I was in good shape before, but this is something else. We’ve got aches and pains, we’re taping up sore joints, and taking ibuprofen to help with swelling. Its tough work.
2: We’ve definitely seen some gorgeous country, but something we didnt think about is that we can’t skip the not so gorgeous spots. When we’ve done trips before, we drive through the boring places to get to the great ones. When you’re thru-hiking, there’s no car, so you have to trudge through the hot, desolate places, often filled with major highways and private property so that you can get to the next mountain range.
3: Heres a detail you might not want to know. Leave no trace ethics in backpacking areas like the PCT compells you to pack out all of your used toilet paper. I was pretty apprehensive about this at first. Turns out its not so bad. I dont even notice its there. And anyway, whatever small amount of smell is coming off of it doesnt even compare to my stink after 100 miles without a shower.
4: The heat of the desert is brutal. Measures like night and very early morning hiking become necessary just to get by.
5: Food and drink that I may have turned my nose up at before is now a huge treat. Mcdonalds and cheap light beer after a bunch of hiking really hit the spot.
Pinion aka Corey
1. 10 before 10. 10 Miles before 10 AM is a good thing.
2. Oreos are my best friend. On the trail you can literally eat anything you want. You are burning thousands of calories everyday. Oreos are what I want!
3. The trail and my mind are more beautiful in the morning and the evening. In SOCAL it is hot, like really hot. We like to hike early in the morning, take a siesta in the afternoon when it is hot, and then hike again in the evening. My mind does better when it’s cooler!
4. What do I miss the most? My family, my bed, my cats, and vegetables lol. Oh also, showers, I miss showers ALOT.
5. Time to myself. I have never had so much time to myself before and my brain and I have a lot of conflicts but we always work it out.
6. Water water water. Water is everything. When I wake up I think about water, when I’m huffing from a climb it’s water, when my mind is wandering it’s water, when I go to bed it’s always water. We carry enough water and never go without but it is definitely what our lives revolve around right now. Where we camp, where we lunch, and how many miles we walk depends upon water. Water is the essence of life.
7. Trail magic. Trail magic is awesome and always in the back of my mind. I hope over the next hill someone will be waiting there with Gatorade. That is always what I crave. Instead it’s always beer! A cold beer can do the trick as well. Trail magic is amazing and so surprising and generous. We run into so many people who do trail magic just for fun and because they enjoy the hiker trash culture so much. Everyone has been so nice, whether it is food, hitches, or even letting us stay at their place!
8. Bedtime. Thru-hiker bed time is 8 PM sharp. Don’t mess with the flow!
9. Food. I can’t even begin to tell you how much food I am currently eating. I would guess around 3-4 thousand calories a day and I’m still losing weight. When we get to towns I can put down 3-4 thousand in one sitting. It is insane. Here is my new favorite breakfast to put things into perspective. A tortilla wrap consisting of a thick layer of Nutella and a package of pop tarts, then two packs of oatmeal. That and a snack of a snickers bar last until about lunch.
10. Listen to your body. That is the best advice I could give any hiker. If your body says no, listen.
Sage aka Amanda
We will hike over 26 Miles today just so we could eat at McDonald’s! Yay for calories! Lol
We’re here in Big Bear City and we’ve now made it 266 miles from the Mexico border! Its been a pretty crazy, tough time since the last update. We last made a post in Warner Springs back at mile 109. We’ve hiked through a few different mountainous areas and quite a bit of desert.
Not long after Warner Springs we encountered the San Jacinto Mountains. They were steep and pretty. The trails felt like Colorado trails, so we were quite at home. There were some very tall trees and some big viewpoints. In the middle of those mountains, we hit the town of Idyllwild. We decided to take a day off and rest the legs. Idyllwild was a fun and quirky mountain town. They had a great grocery store (finally some decent backpacking food!). We also got to meet the mayor, a golden retriever named Mayor Max (yeah, he really is the mayor).
After Idyllwild, we went back into that same mountain range for a few days. Then we descended 8000 feet of elevation in about ten miles into the valley where interstate 10 goes from Palm Springs to Cabazon. Once we made it down, we were in the desert, where the temperature was in the nineties. We ran into some much needed trail magic (thanks DNA!). We then continued through the desert heat for another grueling few days before finally making it back into some cooler mountains. Those days going down to I-10 and all the desert that followed have been the most challenging so far.
Then we passed into the San Bernardino mountains and into Big Bear City. Now we’re about to head back out for another hundred miles. Next stop, Wrightwood!
Hello, mile 100!
We’ll, we’re over 100 miles in. I want to tell you it’s been the best time ever. I want to say that the food has been great and we smell like roses. But dang, this is dirty and difficult work. We stink, we’re dirty, and we have various aches and pains in our legs and feet.
Each day in Southern California has been a little bit different. The low elevations were hot and slightly humid. The high elevations were warm and actually had some trees to give you a little shade. But mostly the hiking has been in desert mountains. Its a lot of up and down, a lot of rocks, and a lot of exposure.
This morning’s hike was maybe my favorite. It started out in the mountains, then progressed into a low, open prairie area. It was open and very scenic. Then it led to a walk along a stream (quite the rarity out here). There was grass, some huge, gnarly trees, and a herd of dairy cows. This reminded Amanda much of good ol’ Nebraska!
But each day we fall more into a rhythm. Hike in the morning, siesta in the afternoon , and finish the hike in the evening. Our feet and legs hurt a little less. We figure out how to feed ourselves. And we can hike a little farther each day. As we discover our rhythm, we enjoy what we’re doing more and more.
Also, “trail magic” is a real thing! Thanks to all of the trail angels out there for taking care of us!
Corey and Amanda