Remember Angela Boone, AKA Crusher, the amazing woman who has been hiking the PCT and munching on BumbleBars along the way? Well, she’s made it through Washington, Oregon and she’s now in California! Recently we were sent an update letter from Crusher. To read her first update letter, click here. To read her most recent update, check it out below:
Greetings from CALIFORNIA!
I’ve made it over 1000 miles. It’s still hard to believe that Washington is behind me, and now Oregon! Starting out in Washington I was averaging 18-20 miles a day. By the end, 20-22 miles a day. In Oregon I was able to increase daily mileage a bit. It’s easier to do 25 a day, and 27/28s are manageable. I have even pulled off a couple low 30 mileage days. Those days were necessary to get to my desired camp spots and make the next day work in my favor. BUT they were not fun…leaving camp with the sun and getting to camp when it’s dark, quickly scrambling to set up your tent, clean yourself and your dust covered feet that turn one wet wipe black after only cleaning your pinky toe, and force yourself to eat dinner before you pass out from exhaustion. Those are very long days and my body tends to reject any movement on the following day. Those big mile days have been “mind over matter” situations – a mental switch I more recently have been able to turn on. It’s a confidence booster to know that I am capable of it. It’s all been a good lesson in pushing my limits while also knowing how and when to listen to my body. More recently though I’ve felt a little run down. We’ve had to sacrifice some sleep in order to get more miles in. I don’t want to push myself too hard, but south bounders are starting to worry about making it through the Sierras in time. Some have considered skipping ahead to do them, or flip flopping – going to the southern end of them, heading north to where they stopped in Oregon and then down to Southern California. My group of hiker friends and I hate that idea. We’re in this for a straight through hike and don’t want to skip around because it’s easier. So we’re going to do our best and take what weather comes our way. Unfortunately, and maybe fortunately for our Sierra concerns, there is a huge fire in Seiad Valley in northern California, just east of the PCT. Technically one could continue hiking the trail, but the 10,000 acre fire is zero percent contained right now and the smoke is so bad we were seeing it up in Ashland, OR. A group of us decided to be safe and skip 100 or so trail miles south and continue on. We didn’t want to get stuck in the fire if it were to spread and be the people firefighters risk their lives to rescue. So maybe this is the trail providing a way for us to get to the Sierras in time? We’ll take it. It is bittersweet, however. We don’t get to walk across the OR/CA border and take a selfie, or even see the 1000 mile marker that’s shortly into California. Finishing my second state and starting my last as been rendered quite anticlimactic.
Oregon was a great state. Some of us were discussing how to compare the 2 states and decided that Oregon has a more simple, humble beauty whereas Washington had more magnificent views. While Washington offered snacks of salmon berries, raspberries, huckleberries, and baby strawberries that littered the forest floor, Oregon introduced some blueberries and blackberries for a bit. The terrain has been much more rolling in Oregon, whereas Washington was either up or down. There have been beautiful open forests and a plethora of lakes. I finally went for a swim one day when we stopped for lunch at a small lake. Oregon had its own set of challenges as well though. There are a lot of burn areas which leave us without any shade in the blazing 90 degree heat. There was a section with lava rocks, which was a new type of beauty we hadn’t seen but very hard on the feet. There was another section of down trees, but not as bad as Cut Throat Pass in Washington. The section between Shelter Cove and Crater Lake had a 16 mile dry stretch and then a 20-ish mile dry stretch. Luckily there were 2 water caches in the 20 mile stretch that some Trail Angels have been keeping well stocked. We had a few shorter water carries towards the end of Oregon as well. You really have to plan those wisely. I came upon an older gentleman one day laying on the ground on the side of the trail with his round belly sticking out from under his shirt. I asked if he was okay and he made a comment about how hot it is. He asked what we PCT hikers do about water in these sections. I told him where the water points were and where I expected a water cache. He then questioned the water cache, saying that it’s not good to drink the water from plastic that’s been sitting in the sun. While I agree…dehydration was my other option. As we parted ways he told me to be careful because “it’s not safe” out here, and then returned to his physically defeated position on the dusty forest floor. We’ve noticed a couple different types of nobos. There are some that are the mile pushers and love to talk about all they miles they’ve done and who they’ve passed. Then there’s another group that seems to be more relaxed, averaging around 20-25 miles a day and planning a “day for drinking” in the next town. Those that we see at this point we question if they’ll make it to Canada before snow in the Cascades.
The next stop was Shelter Cove resort, a gorgeous camping spot on a lake about a mile and a half off the PCT. Despite my resupply package not arriving and having to get all my food from my buddy Spice Rack (thank goodness she always sends herself too much food), it was a lovely spot to take a nero (nearly a zero mile) day. The day before I did enough miles to camp at lower Rosary lakes – a beautiful string of lakes with picturesque camping. It was actually an incredible day! The day before I did my first over 30 mile day, a 32 mile day, so I would only have to do 28 miles to make it to this camp spot. I was sore and tired in the morning but it was my lucky day. The Waldo 100k trail race was taking place that day. Runners flew in from across the country to run 62 miles on a course that crossed over the PCT at multiple points. There were aid stations for the runners throughout the day, and nobos passed me spreading word that I may be able to get some watermelon if I go ask about the event. Of course I wouldn’t pass that up. I headed down to an aid station, located at a lake where I planned to restock water, and was immediately invited in to help myself to treats. And man oh man were there treats! The table was loaded with watermelon, grapes, bananas, Oreos, Cheese Its, chips, pretzels, jelly beans, Twizzlers, cooked potatoes with salt to dip them in, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Cliff bars and energy chews, frozen Capri Suns, and electrolyte enhanced water! It was like Christmas morning. I stayed and enjoyed it for a little bit, watching runners come through and get doused with water and get their hats filled with ice. Some just ran straight into the lake. While I was just as hot and working pretty hard as well, I was very content with my much slower paced 28 mile day.
One night before coming into Ashland, OR I saw my first hunter. I smelled him before I saw him. I was looking at my feet and caught a whiff of detergent – clean clothes. I looked up and sure enough, there was a young man dressed in camouflage stalking quietly on the trail with a crossbow in hand. He let me pass and we nodded quietly to each other. I chuckled to myself because my group of friends play this game – “you know you’re a thru hiker when…” One we’ve discussed before is “you know you’re a thru hiker when…you can smell a day hiker’s laundry detergent/perfume/deodorant for the next quarter of a mile after you pass them”. I guess it’s true for hunters as well. I made a mental note not to go to the bathroom off trail without my bright red pack by my side.
All of us ladies have been dealing with various physical challenges. At this point we all have had blisters and foot pain of some sort. I have fallen to the ground twice now! I’m honestly shocked it took me this long with how many times I’ve tripped. I’m thankful I’ve managed to catch myself with my trekking poles and not fall off a cliff. We all have our scrapes and bruises. We’re all managing our pains, working through it, and becoming stronger. As they say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”!
This is really hard. Mentally and physically. People love seeing the beautiful photos and are constantly telling us how jealous they are. I had a friend from college tell me “if you want a walking partner let me know”. Another friend told me “if you do this again I’ll do it with you”. I love that I’ve been able to expose some people to backpacking and encouraging people to get out in the wild, but I also need to share some of the difficulty. It took us a while to be confident in saying “we’re going to Mexico”. None of us actually know if we can do this. We are definitely more certain that we are capable and know we are determined enough to try. We usually have a bigger goal of making it through these smaller states, and the focus is usually to just make it to the next town. Those 4-6 days are the most we can wrap our heads around. Honestly, some days we’re just trying to make it to a camp spot, other days I don’t even know if I’ll make it to my lunch spot. We always make it though, because we have to. But for now I just focus on a few miles at a time. I can’t even begin to think about doing this again!
Someone asked us once if we just wake up every morning and are super excited. We all laughed uneasily at this… I wouldn’t say I’m ever excited to unzip my sleeping bag, let the cold air greedily overtake the newly exposed space, painstakingly crawl out, frantically change clothes before I get too cold, attempt to make my protesting body work and get going. I often lay in my sleeping bag for a bit, curling my toes and rolling my ankles to make sure my feet didn’t dismember themselves and escape in the night, checking my Guthooks app to look at the elevation for the day and hope that there’s very little uphill. The days are often a struggle. We’re doing the same exhausting thing every day. And this is why snacks and breaks have become the favorite parts of the day. A nobo from Ireland was talking with us about one of his hard days. He said he sat down to eat a bag of Skittles, looking for happiness at the bottom of the bag. When he didn’t find it he decided to eat another bag of Skittles, but they were the wild berry flavors so maybe it would work. It didn’t work, so then he ate a snickers bar. We were all laughing so hard because we have all been there. Often times you think to yourself “if I eat this bar while climbing this maybe it’ll be better”. We’ve also met a few hikers who are named after their love for breaks. Siesta, Many Breaks, Breaks – to name a few.
The daily physical struggle is a hard thing to get around mentally. My nobo friend said it well when he admitted, “some days ya just gotta cry on trail”, after telling us how he got in his tent and just cried one night. We’ve all had breakdowns of various sizes out here. Some days it’s the silly toddler pity party of “I don’t wanna climb this mountain”. Other days it’s much more – exhaustion, self doubt, frustration – all piling on until you’ve overwhelmed yourself and need to just go cry in your tent. Spice Rack and I were recently discussing how mental states like these often keeps us from appreciating the day. It’s good that we have conversations like that to remind ourselves to appreciate it, because we know when we’re back to our front country life, stuck in traffic or dealing with work frustrations, we’ll be wishing we were huffing and puffing up a 2000 ft climb instead.
Sometimes the trail gives you a little extra magic as well. There’s this saying that “the trail provides”. A lot of us have encountered this in various forms. My friend wasn’t warm enough in his sleeping bag, but one day he found an abandoned sleeping bag liner at a campsite far out in the woods that no one would go back to. He was finally warm enough to sleep. My shorts were starting to get holes in them, but then I found perfectly good shorts in the hiker box at Shelter Cove! Another friend didn’t finish her northbound hike last year because of a knee that kept giving her issues. She tried finishing Washington this year, but again had to stop. She started to admit that she needs to find another way to appreciate the outdoors that isn’t damaging to her knee, so she started considering foraging. When her knee gave her issues in Washington and she was trying to get off trail, she was able to get a ride into Seattle from a guy at a trailhead. This guy ended up being an author and expert about foraging. She got his book and is now hoping to get more into it! It’s little things like this that make the trail even more magical. Sometimes it just knows what you need. Other times it just kicks your ass.
I just made it to Castella, CA yesterday late afternoon and will be heading back to the trail shortly. I’m hoping to be better about more frequent updates… More to come!