Thursday, May 22, 2008


Yesterday I hiked out of the Cajon Pass into the mountains above Wrightwood. It was a very long climb, about 5000ft in 20 miles. My left foot hurt a lot because it's got some bad blisters and because the trail was a lateral trail that always seemed to be tilted the wrong way.

I lurched and trudged up the trail. At one point I thought I really needed to figure out a reason why I still enjoy doing this because if I don't, I'm going to quit. I mean, my feet hurt all the time either from blisters or just tenderness, and my pack just feels way too heavy. It constantly cuts into my shoulders and I can't really get it to set right on my body. I relied on Ibuprofen to keep going much of the day.

There really is no such thing as ultra-light hiking on the PCT. My base pack weight is under 20lbs but then you have to add tons of water for the ubiquitous "water alert" sections and your food. It's always hovering at or over 30lbs and to me that's just way too heavy.

The first thing I'm going to do is embrace dehydration. It's tiresome stopping to go to the bathroom anyway. No more 5 liter carries. From now on it's 3 liters maximum.

I think I'll embrace semi-starvation as well. Too many easy side-trips I didn't even know would happen have made carrying food for every meal a silly waste of weight. Maybe one of these days I'll get lucky and instead of just a cooler full of fruit I'll stumble upon the ice cream or root beer floats being handed out on the trail.

Other than that, I'm afraid there's not much else I can eliminate from my weight. I have used everything I have more than once. I haven't even been carrying a stove. I bet without the stove the base weight has been closer to 15lbs than 20. I'm probably going to add it back in so I can have some hot drinks and mashed potatoes.

Enough complaining.

As I reached the higher altitudes yesterday the trail leveled off a bit and I started feeling less glum. It's really quite pretty up here.

Late in the afternoon I could see the town of Wrightwood below. There's a side trail called the Acorn trail that you can take to get there. I had planned to take that trail and call a friend's dad to get a ride into town. I took one look at all that lost altitude and thought there was no way in hell I'd give up all that hard-won elevation gain.

So I hiked past that trail to Guffy camp with visions of a warm, snug, sheltered happy place in the trees. Instead it was a cold, windy as heck place in the trees. I set up my tent and it didn't fall down thanks to the extremely heavy rocks they have up there. But being basically a tarp tent, the wind blew a fine dust into the tent all night. Fortunately my sleeping bag kept me warm enough with me wearing my silk underwear, hazmat suit (purchased at ACE Hardware for about $10) and my Patagonia down sweater. I hope the sleeping quilt I've ordered to hopefully shave a pound off my pack will be as warm.

In the morning I slept in a tiny bit because it was very cold. I packed up and got going around 7AM. I only had 6 miles to go to Highway 2 where I should be able to get a ride.

Along the way the clouds started to look kind of dark. I decided I better get my hazmat suit out and ready. I stopped to do that and realized I was getting really cold so I put the suit on. Just then snow began to fall.

I really enjoyed the snow. With my hiking clothes, hat and scarf, hazmat suit and my Marmot Dri-clime jacket I was plenty warm enough while hiking. Just perfectly warm that I didn't sweat. I marveled at the snow and was happy to be out hiking.

When I reached Highway 2 there was a man from Alabama sitting there eating. His name was Graybeard. I asked him if he was going to Wrightwood and he said yes but there had been no cars coming down the highway. I told him I had a phone number. So I whipped out my phone to call. No service.

No problem. I felt pretty good so a road-walk didn't bother me. The two of us took off down the road to Wrightwood.

Eventually a car with a young driver came by. We tried to thumb a ride but he didn't stop. We tried to figure out why. Maybe because he's too young and thinks hitchhikers are bad people, or maybe he was late for work. No problem. We kept walking in the driving snowfall.

After a few minutes the same car came back and made a U-turn to pick us up. The driver explained he had other hikers in his car already and that's why he didn't stop before. He and his friend had planned to go for a day hike but then the snow changed their plans so they were driving hikers into town instead.

We got the scoop from them on a good place for breakfast and that's where we were dropped off. Graybeard and I went in for breakfast, and then Gary showed up, too. One of Gary's days put my 28 mile day to shame. He basically did my 28 mile day plus another 15 or so, hiking from Deep Springs Hot Springs all the way to Interstate 15 in one day.

After breakfast I cruised the happening hardware store. They had a hiker register and hiker box (a box full of unwanted items). The register had a listing of local families that take in hikers so I called one of them. The Tretters. It's so nice of them to do this. Laundry, Internet, a nice bed in the RV, a hot shower (really super hot, too!)

So I'm going to rest my blistered feet and wait for Tony to arrive tomorrow. Then I'll mail on my bounce bucket to Agua Dulce and buy a few things to make the 90 miles to get there. I'm getting tired of trying to steal TP from outhouses along the way. Time to buy a roll. Then together we'll see what lies ahead on the trail. I hope whatever's ahead is not too disappointing for him. As nice as the trees are here, it's really not a very wild place.


  1. Hey 40-something woman. Just want you to know I'm reading your blog. Hang in there. My husband, also trailname Greybeard,but from Kentucky, is also PCT thru-hiking. He just called me from mile 468. He has complained about the heat more than anything. Also, some of the campgrounds being closed. I'm flying out Monday to support him as long as possible with cold water, warm clothes, etc. He just turned 67 on the 20th of May. I'm proud of all you hikers. Keep hiking. His blog is

  2. Diane, I hope you do not give up and quit hiking. I realize it is not my feet with blisters, or shoulders that the pack is digging into, but I have found that my most difficult hikes have left the most profound memories. Doing somthing really hard can have a life changing affect on us.

    May I explore some suggestions with you? If your pack is 30# but digging into your shoulders, it sounds to me like it does not fit correctly! My old one did that. My new one is a dream and does not! Is there a way on a town stop you can get to an R.E.I. or other realiable store and have that looked at?

    I have also found that freeze dried dinners are very lightweight and very satisfying. I also do not like to cook when hiking, so all I do is boil water in my pot, for these dinners. I also eat mashed potatoes like you mentioned. This does mean carrying a stove but you would also have the comfort of a hot drink. I am wondering if there is a way you could also lighten up your other food that you don't have to cook? This is usually the "heavier" food in my pack.

    About the water, I was wondering, do you drink all 5 L.? If you do, maybe only try cutting it to 4 L.?
    Do you use Gator Aid or other electrolyte drinks?

    I am thinking you will set yourself up to fail if you restrict your food and water too much: you could then feel so bad you are not enjoying it at all, and then want to stop.

    I love reading your journal because it sounds "real" to me. I too, experience much of what you describe, discouragment, aching feet and camp sites that are less then wonderful. I find your writing very inspiring.

    I am not sure where you are from, but I live in Washington and when you get up here would be glad to offer rides, laundry, a bed, or what ever assistance you would desire.

    Diane, I do not pretend to have all the answers, I just think after all you have put into planning this trip it would be such a bummer to not complete it. I am 61 and have been back packing for over 30 years, so have some experience, though all of that in this state only. Never desert hiking, (why I am facinated with your journal!) I encourage you to keep going. Take good care of yourself along the trail so you feel your best, keeping your motivation up and enjoying the journey. That is what it is all about, isen't it?

    I wish you the best, Sally

  3. You are an inspiration to me and my son. I will keep tabs on you with your postings and have added you on my favorites. You have raised the level of my possibilities. If you need a drop off for supplies, my son lives in Folsom near PCT

  4. Thank you everybody for your nice comments.

    Sally, there is a chance to get to an REI from Agua Dulce so I'm going to give it a try. My backpack seems capable of carrying only about 22lbs well. After that, it seems to have trouble. Who knew I'd buy all new gear along the way! Thank goodness I saved for 10 years.

    Veronica and Carl, I have met Graybeard. We walked into Wrightwood together and ate at the Evergreen. He's here at Agua Dulce where I have just arrived today. He's a cool guy.

  5. Hey, Diane. Your mom has been sending me your posts, but today I decided to check out a map of the PCT and thus, found this blog site. I love that I can hear your voice in your writing, and have been looking forward to each new post! It is amazing but I am actually "kidless" June 22-25, and am interested in trying to hook up with you. If you have a way of contacting me and can let me know where you estimate you will be, that would great. Otherwise, I will continue to live vicariously through your wonderful writing! Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and know that lots of us have you in our thoughts.