What Me Worry

Kwaaymii Point, that is our end destination for today.  We, Kyle and I, have figured out the next three days of hiking. Our on points and our off points.  We have decided to do as much slackpacking as the trail will allow.  I hadn’t planned on a tramly this soon into the hike, but Kyle seems upbeat and in need of advice about initial trail life.  I am willing and able to help him with a few pointers, even though I think that every hiker needs to find his or her own way.  What works for one, may not work for another.1web

We head out from Burnt Ranchero Campground at 7:30 am. We amble around the campground back to the PCT.  When we get to the campground trail that winds us back to the PCT, Kyle wants to head in the opposite direction.  I tell him, “That’s the wrong way.” He stops, looks at me puzzled and tries to tell me that I am wrong.  Ha, ya right!  After a brief discussion about how we came into the campground the previous night, he doubtfully follows me to the PCT trail.  When we get the that junction with all the signs, he finally agrees that I was right.  He then proceeds to tell me how this wouldn’t have been the first time that he got lost on the PCT. He spent an hour lost near the Mexico/US border. He told me eventually the Border Patrol had to point him in the right direction.

Kyle taking a snack break.

I didn’t have time to gloat, because thirty minutes later when we were crossing our first road, Kyle wanted to power up with a quick snack, (eye roll, we just left camp) I discovered that I had forgotten my water. I told him since we were so close to camp, that I would call Tom to bring me the water I had set aside. Kyle didn’t want me to call, but I did anyway and five minutes later Tom arrived with my two water bottles. It wasn’t like me to forget anything, especially water. I must have been thrown off because of having a new hiking companion.  That’s what I am going to blame it on. I hate to think of karma.

2web7webIt was a beautiful sunny day with temps just reaching 50 degrees. Kyle and I got to know each other a little bit along the way. He was recently retired and this had been his dream, to hike the PCT. He told me he had read a book about it and wanted to give a thru hike a try. Other than that, he had studied maps. Previosuly, he and a friend had been riding bicycle for many years across the country. He had converted his RV to fit him, his wife Amy and their dog Betty.  He was worried about Amy spending 5-6 months waiting for him along the trail and was glad Tom would be near if she needed anything. 

Prescribed burn.

Throughout the day we smelled smoke. At first I was concerned about a wild fire. California has so many of them. Then I remembered that Tom had told me he saw signs near the campground of a prescribed burn for today. When we finally got a clear view of the smoke from the fire, I was hoping that Amy and Tom weren’t having a hard time breathing all that smoke filled air.

Lunch spot.

This day we wouldn’t see another hiker. It still puzzled me where the 50 hikers a day were? I figured there must be a lot of flip-flopping going on. That is when a hiker picks any point in the trail to start their hike and heads north or south and then when that section is complete, drives to their starting point and heads in the opposite direction.9web

Right before the end of the day, we did see 2 day hikers.  We got the usual questions day hikers ask, “Are you doing a thru hike?” While Kyle answered them, I sat back and listened. This couple talked about all the hiking they had done along the PCT over the years.  The brother of one of the hikers, we were told, had climbed Mount Whitney from every conceivable direction.  Kyle had mentioned about how he wanted some advise before entering the Sierras. The brother was also a guide. I took down all the information, as Kyle stated that he really didn’t know how to put things into his phone. After we left the couple, I told Kyle he really should call the guy, at least for advice if not to be guided through. Remember, he has a tendency to get lost. Mountains are no joke. It is early spring, and even though there wasn’t a major snow pack this year in the Sierra, a hiker could get lost or loose their life. It has happened. I was still on the fence about hiking through San Jacinto area as there is also snow there. I had bought an ice axe, but I had never tried to self arrest. It isn’t like there are mountains in the midwest, and we would both be considered to be from that area.

Kyaamii Point.

Within 2 miles, we came upon Tom heading in our direction and so we hiked past the Pioneer Mail Picnic Area just off  the Sunrise Hwy and headed towards Kwaaymii Point.  What a fantastic view to end today’s hike of 11.8 miles.12web

“The worst moments in life are heralded by small observations.”
Andy Weir, The Martian

Only Time Can Tell

TrailwebIt is 5:30 am on March 5, 2020. The birds are singing and it is going to be a bright sunny day.  I heat up some water for my instant Mount Hagen Coffee and Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Protein Cranberry Almond with Nature’s Earthly Choice Goji Cacao Superfood Blend added in. When I have this for breakfast, I usually don’t get hungry until almost 11 am.  While the water is heating up on the stove, I move on to pulling a brace on my left ankle. I need extra support. I usually am able to start hiking without an ankle problem, but within an hour, I have bones that feel out of alignment. The ankle brace seems to keep the bones in place. A doctor a few years ago told me I had RA because my numbers for an auto immune disease were slightly high.  In 2017, I had an X-ray on the left collar bone attached near the breastbone and it looks very different from the right side. It is very pitted and I was told there is nothing that can be done with it. I also have very sore elbows which have happened since hiking the AT.  I think it is from the motion of using hiking poles. My left wrist and bone to the thumb also has moments of pain.  Sometimes the pain of these areas wakes me at night.  I try not to over use any of these joints, but I usually don’t notice until that is exactly what I have done.  I’m no longer a spring chicken as the saying goes.

Kitchen Creek Road

Anyway, I now know that I have to tape up and brace up my joints.  My desire to be outside is so strong, that I will do whatever it takes to get me there.  So on this particular morning, I was taped and braced and Vitamin I supported.  With a full belly, Tom and I headed out of the campground by 7:00 am. Kitchen Creek Road is our destination.  I had my slack pack with my lunch and emergency gear if needed and a camera and my phone.  Tom pulled into the parking lot on Kitchen Creek Road. I thought I would see the construction worker Fred from yesterday, but he wasn’t anywhere in sight.  I said goodbye to Tom and headed up the trail. It was now 7:18 am.Trailweb3

I would be hiking up in elevation for most of the day towards our campground.  As I started in the shadow side of the trail heading to Fred Canyon, I saw a silhouette of a hiker up ahead.  I wanted to take my time this morning to let my stiff joints loosen up from the previous day’s hike. When I saw the hiker ahead of me stop, I also stopped. I didn’t want to get ahead of him, only to have him pass me two seconds later.  Yuccawebplantwebcactus2webSo, I took some pictures of the plants around me as I waited for him to continue on.  He stopped three more times before I decided I was limber enough to pass him.  We chatted a little as I went by. I could tell he was hurting and he was sweating with exhaustion from the 1000’ climb.  I didn’t seem him again.Trailweb2


The sun felt so good in the cool morning air. I continued along at a nice easy pace. There are iconic places along the trail and as I rounded a corner I saw a sign many hikers of the PCT have posted in their vlogs. It is a sign warning of a safety hazard of unexploded military ordinance in the area.  Hikers are warned to stay on the trails and roads. If and ordinance is found, we are not to touch or approach, but to note the location and call 911.  Of course, this is when my mascot Yuri decides to start goofing around as you can see in the image.  I just never know when he will decide to go on his own little adventure.  I managed to grab him before things got out of hand.


cactus yuccawebThe next few hours I spent hiking higher and higher to an elevation 6000’. My knee started hurting around noon and so I took a lunch break which included a pain pill.  My knee continued to hurt for the next hour and then all of a sudden the pain subsided and the rest of the day was spent pain free.  I managed to see a couple of lizards. Boy, they are sure fast.  I tried multiple times to move real slow and get low to the ground without bending that dang knee, but they usually took off before I could get close. Lizardweb I finally was able to manage to get close to a lizard that looked like he had a fancy collar around his neck.  He sat still for the longest time and I was able to move all around him.  Afterwards, I though, “Geez, there could have been rattlesnakes in that brush!” 

Snake signweb
My ultimate fear

As I finished taking these pictures, I heard someone talking coming up the trail behind me and as I turned to look, a hiker came into view.  I waited for another hiker as I knew he had been talking, but no one came.  As he passed me, he commented on how hot it was.  I realized then as he passed by, this same guy also started on March 2nd. He had been talking to himself and that was what he was doing now.  I waited for him to go up the trail a ways before I headed after him.cactusweb

The next section I entered was quite warm. It was 58 degrees, but it felt like 80 to me.  I would have died of heat exhaustion if I had to do this in April or May.  Being from Minnesota has its advantages.  The trail isn’t as busy this time of year. In fact, today I would only see a total of 6 hikers. Hiersweb3Not sure what to think about that when I thought 50 were starting every day since March 1.  Strange.  trailweb4deadbushwebWhen I was about 2 miles from the Burnt Ranchera Campground, I text Tom to let him know my location.  His plan was to hike out to meet me. I continued on and when I rounded the next bend in the trail, that is when I met Kyle was was from Indiana (and who became part of my PCT tramily).  He looked exhausted. We exchanged names and where we were from and that Tom was meeting me. I turned to leave, when I noticed Tom coming down the trail.  I waited near Kyle so Tom could meet him. We talked for a while and then as we were heading off, Kyle asked if he could join us and we said. “ Yes.”  We found out he was also heading to the campground to meet his wife Amy.  

Looking back at the terrain I hiked today.

I don’t know why the last couple of miles of the day always seem the longest.  Kyle was getting slower and slower and Tom and I decided to stop in the shade among the snow and take a break so Kyle could get refreshed. 


lichenweb Within 15 minutes we arrived at the junction sign for the campground and our campsite.  signwebAs it turned out, Kyle and Amy were in the site right next to ours.  It was 2:30 pm and I had gone 11 miles.  The rest of the day I rested my knee.  The evening was spent talking to Kyle and Amy and realizing they had been at Lake Morena and now Mount Laguna when we were.  Amy had noticed us on day two at Lake Morena when I came limping into the campground with Tom.

Kyle and I made a plan to slackpack together for the next few days.  He saw the advantage to slackpacking over carrying a full backpack. I know I was enjoying the change. 

It is always interesting to me, who gets put unexpectedly onto my path. It always leads to some interesting adventures…sometimes good, sometimes not so good.  I didn’t know yet, which this was going to be. Only time could tell.treeringweb

Defrosting Into Spring

Ethel, where’s the water you promised?

My mind is drifting through a fog as it registers that the sound I hear are birds singing. My eyes are closed tight and I try to open them and I can’t. They are just still so heavy with sleep.  As the singing becomes clearer and clearer, I think, “OH NO! GET UP! IT”S TIME TO HIKE.”  I start to really wake up, and as I push my hands down on what I think is my inflatable sleeping pad, I realize I am on my mattress in bed back in Minnesota. I’m no longer on the PCT trail. I don’t have to force myself to open my eyelids that seem at this moment frozen shut.  I can enjoy the moment, the birds are singing in the early morning light.  The singing is an indication that winter’s long grasp on our landscape is starting to slip away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese sounds take me back to a little over a month ago when I was out on the PCT.  The evening of March 2, 2020 brought the song of frogs in the evening and bird song in the morning. To think that I hadn’t heard frogs or birds singing for nine months.  It amazes me how I can forget certain sounds of nature, especially when those sounds are so beautiful to the ears. When I hear them, memories of years prior rush in.  Just like bird songs.  People may wonder why I continually head to the trails? My answer to this question, would be to immerse myself in the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of everything around me while I am out there. I can’t seem to satisfy my fascination of nature.

How low can I go?

As I hiked up the trail, I could just feel all the weight of winter just lift off my shoulders.  It was incredible. I just wanted to bottle it all up, for those cold, wet winter days of my future. I tried to imagine and memorize every detail. Therefore, I was carrying one camera and my iphone which were constantly being put to my right eye as I discovered more and more (unknown to me) plants with every step I took.  At the rate of picture taking, I figured it would take me years to cover the length of this trail.  

Oh the agony

Because most of the plants were low to the ground those first days, it wasn’t long before my right knee started to give me trouble. I was squatting and bending over a lot. By the 1:30 pm on my first day, my knee was having an issue.  I had to quit bending over and when I realized I was walking stiff leg, I sat down and had lunch and Vitamin I.  It helped to take a break. I hadn’t planned to hike 16 miles that first day, but my thoughts were, I would have less than 5 the next day and I could rest my knee the rest of the second day.  That extra push on the very first day, caused me to have a knee issue that would last the rest of my time on trail.

Sookie loving the trail even with an injury

When I got to camp on day 2, I text my sister-in-law Beth, a physical therapist, for some much needed advise on how to tape my knee with KT Tape.  It helped tremendously. My day 3 plan was to slackpack from Lake Morena to Kitchen Creek Rd., to get the weight of the pack off of my knee, which was a 10 mile stretch. I got up at 7 am, had my oatmeal and coffee breakfast. Taped my knee gobbled down some Vitamin I and I headed around Lake Morena. It was 8 am. The terrain was a lot easier than I expected.  I think I had the Appalachian Trail in my mind. The AT is grueling those first days. This was like a walk in the park and the temps were ideal at high 40’s to low 50’s and the sun. Oh that sun. Who could complain.


Trail in the distance

I so enjoyed this beautiful day. I only saw 5 hikers all day.  Tripod, from San Diego, and I struck up a few conversations as we passed each other throughout the day and when I was half and hour from Kitchen Creek Road, I sat down in the shade for lunch.  Tripod was behind me and as he passed by me without seeing me, I said hello.  He turned and stopped.  The first thing he said to me is, “Do you know you are sitting in a great spot for snakes?” I just about jumped up as I started to look around when he started to chuckle. “UGH!” I then chuckled too as I realized he was teasing me. Let me just say I have a healthy fear of rattlesnakes. He then joined me on the ground and we had a pleasant lunch. 

Indian Paint

We parted ways as I finished my lunch and in a short time I was at Kitchen Creek Rd.  The trail crossed the road and continued on, but this was my pick-up point.  I found a rock to sit on and waited for Tom.  It was 1 pm.  Tom had taken our trailer to Mount Laguna to the Burnt Rancheria Campground.  It was going to be cooler there because the elevation there is 5970. While I sat and waited, I talked to a road construction worker named Fred.  He told me that 3 illegals had died this winter from hypothermia, not far from here. As I looked up at the terrain from the elevation of 3999 where I was at, I tried to imagine such a horrible end to their lives. It was hard to imagine on this beautiful sunny day.  Fred lived near Campo and he told me how in the past 10 years, life around the border had changed significantly.  He has had to make multiple calls to the Border Patrol at night for illegal aliens trespassing on his property.


Fred then went on to tell me about a 150 pound mountain lion that had been hit by a vehicle in the area.  He asked me if I was afraid. I told him I was trying to be aware of my surroundings.  He then went on to say that the population of the cats was getting out of hand and that a debate about hunting with a lottery draw was being discussed.  The cat he mentioned is on display in the office he works out of. He lifted up his hand and spread out his fingers and said the cat’s paw was the size of his hand.  How he expressed his emotions during the story about the cat, showed me he wouldn’t want to be in my hiking boots and come across such a cat.  A pleasant time passed talking to Fred about the area and his life.

Tom Metalweb
Tom digging for the lost gold of California

Eventually, Tom arrived and we headed up the mountain to Mount Laguna.  The rest of the day was spent with Tom metal detecting and I of course taking pictures.  To say my knee didn’t hurt every evening would be a lie, but it did help to be done with the trail before the day was half over. The slackpacking would be doing my knee good.

Spring buds

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg