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

Oh Where, Oh Where Have I Gone?

Bright spot on the trail.

I apologize for the absence here on Beyond the Range.  A situation on the PCT and then in our country have led me to “listen to my gut,” and go home from the trail. After traveling across our country through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and finally Minnesota, I am self quarantined at home in Northern Minnesota.

When we left for the trail on February 26, 2020, I was aware of the coronavirus cases in China. The virus was on my radar. I wasn’t too concerned about the virus as I thought, “I’m going to be on trail. What’s to worry about?”  Then the cruise ship passengers were being allowed on land at San Diego, CA. No worries, they are quarantined.  I started hiking March 2. As I headed north, I became aware of San Diego County. In fact, I was hiking in San Diego County. If I was hiking in San Diego County, that means I’m near San Diego. Which means, I am near the coronavirus.

First days on PCT.

Being on a trail hiking, mostly means, I have a disconnect from what is really going on in the world, our country and my home.  On the Appalachian Trail, I remember going in to town for a resupply and seeing the United States flag flying at half staff. I had no idea why, but I knew in my gut something bad had happened in our nation. Five police officers were killed and 9 others injured in a shooting in Dallas Texas it was July 7, 2016. I almost dreaded doing a resupply after that, I wondered, “I’m I going to see our flag at half staff again?”

Last day on the trail.

I decided as I headed up the PCT that I wouldn’t be surprised by anything happening off the trail and so I watched and listened as the virus took hold of the world and then our country. I made a decision half way through the day, of what would become my last day on the trail. “It is time to go home.” I will get to that critical last day in a future blog. For now, I will write about our journey home.

During the day of March 14, 2020, Tom and I decided on a plan to drive home.  In my mind, it made the most sense to leave before the state had us sheltering in place and unable to go home.  Kyle, who I was hiking with, and his wife Amy wanted to hang out one day before we headed home and we made a plan to go to Joshua Tree National Park to camp for 2 nights and then we would go home. Kyle was making plans to hike north from Hwy. 74, as he was thru hiking.  We got to Joshua Tree around 3:00 pm on March 15th and drove to every single campground there.  The sites were all taken.  We drove out the the park and went to the city, 29 Palms and boon-docked in the Tortoise Rock Casino parking lot for the night.  In the morning we said our goodbyes.

Betty the dog, Amy, Kyle, Tom and Sookie

Sometimes, Tom and I like to take less traveled roads to see more of our country and to get off the freeways.  We headed out on Hwy. 62. The road had fewer and fewer homes as we traveled east. In fact, there were long stretches of natural terrain and empty road. To pass the time, I Googled, “Hwy. 62, CA.” I found out that we were now traveling along a road that was 3X more dangerous than the average. Studies have been done to try and figure out why.  I thought to myself, “Yup, that’s about par for the course.” I put the article away and help Tom with my backseat driving abilities.  (haha)

Hwy 62, mile marker 108, Shoe Fence

When we crossed the border into Arizona, I thought now it won’t be long until we are home. Let me just tell you, we were still a long ass way from home! We stopped for the night in Holbrook, AZ. Tom wanted to stay an extra night so we could have a decent amount of time to check out the Petrified Forest National Park. So, the next day we headed into the park.  Social distancing had become a thing. The signs posted in the park, stated 6-10 feet. Also, only 8 people at a time could be inside any structure.  We had an enjoyable morning in the park.

Petrified Wood

The afternoon was spent at  Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. There is a spectacular collection of rocks and minerals to enjoy looking at. I also wanted to check out the Navajo County Historical Museum. I knew our chances may be small as back at home our local museum, Minnesota Discovery Center had shuttered it’s doors. I was interested in the history of the town and the ghosts that haunted within the courthouse walls. Alas, the museum had been closed to the public.  Next stop, Geronimo’s Trading Post to see the largest petrified log in the world. It is pretty big.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That night, the wind howled like crazy as a winter storm blew through the area.  We came upon snow covered roads within 30 miles east of Holbrook.DSC01167webDSC01169web By the time we had traveled into New Mexico we had seen 5 semis in the ditch.  We also started to see digital freeway signs warning us of the virus. DSC01184webWe stopped in a few groceries stores on our way as I knew we had little supplies back at our house. These stops came with more signs, limits on purchases of certain items as well as empty shelves.  All cleaning supplies and toilet paper were gone as well as rice, noodles, canned goods. One store didn’t have any meat.

One of many empty shelves through nine states.

It is interesting to see what people fear. I was always told on the trail, I would carry the most of what I was afraid of not having. I always had too much food. Since 2016, I have gotten better about not having a lot of food as I hike, but back to the present.  In Kansas people had bought up all the flour and sugar and butter. The middle of our nation went for products that they could make items with. The pizza shelves weren’t empty until southern Minnesota. Well, that is when I first noticed that item. The thing that I did notice, was that the fresh fruit and vegetables were always plentiful. We are a strange breed, us humans. Or is it WHAT the media and corporations have sold us on?

We (Minnesota) got meat!

As we drove through Minneapolis and St. Paul, it was eerily quiet. I think the only other time I remember it like that was in 1980 when I lived down there and drove through at 5 am. I am glad my state is taking this serious.

Through St. Paul, Minnesota

We arrived back home with snow falling all around us, but I knew we were safe. My hope is, that we weren’t unknowingly carrying the virus through the areas we came through.  I had Tom wipe his hands, car handle and steering wheel after pumping gas. If that isn’t a cesspool of germs, I don’t know what is. We tried to stay as far away from people as we could. We never ate a meal out.

Carbing up for the hike.

To the hiker community.  I hope you take the cautions to heart. We have all been asked to leave the trails by the trail associations across our country. Hikers who have posted on social media that they are heeding the warnings are being vilified. It is such behavior as this, that has caused in the past few years, hostels to close for good and trail towns and trail angels to stop helping us.  Think of it this way. A pebble is tossed into a pond. The initial plop seems small. Then you see the ripple and it expands and expands and expands until the whole pond is altered.  Personally, I don’t want to be a part of that cause and effect and I hope you don’t either. May we all work together for a change. It’s a time to be selfless not selfish.

“The trail isn’t going anywhere. It will be there the next time you can set your foot on it.” -AT hiker 2016

Petroglyph at Petrified Forest National Park


Make Hay While the Sun Shines

This medieval proverb used by English farmers, meant that when circumstances where favorable to cut, dry and store hay for their animals for the winter, to take advantage of that time.

More sun here than Minnesota!

The same can be said about my time on the trail hiking. I am trying to pay as much attention to the weather forecasts as the locations and miles on the trail. Sometimes weather can take me by surprise, as you read in the last blog about the hail. Since then, I have been on the Weather Channel app and the PCTA Weather forecasts trying to look for storms.

Brrr hail!

When I was on the AT in 2016, those around me watched the weather and so I would just listen to them. I also watched the sky. Around the time I arrived in Pennsylvania, I started hiking with 10 Bear, Little Bear and Saint Nick. As time went on, I noticed that 10 Bear has this uncanny (research and planning) ability to always find refuge out of the storm. In reality, what hiker wants to add more weight to their pack with wet gear? It was awesome!!!

Coming storm.
10 Bear studying the trail guide.

Turning the clock forward, this weather watching has fallen to me by necessity. I am in a dry camper tonight with my husband Tom, listening to the rain and possibly hail at times get blown against us. I can imagine what this would be like in a tent. I have spent many nights in a tent in such weather.

Port in a storm.
Safe and dry

I knew this storm was coming. A local said so a week ago. I have read the weather updates and so the sunny days which have been many, I have been on trail making my way north.

Under 100 miles P C T
Wind in my hair.

There was a morning I hiked in a drizzle, but I knew eventually the sun was going to shine that day and dry me out. I didn’t mind it. The wind that day and the day before was amazing as was yesterday’s. I know that wind can be a warning of things to come. I trying to get out of my hiker zone long enough to register in my mind, those kind’s of changes on the trail. For tonight, I’m grateful to be in a dry bed. I bet you are too.

Hiking in rain.

“When the sun shines make hay. Which is to say…take time when the time comes, in case time wastes away.” – John Heywood

1 Day Before Launch

My husband Tom and I spent the morning scouting out the southern terminus of the PCT. The day is overcast. There is a winter weather advisory for snow and wind in the next 24 hours. The temps have been in the high forties most of the day. The first thing we saw at the terminus, was the wall between the United States and Mexico. We weren’t there long before Border Patrol drove by. The Patrol is very active in the area. A few hikers were dropped off to start their Thru hike. We hung out for a short time talking to an Uber driver from San Diego who had just dropped off a hiker.

After a while, we thought we heard a noise along the corrugated metal wall. We went to investigate and who do we see sneaking in from Mexico, Yuri and his girlfriend Huivi. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Yuri seems to go missing for a while all the time, but he always seems to turn up when I’m starting my next adventure.

Yuri and Huivi sneaking across the border

Once the fourth of us were secure in our vehicle, Yuri started to tell us this story about his lost time in Mexico. It was something about a pack of coyotes dragging him through the drug tunnels… I could only listen for so long. I mean really, he is always telling some fantastical tale.

We returned to our camp at Lake Morena, and I went through my food pack twice, then on to gear. I decided to take my zero degree sleeping bag due to the weather, even though it is heavy.

My bag is packed and all I have to do is grab water and camera gear. I have a 20 mile hike to get back to Lake Morena. Then the next section I will head the 20 miles to Mount Laguna.

Right now I am glad I am inside our camper as it is raining in fits and starts. One more warm night before I am out in the elements.

The Call of the Trail

I’m in the zone. Some of you will know what I am talking about. Others, well… I walk to where my backpacking gear is in the house. The whole time I’m thinking about how long I will be out, what basic supplies I need in my pack in case I get hurt, lost or just want to stay longer in the woods. Toilet paper, shovel, matches, tarp, compass, marking tape, water filter, stove, fuel, cup and the list goes on. Before I know it my pack is full.

My hiking shoes fit like a well oiled baseball glove. The pack, well balanced from years of practice, sits securely on my hip. I’m ready to go and as I walk out of the house, into the fresh air of the outdoors, nothing could be more perfect.

It’s these memories, that start my yearning for the trail. Whether here in Minnesota or beyond. The winter is spent wondering, planning and preparing equipment and food.

So, for me to have been contemplating stepping on the PCT, really isn’t a surprise. It was just a matter of time. My plan? 702 miles from Campo to Kennedy Meadows. One thing the Appalachian Trail taught me, I no longer wanted to be away from my family for 6 months at a time. There are also, important trails in my state, that have officially become part of the National North Country Trail. There is a call out, to help maintain these trails, with organized trail crews and I would like to be a part of that.

So, as October ticked away and the 29th fast approached, the hype of getting online to register for a PCT permit became more than I could bare. I told my husband Tom, “I’m getting ready to get in line online for the PCT.” Him, “I thought you had decided not to go?” Me, “I’ve changed my mind.” Chuckle.

I had to be in my car on the 29th. I got in line in the queue, I was #4054. I hade 2 1/2 hours to wait in line. Plenty of time to finish my errands.

You know how there are certain moments in life you will never forget where you were when they happen? This no doubt, will be added to the list. Anyone, who really knows me, knows how I don’t like to shop. Well, here I was outside of Aldi’s, of all places, when queue entered me into the registration process.

Man, this is it! Blood pumping, I entered dates, name, age etc. as fast as I could. I had 4 minutes to complete the form. Fingers tapping as fast as they could go! Double check email is correct and send. “Oh my god, what did I just do?” I just smile, chuckle and shake my head.

I check my email to see if my registration went through. There is a confirmation, with a username and password. I follow the link to a page that lets me know my permit is pending and it could be up to 3 weeks before I know if I get approval to hike my dates. There is also, required reading, on Leave No Trace principles, fire, plus two other items.

I had joined the PCT Class of 2020 on Facebook back in August. So, now I wait, watch and read. Just yesterday, hiker permits started to be confirmed. I saw #’s as high as 3600. It’s the weekend now and I might have to wait until next week. Ugh!

I think about going out for a hike this am, but it is MN deer opener. Only crazy people go out and hike this season. I respect the hunters right to our woods and it is such a short season.

I guess I will just have to research new food recipes as I impatiently wait for news.

Creature Comforts

Yes, we are on the road, for a reunion of sorts. Just like on the AT, I’m counting the states we are going through. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana… There is excitement as well as fear. Maybe they always go hand in hand. This hike with touch 3 states by foot. A few more by vehicle.

I have tried hard not to think about the weather, but the month leading up to this hike has had nothing but weather in the news. We got snow a few days back, and not just a dusting. So, I think to myself, “We are going south, it’s got to get better.” Well if the drive is any indication, we are in for it.

This a.m. I decided to check the weather around Elk Park, NC. Tom has been telling me for a week we are going to be in rain. I’m thinking to myself, “Don’t rain on my parade.” It seems my mother’s voice always comes through with these little quips. Best to keep them to myself! (Also on of mom’s). Anyway, the rain is to start Thursday and continue on through to Monday.

It’s a wet year for the trail as we hikers like to say. 2015 was wet, 2016 was dry. So dry that I really don’t remember many bugs.

So, I sat on the edge of our hotel bed and thought about creature comforts.

Oh, that warm hot shower, dry feet, a comfortable bed. Then I think about cooking in the rain with drops of rain running off my rain hood into my meal and it makes me smile and almost laugh out loud. Something is definitely wrong with me you all might be thinking. But, during those moments for me, that’s all I have to think about. I don’t have to think about what’s in the news, or worry about my parents in the nursing home, my children and their families. I carry them all with me but the worries which do us no good just seem to slip away. I am just in that moment, letting the rain wash away the worries of the past three years and maybe, maybe a few beyond those.


Lindsey, Sookie, 10 Bear, St. Nick, Little Bear, Dad of Little Bear, Zuko

Lindsey and 10 Bear register for hike to Katahdin

It is 6:15  am and we are ready to hike up the trail to Katahdin. Tom, my husband is coming with us. There is 10 Bear, Zuko, Little Bear and her dad, St. Nick and Lindsey Taylor Jackson who is the film maker from the team for the documentary “Thru.” http://thruatdoc.com/

Lindsey Taylor Jackson, Film Maker

(10 Bear is the other film maker)  I have concerns about Tom being able to keep up to us seasoned hikers, but I will do my best to cool my jets.  We log in and start the 5 mile hike to the summit. It is a beautiful sunny day. I have no idea yet what is to come. I just know that after today I can head for home.


It is nice not to be carrying my full backpack and I realize I will never have to carry it again for a very long time. Well, at least not until next year and on very short hikes. It is good to see everyone laughing and having a good time on this our last day.  I enjoy seeing Tom finally getting to experience what I have been doing for the last two states. Climbing.

He finds it incredible, that I am moving up the trail and not even breathing hard or sweating.

Tom enjoying the view

After the first major boulder climb he finally just waves me on. I move ahead, but constantly look back to keep him in view. I see hikers I haven’t seen in a long time returning from the summit. It is so good to see them and to know that they have achieved their goal.

Old Timer

The wind picks up the minute we get above the tree line. It is quite the climb through a boulder field with incredible heights and sights. I finally see the sign in the distance and can hear all the laughing and talking. Once arrive near the sign I hikers are already talking about the Pacific Coast Trail for 2018. I just want to get done and head for home. I think, “They can have this long distance hiking. I’m one and DONE.” I wait for Tom to get to the summit. Then pictures begin.

Once the picture taking is over, we find a little place out of the wind and have lunch. It is sunny, windy, and chilly at the summit. When we are done with our lunch, we head back the 5 miles that we had just climbed up.

I hate heights

Once again my height phobia kicks in. There is nothing to do but go down. At least I don’t have my pack trying to peel me off the rock surfaces like I have the last 2 months.

10 Bear chillin’

I wait for Tom now and again as he is struggles to get back to the parking lot. His muscles aren’t used to this kind of work out or elevation.

Tom going down

20160921_145033Once we are on a better part of the trail, I walk with my hands in my pockets and often stand and wait for him to catch up. 10 Bear stays with us for a while, but then she is off and no doubt running down the trail to catch up to other hiker friends and family.

Level ground

When we finally get back to the parking lot, it is 6 pm. I was beginning to get nervous about getting back in time to get my registration card. I am #834. My hike is complete. 


In the morning Tom and I head back to Minnesota via Canada. I will get home in time to see our son run his first marathon. After all, life can’t always revolve around my crazy adventures. Other people in my life have stories to tell too.

Back home in Minnesota

Post Hike-It has been almost 3 months since I finished this incredible journey. I am still trying to process all that happened along the way and to adjust to life post trail. I was never so happy to be going home and I really didn’t care if I ever saw a long distant trail again. Now, I sometimes wonder if the call of the Appalachian Mountains will ever leave my mind. For it didn’t take but two months, after my feet and knees felt better to once again hear the call of the wild. Maybe it isn’t so much as the trail calling, but the freedom of a simpler time. A time where my cluttered mind could deal with my uncluttered world. A world where one fork, one pot, and one stove, a sleeping bag, tent and backpack were almost all that I needed. I am now dealing with a house and life full of so many things that I  feel mostly overwhelmed. I as an american, bought into the material world, just like so many others.

First hike in Minnesota at Scenic State Park

I spent the first few weeks hauling boxes of stuff to Goodwill. Instead of throwing away broken gear from the hike and replacing it with new, I am contacting the companies to try and do repairs. If I am able to just keep the ideals that were re-enforced on the trail about how to live my life then all those miles will pay off. If the parts of my personality that I discovered on the trail that I would like to change and start working toward that change, then I have learned something. Before I left for the trail, I would also have called myself a cynical person, but hiking the trail showed me that there are still good people in our nation and the world. Since I have been home, I started to watch the news again. Every morning and every evening there is BREAKING NEWS! Really? I have to ask the question. Why would that be? Maybe it is because our nation is trying to keep our minds cluttered. Why? Only each of us can answer that question for ourselves. I just know there is a better way out there than what we are being told.

Second hike at home at West Two Resevoir

So, what am I going to do post hike? I have a few speaking engagements about the hike around the area. I will be having an exhibit called-“Hiking Without a Canoe: A Photographic Journey of the Appalachian Trail,” in March 2017 at the First Stage Gallery in Virginia, MN. Then I will also be teaching photography classes in the area. Once that is all done, I’m not sure what comes next but I know right now, you wont be seeing dust gather on these shoulders.

Thanks for everyones support throughout the planning, hiking and post Appalachian Trail adventure. I couldn’t have done it without you all.

Yup, deep in winter once again

The Home Stretch

I knew I had to get my pack as light as I possibly could and so before 10 Bear and I left Monson, ME for the last time, I unloaded everything I felt I didn’t need. I sent home extra batteries for my phone, a shirt, a pair of socks, and my sleeping bag liner. I hated carrying the winter gear, but one never knows when the weather will change and things could get deadly without that gear. So I sucked it up and continued North.DSC00274F.jpg

Sometime during the last 6 days, I started catching myself saying, “This is almost over. I never have to climb that hill or take that step again. Every step I take brings me closer to home!”  I just wanted to be done.

A strange thing happens when you hike with another person. You start to rely on them and they start to rely on you, but if there isn’t a lot of communication things can go wrong. Well, that is what happened 5 days out from Katahdin with 10 Bear and I. It was a sunny day full of climbing. Neither one of us paid attention to the water situation. I didn’t drink a lot of water in comparison to 10 Bear.  She drank A LOT of water and so when we got to Barren Ledges and realized the water sources were way off the trail, we knew we were in trouble. I had only one container and she didn’t have much more. I took off down the trail because I knew how much water 10 Bear needed and was afraid she was going to have trouble if she didn’t have any water. I thought it would be a short time and I would be happily filter water for us.

The rest of the my day was spent looking for water. 20160916_183603.jpgI could see it at every summit, but it was miles away. At 9 pm in the pitch dark, I reached a cross roads in the trail. I stopped and could hear water running just ahead. I put down my pack on the ground and as it was dark moved cautiously ahead with my headlamp and water container.  I was able to fill up a  2 liter bag and then I went back and retrieved my pack. 20160917_200209Then I headed east and started looking for a site to camp. I didn’t know if 10 Bear was still coming or not, but I found a place just to the east, and so I set up my tent and then went back to the trail with a note and placed it in the trail for 10 Bear to know where to find me. I then went back to camp and filtered 2 bottles of water. I was hanging my food bag when 10 Bear arrived. I gave her a bottle of water and then we cooked and ate supper and I drank 20 oz of water. We were reminded to never take anything for granted and to be especially vigilant so close to the end, for this is when accidental deaths happen.

The next day we had a great relaxing morning. I even took time for a second cup of coffee and we went on a photo adventure before we started hiking.

10 Bear with a lot of spiders

It was a beautiful day with awesome views.DSC00260.JPG

The last 2 days before summiting Katahdin were not enjoyable after that. The miles were taking their toll. I would need to do 26 miles and then 25.5 miles back to back in order to reach my husband, Tom by 11 am at Abol Bridge on the 20th of Sept. Those days Zuko joined us.

Zuko staring down Katahdin

We ended up hiking in the dark to make the miles. 20160917_195946It had become a marathon. In those last 2 days I also lost 10 Bear. (The good thing was, I found out later, she had found Little Bear and St. Nick. Hikers she had hiked most of the trail with and she was able to spend her last evening on the trail with them.)

20160920_080129My last night I spent chasing a mouse away from my gear, but in the morning discovered he had gotten into the last of my food.  Zuko shared some of his breakfast with me and we had our last camp fire and waited for 10 Bear until 9:30 am.

Zuko and last fire of the trail

A half an hour past what I told Zuko we would wait, she hadn’t shown up and so we started hiking the last of our miles to Abol Bridge.

At 10:40 am. we got to the road and saw Tom waiting in our vehicle. As he heard us, he got out to greet us. I was never so glad to see him at this moment. I knew the end of my hike was near. He quickly opened the back of the vehicle and started handing us food, cookies he had made and Subway sandwiches, chips, pop, and candy. At 11 am, 10 Bear wasn’t out of the woods. I told Zuko, “We will wait 10 more minutes and than we will go and Tom will wait for her.” And within seconds, I hear Zuko say, “THERE SHE IS!” She came running across the road, fell to the ground and told us she had just run 11 miles in 2.5 hours with a 40 lb. pack.

10 Bear’ marathon

We all sat there stunned that she had made it. With smiles we watched as she devour the food. When 10 Bear had finished, the 3 of us got up to hike the last 11 miles to Baxter State Park. TOMORROW WE SUMMIT KATAHDIN!

The goal