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

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


I wish I could tell you that I never set the woods on fire, but that just isn’t the case. When I was around 8-9 years old, I was pretending to camp with my younger brother Vern and 2 younger cousins. We were in the small woods behind our house. I couldn’t tell you if I was taught how to make a campfire by my dad or not. We had gone camping in the BWCA quite often and so I know I had observed how to make a campfire.

Anyway, I had snuck matches from the house. The 4 of us were playing camping and so I guess I figured we needed a campfire. It was a dry spring with lots of dry grass. I lit the first fire and we stomped it out and thought that was fun. I lit 3 more spots and that is when the real trouble started. The fires grew and we were no longer able to put them out. We had an empty Skippy Peanut Butter glass jar and so we were running to fill the jar with water down a dirt road behind the fire and the house. The fire was gaining in size and at this point, I sent my brother home to tell dad. I guess you could say we were lucky it was Sunday afternoon as 2 more Uncles had shown up. After that, all I remember was a lot of yelling, crying and Uncles with shovels trying to put the fire out.

Once extinguished, we were all covered in soot. I was sent to my bedroom for the rest of the afternoon. I remember watching my cousins laughing and playing outside while a was shut away. I’m not sure what my punishment was after everyone went home, but I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant.

I learned how dangerous fire can be and how fast it can get out of hand. My dad taught me the proper way to have a campfire after that.

Two September’s ago I hiked out on the KEK Trail alone for 3 days. There had been terrible blow-downs with the most recent in 2016. It was raining the day I went in but sunny and windy when I headed out. The amount of deadfall along the trail was scary. All I could do was imagine the conflagration if a wildfire broke out or a careless hiker or camper left a smoldering campfire.

Crews have worked hard the last few years to clear the trail. This trail is now a segment of the NCT in Minnesota. It will take a tremendous effort to minimize the fire danger in this area where no mechanized equipment can be used.

You may wonder why am I talking about fire? Well, I received my California Campfire Permit yesterday so that I can use my camp stove while on the PCT. We all know the fire danger that exists in the state of California. I don’t plan on having a campfire even though I will have cold temps with an early March start date. A hot breakfast and supper will be something to look forward to on cold days.Hiker midnight for me is 7 pm and with the sunset at 6pm I know I will be snuggled up in my 15 degree Thermarest sleeping bag and X-therm mattress so no campfire will be necessary.

Who knows though, I might just learn how to go stoveless.

Remember what Smokey says, “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires”.


On November 13, 2019 I received an email from the Pacific Crest Trail Association. This email stated that my permit application for my March start date was approved.

I wanted to experience the desert section of the trail and I will get that chance. So, what might I be in store for you ask? 80 degrees during the day. Cold enough at night to warrant a 15 degree bag. Sand with wind to cover every item I bring including myself. Snow… Rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and poisonous Poodle plants. Whoa, this is going to be quite the adventure.

There are famous hikers who have completed the PCT and all of them have shared their wealth of knowledge with the rest of us. I would be foolish not to check out their vlogs, blogs, podcast interviews, trail journals and books.

I’m going to use all of my equipment from my Appalachian Trail hike. At the end of that hike, I had MSR replace my stove because the threads stripped out for attaching a canister, Big Agnes replaced my tent poles because of a junction break, Komperdell replaced my hiking pole tips and I have patched holes in stuff sacks and recoated my tent seams with sealer. I may need to add a few items like an umbrella for shade, sun gloves and shirt which has UV protection. I think I will be good for the snow, if there is any. Prediction for a low snow year in California is encouraging and also discouraging. Great for mountain passes but bad for water sources and the danger of fire.

My husband Tom will be driving along with our camper. This could be really helpful for carrying a lighter load and for resupplies. Because of this, it will be a very different hike from the AT. There I was on my own and Tom sent my prepared boxes from Minnesota.

One thing I can count on from the PCT that also occurred on the AT, was the excitement of plants, trees, animals and people so new to me and so different from northern Minnesota. I don’t know what is more exciting, the pre-planning or the actual hike. Only time will tell. Let the adventure begin.

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.