My Favorite Songs for the PCT

This is just a fun post where I list some of my favorite songs that I listened to on my PCT playlist. Here is the link to my Spotify playlist: PCT Playlist It is full of quite the random assortment of genres and artists, but I only kept songs that sparked some sort of joy in me. Many songs were meant to invigorate or motivate me, some songs were for those more reflective and calm moments, and some were just for fun (like “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain or “Believe” by Cher). The ones that I list below were the songs that I could more or less take the lyrics literally with my trail experience:

Arrows- Trevor Hall

I feel the need to write a little something special about this one. This song was one of the first songs that I listened to after I committed to the idea of hiking the PCT in 2019. It got me excited for the adventure and felt validating to my decision to stick with my intuition. As I continued my journey on the trail, this song became more meaningful and I’d save it for wide open spaces. It would often make me cry because it went straight to my heart.

“This journey has got me bleeding
A certain kind of feeling
But I can never leave it
Good God I know I need it

Arrows come straight for my heart
Arrows come straight for my heart

I thought I’d never face it
And now it’s stripped me naked
Here standing in the open
I thought I missed the omen

(Chorus)

The dark is all around me
But I’m so glad it found me

Over the moon and through stars

(Chorus)

Everything I Need- Trevor Hall

(A good mantra)

“Mmh, I have everything I need
I have everything I need
I have everything I need
Mmh, from the mountain to the sea
All of this is within me
I have everything I need

(Don’t be afraid)
The fruitful darkness
(Don’t be afraid)
Is all around us”

Old Pine- Ben Howard

“Hot sand on toes, cold sand in sleeping bags,
I’ve come to know that memories
Were the best things you ever had
The summer shone beat down on bony backs
So far from home where the ocean stood
Down dust and pine cone tracks

We slept like dogs down by the fire side
Awoke to the fog all around us
The boom of summer time

[Chorus]
We stood
Steady as the stars in the woods
So happy-hearted
And the warmth rang true inside these bones
As the old pine fell we sang
Just to bless the morning.

Hot sand on toes, cold sand in sleeping bags,
I’ve come to know the friends around you
Are all you’ll always have
Smoke in my lungs, or the echoed stone
Careless and young, free as the birds that fly
With weightless souls now.”

Thank U- Alanis Morisette

“How bout getting off of these antibiotics
How bout stopping eating when I’m full up
How bout them transparent dangling carrots
How bout that ever elusive kudo

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How bout me not blaming you for everything
How bout me enjoying the moment for once
How bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
How bout grieving it all one at a time

(Chorus)

The moment I let go of it
Was the moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down

How bout no longer being masochistic
How bout remembering your divinity
How bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How bout not equating death with stopping

Thank you India
Thank you Providence,
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you clarity
Thank you thank you silence…”

All Star- Smash Mouth

“Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me
I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed
She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb
In the shape of an “L” on her forehead

Well, the years start coming and they don’t stop coming
Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running
Didn’t make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb

So much to do, so much to see
So what’s wrong with taking the back streets?
You’ll never know if you don’t go
You’ll never shine if you don’t glow

Hey, now, you’re an all-star, get your game on, go play
Hey, now, you’re a rock star, get the show on, get paid
And all that glitters is gold
Only shooting stars break the mold”

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The Trail is Over… Mostly

It has been difficult to start writing my post-PCT thoughts. I’ve been putting it off because I thought I needed more time to process it, or the perfect time and place to write, or maybe I wouldn’t remember my password to get into WordPress, etc. The time is now. I have to make progress on something. On the trail, I was getting closer and closer to a goal every day. Here at home, I need to create a new goal every day.

In those last eight miles that I walked from the northern monument to the “official” end, EC Manning Park, I still couldn’t quite process that these were truly the last miles of this seemingly endless trail. Everything I did was the last time I’d do something on trail: gathering water, treating my water, going pee, eating a snack, climbing a hill… As Tea Time (a fellow hiking partner) and I finally reached the park, we weren’t greeted by a crowd of cheering people as we were at the monument. We walked down a road in the middle of nowhere and spotted a few hikers whom we knew, who were struggling to find a room in the lodge and were coping with the fact that they were going to have to spend this victorious night camping in the rain. We made it to the restaurant, but accidentally went down to the bar first, which was a not-so-lively venue with no other hikers in it. Even the restaurant upstairs was not very lively, but it did have hikers at the tables. It was strange and anticlimactic. The servers didn’t congratulate us or really even seem to understand the monumental occasion that this marked for us. On the way home, I strongly felt obligated to hike soon- like I was about to just take a little time off trail and then go back. It wasn’t until I was pulling onto my road at home that it started to sink in that it was over. This dream that I had kept in the back of my mind for 8 years and finally manifested, was over. Well, the truth is that I actually still have 260 miles of the Sierra to do- Kearsarge Pass to Ebbets Pass- but, I won’t be doing that until sometime next year probably in August or September, when the snow is mostly melted. So, I’m happy that 10% of the PCT still waits for me.

When people ask me, “How was it?”, I have no idea how to summarize about 150 days. It was everything and more. I struggled more than I ever thought I would. I cried too many times to count. But, I also loved and laughed so hard. The trail was so brutal and challenging at times, and other times, my body would feel broken regardless of how hard the trail was. Persistent physical pain had such an effect on my mental state. I thought of getting off trail so many times. Two weeks before the end, I was sad because I realized that I just wanted to get the trail over with so that the pain in my shoulder would stop. Thankfully, a lot of my pain subsided in the last week of trail, and I could mostly focus on cherishing all the moments I could. What usually pulled me through any struggle was the people I met along the way.

That was a huge takeaway from my experience- how much I cherish connection and community. I realized that throughout my young adult life, I have often tried to keep a few people very close, because I like creating a chosen family. With my first trail family, we stayed together for almost three months, and I found it hard to think about letting them go, but I realized that we had different goals and we would have to part ways. It felt great in Oregon to hike a lot of the trail by myself. I had this newfound freedom. I still saw Stitch (a member of my first trail family) fairly often, which was nice to have a familiar person around sometimes.

In Washington, I was totally alone at first, which opened me up even more to new people. I ended up meeting someone who I consider a very close friend now: Beans. We seemed to click right away and people thought that we had known each other for a while, even though we had just met a few days ago. On trail, time works differently because there are far fewer distractions. Time can slow down, and you can spend hours talking to someone that you haven’t known for long, exchanging vulnerable and personal stories about each other. Trail relationships are intense because of this phenomenon.

If you’ve known someone for 1 or 2 weeks, it’s like a whole month in the “real world”. There aren’t all of the fronts or masks that people put up in the “real world” that usually take time to break down. People on trail are putting plenty of energy into keeping it together physically, so keeping up the energy to put up an emotional front is not as likely to happen. Plus, people have something to bond over immediately. We understand each other’s struggles and what we’ve been through. We already stink and are dirty, so doing foul things in front of each other is no big deal. So, when I say that my first trail family and I were together for almost three months, that’s a long time in trail time. I connected with a few random other people besides Beans in Washington, and we formed a little family: Stitches (from Oregon), Tea Time (from France), and Spicy Bite (from SoCal). We really knew how to have fun and laugh, and probably drank too much beer. It was great, because Beans had thru-hiked the trail in 2016, so she had such a relaxed air about her since this was her second time in the Washington section. The others were also pretty relaxed in nature, but with Beans, it made the unknown miles ahead seem less scary. We dawdled a lot in towns, packed out beer, made campfires, watched stars, and enjoyed each other’s company until way too late into the night. It was like we were making up for lost time.

Goodbyes are bittersweet. They’re the marking of a new chapter, and they’re also an occasion where you have to realize that the next time and place you’ll see the people you’ve grown to cherish to might be far away. Thankfully, a conversation with them is just the click of a button away. It’s been nice processing this big life thing with them over text or messages online. We did it. We made it out alive. Maybe that makes us unstoppable. We can’t stop seeking, we can’t stop searching for meaning or adventure or connection. That’s the point of doing something like this. The PCT had this way of occasionally showing you, in wide open spaces, the miles of path that you came from and the path where you were headed towards. The exciting thing was walking into the unknown.

Pre-trail Thoughts

Many thoughts have been going through my head in the past few months as I’ve mentally prepared myself for leaving for the PCT. I often find myself thinking of what I am looking forward to, and also what I will miss. There were events that were created or thought up after I chose to commit to hiking the trail, so even though this is the opportune time for me, missing incredible get togethers or events was inevitable. I know that I will need to remember to just have as much fun as I can while I can, and soak in this experience. Oh, and of course: never quit on a bad day.

I will miss: my little family (my partner and my dog) and cuddles with them, my friends, most of summer in Washington, sporadic adventures with my friends, a couple of weddings, fresh local fruit grown by neighbors and friends, fresh fruit and veg in general, season 8 of Game of Thrones, chilling and eating popcorn while watching shows at the end of the day, comfy pajamas, centralized heating, and many of the things that bring convenience and comfort to my day to day life.

What I’m looking forward to: new friends, watching the landscape change every day, being less sedentary (more like not sedentary at all), fresh air, feeling a sense of accomplishment each day for making it just a little further, time to reflect with minimal distractions, getting more clear on what I’d like to do with my life after the trail (harvesting ideas), using food truly as fuel, eating a lot, not having to meal prep, getting to see the details of these states that I’ve called home, having this journey be a part of my life story, trail magic and trail angels, the beauty, the hard days that I will overcome and become stronger from, focusing only on one day at a time (and sometimes the next day)

PCT 2019 Packing List

For my 2019 thru-hike of the PCT, my aim is to go as light as possible, with a base weight of under 10 lbs (ultralight). My base weight (pre-hike) is coming in at around 8.8 lbs. Base weight basically means everything in your pack that doesn’t fluctuate weight. So, this includes your big 3 (shelter, pack, sleep system), electronics, toiletries, and clothes that you aren’t currently wearing. I wanted to stay within a budget of $500-1000, especially if I decide to switch an item while out on trail. So, for some items, I decided to get the best option I could for a lower price, but still good quality. My most expensive items were my big 3. What I normally hear is the average thru-hiker can expect to spend between $2,000-$4,000 on gear, depending on what you already own (here’s one resource: https://www.rei.com/blog/hike/how-much-does-it-cost-to-hike-the-pacific-crest-trail). I am pleased that my expenses came in at around $850. Some things I received as Christmas presents (or by using gift cards) and some things I already owned. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to afford certain gear and I realize that everyone’s gear list will be different.

Here is my list:

Pack: Gossamer Gear Kumo 36

Shelter: Tarptent Protrail with trekking poles

Sleep system: Hammock Gear Econ Burrow 10 degree, with Wellax inflatable sleeping pad

Clothes: Darn tough socks, Injinji sock liners, ExOfficio underwear, Thinx, Avia sports bra, running shorts from Target, lightweight and quick drying pants from Target, Mountain Hardwear puffy, Frogg Toggs rain jacket, long sleeve polyester base layer, ExOfficio sun shirt, hat, sunglasses, buff, New Balance Minimus 10v4 trail runners with inserts

Small things: Sawyer Squeeze water filter, kid sized bamboo toothbrush with end of handle sawed off, baby wipes, 1.25 oz of face moisturizer, sunscreen stick, chapstick, hand sanitizer, trowel, anti-diarrhea pills, ibuprofen, multivitamins, nail clippers, safety pin, duct tape (wrapped on trekking pole), Rite in the Rain 3×4″ journal, permits

Electronics: Phone (Moto X4), Anker Powercore 10000 mAh, charging cords, earbuds

Snack tools: GSI Ultralight pot with grabber, compostable spoon, bandana, lighter, BRS ultralight stove

 

In the Sierra, I will be adding a bear can, microspikes, an ice axe, and possibly some leggings.

Break down of the weights: https://lighterpack.com/r/dux8i0

Featured image of me snowshoeing with my gear at Hurricane Ridge, taken by Michelle Kester.

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A New Chapter is on the Horizon

I will be hiking the PCT.

Let me expand on that in the order that I usually need to:

I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border in California up to just past the Canadian border in Washington.

I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border in California up to just past the Canadian border in Washington, starting April 14th.

I will be solo thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border in California to just past the Canadian border in Washington, starting April 14th. It is 2,650 miles long, which takes between 4 and 6 months to complete.

 

Something that I feel is important to mention is the amount of privilege I have that will allow me to hike the trail. I have enough financial support, I am able to take that much time off from a job, my body is capable of handling that much physical activity and challenge, and I had access to an education that made me aware of the trail in the first place. I am also able to budget for lightweight gear. I realize that the land I will be walking and sleeping on is stolen land. It will be an enormous privilege to be essentially homeless by choice for months, all while appreciating the nature around me. I am so very aware that this is an opportunity that not many people get to take advantage of and I often feel guilty about being able to go. But, I also know that this is a dream that I’ve had for several years and I don’t want to miss this opportunity. All I can really do is acknowledge the privilege I have and not take it for granted.

With that said, here are common questions I have gotten and my answers to them:

1. You’re going without your husband? 

or-

You’re going alone?!

Yes. I did say that “I” will be hiking the trail, not “we”. This is a trip for myself, a feat I have wanted to accomplish for several years now. It is not easy for many people to take 4-6 months off of work. I made a commitment at the end of my AmeriCorps VISTA year to make time on my calendar between April and September so that I had no other excuse but to hike this trail. Also, I get this question a lot from women, oftentimes followed by, “Wow, you’re so brave to go alone. I’m so afraid of hiking by myself.” I urge women to go on a day hike alone (which can include your dog). On my first solo hike, I realized just how silly the fears are, especially on trails that are further away from cities. The other people on trails are usually out there for the same reason as you- to enjoy the nature and to get some physical activity. The notion that some deranged man might leap out from behind a bush to attack you several miles out on a trail is really irrational. Media fear-mongers women into not going out alone. These are extremely rare cases. Statistics are on your side. You would be at a much higher risk of death or injury by driving your car down the street.

2. You’re bringing protection, right? (Some people have suggested a gun, a rape whistle, or bear spray)

I try to answer this very cautiously, but recently I’ve been a little snarky. First of all, have you met hikers? The hiking community is not a group to be afraid of, unless of course you bring up the controversial question of whether to wear boots or trail runners. The people to be most fearful of along the trail will be town or city folk. In the times that I’ll be visiting towns or cities, where I’m not a few miles out in the wilderness, I’ll most likely be with other hikers. To quell fears, I am bringing a little neck knife, which is pretty fool-proof (unlike a gun), and I would have less time spent fumbling around for my weapon, just in case I do get in a dangerous situation. Also, a neck knife can function as a knife for avocados, resupply boxes, and all sorts of survival situations. Bear spray, yes, can be used on people too, but is banned in many areas. It is also very heavy. I’m also pretty sure that I would just anger the bear that might be trying to attack me.

3. Are you taking your dog?

No, because she did not sign up for a hike of this magnitude. I am sure she would enjoy a lot of it, but it is my journey- not hers. To expand on that- I would have more responsibility than just keeping myself alive, which I think would take away from my overall experience of the trail. It would also be almost twice as much food to send in resupply boxes. There are also many national parks that do not allow dogs. I would also not want to risk her running off after wildlife that could potentially harm her.

 

If you are interested in hearing more about my preparation/training for the PCT or want to virtually experience the journey with me, this site will serve as the place where I write about it!

Countdown to leaving for Campo, CA: 10 weeks, 1 day

So, I hiked to the top of a mountain.

I was waiting in the studio for somebody to come to my Sunday vinyasa class. I felt a surge of energy flow through me as my music picked up it’s rhythm and I moved through some poses that felt good for my post hill run from the day before. I burned some palo santo after the clock showed that it was 10 past class time. I was going to meet up with my friend once class was over so that we could drive to the Olympic mountains, but it was obviously too early for her to pick me up, so I locked up and ordered some chai next door. I took my drink and walked down to the dock to sit in the sun, eat my lunch, and wait.

Everything was so blue: the sky, the water, my sweater, my ring. I closed my eyes and heard the seagulls, heard children laughing and screaming on the playground. People passed back and forth on the old wooden planks. Children went running towards the playground once they saw it. I thought about how pleasant it is that playgrounds allow children to amuse themselves with what is already there, without rules, letting their imagination take over.

The sun was warm, the air was cool. I sighed a satisfied sigh and noticed how it sounded like “home” and how “om” also sounds like “home”. Both sounds representing states of being connected with all that is, being content, being at home.

I noticed that the longer I sat in one place, the more satisfied and loving I felt. Everything continues, there is stillness in the movement. Everything is okay.

Once my friend showed up, we exchanged smiles and hugs and were soon on our way to the mountains, particularly to Mount Ellinor. I navigated. We grew increasingly excited the closer the mountains became. After making our way off the highway, we were on 7 miles of gravelly, windy, pothole-ridden  road. We finally made our way to the parking lot and prepared for our hike: sunscreen, hat, bathroom, water. This hike was only 1.6 miles to the summit, but a 2500 ft elevation gain. The first five minutes were some of the easiest, which is saying something, being that it was all uphill and I was already short of breath. My friend brought her dog, like many of our fellow hikers, which I feel helps people to continue being motivated.

This hike required a lot of concentration, lots of tactical foot movement. My quads were feeling it. The higher we got, the more the trees cleared and the rocks became less slippery and more sharp. The view also got more impressive. Once we got up a rocky staircase, to a part that was only about 10 minutes from the summit, we could start seeing the rest of the Olympics. Finally, we made it to the tippity top. We could see Mount Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, the rest of the Olympics, Seattle, and even a shining sliver of the ocean on the horizon! I was surprised to see a tiny finch-like bird flitting around the rocks at the top.

Whenever I’m out in nature, I’m reminded of my own simple truth. I am always here, in my body, like a single tree in a forest. Things are constantly changing around me. I may adapt, change, and grow with time, but I am always here, existing.

I am honored to be a yoga teacher. I am simply reminding people of these tools that are our bodies, our basic foundation, and how connecting back to what is can bring peace to our racing minds.