Hi, my trail name is Unbreakable and I’m almost done hiking the Pacific Crest Trail! Here’s a blog post I wrote when I was in the Sierra about what it feels like to hike after you’ve already gone over 700 miles. You can find it on my blog too, www.meganscherrer.com.
It’s 6am and your alarm just went off. The sun is coming up over the ridge, you need to get up. You check the upcoming elevation changes for the day and convince yourself it’ll be easy enough that you can sleep in for a bit. It’s too light out to fall back asleep, but you’re too cold to get out of your sleeping bag. You try to get dressed inside the bag to avoid being cold, but your socks froze overnight so you’re cold anyway. You figure you might as well get some chores done if you’re going to be lazy and stay in bed. You run a comb through your hair and bits of dirt fall out. You wipe off your face and realize half of your freckles were actually just dirt. You can’t remember the last time you took a shower. Poptarts, peanut M&Ms, and trail mix: breakfast of champions.
The people in the tents around you have either already left or are packing up now, you should probably get up. It’s 7:15 and you had wanted to be on trail by now, but 8am wouldn’t be too bad. It just means an extra hour of hiking tonight instead. A marmot runs by as the birds sing to each other. You hear the fluttering of Tyvek ground sheets and the clanking of tent stakes; your neighbors must be almost ready to leave. The sun is now high enough to warm up your tent, it’ll be easier to get going once you can feel your fingers again.
Today your closest friends are climbing Mount Whitney, but you have a box to pick up in Independence so you can’t take that much time off, you need to get to the post office by tomorrow. You realize you’ve only known your closest friends for 5 days. They say a day on trail is like a month in the real world, and you understand that now more than ever. It feels like months since you heard from someone back home, even though it’s only been 7 days. You wonder how your friends and family are doing, and whether or not they’re even awake yet.
It’s 8am and you’ve finally packed up. You were able to crush 10 miles before lunch yesterday even though you left at 10am, so you’re not too worried, but today you go over the highest pass on the trail. Forrester Pass is at 13,200 feet, and you have to gain over 4000 feet in the next 13 miles to get there. Yesterday you gained 3000 over the whole day, but it was mixed in with downhill and a lot of flat ground. Time to eat leftover mashed potatoes to get some good calories in before starting.
You go less than a tenth of a mile before you have to cross a river. It’s 8:30 and your shoes are already soaked in ice water. Welcome to the Sierras. At least the views are worth it.
Then the headphones go in and the mental math starts. “If I go X miles by Y time then I’ll be in camp by Z,” “if each song is about 4 minutes long then I can have lunch after X songs,” and so on. It occupies your mind enough to drown out some of the pain in your legs from the 16 miles you did yesterday. Occasionally you pass by some weekend hikers and they stare at you in awe as you fly by them. It’s a nice little ego boost, at least until another thru hiker flies by you.
It’s noon and you’re starving. The trail mix you’ve been snacking on just isn’t enough. You find a nice rock to sit on, air your feet, dry your socks that just got wet again, and chat with other hikers. You can be alone if you really want to be, but sometimes it’s nice to have some company. You throw chunks of cheese and some kind of cured meat (ham today, salami yesterday) onto a tortilla and practically inhale it. You eat some more trail mix too, you need as many calories as you can get.
You check the Halfmile App again and burst out laughing, you’re so much closer to the top than you thought! You had given yourself 3 hours to do the last 5 miles to the top, but looking at the elevation it should take you 2 hours tops, and you’re actually only 4 miles away. Might as well take a long lunch.
You feel yourself getting stronger every day. Some days your muscles are screaming and it takes all of your willpower not to scream with them, and some days you really hate the trail, but mostly you love being out here and there’s nowhere you’d rather be.
You reach the top of Forrester and feel on top of the world! You meet a few people at the top who want to hike down with you, which is good since it’s so snowy and could be dangerous alone. The final 5 miles are a breeze and in no time you’re in camp with your new friends. You pass the time by talking and watching the deer as you set up your sleep system, and eventually you all fall asleep when the sun goes down around 8:30pm. Overall, a successful day filled with 18 miles and lots of amazing views.
For more posts, check out my blog at www.meganscherrer.com!