Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why my life is Awesome.

So, originally, this post was going to be 24 hours in the life of a thru-hiker.  Then it became 48 hours.  But then the good things kept coming.  So perhaps, I'm up to 72 hours into why being a thru-hiker is awesome.  I will try my best to do justice in this post, but chances are, I will not even get close to sharing how awesome it is to be a thru-hiker!

The fun times began at 5:45am as I woke up on the floor of our awesome cabin in Idyllwild.  I was already happy from a full belly of $1.25 tacos and margaritas from the night before, but I was up early to help a fellow hiker Drop Dead make pancakes for our friends.  With a filling breakfast of choco banana pancakes, we began our hike straight up the side of San Jacinto.  It was a surprisingly happy climb, with lots of photos of our first foray into snow.  We topped out at 10808 ft to beautiful blue skies one direction, and menacing clouds another.  Ignoring sage advice to backtrack on the trail and stay found, we turned on my GPS, and proceeded to bootski down the mountain on any path that looked fun.  Thankfully, technology kept us on track, and allowed us to have a ridiculously fun afternoon without getting lost.  Once back on the PCT, we continued for a few more miles discussing how difficult the dreaded Fuller Ridge would be in the morning.  It had a reputation for being super steep and nasty, and had encouraged a few hikers to skip the section and road walk around it.  When we got to the campsite, we began to chat to other hikers and they informed us that we had ALREADY crossed Fuller Ridge, and the worst was behind us.  Sort of a funny disappointment really!

I guess we are just that good. 

Well the next morning, it was a beautiful chilly day, and we started out hiking enjoying the cool air and easy hiking.  After a few miles, we came upon a very sick hiker and instantly realized something was wrong.  We knew that we were going to be the last hikers she would see for a while, so myself and another hiking buddy, the Aussie Kylie, decided that it wouldn't be a great idea to leave her alone.  She insisted that she was okay and that we carry on, but she had told us that she had been vomiting for the last 5 hours and couldn't even keep water down.  Not a great situation to be in 8 miles from the road on a very exposed, hot section of trail.  The sick hiker, Quixote, had thru hiked before, and was very experienced, but seemed to be suffering from food poisoning, so we took her under our wing and tried to help her get down the mountain.  One of our boys helped carry her backpack down while the other two stayed with us to help her, but after about 2 miles, it became really apparent that she was not going to make it much further.  We tried to make her as comfortable as possible and encouraged her to drink liquids, but they wouldn't settle in her stomach.  After about 3 hours of being with her, her vitals were climbing (due to dehydration- not a good thing) and we decided that we were running out of options.  So for the second time in my life, I called 911.

After talking to 3 different dispatchers, and finally getting the search and rescue guy on the phone, I was able to explain that we were hikers on the PCT and give an approximate location for where we were.  Then they dropped the "H" word.  Helicopter.  In a very slow and methodical manner, they were able to get a heli in the area, as well as coordinate a ground team, and the heli located us due to all of our insanely bright hiking clothes.  For those of you that know me, that lovely blaze orange hiking shirt was extremely handy!  Since we were on a very steep hillside, there was nowhere to land the heli, but they managed to get it close to the rock we were near and they had a rescuer jump out the heli onto the rock.  The skids never even touched the rock.  Epic.  He spoke to an increasing improving Quixote, explaining how things were going to happen, then they got on the rock and waited for the heli to return and jumped from the rock to the skids.  The 4 of us on the trail, Wiz, Alex, Kylie, and myself were incredibly jealous and secretly all wanted to have a reason to hitch a ride! 

We then hiked down the trail, caught a ride with the Trail Angel Sugar Mama, ate a filling and delicious dinner at Ruby's diner, walked 1/3 mile back on trail, and crashed for the night.  Not many miles, but quite an exciting day.

So we knew that we earned some trail juju for the rescue, but we never expected it to come back around so quickly.  The next day, we had trail magic oranges for breakfast, trail magic soda and watermelon from the trail angel Kate 4 miles later, went to the Mesa Wind Farm for drinks, A/C, and freezer foods, and headed .5 miles off trail to the Whitewater preserve for burgers, fruit and snacks from a triple-crowner trail angel, Brian (buck-30).  While hanging out at the preserve, another trail angel couple came with more food and some awesome amenities like medicines, clean socks, and cold drinks.  Then the rangers came over and offered to run down to town and pick up some beers for us after the park closed.  It was so awesome.  Once again, not many miles hiked, but the trail love was amazing!

After a.m. pancakes from the wonderful Buck-30, we hit the trail the next morning trying to get back into the rhythm of miles.  About 2 hours into the hike, I saw my first bear, a little black bear about 40 yards from me that scampered off up the hill.  The day was a rather enjoyable hike, mostly creekside, with plenty of places to stop and soak our feet and shirts to cool off.  It felt really good to spend a full day on trail, even though the 4 miles we hiked after dinner were straight up.  It was worth it for a great campsite nestled among huge pine trees.

The routine is getting back to normal, though.  Once again, I woke this morning to an icey sleeping bag, and was happy to hike into town and see a Taco Bell.  We are all hanging out in a hostel, hiding from the weather and enjoying the great company that only comes from buzzed hikers wearing rain clothes while the laundry is spinning in the background. 

Sometimes I wonder what to say when people ask me why I hike.  Who wouldn't love this life?

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