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Persistence Creates Toughness


Last time we met our hero, they were recovering from heat exhaustion in Hiker Town, just outside of Mojave, CA. It was 106F, and it was a real struggle to get food down. The realization had been made that the only way to continue this trail was to get out of the desert.

And they did.

Those who have never done any long distance backpacking may look at thru hiking as a kind of vacation. That’s not too far from the truth, but a vacation is usually just a brief escape from the everyday. When thru hiking, your every day becomes the hike. You get up early, you shove food down your throat, and you hit the trail. You take regular breaks; but not too long, you have miles to make. You have a long lunch, maybe a nap, then you hike more. Finally, when you’re on the brink of exhaustion, you stumble into camp, eat dinner, make your bed, and go to bed to start it all again tomorrow. A ‘nearo’ in town is the closest you get to a weekend.

So, would you believe that you can take a vacation from thru hiking?

Driving all the way from the eastern shore of Texas, Boxes’ mother and sister met us in Hiker Town. They have a condo rented in Mammoth Lakes with room for six, and we’re all invited. I jumped at the chance to escape this hellish landscape. By this point our team had started discussing the possibility of skipping the still overwhelmingly snowy Sierra and continuing from a point farther north. This was our opportunity.

Within a day of getting out of the desert heat I was feeling better. My appetite had started to return and I stopped bouncing around the idea of quitting. Spending a week on a couch watching movies and sleeping in a real bed did wonders for my morale and outlook for the rest of this adventure. We did touristy things too; day hikes and visiting the summit of Mammoth Mountain. There were other hikers in town resupplying, I admired their strength and skill to make it that far into the Sierra Nevada. When I grow up I want to be a badass thru hiker.

Being tourists on Mt. Mammoth, 11,000+ feet!

But eventually all three of us became anxious to get back on the trail; towns are stressful places. We crafted a plan to continue our hike farther north: Boxes family would drop us off in South Lake Tahoe, where a trail angel waited to drive us another few hours north to the small town of Burney. From there we would hike north to Canada, then–weather permitting–we would return south to hike the Sierra in the fall.



We had to wait over the weekend for our resupply package in Burney, so our generous trail angel hosts treated us to local sights: hot springs, lava tunnel caves, waterfalls, and swimming holes. In return we treated them to dinner at the end of the third day, and they dropped us off at the trailhead still tipsy from $5 margaritas. We camped just a quarter mile in, and our adventure resumed in the morning.

Northern California is a beautiful place. It’s so green, and full of mountains and ancient forests. That first morning out of Burney Falls State Park I found myself crying for joy to be in such a beautiful place after my desert nightmare. Shade is never hard to find, and water is in ample supply. For the first time since starting this hike, I found myself in great spirits. I also found myself HUNGRY. Actually hungry! I soon discovered that my food planning from the desert definitely did not translate well to up here, and I didn’t have enough food. By the second day I ate all of my daily rations by lunch, still hungry for more.

Mt. Shasta

But I’m eating! It’s so wonderful to actually want to eat, and to want more. This means I have the energy to hike faster and farther than ever. Much to my dismay, Bones started having trouble with his knee, and Boxes has ankle issues. This is such a strange predicament, to be the one who waits for the team to catch up, and wants to keep going when the others decide it’s time for camp. It’s as if Bones and I swapped roles. Time for some empathy, I suppose.

At the time of writing, I’m currently in Etna, CA. We hitched into town a few days earlier than scheduled so we could do a little something for Bones’ birthday. So far, most of our resupply packages have been lost or turned away, and the town has no cell phone service to call customer support. I’ll reiterate: towns are overwhelmingly stressful places, and I don’t want to be in them longer than I have to be. That is at least until we are done with the trail. My life is on the PCT right now, and everything else is a waste of time.

Though I do admit, it feels good to be typing on an actual keyboard for the first time in almost two months.

I just want to get back on the trail, and stay there.

Ain’t that the truth.