A new update from Jessica and her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail.
1,000 Miles on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)
A little after 4 in the afternoon, I reached a pile of rocks on the Pacific Crest Trail that spelled out one-zero-zero-zero. The first thing I did: pulled out my cell phone and took a selfie the best I could that included my victorious, smiling face, and the pile of rocks. The second thing: I pulled out a protein bar that tasted vaguely like a beach ball.
Then, I contemplated what it means to have walked 1,000 miles of the PCT in a little under three months. It didn’t feel much different than walking 999 miles, or 1,001 miles. But I figured I should sit and enjoy it and bask in the glory of this rare lifetime achievement.
That’s when an old Asian man came along the trail, nearly missing the 1,000-mile-mark. I called out to him.
“No,” he said. “This is 998. That’s not right. Not 1,000 miles yet.”
Oh. Okay. Well that’s disappointing. So I hoisted my backpack onto my shoulders for the 10-billionth time since I started this thing in April, and I kept walking. A few miles later, I hit another pile of rocks that also spelled out 1,000. There, the old man told me I had now walked 1,000 miles of the PCT. He barely spoke English, and we struggled to understand each other, but congratulations were in order.
He wanted me to take his picture. He wanted us to take our picture together. He wanted to stay and smoke a cigarette and bask in the glory that I had just basked in with my beach-ball-tasting-protein-bar an hour or so earlier.
The Sierras are behind me now. That means: no more struggling to breathe at high altitude, no more miles-and-miles of post-holing through slushy snowfields, no more steep and endless switchbacks to the top of mountain passes, no more terrifyingly swift creeks to cross, swelled from snow runoff.
The moment I passed the boundary of Yosemite National Park, the scenery started to change. Craggy, granite peaks and still, blue lakes have been replaced by red hills and fields of purple, yellow, pink and white wildflowers. The trail has become a little more gentle, following the crest of the hills and mountainsides. The sun of Northern California has become hot, reminiscent of my days in the desert.
One day on the trail near Sonora Pass, I came up to a girl digging through her bear canister and scrounging to make enough food last her until South Lake Tahoe. I pulled out my own bear canister and gave her what I could spare–a few granola bars, a packet or two of oatmeal. Then, one of the best treat of all: a packet of Idahoan Fully Loaded Peppered Bacon and Cheddar Mashed Potatoes and a bag of bacon bits to throw on top.
I ran into her a few days later and asked how she liked it.
“I ate the bacon bits for breakfast and I poured cold water right into the bag the potatoes came in,” she said. “I loved it.”
I’ve made a habit of always carrying an extra bag or two of the Idahoan instant potatoes and handing them out to hikers along the way. I’ve noticed that the grocery stores in trail towns always have plenty of flavors stocked. If there’s one thing almost all hikers have figured out by Mile 1,000, it’s that Idahoan instant potatoes make great trail food.
Now I am at Mile 1,065.5, taking some time off trail in South Lake Tahoe. I’m still contemplating that whole reaching-1,000-miles thing. I think about all the steps I took through the desert and the forests, over the high mountain peaks and along countless creeks, rivers and lakes. I always thought reaching such a monumental milestone would feel more exciting, but the truth is: this has just become my way of life. It’s not a trip anymore, a vacation from work or a weekend getaway. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a hot, buggy, sometimes-miserable, mosquito-bitten, majestic, fun and joyful lifestyle.