Quite by accident I stumbled on a book by Cheryl Strayed titled 'Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail' and found it to be one the best books I have ever read. I didn't even know the PCT existed even though I grew up in western Washington State within miles of where the trail is now located.
I loved this book because it was about a woman who "figured it out" in how to do something very difficult and do it alone. In the 1980's before the trail was even completed, she started in Tehachapi, CA and hiked alone through the desert into the Sierra Nevada to the Washington-Oregon border. She had never hiked before and she believed hiking was just walking. Her pack was so heavily overloaded, the first time she tried to put it on she had to sit on the floor and put her arms through the straps and then onto her hands and knees finally struggling to her feet.
My first thoughts were, 'what a dimwit to think she could do this', but amazingly she did with determination, guts and never gave up...even when a hiking boot which she had removed during a rest stop, fell thousands of feet over the edge of the trail. Deep in wilderness and totally alone, this woman "figured it out" and made it to the next town.
So, this past summer on our way home from our road trip vacation, we stayed two nights in Tehachapi with the intent of finding the PCT trail head and hiking in Cheryl Strayed's footsteps.
I started at 10:00 AM under an intense blue sky with the temperature about 77 degrees and a refreshing breeze. DH would not wait for me in our hotel room and insisted on waiting for me at the trail head even though I planned to hike for four hours.
The trail head was well marked with information about the PCT and a warning about the lack of water on the trail.
This is the land of wind farms and the wind turbines were prolific. The trail actually goes across private property where I walked within feet of these giants. The humming sound they make is quite eerie especially when you can't see anything else for miles.
The trail which was not much wider than a cow path went up and down rolling hills. Each time I crested a hill, I was sure I would level out, but there in front of me would be another hill to climb. After about two hours I stopped to have a snack and take off my hiking boots. There were many plants with burrs along the trail and some had worked their way into my boots.
The sun was intense with no shade, but I did not feel overheated. I had my camelback with plenty of iced water. And, I was very excited knowing Cheryl had walked this very same trail. In spite of the intense sun, no shade and no natural water, these flowers bloomed along the trail.
After a brief rest I continued hiking wanting to reach four miles, but it wasn't long before I began to feel really hot and tired. Usually when I reach the end of my hike, I feel exhilarated that I reached my goal. After 3.83 miles without even hitting my 4 mile goal, I so wished I didn't have that same distance back to the trail head. I turned around and started back.
I can tell you it was the longest 3.82 miles back that I ever hiked. I lathered on more sunscreen, took off my tee shirt and hiked in my sports bra, and drank and drank and drank. I thought about Cheryl struggling with a pack of 60# on this very trail with her feet blistering from new hiking boots. My feet were fine and my pack was only 20#. I can do this and I have to keep up my pace and be back by 2:00 PM.
And of course, I did do it. I was mighty glad to see the trail head sign
and when I got there DH was waiting with water in a cooler which I promptly poured over the top of my head. I then felt the exhilaration of having hiked in the footsteps of my heroine! Oh and by the way, no wonder I was hot...the temperature had risen to 110 degrees at 2:15 PM.