Monday, September 22, 2014

Day 167- North from Sierra City

Day 167, 9/22/14
1197 (Sierra City) to 1213
15 miles

Starting northbound from Sierra City, heading towards Lassen.  I'll be meeting my parents in Drakesbad for my birthday, so I'm on a bit of a time frame but hoping to continue to keep a relaxed, enjoyable pace.
Smoky climb out of Sierra City.
The fire near Placerville created horrible smoke at Steph's house, where I took two zero days.  Made my throat scratchy and when I walked outside it was tough to breathe.  I was nervous how much smoke there would be on the trail.  Fortunately, the smoke wasn't that bad in Sierra City when I got dropped off.  A heartful goodbye to Steph- last time I'll see her for a while- she's become such an incredible friend this summer.

At the top of the climb past Sierra Buttes, a gust of wind knocked off my hat, the chin strap caught on my earrings and ripped them out.   I found one but spent an hour looking in the scree and pebbles for the other with no luck.  It was an earring my mom gave to me, a red-orange opal she got in Mexico.  One that I reach up and touch when I'm nervous.  I'd been fiddling with it all morning while talking to Steph about the smoke and fires.  Loosing it shouldn't have been a big deal, but kneeling on the rocks, the wind whipping, in the faint haze of smoke, I started to cry.  Does anyone else find that they cry a lot on the trail?  One thing about hiking alone is that so much emotion is so easily brought to the surface.

Loosing that earring reminded me of all the things I'd lost or given up to be out here.  Part of it is the nature of backpacking, being disconnected and far away.  Not seeing old friends or being involved with the organizations and hobbies I used to care so much about.  I cried not because of loosing an earring, but because that earring symbolized my  non-hiking life, since it was my only non-functional purely sentimental possession.  I cried because my mom gave it to me.  I cried because I know that as much as I love being on the trail, that I loose out on friendships and relationships by being out here even as new ones develop.  Being out on the trail, sometimes you have these moments of pure aliveness, where you feel what it is to be human.  Guess that's one if the reasons to be out here.

Then I got up.  As I continued hiking, the wind dried my tears.

At the trailhead for Sierra Buttes, I ran into a couple, Marcy and Matt, who were just getting back to their car after a dayhike.  
Marcy and Matt.
They were so excited to learn I was a PCT hiker and started offering me all sorts of food.  They had just gotten married and their car was full of leftover food from their wedding.  They'd actually been hoping to run into a PCT hiker who might enjoy some of it.  We stood around eating croissants and cake, and talking. Being around them and their obvious happiness renewed my spirits.  They said the air had been clear of smoke for their wedding, but that the wind had shifted to being in the smoke recently.  Don't worry, they said, the winds will change again.


  1. Oh yeah, I cried a lot on the AT! I think it is easy to have a lot of reflection and a sense of loss when giving up things to do something you love.

  2. I have only section hiked, but I backpack nearly every weekend and I have some of the same thoughts. I know I leave a lot behind.

  3. Hi again. sorry to hear you lost such an important symbol .It's OK to cry a bit . Keep the other one so you can still go to it for reassurance ! Maybe this symbolizes that ' your journey" is half way through.
    I totally understand the feeling of loss as everything can be amplified out there . You have been through so much and will continue to go through stuff as you continue your journey. You've gained so much so far and so I don't think you've lost too much by being out there ...just on hold whilst you grow a little more and when you are ready , you'll re-enter the other part of your life and make so much more out of it . Keep it up are so strong and inspiring .