Southern Terminus to PCT midpoint … in the desert, with meanwhile 40 degrees Celsius! yes, it’s tough, all my former hiking experience make the days out here makeable but… long-distance hiking in hot areas brakes all rules… well known and approved routines are shaken up and I have to learn a lot: the two main issues: footcare and water absorption… the feet blisters up however one does, but to avoid them infecting while hiking in the dirt, sand and heat is very difficult. so far so good for my golden paws!
a daily updated water report
which i download to the cellphone in the evening tells me on which spots water was still flowing or dropped by people at that certain passed day. but a quite big risk exists that the source or stock is dry when i arrive the next day. between these water resupplies are at least a half-day to two days hike which makes it mentally and physically challenging.
nature and landscape are simply breathtaking in a desert!
the feeling to walk through and live in that beauty is strong and great! i feel like a small human experiencing unforgettable moments. over and over again i meet people i met before, mostly on water caches, since these spots are the centre of a desert hikers live. to meet these friends again is a nice way to change worries and happiness!
something/someone making us very happy
is so-called trail magic done by trail angels: locals bringing luxury to places which are easy to reach by car: fresh doughnuts, coffee, beers, fruits and more, whatever doesn’t fit our packs. trail angels give car rides as well. for food resupply in closeby shops or even doctors, hotels and more. the hikers and angels are sort of a community, called trail family, which sounds weird but is nice!
body hygiene is like expected
reduced to the very minimum because of the lack of water and together with sand, dust and sweat, even this is a new feeling! but not one of the great ones 😜… i am not yet used to it 100%! if i ever will…?
many hikers reach their physical and/or mental limits
and partly already stopped since they didn’t have enough experience and/or pushed themselves too much. right now i am still doing quite ok. but i have to deal with two major problems: my arthritis filled knee and the foot which i broke in January. even the foot never really stopped being painful up to my departure i wouldn’t have expected it causing such serious problems.
so right now i am forced to take a so-called zero-day (0 miles hike),
rest my leg in the shade and think about possible changes to improve. drop the daily distance for a while as a first… change the type of hiking shoes (good for the foot but bad for more blisters) is the second option… the coming shorter days will show!
after all: all my worries about starting my hike in a desert were justified! but the difficulties are honoured by great moments! hike your own hike… tomorrow 5 am i am out on trail again!
430 km/15 days
i am lying in the shade of a tree in the desert mountains behind cabazon and let my feet relax. the heat usually makes me stop for a couple of hours in midday. the sound of the tiny little mission creek passing and the wind in the tree let me feel a great peace which makes me very happy! when the temperature drops later today i will hike on for a few kilometres until darkness covers all the various and pretty unexpected life in this extremely dry area.
after two days in a pretty green mountain range
of mt. jacinto in idyllwild the deserts lowland seems to be friendlier to me… except the walk along the riverbed of cabazon… a strong sandy face wind and the soft ground made me mad! angry i reached after some hours a railroad and highway bridge and enjoyed the shade and beer!!!! under the bridge. yes, a trail angel just brought some beers!
430 km (already 10 % of the whole trail!)
north of my starting point on the Mexican border i am getting used to the heat, sand, dirt and thirst. all the various pains start to ease – like expected does my arthritis knee get stronger and less painful every day and the broken foot seems to finally arrange himself since i talked to him: „either you join me now on my hike to canada or i go alone…“ my legs are daily stronger and breathing is easier and easier despite the rising temperatures. pure happiness takes over! and since a few dozen kilometres i feel having a fair chance to complete my mission.
to reach this mental and physical balance was not easy.
it was partly a hell… the pain in the knee and the damaged foot with every single step as well as in many sleepless hours made me quite depressed. only the hope for improvement made me stepping further. the fight against popping and infecting blisters was easier to deal with, it is a normal common problem.
but now i am happy resting under my tree,
eating a crispy ready noodle mix, soaked in cold water with peanut butter as a desert. meanwhile, i share my beautiful shady spot with two other hikers… a polish elderly man and a young lab from buffalo, new york. john, the american i met already yesterday under the bridge. the polish is unknown to me, he caught up. we will probably share now some stories before i head out walking for further 15 km along the tiny mission creek. this little creek creates a little oasis, very beautiful.
37 days/1130 km
kennedy meadows, the official end of the desert part on the pct. the second pair of hiking shoes are broken in since long. 1130 km of dry, hot land and section-wise hard hiking lies behind me. sandy flat stretches and deserty mountains taking turns. in combination with climbs of more than 36000 m, which is approx. 4 times sea level to mt.everest, these kilometres built my meanwhile strong hiker legs. 40 km hiking a day is no longer a problem if so needed.
i developed a love-hate relationship to the desert.
hard, rough but beautiful landscape with many different flours and scrubby bushes, which made heavy and hot days more joyful and colourful. squirrels, flattering hummingbirds, big and small bunnies with very long ears and all kind of lizards and snakes surprised me regularly on trail.
and the last but not least surprising animal i met was a very nasty tic.
he bit me during one of my midday naps under a tree. this nasty guy carried Lyme disease and left a beautiful bullseye on my chest to mark his disease. hospital and medication were needed soonest! 2-3 days away from healthcare and in a race against coming up fever and illness i was on the way to start night speed hiking across these last hot miles. but then, i got the information carried up the trail to me that my hiking friend sean is catching up from behind with the needed medication in his pocket.
he got bitten the day before
and made his way already thru the hospital. so by early next morning, i got started with the treatment against eventual lyme disease. in the middle of the californian desert, far away from civilisation. but to get enough medication for both of us, i was forced anyway check in a hospital. even before reaching the road connection we were invited by another hiker who is living close to join him to his home. a little town in the middle of the desert, on the edge of the death valley. his wife drove me to the local hospital’s urgent care.
we continued further to a real american saturday evening barbecue.
the only pity was that alcohol doesn’t go along with our medical treatment 😜… but the evening was great! the hiking community, their closest and supporters are always by new amazing! a big thanks for all your help, specially to you buzzard and free bird!
tomorrow i will continue my hike…
even i have to take it a bit easier for a few days to let the antibiotics fight the tic in my body… as a first, i will ascent about 3500 m up to leave deserty terrain and reach green high alpine areas. after 5 weeks desert, i am very excited for this major change. water supply will no longer steer my daily schedule and is available everywhere. some more climbs needed to reach the pct’s highest point, forrester pass (4083m). a bit further, on the other side of the pass a day hike will bring me up to mt. whitney if the snow conditions allow it. a peak on the side of the trail which is with its 4480 m the highest in the southern united states.
bears and the still big snow cover
with the melting water/river crossings will be the challenge for this next section. so gloves, warm cloth, microspikes and waterproof socks are packed down beside the bulky bear container. some food resupply and i am ready to leave town again.
55 days/1458 km
one-third part of my hike is history. a history filled with great experience, many drops of sweat, thirst and a great hiker hunger! after my hospital visit in ridgecrest, i entered the mountains high sierras on drugs: antibiotics daily twice… carrying food in a heavy bear container for 8 days, snow equipment and the strenuous climbs and descents made the start difficult. on the 4th day in the sierras, i climbed mt. whitney. with about 4500 m the highest peak of the lower 48 states. i started the climb in the night to reach the top by sunrise. while waiting together with my hiker friends for the upcoming sun i realised having cellphone connection… with shaking hands (not only because of the cold) i read a message from home that my lead dog bianca is not well.
the following phonecall made my tears flow.
bianca left us in these same hours! my heart burnt as much as the summit whiskey in my throat. the now rising sun was blurry, far away and cold. only the supporting arms of my hiking friend gave me some warmth. i don’t find the words to describe this feeling cocktail. this moment and the following descent of the mountain stays forever in my mind!
i will never forget you and always miss you!!! not a single day passed yet without thinking about you in tears. you are with me with every step – and one day we walk beside again! be in peace!
why on earth is happiness and sadness so close to each other?
a couple of weeks before i had to experience the very same: the message that my loved mother is not well reached me in a very happy moment too, which was followed by a few very grey and dark days…
physical action, acid food, sad feelings and the antibiotics caused me finally heartburning. which has nothing to do with the heart but a too high amount of acid in the body causing constant pain in the chest. while breathing and eating my diaphragm felt like bursting. but i pushed on across the highest point of the trail, forrester pass, 4016m. the first high altitude pass of a whole series during the following days. gorgeous sceneries all over! physically demanding with my issues, but thanks to my private nurse magnus i now even got rid of my burning heart!
being in the little town bishop for resupplying
i got the next news: ori, my already very good and in future probably top led dog did eat a huge stone, which stuck to the small intestine and had to be operated immediately. martina and stephan luckily reacted very quick! and ori is a strong boy, so everything went well! thanks, martina and stephan!
all in all these last two weeks were very beautiful
but mentally and physically demanding. right now i am in a place called mammoth after i witnessed the first wildfire from pretty close. unsure if we can hike further on the pct or have to take an alternate route we watched the dark big clouds ahead of us. the sunlight became soft and reddish… weird beautiful.
but we were lucky this time,
the fire didn’t move closer to trail and we moved on. lower down in the valley a hike thru a spooky old wildfire area with the fresh smoke from the actual fire brought me to civilisation. i will now resupply, shower, wash my stinky clothes, eat fresh food, drink some beer and again buy new hiking shoes before leaving tomorrow into the yosemite national park – the next highlight of my journey!
to note: hiker hunger
is a constant feeling of being hungry. sometimes more sometimes less. depending on circumstances like distance, climbs and descents, temperature and altitude i would need daily between 4000-6000 calories. an amount which never can be covered. on trail the menu in the morning is cold-soaked oasts with a big load of Nesquik, during the day at least 5 protein bars, cold-soaked ramen noodles with tuna fish, nuts and tortillas with big chunks of peanut butter and nutella. for dinner pasta or rice with tuna fish or cornmeat. no surprise… upon arrival to civilisation my brain normally has two thoughts: food and beer are close!!! but even yesterdays big barbecue with 600g meat and loads of side dishes wasn’t enough. i had to add 2 mega snickers, a doughnut and a package of gummy bears to find peace in my body and mind.
64 days/1750 km
the steep climb out of the skiing resort mammoth was particularly demanding since the smoke of the closeby wildfire was very thick and nasty in the valley. happy to reach heights and fresh air i could breathe normally again. the view down was limited and smoky, but upwards i could see that i reenter gorgeous mountain sceneries again.
i feel well and recovered from my physical down.
in mammoth i bought my third pair of hiking shoes… this time with less cushioning. a risk for my knee but with the hope to finally get rid of all my returning blisters on the heels. well guessed… no new blisters anymore, but my arthritis knee didn’t like the shoe at all. i had to learn once more to walk correctly. i tried to remember with every single downhill step my sister’s words: „walk and imagine a big pile of shit in your trousers“! my phantasy didn’t have limits, so it helped and even this minor problem is solved!
the john muir trail (jmt)
is one of the most popular long-distance hiking trails in the world and follows the pct since almost the beginning of the sierras. it covers about 350 of the most beautiful kilometres along the pacific crest ridge in california.
the last few kilometres on the combined jmt/pct
brought me to the edge of the yosemite valley national park. no doubt… i have to go down and get a glimpse of this world-famous national park with the great „big wall“ of half dome. one of the most demanding climbing walls in the world. a short hitch and i reached a trailhead which leads down to the valley.
after a few kilometres hiking,
we found a perfect overnight spot, on the edge of the rim, opposite of half dome. a gorgeous view of the wall in sunset followed by the same scenery in full moon made my former climber’s heart jump! no 7 stars hotel could offer a better view from the sleeping room! the next morning a hike down the switchbacks aside the yosemite falls, one of the highest waterfalls brought us down to the valley bottom. prepared to lots of tourists i still got a shock. squeezed in a bus we got to the right spot to hitchhike back up to the starting point. back to work… after a short but unforgettable holiday off trail!
3 days further north i crossed the 1000 mile marker (1610 km),
a good feeling, which i shared with hundreds of mosquitoes! an annoying invasion following me already many days! welcome home! here, the pct is, unfortunately, leaving the sierras… a very beautiful and great area! in front of me lies the section of northern california. by now i already hiked some days in. still beautiful landscape but much lower and less spectacular mountains.
after this great beauty and having crossed the 1000 mile marker
it is right now demanding to get new motivation. northern california doesn’t serve highlights and is just know for walking miles. for example, yesterday and today i hiked each day a full marathon… maybe i should consider the PCT midpoint marker of the whole trail as the motivation and next goal? about 300 kilometres away by now…
Challenging days right now… but PCT midpoint is coming closer
temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees and daily distances between 40 and 60 km made my days a bit too hard. Dehydrated and worn out reaching destinations made me decide to switch back to concept desert: Hike very early mornings and evenings… rest under the day! PCT midpoint, where are you
On the slope of a forest ridge on mile 1323.2, i found it. my goal PCT midpoint marker. Halfway on my way to Canada! A great and sad feeling at the same time. Happy having reached this PCT midpoint without health issues but sad knowing that this journey will come somewhen to an end.