I am so happy to be back on trail again. I was laid up in Idyllwild for twelve full days waiting to hike again. Idyllwild was such a special place. We were well taken care of by the community, daily foot rubs, surprise visits and food. Anne and I were even invited for a home-cooked meal and evening indoors by two wonderful women we met. As good as it was I became incredibly restless and frustrated. I felt as if I would never heal and the thought of leaving the trail and trying again Southbound in July devastated me.
I am feeling strong once again and carried on with Anne who had also been recovering in town. The climb out of Idyllwild was steep and brutal, we hiked over the mountain over the course of two days, camped at a water source and this morning hitchhiked into Cabazon. We are parked at a Starbucks, charging our devices and drinking real, fresh brewed coffee which is thrilling. This place is a fast food Mecca and we are looking forward to In & Out burgers and maybe a pizza before we hitch back to our underpass to continue on the trail.
Anne is an amazing hiking partner. We are going at the same pace due to losing out trail legs on our time off. She is from Cologne, Germany and I have been delighted by her company. Her positivity has really helped me through the challenges of the past few days. We have broken 200 miles and are well on our way to making up some of the ground we lost in our time off and potentially even catching up to some familiar faces.
The morning after my last post I woke up, stood up and almost fell over in pain. I ended up spending four days at Warner Springs allowing my ankle to recover. I hiked out with Danielle and Sierra (who this time slowed down for me) and we took it slowly hiking roughly 20 miles to “Mike’s Place” over the next two days as the weather got cold and we watched a storm blow in. Mike’s Place was definitely the most interesting stop so far on the PCT. Several guys stay out there, they make really great brick oven pizza and dinner for hikers and provide water. They take donations and will allow you to sleep on their screened in porch, pitch a tent, or as a lucky six of us did sleep in a sweet vintage Beaver 31 trailer, the smell of which I will never forget.
The whole thing felt a bit like a horror movie and we joked that we had eaten hiker stew and would ourselves be served up to the next days hikers. I was appreciative of the warm food and dry place to sleep.
My shins and ankles decided they hated me once more and although I made it up the mountain we determined it would not be the wisest for me to hike down on my injured legs with a snow storm blowing in so we purchased a ride from one of the guys up at Mike’s to Paradise Valley Cafe at the price of $40 skipping twenty four miles of trail after realizing hitching out was not an option.
I felt incredibly defeated but was revived by the burger I had been longing for. We sat in the cafe for several hours waiting on “Grumpy” a local trail angel who was driving hikers back and forward to Idyllwild to skip the fire closure and get people out of the storm. We enjoyed our burgers, great coffee and a plate of sweet potato fries purchased for us by two really wonderful ladies that we met who were spending some time in Palm Springs.
(If you two are reading this, thank you again! I apologize again for my odor! I purchased some shower tokens and fully intend to bathe in the not to distant future.)
After arriving in Idyllwild I immediately stopped at the Post Office to pick up my new backpack. My previous backpack had a load adjuster strap break before Warner Springs. Gossamer Gear was awesome and quickly shipped me a brand new pack with no hassle at all as it was due to a defect. They are great in the customer service department and I’m confident the new pack will better hold up to the trail. I got to see some familiar faces who I had lost in the days prior and enjoy great food and coffee indoors while the snow started. I slept like a baby last night in the state park and woke up again to more pain.
Angie hooked me up with a sweet tape job which makes it hurt much less to hobble around. I am thinking I will be parked here for the next several days with my foot propped up and see a doctor if it does not improve. I am already stir crazy and ready to get back on the trail but am forcing myself to take the time I need to recover so I do not end up forcing myself off the trail entirely.
The past few days have been slow and brutally hot. My new friend Sierra (Trench-foot) is walking on hamburger feet due to a bad shoe choice. I took it very slow with her from Scissors Crossing to the water cache 14 miles later to reunite her with her friends.
It was delightful walking slowly with her, taking pictures and enjoying the desert but I was disappointed to fall behind.
I hiked on after catching up and managed 16 miles this morning putting me back amongst familiar faces. I will be camping here in Warner Springs tonight, enjoying some real food, a bucket shower and the opportunity to hand wash some clothes. I am 110 miles in, officially finished with section A and my feet are starting to feel it. I bought a $3 pair of flip flops and it is the best purchase I have ever made. My feet are enjoying the chance to breathe. I am looking forward to an afternoon of relaxation before crushing some more miles tomorrow. 42 more miles of desert and then I get what I have been promised will be the best burger of my life. Real fresh food is quickly becoming my biggest motivator.
This trek has already exceeded all my expectations. Today I hitchhiked for the first time into Julian, CA where we were greeted with a free slice of pie and cup of coffee courtesy of Mom’s Pie House and I will be spending the night at Carmen’s Place, a local restaurant owned by a trail angel here in town. She is shutting her doors next week, but remained open for part of the season allowing us hiker trash to grab a bite, do some laundry, and rest our heads until we depart for the trail again tomorrow.
The community of hiker and trail angel support I have encountered has been truly incredible. Everyone is so supportive and willing to help one another. People are so excited to share even in a small way this adventure we are on.
Twice now while hiking I have come upon “trail magic”. The first time in the form of fresh grapefruit and peanut butter balls left on the trail, and the second by Happy Feet, a 2017 PCT Thru-hiker from Texas who drove out to deliver water, snacks and beer to us hikers after a particularly grueling and hot stretch of trail.
Today I received my trail name “Wine Troll” when I found a bottle of Pinot Grigio still chilled waiting for us under the highway underpass from which we hitched to town after lamenting that I desperately needed a glass of cold wine. The trail truly provides.
I feel so incredibly privileged to be out here, my only responsibility to continue walking until I arrive in Canada. I have already seen such beautiful views and made some truly incredible friends. I know this is only the beginning of my journey and I am incredibly excited to see what else the trail has in store for me.
“It’s hard to be what you can’t see.”
-Marian Wright Edelman
I am 12 hours away from departing on the adventure of my life. My bag is packed and I have arrived. There is no stopping me now. I want to thank my friends and family for the incredible outpouring of support I have received in the year leading up to tomorrow. I truly could not ask for a better tribe to surround myself with and I am humbled by the generosity, curiosity and kindness I have been shown throughout my pre-planning.
Five years ago this is not a journey I would have imagined embarking on. My first introduction to camping and the outdoors came at a time when I was discovering my otherness, what made me different from the other boys. I joined boy scouts hoping to find a sense of community and make more friends but upon becoming a part of a troop spent all my time stifling and hiding myself so they would not see me for who I was. Before I could articulate that I was gay, before my sexuality was fully developed I only knew that my interests did not align with my peers, that I was somehow separate than them. I loved the serenity nature offered but did not want to participate in the chauvinistic pissing contests put on by the other boys. Pre-pubescent boys are assholes…
Looking back I wish I had persevered. I wish I had made an effort to stand my ground, be myself, and perhaps even change some minds. I am certain I would have found my place but they struck a nerve and I quit. My pride prevented me expressing the true reason behind my short scouting career, that I simply was not well liked because I was a bit queer. As a result I told my parents I hated camping and I did not have fun. They did not question it.
These experiences kept me from camping for almost fifteen years. I even convinced myself that it was not something I wanted to be a part of my life. Just the thought of it took me back to that place of exclusion, of anxiety, of feeling like less. When my husband Chase finally got me into nature to camp and hike in 2014 all those anxieties melted away. I felt whole and complete, at peace. Ever since then I am in the wild as often as I possibly can be. I regret that I missed so many opportunities. In a way I feel I will be making up for lost time on the trail.
It is not only the queer population that is underrepresented in the outdoor community. When I look at gear ads and read outdoor publications I do not see myself and I know I am not alone in that sentiment. If I can help, even in a very small way, to sculpt out a place for those who are not cisgender white males, if I can give other queer kids living in Texas and other conservative pockets of our country no doubt in their minds that they are welcome in the outdoors and will be fully embraced, then I will be very satisfied with what I have accomplished over the course of this adventure.
I look forward to sharing my story with you over the months to come. Feel free to comment, reach out, ask questions and be sure to follow @hikinghomo on Instagram and “like” AGayGoneWild on Facebook!