April 28, 2014

M.S. is Worse Than a 44 Mile Hike in 26 Hours

It's been a little over a week since I started my adventure.

I decided to sit down and write my impressions of my experience of a 44 mile 26 hour hike with 30 pounds strapped to my back, and connect it to M.S. (last paragraph). 

Yesterday, after hiking 44 miles in 26 hours, I felt nearly non existent. People would ask me questions; I could barely answer them, because I was extremely mentally and physically drained. Never in my life have I pushed my body that hard while carrying a 30 pound pack.

8 miles outside of Warner Springs, I developed a rash that covered both of my thighs. Not knowing what it was, I decided it would be in my best interest to get to the next town a.s.a.p. Here is a video of when I first discovered it:

This is what a 44 mile push felt like:

My body and brain wanted to stop, but I had to push myself, or I knew I wouldn't make it. I had to give myself something to look forward to, and that was Paradise Valley Cafe. I heard about a loaded "Jose burger" that seemed like heaven. My eye was on the goal, and I was getting there.
Not knowing if I was having an allergic reaction, I took a benadryl and put a typical steroid cream on the rash. Forgetting about the drowsy side effects of benadryl, I zombied my way down the trail. The heat of the sun was pounding on my body as I trudged through the dry, water sapping desert. With 6 miles left, there was a sign that said, "PCT hikers! Water, soda, hikerbox, 100 feet."THANK YOU TRAIL ANGELS!" So miraculous! The first 20 seconds of this clip is what I felt like: 

After the last grueling 6 mile stretch through the hot desert with absolutely no shade (just like the past 38 miles), I made it to Paradise Cafe. People started asking my name, which I now reply "Wiki Wiki" (trail name). They asked how I got it, and I couldn't remember "Gottawalk's" name because I was so drained. All I could say is sorry, I can't think right now.

"Gottawalk" (67) who gave me my trail name "Wiki Wiki" (quick in Hawaiian). She has hiked the PCT, CDT, AT, and American Discovery. She is a beast and I love it!

Happy to have my burger.

I devoured my hamburger and fries, and proceeded to ask for a plate of pie and ice cream. The next thing I heard was, "You better wake up and eat your ice cream." I jumped out of my dream and into reality. Did I really just fall asleep in a chair at a restaurant? There was music and loud conversations all around me. I felt exhausted, but the ice cream looked delicious! People around me laughed as I quickly finished every last drop of ice cream and pie.

 The next stop was a $3 camp site in "Idyllwild" with a $1, 5 minute shower. The best 5 minute shower of my life, even though I had one 2 days earlier. At 5pm, I crawled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning, I started laughing when I discovered 2 hamburgers laying next to me. I was so confused, but later found out that a hiker thought I'd be hungry, so he put those next to me. Kind of random and funny to wake up to 2 hamburgers laying next to me, but very thoughtful.

This mentally and physically draining experience made me think of people trying to deal with Multiple Sclerosis. We tend to have set expectations for our friends and family. People wanted me to talk more to them, but I couldn't. Thinking straight was a mental chore that I just didn't want to do. Walking was awful, my legs were numb, and it felt like more of a hobble, but I had to keep moving. Many people with Multiple Sclerosis have these symptoms 24/7 plus blurry vision, and more! Most of the time there is no break, no getting better, and no healing. They often say, "What is normal? I don't remember." Slowly degrading with these masked symptoms, keeps them pushing for a cure. Ya, sure, cures may be hard to come by, but... What if? What if you were part of the cure discovered for M.S? How amazing would that be? Medical break-throughs are only achieved by people passionate about the future of discovery.

I would appreciate all readers to comment how M.S. affects your life (even if you don't have it), and how important and beneficial a cure would be. Examples would be great! To do something about anything, we have to speak out, and make people aware. We have to increase understanding and drive. There's no point in being timid. Let's get out there!


I'm writing everything on a smart phone, so sorry for any typos or imperfections. :-)

April 25, 2014

Making my way to Warner Springs... Mile 210

Blogging is a little hard on my phone, especially when I am trying to make push at least 20 miles every day, but I enjoy this!

An old burn that has beautiful new life growing through. I love the contrast it puts on the land. 

A guy who just graduated high school and wants to explore the world before college. I later named him Zoom. He spotted past me like he was being chased. Haha

I decided to wake up the next morning at 2am and hike under the moon light. It's amazing how much the desert reflects the light. So much that I didn't have to use my head lamp. Amazingly beautiful. 

Ran into this unexpected water cache meant for people who run out of water quicker than they thought. I left it for a desperate hiker because I had enough. While hiking under the moonlight, I don't go through near as much water as in the day time. 

Watched the sunrise on Sunrise ridge. This wasn't planned, but it was a beautiful surprise!

Plopped my feet up on a rock to enjoy my evening view. After hiking 25 miles, I was finished for the day and enjoyed the beautiful view that I was about to fall asleep to. 



"Angie" no trail name yet, but she's pretty cool. 

"Buttercup" a retired Marine

I  found this plant very intriguing

Blue butterfly hiking after her husband's death. She just needed to get out and think.

Got a sprinkle of  storm. Hikers 2 miles ahead of me got dumped on. 

Mile 100!

Walking through the California grasslands.

Grasshopper and coyote

Eagle rock

Finally to my first shower after a week!

Borrowed clothes while getting my laundry done. Ha!

The amazing outdoor shower!

I brought a jet boil stove with me. Other hikers brought this. Wow it's small!

Eating a delicious fish taco!

Dang this song for my dad. Not confident with my singing. This was more of a sentimental thing. 

Monty's song about the PCT.

Goldie Locks. I love her voice!

Saying goodbye to the crew in Warner Springs.

April 20, 2014

Czechoslovakian M.S. Team

The Czechoslovakian M.S. team who is cheering me on. How awesome!

Happy Easter on the PCT

Gear list starting on the PCT... not a pro

Night Hiking and Border Patrol on the PCT

As I stepped on the Pacific Crest Trail on the border of Mexico and California, my blood began flying through my veins. Am I really here doing this?! I couldn't keep my excitement inside, and was expressing my excitement very loudly to 2 strangers who I had gotten a ride from the airport just 2 hours before. They called themselves "Blue Moon" and "Shock Top". They had hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail last year, and wanted to give back to the hiking community. With a happy heart and a full belly from the massive chicken verde burrito they bought me, I jumped out of the car to get my gear ready to go. Blue Moon picked up my bag and said, "boy, that's heavy!" I said, "Oh no! Don't say that! I don't want to be the next Cheryl. I just have a lot of food." As I pulled my 9 bag of food out of my pack, her eyes got huge as she asked, "Are you sure you need all that." Embarrassed I said, "Not now, but I will eventually."  Thinking how stupid I was, I really wanted to leave the food with her, but I didn't want her to have to clean up my mistake, so I told her I'd be fine.

We went over to the trailhead, I signed the book, took some pictures, and headed on my way. I started skipping and singing. It felt like pure freedom away from everything. Just me and the trail for 5 months. Something I've been craving since 2006, while hiking for Multiple Sclerosis.

As I left the border at 6:30pm, the sun was setting, the coyotes were howling, and the birds were singing. Each step I took in the desert sand almost felt like a miracle. Looking back at the past 5 years of my life, and what it took to get to this point, I began to cry. No one will ever know the extent of  mental, physical, and spiritual issues I had to push through. It felt so good to lay down all my frustration about society and the silly games we play against each other. Nature accepts all, and that's what's so incredibly healing.

The sun was almost down, and I walked under a large tree to stopped and admire it. As I was standing there, a humming bird hovered over my head as if to welcome me.

As the trail wound into the darkness, I noticed that border patrol was awfully jumpy. At the border, the jeep kept speeding past me like they were chasing something, but I could never figure out why. I kept thinking I might see someone run past me. At one point, I even ran across these makeshift shoes:

 Later down the trail, a helicopter must have flown over my head at least a dozen times. I figured that was normal, and just kept walking with Lake Moreno in mind.

As the moon rose higher in the night sky, I hardly had to use my headlamp because the trail was completely lit up. 10 miles into the climb, fog started settling down. The air was now freezing my breath as it came out of my mouth. The moon wasn't quite as bright, but the chilly air froze droplets of the spring desert scent that made my nose go wild. It was like I had the most delicious smelling flower right under my nose.

I started my descent into Hauser Creek when the trail turned into a jeep road. At midnight, I watched a car come my way. It was border patrol. They got out of their vehicle and started questioning me about what I was up to. They explained to me that I set off a sensor and they asked to see the bottom of my shoes. They were also curious if I was with other people. It didn't make sense to them that I was hiking alone at midnight, but I honestly didn't know what else to tell them.

After they let me proceed with my hike, 5 minutes later, two guys on four-wheelers came up and questioned my motives as well. I was hiking with my headlight off, but sometimes I would flick it on and off if I ran into a dark area. Perhaps that looked a bit suspicious? I couldn't figure out what was going through their heads. These supposed sensors that I set off were no where to be seen, so I had no idea where that might have happened. They were a little sketched out, but I guess they don't see a lot of PCT female hikers climbing from the border past midnight. I just thought it was interesting they never asked to see my permit.

After answering their questions, I changed the subject and asked them how much further it was to lake Moreno. In that moment, I was sure that I was almost there until they informed me that it was over the gigantic mountain in front of me. I cringed at the beastly switchbacks as they wished me good luck and told me to be safe.

As I hiked past all of the sleeping hikers cowboy camping at Hauser Creek, I wished to be in my cozy bag, but I was still determined to make it up that beast of a mountain in front of me. As I hobbled up the switch backs, I became very sleepy and wanted to pass out on the trail. At one point, I almost convinced myself to crawl up into a little ball on top of a flat rock. I then became very angry at my decision to carry a 40 pound pack. What in the world was I thinking? I kept telling myself, "You're strong, but you're not Houdini."  I just didn't want to end up with an injury on the first day of the hike. Most of all, I needed sleep. I had been up for 22 hours.

At 2:00 am and mile 17.5, I plopped my sleeping bag on the ground and slept for 5 hours in the windy dessert. The sleep wasn't to good, but 7 am was perfect timing to make it 2.5 miles to lake Moreno and ditch my food before it got too hot. This is when I met my first friend on the trail, "Cheese".

April 9, 2014

Attaching Solar Charger to Bag

My Suntactics solar charger is going to be a key element in keeping in touch with all my readers.  This way, I can use the sun for power, take pictures, and post stories when I get service.

I didn't want to deal with a lot of straps and difficulty, so this is what I put together. I used industrial strength Velcro, so I can slap the solar charger on, and tear it of whenever needed. I can put whatever I'm charging in the top pocket of the bag. It's perfect!

Just for safety measures, if the Velcro fails, I attached a hair tie and a carabiner that can quickly attach and detach from my bag for easy access.

We'll see how it holds up over 5 months!