Updated: Jul 18, 2019
My...what a rush! To start with my initial reaction, the trail has been an amazing spectacle. I've had several moments on the trail where I think, "this is everything I hoped it would be"...and I cruise on with a big satisfied shit eating grin. Sure, my knees hurt, my feet are barking, and there is general pain just about everywhere, but that's show business baby! During those lovely introspective moments however, I don't feel a single affliction. And have I mentioned the views?! No pain during the vistas as well. Sometimes, pain doesn't get invited to the good vibes party.
So, How Are My Knees?
I probably think about my knees every 20 seconds...is that true love or an infatuation? I would say true love because my knees and I are always coming to a compromise between hiking and resting. I've learned how to take mindful steps and slow the pace just enough to lessen the impact on my lower body. The special attention certainly has paid off! As of now, my knees feel good and I'm starting to hike without knee braces. Let's celebrate!! Every day they improve despite the mileage and mountains I put them through.
The third day back was somewhat of a breakthrough. I left Mike's Place (a trail angel house/camp in the desert) and had to push beyond my "taking it easy" pace to reach the next water stop. At mile 18 and 89 degree weather, I rejoined the group I met at Mike's Place to fill up on water. I liked this new group I had met, but they were headed another 7 miles to reach Paradise Café for a burger and beer (which by now, eating a burger is like throwing a log into an active volcano). I opted to be a social bee and pushed with the group. If my knees were hurting, I wouldn't have continued, but the magical thing is, they did not. I think my knees like 80+ degree weather.
A car at Mike's Place painted for the PCT class of 2019.
I was thrilled that I had hiked 25 miles with very little pain. Of course, I was wondering what the bill would be in the morning. I was tight, at first, the next day, but with a careful and slow pace my lovely knees later woke up and decided to play. Like breaking a fever, I broke a fear (mostly) of my knees causing a PCT game over. Even though I hiked up San Jacinto, back down to the desert, and up Onyx Peak to reach Big Bear my knees improved every day.
About the Group I Met
I managed to keep up with a group of strong hikers. My desire to be social caused me to test my knee limits; in a way, the group carried me through. These folks are as kind as they are funny with no alpha complexes or similar social dilemmas. Everyone looks out for each other with a genuine concern, yet we all hike or own pace. Although there was a period where everyone decided to caravan together and it was kind of adorable.
On another note, 7 miles before Idyllwild, a rock slide cause a boulder to block the trail with extreme slopes on either side. There had been lots of talk about the rock with plenty of fear and unknowns about getting past it. On our way towards the blockage, an occasional hiker would be hiking the other way, wisely choosing not to attempt a way around. All of us were spread during our hike that morning; upon reaching the boulder, I found that the group had managed a way around/over the boulder. The best part is, they waited...for everyone. As one hiker successfully passed the obstacle, they would turn and help the other. We all waited until each person in our group made it despite the pressing schedule people had in order to get their resupply packages. We all are individualistic with our hiking, but this group is a good team.
Stickers waiting on the boulder for the rest of the group.
Over the next few days, the group started to dissipate as each person headed their own way or stayed behind. I am no longer with anyone in that group and I'm sad because of it. But much like hiking the trail, people go their own pace and eventually meet down the line. I'm hoping we will reconvene further down the river; if we do, I'm sure it will be a joyful meet. Losing new friends and wondering if you'll ever see them again makes it mean so much more if we do each other again.
It's back to the trail. I can't emphasize enough how great the trail feels while hiking it. I don't really like camping that much and would rather just keep hiking if I were inhuman. The trail feels safe and connected to everything...friends, great views, the next grove of trees, towns, Canada. If a hiker is idle anywhere for too long, they start to go crazy. We've got trail fever! Seriously, it's a wonderful thing.
I can't rotate or delete the photo (phone problems)...so it shall be. Happy Trails!