Friday, October 1, 2010

Part 2 - Reflection

I did what so many said I couldn't or wouldn't do.  I finished the PCT on September 18... 5 months and 2 days after I began it.
Yes, I am a different person than the me who started, the me who left Atlanta, the me who gave you a hug goodbye.

Reflecting on the past 5 months is hard, everyday my thoughts change.  I leave feeling and thinking differently about what those months meant to me and where I want to be for the next 5 months everyday.  To make it easy for everyone... life off the trail is slow, sad, depressing, and filled with gaining weight, nap time, and walking on sore feet, cracking joints, and callused toes that have lost nerve sensations.  
Waking up at 5:30 in the morning was terrific, but now there is nothing to do, no trail to walk, no early morning sunrise over a gorgeous mountain range, no tent next door, no hiker groans nearby.  I hear the beginnings of the trash trucks, dogs barking, the next door neighbor's 3 yr old beginning to cry like the rooster at Stehikin... except the trail is finished.  I treat myself to sleeping in, 8:30am rolls around and my body complains...inactivity hurts.  Starving I must rise on legs that can barely hold me up.  I lean onto the walls, the chairs, making my way to the stairs, a roller coaster for muscle coordination.  The pain, the muscles twitch... the feet scream.  Downstairs I grab breakfast. Marveling at the refrigerator that keeps my yogurt and raspberries cold, I hop to the chairs on bloated feet I don't recognize.  Yurtman asks if I want coffee or tea... and within minutes the water on the stove is boiling.  There was no discussion over where my stove was, who's fuel would get used, and if I would be providing the purified water. It's all in the kitchen.  CLEAN WATER!  STOVE WITH FUEL!  CABINETS WITH TEA AND COFFEE!!!  

Do you realize what a gifted life we take for granted?  When was the last time you shit in the woods?  When was the last time you packed out a week's worth of food, toilet paper, or purified your water so you wouldn't come down with a stomach disease?    What's the longest period of time you went without a shower?  Do you know what bad hygiene really is?  Have your feet ever been black for the dirt and mud you tramped through?  Have you ever washed clothes then put them in a bucket and they're still dirty?  

To enter the grocery store last week and look down the frozen aisle I realized this meant I could buy something to eat for next week.  I could buy that gallon of milk I'd been craving and it would be okay if it took me more than one hour to drink it.  But I couldn't buy whole milk, because it had too much fat.  I will need to watch my calories... and eat less.  How strange to eat everything and anything for a full year, and now try to diet.  Alien.  At the checkout I reached for 6 snickers bars.  I had to put them back.  What person eats Snickers bars off the trail and doesn't gain weight?  

You may say I am over exaggerating but being off the trail is like losing a loved one no one has ever met. You feel the withdrawal of a close companion, a friend who pushed you to greater strides, better views, and tested your resolve.  Now you have graduated, you have finished it's tests, dealt with the rain gear, experienced dehydration, and have become one with the ice axe.  Now, you're done.  You are left standing completely alone, with no friends in front or behind you. There is no pack on your back, the tent stays in it's stuff sack, the trekking poles have been leaning against the front door jam for a week, and you have no desire to move.  No desire to admit that deep down, leaving that trail was as hard as getting on.  Denial hits, yes I did something I consider amazing, and I want so bad to go back... but I don't want to.  I hurt.  My body is tired. My brain is tired. My heart is tired.  I gave it everything I had.  I lived in the moment of PCT life for 5 months,  and my reserves are empty.  I met people who changed my views on life, kissed someone I wish to kiss again, cried over scratches I watched turn to scars, questioned the meaning of life, and changed sharp corners to callused edges.  I am more connected to myself yet more alone than ever before.

There are no saints on the trail. No one is better, no one gets a raise, no one pats you on the back.  The people with ultra light weight gear, the people who walk slower, are all just people.  It is YOUR trail, YOUR hike... it is what you make it.  I am not perfect.  I fall down, I trip, I slide down sidewalks slick with rain.  My gear isn't especially lightweight, I don't hike especially fast, but I did finish the trail and I finished my hike.  This doesn't make me better or different than anyone else, I just took my equipment, walked at my pace, and eventually after lots of time and many many steps... I got down the trail to the end.

I enjoyed every minute, every break, every person I met, every tree I saw, every rattlesnake that made me jump. 

I'm still coming to grips with the aftermath. Reflection sounds so light-hearted. Truly though it's filled with pain, pride, slight regret, and thoughts of friends you may never see again.  

Thank you for reading about my adventures.  The comments and emails I got were so encouraging and I wouldn't have been able to finish without your support.  Also, thank you for getting curious, changing your route, turning around, and stopping to pick me up when I stood on the road alone with a thumb out... THANK YOU!!!

I am working on putting together a complete story of this strange trip that turned into a search for sanity. A trip that like life is a slow beginning.

Friday, September 24, 2010

ROAR! (Part 1 -Facts)

Over the course of the trail I've written about events, people, feelings, and changes.  But giving a summary of the end result of the 5 months worth of changes, adventures, stories, and hard.  I'm tempted to begin this post with where I am now, both mentally, emotionally, and physically... but it would be a strangely inaccurate representation of me, my hike, and the end of the trail.
Part 1 -  I will catch you up on the last 2 weeks of hiking as if the end hasn't occurred. It's a struggle to relate... to explain and/or summarize changes and ending thoughts so Part 2 will be about being done / reflection.

 The days of Washington are filled with gray mist that begins 20 feet away in every direction... and it never ends.  Rain falls softly, angrily, slowly, quickly, or loudly. It is always wet, humid, and cold.  Clothes don't dry, the tent is stuffed while it's still dripping steady streams of condensation and rain.  Dreams of being warm, dry, or comfortable fade quickly as the days blend together.  After the first day everything is always soaked.

I discovered just how ineffective my rain gear is the day I left Snoqualime with Boat and Slimjim .  The jacket collected water in the forearm as I hiked, causing my fleece to get soaked, and the shirt beneath was already drenched in sweat.   The rain pants had small tears from my glisades in the Sierra's.  It turns out duct tape doesn't actually fix everything.  The pants let moisture in, but not out... so the bottom half of me became as wet and cold as my top half.  In one word... I became miserable. As I didn't have any other clothes besides a pair of long-john bottoms to sleep in, this became a problem.

After the first night camping in an open meadow, with ineffective rain gear, a tent that must not be seam-sealed any longer, a damp sleeping bag, and a failing neo-air I became the hiker I swore to never become.  I walked with my head down, feet to the grindstone.  I walked on auto-pilot.  The Golden Child Zombie walk began as I trudged through thick mist, feeling cold, and depressed.  Unable to take breaks in fear of getting wetter and colder, I didn't see a gorgeous Washington... I missed the flowers, the goats, the berries.

As the day continued and the rain fell heavier I took a wrong turn somewhere.  Lost and confused I took a 3 mile "alternate route".  I discovered how far behind Slimjim and Boat I was when I found a note in the middle of the trail saying they were headed for Desolation Lakes to camp for the night... and "WHERE the hell was I?"  FoxTrot and Flashback(really fast hikers) caught up to me on my 15 minute lunch break; they had taken the same extra route I had.  I was able to catch up with Boat and Slimjim after 2 hours of hard hiking(3.5 -4 mph).  As Boat and I walked toward Desolation Lakes I slightly ranted about how everything was breaking... and I made up my mind that I needed to go to REI when I got into Skykomish no matter how far behind it would put me.  Everything was breaking, they only piece of equipment that hadn't was my stove!  Boat and I considered pulling an all-nighter but I ended up putting my tent up anyways. That night was the first battle between the field mice and I.  I woke Boat up periodically through the night with my headlamp and yells. We fought all night over two snickers bars, my maps/atlas, and my toilet paper. I won the maps and toilet paper, but the mice got the snickers.  After barely any sleep I settled on taking a shortcut into Skykomish as did Slimjim.  As we split off from Boat for the four miles of extreme descent,(3,000+ ft) I listened to Slimjim tell me about reaching his patience with people. We got down to the road in two hours.  Slimjim must have been reaching the end of his patience because after waiting 30 minutes for a car he picked up his pack and told me he was going to start walking. I think he thought I would follow him... but I didn't.  Within 15 minutes a car pulled over and we headed down the road.  I explained to the driver that another hiker was on the road ahead and asked if he would mind picking him up too.  He said no.  If a man had left me to hitch-hike alone then he had done me a disservice making me hitch as a lone female.  This made me slightly nervous... alone in a car with someone who wants to keep me alone.  He dropped me off at Steve's Shop near the Dinsmore's and gave me his cell phone number in case I wanted a ride to REI.

 So I arrived at the tiny General Store / Diner alone.  The conversation with Steve,the owner, was hilarious to me...
Steve: Hiker?
me: yes(sigh)
Steve: Cold?
me: and wet
Steve: Dinsmore's House?
me: yes
Steve: Coffee?
me: YES
Steve: Menu?
me: pancakes?
Steve: I make KILLER pancakes!
me: DONE

After the best pancakes of the trail I headed to the Dinsmore's House(local trail angels) where I  showered and put on a dress from the hiker clothes box. I ended up calling the driver from my previous hitch and he drove me to REI(90+ miles away) and back to Skykomish... it was the scariest ride I've ever had.  But it was worth it for the new rain jacket and replaced neo-air and rain pants.

Slimjim, Damien, and Smiles had decided to get a hotel room further in town, so when I got back Babysteps, Foxtrot, Flashback, Drugstore, Boat, and Cruisin'(CDT hiker) were in the garage. It was a bubble of activity and I found Bump doing trail magic!  She had brought three cakes and they were so delicious. When Bump dropped Babysteps, Foxtrot, Flashback and I off at the trail head the next morning the car was full of energy! We sang Kat Stevens the whole way! High-fives and hugs of excitement, we started off headed for Stehikin.  

I caught up to Boat and Drugstore who had started hiking earlier that day than I.  Boat and I decided on only doing 25 mile days to the border because we didn't want to rush the last part of the trail. Drugstore on the other hand was ready to put the miles in and get the trail finished.  By the end of our first full day on the trail Drugstore had out hiked us by 10+ miles.  The last day getting into Stehikin Boat and I decided to be crazy and hike all the way until 1am to the Stehikin Ranger Station.  In the morning we saw Foxtrot, Flashback, Slimjim, Babysteps, and Drugstore all headed out to the Border(82 miles away).  Boat and I stayed in Stehikin for the night and treated ourselves to the Ranch and the Bakery.  Between the two of us our bakery bill was $78 dollars.  We bought a giant scone for every morning we'd  be on the trail(total = 9) loafs of bread for lunches, sticks of butter, and tons of sweet and intoxicating-ly tasty pastries behind the glass cases.

Leaving Stehikin was hard, Five days of hiking for me, Four days for Boat... we walked 25 mile days, woke up when we wanted, stopped for berries on every hill.  I just tried to enjoy every minute of each climb, descent, break, dinner, and view.  We arrived at the border on September 18th at 4:15pm.  There was excitement... but there was more sadness than anything.  After taking pictures, eating lunch, and making hot chocolate it was time for us to part ways.  Boat on his way to Canada and me back toward Harts Pass(30 miles) where I planned to hitch-hike to a town with a pay phone and call Bump for a pick-up and ride to Seattle.

Things worked out amazingly well the day after the border...  It turns out Balls and his daughter Sunshine had decided to hike from Harts Pass to the Border and back.  I ran into them early the next morning and they had camped with Foxtrot that night, he had already completed his thru-hike and was heading south just like me.  I camped with Balls and Sunshine that night and in the morning we all hiked to Harts Pass... through snow, hail and rain.   When I got to Harts Pass I found Foxtrot beneath the bathroom roof.  My hands were so frozen I needed help un-buckling my pack, getting my dry clothes out from the bottom of the pack inside three seperate bags,... and he untied my shoes then made me hot chocolate.  Before I had finished changing into my dry clothes Balls and Sunshine arrived and we packed the compact car up fully loaded with soaking wet gear and extremely smelly hikers.  Both Foxtrot and I as well as a hiker I didn't know well, RT, rode into Seattle by way of Balls and Sunshine.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Oregon leftovers and Be-Puddled in Washington...

Oregon Leftovers -

When I got back on the trail after a 3 hour hitch from Roseburg, OR. I began hiking alone and found being on the trail strangly hard.  I'd been off of trail life for 6-7 eternity for any hiker, but on top of that I ate an average of 5 meals a day and gained 10 pounds back.  Slightly overweight and mentally unconditioned for the return to hiking. 
I managed the 8 or so miles to the closest water source and found a single thru-hiker camped far away from the weekenders.  I had run into Bump! We camped together and caught up on all the goings on! We spent the following day hiking together and ran into a fast section hiker, Grateful.  He is fairly unique and caught us off guard by hiking in a loincloth.(He didn't wear it the whole time)  I must admit that whatever my initial thoughts were he become a terrific trail companion. And for the next few days we hiked at the same pace, grabbed pizza and beer, snuck into a ski resort's lighting shed, and had good conversation while we walked.  When his section ended and he headed out for hitchhiking I was definitely sad to be on my own again.  Over the course of this trip I would say he is the only person I've met where I didn't feel compelled to finish my sentences because he already understood. The last bit of trail that Grateful and I walked through was right next to a forest fire.  When Grateful and I parted ways my eye began to bother me...
I hiked to the next trail head and was stopped by an Oregon State Trooper.  He pulled out a map and told me I would need to hike somewhere else.  I humorously explained, I had already hiked everything South of here and only planned on hiking North.  After comparing maps and trail locations he determined it was acceptable for me to continue, but only on the condition that I give him my blog address and I carry Police Grade Pepper Spray.  It made me laugh seeing how his face twitched with concern.  I really felt bad for making him worry, I tried to explain how safe I was when I hitch hike... and how I try to avoid bad situations... but he was still concerned.  I was touched that he gave me Pepper Spray and told me how to use it.  It made me feel special and cared about. He also asked me what was wrong with my eye.  It turns out that I got ash from the forest fire between my eye and the contact.  I discovered this two days later, after hiking with one contact to the Big Lake Youth Camp, having my eye washed out by the nurse, and then hitching into Sisters, OR to see a doctor.  I scratched the eye and needed to take antibiotic eye drops for 5-7 days.  As there was another forest fire North of where I got off the trail I decided I didn't want to hike with one contact(no glasses) through another forest fire area.  I spent the night in Sisters and in the morning I found Bump sitting on a picnic table in the County Campground when I returned after going to the local coffee shop.  We got a hold of the local Trail Angel, Loyld, and headed into Bend so we could catch a bus up to Gov't Camp, so we could hitch to Cascade Locks, so we could attend Trail Days(a PCT event for current and previous thru-hikers and trail angels). In the end I skipped 150 miles of Oregon due to the scratch.  I hope to return and hike it with Grateful as it is his last section as well. 

Be-Puddled in Washington -
At Cascade Locks I ran into Slimjim, Psycho and Apricots, Boat, Little Engine and Plain Slice, Auxille, Duff, Shades, Sunshine and Balls, Zero Zero, Just Dave, Redhead, and tons of other hikers I've met along the way!  It was a great time seeing everyone again all in the same place at the same time.  Everyone had stories to share and questions to ask.  It was quite the reunion. 

I left Cascade Locks with Slimjim and Boat and off into Washington we walked!  We passed a few other hikers: Otter, Wyhoming, Passant and Darko, and were passed by Drugstore. Unfortunately it rained quite steadily the entire three days.  The last night out my sleeping bag was soaked and I wrapped myself in trashbags so the heat of my body wouldn't escape.  I woke up to puddles of water in my tent and knew it was going to be a long cold and wet day.  As we trudged through Goat Rocks National Park, I took the lead of the group and managed to take the wrong trail... I missed a turn off(still hiking with one contact) and had to hike back to the last trail intersection. This took place right before Knife's Edge - one of the most scenic and dangerous parts of the trail on the PCT.  As I had gotten lost, both Slimjim and Boat had gotten ahead of me.  I climbed the steep mountain, got to the beginning of the Knife's Edge and became really concerned.  The trail is 16 inches wide with steep cliffs dropping down from the end of the 16 inch trail.  I was so high and the clouds were so low I could only see 100 feet of the drop offs, but I tried not to look because the wind was gusting stubborn 20 mph speeds.  Slimjim got my scary descent on video.  I was so glad to find Slimjim and Boat waiting for me at the bottom.  We continued on, knowing that we had to get into White Pass and get a hotel room.  With soaking wet gear we wouldn't make it through the night.  We got to the trail head to find one of Slimjim's friends waiting for us with chocolate cake, raspberries from the garden, and fresh peaches.  He had no idea she would be there!! We were all so thankful for her kindness, she drove us to her house(60 miles away), fed us, gave us showers, blankets, warm food, and arranged for her neighbor to drive us back to the trail.  It was a perfect ending for walking in 3 days of steady rain!

From White Pass Slimjim, Boat, Drugstore, and I continued forward.  I was finally able to put the other contact in my other eye, so I led our group to a very spacious campground not too far from the trail.  We relaxed and made a fire that evening.  The following day we did 34 miles.  The next day, Slimjim pulled ahead of the group toward the afternoon.  By dinner it was Boat, Drugstore, and I at a creek.  I piped up and said, "Hey, so this is a crazy idea by why not hike through the night and go all the way to Snoqualmie?"  They thought about it, Drugstore had tons of caffeine pills, and we decide to go for it.  We hiked through the night and completed 57.5 miles in a matter of 24 hours and 47 minutes.  We passed tons of tents during our night hike and when we found Slimjim he turned our crazyness down and decided to sleep instead. When we got into Snoqualmie we headed straight to the Breakfast Buffet and ate 4 plates each.  I was cold, wet, and exhausted but so proud. Yea, it's crazy to walk such a distance and to hike for so long a time, but there are only so many days left to be a crazy thru-hiker and it was a perfect adventure.  After breakfast Boat and I snuck down to the Ski Resort's storage area and fell asleep while we waited for Slimjim to arrive.    

Slimjim once again had the Trail Angel connections and we were soon picked up by Thanksgiving Mom.  She was so kind and fed us SO much good food.  We were dropped off at the trail head, fully rested, jacuzzied out, and saturated in starbuck's coffee.  I've got 250ish miles to the Canadian Border and I am really looking forward to being done.

Hiker Updates:
Damien - He is back on the trail and I saw him yesterday at the hotel in Snoqualmie. I should be catching up to him tomorrow or the following day.  He is hiking with my favourite Swedish woman, Smiles!
Shroomer, Missing Link, and Johnny Law  - are all ahead by two days.

I'm not sure what else to share, except to say:  I am happy.  I am warm and clean with my hair in a braid sitting in a carpeted hotel lobby.  I've got all my fingers and all my toes and I miss everyone so much.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Sanity of Oregon!

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. "
 - John Muir

 Leaving Mt. Shasta I looked back across the mountains knowing full well what accomplishments I had made yet looking forward I saw Castle Crags towering ahead, California ready to be completed, and over-walked feet anticipating Oregon tread rumored to be covered in soft pine straw.  I took more time than I had intended and I left being the last hiker in town.  My hitchhike to the trail took a few hours and I found myself turning down rides from the questionable individuals.  

A soft-spoken homeless woman brought me a Jr. Cheeseburger and Arizona Tea; saying she knew how it was.  It was by far the most touching human contact I have ever had.  I started to explain to her what I was doing but she had already walked halfway across the street before I could utter a thank you.  

The longer hitchhike from Mt. Shasta caused me to hike and camp alone for the next few nights.  My first night sleeping alone, both on this trip and in entire life occurred the first evening along Sulpher Creek. I relished in the quiet forest with the slightest rumble of water rushing over the rocks as my lullaby.    Rising early to complete the 3,000 foot 5 mile climb, I found my legs pained by the full pack.  Hungry for oatmeal, I quickly discovered I had not packed any fuel for the next 100 miles of town-less trail.  This required me to ration my lunches.  My average caloric intake didn't even come close to hitting 2,000 as my dinner is my largest meal usually 500-900 on it's own.  Interestingly I got my first 30 mile day with fewer calories.  I rolled into Scott Mountain Campground at 7:30, 30 miles into the day and found the most amazing note in the middle of the trail.  "Trail Magic, Campsite # 1 on the Left."   I made my slow sore walk to the site and sure enough a terrific smell of veggie burgers and marshmallows was floating through the air to me.  Setting my pack down I spied my favorite Trail Angel from Southern Cal. Gourmet relaxing in a lawn chair.  I got a hug and a big smile.  It was great to see a familiar face as well as meet his youngest daughter who was on her first backpacking trip.  I hope she becomes an avid hiker.  Our discussions on trail vs. city life were more developed as I now have a better grasp on the trail side.  I think he found me more mature.   He asked how many miles I would be doing the next day and my reply was, “Definitely not 30 miles”.  

But despite my confident reply... I did another 30 miles the next day.  I hadn't intended to but hiking along the ridge I wasn't able to find a campsite.  After going over 30 miles I called it quits and camped in the middle of the trail near the next creek I stumbled across.  The trail was just large enough for me to cowboy camp.  I was so exhausted I fell asleep in a matter of minutes once I crawled into my sleeping bag.   

ETNA, the next town stop, is a small old-fashioned white picket fence neighborhood with a local soda pop pharmacy.
After having done two 30 mile days in a row I arrived in Etna a day before planned.  I stayed at the Hostel - Alderbrook Manor, also part Bed and Breakfast.  Gourmet, Elaine, Danny, and I went to the local's restaurant - Bob's Diner.  The food was delicious and I ate far more than I or anyone else expected after my 5 days of heavy rationing.  After finishing off my own meal(an extra large breakfast special), I ate Danny's fries, Gourmet's salad and the last large piece of fried chicken left on his plate, part of a chocolate malt, in addition to getting a large slice of berry pie.  Before this I finished off a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, two bananas, and more than a pound of fresh cherries.  

I left the town of Etna by myself, yet I found myself struggling to enjoy hiking alone this time.  The first night Daredevil caught up to me as she had only stopped in Etna for two hours for a quick resupply.  It had been 3 months since we had seen each other.  

On the way to Seiad Valley a car stopped along the 7 mile road walk.  Hummingbird rolled the window down and asked if I wanted a ride.... YES!   - I know you're thinking I cheated... Yes I did... 7 miles in 98 degree heat in the middle of the day.  Upon reaching Seiad Valley I discovered Hummingbird is an ultra-light hiker.... the next day she did her first 60 mile day on the PCT.... she's working on setting the fastest Yoyo record.  I hope she makes it, but I feel sad for her ... it is lonely work being unable to hike with others.  
As we (Missing Link, Johnny Law, Danny, Redhead, Hummingbird, Wolf Taffy, Epic, Little Engine, Plain Slice, Zero Zero, and Just Dave) waited for the heat of the day to pass all the hikers gathered underneath a bridge, started a fire, cooked hotdogs, drank sodas/beer from the small store, and swam in the water hole before climbing 4,000 feet to the next water source.    

Most of us crossed into Oregon together two days later.  We were all excited and I must admit that each of us walked those 10 miles from our campsite with a bounce in our step.  Crossing the state border never felt so good!  Having walked 1703.2 miles in the same state I was estatic to leave California behind and hug the tree with the border sign.  Danny, Missing Link, and Johnny Law laughed at me for giving the sign a high five.  I celebrated the border by eating the two days worth of breakfasts at 10am. 

I once again had the pleasure of meeting Zero Zero!  He's the first blind man to hike the PCT.  He has 27 sponsors and hikes with three hiking partners that make up Team Farsight 2010.    

ASHLAND, the next town stop, is the town of Shakespeare Lovers
Danny, Missing Link, Johnny Law, and I got into Ashland by way of breakfast at Calahan’s Restaurant and Lodge.  We ate an early Sunday morning breakfast on the outdoor patio beneath large unbrellas in giant cushioned chairs.  The fresh coffee was warm and did more than I imagined.  We got a newspaper and truly relaxed listening to the water feature beside us surrounded with vibrantly green grass, blooming snap dragons, and cheerful sunflowers. The day was perfect from beginning to end.  If only every day was as satisfying.  We discussed the possibility that everything was better in Oregon, a far superior state than California.  Danny and I hitchhiked into Ashland and were dropped off at the public library.  We quickly left after discovering how few computers there were for the constant demand of the locals. 

I was the last of the hikers to arrive at the Ashland Hostel and was glad to have made a reservation the night before.  The Hostel quickly filled up with young weekend visitors intent on attending the Shakespeare plays.  The one woman bunking in my room who was not a hiker was clearly disgruntled that Smiles, Charmin, and I were awake, showered, and packed before 6:30 am. 

I left Ashland with Danny, Missing Link, and Johnny Law.  We all camped together the few nights it took to get to Crater Lake, 128 miles.  There were a few nights where I camped with Zero Zero, Just Dave, Double D, Redhead, Wolftaffy, Kentucky Blue, or Epic. All of whom stopped in Mazama Village for a resupply and I continued on to HWY 138 to be picked up by a friend.  In this section I had planned to do 25 mile days but ended up doing a 17(half a day), 30, 35, 28, and an 18(half a day).  Doing a 35 mile day felt terrific.

My last night on the trail I camped alone, not 2 feet away from the Rim of Crater Lake.  My tent site offered the most vivid sunrise of the trip.  A few hours of hiking later I caught up to Mike, who had been two/three days ahead.  I think it was the first time we truly got along.  We exchanged hiking stories, theories, and interactions with each other and joked about how funny it would be if I managed to catch up to him in time for us to cross into Canada together.

I’ve got lots more to add but I want to get all the small things down before I forget….
-       I ran into Halfbrew and Rosie – they offered me a possible job doing guided tours for their company.  They are south-bounders right now and we were ecstatic to see each other!
-        - I met the hiker who started a fire in Southern Cal that took out at least 20 acres of forestry near Idylwild. He’s facing possible fines of $65,000-70,000.
-       I hitched off of HWY 138 with a honeymooning couple from the east coast.  They were amazingly sweet and full of spunk.  I was dropped off at Bend.
-       Backpack – I was in the Bend REI for 2.5 hours discussing gear and equipment that worked/didn’t work with employees and customers. Great people there and extremely helpful.  They knew immediately I was hiking the PCT.
-       Tent – I have not bought a double wall tent for Washington… I am still investigating manufacturers and recent reviews.
-       Starbucks – Upon arriving in Bend my first store stop was actually a Starbucks… no surprise there.  One of the workers is planning a thru-hike with her boyfriend.  I was so excited about their plans I gave her my contact information.
-       Zero Zero / Team Farsight 2010 – I really enjoyed hiking with Zero Zero, the first blind man to hike the PCT.  He followed me for 7-8 miles out of Ashland and had a wonderful conversation.  He is by far one of the most inspirationally, down to earth, no-shit-taking person I have ever met.  I hope to catch up to him when I get back on the trail.
-       300 miles of Oregon left – I plan to do 10 days of 30 mile days through Oregon.  My next resupply will be at Cascade Locks… which is actually just down the road from my friend’s apartment.
-       Culture Shocks:
o  I get car sick these days.
o  Anthony pointed out how my voice has changed and it caused me to realize that I was currently taking part in the longest conversation in over 1.5 months.
o  I did a 5 mile walk with no pack in 100 degree heat and didn’t think twice about it.
o  If I can see at least 12 people my anxiety level jumps up.
o  I like hugs.
o  My spatial needs have grown to a 3 foot perimeter for everyone.
-       Smell – Despite my warnings… RE(friend who I am staying with) was shocked at how bad I smelled.  I tried to wash off at the creek before I hitched too.  He was smart and brought my cotton clothes boxes so I could change before the drive to White Salmon/Hood River.
-       Weather – It’s really hot! High 90’s – early 100’s
-       Getting home – Thinking about taking a train instead of a plane.
-       IPOD – I’m not sure if I will regret this decision but I have had my ipod sent to me so the last few miles of the day will go by a little better.
-       Book – I’m reading a book called, “Wild Women Run with Wolves.” - -It’s a little too intense for trail reading.
-       Other Trails – Canoe Trail in Upstate NY, Pilgrimage in Spain, CDT with Team Farsight 2011, the new New Zealand Trail … who knows, 6 months is a long time.
-       Crazy PCTers – RE’s friend Tyler remarked that for hiking the PCT… I was fairly normal and not crazy like he was expecting.
-       Hiker Hip Language – My mum likes the hiker hip language… I didn’t even notice the switch in conversations until she pointed it out.
-       Sierras – I’ve come to terms with my hike through the Sierras. 
-       Greetings – Hikers usually don’t shake hands because we don’t trust where other people’s hands have been… so we fist bump or high five.
-       Birthday! – It’s today and I am excited to be 23!
-       Smells part 2 – Just Dave and I spent an hour talking about how smells don’t exist if you don’t smell it yourself…  When Wolf Taffy arrived the conversation turned to whether you could actually offend yourself with your own… farts.  It was hilarious…and we all agreed… it wasn’t possible.
-       Yurtman – wisdom occurs with time.  When you trust someone there is no keeping count of mistakes.
-       Camera - It broke... I will hopefully have a replacement for Washington.  Oregon is pretty flat so ya'll aren't missing too much.

Hiker Updates
-       Slimjim – When I got off the trail he was behind me by 4 days (110 miles) but since I am taking 4 day’s off I’ll probably be behind him.
-       Mango – Got off the trail July 5th ish.  He hurt his knee in the Sierra’s and is back home in TN planning his return to the PCT next year. I wish him the best.
-       Damien – Currently in Seattle staying with Yurtman while his ankle continues to heal.  I think he’s started to walk on it and has put the crutches down.

Extras - 
 - JB - trail names for everyone might take some time.  That could be interesting though.
 - EB - How I miss you! I am sitting in a coffee shop in Hood River goofing off and thinking of you.  Listening to your voicemail last night made me laugh and tear up.  You know me so well.
 - Parentals - I love the cards, they made me home sick for hugs and laughs.
 - OK - We need to go driving and sing loudly(off key).
 - MB - I hope the last days of work are enjoyable...I was hoping I would be back in time to see you at your desk before you left.  Give Chloe a ear scratch for me!
 - MJ - Relationship Update: I am hiking alone much more now than ever before.  I have not found anyone that comes close to being worth the consideration, sorry to disappoint!  I've got 800 miles to the Canadian border, so another 6ish weeks of hiking.   I will sometimes go a day or two without seeing another thru-hiker. 

Monday, August 16, 2010


 Half way!!
 Feather River
 Hat Creek Rim Sunset
 Saddle before Mt. Lincoln / Donner Pass - Cowboy camping
Damien @ Saddle
 Amazing Swimming Hole before Sierra City
Getting Damien off of the Trail
 Mike carrying Damien's pack as well as his to the closest road
 Damien, Bump, and Yurtman in Old Station
 Soft Sunset
Smiles and Shroomer in our African Safari campsite

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Legs of Steel! - Mt. Shasta

I am sitting in the one internet cafe of Mt. Shasta wearing new shoes, clean socks, and clothes that smell a little less than they did when I arrived in town yesterday morning. It's been a long haul since I last posted.  I've definitely found new limits.  This hike is hard and requires tremendous determination and fortitude.  Reaching the half way point was exciting.  I remember Damien and I yelling at the top of our lungs while dancing around the monument crossing the line drawn across the trail.  In some ways though it's saddening to reach half way after 3 months and 4 days of very hard hiking and look ahead.  It took that long to hike 1,327 miles.  I am now at mile 1,505ish with 1,150 miles to go and I can't wait to cross into Oregon next week.   Total the PCT is 2654 miles long.  I hope to be complete before October and avoid the snow in Washington.  Hopefully I'll finish that master's application and adjust to living near cars again.

Before Old Station(my last town stop) I had begun to get really tired and had considered taking a week off the trail and working at a guest ranch for food and lodging. I was surprised with myself for feeling guilt at leaving the trail for a week to allow my body to rest. At this point Damien and I had just bumped our daily average up to a solid 25 miles a day. (SR - this means there are days where I walk more than 25.... and those days I hurt.) I ended up not stopping but continued on the next day and arrived more than 2 hours behind Damien walking into Old Station almost to exhausted to eat and shower. Damien and I both took a zero day(no miles) and left late the day after. Our no miles day we went into Redding, Damien for shoes, and me for insoles. I had discovered my entire left foot had gone numb and I was experiencing pain similar to what had caused my long stop in Idyllwild(mile 200 or so). After much discussion with other hikers it was decided I don't get arch support. We looked at my insoles and we were all surprised to see holes worn into different places. This past 100 miles I decided to invest in new/better shoes and insoles made for heavy hiking.

In Old Station, I found myself in the company of many hikers: Jake the Rabbit, Balls, Sunshine, Yurtman, Bump, Blue Butterfly, One Step, Guardian Angel, Steady Eddy, Motor, Neon, Avo, Max Chill, and Mike(yea he caught up).  Mike, Damien, and I left late in the evening to get in a night hike through the hot Hat Creek Rim section of trail.  We camped after 10:00pm and began hiking again around 4:00am.  Later in the morning, Damien who has been a joy to hike with rolled his ankle again.  This time though he was unable to put any weight on it.  Mike took his pack and began walking down the trail after the decision was made to get Damien off the trail and to the closest road.  I kicked debris from the trail so he could hop the .5 miles a little easier.  Smiles a Swiss/French woman with 30 years of mountaineering and hiking experience arrived for the .25-.5 mile of off trail walking.  She got a log and had Damien sit on it while she and I carried him to the road.  Afterward Smiles and Mike left to continue hiking.  I stayed with Damien for a little while before leaving to walk down the road a couple of miles until I got cellphone service.  I called the Trail Angels in Old Station, they drove over, picked me up, and we went back to get Damien.  He's currently still in Old Station on crutches.  After a few days of rest the Old Station Trail Angels took him to the hospital to make sure he didn't tear any ligaments.  He got the okay, but he will be off his ankle until it's back to 100%. 
I continued on to the water cache 8-10 miles further and camped with Smiles, Redhead, Mike, Shroomer, Little Engine, and Plain Slice.  We camped along the Hat Creek Rim Ridge in tall dry yellow grass with an amazing view of the sunset beside Mt. Shasta and on the exact opposite side the almost full moon was rising.  It was beautiful and we joked we were cowboy camping in Africa. You would have liked it.

I am excited to say I will get a few days off from hiking.  A close friend has agreed to pick me up off the trail to celebrate our birthdays(his is one day before mine.)  I hope to get in 400 miles before August 15 so please wish me luck.

I'm running out of computer time, but I hope to update again in Etna, 100 miles from here.(4.5 days?)  I will be continuing on alone from Mt. Shasta.  Smiles, Shroomer, and Mike left at the crack of dawn today.  I needed to catch up on emails and phone calls.  I also would really like to keep distance between Mike and I.  But I hear Slimjim is catching up and I expect he is closing the distance between us as I type.  I think he's 30 miles or less behind me so I expect to see him in the next week or so.

Gear - I am definitely thinking of getting a new backpack as my current one has gotten a hole in the bottom that no amount of self repair has fixed.   - - fingers crossed it will last me another 400-500 miles?

Pictures - If you would like to see more pictures please check out my facebook albumns - my mum has recently posted the rest of the Sierras.

Email - having problems getting my gatech email.  Please be patient if I haven't responded yet!!!

I hope everyone is doing well and taking care. Miss everyone!
 - Golden Child

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mt Shasta

Emily's Mom here!  It's been a long haul but Emily is persevering!  She left Old Station (1382) last night.  She's on the trail to Mt. Shasta even as we speak.  It's going to be a 33 mile dry section - all open and hot - in a burned out area (no shade).  It's in the nineties mid-day...  Still hiking with Damien (the nicest hiker on the planet)!

I put all her photos on facebook - it's PCT group 4.  Encouraging text messages and facebooks posts would be helpful at this point.

New Photos for July

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Honker Pass

Again Damien and I had not planned to stop until our next resupply town but we did anyways! :) Walking down the trail there was this giant sign: Honker Pass - Showers, Laundry, Mattresses, Food.  We took down their number and address continuing our walk thinking about bacon.  We hiked 22-24 miles to the road and hitched down to Bucks Lake.  I would say this is my best stop so far.  We got in around 7pm to find the owners out for dinner but they had left the side building open with instructions on showers and laundry. There was even a cooler outside with cold beverages!(even three types of beer Barry!)  The couple Terry and Nancy have a giant porch really made Damien and I feel at home not out of place. The food was absolutely amazing and I enjoyed every bite. Being on the trail for so long it's strange to be inside, sitting at a kitchen table, eating with two pieces of silverware and have a napkin in your lap. 
Alright I need to get clean clothes on and start the 18-19 miles walk to Belden. I'm glad I've pushed it this week, doing 24 miles days have really brought me back to a good hiker rythym.  I can't wait to keep going!
I should have computer access later tonight or tomorrow; oh and I'm at mile 1274.4!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Echo it up baby!!

Yes! I am back on the trail and I can see it for more than 5 minutes of the day!(it's not fully covered in snow) I love it. I've gone over 9,000 feet for the last time on the PCT and sadly... it doesn't sadden me in the least. The ice axe was sent to it's rightful owner in Lawrenceville, the bear can was sent home along with more pictures from Bridgeport. My pack dropped about 5-6 pounds getting rid of just those two items. I've kept the Microspikes just to calm any last minute worries I have over the next two hundred miles that are still scattered with snow and ice.

To give you an update on fellow hikers... Mike and I stopped walking together as of Echo Lake or I-50.... or Safeway where his mother kindly dropped me off.
I spoke with SlimJim a few days ago and he should be getting back on the trail at Toulome Meadows. I warned him about the river crossings and the places I was lost for the longest. The trail/conditions change so dramatically and everyone's perception of "dangerous" is significantly different. What I think is passable many consider pulling the ice axe out or vice versa.  Mango is somewhere behind me and hopefully doing well.
Walking into Echo Lake Mike and I ran into two other thru hikers, Yurtman and Bump. I find them some of the most interesting and enjoyable fellow hikers I have run across in quite sometime. I stayed at an amazing camp, "Berkley Echo Camp" with Yurtman, Bump, and Damien. Everyone else there belonged to a large family and tons of kids. I set my tent up near Yurtman and Bump's and enjoyed listening to the food bell(all you can eat) and kids playing basketball or learning guitar. It was an amazing break and the fireworks from the top deck on the fourth reminded me of how different city life is from my own. From far above Damien and I looked over busy South Lake Tahoe, amidst three sets of fireworks and millions of people along beaches. If we were down there... we probably would go insane with the people, noise, and general over stimulus. It's interesting how that life, that city people life can be a vortex. Here I am, everyday surrounded by the most beautiful country I've ever seen and it is my life and there are people far below me who have been waiting for the fireworks all day, and have been camped out for hours with their perfect spot. What a comparison.

I've stopped at a trail angel with a lake home named Pooh's Corner. I'm sitting in a living room with a rock wall covering the fireplace.  I just returned from a late night(9pm here) canoe across Donner Lake with another hiker, Wyoming.  She was one of the female hikers who shaved her head at kickoff back at the end of April. She's nice with a very calm quietness to her that I find enjoyable.  It's so different than the male hikers. Pooh's Corner is absolutely amazing and the view of the lake is relaxing every minute I see it.   He/Pooh cooks amazing food! I had the salmon I've been dreaming of and he HAD 6 gallons of ice cream in the freezer when I got here!  Damien and I went through a gallon within the first hour of arriving. It's been a good stop and the unexpected timing will allow me to hike straight to Belden without stopping in the small city of Sierra City. I'll continue on to Burney, CA then to Mt. Shasta.

Have you ever sat in front of a live orchestra and goose bumps crawl up your arms at the magic of the music? The past few days from Echo Lake have been filled with that feeling. The wildness of walking on a open ridge line with miles of gorgeous views on both your left and right side while stepping between bushes of vibrant yellow sunflowers and purple flowers.... volcanic rock rising in the far distance. Nothing compares to reaching the highest point along the whole ridge and yelling out.  Wicked wild freedom.  It's a great feeling. Every step has been worth it just for that yell on top of that open ridge that continued for 10 miles.  Camping on the last saddle before Mt. Lincoln overlooking Donner Lake was the best night's sleep I've had in months.  The sunrise was bright red with the bare glints of a true purple.  It was too good for a camera.

I'm doing well and miss everyone.  I'm staying safe and causing only slight trouble everywhere... :)
 - Golden Child!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Getting Lost...

I've made it to Bridgeport. Finally. People say the trail gets easier further north but what I've found is you get into a mental pattern.  Nothing can be as bad as what you have already done.  Creeks are cold but must be crossed.  Face planting in snow hurts... but it happens. Falling down a snow slope is scary but you'll stop at the bottom and you'll get up and try the climb up again. There is no turning back.  Trees do not give directions.  If you are still standing... you keep walking.  This last 100 miles was more technical than the last. I decided on a detour through the Toulome Grand Canyon and found myself amidst the most gorgoeous raging waterfalls and sharp canyons imaginable. It took 7 days of hiking on 5ish days of food with many hours spent lost in canyons following the wrong creek or hiking up the wrong pass and in the wrong direction.  I tried to use the ice axe on one occasion and unfortunately managed to let go of it ... I dropped 50-60 feet across rocks and into trees.  The snow was icy and afforded me little traction.  I swam across a 6 foot deep creek and pulled my pack across with rope from the other side.  I've never been so cold in my life.

I've run out of time in the library but I'm doing well... just tired.  I have so much more to write... an update on Mike and his idea of map reading, other creek crossings, and interesting hiker run ins...

My next stretch is to Echo Lake, 75 miles.  I hope I'll be able to reach it by Sunday.  I'd love to see Fireworks on the Fourth of July.

I wish I had more time to write!!!
 - Golden Child

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

200 miles with snow....

"The mountains are calling and I must go."
 - John Muir

Snow covered and intoxicating the hills, valleys, mountains, and rivers are alive in the Sierra's.  The views from a top ridges, saddles and passes are breathtaking. The lakes below are ice covered with an addicting blue rim amidst the vast white backdrop of sun cups and snow fields. I've never seen snow look so beautiful or rocky cliffs look grand. The smell of trees coming down from a mountain pass is so strong I find myself stopping to breath in.  10 feet away the bark, leaves, and sometimes(if I'm lucky) the dirt becomes new.  The water in the rivers, streams, and creaks runs so clear that purifying water is pointless.  Remoteness is extreme, just walking in the vast white landscape transforms me into a hermit.

I'm sitting in the Mammoth Lakes Library.  There are 6 other hikers with me each blogging and trying to catch up on emails.  The past 200 miles have been the hardest and longest days of this hike.   I've never worked so hard or been so exhausted for a such a long time in my life. I'm not exaggerating and I don't even know where to begin.  Snow is not only physically exhausting but mentally.... it's a killer.  Leaving Kennedy Meadows I have been hiking with Mike, a city guy from PA who is easily frustrated and angered.  Hiking the PCT is not a dream for him... it's something to keep him busy after he was laid off.  I have little patience for dealing with the emotions of others and I enjoy spending much of my day hiking alone but camping with others.  Hiking with Mike is trying.  I am NOT a climber.  I take my time on the uphills and relish in the flat and down hill stretches.  The Sierra's are dangerous, there is no path, no trail, only snow and rocks. Navigating is critical. Paying attention to your surrounding is imperative. No one hikes alone.  ...Which makes it important to hike with others who walk at your pace.  Mike and I ... do not have similar paces. For the past 200 miles I would say 150 of those have been snow/ice covered. Having never walked on more than 10 feet of snow in my life, I take my time.  This frustrates Mike and often times I get up to the top of a mountain, pass, saddle, or hill to find him waiting with a look of complete impatience.  This is not my idea of a good climb... a good hike, or good company.

I attempted Mt. Whitney but was unsuccessful in completing the ascent.  I woke up around 4am, packed up, hid my extra gear near the ranger's station, and left Crabtree Meadows ready to conquer the world.  I made it around Timberline Lake, over snow fields, past Guitar Lake, up over rough boulders, and to the edge of the first switch back that abruptly stopped at a sheet of ice covered rocks. I was alone, every other hiker(12 -14 of them) had gone ahead.  I've never felt so singular in my life.  I sat on the last boulder of the switchback and looked straight wasn't going to happen. I hated stopping.  My motto to this point had been, "I'm a real woman.  I can do anything."  ... and I found a limit.  I discovered a difference between failure and disappointment within myself.  Not being able to keep climbing doesn't compare to failing a test or disappointing a supervisor because you didn't capitalize a word.... or abbreviate correctly.  This is all you...this is your dream... this is your day to conquer a mountain... and it didn't happen because you couldn't do it.  To Perserver no matter the conditions... Fail.  The 5ish miles back down to Crabtree Meadows was slow.  Zorro, a fellow hiker, found me on a small dry section of the meadow packing up.  He knew I hadn't made it and offered to climb Mt. Whitney with me tomorrow.  He had been where I was on other ascents...climbing alone straight up boulders (with no trail) for the first time had stopped him before.  I didn't take him up on his offer, but I did ask if I he would climb Forester Pass(the following day's hike) with me(13200 ft in elevation / the highest point on the PCT).  He said yes.

The next day was hard, he taught me how to walk in snow to avoid post-holing.  The Israel Gears hike with Zorro and they waited for me too.  They walked behind me up Forester Pass. ... I don't know how to describe climbing a pass.... so here goes.  Imagine a wall of snow and ice... with patches of rock sticking out. Walk to the base...boulder straight up a rocky patch to find footprints at the top.  The footprints lead straight up... it's like climbing a slippery ladder to the next rocky patch.  Repeat this for at least an hour with an ice axe in one hand or two trekking poles and a 30-35 lb pack.  It's hard, it hurts, and it's never over. The Israel Gears and Zorro were amazingly patient with me.  Bouldering was difficult and I couldn't always see a foot hold because a rock would be blocking my vision.  One of the Israel guys would move my foot to a safe place. ...Bouldering is harder than climbing the ice ladders.  Rocks fall and tumble...I've slid down more rocky patches than ice.  There are scratches all over my legs...  Getting to the top section of Forester Pass I was once again sliding rocks down the cliff to tumble down at least 1,000 feet below me.  A tipy rock was in the way of a good hand hold so I picked it up, threw it down the cliff saying a few cuss words.  The Israel Gears below laughed.  When we got to the top... I looked over the edge... wow it was steep.  The whole walk there I hadn't looked around, just concentrated on walking in snow efficiently...seeing everything from that height was breathtaking.  I couldn't have made it through that day without the Israel Gears and Zorro.  The hike down to the tree line I post holed between rocks hip deep, face planted, tripped, slid down snow covered cliffs, and each time someone was beside me to help dig me out of a snow hole, or pick my pack up after face planting so standing was easier. Ishmal would step up 3 feet with no problem... he would wait the 5 seconds for me to reach the step up,  hold out his hand out and pull me up the giant step.  ... I've never been or felt so appreciative toward other people.  At the end of the day, 18 miles later, I gave them all hugs... and my eyes were watered up a little. They are kind people and I love them.  They gave help that I needed and didn't make me feel bad about accepting.

 After Forester Pass Mike and I headed into Lone Pine. The stop was needed.  The failed Mt. Whitney attempt had mentally knocked me down. Leaving Lone Pine we picked up to other hikers... very different than Mike and I.  Slim and Sunseeker.  The 8 days between Lone Pine and here... have been hard.  I saw Mike, Slim, and Sunseeker for 6 days straight without seeing anyone else.  The Sierra's whopped our asses...  We did a pass a day starting with Kearsarge, then Glen, Pinchot, Mather, Muir, Selden, and Silver.  Passes are hard work and I've never been the slowest in a group before until now.  I think what made the last 8 days the hardest was the company. I've never been around a group so unexcited about the surroundings.  I love the hiking, scenery, physical and mental difficulty that accompanies each day and thru-hiking as a whole.  The attitudes of these other hikers was negative, angry, and pissed off.  It's so hard to enjoy a new beauty, especially my new love of the cold outdoors with this type of company. BTW... Mike is thinking about leaving the trail.

Even though it's hard, I love the snow.  I'm fairly sunburnt all over with cuts and scraps from post-holing every where on my legs. I should have mentioned what post-holing is... it's when you step in snow, and it gives and your leg drops down.  Sometimes it stops ankle or knee deep but other times there may be rocks below the snow... and there might be a gap between them and lucky you... stepped right in between.  These usually get me to my hip ... once up to my waist.  Until post-holing hip deep I'd never used any upper body muscles on this trip... needless to say I've become good at lifting myself out of a snow hole, or digging my feet out below me.  I've learned to slide down snow slopes/steep cliffs with my ice axe!! It's amazing amounts of fun but I've had a few close calls when I didn't have the ice axe handy and I slid down to a rocky straight drop.  Usually some has been nearby and they've been able to help me out.

Hmmmm, I have more to write but not enough time to get my town chores done.  I need new shoes, more sunscreen, snacks for the next hike...and I need to catch up on my journalling.  I haven't decided where to go after this.  Most people follow the PCT through Tuolumne Meadows then on to Bridgeport... but I'm thinking of side tripping into Yosemite Valley and doing other trails up to Bridgeport.  I loved the remoteness of the John Muir Wilderness as well as Kings Canyon National Park.  I've been to Yosemite 2 or 3 times before always having done short day hikes.  I think it would be enjoyable to see more of Yosemite's beauty on foot rather than out of a car window. It would also give me a chance to hike on my schedule.

I miss everyone...

I sent another camera memory card home so my mum should be putting some more pictures up!!