Pacific Crest Trail

Skylar Griesell and Elizabeth Ketterer at Southern Terminus of Pacific Crest Trail at Mexico/California border.

Editor’s note: Elizabeth Ketterer of Cle Elum is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this spring and summer and is sharing stories about her experience in a series of columns in the Outdoors section of the Daily Record. This week’s installment covers Mount Laguna to Warner Springs, Calif.

Life is settling in better since the first few days on the trail. I’m so thankful. I cannot believe it’s only been a week.  I’m very proud to say that I passed the 100 mile marker!

The terrain changes so quickly throughout each day. It amazes me how my surroundings in the Southern California desert area can be so diverse. I have seen numerous types of cactus, and a variety of bushes and plants. Every day I see a new plant or reptile. I have seen two snakes up close, so far. The first one was grey with brown spots. It was on the trail three feet in front of me before I saw it. I stopped and walked slowly away from it and waited for it to leave at it’s own pace. A day later I saw a beautiful clay red snake slither across the trail so quickly, I almost missed it.

The daily grind

I have been so thankful each day to be out here on the trail. I’m still dealing with painful blisters all over the bottoms of my feet. Every step is painful. Yet the beauty of nature is still outweighing my discomfort for the time being.

I’ve never been so dirty all over my body. My clothes smell so bad, it’s not worth it to even carry extra clothes. They get sweat and dirt caked on them so quickly. I wear the same shorts and long sleeve sun-protectant shirt every day and change my socks out once each day as I sweat through the morning pair.

I’ve started taking foot care breaks every few hours on the trail to air out, elevate and redress my blistered feet. Showering once a week just adds to the stench.

Water, water, water

Water is a main topic for us hikers as we are traveling through the desert in a drought year for California. We rarely talk anymore about what we packed in our bags or about food. The daily conversations all revolve around confirmed water sources, how far until the next source, how many liters of water each person has decided to carry on various stretches. Hikers want to avoid carrying the weight of too much water, and the consequences of carrying too little is life threatening. 

Basically, our discussions are incredibly primitive and repetitive. Yet we never grow tired of talking about water and strategies for hiking in desert heat. I feel like I’m living in a little bubble where things like fashion, politics and socio-economic status are replaced by a mentality of survival. In all honesty, the change in daily priorities from my regular life concerns is refreshing and even freeing.

Elizabeth Ketterer of Cle Elum is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from the California-Mexico border to Canada.

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