“I feel like a million grams.”

Okay, I have two announcements to make. And then a third one, because two just wasn’t enough.

These are BIG and IMPORTANT announcements, so pay some motherfuckin’ attention please.

The first is that I will be moving to Florida next year. Yes, I might die of heat stroke or white trash or alligators. But all jokes aside, I’m actually very excited. I think it will be better in every way than Logan besides the mountains, though the mountains are substantially significant. My advisors got a very good offer from the University of Florida, so we’re officially starting there fall of 2015. And I guess I’ll be living in Gainesville.

Ooh, and there are beaches! (Sort of close.)

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Second thing is that I’m going to have a second attempt at a thruhike of the Appalachian Trail next year. All the stars have aligned in the most beautiful, unbelievable way. This is happening for real and I cannot fucking wait.

I’ve mentioned my first AT attempt on the blog a couple of times, and most people who would be reading this know about it already. I started at Springer Mountain in Georgia in March 2013 with the intention of hiking over 2,000 miles to Maine. I didn’t finish because I had to start school in August and also my best friend from high school was getting married, so I got off in New York about four months after I started. It was still an incredibly life-changing experience.

That really deserves a post of it’s own, but don’t hold your breath. I’m a lazy bastard. You’ll at least get a few photos.

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I’m getting excitement goosebumps just looking at those.

After I got off, I thought that would be that. But no. That unfulfilled goal of a successful thruhike has burned hard in the back of my mind ever since and I’ve realized that I won’t be happy (or at least content) until I achieve that goal. And because of a series of fortunate events, some due to my initiative and some not, I will have the opportunity at an attempt.

And while these sorts of events are an attempt because there are so many uncontrollable factors, I know I’m going to make it. I was mentally and physically in a great place when I got off trail last year and I’m quite confident in my ability to have a successful thruhike. And an amazingly fun one. I’ll be starting in April, most likely near the end of the month, next year at Springer.

Hyperventilation-level stoked.

And then there’s the news that’s not so good, and actually pertinent to this blog’s original purpose. (There’s a little foreshadowing for you.) I went on an easy 3 mile run around my neighborhood a month ago after getting back from a wedding in Tennessee. Apparently I’m no longer allowed to run on roads at all anymore, because it tweaked my knee. While the knee is slowly but surely getting better, there’s been no reason to give y’all any updates since then because pretty much all I’ve been doing is swimming.

It’s caused me to ponder my fitness choices a lot lately, though. I even wrote a 1,500 word diatribe about my knee and the emotions it evokes that I intended to post here, but it got much too dark and intense and I was worried someone would try to get me committed. Maybe I’ll throw it up someday. Let’s just say, I get very stressed out and depressed when my knee flares up, but I constantly deal with the fear of a flare-up even when it’s fine. And it worries me that it seems to be chronic, but I don’t have the means to get it looked at.

So I’m making the executive decision (I am, after all, the executive of my own life) to take an extended break from running. Ever since I became a runner in 2008, I’ve never intentionally stopped running for any length of time. I’ve stopped due to injuries and for the couple mandatory weeks after track season. I’ve never even thought seriously about stopping because it’s such an important part of my life. I need workouts to stay mentally balanced and running has always been my absolute favorite.

But I need to think long-term here; I would rather take months off now and be able to run for years. I would also really appreciate a break from the emotional trauma of dealing with this injury. I’m going to take off about a year from running. That’s the six months until I start the AT, and then the six months I’ll be on it (I wouldn’t be running then anyways). Some of the motivation for that timeline is to ensure my knee is fully healed and ready to go when I start hiking.

I’m definitely going to remain active. I plan to completely replace running with all of the other activities I love. There will be plenty of boring-to-write-about cross training (stationary biking and swimming mostly), lots of hiking which will transition to snowshoeing/cross-country skiing in the winter, and hashing, obvs. And possibly picking up yoga again in the spring.

At this point though, there’s no way that I could reasonably finish the 1000 Mile Challenge. Without any miles from running, and from this past month off, it would be difficult to maintain the required mileage and probably put me in a bad physical spot for the AT. No more weekly updates then. But I’ll be posting sporadically, probably mostly backpacking trip recaps and maybe some of the more ridiculous hashes. And hopefully I’ll keep this blog rolling while I’m on the AT.

Is that enough words for you?

Because I want to end this on a positive note, here are some pictures from THE FIRST HASH I’ve done in FIVE MONTHS. I had to do quite the supercharged down down for backsliding.

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Identity crisis.

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I’ve missed my Salt Lake hashers so much and it’s great to be back.

And more pictures, this time from a 4 mile Card Canyon evening hike.

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Hopefully I’ll be back next week with some cool shit from my first trip to Zion. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy getting fat from being lazy, and you are very welcome to join me.

Weeks 21 & 22: “Rub it all over myself.”

I just had THE BEST WEEKEND EVER.

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No joke.

But that’s not what this blog is all about, so you’ll just have to suffer from not knowing why.

 Week 21

Wednesday: 4 mile trail run

Thursday: 2 mile walk

Friday: 2 mile walk

Saturday: 9 mile hike

—–

Week 22

Monday: 3.5 mile run

Tuesday: 3 mile hike

Saturday: 2 mile walk

Sunday: 3 mile hash

—–

TOTAL total: 464.7 miles

I’ve finally busted out a couple of hikes in the Logan area since I’ve been back.

The first was Logan Peak Trail a couple weekends back. Damn, that seems like it was a longass time ago.

Anyways, I’ve been meaning to attempt Logan Peak for quite a while, mostly because the trailhead shares the same parking lot in Dry Canyon as the south section of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. I only saw maybe a half dozen people while I hiking, which surprised me, but it’s probs underutilized because it’s not in Logan Canyon.

The deal with this peak is that it’s one of the taller ones in the range to the east of the town of Logan, topping out at over 9,700 feet. There’s a really nice, pretty well maintained trail that starts at the bottom of Dry Canyon and goes steadily and gradually up the canyon for 3.5 miles or so. It’s forested for most of the way, but opens up higher to some dec views of the canyon and Logan.

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And then there’s this.

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The trail forks, with Syncline going south over into Providence Canyon and the left fork going up and over into Logan Canyon. That the left fork is labelled Dry Canyon confused the shit out of me and I stood there staring at the sign for a while.

From what I had been able to deduce from the internet, I needed to take the left fork for a little bit, then magically know where to turn right off that trail and head up to the top of a ridge. I bushwhacked for a while in the wrong place before realizing that I had turned too early, but I did somehow actually magically find that turnoff!

I knew from there on out there wasn’t a real trail, but I had expected it to be a little more obvious than it was. I mean, srsly?

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I spent a while slowly making my way up the ridge, grumbling and stomping through the bushes. I would think to myself, oh, this is fun, sort of maybe, uhh nope nopenopenope, stupid, this is so dumb, fuck no. I went through this process a handful of times before I gave up and sat down on the ground in the bushes to eat lunch and listen to some cows mooing in a semi-distressed fashion.

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It’s no big thang for people from out west to just bushwhack straight up to mountain tops with no trail required. I’m definitely not down with that (yet). My sense of direction is pretty shit, and I’m so used to dense woods that you will absolutely get lost in if you leave the trail, that doing that sort of thing is not my idea of a good time.

So I said fuck it and turned around. I cruised down to my car and that was that.

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I did have a spark of inspiration for a excellent new project for this challenge while hiking down. It’s going to be EXCITING and PARTICIPATORY. I’ll probably talk about it soon, so keep an eye out for that.

While my bf was visiting last week, I dragged him out to Wind Caves trail, which I did the very first week of the challenge, to make him suffer from the altitude and heights.

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I’m not actually taller than him, I was standing on a rock.

I think he had a good time. With that juniper.

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This is definitely what I’ll miss about Utah.

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As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this past weekend was THE BEST WEEKEND EVER. I went to Denver to hang out with my hiking partner from the AT. He was visiting Colorado, so I decided to visit him.

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Luckily, the stars aligned and there just happened to be a hash in Denver while I was there. It was the annual high altitude hash, so the trail went up to and around St. Mary’s glacier. Super cool! I went with my hiking partner’s friend, who’s also a hasher.

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For some reason, Spam is an integral part of the high altitude hash. One of the hares walked around feeding people Spam with a plastic fork. Cause why the fuck not.

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The Denver H3 crew was awesome and we had a fabulous time. Hashing is a global organization and most bigger cities have a kennel, so whenever I travel I always try to visit other kennels. Every kennel runs their trails and circles slightly differently, but hashing draws in a particular type of person so I always feel comfortable and have fun with hashers no matter where I am.

Also, hashing on a glacier. Duh.

Week 20: “But cheeseburgers!” (JMT Part 3)

Okay, so if you’ve been paying any attention, we obviously kept going and made it to Whitney.

Joan is a fucking hardcore badass (obviously, she hiked 9 miles with food poisoning) and was fine the next day. Don’t we all wish we could recover like that?

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We hiked with William down to the Bishop Pass junction, where he was meeting his dad, and then continued onwards. Don’t stop can’t stop.

Monday (Day #15)

15.9 miles – Deer Meadow -> Lake Marjorie

Tuesday (Day #16)

16.2 miles – Lake Marjorie -> Sixty Lake Jct

Wednesday (Day #17)

19.0 miles – Sixty Lake Jct -> Shepherd Pass Jct

Thursday (Day #18)

11.4 miles – Shepherd Pass Jct -> Guitar Lake

Friday (Day #18)

15.0 miles – Guitar Lake -> Whitney Portal

—–

Weekly total: 77.5 miles

TOTAL total: 436.2 miles

Things were a little different during this last section. We really needed to push out some bigger miles to make it to Whitney in time, because we had to be back in Utah for the start of the semester on Monday, so we couldn’t be as chill about hiking during the day.

This last section of trail is also higher in elevation than what we’d already done, so the landscape changed. It became more barren and open than before. As someone who is used to the dense forests of the southeast and upper midwest, being so exposed is kind of scary. As a westerner, Joan understandably laughed at me every time I said I was uncomfortable.

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We also had to go over four of the five big passes (Mather, Pinchot, Glen, and Forester, having already gone over Muir), which meant a lot more elevation change each day. Honestly, I thought all of the passes were harder than getting up to Whitney. Which seems crazy, but realtalk.

Mather Pass felt the most difficult to me. It was just relentless uphill that went on forever.

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Pinchot also felt pretty hard, but I think it was just because it was so early in the morning. It was a short two mile climb for us from a campsite at Lake Marjorie, where we had hung out and shot the shit with three Texans.

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At the bottom of the valley between Pinchot Pass and Glen Pass, there’s a bridge that’s apparently referred to as the “Golden Gate of the Sierras”, which is dumb. We met an engineer who called it the “Tacoma Narrows” instead.

We hung out with the engineer’s hiking partner Cindy at the bridge. She had thruhiked the AT a few years and her trail name was Centipede. They had been camped near us the night that Joan had food poisoning, and she had helped us find a campsite and gave us some good advice because she was also a nurse. Fuckin lucky.

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We hiked through the area leading up to Rae Lakes that night. Joan said it was the most beautiful part of the trail, but she might have only been saying that to make my grumpy ass feel better. It was gorgeous, though. I also seem to have given up on taking pictures at this point, but she got some great ones of Fin Dome and the lakes.

At our campsite near Sixty Lake junction that night, the poo nightmare started. Every single rock had the feces of other people underneath. We were afraid to touch anything out of the fear of touching something undesirable. We couldn’t figure out why it was so bad in this particular area. It seemed like it was high-use for weekend warriors, and the ground was kind of rocky and tough to dig holes in, but seriously. That is fucking disgusting. Please please please, always dig proper catholes and pack out your TP.

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Because of campsite locations and mileage requirements, the next day was our biggest day. Nineteen miles over both Glen and Forester passes. My guidebook said Glen was narrow, which I didn’t understand accurately until I was on top of it.

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We started leapfrogging with a thruhiker named Crosby after Glen Pass. He was doing really high miles, like 25 a day, and was set to finish in 12 days! He said it was because he was solo hiking, so he didn’t have anything else to do but hike all day, and I totally believe him. Being in camp is kind of boring when backpacking alone. I met him several times throughout the day, but somehow Joan didn’t meet him until the top of Forester Pass.

Doing Forester felt really good. We’d been hearing that it was a tough pass, and it’s the highest on the JMT, so I was mentally ready for it. I just busted up that shit without stopping. It was getting cold that late in the day, so I had to keep hiking to stay warm, and some clouds were rolling in and I was worried there would be some weather, which also helped.

We made it and then hiked down to treeline and camped with Crosby. Long but good day.

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Our last night on trail we camped at Guitar Lake, like most people do. This was poo nightmare redux. The deal is that between Crabtree, right before Guitar Lake, and Whitney Portal, all hikers are supposed to pack out their shit in what are referred to as wag bags. This is due to the high volume of people in the area; if everyone pooped everywhere, it would be absolutely nasty.

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Well, the moment we got to Guitar Lake, Joan saw this couple both squatting down behind some rocks.  They then stood up and walked away, EMPTY HANDED. No wag bags. This very reasonably sent Joan into a rage, and she angrily vented about the orange-shorted asshole for the next two days. We also had the same problem with turning over poo rocks at our camp that night. Ugh.

There were also way too many people around Guitar Lake.

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One reason Joan and I were compatible hiking parters is because we both had no desire to wake up early. I will never understand people who are on VACATION waking up at 5am while it’s still cold and their tent is covered in condensation. We made it our goal to roll out of camp around 10am, and this happened pretty much every day.

A lot of people like to be on Whitney’s summit for sunrise. It’s supposed to be amazing or something. Most hikers we talked to at Guitar Lake were therefore planning on waking up at around 2am to hike up to the summit. So we said fuck no to that idea, and instead got out of camp around 8:30am. A little earlier than usual, and it sucked because it was still cold and my tent was covered in condensation.

The hike up to the Whitney trail junction was totally cool, but it would have been scary to do in the dark. Like everyone else, we stashed a bunch of our stuff at the junction and headed up to Whitney.

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And then we made it!

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The hike down to Whitney Portal was actually way steep and took far longer than we expected. We got a hitch into Lone Pine from a couple of older ladies, who told us that the area around Lone Pine was where tons of old westerns has been filmed.

We stayed in a hostel in town that night, and we ended up sharing the room with a couple of Germans who were on vacation. They came back right after we’d stuffed our faces with Mexican and ice cream and bacon, and Joan was completely passed out on her bed.

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The next day we began the loooooooong journey back to my car at Glacier Point. It took 5 hitches (pharmacist-turned-trucker, Burning Man group 1, awkwardly naive Chinese couple, Burning Man group 2, and photographer Gabriel), a mile-long walk through a tunnel, and 11 hours, but we made it and my car was still present and functioning. Then we drove through the night back to Utah, during which I got extremely strung out and sick of gas station food.  And that was that.

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We ended the trip like we started, hanging out in the Glacier Point parking lot.

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Basically, the JMT is the shit. If you’re thinking about hiking the JMT, and you should be, you should be interested in things like meadows, laughing at your own bad jokes, laughing at other peoples’ bad jokes, little dudes, being hangry, loud explosion sounds, surprising amounts of water, walking, being quiet (sometimes), wildflowers, coldness, walking, incorrect signage, tall ass trees, being dirty, being smelly, not showering for more than a week, jumping in cold lakes, meeting people who are slower than you, not meeting people who are faster than you, watching the original television (i.e., fire), walking, complaining, shit under every rock, too much beautiful, being offered whiskey, chippies, happiness, some real blue sky, clouds that don’t do anything, meeting the best randos, carrying bear cans (over two pounds yo), finding out that your hiking partner is carrying two lighters, down-valley up-valley pass repeat, stream crossings with wobbly rocks, stream crossings with huge bridges, dead pictures, poop waves, being higher than anyone else in the lower 48, crying at least once, bigger miles, blisters, thinking you’re not going to make it, fatty marmots, lakes, occasional freakouts, docile deer, and walking. You can also contact me with more specific questions, though I’m by no means an expert or anything.

And I’ll wrap this all up by leaving you with the funniest picture of them all.

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You’re welcome.

Week 19: “I wish I was in NYC and could smell hot garbage.” (JMT Part 2)

Trail.

It’s a dangerous place.

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Monday (Day #8)

11.9 miles – Fish Creek Trail -> Cascade Valley Trail

Tuesday (Day #9)

13.7 miles – Cascade Valley Trail -> Lake Edison Jct Bridge

Wednesday (Day #10)

15.3 miles – Lake Edison Jct Bridge -> Sallie Keyes Lakes

Thursday (Day #11)

8.1 miles – Sallie Keyes Lakes -> Piute Creek Jct

Friday (Day #12)

11.6 miles – Piute Creek Jct -> Evolution Lake

Saturday (Day #13)

9.2 miles – Evolution Lake -> below Muir Pass

Sunday (Day #14)

11.0 miles – Below Muir Pass -> Deer Meadow

—–

Weekly total: 80.8 miles

TOTAL total: 358.7 miles

Okay, so where were we?

While we were hanging out at Red’s Meadow hiker trashin’ it up, we met a group of 3 thruhikers from Indiana. Andrew already knew them, and turns out we would have also known them the week before if we hadn’t been antisocial and camped on the wrong side of the Lyell Fork bridge. Pro tip: Don’t be scared off by naked ladies bathing in a river.

Around the same time, we also chatted with a half dozen guys who were northbound and doing a long section of the PCT. They started talking about some hot springs they had just come from, and insisted these were amazing hot springs with great views and only added on a few more miles than the equivalent JMT section.

Now, I’m not typically a last-minute plan changer. My type A personality won’t allow for it. But some sort of miracle occurred, probably something about being tipsy in the sun surrounded by other backpackers, and fucking thank goodness for that. We decided, along with the Indianans, to go for it.

We headed to the Rainbow Falls trailhead instead of back to the JMT, hiked a few miles, and camped next to a stream.

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We made it to Iva Bell Hot Springs the next day. And holy fuck it was awesome. Highly recommend.

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Unfortunately, because of our rather tight schedule, Joan and I had to part with the Indianans and keep moving that day. One of the shitty aspects of being on trail is meeting cool people and then parting with them prematurely. I will probably never have as many conversations about blowdowns ever again.

We started hitting some passes on this section, Silver and Selden. They must not have been that bad compared to the later ones because I barely remember them.

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In between Silver and Selden, we camped at the Lake Edison junction, which is one of the turnoffs for VVR. We’d set up camp and then took our bear cans and stoves a little ways away to make dinner. We were just hanging out afterwards and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something in camp, looked over, and there was a fucking bear running through. We jumped up and went back to camp, and had an epic 30 second staredown with the bear.

Turns out the bear had grabbed my clothing stuff sack, ripped it up, and abandoned it.

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We later found out our neighbors, Cass and Lauren, had had their water bottles and a trekking pole chewed up. Could have been worse. This bear apparently doesn’t know the difference between food and non-food, what a dumbass, but he regularly frequents that camping area because it’s pretty popular.

So that was our only bear encounter. I’ll take it.

Let’s talk resupplies for a hot second. Our first resupply was at Red’s Meadow, which has a little store with camping stuff. Joan actually barely had to get anything there because she’d packed way too much food before we started and, between the Red’s hiker box and Andrew’s donations, I ended up paying like $8 for food for that section. #winning

Our second resupply was at Muir Trail Ranch, which is about 100 miles into the JMT right after Selden Pass. Almost everyone resupplies at MTR because it’s the only easy place to do so in the second half of the trail. Which is shitty because it’s a super expensive resupply. You have to mail a bucket of food to the ranch, and they charge $65 per bucket.

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This has to be done at least three weeks in advance because they boat the buckets across a lake and then carry them into the very remote MTR. We sent ours kind of late. Luckily both of our buckets were there though, phew.

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Most people send themselves too much shit, so there are buckets full of free food, batteries, gear, etc., at MTR. Because we’d heard horror stories about people being super hungry on the JMT after MTR, we hung out for way too long eating food. And, this is important for later, we both ate food that had been repackaged by people. I don’t normally do that, but we were too tempted by bags of sketchy trail mix and an already-opened block of cheese.

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Also, the hot springs at MTR are supa lame compared to Iva Bell.

We went through the Evolution Basin/Valley area, which is one of the most beautiful sections of the trail, and camped at Evolution Lake with a cool thruhiker from Santa Cruz.

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Just to prove that we were still walking around with all our shit on our backs.

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Shit kind of hit the fan the day after we camped at Evolution Lake.

About half an hour after we’d begun the six miles up to Muir Pass, Joan started feeling sick. Those six miles turned out to be the most slow, stressful, and scary of the trip. We were stopping every 10 or 15 minutes so that Joan could sit down and try not to throw up, and I was freaking out planning an exit strategy and hoping that Joan wasn’t going to die on the side of a mountain.

She somehow made it to the top of Muir Pass. Two extremely helpful day hikers carried Joan’s pack the last mile up to the top of the pass, which was basically a godsend. I don’t know if we would have made it otherwise.

We were sitting on top of Muir Pass, me feeling helpless and Joan curled up under her umbrella, when an angel walked up to us. His name was William, and he happened to be a nurse. He helped us figure out what she had, which was most likely food poisoning because diarrhea is usually the first symptom of Giardia and Crytosporidium, and gave her some antacids so she could eat and drink more. We think she got food poisoning from eating other peoples’ trail mix at MTR. I will never again touch food that is possibly feces-covered!

We then hashed out a plan to get off the pass. We hiked down the three miles to the first decently protected campsites, with William carrying some of Joan’s gear while I carried her pack. Even so, by the time we made it, it was getting dark and Joan looked like a zombie from eating nothing and drinking only half liter of water. She managed to keep down some food that evening, and got a good night of sleep.

I’m so so so glad that we ran into William on top of the pass. We’re so grateful for all his help and advice. I don’t what we would have done without him, and it could have been a total disaster otherwise. Thank you so much William! I hope the rest of your trip was successful.

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The trail provides.

Did Joan survive? Were we able to continue on, or did we have to leave the JMT? You’ll have to read the next JMT post to find out!

This was the only picture I took on the Muir Pass day.

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It’s of a patch of snow that could be seen from the top of Muir Pass. Why the fuck did I even take that picture?

Week 18: “Just a string. ANY string.” (JMT Part 1)

Somehow, despite an almost empty gas tank, a black bear/stuff sack incident, a probable case of food poisoning, and various (expected) aches and pains, we made it to Mt. Whitney.

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And because I’m obviously a big fucking nerd, here’s a figure of our daily mileage. It was made in Excel instead of R though, so not too nerdy. Ha!

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Monday  (Day #1)

6.7 miles – Glacier Point -> Little Yosemite Valley

Tuesday  (Day #2)

9.9 miles – Little Yosemite Valley -> Sunrise Creek

Wednesday  (Day #3)

12.4 miles – Sunrise Creek -> Tuolumne Meadows

Thursday  (Day #4)

10.7 miles – Tuolumne Meadows -> Lyell Fork Bridge

Friday  (Day #5)

12.6 miles – Lyell Fork Bridge -> Garnet Lake

Saturday  (Day #6)

10.8 miles – Garnet Lake -> Minaret Creek

Sunday  (Day #7)

6.3 miles – Minaret Creek -> Fish Creek Trail

—–

Weekly total: 69.4 miles

TOTAL total: 277.9 miles

 

The trip got off to a great start. Only a few hours after leaving Logan and getting into Nevada, we almost ran out of gas.

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I was driving 55 on the interstate and coasting downhill. Stupid NV. (I’m obviously not the stupid one here)

We did end up making it to Yosemite and then to the Glacier Point trailhead, where Joan’s first half-hearted attempt at breaking her bones occurred.

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For those of you not in the know, the northern trailhead of the JMT is technically at Happy Isles in Yosemite. We’re too cool for that! We started at Glacier Point instead. This was great because we started at a higher elevation, there were less people, and the views of Half Dome were amazing.

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This was not great for my purist inclinations. And the Glacier Point parking lot is an hour further into Yosemite than Happy Isles, which made getting to my car after we finished more difficult. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Like any other national park, Yosemite is packed with people, but these people are predominantly clustered around visitor centers, notable overlooks, and toilets. It took a one minute walk down the trail from the trailhead for almost all of these people to disappear. #magictricks

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And we also saw gigantic tree poop.

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On the second day we hiked Half Dome. It’s a JMT rite of passage, or something.

Don’t try this at home if you’re afraid of heights. It requires using cables to climb up a nearly vertical cliff face.

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It’s pretty sweet at the top though.

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We got lucky summiting on a weekday. I’ve seen pictures of the cables completely packed with people, and we heard a horror story of some guy having a heart attack while going up the cables and almost taking others with him while falling to his death. No big.

It was kinda busy when we were coming down and we had to wait for quite a while.

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Ooh ooh! I also gave Joan her trail name while we were on Half Dome. She has been christened Bad Monkey due to an affinity for climbing up trees and not being able to get down. And also for eating crazy amounts of dried fruit and threatening to throw bags of shit at hikers breaking the rules.

It didn’t really feel like our JMT thruhike started for real until after Half Dome. But then we were off!

The rest of the trip consisted of a bunch of walking, resulting in the frequent development of hamburger feet, and a bunch of looking at stuff, of which my piece of shit camera did a great job at making blurry.

We were clearly miserable…

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…especially when some guys at Tuolumne Meadows gave us a bottle of wine that we took to Ranger Dave’s talk (“Don’t cuss it, cash it!”)…

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…and everything around us was so ugly.

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One of the major draws to long-distance backpacking is the community that inevitably forms on such trails. Something about engaging in a weird shared experience makes all hikers super friendly and chatty.

We met an older couple, Dave and Elaine, at our campsite the first night and we consistently leap frogged with them until they got off trail a week later. They were super sweet and had a lot of experience hiking in the area.

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Also during the first week, we were crossing a stream when Joan fell in. I never fell in because she was the guinea pig finding all of the wobbly rocks, which is one of the unfortunate duties of the point person. That’s in exchange for getting all of the good views first! Anyways, right as this happened, we met Andrew from Chicago. He was one of the more ultralight hikers on trail, mostly because he’s a real adult with a real job. We sort of hiked with him for a hot second to Thousand Island Lake.

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We didn’t see him again until the morning we were heading into Red’s Meadow. We detoured to Devil’s Postpile, which are those weird hexagon-shaped rock formations, and rolled into Red’s Meadow just in time to get breakfast at the cafe there. Overpriced yet delicious.

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Red’s Meadow was great because there was a bunch of hiker trash just hanging out in the courtyard area between the store and cafe, sorting through resupplies and drinking beer and looking pseudohomeless. It felt just like the AT; my heart was singing with nostalgia.

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While we were at Red’s Meadow, our plans changed for the awesome thanks to some fortuitous conversation. So awesome that it will have to wait until the next update. You’ll have to come back and fucking check it out!

Week 17: “Evil power steals on!”

Okay, this is gonna be quick and dirty.

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Tuesday: 2 mile walk

Wednesday: 2 mile walk

—–

Weekly total: 4 miles

TOTAL total: 208.5 miles

I basically took this week off. Before longer trips, I like to give my body time to heal with the expectation that I will then have less trouble with injury on those trips. I’ve also been busy dealing with logistics and some work stuff.

Oh, longer trip you say? On Monday, I’ll be starting a thruhike of the John Muir Trail with my friend Joan. The JMT is a 211 mile trail in California, which starts in Yosemite and ends at Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 (don’t say continental US because people will yell at you). This will be the epic finale to my summer.

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This blog will be dead for the next 2-3 week, so you’ll have nothing to look forward to in your life. But don’t pull out the razors and nooses yet; you bet I’ll be back with a fantastic recap of the trip when I return to civilization. Have a great August.

Weeks 15 & 16: “It’s not a cage if you’re feeling like a resident.”

Missed last week’s update because I was at an ecology conference in Maine. I was far too busy, stressed, and exhausted to be bothered, for serious. Also, nothing that exciting has happened since the King’s Peak trip.

Except for chicken parties.

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And scientists playing cornhole.

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And eating burritos at the airport.

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Because I have to. If I ever don’t require a burrito during a trip, please take me to see a doctor.

 

Week 15

Monday: 8.5 mile hike (King’s Peak)

Thursday: 3 mile trail run

—–

Week 16

Monday: 3 mile run

Wednesday: 3 mile run

Saturday: 4 mile trail run

—–

TOTAL total: 204.5 miles

I totally meant to hike up Logan Canyon yesterday, but ended up floating the Oneida narrows with some people instead. Much better life choice.

I went on a couple of runs while at the conference, mostly because I needed to maintain my sanity just a little bit. We were at the University of New England in Biddeford, which is right on the ocean. Except you can’t see the ocean from campus because of a narrow band of trees between the two, which seemed like a stupid thing to me.

So I ran off campus. It was beautiful and not that hot there and at a reasonable altitude.

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Those were some good times, yo.

Now let’s talk about some not so good times.

The other two runs I’ve done in the past couple of weeks were both in Logan, one on the north segment of the Bonneville Shoreline trail and one on the south.

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These were awful. It’s just because I’m not acclimated to these elevations, so I have problems breathing and feel exhausted. I’ve never before wanted a run to end as badly as I have recently. I know there’s nothing I can do about this and it will get better with time, but it’s frustrating. I feel like I’m just being a lazy fuck making excuses for why I have to walk up every teeny tiny hill and stop all the time for no reason. That’s just my character; I blame myself for problems that are genuinely out of my control. It’s so motherfucking pointless.

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The positive side to this is that it makes me realize how much easier running has become for me, now that I know what it’s like for every run to be a painful, godawful trudge.  It’s not like that normally, and I’m going to try to more mindfully appreciate that running just isn’t that difficult for me anymore.

Which is a beautiful thing.

And so was this little guy just hanging out (right in my way) and this ambiguous sign.

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Week 14: “Cardboard box sized rocks.”

GUYS GUYS GUYS! I’ve now made it to the highest point in Utah! Aren’t you proud?

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That’s on top of King’s Peak in the High Uintas.

Thursday: 6 mile hike

Saturday: 8.5 mile hike

Sunday: 13 mile hike

Monday: 8.5 mile hike

—–

Weekly total: 27.5 miles

TOTAL total: 191.5 miles

Even though that Monday is technically part of Week 15, I’m including here because it was part of the same trip as Saturday and Sunday. Deal wit it, yo.

Things I learned from the King’s Peak trip:

1. Nav is hard and I’m useless with topo maps

2. Though it can be concerning to take shortcuts, it all works out

3. Not acclimating before trips at elevation is dumb

I’m going to give y’all a chronological rundown of the trip. Here’s a thousand pictures and a couple words.

 

Day 1 (Saturday)

My friend Jake and I left Logan early and got to the Henry’s Fork trailhead by about 1pm. There were a bunch of Boy Scouts emerging from the wilderness as we dealt with some filter issues and took advantage of the last real bathroom for 3 days.

And then we were off!

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We passed a bunch of people on the first bit of the trail, and got to bask in the glory of the forests and streams.

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The intent was to head up near Dollar Lake and camp for the night. This stretch of trail was fairly gradual increase in elevation from 9,500 feet to a little less than 11,000. In any other circumstances, I would have been fine. But, because I’m a dumbass, I’ve spent most of the summer under 1,000 feet and was huffing and puffing constantly. Every hill was a mortal enemy.

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Our campsite was beautiful and above what we erroneously thought was Dollar Lake. Turned out we’d gone a little further than intended. Not a bad thing when peak bagging the next day.

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Pyramidal structure. Yes, that is a real word.

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I’m pretty sure if Jake can climb that tree, a bear could, but none did.

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Day 2 (Sunday)

We had to get up at the ass crack of beforedawn because we wanted to make the peak by noon. Thunderstorms, and oftentimes cray cray lightning, tend to occur in the afternoons in the Uintas. The last place anyone should be during lightning storms is on the highest point in the state. Therefore, at 4am, good morning moon and fuck you.

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Going over Gunsight pass.

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On my roomates’ recommendation, we took a shortcut to skip the unnecessary elevation loss of following the actual trail down into Painter’s Basin. Turns out we did the middle route, which you might just barely be able to see in the middle of the below photo. On the way back, Jake took the higher route, which comes out up near that snow patch, and I followed the middle route again.

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Painter’s Basin.

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View from Anderson Pass, at the base of King’s Peak where we stashed our packs and started the intense rock scramble up to the summit.

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Parts of the aforementioned scramble up the north ridge of King’s Peak. The struggle was real, people.

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SUMMIT! Hoo-fucking-rah!

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Luckily there was almost no snow up there. I have a hard time believing that snow could still be hanging out in July anywhere in the US, but it’s a thing here. This is the east side of King’s Peak as I was heading back.

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Some other pretty pictures.

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We both made it successfully back to the campsite, same one from the night before, and immediately collapsed into slumber from exhaustion. We celebrated the summit later that night with a fire (that burned a giant hole in my fleece) and our poisons of choice (Jameson and Bacardi).

 

Day 3 (Monday)

We retraced our footsteps back to the trailhead on the last day. We made really good time on the gradual downhill, and only stopped to take a few last pictures.

Last view of King’s Peak.

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Yes, I’m walking backwards. I promise I wasn’t lost and/or losing my mind.

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Jake crossing a neat little bridge near the Henry’s Fork Basin Trail fork.

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Me crossing the bridge also, and again backwards. Shut up.

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Basically, that was that. It was an epic and awesome adventure. We lucked out with perfect weather, not a drop of rain and only saw lightning from afar on the first night. We only saw two other guys on the way to the summit and very few people on the trails at all after the first couple miles from the trailhead. At least, very few people to me. These crazy people out west have no idea what crowded trails are like, and apparently what we saw this weekend was quite a crowd, ha ha.

Oh, and I should stay a hot second to let you know about the hike I did this week before King’s Peak, and have subsequently forgotten about.

On my way back to Utah, I stopped and camped at Vedauwoo in eastern Wyoming. It’s an awesome little place, right off I-80, with free camping and some great rock formations. I hiked Turtle Rock, the most popular trail in the area, and took some lengthy detours onto the Valley Massif Trail. And I saw a moose! The map I used is here. Have a couple pictures of these shenanigans.

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And that’s all there is to say.

Week 13: “Life is too short for good posture.”

Hello from fabulous and scenic Cedar Rapids, Iowa!

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Okay, okay, my childhood home is actually neither of those things. You caught me.

This sight always induces excitement because it means I’m almost there. Love you Nesper sign!

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Thursday: 3 mile run

Sunday: 4 mile trail run

—–

Weekly total: 7 miles

TOTAL total: 155.5 miles

 Another traveling week, with the purpose of seeing some very good friends and family.

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It’s been a fantastic whirlwind, from running into some semi-strangers from my undergrad at a bar to seeing fireworks and the Chicago skyline from a Wicker Park rooftop to eating vegan poutine for the first time.

I obviously managed to sneak in some runs though!

Almost the moment I arrived in Chicago, my friend Susannah asked if I wanted to go run. We went on her typical route, from her apartment in Uptown over to Lake Michigan. It was incredibly beautiful.

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Hot and sweaty, y’all!

I was more sore than expected the next day because it was on pavement. These unusual aches led me to the realization that my summer runs have been exclusively trail, and I ain’t complainin.

I also intended to run when I got to CR this weekend. I spent some (i.e., minimal) time perusing the web to find a trail, because I’m actually not all that familiar with the trail systems in the town I grew up in. I was more of a fat lazy fuck than a runner back then.

I quickly settled on the Boyson Park Trail, a 2 mile stretch in nearby Marion. Drove over there, super pumped to get out a few miles, and turns out the trail is closed due to some pretty intense storms they’ve had recently. I could see some significant washout just from the road.

I had no backup plan, because why the fuck would I waste time with that, so after a few hectic minutes on my phone, I picked the Grant Wood Trail. You know Grant Wood even if you don’t. He’s the artist behind American Gothic.

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Anyways, the Grant Wood Trail consists of three unconnected segments in Linn County, each 2-3 miles long. I chose the middle one because it was the right length. It’s further out of town than I wanted to go, but what can you do?

The trail was flat, straight, and grassy. It follows alongside a few creeks and is nestled in a wooded area. Yes, contrary to popular belief, there are some trees in Iowa. Of course, just beyond those trees were farm fields.

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While this had the potential to be a solid run, I (again) had to shit most of the time. This is becoming a common occurrence and it’s NOT OKAY.

My knee has been great, thanks for asking. That’s mostly because I’ve been too busy to get in very many miles, but this has given me time to strategize. I need to be a bit more proactive in dealing with this. I started taking glucosamine a couple weeks ago, and I’m going to double down on doing strength and cross training, especially swimming, this fall. Oi.

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Week 12: “It’s a hairdryer out there.”

Crop circles, NBD.

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Wednesday: 3 mile trail run

—–

Weekly total: 3 miles

TOTAL total: 148.5 miles

I spent half of this week traveling (again). If you haven’t noticed, that is the theme of this summer. I’m too busy having fun gallivanting around the country to worry about this challenge.

I DID spent a shit ton of time outside, though. Which is the whole point of this thing, yeah? I went to my lab’s field site in southeastern Arizona to help out a labmate with some fieldwork. We spent the weekend out in 100 degree heat trapping rats, and it was the greatest.

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It gave me the chance to get away and process what’s happened so far this summer, and think about the next couple of months, which are going to be a whirlwind. Having no cell service really helped with that.

It was also beautiful out there in the desert, albeit in a barren, alien sort of way. That area is the confluence of several deserts (Sonoran and Chihuahuan) and mountain ranges (Rockies and Sierra Madres).

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The sky was also enormous, and we saw only a single cloud the entire time.

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We drove through the Chiricahuas on the way back. I’m definitely going to come back to explore that area.

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I thought about running on Sunday when we got to our hotel in Tucson, but it was way too damn hot to be possible. I’m still trying to decide whether 100 degrees and no humidity or 90 degrees and extremely humid is better. We ended up drinking and swimming in the hotel pool instead and, in hindsight, I’m grateful I managed to not drown.

I’m going to be traveling again this week, making my way back to Utah after a few detours in the midwest. Sneaking in some walks and runs is the goal, but we’ll see how that works out. Later haters.