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Day 28

20ish? (Km is unsure because of a detour we took. Book days 24 but it was probably 19??)

I'm currently sitting in the tent, all set up, at 4pm. Russ is still hiking because he is my hero. Water is an extra 6km away (3 out and 3 back) and he went to get us 6 more liters. He's my hero. Sometimes it scares me because he's so tough I feel like I'm going soft. I'm always the one falling apart, and he's just always there smiling. He's amazing.

This morning we woke up cozy and warm in the trail angels’ tiny room, and I honestly didn't want to get up. We read a little then, after getting locked in the room temporarily, packed our things. We got on the road but I felt heavy. Usually after town I feel so good getting back on trail but I think my body wants a zero. We have yet to take a full day off and so I struggled to leave town. We walked to the edge of the crater and stopped for some grape leaves which I thought might make things better. Usually, if you're not sure if you’re hungry when hiking, it means you are. After a snack we headed down to the bottom of the crater (which is the largest erosion crater in the world!!), then across. We both put music in and wandered through the sand and rocks. We stopped early for lunch, at a lone tree, apparently it's the only shade in the whole canyon (but it didn't matter today because it's very overcast). After lunch, more tunes, some slow climbs and descents. We eventually came to a road and as we walked the dirt road, two girls pulled over and gave us supper yummy juicy apples. People are kind.

Oh! My shoes kicked the bucket today. Well, yesterday maybe but now both left and right shoe have decent sized holes and are basically destroying my feet day by day because they are so thin. I've officially killed them with ten days left. I apologize in advance for any foot pain complaining that happens from here on out - my shoes really are trashed and there isn't anywhere to get new ones. The rest of the walk was whatever and now I'm at the campground solo as Russ walks. There are two other groups here and a guy in a car gave us some water so Russ doesn't have to carry as much. I've been thinking about how I really want to volunteer more. If anyone has suggestions I'm all ears.

One last thing is I feel so hyper tuned into what my body is feeling and doing when I hike like this. I think it's because there's nothing else to think about but I never notice my body this much, when it's good or bad. Also I have two red splotches on my legs that look similar to the thing on my hand... so that's interesting.

Late night addition: Once Russ came back we had ramen and our neighbor who was Israeli invited himself into our tent and chatted with us for a while then made a fire and we stayed up "late" and chatted with another girl who was American but teaching math abroad in Poland.

 

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Day 27

28 km

 

Woof. Another long day.

Slept well all cowboyed up in my sleeping bag, even though everything was damp and kind of soggy when I woke up. We sat in bed as we made our oats, just like every morning, and then packed up. Russ packed up so fast I was shocked. Also, there were two seemingly very religious Jews wandering and praying (so early they do this, it's nuts) that made it very tricky to find privacy and pee.

We were the first group out of the campground and the morning moved slow as the sun lazily dragged itself up. This is also because we were slowly lowering into a canyon with massive walls. The hiking was slow but beautiful and after 4km or so you climb straight back out, to a flat rolly bland hill top. Rock city. From there we pressed on and had a snack around 9. We missed a descriptor in the book which is always kind of tough, because it's hard to know if you’re just hiking super slow or if you missed it. Anyways, from snack break we dropped down to a 4x4 dirt road that took us along the craters edge primarily into town. The walk had its ups and downs that I'm not going to get into in depth here I'll just say, it's really tough being someone who is a planner and having no idea what your life plan is with two weeks left of traveling. Also it's hard on a relationship.

We were both short on water this section so we made lunch brief since there is absolutely no shade anywhere. We slogged dryly under the sun and made it to town close to three, where we went straight to the supermarket and stuffed strawberries and drinks galore into our faces.

We relaxed in a park for a bit just to process then went back in for resupply shopping. We shopped and after an hour, we crammed the food in our packs and walked to our Angels’ house a few minutes away. We're staying with a sweet artist couple who own a ceramic studio and have a young kid. Our room is as wide as the beds but we don't need much more. I had a Skype interview after a much needed shower then we ate dinner and caught up on Internet stuff. Now time for some sleep, and hopefully not being short on water again.

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Day 26

21km

 

Today was tough at the end.

We woke up on a mountain top as the sun rose and ate our daily oatmeal. We climbed to the summit which the book claimed had a "wow" view and it was spectacular. Desert as far as you could see or imagine. Then we pressed on mostly down into the valley. The morning’s walking wasn't hard and we found ourselves stumbling upon an "oasis" aka a spring with tons of water that was so breath taking. We spent some time there soaking in how crazy the world is, especially the desert. We snacked a bit then kept moving. We both felt sluggish and by 9:30 it was time for music. We both put headphones in and pressed on the slow uphill, followed by a huge downhill to the shadiest desert valley ever. Such a strange day.

After two hours of lounging, eating, cards and some book, we pressed on. By now it was 1:30.

The heat had come. The desert felt so hot all of a sudden which I know sounds stupid but it hasn't been that hot. All of a sudden I felt the heat everywhere, as it not only beamed down on me but radiated up from the rocks and sand below my feet. It roasted my shoes until my feet were boiling and I was short on my water predictions so now I was really in a mood. The trail also climbed straight up again. My body dragged and when the climb finally leveled off and hit a road after 3km we took another break. Russ and I talked about a siesta and eventually tucked into the shade of a bush for another hour and a half while the hottest part of the day passed - really taking me back to the PCT. We played more cards then close to 4 pressed on. Being short on water sucks, and the heat was making my brain feel like mush. We chatted for a while then I got in my head stuck on a negative loop of thoughts. No need to go into details, let's just say sometimes it's really easy to get thinking about all the reasons you’re a bad person and all the things that are wrong with you. And they just loop. I hike fast when my brain does this, and Russ asked what happened since my speed had dramatically increased. I wanted to be done. I felt like I was running the last few km and when we arrived at the campsite I was so happy. Time to think about something else.

The desert has designated camp areas, but it’s nearly impossible to get stakes in the ground here so we're cowboy camped, which I missed dearly. The stars are unreal. Wow. I think I said this yesterday, or a few days ago but if you haven't gone star gazing recently, go do it. It's humbling. We had lentils with cream of broccoli soup and chatted with a guy from Belgium going northbound.

I think that's mostly it for now, town is tomorrow and I'm very ready for laundry!

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Day 25

23 km

 

Tent was frozen again this morning.

We got on trail around 7:15 this morning and despite the cold we were cruising. My legs burned on the smallest of climbs which is left over from yesterday, heavy legs means yesterday was tough. We walked the mellow morning with headphones in at a very brisk pace. My body snapped into PCT speed chiller mode quickly after one hard day.

The trail was easy and rolled up and down for fourteen km. We passed a rock field full of dark igneous rocks laid out in words, quotes, and images in the light sand. For some reason it was not emotional but more spiritual. Not sure why.

We took one break then plowed on and finished the books instructions. Next we took a 4 km detour to the town of Midreshet Ben Gurion. We got pita sandwiches and posted up in the small restaurant for a few hours to charge things. We ate, cleaned out our packs, resupplied, got a pizza to go and paid the guy who cached our water.

And once again I'm struggling to stay awake as I write this and it's barely 8pm.

The guy at the falafel shop was fun, and intrigued by us. He asked us questions, and told us he too hopes to hike the PCT someday! He played me some Australian folk music then we hit the trail again... did I mention we got a pizza to go? And Russ had it atop his pack?

We hiked the 4km back to the trail then, after some debate, we ended up climbing most of tomorrow's first climb to a small plateau at the top of the valley walls. The designated campsites here are rock hard ground that is not friendly to people like us who don't have a free standing tent - aka you can’t get stakes in the ground. The climb, like most here, was straight up and had metal rungs. The sun was setting and the white rocks were so beautiful in color. When we got to the top we ate one slice of pizza, then read then set up camp and had more pizza, followed by hot chocolate with bourbon!!!

Another good day in the books. The desert is making me so happy. I'm starting to get chafe so hopefully it doesn't get bad, but I'm happy out here. Everywhere you look is 360 degrees of breathtaking. The desert is magic.

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Day 24

18 km

Today was long. But so so happy.

We got up at 5, but the kept snoozing until 5:30. We skipped breakfast and the tent was soaked (can it still be soaked if the whole thing is iced?). We snacked as we started hiking and walked over the railroad tracks rather than passing under another small silly underpass. We climbed through a valley, over lumpy rocks and as I struggled to navigate rock climbing with my pack on we were quickly passed by a Swiss guy, his girlfriend, and his mom. Swiss folks are all goats, I swear.

We hiked a mountain called Mount Karbolet - somewhere you should Google. The rocks are in clear layers and all slanted at crazy angles. The trail is up and down all day, with some good climbs, and lots of walking with your ankles at a funny angle. It's really surreal, and doesn't really feel like earth at times. We kept pretty good pace throughout the dispersed climbs and stopped for a real breakfast around 9.

In the book, today is the hardest day - as stated by the author. He is very clear about being done before dark and where bail out points are earlier in the day. We kept track of our pace, and when we passed the halfway point we both felt better about time. We took some pictures at the observation point but continued on to the top of the highest summit where we took another break. We ate and took in the view, got passed by the Swiss (who we played leap frog with all day) and took a photo for a couple headed the other way. After a few more ups and downs we began the final descent. The last 4km of trail are flat and easy, but the 4km before that are more swirly rocks that involve climbing and navigation and metal rungs and so on. The landscape could give you vertigo. It's crazy. We took a break in the sun and ate skittles while I attempted to tan my stomach, because my shorts tan is going strong. The last 1km of tough terrain took us 45 minutes or so. Very slow. Anyways, I don't know how else to explain it, and I'm sure photos won't do it justice. Also my body held up well despite all the side hill action and weird rocks and giant steps! Once we were through the tuff stuff we stopped in the sun for an hour since we were so early and read. Sometimes I think I drive Russ nuts because all morning I was anxious about the time and we were done by 3pm. It doesn't even get dusky until 5 or so. Somehow that moment with just us, sprawled out in the dirt as Infinite Jest floats through the air is perfection. It takes me back to the early PCT days when we were just getting to know each other. Russ reading makes me happy. Russ makes me happy.

Anyways we read Infinite Jest for a while then finished the last hour to camp. I set things up while Russ found our cached water. We both crushed dinner and had to make some of the extra lentils for round 2. Hard day calls for two dinners.

Today was such a good day. I didn't think once about my future, or the job search or any of that. It was me in the moment, with the rocks and the sun and my beat up Altras all day. Ugh. I'm a happy little bee when I have days like today. It makes me never want to stop hiking. Days like today make me grateful. I'm not sure how much of this is endorphins from a good hike today but man. I think this feeling is true happiness.

 

PS - I got these weird sun bumps when I did NOLS back in the day. One left a scar on my right ring finger, and now it's all red and puffy. Kinda sketchy. I'm putting sunscreen on my hands often but I'm def keeping an eye on it.

ALSO THE STARS ARE SURREAL. Whoa. If you haven't star gazed recently go do it!

 

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Day 23

21km

Woke up to the sun!! And a dry tent!!! Hopefully the rain is gone forever!

We woke up to Russ's food bag about 20 ft. from the tent, and pretty tattered. We speculate it was a coyote or something? Anyways it took a ramen, some granola, and tried but didn't like our dried veggies. After assessing the bag, Russ left to go do phone stuff a little ways back where we had service on trail. I lounged in bed and made some breakfast, watching as the sun rose slowly and painted the clouds in the sky pinks and purples. Once Russ got back, we packed up and got on trail. The morning was pretty easy, and as we got to our first large descent, we ran into a group of twenty middle aged hikers with day packs. We chatted with them for a while and they fed us homemade treats and tea! Then, we dropped into a canyon, and hiked in it for an hour or so. The sun was warm and even almost getting hot. Finally.

We took another snack break and polished off a bag of chips. We could see the climb ahead of us and greasy potato chip hands weren't going to help much on the 30ft ladder. We climbed up a steep hill, then the ladder, then metal rungs and although some parts were kind of sketchy with a backpack on, we got to the top.

Israelis are really big on coffee in nature, and we ran into a couple taking in the view. They offered us coffee and more snacks, so we took off our packs and chatted with them for a while. They were young and sweet and nice to chat with, and gave us some tips on places to stay. As we pressed on we took a wrong turn, but it wasn't too far off track and we kept running into people. We ended up at a road and a parking lot. It's crazy how you can go from feeling so small and far away from everything to seeing tons of people and cars whizzing by so fast.

After another snack break, a quick one, and we were off again. Through an underpass - which was only 4 ft. tall aka too short, causing us both to have to squat kind of strangely - then straight up on something that took us a good 10 minutes of sketchy climbing to realize was a wrong turn. Back down, then more straight up on the actual trail. The earth here is crazy. It has layers that have been rotated at such crazy angles it's hard to describe. My shoes have next to no tread left so the climb was tough. Also, it was just steep. After one big climb things mellowed out for a while, and the rest of the day was pretty relaxing, music in ears taking in the views. We eventually made our way down and finished the day with some road walking to a plant of sorts where they have water. The ground at the designated spot was too hard to put stakes into, so we're camped back up the road just off the trail.

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Day 22

8km

 

Ahhh. The on trail zero. So nice.

We woke up to almost no clouds in the sky but knew what had been predicted as far as weather. We loaded our faces with oats and Nesquik then got on trail close to seven. It took an hour to get across the canyon floor. From there, you climb all the way out in 1 km, which is basically straight up, and very steep and questionable at times. The climb was tough and we took a few breaks, but the views were amazing, and the clouds were rolling in. The top of the crater was strange, because it's so flat all of the sudden. It's very abrupt.

Once we were out the rain set in pretty quickly. The wind was gusting and it drizzled then stopped. We made our way towards a military base for water which was really easy to access, then looked for a place to camp. The temperature was dropping and the wind was picking up. The clouds moved slow but covered the whole sky and shortly after setting up the tent, the rain set in. Also, it was 10am.

The rest of the day was tent bound. The wind gusted and rain pelted down, but man was it good to be inside the tent. We ate, made hot chocolate, read, played cards and chatted. A full day of lounging in the dry warmth of sleeping bags in the tent (although this tent needs some seam sealing love).

As night fell the rain slowed and I'm hoping it's over for a while. We're both well rested and ready for a tough few days ahead. Tomorrow we're supposed to climb a metal ladder that spans 10 meters with fully loaded packs, and the following day is the book’s proclaimed hardest day on the whole trail, but the book sucks and we can barely read it at night... so we'll see.

Also I feel so lucky to be able to spend an entire day in a small space, with Russ, and not want to kill each other. Nothing but good times. I was also pondering the idea of being unplugged and how much I really enjoy spending quality time with him and I'm really hoping to be truly disconnected more when I get home.

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Day 21

31km

 

Our longest day yet, and we only hiked from 7:30 to 4:45!

What a day. I'm exhausted though. This morning we woke up to... a drizzle on the tent. It didn't last long, but it was enough to make getting up hard. The plan was to hike 18km and have a relaxing day, since the morning was all dirt roads. Some ups and downs, but mostly gradual with the occasional 5 or 10 minute butt kicker climb. We walked and took a snack break at 10, and we had already done 11km. We had service and so we checked the forecast. More drizzles this afternoon but tomorrow looked worse.

The sun came out and we continued on past an 18km long conveyer belt that brings potassium from the Dead Sea to an industrial zone. Also it smelled all morning, so I'm not sure if we were smelling potassium or what. Anyways, after the conveyer belt, we walked to lunch. We had hiked 18km by noon. We ate, and as we sat there a gross cloud rolled in and the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. More rain, only a drizzle but enough to have us packed up and moving again quickly.

The plan was to do another 13km, aka half of tomorrow, in hopes of avoiding a large descent on questionable terrain in the rain. We did enough of that up north. We found our water which had been cached by a random guy in a bush, and then pressed on. The trail takes you down, then up up up to the edge of the small crater, which is huge.

Russ was in front and setting pace. He was flying. He really trucks when he wants to. I took it easy on the downhill as I get nervous about rolling an ankle, especially when the trail is loose and rocky. The trail was beautiful, and we both put in tunes at the bottom before climbing up for an hour, at first it was steep then it calmed down a bit. As we walked I was thinking about just how small I feel sometimes. How walking through canyon after canyon and watching the clouds move at what feels like hyperspeed above your head makes you feel tiny. Like an ant sometimes. My brain wandered on that for a while. At the edge of the crater we took a short break to gawk. So beautiful. It's something you can't capture in a photo so we just looked at it. Then, down. The guidebook for this trail is kind of the worst, not sure how many times I've mentioned that but it really is. We took a wrong turn and took a very steep and slightly sketchy way down into the canyon. It took a while and did a number on my feet and knees. About half way down we realized it was most definitely not the trail but we looked at the map and it connected so we went the rest of the day. Once we were down we wandered through the maze of the crater floor and crossed a few wadis. The sun was finally out and the colors were spectacular. Oranges and purples, some of the layers of rock are so beautiful. We got to where we wanted to camp and chatted about some options. We ditched our packs and walked out of the canyon via a weird collapse in the wall called "satan's mouth" where the rock layers turn vertical. We walked for ten minutes out then back because the book suggests it and it was worth it. Also, it's nice to hike without a pack. Wow.

Now we're cozy in camp, we had lentils for dinner and I'm realizing they are my least favorite. The stars here are surreal at night also. Just one more way to feel small.

Also, I know I complain a bit but today felt like magic. On the PCT everything seemed so magical, and this trail hasn't had that sparkle until today. Oh, and it's so cold in the desert. Today I hiked in my puffy jacket and pants. I'm ready for it to warm up so I can trade in a wind burnt face for some tan!

Also, fun fact. We camped under where the Israeli Defense Force is practicing with its jets and they are loudddd. So much for nature.

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Day 20

25km

 

Once again, writing this one a day late, because I took Valentine's Day off... sue me.

Anyways, woke up and did last minute arrangement and organization of our stuff, then had poached eggs and veggies cooked just the way I like it by my sweetie for Valentine's Day. We were out on trail by about 9:30 after saying goodbye to Zo. Desert. I was so ready for real desert, yet as we walked down away from town the clouds rolled in and within 20 minutes we were re organizing and putting on rain gear. It was windy all day but it only rained for a few minutes. We walked in a dry river valley canyon thing then straight up to a mountain top. Like. Straight. With 6 days of food and 2 days of water. We took it slow and hid behind a little monument wall at the top for some wind shelter while we snacked. There were a bunch of groups of boys that seemed to be in their early twenties? I have no clue what they were doing. They were all just lounging at the top, and they had two "support" type vehicles with then that had come up the back side of the mountain. They all had packs too. No idea what kind of group it was.

After snacks we pressed on, through the wind as the sun peeked out every once and a while from behind the clouds. We both put on some jams and bopped along the road since the wind was so loud you could barely hear yourself think. We passed a few more groups of boys as we walked. Eventually we stopped for lunch at the top of the next canyon. We had PB&J’s and again snuggled up behind a rock for wind shelter. Clouds flew across the sky and you never knew what was going to drop rain.

Once we dropped into the canyon, we followed it almost the entire rest of the day. In the afternoon the sun came out and we got very close to some packs of camels that were seemingly pretty friendly. They're such funky creatures. The trail walked through some narrow chutes and at times was wide. We talked about flash floods and what to do, since I've never really had to think about them.

The day seemed to drag and my feet hurt from all the rocks, but at least the sun was shining. The last few km went by pretty quick and we were at camp by 5ish. Because we are in the desert there are designated campsites, so we picked a tent site and set up camp. Dinner was ravioli with pasta sauce! So yummy and a nice treat. We ate as the stars came up then had special Valentine's Day movie night! We watched the Darjeeling Limited. A movie both Russ and I realized we had always fallen asleep during and never really seen. We both stayed awake by some miracle and it was actually very good!

Then bed.

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Day 19

12km

 

Okay so I'm cheating this one and writing it a little late, but oh well.

Yesterday we woke up to... drum roll please... rain! It drizzled for a while, then got aggressive for a bit, then mellowed out again and had stopped by 8 or so. When it did, we packed up as fast as we could and hit the road. 12 km to town. We walked through some very muddy orchards and chatted along the way. It was cool and the skies were grey all morning, but the rain held off. The landscape was changing once we got closer to town, lots of rocks. The desert is starting! We followed the trail as it crossed a creek many times (not sure how often the creek is flowing though honestly) and made our way up the gradual accent to town. Upon arrival, our first stop was the mall. We stuffed some pizza into our faces to calm the immediate hunger then spent two hours shopping, and repackaging all of our food for the next 6 days. That's 6 days of food and two days of water when we hike out of here. Aka an additional almost 18 lbs of stuff on my back. Should be interesting.

When we were at market, we were stopped by a girl in a cactus printed poncho/dress who said "hey you’re that girl hiking the INT! I know you from Instagram". Holy shit. I was in awe! Such a cool feeling. We chatted with her for a bit and then got back to shopping. Once we had fully reorganized all of the food, put on our heavy packs and headed to find our trail angels’ house. As we did, it drizzled on us. Yay? We finally found it and when we walked in, Zo (girl from the market) was there! We met our hosts who are a bunch of pre-military kids, living in a big apartment that's just kind of messy all over. They all left, and we regrouped a bit, showered and so on, then went out for Chinese food. I shoveled that plate of noodles in my face so fast it was terrifying. We chatted with Zo and got to know her a bit - she's an adorable photographer from Poland, who didn't know or hadn’t yet experienced the hiker hunger in full effect. Anyways then we came home for more gear repair, snacking and to catch up on the internet.

Russ and I slept in the living room on a pull out couch so we had to wait for the "kids" to go to bed which happened at 11 or so? Way past my bedtime.

Also some kid at the mall dropped his ammo cartridge out of his assault rifle and bullets were rolling around on the floor, in the mall, and everyone was casual about it with the exception of Russ and me.

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