Imagine soaking in natural hot springs when suddenly chunks of ice begin falling from the sky. Perhaps that is not everyone’s idea of a remarkable life experience but that afternoon was among my favorite on the trail. One the most dreaded features of the High Sierras is the sporadic storms I endured that day. As a rule, every morning starts with ideal weather, as if to lure you into a false sense of security. The question I contemplated all the way to Kearsarge Pass is not if the seemingly perfect weather will devolve into a raging storm rather, when it will devolve into a torrent of rain, hail and thunder.

Calm before the storm

The dramatic weather is far from being the only stark contrast that I see daily. When I started my journey three months ago in Washington I was lucky to see a handful of people each day. Now that the Pacific Crest Trail runs along the ever popular John Muir Trail I see upwards of thirty people each day. This is a shift I don’t mind, considering as I enter the southern part of this trip I shall soon find myself again alone.

Deer on trail

Most of the people I pass are sweating heavily and cursing under their breath, this can be explained by one word; elevation. Some days I go up, other days I go down, most days I do both. Whether it be a few hundred feet or a few thousand the constant change from elevation gain to lose is exhausting. This week’s most grueling culprits where: Silver Pass at 10,781 feet, Selden Pass at 10,912 feet, Muir Pass at 11,969 feet, Mather Pass at 12,093, and of course Kearsarge Pass at 11,709 feet.

The flow.

The most dramatic fluctuations I face on the trail are not physical mountains and valleys but mental ones. A few days ago I woke up ecstatic to hit the trail, the joy of being in nature overwhelming me. After several miles of hiking on cloud nine a feeling of homesickness crept up on me, yes even tough mountain men get homesick. After mopping along the next few miles I decided I had enough feeling sad for one day. As sure as any drug my always effective medicine is a cold plunge in whatever body of water is close by. The cold shock forced me into a state of awareness through bodily sensation, one of my favorite states. That feeling lasted until the uphill started to kick in. At that point I was neither happy nor sad but another hallmark feeling for thru hikers, exhaustion, emotionally and physically. Eventually I reached my campsite along the stunning Evolution Lake, I was too tired to enjoy the scenery. After forcing myself through some stretching and making a fast dinner of cold mashed potato mix, I fell asleep.

The cold plunge

This constant contrast may seem hard to deal with, and it is, but it is also how living on the trail for almost half a year stays interesting. I do not think I would survive the trail if it were easy or static. The emotional and physical challenges are what keep me going. Experiencing hardship is why I am here, it is my direct path to growth. The more I see and experience the more I get out of this journey.

Sending my love from the roller-coaster that is trail life, Slug

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  1. Dear Yehudah,

    I love reading your posts and hearing about your progress.  You are so inspiring – as always.

    So, it’s Rosh Hashanah in a few hours.  I send you my warmest wishes for a wonderful year ahead.

    At this end, all is well.  Personally, I am having aShehecheyanu moment!  This relates to my diet!  I have waited many years for this, but it was worth it!  The diet began 18 months ago.  I have so far lost 56 pounds and I am now below 200 pounds!  It took me a long time to figure out how to do it.

    Anyway, warmest thoughts to you and לשנה טובה תכתב ותחתם

    Love you, always Steve ________________________________________________

  2. Hey Slug,
    Recently I completed a trip where I hiked the Trans Catalina Trail which goes all around the island of Catalina and when I got home I found the postcard/painting you sent me. I was so happy to receive such wonderful gift and also to hear about your travels. Thank you my friend for thinking of me and all my best for your continued adventures on the PCT.
    Tiki Mon

    1. I love the Channel Islands, my favorite is Anacapa. Sounds like a sweet trip. Just saw your name in a log book south of Kennedy Meadows South, made my day. Glad you enjoyed the postcard.

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