Pacific Crest Trail Week 7: Appreciation

Photo by Jessica Merz
What’s ordinary to some is beautiful to me.

One of the most amazing things about backpacking is the appreciation one gets for the simple creature comforts in life. There are many things about modern civilization that I don’t ever miss. But hot showers, fresh food, clean clothing, and running water never get old. When one has these things taken away, they become even more amazing. A shower becomes a memorable experience and fresh food is vibrant and delicious.

I have gotten to spend a bit more time in “civilization” lately due to a big fire closure and a few “zero days” in Oregon. Each moment spent on a bed and in a shower soothed my achy muscles. And I’ve never enjoyed food so much.

The thing I miss the most as I slip into dry, drought-stricken California is running water. There are long stretches of no water here and often the creeks advertised on the map are no longer running. To some degree this is normal for this time of year, but the drought has made the situation even worse. What this means for hikers is long water carries or hiking very fast.

The trail here is a glowing shade of yellow. Rattle snakes stake their ground about the trail and hiss at hikers. The heat shimmers with the smoke from the fires burning south and north of the trail. Lizards scurry across the trail like little kamikaze jet planes I hope not to crush as I speed along.

Photo by Tony Cyphert
A fire in Redding, Calif. (not far from me) in 2008.

As I head south, the heat of northern California will turn into the freezing cold of the Sierras. The lack of water will be an issue that continues in ways no one can predict due to unprecedented conditions. In the cold I will miss the heat and snakes.

I had to skip over 90 miles of trail due to the giant fire west of Yreka, California. Now my thru-hike is just a hike in a bittersweet personal battle. Few get to hike the whole trail without skipping a piece here and there. Very little in life is pure, but that is what makes things interesting.

Ice-cream, vegetables, and a soft bed. I dream of these things on the trail. But in the end, the trail wins with starry nights and happy flowing rivers. As nice as it is to have running water, I think I’ll take the challenge of a long waterless day to a day in the city.

Read the rest of Suzanne’s adventures:

Week 1: Approaching the Adventure
Week 2: Falling Down, Climbing Up
Week 3: The Pulse of Humanity
Week 4: Beware the Grouse
Week 5: Being Zen (or Not)
Week 6: Crouching Bobcat, Hidden Mosquitoes
Week 8: The End?

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About the Author

Suzanne Hessler is a connoisseur of odd jobs and misspent adventures. She can often be found wandering the countryside or hiding from everything in her tiny mid-city apartment. She is currently attempting a long-distance backpacking trip starting at the Canadian Border of the Pacific Crest Trail and heading South. You can find her on Google + and Facebook.