Oh, brother!

I don’t have a brother but I’m done sighing so that’s the alternative to my predicament.

I haven’t written in a while… Over a month.

I went to the Grand Canyon, hiked down South Kaibab Trail and came up Bright Angel Trail with a really good friend who’s new to backpacking. Then did a road trip to Sedona and New Mexico.

Whilst during all this, I got 2 seasonal job offers. One at Yellowstone – the lady was even willing to get my flight ticket – and another at a special needs camp in TX. I wish I’d taken one of those instead of the “year round position” I took in Tennessee.

How do I put this? This place is… Well, horrible. At least for me. I spent the last of my savings to go across the country based on conversations I’d had with the owner, who seemed so sweet. The first day upon my arrival, they spring on me that this is a new job they’ve created and that, really, in one week they’d see if it (and I) even work. What?!??? I specifically told them that the worst thing for either of us would be surprised and was forthcoming about EVERYTHING , even my painful periods since that may affect my work.

3 days in and I’ve never been chastised so much. Everything I do seems to be wrong and the more I try to get something done perfect, the more I seem to fuck up something else. I haven’t even been shown around and have to constantly ask where everything is. I feel like they want someone who is meek, accepts what is said to them and doesn’t ask questions and that’s just not me. 

The lady put in charge of assisting me hates me (although I think she just has never been laid and hates everyone). When I brought this up to the wife of the owner, she said she’s just a “spiteful bitch” and not to take anything personally. That’s all fine and dandy but who allows someone like that to train with new hires? Do you even WANT people to stay? Also, if I remember correctly, she said this lady was one of her closest friends and has been there for a while. WHY, on God’s green earth, would you call her such a mean word (even if it is true) to another worker? I don’t even want to know what she says about me behind my back.

Not to whine but they’re getting me at a steal. Not to say numbers but I was making what they pay a week (6 days of working, mind you) in a long day. I simply wanted a place to call home, a place I could just walk around in mid or after work to explore nature. I like money but it’s not what motivates me. I want a job I can grow in, that allows me my freedoms but also tends to its workers and, in return, I’d bust my ass for them. I’m loyal but I don’t give my loyalty freely anymore.

Working 6 days a week doesn’t allow for any backpacking, which I was hoping to do.

And she says that on my day off, I HAVE to get my social security card, which I lost in one of my many moves, before she can even pay me even though I have a driver’s license, valid passport AND a green card. Oh, and I remember my social security # so anyone familiar with I-9 form (form to be filled out for IRS and so you can be paid) knows to have the physical card isn’t even mandatory. Yes, it’ll be good to have but to threaten me that I’m working for free otherwise is unnecessary. When I tried to tell her if she just brought out the form and that I’ve dealt with I-9s as HR and an Office Manager, she simply yelled “people MUCH smarter than you have told me otherwise. Plus, I’m the boss. What I say goes!”. Woah! Inability to even open your mind to what one of your workers has to say isn’t a good look on any executive, I don’t care what industry.

The more I try to appease her, the more she tells me how I’m doing things wrong. I’m desperate but not this desperate. The trains run through here and I thought earlier today (and yesterday and the day before) “What a relief it’d be just to stand in front of it and get it over with”. But I know that’d let her win. I can’t have that.

I’ve been in tight spots before and I’ve been blessed with angels coming into my life in the form of friends and family … And even strangers. But when wil this end? I can’t just give up and be a desk jockey unless it’s for something I’m passionate about. When things are calm and I’m making money, I hate my life. But being in this predicament is really triggering my depression. 

Now, I’m sitting with my fruit (oh, did I forget to mention: the lady who hates me is the cook. Worst situation ever. Since I get off at 5pm and guests don’t eat until 6, I have to grab leftover food and eat it in the barn I live in – which had a microwave but still. She says I can’t grab a plate and have to use styrofoam containers for the food. I tried telling her toxic that is. First, I hate microwaves but can get over that. I am NOT, however, eating melted/microwaved styrofoam food. But I guess that’s what happens when the cook is your worst enemy). On the bright side, I guess I’ll lose weight. My diet was worse on trail but at least that had been my decision, not someone else’s. 

I’ve never been the litigious sort but, had I a shitload of money, I’d sue this place. The passive aggressive hazing, the situation they helped put me in (because, really, it’s mostly my fault for being naive and trusting they’d hold up their end) and horrible food/living standards are the worst I’ve seen. And I don’t like bullies. They shouldn’t be allowed to treat people like this.

There’s nobody to talk to here. There are only the husband and wife owners, the cook and the wrangler (who seems nice but we never see each other). So gotta get this out somehow. I feel like I’m just bursting with this frustration. I’ve never wanted to punch anyone so bad. Wish I could take one of my old kickboxing classes right now. I’m too wired to even do any yoga. 

Not that everything is horrible! The guests are fantastic, the 47 or so Arabian horses and all the other animals are wonderful too. And even the owner lady is super sweet when guests are around but, when they leave, she yells at me constantly. I feel like I’m a naughty child or something and I’m 30 years old. Shiiiit.

So, stuck in TN. Need to get out. Looking to work someplace that wants a spunky, motivated person that’s not afraid of hard work. Willing to work from the bottom up and prove myself. Know of any place like this? Let me know!

Now, here are some pics:

   
Dinner 👆🏻

 The main part of the ranch 👆🏻

   
 Had to take a walk before even writing this, just to chill out. Here are some wild turkeys just roaming around.

  
Woo-Woo, my best friend in this place. He’s such a good listener. 


What would YOU do?

I’m curious: what would YOU do were you in my situation?

I have a foot that is now getting slightly better. Would you wait for it to heal – an indefinite amount of time at this point since no concrete diagnosis – or would you start on Plan B?

Funnily enough, I’m now catching up on the podcast I collaborate on. It’s giving me extra incentive to get back on trail. The words of support from listeners is beyond inspiring and  hearing from Par 3, Kimchi and Gizmo and the people they interview, I feel a sudden surge of hope and longing for the trail. 

Dear God, Jesus, Mother Nature, Igbo, Sirona, Sekhmet, Aceso, Raphael the archangel, Ashvins, Apollo and any other deity of healing out there, I vow not to take the trail for granted ever again should I be able to get back on trail. 

At this point, I’m ready. Give me trail or give me death! (Ok, maybe that’s too much but you get my gist).

Bring it on, party people. Ready for this right foot of mine to heal! 

Enough is Enough

I’m done whining and throwing myself a pity party.

I got X-Rays today. No stress fracture although the doctor said he saw some shady/abnormal color near 4th and 5th toe bones which could be soft tissue or something but recommended I get an MRI since that’s where the pain is shooting out from.

I went to the ER, fed up with the back and forth and mystery of it all. They couldn’t do MRIs and just handed me some crutches so I’m limping around like a gimp now in an attempt to put absolutely NO pressure on my foot, should that be of assistance to the healing process. Signed up for Medi Cal in the process.

Shopped around for MRI – will still have to pay out of pocket since Medi Cal takes over a month to 2 months to get approval for. Finally found a place in Lancaster that’ll do it for $400. I can hear the gasp of my wallet but I’m just so sick of the mystery of it all. Tomorrow 12:45pm, the mystery of my injury will cease and I can gain control again of this situation.

I either have an extremely low pain threshold – although, mentally, I’ve been very aware and truly ok – or something is really wrong. Either way, it’s worth finding out so I can make a decision as to whether or not I want to weather this storm and keep on hiking or will call it an end to this year. Even if I only make it through California or skip to Oregon, I’m ok with it. I simply want to end the trail on MY terms, not my body’s. But I also don’t want to do permanent damage to my foot, since hiking is the cheese to my macaroni, so need to keep that in mind should I have a torn or ruptured tendon – which would need immediate attention.

Either way, in later September, I plan on hiking rim to rim at the Grand Canyon. Have to find out permit approval and whatnot for that but I look forward to that. If I have time, I may even go rim to rim to rim just for bragging rights and for the challenge.

I’m grateful for my family and friends and even complete strangers who’ve offered their words of wisdom and offered/gave assistance. I would be up shit creek were it not for them and, after all this, I will owe you guys a bazillion favors and hugs for bearing with me. You know who you are and I can’t even express the depths of my gratitude. No words can convey how much all the help and love – sometimes tough – has lifted me up from a dark, dark place. 

So Damn Close!

Coming out of Agua Dolce (mile 452ish) the top of my right foot hurt while stepping but I chose to ignore it.

Around mile 590, I fell and face planted and, of course, all the weight went onto the right foot. I heard something pop and my foot gradually became worse and worse after that. Thankfully, the terrain wasn’t too steep although I had some miles of incline. By the time I was at 626, the trail was all sand and was making things even worse for my foot.

The fall spot. Don’t even know how I fell! There were literally no rocks or anything!
I hobbled out and got a ride from Devilfish, a “trail Angel” (someone who offers help to hikers – brings water, gives rides, etc), to Ridgecrest where my friend Tess lives.

Got to calling doctors and podiatrists the first day and nobody in Ridgecrest or even Lancaster area was available until a week or two later or didn’t give cortisone shots.

Got an appointment in Santa Clarita for the day after, near where I used to live. Found out my old renter got back with his ex and she’d moved back in so there’s definitely no turning back now, considering I’m officially totally homeless. Picked up some stuff and went to the podiatrist.

It was as I thought – tendonitis. Got a shot of of cortisone. 3rd day since I got the shot and still don’t feel better. In fact, my foot was extra swollen yesterday.

👆🏻Right foot is a bit swollen, as you can see in pic.

Feel like I’m out staying my welcome at my friend’s house. I can’t go hiking, can barely walk and just honestly beyond depressed.

Found out someone has concerns about some stuff I write on my blog so now I feel censored in what I write but have decided I’m going to write what the fuck I want anyway. I was brought up with the stupid idea that “if you can breathe, you can work” and that depression is bullshit and weak and not a real thing.

Well, “depression” is a regular word in the dictionary, defined simply as “: a state of feeling sad”. I’m not going to justify myself or my feelings. If you don’t like what I say, fuck off. Or just stop reading my blog.

Fact of the matter is that I have decisions to make. Everything I want is in making this hike happen. I’m SO close to the Sierras – only 48 more miles!!!! But money is running so low – all these unexpected medical expenses are killing me, I’m injured and have nobody to talk to. I went through my phone, name by name, and realized I have nobody. Everyone has their own lives and families and nobody wants to hear me whine.

Not sure what I’m going to do. I’m trying to stay cheerful and let my body heal but I don’t feel any change so now I don’t know what to do. Where would I go if this doesn’t heal and I have to stop the hike? This is really triggering some dark shit for me and I’m trying not to go there but can’t help it.

Anyway, here are some pics from the last stretch.

👆🏻hiked into the KOA in Acton at the end of Memorial Day weekend and people at the KOA unloaded their leftover booze and snacks on us hikers! Was SO nice!

👆🏻 got to see my girls, who came up to Santa Clarita to see me.

And my other girl, Ali, came to see me for a minute too.

👆🏻 Mojave/Tehachapi. So dry

👆🏻 more snakes.

  Went past a shitload of these windmills. They’re so big!

  

👆🏻👆🏻so many dead trees and dirt. Sometimes though, you’d get some of these wildflowers.

More poodle dog bush! 👆🏻

  

Gene The Machine 👆🏻👆🏻 despite some knee issues, he’s just powering through the miles.

👆🏻👆🏻 got DanceMagic to cowboy camp for the first time!
  

Water cache!!! This was on one of the driest sections.

Hikers hanging out at the water cache.

  

Joshua Trees were the only things giving shade for a long stretch of the hike.


   Random update videos I shot. Hiking solo, I have to start talking to my friends somehow.

              

Day 31 & 32

Day 31 – mile 313.5 to 332. 18 1/2 miles (29.77 km)

I get up early but dont want to really hike. I just want to stay in my sleeping bag. Takes me about 45 mins of snoozing and yelling at myself (in my head – not out loud, duh. I’d sound crazy doing that) before I get one foot out. My morning routine consists of this now:

1) Wake up from the sun. I don’t set my alarm anymore. My internal clock is tuned to the light of the sun these days.

2) grumble to myself about how cold/hot it is.

3) Remind myself things could be much, much worse.

4) Close eyes and try to sleep for another 20 mins.

5) Pretend I don’t hear other hikers rushing past me. They’ve probably been hiking since 5am. Crazy people.

6) Finally get up (still in my sleeping bag though) and dig a Pop Tart from my food bag and eat it.

7) Put contact lenses on.

8) Look at my torn up feet and bandage them accordingly. I feel like I’ve gotten to be quite the foot wrapper expert. I almost feel like one of those professional athletes that look like they’ve been doing it their whole lives.

9) Do yoga or at least a few stretches. This makes the world of difference for me in hiking so I really try to do it, even if I’m running “late”.

10) Pack up and start hiking.

So that’s what I do. Start hiking past the dam which is near the creek/campsite area.


I go past some day hikers. It’s a bit of uphill but a gradual one, which I’m totally happy with. I even have service so I call my friend, Cara, in Chicago. We talk for about an hour. I realize the long Slim Jim I was hoping to have as an easy accessible snack, had somehow escaped my belt clip. I bring it up because, days later, I found the hiker who found it and ate it. Lol

I leapfrog with Ghost (a Japanese hiker who hiked the John Muir Trail last year. Super sweet man!), Pilgrim, Junior and his group and with some young kids pretty much all day. They can’t be more than 16-17. One of them is called “Liability” because he couldn’t get a motel room due to his age and their motel’s  liability policy. I wonder how cool their parents must be to let them do this. I also wish I had the balls to have done something like this when I was their age.

We go past Silverwood Lake. Some of the kids stop to go sunbathe and jump in the lake but it’s about 4pm already when I get there and I want to get to Cajon Pass as soon as possible (at mile 342) so I can get McDonalds. Plus, it’s quite windy and the wind is really chilly so wasn’t too crazy about getting wet.


I love gradual uphills!!

“Ghost”, my new Japanese friend.

Views at start of hike

Getting to Silverwood Lake

    

Resting my feet. Feels sooooo good.

I hike slowly so I just hike until the sun goes down. I feel like something is watching me as I pass miles 329-332. I shrug off the feeling and start singing Cher and Peter Gabriel. “That’d scare me away, were I a mountain lion!”, I think.  Finally find a little spot I can camp at and get ready for bed.

My friend, Jen, texts me to tell me another hiker saw a mountain lion at mile 329. I remind myself to go pee before bed so I wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night and be prey for this local cougar.

I heard that mountain lions sound like women screaming when they roar (as if they can’t get any scarier already, right!!?!) and I kept waking up to some weird ass screaming noises. I was still half asleep so wasn’t sure if I just imagined them or not. Either way, I sure as hell wasn’t getting out from my covers.

The night was super windy. Another storm was supposedly coming in. While I hate hiking in high heat, this cold also was getting to me. It’s very hard to sleep when you’re cold and you get all stiff by morning time.

Day 32 – mile 332 to 342 – 10 measly miles (16.1 km)

Maybe it was because I had the worst sleep but the 10 miles (which were mostly downhill too!) to Cajon Pass wiped me out. My feet were KILLING me! I tried to take a break a few times but bees swarmed me each time. Must’ve been my musky scent since itd been about 5 days since my last shower. The winds were picking up and were really strong. I kept feeling like I’d be blown off the mountain (and I’m not a scrawny girl!).

Views that day were gorgeous though.


      
Got to McDonalds. Mama Squirrel, No Boundary, Stretch, Frankenstein, Bird, Doolittle and Chugs were all there but wanted to get ahead of the storm, which I didn’t think possible since it was going to hit the next day in Wrightwood, our next stop, which is higher in elevation and usually always gets snow. So they left.

Pilgrim, Gabe and I were all for waiting out the storm though and got a place at the Best Western.  I couldn’t wait to take a shower!!! The dirt coming off me was unbelievable!

Dirty ass legs! Lol

Day 28, 29 & 30

Day 28 – mile 266 to mile 283 – 17 mile (27 km) day

Was sad leaving Big Bear. Whenever I’m in town and about to leave, I have this part of me that doesn’t want to go back on trail. But the other part of me is super antsy and wanting to be hitting the dirt already. It’s super weird. There’s like a war inside me every time I’m going to/in and leaving town.

Trail was pretty straightforward – not much incline except the first couple of miles. After that, was pretty straight and then after mile 281, it was just downhill (although not a direct decline – just little ups and then random quick steep declines. I prefer straight downhill since I like running down those).

   
       
Went through the land of dead and living trees. Apparently, a while ago, there was a fire so there are still standing dead trees all over the place. It was eery but beautiful.

   
 

  

Meant to go to mile 285 since that was the next water source and a large campground but the sun was going to set soon so just camped at 283 (and, not going to lie, my feet hurt. I think my feet thought I was done hiking since I took so many days off at Big Bear).

Sunset that night was beautiful!

   


Day 29 – mile 283 to 298.5 – 15.5 miles (25ish km)

Not a big day. My feet seemed to have turned to mush since Big Bear and were acting like they’d never backpacked before. My left hip flexor was seizing up and super painful. 

I did some yoga stretches in the morning which actually REALLY helped my hip flexor but my feet were dead by the time we reached Splinter Cabin even though it was only 15 1/2 miles.

At this point, I had to remind myself that – in the beginning of this trek – I couldn’t even do 15 miles with a huge pack. I’ve come a long way. It’s hard to congratulate yourself though when there are people running past you every couple of hours, making me feel like such a slow fat ass. 

That day, I met some rad people – Mr Noodle and his girl, Mama Squirrel and her husband, No Boundary. I also met a Canadian who was going to do a large section before starting a job back in Canada in June. 

A bunch of us just camped at a Splinter cabin since there was a flowing creek near ther (oh and they had picnic tables AND 2 outhouses!!!! Felt so good, being able to act like a normal person and go to an actual bathroom). 

   
        


Day 30 – 298.5 to 313.5 – 15 miles ( 24 km)

Feet are killing me. Huge blisters appearing everywhere – a big chunk of my left index toe (can you call it that since it’s a toe?? Lol) is gone. Mentally, I’m fine though. 

I see a group on the way out of Splinter’s Cabin. It’s another one of the groups of all men with the exception of a single female (something I’ve been seeing a LOT of. It’s quite primitive and something I’ll probably be writing about soon. I’ve yet to see a group of men with more than a single female. And the prettier the female, the larger the group of men around her). I say “hi!” Cheerily and ask where they hiked in from. It’s inane chit chat but they were breaking so thought I’d be friendly. I’m met with stone faces and one of the young guys snarkily says “Mexican border”. I fake laugh. “Oh, an asshole!”, I think. Unfortunately, there are a few of those on trail for some reason. The girl in the group is the only one who smiles back and is in any way friendly. Thankfully, they pass me quickly so I don’t have to be near them.

I hit mile 300

  
I meet an Israeli by the name of “Ram”. He seems to be gliding down the trail effortlessly yet he’s going quite fast. He passes me and I’m a bit jealous of how easy this seems for him.

I somehow meet up with him again after trudging a couple miles to a somewhat shady spot (did I forget to mention, it’s HOT! No shade really, either). We talk about the journey. He says he’s found his natural stride after spending so much energy trying to be in sync with everyone else and is now able to go longer miles. He talks about how he also takes breaks every hour, no matter what. He said something that hit home to me “The Gods seem to be pleased with my quest” as good things started happening since he had begun the trail. I pondered upon that as things seemed to be happening – both good and bad – since I had officially started my trek as well. We briefly try to contemplate the “cause and effect” (if you will) of journeys like this but give up. It’s time to keep hiking. I wish I could pick his brain a little longer but Ram is soon gone from sight.

I trudge on in the heat. My feet continue to swell. I take an Indomethicin (anti inflammatory). Deep Creek Hot Springs is at mile 309 and I force myself to get there.

On the way there, I kept seeing these beautiful pristine beaches near the flowing creek. It was such a tease since I’m boiling hot, sweating profusely and wishing I could be there. “I need to come back here and find a way to these non populated beaches, even if that means I need to climb a shit load of boulders to get there!”, I think to myself. It looked like paradise.

   
   
When I get there, the “asshole” group (I stereotype groups) is there so I feel immediately insecure. No way am I getting naked or near naked around these judgemental types. The last time I was at Deep Creek, a young nasty couple made a comment about my weight, which I was already super insecure about since my uncontrollable weight gain from my IUD. I started to cry. I felt so fat and ugly. A wave of insecurity washed over me. 

Then I realized I’m about to start my period and I’m probably taking everything WAYYYYYY too personally. And it’s also probably why I’m having such a hard time hiking. My body feels like it’s resenting every step I take even though my mind is in the game.

I meet an older gentleman hiking, by the name of “Pilgrim”. He’s hiked the Camino de Santiago (which is on my bucket list) and a part of the Appalachian trail. He’s now doing the PCT and plans to do a trail in Australia next year. I basically want his life and tell him so. He laughs. We bond. I haven’t bonded with many people on the trail but Pilgrim is pretty rad and we chat for a while. He then leaves. 

I get some water, treat it and elevated my feet. A naked old dude comes over and talks to me for a while. Some people make faces when seeing him, like they think his nakedness is funny. This reinforces my decision not to be near naked around these people. In Finland, nobody would’ve bat an eye at someone being naked in the appropriate surroundings, no matter how big their belly or thighs, etc. In America, especially LA area, I feel like most people are much more judgemental about superficial looks.  

I then had to leave before nightfall. Needed to get some more miles. Met another hiker by the awesome trail name “Frankenstein”. He went on ahead while I took a break.

   
      

Leaving Deep Creek. Chug, Bird and Doolittle up ahead. 

 

The rainbow bridge! 

      

Found a perfect camp spot just before 314 and crashed. 

The End. (Of that day. Lol)

Day 24, 25, 26 & 27

This is where some people might not agree with me but, whatever, it’s what happened.

I took several days off trail!!! OH MY GOD!!! Saina is such a slacker!!! Lol

In my defense, a big storm was rolling in on day 27, which was when I’d been planning to get back on trail. 

Cla, my friend in Big Bear, let me stay for several days with her. I did laundry, took a couple Epsom Salt baths, ate a lot, hung out with her and her family. It was fantastic and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. 

On Day 25, Cla went with me to do the miles 250-265 section. We actually had to get off around 262 since the trail back to her house was from there. I considered “slack packing” that day (not bringing my backpack and leaving it at her house), considering it was just a day hike. But I didn’t. That’s where I draw the line – feel like it’d be a bit like cheating if I just did that. 

Saw the animal cages near Onyx Summit, which was a bit sad. I hate seeing animals locked up. Saw a mountain lion from a distance, a bear butt and a Bengal Tiger. Pic below of bear butt.

Some pics from Big Bear:

   
  

Cla helped buzz my hair!

  

        

Snow!!!! In May!!!! OMG! I love it