Sunday, October 7, 2012

And on September 21st...

Sunday, October 7th, 4:06pm. I don't think of my self as a nosy person, but today I cannot help but notice our friendly neighbor who is vacuuming the fake turf grass that seems to slowly be taking over this yard. As I listen to the hum of the vacuum I am reminded that I am transiting to a new phase of learning and living in a city and that a very important chapter in my life has come to a close. On September 21st Oasis, Spud, Cookie (another hiker who joined us for the last few days) and I reached the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail completing 2,663 miles and our first major thru-hike.
Yesterday evening Oasis called me. It was the first time we had connected since finishing our hike. We split our conversation between catching up on our new life endeavors and reminiscing about the trail. At one point in our conversation Oasis said "It kind of feels like it didn't happen". I agreed. Or perhaps I believed that it had happened but had failed to recognize the enormity of the feat we just accomplished.
Nevertheless, I did document the experience with my Small. Pink. Camera.
Here we are, Oasis and I at the Southern terminus of the PCT near Campo, CA. Behind the monument one can see a metal fence that marks the United States-Mexico border, April 25th, 2012 (mile 0)!

The beauty of the desert surprised me in many ways. Here is a picture of prickly pear cactus in bloom. The leaves felt like tissue paper (mile 56).
While taking a midday break to beat the heat, Oasis found this horny toad in the bushes (mile 145).
One thing I will not miss from the trail is my blistered swollen feet. We were lucky enough to be helped out by trail angel "Dr. Sole". He cut all that bad dead skin away and patched me up (mile 245)!!
Blooming Yucca plants covered the desert. I caught this one just before sunset (mile 450).
Oasis and I with trail angel Donna Saufler. Thank-you Donna! (mile 475).

Spud, Oasis and I on the summit of Mt. Whitney, June 13th (mile 760).
Spud and I took a day off in Crabtree Meadow. We went fishing and cooked a fabulous fish-fry (mile 760)!

Oasis crosses a creek just after Muir Pass. We were running low on food and ended up eating marshmallows and cough drops as our primary food sources (mile 850).

Spud and fellow hiker Histo posing in dresses at a geyser in Mt. Lassen National Park (mile 1,300).

New shoes! I put one new shoe on next to another shoe that I had worn for over 700 miles. Can you tell the difference? (mile 1675).

We made it to Oregon! (Mile 1,700)
We were lucky enough to be able to sleep on the rim of Crater Lake during the Perseid meteor shower. It was fantastic (1830).
Hailstones I found during a storm! Just about killed me (mile 1950).
Handstands in the Three Sister's Wilderness (mile 2,000).
Walking under Tunnel Falls in the Columbia Gorge (mile 2130).
Sulfer-shelf mushroom whose other name is "Chicken of the Woods". Although a bit spongy, its edible and pretty tasty (mile 2,300).
One of the last photos taken with my camera before it stopped functioning (and our eyes are closed). We are at Goat Rocks Wilderness with a view of Rainier behind us (mile 2300).

Unfortunately my camera stopped working about midway through Washington. But perhaps, with these few photos, you might be able to envision Oasis, Spud, Cookie and I arriving at the US-Canada border. It was an unusually warm day for the end of September and the deciduous trees were turning a beautiful deep red and the huckleberry bushes a deep magenta. We took pictures, we hugged and kissed and danced and celebrated this accomplishment.
This hike has affected me in a way I still don't fully understand, but I feel that it has made me a better person. I am glad to have shared this experience with so many amazing hikers and with you, the readers of my blog! Thank-you for following me along during this incredible journey and for all the encouragement and support along the way. If you are interested, a good friend Sue Parish wrote an article in the Columbian about my experience. You can read the article by clicking here.
Much love,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Right now I am sitting. It is one of those rare mornings where us hikers find ourselves in town to catch up on those "other life"chores. Last night, Oasis and I indulged in a "big girl" bottle of wine, the effects of which I am definitely feeling this morning and that are only being exacerbated by this obnoxiously shaky computer screen.
My hiking partner Spud has picked up a new hobby: making lists of things. Some examples include...lists of reasons I can't complain (being a white male, etc), lists of favorite words and foods, lists of friends, hobbies and job possibilities. Yes, I have spent more time than I would like to admit, craning my neck over Spuds shoulder, enviously wishing that I had thought of the list idea first.
Anyway, today due to the fact that we have come over 2100 miles and that my hangover only allows my brain to reach a certain threshold of intellectualism (is that even a word??), I am dedicating this entry to Spud by making my own list of the PCT.
 So here goes.

Honeybear's PCT 2012 List (created August 29th 2012 in Cascade Locks,OR)

1.) Start date: April 25th
2.) End date: September 21st (hopefully)
3.) Hiking partners: Mostly Oasis and Spud
4.) Average mileage per day including zero days: 18
5.) Mileage per day without zeros: 24
6.) Most beautiful view thus far (in my opinion): Seldon Pass (mile 900) in the High Sierras
7.) Other beautiful views: Crater Lake (mile 1834), Three Finger Jack (mile 1970?), Mount Hood (mile 2107)
8.) Craziest weather on the trail: Hailstorm with cherry tomato sized hail around mile 1931 in Oregon.
9.)most miles hiked in one day: 35 miles (from Sky Lake Wilderness to Crater Lake National Park)
10.) Most interesting food combination consumed on trail: Tortilla, peanut butter, mustard, summer sausage and granola combination
11.) Things I love most about the trail: meeting wonderful people, being inspired by nature and sleeping outside.
12.) Things I am TOTALLY excited about after the trail: being domestic (cooking, cleaning, shopping, sewing, working), taking a shower on a regular basis (more than once every ten days), being enrolled at Portland State University as a graduate student in Public Health, living with the one and only Sophie Sessions (my sister for those of you who don't know me personally)
13.) Most interesting day: July 14th; a day where we hiked in complete silence.
14.) Hardest day physically: Around mile 1000 after Tuolumne meadows. We seriously climbed straight up and then down the ENTIRE DAY and due to the rediculous concentration of mosquitoes, did not really take any significant breaks.
15.) Fun people I have met on the trail: Spud, Cookie, Zen and Wampuscat, Doc and Bluejay, Scarecaw, Preacher, Virgo, Snausage, Nips and Wildflower, Halmark and Yankieson and many many more :)
16.) Favorite piece of gear: NeoAir Thermarest sleeping pad (it seriously feels like an air mattress)
17.) Least favorite piece of gear: My sleeping bag (looks as pathetic as it feels).
18.) Number of days hiked on the trail: 128.
19.) Number of days left to hike on the trail: 23

We are almost there!! Thank-you to all of you who sent packages to Cascade Locks. Anne, thank-you for the mango, chocolate and gummies. Kristina, your care package made our day. I am so excited for a new pair of socks (my old sleep socks have holes). Dad and Chris, we REALLY hope you enjoyed our company and much as we enjoyed yours. Sue, thank-you for driving all the way out highway 26 to interview us and thanks for the rasberries and candy! Much appreciated.
Finally thank-you Claire from SheJumps for sending us your awesome hats. We will be wearing them from here on out to the end of our hike. On that note, Oasis and I have helped raise over 400 dollars to benefit SheJumps. A sincere thank-you to everyone who has donated. We are making a difference. And to everyone who has been hoping to donate. Our hike is almost over, so now is the time! You can easily make a small contribution by clicking on the "Donate to SheJumps" tab on my blog and hitting the "Donate to SheJumps" writing on that page. Your contributions are much appreciated.
Well, I guess we have got another state to hike through, so I have got to go. But, I'll leave you with this poem by By Stanley Kunitz. Cheers.

End of Summer

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.
I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.
Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.
Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ramblings about Crater Lake

Greetings from Eugene, OR. Below is a blog post I wrote while sitting on the rim of Crater Lake.

Mile 1834
Life. Isn't. Perfect. Sometimes  it seems as if a smoky haze like that from a forest fire has settled in your brain and makes life seem a bit distorted. Occasionally I will reflect on my life and think to myself, what is this? Perhaps I could describe it as the deepest, most beautiful lake. Crater Lake: so many imperfections surrounded by mystery.  Sometimes my thoughts are as clear as the opalesque water. I know what I want and where I am going. I am calm and radiate beauty. Then, I'll look around to see naked basalt and cliffs still recovering from a volcanic eruption that happened even before the cedar tree took its name. Its overwhelming and chaotic and disorienting. I don't understand it; why this lake and my life seem to be so similar. Crystalline water is resplendent, its beauty only enhanced by the raw earth that surrounds it, defines it, makes it interesting. I guess this is where I see the overlap between my life and Crater Lake. It isn't  perfect; only the perfect combination of imperfections.

I am so happy that I was able to run into people in Eugene. Rebecca, thank-you for picking us up at Shelter Cover and the wonderful dinner. Dan, thanks for the nectarines, cheese and beer. Cin, thank-you for the ride back to the trail.

We will be passing through Cascade Locks on the 28th of September. If you feel inspired to send something in my direction, my address there is written below.
Much love,

Lena Sessions
c/o Port Marine RV Park
PO Box 307
Cascade Locks, OR 97014

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It rained in Oregon

I always knew I loved my home state. However, it was not until I stepped over the imaginary line that separates California from Oregon that I understood just how wonderful it feels to be back.
Yesterday, Spud, my friend and hiking partner asked me "So...Honeybear, has it hit you yet, I mean, that we have made it to Oregon?". My answer was a resounding "YES, YES, YES". Let me explain. 
Aside from the daily physical activity of hiking, I consider this experience to be a test of my mental endurance. Thus, in order not to be totally overwhelmed by the prospect of hiking almost 2,700 miles, I usually avoid focusing on the end goal and instead I like to think about each day as a worthy part of the experience. I had never really considered how I would feel upon entering my home state. Tired? Happy? Angry? Defeated? Proud? Confident? Overwhelmed? Well, as it turns out I think I experienced them all and expressed this smorgasbord of feelings via a small emotional breakdown. Due to some distractions along the trail, I found myself a few minutes behind the crew I had been hiking with earlier in the morning and thus, heard their elated shouts as they celebrated the incredible achievement of reaching Oregon. As I came up the last switchback in California and saw the "Welcome to Oregon" sign I felt so relieved to be home that I burst into tears. First came the tears of joy. Joyful to be home. Then came those sad tears. Tears that were the last to touch what was left of the soft California ground. Then the tears of anger. Tears about many important and many more unimportant things. Then the tears of celebration. Celebrating 1,700 miles of hiking.  Then, after I thought I had calmed down I suddenly became overwhelmed by tears of gratitude. It was with these tears that I crossed the border between California and Oregon, and was greeted by hugs from Oasis and Spud and a slew of treats from other hikers who had also been waiting for this moment. As the curls of celebratory tobacco and marijuana smoke cleared, our large group that we sometimes refer to as the love train gathered near the sign for a group photo. Although we were dirty, sitting all bunched up in a big group reminded me of taking a class picture in elementary school. There we were, all 19 of us, so proud to have completed over 1,700 miles of trail. What an incredible feeling.
Less than a miles after we crossed the Oregon border, we were greeted two legendary hikers-a father daughter duo named Balls and Sunshine who had set up a party complete with birthday hats and blankets along a remote Forest Service road. What a spectacular welcome to the home state.
The trail magic has continued with a surprise visit from Ryan Hasty, the manfriend of Oasis who offered to take our packs for the day while we hiked carrying only water and maps. Later, we met up with my friend Spud's parents whose generosity, kindness and passion for gardening and many other things I can only hope to live up to some day. Thank-you Renee and Don treating us like royalty here in Ashland.
It feels good to be home and as we make our way north, we will also be making our way towards Eugene, where my good friend Rebecca will be meeting us at Shelter Cove! Furthermore, I am also very excited for a visit from my dad and younger brother as they join us for three days of hiking.
The evening that we arrived in Oregon it rained. Although the precipitation only lasted two minutes, it reminded me of how much I love Oregon. I leave you with a question that I have been thinking about quite a bit as I hike. What do you love about your home? What makes it special?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Being Mute

Greetings from Quincy, CA (mile 1289).
In the next few days, Oasis and I will reach the half-way point on the trail between Mexico and Canada which is about 1332 miles. We plan to treat ourselves to a beer at the Drakesbad ranch to celebrate this achievement.
We are currently staying with Spud's (another hiker and friend) relatives in Quincy, CA. Beginning with some wonderful trail magic from Steve in South Lake Tahoe, my mother's visit to Truckee, CA as well as a somewhat unexpected visit from a good friend from college and now a wonderful stay in Quincy (not to mention a visit from Spud's parents in Ashland), Oasis and I feel so lucky and well taken care of along the trail. Our group has now expanded to include Spud and Histogram. Spud, also known as Evan, I actually wrote about in my blog (Certified Geardo). I will admit that Spud was NOT impressed my portrayal of him. Nevertheless, after a mildly awkward encounter where I apologized for comparing him to a character in the Portlandia TV series, we decided that since we both like crosswords, cribbage and food, that perhaps we might make a solid hiking trio. We now consider Spud an integral part of our group. Histogram, who is from the Bay area has also joined us for the time-being and we are enjoying his company.
In my eyes, we've reached a point on the trail where putting one step in front of the other has become such a routine that at times minutes walking seems like hours and an hour can feel, well, alot longer than an hour. As a way to combat this time warp, we have began playing word games on the trail: telling complicated-multipart stories that rhyme, playing contact and imagining certain futuristic world problems and solutions.
A few days ago, I remembered an encounter we had with a hiker who chose to spend the day in silence . His reflections of the experience made me curious, and so, on July 14th (my sister's 22nd birthday), the four of us chose to spend one full 24 hour period in silence. The experience gave me time to reflect and relieve some of the pressure that comes with trying to engage your hiking partners in conversation. Although I had no problem interacting with Spud and Oasis without actually speaking, we did encounter a few day-hikers who seemed quite distraught by our refusal to respond to any questions about the trail. I had made a sign that explained what I was doing but since it was buried in my pocket by the time I had found it, most people had given up on me and hurried angrily hurried away from me, (the pretentious thru-hiker). Furthermore, we also ran into trail magic that day. Some burners (people who attend Burningman) parked their RV by a road and gave us food.
This blog must be cut short...but until I post again in Ashland, Oregon, I leave you with poem by Mary Oliver.

The Summer Day 

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Passing through the Sierras

Hello Friends, Family and Readers. I apologize for not updating you sooner on the past few weeks of hiking. Between purchasing food and sending resupply boxes, Oasis and I found it challenging to fit in time to update.
Nevertheless, we are still out on the trail and still enjoying our experience! Currently we are spending some time with my mom in Truckee California. Last night we made a giant meal that consisted of primarily vegetables and red meat, both food items missing from our trail diet. It felt so splendid to fall asleep with a stomach full of healthy wholesome food.
The last few hundred miles we have made our way through the High Sierras, passing through what many consider to be the most spectacular section of the PCT and definitely the most physically challenging. What sets the Sierras apart from the rest of the trail are the significant changes in elevation. The 230 miles stretching between Kennedy Meadows in the South and Tuolumne Meadows in the North range from 7,500 ft above sea level to over 13,000 ft at Forester Pass.
During the 2.5 weeks in the Sierras, Oasis and I hiked over more than ten mountain passes. According to the Princeton dictionary a mountain pass is defined as "the location in a range of mountains of a geological formation that is lower than the surrounding peaks".
Our first major pass, Forester Pass, also happens to be the highest point on the PCT. Due to some ominous clouds, Oasis and I decided to cross the pass well before lunch to avoid running into lousy weather on such an exposed section of trail. Fortunately the purple clouds only created a more interesting sky-scape and never turned to a thunder-storm. After cresting the pass (and taking many pictures), we ate lunch at a small and ridiculously clear alpine lake. The surrounding mountains reflected in the lake and the views were spectacular.
Other passes also offered similar moments of inspiration. Oasis and I agreed that Muir Pass was one of our favorites. Although the approach seemed a bit tedious, we were pleasantly surprised by a large, stone hut at the top that seemed appear out of nowhere. As it turns out, the hut was erected in the 1930s in memory of the late naturalist and environmental advocate John Muir. Oasis and I both scrambled up jagged stones for a picture on top. I chose the "Superman" pose (arms and legs stretched out). Coming down from the pass, we encountered a series of alpine. We fell in love with Lake Wanda (apparently named after one of Muir's illegitimate children). We went swimming in Wanda, which was more like a jump in the freezing water followed by desperate attempts to get the heck out because it was so darn frigid.
Each day in the Sierras offered moments if not hours of reflection of inspiration. I was inspired one particular day when Oasis and her friend Zack took me on my first multipitch climb in Yosemite Valley. Over the course of seven or eight hours we climbed Tenaya Peak in Tuolumne Meadows. It was an inspiring climb that left me exhausted yet completely in awe. I hope to continue climbing after the trail.
For those of you who sent me letters in Tuolumne Meadows, I really appreciated it! Emilie, thank-you so much for the Honeybear and mom, thank-you for the wonderful treats and snacks. If you want to send us something we will be in Ashland at the end of July. Please send anything to the following address. If you decide to send something to this address, please let me know (you can send me an email  so we make sure that we pick it up.

Lena Sessions
General Delivery 
 Ashland, OR 97520

Sending all my love from Truckee, CA. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Names on the Trail

Greetings from Kennedy Meadows! We have made it 702 miles and are leaving tomorrow for the High Sierras. Many people consider the next 250 miles of the trail to be the most spectacular section of the entire PCT. In just a few short days, Oasis and I will be celebrating her birthday. I hope to incorporate some German games into the day's festivities and have bought a giant muffin that I will coat in Nutella that should work as a great birthday cake replacement. I am still hunting for some birthday candles, but I have a feeling that the trail will provide.
I thought I would devote this blog to the topic of trail names.
Yesterday evening I attended a brief and totally informal naming ceremony. On the Pacific Crest Trail you identify more with your trail name than the name given to you at birth. Many people have interesting stories about how they received their "Trail Names". A very quiet woman from England received her trail name "Destroyer" when her husband found her inside their tent raging an epic battle against a slew of ants. My friend Spud, thinks fondly of potatoes and received his name after devoting many hours of thought and discussion to potatoes. I gave Oasis her trail name due to her tendencies to carry ridiculous amounts of water. For example, if Oasis decides she will need six liters of water on the trail, I'll cut that in  half and bring three. My own trail name, I received after more than one person noticed by appreciation/obsession with Honey. I will admit that I have been caught more than once spooning honey into my mouth, or just squeezing it right out of the bottle onto my tongue. I put honey on everything and in everything. For example, I see no problem putting a healthy serving of honey on a cheese and salami sandwich! Yumm....
Normally, one never chooses a name for themselves. A name must be given to you. While you are able to reject a name that someone tries to give you, its a good idea to accept a name before you end up being stuck with something like "Sex Panther" (yes, there is someone on the trail that unfortunately could not escape this fate). There are so many people with so many different names. There is U-Haul, Wampus Cat and Zen...Quest, Fallrisk and The Darkness...Cookie, Weebee, Just Retired, Just Joe, Scarecrow, Preacher, Sunset and Sunrise, Mr. Wizard, Peanut, Scrambled Legs, Wasabi, Ohenro, Reverend Beaver, Birthday Girl, Wooly, Nips, Heels, Wildflower, Dropzone, Busted Magic, Not a Chance, The Croation Sensation, Not-so-bad, Doc, Sam Wise, and so many more!
What I am learning is that the Pacific Crest Trail is more than just a long hike. I like to consider it a mass migration of similar minded people who enjoy being outside, but also love connecting with each-other in town. The trail name is a way to alter your identity for a few months and to distinguish a thru-hiker from a non-thru hiker. If someone introduces themselves as "Bob"...I would definitely assume that they are not hiking from Mexico to Canada. But, if someone told me their name was "Yardsale", I would probably assume they were hiking all the way.
While I do love my real name, I find it refreshing and exciting that most people out here think of me only as Honeybear....loving honey and doing good for others. The trail is a community and I do believe that trail names have a way of bringing people together. I leave you with a question...What name do you think you might be given on such an endeavor? Would you be given a name based on something you do, or something you are?
I enjoy reading your comments. I will try to post again in about 2.5 weeks when we make it to Tuolumne Meadows.
Much love (and honey),
The Honeybear