Etna Summit – tent site on a jeep road
18.6 miles.
4069ft up. 3340ft down.

I stayed up too late working on my blog and pottering about on my phone. I slept diagonally with one leg out to the side in the giant bed with the squashiest, loveliest pillows. I could have stayed in bed for a week. I really didn’t want to get up and pack up my stuff. I don’t think they will mind if I just build a little shack in the corner of their garden. They wouldn’t even know I was there! Actually, Jackie told me they get coyotes hanging about, and there was a lot of rustling in the bushes last night!

But the trail is waiting so I got up and packed up all my stuff. Put my clean hiking clothes on taped up my legs. Put on my new socks.

I checked the info on the PCTA website, it hadn’t been updated for 2 days but another website says the fire is now at 13 thousand acres. It’s growing everyday. The likelihood of the trail being closed soon is high. So it’s definitely time to go around it.

Jackie made eggs with cheese and English muffins, and I had a banana and two giant glasses of chocolate milk – a perfect breakfast! I weighed myself, I have lost 10lb / 4.5kg in the last 7 weeks. And considering my diet had been 90% sugar and crap that’s quite an achievement. I’m glad I put all that ‘hard’ work into putting the weight on before the trail. I definitely notice the weight loss. My shorts are baggy and my love handles have almost disappeared! We also weighed my pack, fully loaded with 2l of water it’s 30lb. Then jackie added another pound of cookies!

We got in the truck and settled in for the 2 hour ride to the trail. I started to get a knot in my stomach. A feeling of dread about going back to the trail. The taste of real life had been too nice and I was questioning my want, need or desire to do this.

We crossed the border from Oregon to California. No celebration. No sign nailed to a tree. No selfie with the sign. Just a lady hating her job and asking us if we were carrying and fresh fruit. I’m glad it wasn’t a thorough search. I would not have been happy to surrender my avocados. And just like that we were in California.

The smoke was thick and visibility was around a quarter of a mile. I felt very happy with my decision to skip ahead 119 miles of trail. Walking through that would be unpleasant and dangerous and quite frankly not worth it. And I’ve done it before, its not the same for me as it is the others, they feel they have missed part of the trail.


Also, as a little side note, I had a couple of people contact me basically complaining about my comments about the horse shit on the trail. Not enjoying stepping over fresh, stinky, steaming, fly covered horse turds (not dry ones) is a world away from being intolerant to horses on the trail. I think horses are magnificent creatures and they do loads to help maintain the trails, they also totally mystify me and I am happy to admire them from a safe distance.

I also love dogs but I don’t like it when their shit is on the pavement, and I really love cats but I hate it when they shit in my garden.

But I look at it as a metaphor for life: sometimes you get a big pile of shit put in front of you and you just have to find a way around it. | Alex Mason 2016

Intonation is impossible to achieve in writing but I guess people who know me would have got the joke.

Anyway. Have I said shit enough times?


The smoke hung low and we were a little concerned that it wasn’t even going to be clear at Etna, but as we drove through the town and up the wiggly road the other side to get to the trail we left the smoke behind. Well, it looks like I’m good to go but the knot in my stomach was still there. I said my goodbyes to Jackie and Nick. How do you say thank you enough for everything they have done for you?

I headed back onto the trail, trying to keep them memories of last year at bay.

As I step onto the trail and start walking the knot disappears – this is what my body knows how to do. But I don’t feel comfortable. My pack is heavy, I have lower back pain and I’m aware of my feet in my new socks. The socks feel so different, they are wool to start with so my feet are very warm, and my toes are touching each other which I’m not used to. I’m hoping that my feet are hardened up enough to not get any blisters, apart from this annoying one on the top of my big toe being caused by the pokey bit on my shoe.

It’s uphill and it’s a struggle. I see a nobo and ask if he has seen anyone going south. I’m not sure if the other three hikers I know are ahead of me or behind. He saw 5 yesterday but no one today. They must be behind me. I expect they will pass me soon, especially Stringbean, I don’t know that much about the other two.

I get 5 miles down the trail and I’ve already had to wee about 3 times. That’s the trouble with town and putting so much work into getting rehydrated. My back is really hurting and I decide to dump a litre of water. There seems to be plenty up the trail today. I try and make a dent in the cookies. It all helps a little and the pain in my back goes away.

I see a bear poo. But I am not intolerant to bears, just a little afraid of them.

The trail is beautiful and distinctly different from Oregon. Steeper and longer climbs are ahead. I am reminded of how much I liked Northern California and what a bad reputation it has. I climb up slowly and I can see all the smoke hanging low in the valley. A couple of nobos ask me about the fire and I tell them what I know. They are the last people I see.

I sit down for a break after 10 miles. I marvel at how clean my top looks, I thought it would never look clean again. I open up my flavour enhancer to squeeze into my water. The elevation gain caused a pressure inside it and it squirted out all over my nice clean top. It’s sticky and smells sickly sweet. Great. As the afternoon gets hotter and the climbs are exposed I smell a mixture of armpit and sticky sweet syrup. The top may have been clean but the smells in the pit area was still clinging and the heat seems to activate it.

I descend through the burn area and the trail continued to go up and down all day. Much more elevation gain in a shorter distance than I have got used to through Oregon. I am going so slow that I’m sure the others will pass me.

I was aiming for 15 miles but I decide to go a bit further and aim for 18. I collect water from a pipe in the middle of a hill. And I walk 4 more miles to a ‘not wonderful but it’ll do’ camp spot by a dirt road.

I can see all the smoke in the distance. I set up my tent and my things and I can’t be bothered to ‘cook’ so I eat an avocado and Fritos and some of the leftover snack from today. As I’m eating I hear someone call ‘Puff Puff’. It’s Stringbean! He finally caught me up. We have a chat and he isn’t sure on the others whereabouts. There is a guy called Delta who I’ve not met camped not very far back. It’s 8pm now and getting dark so he decides to camp with me at the road. Yeay! A friend!

I hear that Spice Rack is behind. Crusher is in front – but I never saw her pass me.

And there are no bugs. There haven’t been any bugs all day. Apart from the crickets which really hurt when they fly into your face, which happens more regularly than you may think.


I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.




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