Pacific Crest Trail

Posts in Feat2
The Night Before

It’s the night before I start the PCT and I still can’t really believe it’s happening. 

I’ve had a really nice time getting to San Diego and enjoying the city in a relaxed way. My parents wanted to road trip in their new Van, and I didn’t want to stress about travel, perfect! We drove down to Palomar Mountain State Park for our first night for the inaugural camping trip in the Van. It’s a beautiful park if you’re ever in the area!

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The next day we drove into San Diego and stopped by the beach in Solana Beach. It was so hot and the water was so nice to dip my feet in. Time to say goodbye to the ocean! We got amazing tacos at a place called Oscars and then finally went to our hotel to decompress. For some reason we had been driving all day: traffic is crazy down here even though everyone is at Coachella.

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We quickly got ready to go see the SF Giants play the Padres. We lost, but the game was fun and it was 75 degrees even at night! Also, Petco Park is super schmancy.

On our last day, we got brunch in La Jolla at The Cottage - a place my mom & I had brunch 8 years ago when we came down to tour UCSD as a prospective student. I couldn’t help but think of how different my life had turned out. If you asked me back then why I would be dining at the same place 8 years later I would have told you it was a study break/ treat from medical school. I hadn’t even heard of the PCT back then! Funny how life works. After brunch we went to Balboa Park and explored the botanical gardens. They were so pretty and we saw such cute ducklings in the pond!

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After the park, we went back to the hotel so I could unpack & repack my backpack, double checking I had everything I needed. I also added a couple of toiletries: 2 spare contact lenses, 2 single-use vials of lubricating eye drops, and I swapped a small body lotion for the mom’s stuff: my skin is so dry and lotion is the only thing that helps me mentally deal with that. I double checked that all of my electronics were charged, I moved my snacks for tomorrow into my hip belt pocket, and filled up one more of my water reservoirs. I’ll be carrying 5.7 L of water for the first 20 miles/ 2 days, and I think that will be perfect for me. Finally, I was treated to a nice steak dinner as my final meal. I started getting a little nervous midway through and felt like I was forcing it down a little, but the feeling eventually subsided. 

And now I’m laying in a super comfy hotel bed wondering if I’ll ever get a good nights sleep again, while also wondering if soon I will no longer be able to sleep comfortably in a bed. After reading and planning so much I feel like I have over saturated my brain with information about the PCT: campgrounds, water sources, rattlesnakes, towns, gear, but still feel totally unprepared and ignorant about the realities of the trail. I’m so impressed by some people who start the trail with absolutely no backpacking experience. I’m not sure how I would feel if I had never backpacked before.
Despite the uncertainties, I can’t wait to get on the trail. I hope that once I start hiking, I’ll be able to get out of my head a little bit and just finally be able to enjoy this journey. I’m excited to meet the people hiking around me, I’m excited to see the desert in bloom, and I’m excited to travel by my feet, hopefully all the way to Canada.

p.s. I’m writing all of this now on my phone blogging app... so hopefully this will look good on the computer/ your phone! Sorry if not... but there’s nothing I can do about it now! :)

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PCT Prep || Food

So I know I said previously that I haven't been doing a ton of food prep, and this is still true, but I have needed to prep some food. Specifically, for the first 42 miles from Campo to Mt. Laguna, and then for my only pre-trail prepared mail drop to Warner Springs to take me through Idyllwild.

I am also going stoveless, at least to start the trail. Many people have asked me what I'm going to eat if I don't have a stove, so I decided I'd put together a post about what I'm bringing (and what is in my food bag RIGHT NOW) for the first 42 miles.

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Backpacking Food for ~3.5 days

Bars: 5 (Rx bar, CLIF bar, Larabar)

Honey Stinger: 4

Gu Gel: 3

BelVita Crackers: 3

Small Flour Tortillas: 3

Homemade Oatmeal blend: 2

Fruit Leather: 2

Tuna pack w/ olive oil: 2

Homemade Rice & Beans dinner: 2

Caffeine Snack: 1

KIND Breakfast Protein Crackers: 1

CHOMP Stick: 1

Idahoan Potato pack: 1

Couscous w/ Olive oil: 1

Chia Squeeze pouch: 1

To snack on throughout the days: 1 bag of Swedish fish/ jelly beans, 1 bag of dried mango from TJs, and NUUN hydration vitamin tablets.

A typical day? (Not all of those candies... ;) )

A typical day? (Not all of those candies... ;) )

Food to be cold soaked: Oatmeal blend (breakfast), Rice & Beans dinners, Idahoan potatoes, couscous.

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I'm not too sure if this is a good amount of food or not. Laying it all out, it seems like I eat less than this when I've been backpacking before, but I've also been sort of hungry a lot recently. I will also be eating a breakfast or lunch at the Lake Morena store on day 2, and my breakfast on day 1 will be from Starbucks, and lunch will either also be from Starbucks or leftovers from whatever restaurant we ate at the night before. I do feel like I packed too much food for this stretch, but I'm not too worried about it. Also, this all weighs 4 lbs.

2018 PCT Gear List || PRE HIKE

I am posting this to give people an idea of what kind of gear I am bringing on the trail. I know from reading other's accounts that my gear list will change over time while on the trail, so it will be kind of fun for me to look back on this list and see where I dropped (or added!) items! But this is going to be what I'm bringing starting from Campo.

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You can check out my lighterpack here.

PACK:

  • Zpacks Arc Haul lined w/ Gossamer Gear pack liner

    • Customizations: 1 shoulder pocket, 2 hip pockets, lumbar pad, ice axe loop (1 side only), V-strap top closure

SHELTER:

  • Zpacks Duplex Tent

  • MSR mini groundhog stakes (8)

SLEEPING:

  • Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilt

    • Customizations: 10*, 950 fill, short, wide

  • Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad - Short w/ stuff sack

  • Gossamer Gear Thinlight Foam Pad - 1/8"

  • Sea to Summit Aeros UL regular pillow

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COOKING:

  • Talenti soaking jar

  • Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon - Long

  • Zpacks 14 L food bag

  • Gallon Ziploc trash bag

WATER:

  • Sawyer Squeeze filter

  • Smartwater 1 L Dirty x2

  • Smartwater 0.8 L Clean x1

  • Evernew 1.5 L bladder x2

  • CNOC 2 L bladder x1

  • 7.8 L water capacity in the desert

Not all water capacity pictured

Not all water capacity pictured

CLOTHING PACKED:

  • Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Puffy w/ Hood

  • Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Long Sleeve Top (sleep shirt)

  • Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Base Layer Bottoms (sleep pants)

  • Montbell Tachyon Wind Pants

  • Frogg Toggs Ultralite Rain Jacket

  • Injinji Midweight Crew Socks

  • Darn Tough Midweight Crew Socks (sacred socks)

  • The North Face E-tip Gloves

  • Post-pedicure "flip-flops" - Camp shoes

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BATHROOM/ TOILETRIES:

  • Deuce of Spades trowel

  • Compact travel toothbrush

  • Travel-sized toothpaste

  • Dental floss

  • Lip balm w/ SPF

  • Small stick sunscreen

  • Mini nail clippers

  • Mini Tweezers

  • Hand Sanitizer

  • Mom's Stuff Salve

  • Small Body Glide

  • Wet Wipes

  • Personal rx meds

  • Toilet paper for #2

SAFETY:

  • Garmin InReach Explorer+

  • Gerber Paraframe Mini Knife

  • Bic mini lighter

  • First aid kit: leukotape, alcohol wipes (2), band-aids (4), antibiotic ointment (1), small amount of ibuprofen, TUMS, benadryl, immodium.

  • Repair kit: needle, duct tape, thermarest repair, cuben fiber tape, tenacious tape

  • Maps: Halfmile, Guthooks, Gaia on iPhone, carry paper back-up in Sierra, Washington

Not all items pictured

Not all items pictured

ELECTRONICS:

  • Petzl Bindi headlamp

  • iPhone 8 plus + case + charging cord

  • Sony a6000 camera w/ f3.5-5.6 16-50 mm lens

  • Anker PowerCore II 20000 external battery (2 USB ports)

  • Anker Powerport Speed 2 wall charger (2 USB ports)

  • Micro USB cord (Anker + Garmin + Sony + headlamp)

  • Earbuds

  • Zpacks DCF small dry bag

Petzl Bindi headlamp not pictured

Petzl Bindi headlamp not pictured

OTHER:

  • "Wallet": ID, 1 credit, 1 debit, health ins card, small amount of cash

  • Gossamer Gear Liteflex Hiking Umbrella

  • Sea to Summit Bug Net

  • Bandana

CLOTHING WORN:

  • REI Sahara Long Sleeve Shirt

  • Lululemon On the Fly Shorts

  • Patagonia Active Mesh bra (old version)

  • Icebreaker Siren Bikini Underwear - Merino wool

  • Injinji Midweight Crew socks

  • Altra Lone Peak trail runners

  • Rx transition glasses

  • Dirty girl gaiters

  • Buff regular

  • Outdoor Research Sun Gloves

  • Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork hiking poles (& tent poles)

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SIERRA:

  • BV500 bear canister

  • Kahtoola Microspikes

  • CAMP Corsa Ice Axe 60 cm

BASE WEIGHT (weight of everything except food, water, fuel, worn clothes) = 12.3 lbs

Not ultralight by any means, but still considered to be in the "lightweight" range. I plan on *eventually* (aka post-hike) posting gear lists from each section of the trail if items drastically change.

 

PCT Prep || 6 Weeks

I can't believe that in less than 6 weeks I'll be leaving home, headed for San Diego! It still doesn't feel real that this is happening. Even though I've had 99% of my gear for a while, it still doesn't feel like those things are going to be my home for 5 months.

I figured I should do a little post about how prep is going since I haven't updated in a while. But honestly, this will probably be a boring post because I haven't done that much.

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Physical

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*Sigh* physical prep was going pretty well through January. I was doing exactly what I specified in my New Year's intentions blog post. Up until I took a cross-country ski lesson at the end of January, took quite a few falls, a couple of which I broke with my left hand. I sprained that wrist, which has made it painful to bear weight on that hand, so I had to stop vinyasa yoga, and most of my arm workouts. Then, a doctor appointment addressing an ongoing issue I've had with one of my knees revealed that I should not be doing lunges, squats, and jumping variations of those exercises due to the stress on my patella. Long story short, February was spent mostly injured, and lacking in physical prep. I'm adjusting my workout plans for the month of March: still going on training hikes, and gym exercises will be mostly stair-stepper, uphill treadmill, and elliptical (my doctor-approved quad-strengthening exercises).

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Gear

I'm still trying to nail down my gear list. The big items are set in stone, but its the little things that I still need to decide on. I was having a really difficult time deciding if I wanted to bring the Sony rx100iii point-and-shoot or my Sony a6000 mirrorless camera. The rx100 is really great because it's significantly smaller than the a6000, and weighs less. It's easier to access: it fits in my hip & shoulder pocket really easily and its easier to pull out/ put away. It comes with zoom and it's pretty fast. The battery life is good. The only downside is that the picture quality just isn't as great as the a6000, which is very apparent in side-by-side comparisons of the photos. The a6000 is worse in all of the above categories except for photo quality. While it's less bulky and heavy than a DSLR, its still much heavier & bulkier than the rx100 and more difficult to fit in my (incredibly large) hip belt pocket. With that said, I have decided to bring the Sony a6000 just because I think I would regret not bringing it. Since photography matters to me, I'd rather have one set of great photos (a6000) and one set of okay photos (iPhone 8+) than two sets of okay photos (rx100, iPhone 8+). Now I just need to figure out which lens I'm going to take.

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I'm still unsure of my hiking clothes. My shirt and bottoms are still a mystery. I suffer from thigh chafe and from my shorts riding up, which are both very annoying, and I'm deciding between four different types of shorts. 1. Nike Tempo running shorts (liner cut out), 2. Nike Rival running shorts w/ a compression built-in liner short, 3. Lululemon On the Fly shorts, and 4. Patagonia Barely Baggies. If you have a strong option on any of those, let me know! My shirt is a question too. For some reason I've hated all of the women's hiking shirts I've seen at REI - mainly because they seem too short & I prefer longer shirts that hit around my butt. So I'm now considering this Khul men's hiking shirt, and I'd be lying if it wasn't partly because of the super cool built-in microfiber cloth for cleaning my glasses/ camera lens (the top review doesn't hurt either). I need to try it on to see if it will fit correctly. All of my other clothing is locked-in though.

I've officially decided to go stoveless to start with. If I hate it, I can have my stove and cook cup sent to me.

Everything else is pretty much set, and I'll post a gear list soon. :)

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Food

Nope, basically zero planning done. I'm going stoveless, and not sending resupply boxes, so I haven't really done any planning here. I have decided that I will send a re-supply box to Warner Springs only in Southern California, so I do need to plan for food in that box before leaving for the trail, in addition to the food in my pack to get me from the border to Mount Laguna. My dad bought my mom an Excalibur food dehydrator for Valentine's Day, so my mom is getting really excited about making dehydrated meals, so I'll probably make a few meals for that section with that. Otherwise, I've decided I'll re-supply in town in Mount Laguna and Julian before getting my package in Warner Springs. I've also loosely planned that I will get to Warner Springs in 10 days with 1 zero in either Mount Laguna or Julian. And honestly, I haven't really planned anything past Idyllwild.

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Mental

Deep breaths & denial have been working so far.

Jokes aside, I re-read Pacific Crest Trials by Zach Davis and re-read the 3 lists that I wrote a few months ago in response to the exercise in the book, and I guess that's helping me prepare? I'm also trying to re-work my mind into thinking about the trail in multiple smaller overnight trips instead of Mexico - Canada. Like, it's really Campo to Mount Laguna. And then Mount Laguna to Julian. Julian to Warner Springs. Warner Springs to Idyllwild. You get the picture. 

So that's about it! I did a lot of planning in the earlier stages (like... the past 2.5 years), so now I'm just kinda chilling out/ slightly stressing out until it's time to leave! 

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PCT FAQs

I've had a lot of people ask me many questions about the trail, so I figured I'd post some of the most frequently asked questions & answers for those who care.

Q: So, how long is the trail?

A: 2,650 miles

Q: How long will it take you?

A: 5-6 months, though I'm hoping closer to 5, so mid-April through mid-September.

Q: Where does it start and end?

A: It starts at the USA/ Mexico border in Campo, California, and ends at the USA/ Canada border, but my hike will officially end in Manning Park, Canada.

Q: Are you hiking with someone?

A: I'm not starting the hike with anyone I know, and I do not plan on finding a buddy online to hike with. But, 50 people start at the Southern Terminus everyday from March through May, so I will hardly be alone on the trail. In fact, people thru-hiking the PCT generally report running into at least one hiker every day, and much more frequently earlier on the trail and around areas where day hikers frequent. I am also open to meeting thru-hikers around me and maybe hiking & camping with a small group if we share the same hiking style and values.

Q: What are you bringing for protection?

A: I am bringing a small knife, mainly for cutting things and sausage, but I guess it could be used to shank someone if necessary. I will not be bringing a gun, pepper spray, or large knife because I do not want to carry the weight, I don't know how to use a gun, it will not be in an accessible place (aka, it would be buried in my pack), and I personally think it's unnecessary.

Q: What about animals? Are there dangerous ones you need to worry about?

A: The main "dangerous" animals on the trail are rattlesnakes, black bears, and mountain lions. Rattlesnakes will be the main critter during the first 700 miles in Southern California. They generally want nothing to do with you, and if you hike smart & aware, they are easy to avoid, though may need to be coaxed off the trail so you can pass. Black bears can be found almost everywhere on the trail. They are more scared of humans than we are of them. Having come across black bears while hiking before, I've found that they really couldn't care less about you, but it is important to respect their space and never get between a mother and her cub, and to properly store your food in required areas (like the Sierra). Mountain lions are pretty scary, but they're incredibly elusive and generally don't mess around with adult humans. It's very rare to see a mountain lion, but they've seen thousands of hikers. If it's of any comfort, no one has died from animals on the Pacific Crest Trail in recorded history. Honestly, mosquitoes and gnats are my most-hated animals, but they are unfortunately unavoidable. 

Q: What's the weather like? How cold/hot does it get?

A: This is so dependent on the year, but generally speaking, the PCT has mild weather. Unlike the Appalachian Trail, where rain for weeks on end is not unusual, the PCT is generally dry. Rain is most common in Washington towards the end (mid-late September) and occasionally the desert will see rain in the spring. It can rain at any time though, which is why I am carrying a rain jacket for the whole trail. The desert actually has the most extreme weather. It can reach the 100s during the day, but then turn into a crazy wind storm with 40-50mph winds and then get into the teens at night. Falling snow is usually not an issue, but early season storms at higher elevations are not unheard of (even in the "desert"), and winter moving in early in Washington's North Cascades can end a hike early if snow dumps.

Q: How often do you get to be in civilization/ how do you get there?

A: It depends on which section of the trail, but usually every 3-7 days I will be going into a town to do errands like resupplying my food, laundry, picking up packages, placing orders for gear, re-charging devices & batteries, scheduling blog posts, and eating lots of town food, and sometimes to take a rest, or "zero", day. Getting to town usually involves hitchhiking. The PCT itself sometimes leads to a main road or highway, or sometimes you need to take a side trail to a main road/ highway. Sometimes the PCT or side trail will lead directly into town, but this is not the norm.

Q: What is resupply? How do you do it?

A: Everyone who hikes the PCT needs to resupply their consumables: food and fuel being the main two, but occasionally other toiletry things like band-aids, pain meds, sunscreen, toilet paper, toothpaste, floss, etc, and sometimes even gear. Some people choose to pre-make packages at home that are filled with non-perishable food and have someone ship them to pre-determined post offices/ businesses in towns along the way. I am not doing this, however. I will be buying food from local grocery stores in town because I don't want to deal with all that pre-planning, and because I know I will get sick of food that I picked out 6 months prior.

Q: What do you eat?

A: This is a good question! I am planning on starting the trail stoveless so that I don't have to worry about carrying and finding fuel to cook with. I'm also kind of lazy, so no-cook = less wait time to eat food, less time cleaning up. That means my meals will be cold and non-cook. I've been experimenting with cold-soaking, which means pouring cold water into a container of dry food and letting it soak for however long it takes to become hydrated. Right now that's looking like a lot of oatmeal, couscous, rice sides, ramen noodles, dehydrated beans, and mashed potato flakes, with GORP, bars, jerky, tuna packets, summer sausage, pop tarts, tortillas, and chips. Not the healthiest of foods, but calories are important, and I can always eat fresh fruits & veggies in town. If for some reason I hate cold soaking on trail, I have a stove & cooking cup on back-up at home.

Q: Where do you camp?

A: Camping along the PCT is not like normal car camping, and may seem different than some people's backpacking experiences too. There are very few designated campsites (like specific backpacker's sites, car campgrounds, etc.) along the PCT. Most camping is done in accordance with Leave No Trace ethics, meaning at least 200 feet from the trail and water sources, and attempting to set up camp in areas that look like they have been used for camping before (pre-existing sites). So basically, if you find a nice, flat spot that's about 40 paces from the trail & water, and there's no camping restrictions in the area, you can camp there. There are suggested campsites in resources like Guthook's app and Halfmile's maps & trail notes as well.

Q: What do you bring with you?

A: Many people do the PCT with a wide variety of gear. I'll be posting a gear list in the next few weeks once I get everything dialed in! Everything is subject to change however. If you are just dying to know, and can't wait for my detailed list, here's a good list from REI to give you a general idea of lightweight gear.

Q: Are you scared?

A: I'm not really afraid of animals on the trail, or getting lost. I am afraid of freak weather, getting injured, creepy mansplainers, and my #1 biggest fear is the mental aspect of the trail, specifically loneliness.

Q: What are you doing to prepare?

A: Good question! I'll actually be posting more blog posts about my prep in the coming weeks/ months, so stay tuned! But basically I'm doing physical, mental, and some food figuring out stuff.

Q: Can I send you treats on trail?

A: Sure! Text me if you actually want info on how/ where to send a box of goodies! You can also email me if you don't have my phone number.

Q: Can I meet up with you on the trail?

A: While I appreciate the enthusiasm, the short answer is probably not. Very few people will know my location on trail in real-time, and the beauty of thru-hiking is not having to make plans. Lack of phone service coupled with the need to do a certain number of miles per day to make it to Canada on time makes it hard to meet up with people to do day hikes along the trail. If you're in a certain trail town though at the time I'm taking a rest day off trail, let's go eat a ton of yummy food together!!! :D

 

If you have other questions that aren't answered above, feel free to ask below!

Feat2Emily SchrickComment
I'm Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
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I know, crazy right?! Hiking 2,650 miles definitely does seem a little crazy.

If you really know me though, you know that this is something that has been brewing in the back of my mind since around my senior year of college (so, for 3 years now). I just never thought it would actually be feasible for so many reasons. What about grad school, whatever that looked like? Who would I go with? How much does something like this cost? How was I supposed to take 5-6 months off from my life? It didn't really fit in well with my "future plans". I figured, maybe I should just wait until after grad school, or, maybe I should just do it after I retire. 

I was scared to tell my family, that after graduating from college, studying for & taking the MCAT, and 1 part-time, and 1 full-time job later, I still didn't want to apply to med/PA/grad school and instead wanted to hike from Mexico to Canada.

I decided that now is actually the best time. I know that I will not be applying to any type of grad school this fall/ next spring because I still don't know what I want to do. I don't rent an apartment, or own a house, I don't have any pets of my own, I have no responsibilities to other human beings (like a significant other or children), and I can still get health insurance through my parents. And due to a very unexpected death in my family's circle of friends, I've come to realize that I am not guaranteed a retirement to enjoy, so if I want to do something, I shouldn't put it off for "later".

I'm lucky that, for the most part, my family and friends are very supportive and excited for my adventure. Of course, they are also concerned about my safety. But I hope I can continue to inspire other solo female hikers. I know I was inspired by people like Karen Wang and Carrot Quinn and Cotezi and Dixie - all solo female PCT hikers from previous years. These awesome women made me realize that it was ok to start alone, and I shouldn't wait for a suitable partner to come along and finally make it "safe" for me to hike this trail.

So what does that mean? In mid-April I'll be starting my hike at the Southern Terminus at the USA-Mexico border near a town called Campo, and I'll be finishing in Manning Park, Canada, right over the USA-Canada border. It will take me approximately 5-6 months, though, I'm hoping closer to 5 months. And yes, I'll be hiking "alone" - if you consider 50 hikers starting at the Southern Terminus everyday for about 2 months "alone". You may be able to tell from my air quotes that I do not consider that to be alone. But no, I will not personally know anyone on the trail, though I do have some Instagram friends that are also hiking the trail this year, and I look forward to meeting all of the other wonderful and crazy people who are hiking this trail.

I've got a lot to do over the next couple months, and I plan on posting some more blogs about how I'm preparing for the trail. So if you have any specific questions, comment them below and I'll address them personally or in a post! I also will be blogging and updating Instagram from the trail when I have service/ WiFi, so be sure to subscribe to e-mail updates or follow me on Insta if you want to stay in the loop!

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Feat2Emily SchrickComment