Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

Day 86: Granite Chief Wilderness and the mental challenge

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Date: July 24, 2017
Miles: 24.5 miles (39.4km), from Miller Creek to mile 1,144.9.
Health: Shoulder is feeling better, so are my legs and elbow.

I woke up at 4:30 am, an hour before my alarm, feeling great. I pondered for a second if I should keep sleeping or get an early start. I decided that getting on the trail early would be better and started getting up. Right then I heard the sound of drops on my tarp. Rain. Nope. I pulled my sleeping bag over my head and went back to sleep. 

An hour later the alarm woke me up again but this time I felt tired and snoozed the alarm for an extra half an hour. Now it was time to get up and start moving. As I sleep with my food, the first thing I do is I put my breakfast soaking, and then finish the rest of my chores. After taking down my camp and putting everything in my pack I'm ready to head out. But feeling lazy, I eat my breakfast in camp before getting on the trail. 

 Morning views.

Morning views.

Although I feel a lot better than yesterday, I still feel sluggish and simply can't get my motivation up or my body to work as I'm used to. I bust out the first three miles in less than an hour but then things slow down. I arrive at a trailhead and notice a pit-toilet. Score! But as I try to access it I find it locked. Near the pit-toilet, there’s a couple sitting at a camping table eating breakfast. They are here car camping and they tell me the toilet will be opened later in the season. Apparently, the road to the trailhead was just opened a few days ago due to heavy snow. 

 Hiking along a ridgeline.

Hiking along a ridgeline.

While talking with them I notice they have their phones out. This can only mean one thing, cell reception. I take my phone out, switch the airplane mode off and get three bars. Instead of hiking further I sit down and check incoming messages. An hour goes by and I'm still on my phone. Damn. 

I get moving and climb the small climb from the trailhead up to the ridgeline. The views are amazing. Not Sierra amazing, but still great. I forgot to put my phone back in airplane mode and notice there’s still reception here as I receive new messages. And I get distracted again. 

I get a message from Cannonball and Storyteller telling me they've arrived at the Sierra City today. Damn, they've been flying. They are over sixty miles ahead. As they are doing about the same kind of mileage as I am, unless I really pump up my pace, I won't catch up to them anytime soon.

 Entering Granite Chief Wilderness.

Entering Granite Chief Wilderness.

I keep getting distracted by all the lure of being connected and soon notice I've missed most of the morning on my phone, not getting any miles done. This was supposed to be a thirty-mile day. 

I feel unmotivated and kicking myself for not doing enough miles and wasting time only makes the situation worse. I start thinking about Fyre and her getting off the trail, how I miss home, my parents and brothers, their fiancé and wife, my nephew and niece, and my dog Fire. I keep wondering why I'm here climbing these rocks in the scorching heat, walking for twelve to fourteen hours every day when I could be back home in Finland, relaxing at our summer place. Oh, how I miss using normal toilets instead of digging holes in the sand. 

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 Walking through fields of wildflowers.

Walking through fields of wildflowers.

I know I don't want to quit, but some days are really hard. All day long I see only southbound hikers who've flipped and are now heading towards Sierra. Other than those brief encounters, I hike alone, sweat pouring from my head as the sun beats down on me. I miss my umbrella. I try to eat snacks as I hike but the sight of another melted Snickers just doesn't do it for me anymore. I’m getting tired of drinking melted chocolate bars every day.

By now we all know we can do the miles. It's not about the physical challenge anymore, it's all about the mental one. Can you find the motivation to do the grind every day, day in day out. While I hike I keep doing the calculations again in my head. I have about sixty hiking days left before the end of September and the approaching winter storms in the Cascade Mountains. This means I have to hike about 26 miles (41,8km) every day to have a safe buffer before winter. 

 Walked under some ski-lifts today.

Walked under some ski-lifts today.

While on the phone again, I see a Facebook post from Wilder. He has reached the halfway point today. When arriving to Sonora Pass I almost caught up to him as he was only two days ahead of me. Now he's a week ahead of me. I put my head down and turn the music louder in my headphones as if that would make the miles go by any faster. 

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I keep thinking about my life back home a lot. My life was pretty good. I’m not here to escape anything, I just really wanted to see if I could walk from Mexico to Canada. Hiking the PCT has been my dream for a long time now. But now that I’m here, actually living my dream, I keep bringing myself down and letting these small things getting on my nerves. The excruciating heat, the monotony, and having no-one to talk to, really gets me down. I know this is all in my head and that I just need to suck it up, just keep doing the miles.

I knew that Northern California would be mentally hard and it sure has been. This is what I’m worst at, doing monotonous work for long periods of time. I’d much rather be battling the snowy high Sierra passes or crossing the dangerous streams. I enjoy the little adrenaline rush of danger more than just marching along on a two feet wide dirt path with nothing happening all day long.

 More wildflowers.

More wildflowers.

During the day I hike through multiple massive wildflower fields. As I walk through them, hundreds of butterflies scatter up to the air and fly around me. I feel like I’m walking in a Disney movie.

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 NorCal is dusty.

NorCal is dusty.

It’s becoming painfully clear I’m not doing thirty miles today, but a solid 25 miles might be doable. As the sun starts to set and the temperature drops I feel a lot better and crush the last miles with ease. Instead of doing the 25 miles, I had to stop a half a mile short not to end up camping on an exposed ridgeline. Instead, I stay a bit down, in the trees, on a beautiful spot overlooking the valley I just hiked around. 

Tomorrow morning starts with a ten-mile waterless section, and as I’m dry camping, I carried two extra liters from the last water source. I eat my dinner while watching the sun set behind the mountains. Although I’m feeling a little down, the scenery around me is absolutely gorgeous. This wasn't my favorite day out here but I'm hoping tomorrow will be better.