PCT:Day 196

Direction: Southbound

Trail location: 1303.3

Cumulative miles hiked: 2042

Miles hiked today: 6.58

Elevation: 5400

High/low temp/humidity : 89/62/20

Spinning on the turntable:

Noelle here:

Today’s hiking was a lot better for me! We discovered the keys: bear, cool darkness and downhill.

I woke around 3:30 to the sound of branches crashing and deep growling. For a couple minutes I lay frozen trying to figure it out. I shined my flashlight across to the area we’d hung our food bags and only saw one. There was no denying the sounds.

I quietly woke Steve and told him a bear had gotten one of our bags. He heard the growling and snorting and was quickly wide awake. We could hear her shredding our “bear bag” and eating its contents.

Steve yelled, “Bear, go away!” and we clapped our hands loudly but it didn’t matter. Mostly we worried that we were simply irritating her.

My insides turned to liquid. It sounds dramatic but my body had a basic response to that low pitched growling. I was too scared to go outside but we knew we had to. Steve stood guard with a rock and flashlight while I did my thing. Then we took turns packing up our belongings.

We could see two cubs in nearby trees. They scurried further up as we moved around. We could still hear the mom but we never saw her. There was no doubt in our minds that she was watching us as we watched her babies.

Once our packs were loaded, we had to go closer to the bears to get our other bag. Letting them have both just wasn’t an option. I felt terrified actually but somehow still calm. What else could we do. We talked smoothly to the mom that we meant no harm and thankfully she left us alone.

The cubs started getting agitated because of our nearness so we quickly packed the remaining bag and started down the path. I’m not sure I slowed down for a good mile or so.

Once the adrenaline wore off and we were far enough down the trail, we stopped for a break, some breakfast and to change out of sleeping clothes. What a start to our 4th of July! Holy smokes.

I’m not sure what we could have done differently but I think it’s apparent that the requirement of bear canisters for that 19 miles means thru hikers and section hikers will not be carrying them at this section. We don’t pick ours up till Kennedy Meadows North, which is where north blunders would have dropped theirs off. NoBo’s are likely in good enough shape to hike that whole part of the trail without stopping. But we couldn’t. And neither could the many weekend hikers/campers we saw out there. For the forest service not to have bear cabinets seems like a disservice to both bears and people. It puts all of us in a difficult position.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have hiked this section at all? I don’t know. But I feel terrible about a bear getting our bag, I mean terrible for the bear. She doesn’t need plastic in her belly. And she sure doesn’t need Steve’s meds and vitamins. 😳

We hiked to the campground and got a ride into Chester. Steve called the ranger station to let them know a bear got our bag. No one has called him back yet.

We’ve restocked our food and gotten Steve another food bag. Today we’ll pick up a new prescription for him. Then we’ll start out again tomorrow.

But, my biggest challenge still is I don’t know if I can do this hike. It’s hard for me to get out of my own head. But beyond that, I don’t know if I can physically do this.

A bear scare in the early morning helped me hike quickly. The dark and the downhill also helped. If I don’t figure out how to do this, what does that mean for Steve? What does it mean for me? It’s a lot of pressure to try to help Steve meet his goal. To just be able to spend the summer with him.

I feel torn because this hike puts me literally at my physical limit and beyond every single day. But if I don’t try then we’re back to that weird place of 2019 of being alone so much. That wasn’t super either.

I know even writing about my concerns sounds whiny. And maybe it is. But this is hard hiking with a lot of weight on my back. Our next stretch is 2500 feet uphill. Yes, there’s the cliche that a day hiking is better than a day in the office. And that’s surely true. But I’m not sure I’m built for this. And I’m not sure any amount of positive thinking is going to change that.

Disappointing Steve again feels horrible. But slowing him down again feels just as bad. He is kind and understanding and I know he wants to have this adventure together. So do I.

Tomorrow I will go for a walk with my best friend. It’ll be uphill and it’ll be hot. I will put one foot in front of the other and I will grow stronger with every step I take. At the end of the day I’ll sleep peacefully from the exhaustion of realizing my body can exceed my expectations. This is my goal for tomorrow.

Well. This daily post covers several days.

I didn’t start hiking again. Instead I will take some buses to friends who will let me cry for a minute and then take me to get Cupcake.

Steve is still hiking and he’s going strong. I am still reeling at my decision so early in the game.

Hike your own hike. We hear it a lot. I made a new decision based on new information. There are so many words.

But this time, I will keep them mostly to myself.


  1. Heidi Halverson

    Hi Noelle (I keep thinking your name is Nicole – I can’t rewrite my brain for some reason), anyhow, I’m reading this now after watching Simon Biles bail from the Olympics and I see so much in common in your stories. I feel the same way about both. I really want you to do it and am disappointed that you are not. I admire you for trying. I believe in you are truly believe that you are capable. I understand why you are not doing it. But overall it just makes me sad. I’m not disappointed in you, but more that I empathize with your disappointment, and that makes me sad. I thank you for sharing and your struggle teaches us all that this is not that easy.

    • mcgarveysan

      Hi Heidi. The nerd in me could give you the name statistics about why everyone calls me Nicole. I answer to it. 🤣
      I believe in me too and I truly believed I could do it this year. I still think that. But then I go out even for a day hike and the uphills are so hard for me. So I know it’s okay to have made the decision not to hike. There’s such a difference in a week long backpacking trip or even two weeks compared to what Steve is doing. It’s hard to explain how difficult what he’s doing is. Mad props to him, he’s one of the rare ones who finishes what he sets out to accomplish. When it comes to long trails, most people throw in the towel. I’m sad. I’m disappointed. I’m angry with myself. But at the end of the day I made a healthy decision. And now is the hard part of living with it!

  2. Anonymous

    Noelle – so proud of you for your hiding and keeping Steve company. Scott

    • mcgarveysan

      Thanks Scott. I wish my best were good enough! 🤷🏻‍♀️

  3. Ashley

    Proud of you for listening to your body.

    • mcgarveysan

      Thanks Ashley. It was yelling fairly loudly. 😳

  4. Michael Valentine Smith

    Courage is action in the face of debilitating fear. This decision required clear thinking, honesty and courage. Well done! The feelz about it suck, but there are upsides, too.

    (Almost) crapping one’s pants makes a great anecdote. Actually doing it makes an even better one. Or so I choose to believe.

    In fact, there was this one time in Singapore after I got hammered at Raffles that…

    • mcgarveysan

      I love your name du jour! 😂 the feelz do suck. But I’m glad for your support in it. You’re a life saver! Sounds like a great story about Singapore. 😜

  5. Shar

    You are a rock star Noelle, and I’m grateful for your honesty. We live in an era where it’s easy to make life look rosy and pretty – the reality is that’s rare. We need more brave souls to be honest about the hard and disappointments because it gives others permission to be honest also. You are a wonderfully good wife, and friend. He’s blessed and I’ve no doubt proud of your attempts to support him. Love you both so dearly…

    • mcgarveysan

      Thank you very much, dear Shar. It’s certainly been hard and disappointing this past week. I think he’s proud that I try too! Love you both so dearly as well.


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