PCT Day 6: I Am Pokemom

Up early again, I trekked to the campground bathroom to take care of business. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have an actual toilet to sit on with paper on a roll. I didn’t even care that it was crunchy. Ah, the joys of civilization.

Back at camp, the girls were just starting to stir. I gathered up Squarepants’ phone and battery along with Fish Nugget’s Delorme and said I was headed to the store. I wanted to get there before it opened to get first crack at the power strip.

On arrival, I saw a bearded guy lurking out front, definitely a hiker. A few more people came. They chatted while waiting. But I didn’t. I watched that door like a hawk.

Finally I saw the guy inside unlatching something. Like a Black Friday shopper storming Walmart, I barreled through and went right for strip, plugging in all three devices. Yes! We’d have maximum power for the next eight days of our trip. Suburban mom skills win.

The girls joined me for breakfast at the little restaurant next door. We had to wait for it to open, but again, it paid to be early. We beat the line and had our choice of sunny places to sit outside.

Being able to eat anything I wanted without worry about carbs or calories? Priceless.

I opted for carbicide, ordering a 1020-calorie stack of buckwheat pancakes, and of course, coffee, something I missed out on the trail. I ended up trading half my stack, however, for Fish Nugget’s cinnamon roll. Because I love my child.

The menu said Danish, so she ordered a danish. They brought the cinnamon roll and said that’s what came up from the valley, so, danish of the day. At first she thought it’d be okay, but the more she ate it, the more disappointing it tasted. So I switched. I figured 510 calories of buckwheat pancakes was plenty, and I do love cinnamon rolls.

Deer Outside Tent
The deer outside my tent in the morning, before I scared them bumbling around trying to get a better shot.
Ice Cold Foot Therapy
Ice cold foot therapy, feels so good!
Tuolumne River View
Therapy and lunchtime view, wondering if I’d be hiking alone later that day.

We packed up camp at a leisurely pace. Squarepants finished first and said she’d meet us in front of the store whenever we were ready. She planned to hang out at the hiker table and catch up with people.

I finished next because Fish Nugget had put off dealing with her resupply boxes yesterday. She had them spread all over camp in a huge mess, organizing meals.

I don’t remember what I said to set her off, but she had a mini-meltdown.

She said she felt anxious having me around all the time and that it wasn’t anything I was doing. It was just me being me. She said she felt bad because she knew I’d be dead someday and that she should be enjoying this time together, but she wasn’t.

Ouch, but okay. I said, well, I should give you some space then. And remember, you guys can hike on ahead if you want. I don’t want to hold you back or spoil your trip, just let me know. I told her I was going to go down the river for a while to bathe and tape my feet and that I’d see her in a bit.

I walked across the campground to the water’s edge, found a nice rock and sat down. Removing my shoes to wash my feet, I tried not to take it too personally. I remembered being young, distancing myself from my mom because I was embarrassed about everything she did. It’s just all part of growing up.

Still, I felt bad. She probably hadn’t expected to worry about me so much on the trail, which I’m sure wasn’t fun.

Whatever she decided, I would adapt. These last five days had been a good training hike. Maybe I could even do the next section on my own, though I preferred not to, as it was remote and difficult, commonly underestimated by PCT hikers themselves.

I took my time at the river, processing the situation. I soaked my feet, put a fresh bandage on my pinky blister and enjoyed a salami, cheese and cracker lunch. Finally it seemed time to head back and find out what Fish Nugget wanted to do.

Last Chance Ice Cream
Out in front of the Tuolumne store, enjoying their last ice cream for eight days.
Looking Back Toward Tuolumne
Looking back toward Tuolumne Meadows, excited to be back on the trail.
Momma and Fish Nugget
Me and my baby girl, just trying to get along.

She had finished packing up by the time I got back. She said she felt better and was ready to go on. And yes, I could come too. She just needed her space. Fair enough.

I was elated not to have been dumped.

We met up with Squarepants in front of the store. She wondered what took us so long, not that she minded, as she had been enjoying her time hanging with the hiker trash. I said Fish Nugget had a meltdown but was better now. She understood.

I mailed home some things post pack shakedown and enjoyed last chance ice cream with the girls. We scooped up our electronics, deposited a few items into the hiker box, and hit the trail pretty late in the day at 1:30 pm.

We mostly hiked together that afternoon. When they got ahead, they’d wait. I stopped often to take pictures and do other stuff, too. One time it was for a chipmunk eating yellow flowers. It took me a while to get a non-blurry shot. Then I had to stop and add more tape to my heel because of a hot spot. Then I had to stop to drink water and dig out a snack. Then I had to take another picture. Then another. Oh, wait, just one more.

I caught up with them at a pretty stream and asked how long they’d been waiting.

Not too long, something like 15 minutes. They seemed pretty chill about it. Still, I felt compelled to explain all my delays, because otherwise, I’d been doing a pretty good job keeping up with them, and I guess I wanted them to know it.

As I sat there filtering water, I said, you guys should call me Pokemom, since I’m always poking along behind you on the trail. Ta-da! Just like that, a trail name was born.

They loved it, Squarepants especially, because it was another cartoon reference. And I knew Fish Nugget’s sister back home would love it, as she had been such a fan of the show. Most of all, I liked it. So, there it was, a done deal. I am Pokemom.

Titans of the Trail
Fish Nugget and Squarepants, titans of the trail.
Tuolumne River Canyon
That’s a cool little beach down there, too bad it’s right on top of a major waterfall.
Tuolumne Falls
Coming down past Tuolumne Falls, we could feel the spray on our faces. See the rainbow?
Shadows Across Canyon
Shadows across the canyon, the end of another beautiful hiking day in Yosemite National Park.

It was a pretty easy day on the trail, mostly level with manageable ups and downs. Despite the usual pains, I was feeling pretty good, perhaps finally getting into shape after six days on the trail? We passed by some dramatic waterfalls with peek canyon views toward the end of the day, including the site of the infamous Hell Hike.

Coming into Glen Aulin around 5:00 pm, we met this cute young ranger. He gave us the scoop, said we could camp anywhere we’d like and that he’d be back around later to check our permits.

The girls picked a spot right by the creek, maybe not quite outside the restoration zone. I wasn’t sure. Lovely though, with the sound of running water, I worried it was too close to the stream. Fish Nugget reminded me that the ranger said, camp anywhere. I said fine, but warned he might ask us to move if it was a problem. I considered looking for him to find out for sure, but my feet were too tired to move.

As usual, the girls were right, no problem at all. He never even returned to check our permits.

We pulled food out of the bear cans for dinner. Squarepants’ had found hers in the hiker box earlier that morning. Inspecting the label, she discovered it had sausage in it, unsuitable for her vegetarian diet. I traded with her, and in return, I got a hot meal, a treat for me on the trail.

Fish Nugget made tea, so I got try out my new backpacker mug, a find from the Tuolumne store. Warm and soothing in my throat, I could see the appeal of dragging a stove and fuel along. Still, I liked not carrying or hassling with it. So far so good on the no-cook food front.

Across Tuolumne River
Bridge across the river heading down into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, home of The Hell Hike.
Waiting at Bridge
The girls waiting for me at the bridge to Glen Aulin, reading mediations aloud.
What's for Dinner
Squarepants in a comfy spot next to the creek, looking forward to dinner.

You know those movies where the heroine goes badass, cuts off all her hair, and it looks amazing?

My hair was constantly in my eyes and had become annoying. From day one I’d asked Fish Nugget if she’d be willing to cut it out on the trail. She said sure.

Mind you, she has no training other than cutting Barbie hair, wig hair and her own hair with admittedly mixed results. And the only tool we had were the tiny scissors in my keychain-sized Swiss Army Knife. But I was so tired of brushing hair out of my face, I said, screw it, let’s do it. Hair grows back, right?

We climbed up the hill toward the back of the campground to find a spot with fewer mosquitoes. I sat nervously on the rock, reminding her not to cut me, swatting at bloodsuckers, bossing her around, generally being a pain, I’m sure.

She said, don’t worry, it’ll be fine. It’s gonna look amazing.

I tried to sit still, without success. I fidgeted. I worried about whether or not I should carry my hair clippings out. You know, leave no trace and all. She laughed and said animals shed hair in the forest all the time, that it’s biodegradable and good for the soil. She threw it on the ground.

I buried it with my foot to hide it the dirt, just in case. Good thing it was brown, blending nicely. I didn’t want to offend anybody with a pile of human hair.

It took her a while to finish, understandable given those tiny scissors against my big head. I asked her how it looked.


Before Haircut
Before: A great haircut for the real world, but always in my face on the trail.
During Haircut
During: Yikes, it’s happening, hair in hand!
After Haircut
After: Here’s hoping it looks fabulous, just like in the movies, right?

Her confidence wavered, but she sold it hard, telling me it looked really good if I combed it over a certain way. We didn’t have mirrors, so she took pictures with the phone so that I could see.

Um, yeah. I guess it looks nice if I brush it to the side. Good thing I wear hats.

Whatever, I was just glad to have it off my face. I thanked her sincerely and told her good job. I figured I could get it cleaned up later in town.

When we got back to camp, I asked Squarepants what she thought. It was twilight, so perhaps the dim lighting helped. She said it was cute. I said really? She said yes.

I tried to figure out if she seriously meant it or was just being polite, but I think she genuinely liked it. Squarepants had a way of seeing the positive in what others might view as a crappy situation. Waving away mosquitoes, I told her thanks.

Lying in my tent, listing to the water roll by, I thought about my day. Fish Nugget had gone from not wanting to spend another second around me to lovingly cutting my hair with all the patience in the world. This morning, I didn’t know if I’d be hiking with the girls or hiking alone. Now, I had a bona fide trail name.

Just like the trail, a lot of ups, downs and unknowns, but we still had each other.

We were trail family now.

30 Days on the PCT
Day 6: July 8, mile 948.5
Squirrel No Chipmunk
Squirrel!!! Wait, no… Chipmunk eating a yellow flower. I didn’t know they ate those.

PCT Day 6: I Am Pokemom—How I Got My Trail Name
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PCT Day 6: I Am Pokemom—How I Got My Trail Name
In 2016, I hiked for a month on PCT with my daughter and her friend, from Mammoth Lakes to Truckee. Six days into the trip, my trail name materialized. Here's how it happened.
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