Alligator lizard

Day 79 – Stumbles in the night

July 20, 2013
22 miles
Mile 1445

Slept fitfully as my bedroom was a no win. The Heatwave was warming up the night also. This enabled the mosquitoes to increase their hours of operation. Too warm to stay in the sleeping bag. Too painful to expose my body as an unconscious buffet. Always in transition, never sleeping fully.

Opened my eyes to an osprey circling overhead looking to remove a fishes IQ. Decided horizontal was preferable to vertical and stayed that way for a while. Orbit passed by. Her night was rougher. An unopened beer she stored in her pack turned out to be the opposite, soaking all. Her night spent in a brewery. No matter what, scenarios can always be worse.

The eighth wonder of the world according to a politician - Burney Falls

The eighth wonder of the world according to a politician – Burney Falls

The PCT crosses a thing that fish hit their head on

The PCT crosses a thing that fish hit their head on


A nearby market does not increase departure performance. Nor do coin-operated showers. For that matter. Shade with Wi-Fi in a heatwave turns out to be a detriment also. The morning slipped away in a cloud of excuses. Checked out Burney Falls which Teddy Roosevelt called the eighth wonder of the world. Perhaps he was looking for votes, but they were beautiful. I passed on a swim in the 40° pool at the bottom. Finally strapped on my pack at 12:30 and headed out. I was minus some armpit and spine skin where my pack had dug in on yesterday’s extended walk. There my pack gleefully returned to continue its excavation.
Ostrich tree

Ostrich tree

Alligator lizard

Alligator lizard


My enthusiasm for those first few miles of client was not extensive, but as with all things I eventually found my rhythm. At 5 miles, Rockcreek presented. There I found Slack and Red Beard playing trolls under the shade of the bridge. We spoke of the intercone squabbling that had many walking alone today. Such are group dynamics. Had a dip and lunch. The heat had caused most of my food to lose its shape over the last few days, so I basically ate mush. The hike, fueled by warm mush and cold stream water picked up steam.

The trail finally made its high point. The sun painted Mount Shasta any manner of ways depending on its mood. I kept at it. Caught an alligator lizard crossing a logging road. Then we both went our way. Most hikers were stopping early today, but I was in the mood to push on. Before full moon came up. I passed on using my headlamp, Moving from treeshadow to moonbeam like a little kid. Decided to make it to camp without artificial light. It was fun following a Blacksnake through pools of oil. The inevitable fall came hard. My feet flew out, and my hand smashed into a rock trying to break the fall, though I couldn’t see the rock anyway. What a dumb shit. Stubbornly, I continued the game with caution.

Slinked into camp at 10 PM and dug my headlamp out my pack. My hand would survive. Expected to find Red Beard here but he must have been in the mood too. Thus I was alone to the stars. Fell asleep rearranging them.

Shasta to the night

Shasta to the night

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

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Same sun lighting up a new destination

Day 78 – I got to thinking…and thinking…and thinking

July 19, 2013
42 miles
Mile 1423

Got to thinking about a meteor shower going on and the dry section to come. Got to thinking about the predicted temperature of 102°. Got to thinking about catching Orbit, Halfway and Red Beard somewhere up ahead. But really got to thinking about how far I could comfortably walk in one day. Voiced my thinking. All around asked for the same early wake up call. As always with early starts and excitement, I slept poorly. Was awake anyway at 3:30 AM so I sounded the Allah Akbar. Groans about the burdens of Islam arose from the darkness.

Was out of camp by 4 AM and on the trail making miles. Had to give up on the meteor shower quickly. As every time I looked skyward a shadowed rock would take me down. A night of unutterables. It was cold but a long climb to an escarpment warmed the soul. There the trail followed a rim ridge for the next five hours. To the right flat plateau. To the left a straight drop off of a few hundred feet to a valley of lava. As I understand it my walk took me along the upper edge of a fault line. My witnesses the occasional sleeping hiker and nonresponsive cows.

Light switch on

Light switch on

A water cache set up by a thoughtful trail angel ended all my water concerns and so the day reduced itself to time x distance. I, just a spectator. The sun came up with a whisper and the path turned towards it. Felt like I was walking into a mystery as the brightness blinded the trail. Finally the path turned and I returned to clarity to see two massive valley bookends come into the picture. To the south Mount Lassen and to the north the snow coated Mount Shasta. The rock shadows eased. My unutterables more infrequent. The air still cool to the touch.
New sun illuminating Mount Lassen which continues to drift south

New sun illuminating Mount Lassen which continues to drift south

Same sun lighting up a new destination

Same sun lighting up a new destination


The inevitable drop to the valley floor coincided with the arrival of some serious Fahrenheit. My goal was the fish hatchery at mile 30 for lunch. If fish are being born there must be water. Made it to mile 27 at 12:30 when hunger bonked me. Some shade found me and I ate the usual. Red Beard showed up at Dessert and we pushed on to the trout birthing center. There a ranger explained that their biggest problem was ospreys getting through the netting and beheading young trout. Seems they have an interest in fish brains but not the body.
Armor Plant

Armor Plant


After a rest in lush shaded grass and the arrival of the others I pushed on to Burney Falls State Park some 12 miles distant. The idea, to be there before the 8 o’clock closing time and consume copious amounts of hotdogs and waffles . The park stores only two menu items. I had plenty of buffer but an amazing cache set up by a fine gentleman named Randy hijacked my progress. Who can pass tootsie rolls and root beer? Not I. Chatted with Siesta, Orbit and a woman from Alaska and forgot that time was on the run. A glance at the map revealed a miscalculation in distance’s favor and now I was on the run too.
Lava wall not on the move

Lava wall not on the move


Patches of skin wore away as my pack,unaccustomed to such distances, dug in to my back. Fat waffles danced in my head. A wrong turn, led to a panicked phone call to the ranger station. My course righted I stormed into the store at 7:56 and ordered everything in sight. With a 12 pack in one hand and a bag of food in the other I was shown the door four minutes later. Collapsed on a picnic table and toasted my day. A truism —-42 miles is a long way to amble in a day.

The others trickled in. All were spent. Luckily the forest provided a nearby home and I was quick to horizontal. Ran through the days thoughts of significance and this is what came to mind. But first two updates. Tortuga is off the trail with a serious flareup of tendinitis. Her return tentative. In Ohio, Catherine opened the door and let Doc in. They are happily ripping apart fish together for her masters thesis. He seems content but misses our joint morning constitutions and post discussion. Back to my last thought of the day. This was in the cache register at Randys.

What does a fish say when he swims into a wall? Dam. What does a fish say when he swims over a waterfall? Dam it. Not significant enough? How about that sent to me by a friend who understands the PCT. “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” Khalil Gibran

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

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Day 77 – Petrified molten lava

July 18, 2013
25 miles
mile 1381

New

New

Lava tubes formed by underground river of lava whose outer crest had hardened quickly

Lava tubes formed by underground river of lava whose outer crest had hardened quickly

Arose to a flustered Ole. From 11:30 until 1:30 AM he had Waged a lonely war against the most dangerous night predator in the Forest. While we slept the battle raged on, around and over us. Weapons brought into play included rocks, hiking poles and threats of destruction. Seven separate attacks were repulsed.. Finally the destroyer of the night peace moved on and Ole could take rest.

Viking was not so lucky. A couple of days before he awoke to all his possessions spread out over a couple hundred yard Square area. Much of his clothes had holes chewed in them. The culprit in both cases? The Nightstalker of evil intent? Who could be so malevolent? Why that fuzzy cute Disney grazer by day—-deer. It’s motivation, salt. Deers crave it, and human urine and clothes are full of it. Especially people hiking 20+ miles a day. Deer grow bold by darkness and come close for a urine click. Intoxicated, they move in for salty clothes snacks. Shoes have even disappeared. Darwin dictates in the forest. Us or them. Deprived deer or nude hikers. The victor determined by the morning light.

Several hikers passed by early and walked through the freezing stream. The light of day revealed a log bridge 50 feet downstream. Advantage lazy start. The path ran flat and soft. The miles melted away. The speed comparable to a moving walkway in an airport. Enough water lay about to keep the walking lubricated. The forests varied. At times the National Park Forest with floors carpeted with fallen trees. Then a massive burn. Followed by sterile rows of corporate planted trees. It kept ones attention.

Lassen viewed through a dead landscape

Lassen viewed through a dead landscape

Burnt to death

Burnt to death

Seventeen miles by lunch. Ate some pounds off my pack. Walked on, but not far, as a store placed itself in my headway. The heat was up and the thirst was on. Clenching required a lemonade, a Gatorade, a chocolate milkshake and a Mountain Dew. Hydrated to bladder capacity returned my shoes to their Natural function.

You never know what you'll see on the PCT

You never know what you’ll see on the PCT


Rounded a bend to firetrucks upon firetrucks. Another bend and halfway and orbit sat under firefighter custody /care. The story poured out. Another PCT through hiker had diverted to the woods for a constitutional. Burning their TP had quickly gotten out of control as the dry pine needle bed makes excellent tinder. A quick spread to a quarter of an acre. There the fire was halted by the just arrived orbit, halfway and the unfortunate original hiker. They built a dirt path around the fire by clearing back Pineneedles. The fire was unable to beach the path and the day was saved. The firefighters doused the burn, gathered needed information from orbit and halfway, then released them to the trail. Smokey the bear would have been proud. My observation a ringing endorsement for the ass blaster.

A 30 mile stretch of dry trail awaits my arrival tomorrow, so I stopped early at the last water stop. Adjacent to my patch of home dirt were extensive lava tubes which I explored thoroughly. My exit coincided with the return of the beer foragers. They were able to confirm a rumor that a local convenience store was giving Away a free sixpack to each through hiker. They carried their confirmation. Thus the sunset to the sound of clinking glass. I to bed early, falling asleep closer to Canada than I had been the previous 76 nights.

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

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Day 76 – Boiling Mudlake

July 17, 2013
22 miles today
mile 1357

Boiling mudlake

Boiling mudlake

The loud awakening/departure of construction workers at 4:30 AM substituted for rain. But this time the effect was temporary. Back to darkness and a decent hour of return to consciousness. Recharged and packed, all headed in different breakfast destinations. Then hikers coated the highway in multiple groups for a return to the trailhead. Normally this presents a problem, but not in hiker friendly Chester. Orbit and I caught a ride with meandering moose. A 2012 through hiker, his nostalgia was palpable as he discussed the changes his through hike had brought to his life.

Back on the trail by 10, orbit and I discussed the nature of aggression. Why it is that in the animal world animals will fight to make a point, but not to the death. While humans will fight to the death. Good topic, but over soon as I lagged behind. My pack felt like a VW bus riding on my hips. All steps a challenge. I cursed Dollar General and their reasonable prices bitterly on climbs. I resolved to fast until Canada. Made it to lunch by yet another fork of the feather River and lay down, my resolve forgotten. Decided never to get up again or at least until I had polished off six pounds of food. But as always, calories and rest return the hunger to see what is around the corner. The human race as always divided into those that have to know what is around the corner and those that are content where they are.

Around that corner was Terminal Geyser, a massive vent in the earth shooting out pressured steam and boiling water/mud scented with sulfur. A fine show worth the side hiking. The next corner revealed a bubbling mud Lake. Mt Lassen National Park was proving a show off. I plodded along. With many points of interest came multiple forks in the path. I took the wrong one every time. Thus I was late to the trail magic party at spot 15 in a well laid out campground. There Nancy, off on her own hike, had left a spread for through hikers. Thank you Nancy! everyone was stopped dead in their tracks practicing their munching skills.

And there I revealed the highlight of my day. Coming around a turn I looked up just in time to see a bobcat glide across the path. A true treat for the senses. Pushed on a few more miles to a river and a bed for the night. On the way perhaps convincing Veggie to go to India and Nepal brother then join the military after his PCT hike.

Good night to all.

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

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Day 75 – Halfway there!

July 16, 2013
14 miles
mile1335

In my dream the rain came down. Sometimes dreams come true. A wet face at 4:40 AM is true. You can only wait so long until all that you own is soaked. But maybe it will stop. And your warmth and comfort will continue unabated. Perhaps even a return to dreams. The rain turns to hail. Oh hell. Out and up and full of foul temper. Set up the tent or pack? Decisions of a cotton brain. Things stop falling from the sky. Hunger makes a bid for attention. Oatmeal or horizontal? Okay, a quick oatmeal and then two more hours of sleep. Mix oatmeal and rain returns. To hell with it, I’m packing. Panic-throw everything in pack. Rain stops. Back to oatmeal. Rain starts. baseball analogy. Throw pack on and start walking in the dark. Rain stops never to return. Strangely happy as the sky lightens. Two bucks share the path with me. My pace is quick as all is cool. I climb to a summit. The sunrise climbs the other side. We meet at the top. Thanks rain.

Canada and Mexido equidistant - Halfway!

Canada and Mexido equidistant – Halfway!


Bombing along with no food or water in your pack is one of through hiking’s great pleasures. Your pack literally floats on your back. And so all was good as I rounded a bend and came upon a post that said the journey was half over. Sweet, signed the register and kept boogeying. Tried to come up with some deep Thoughts but failed. Really more interested in the possibility of an ice chest at the juncture of the PCT and the highway into Chester. Didn’t give up on deepness, just postponed it.
Strange things occasionally appear on the trail

Strange things occasionally appear on the trail


The sound of cars travels far in the forest, but as the loudest increased I knew I was closing in. At 9:30 AM I popped out of the forest with 14 miles under my belt. Magically, as is the nature of trail magic, the ice chests were there as was a trail Angel named Pipers Mom. In tow was also husband. They were loading Ole and Veggie into their minivan and I quickly joined the carpool, but not before the second breakfast of root beer and plum. The forest squeezed out Red Beard and Halfway just in time and we all were landed at the Copper Kettle for breakfast number three. There a spicy waitress full of comebacks kept the plates and shakes coming as the others drifted in. My gratitude and thanks to Pipers Mom who helped out her daughter’s hike in 2008 and never stopped helping.

The Seneca Hotel is the cheapest in town. Ironically the Seneca Hotel became hiker central. From there we fanned out to meet our needs. A new Dollar General had just opened and cut my resupply cost in half. I bought too much food for which I was soon to suffer the spine bending consequences. But that was tomorrow. Then to a local dentist/ hiker. Under a large “Welcome PCT Hikers” banner we entered his office. There he and his staff handed out cookies, dental supplies and a $20 certificate for Maria’s Mexican restaurant. In return we had our photo taken, signed a register and smelled up his office. My hat off to Dr. Webb and his crew.

The day passed in repose and work. The night dedicated to enchiladas and margaritas at Maria’s. The stuffed stroll home interrupted by the Mount Lassen pool hall and bar where orbit and I battled it out for the championship of said Hall. Then Chester turned out the lights and so did we. My back to a bed where no rain could fall.

Steve H

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A Thank You at the Halfway Point!

At the halfway point I would like to pause and thank all those who have taken the time out of their day to read along. Often the writing is rushed and perhaps of limited interest so I appreciate your tolerance. Especially I would like to thank and express my gratitude to those of you who have donated to Escuela Verde so far. 100% of your contributions go to the operation of the school and any donation, however small, helps.

Normally, on a hike or trip I would not keep a journal. And to be honest the time investment required by this blog has been a pain and something at times I’d rather not do. But the cause is greater than myself, so I put my pen to it and hike a few less miles. Escuela Verde is really doing good work in this world. Please support this work if you can. My appreciation to you. Now let’s get to the second act.

Steve Halteman a.k.a. Blast

Doing the Victory Stand in appreciation of all those who have donated to the children of Escuela Verde!

Doing the Victory Stand in appreciation of all those who have donated to the children of Escuela Verde!

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

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Meadow vista

Day 74 – Mount Lassen and beautiful meadows

July 15, 2013
24 miles
Mile 1320

Deer jumping over Veggie began the awakening process. First out of camp is a bonus because the animals have yet to be scared off their nighttime occupation of the PCT. Thus I sent many a startled deer crashing into the undergrowth. Kept moving north, every footfall had the heel landing lower than the toe. A reflection of the climb.

Halfway caught up and we spoke of his life in Maine. How he was trapped and free at the same time. The roller coaster hike up was anti-climactic as there was no corresponding freefall. Just a flattening out. We continued the far-ranging conversation to mask our disappointment. Lunch, 14 miles, and an amazing spring coincided and we laid down in the dirt to savor all. A gun range provided background music.

Conglomerate boulder

Conglomerate boulder


The path after lunch, though beautiful, failed to inspire. Every once in a while I’m just unenthusiastic about hiking. Today was that day. But in the end the miles must still happen, regardless of a mental state. I popped in the headphones and started marching under orders. Keeping cadence to Taylor Swift singing about this mall or that mall, (Thank you Madison.) a grind returned to a hike as the miles twisted through volcanic chaos. Enthusiasm crept back in. Tired, waterless and grinning I stutter stepped into camp. Plopped down and then plopped back up for another hike down to the spring. A nomads life.
Meadow vista

Meadow vista


Polished off the last of my food reserves at dinner. A lurking panic. No hiker has affection for a food-less existence. To hike without food in the vernacular is known as a VisionQuest. Mine would be a short one. Only 14 miles to Chester and a supermarket.
Mt. Lassen sandwich

Mt. Lassen sandwich

Lassen getting closer

Lassen getting closer

And closer still

And closer still


Looked up for the weather forecast. Stars only spoke of a lovely morning. Cowboy camping it was. As my head hit the spare clothes bag I thought not of town food, but of a trail marker some 9 miles ahead. A marker that would exclaim halfway there, halfway from.

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

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River, rail and road - Belden as transport

Day 73 – Happy Birthday, Mom on your 75th!

Day 73 July 14 24 miles mile 1297

A rough night. A clash between garlic pizza, a blu cheese burger, dark beer, Cliff Bars and a pint of cookie dough ice cream for supremacy in my stomach was violent. As a spectator I was kept up waiting for the results of the conflict. Finally pulled the plug on the three-hour battle by throwing up. Peace and sleep returned simultaneously.

Broke camp and had the hike to myself. Came upon a large group of Halloween butterflies (orange and black, my name) having a conference on a pile of dung. My approach caused a butterfly tornado which I passed through happily. Checked my senses after several hours by guessing the time and distance according to Half Mile’s GPS. I was off by eight minutes and half a mile. I’ll take it. Followed an ideal stream with its natural downcurrent slope. The perfect hiking angle. Then high to a ridge which revealed giant canyon country and Mount Lassen far to the horizon.

New kind of flower with Pom-Poms

New kind of flower with Pom-Poms

River, rail and road - Belden as transport

River, rail and road – Belden as transport

The trail calls

The trail calls

Trail with passing lane

Trail with passing lane


A river sliced the vein of the PCT deep. The trail subject to its geographical abuse. Onward and downward. And down. And down. For 4,800 feet the knee cartilage flew like shrapnel. Stumbled into the mini town of Belden at the bottom on legs not interested in further effort. There, I awaited the others as well as the return of my leg function. When recovered I explored the former stagecoach stop. What a great place, though it has a poor reputation due to the weekly raves held there. I sat down at a picnic table and a trail angel handed me some sodas. Scored a couple of mystery dinners out of the hiker box that did not appear to be contraceptive in nature. Resupplied in the little store. And when the others arrived, sat down to chocolate milk and giant burgers.
Hiker trash take over rave stage

Hiker trash take over rave stage


Red Beard makes a splash, Belden swimming hole

Red Beard makes a splash, Belden swimming hole


The day kept improving and we kept staying. Belding charmed. Went for a swim at the swimming hole. Relaxed on the beach. Awaited the grand arrival for whom we did not know, but there was an excitement in the air. Trumpets blared and red beard walked in. Five consecutive 30 mile days and one 38 mile day to rejoin Orbit and Sons. A celebration ensued. The afternoon passed playing mutual catch up and hearing of his friend. Beer appeared and we made a move inside to pool and ping-pong. The day was in danger of becoming a bar night. Saner opinions prevailed and we returned to the recapture of altitude.

Before departure I downed two Mountain Dew’s in the style of mile 92 of my last 100 mile race. Not being a coffee drinker, any caffeine in my system has the desired effect. I racewalked the 7 miles up the mountain until bumping into Viking and home. The hotel that night held Veggie, Red Beard, Slack, Halfway, Track Meet, Orbit, Ole, myself and Michael. Michael is a section hiker, meaning over the years when time presents he’ll hike sections of the PCT. Eventually he’ll knock off the trail in that way and be a through hiker. With Michael I discussed Nietzsche and his thoughts. Found out I didn’t know as much about the philosopher as I thought I did.

Dinner was amazing. Mystery solved. It was a pasta bean combo. Couscous paled. My thanks to the depositor. Then the stories had all been told. The group crossword puzzle solved. And my sleeping pad beckoned for company.

Happy birthday, Mom on your 75th. I love you.

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

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Day 72 –

July 13, 2013
24 miles
Mile 1273

The sun was late to sink down to the bottom of our valley, so the process was late in starting. Left the river cut and began the inevitable climb. With 4,000 feet to reclaim the trend was obvious. Switchback after switchback brought me to ever thinner air. Finally surfaced on a crest after two hours of effort. Miles of firs and Pines spread out in every direction. Timber or scenery depending on your perspective.

Mount Lassen's first appearance

Mount Lassen’s first appearance


Once up, I stayed up. The path meandering along the ridge until it intersected with a paved road. There a choice. Stay on the PCT and eat out of Ziploc bags or follow the road, an alternative loop, and swing by a restaurant with half pound burgers and 18 kinds of beer on tap. Hmmm? Asphalt walking after forest paths is unpleasant, if for no other reason then it is hard on the joints, but the hitching was unsuccessful, so we walked the miles.
Twin still hanging around

Twin still hanging around


Before we could make our restaurant, the proprietor of a newly built establishment leaned from his porch and shouted “free beer for through hikers.” Is that possible to ignore? The food was excellent as was the Monster Truck show on the tube. Though grave diggers defeat in the final hard to digest. The band of 14-year-olds abusing rock ‘n roll did not fall into the excellent category. Back on the road we attempted to bypass the Lakeshore Resort and it’s 18 flavors but the lure was overwhelming.
Hungry tree eating sign

Hungry tree eating sign


Inside, inevitably, sat Track Meet, Veggie, Ole and Halfway, who as a quartet were doing damage to the tap hinges. We sat down to help because that is what friends are for. Throughout the afternoon a return to the trail was discussed several times but never seriously pursued. Pizzas were eaten, phones charged, but mostly t was conversation and beer. Supportive locals bought a number of rounds. Many stopped by to satisfy their curiosity about the motivation to walk 2,600 miles. Many wanted to discuss “wild” a popular book about a woman who walked the PCT. The book is not so popular on the trail itself. The afternoon turned late, the trail talk more serious.

We left the bar. And made it to the porch, where we started in on ice cream. More locals hung out. We promoted the PCT and it’s virtues including unlimited ice cream consumption. A bald eagle circled overhead. Finally two women with a vehicle called our bluffs and hauled us in shifts to the trailhead. There Veggie pulled out a six-pack, but it was only delaying the inevitable. At 8 PM the start bell sounded. We were off with talk of a summit some 5 miles away. Whatever state a through hiker might find himself in, they are capable of a couple of things, if you put them on the PCT. They will turn North, they will hike, they will find a flat spot near water and they will get their eight hours of slumber. Two miles later we were down. A sweet camp spot tripped us up. And down hard we went. Aggressive snoring frightened away the mosquitoes and all was dark for the others. But I read, until the book hit me in the face. The end before the end.

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

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