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5 Weeks & 450 Miles!
A quick video showing three minutes on the PCT + KarMMa has launched a fundraiser supporting the next generation of Women in Science.
Week 5 Recap
Sunday night, April 30, 2023
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After skipping north 300 miles to let the snow in the high southern California mountains melt— and hiking 200 miles from Agua Dulce to Walkers Pass— we rejoined the PCT just north of Palm Springs. This past week we hiked another 104 miles north, so we’ve now hiked 450 miles in total.
We stopped at Big Bear Lake for a Zero Day on Thursday, then rattled off 20 and 18-mile days, then had an easy ten-mile day to the very hiker-friendly Joshua Inn Biker Bar in Hesperia, California.
We’re sleeping here tonight— cowboy camping (no tent) on the band stage in the backyard. Then we’re heading to Wrightwood where we’ll celebrate Kristen’s 60th bday on May 2nd.
Here’s the visual summary of the last week, from around Cabazon in the bottom right to Hesperia near the top left:
Total ascent over 104 miles was 17k up and 15k down.
We finally used our micro-spikes on snow! Kristen is more confident wearing the spikes with her Altra hiking shoes, and she goes even faster when she’s holding her ice axe. She has done lots of mental practice with her ice axe, going through the mental steps of how she would self-arrest in the event of a fall.
Things are getting easier. When we started this last five-day section, my backpack weighed about thirty-one pounds (with water and of food) and Kristen’s pack was twenty-six pounds. Within a few days, as we eat the food, both of our pack weights drop below twenty-five pounds. We pack up more quickly and leave earlier in the morning, too.
After two weeks of being a day ahead of Luc and Lucie, we took an extra Zero Day in Palm Springs, so the four of us have been hiking together for the past week. Luc and Lucie are excellent role models for “luxury light.” Luc made homemade freeze-dried lasagna from a moose he shot himself.)
Snakes! We saw three this week, including a rattlesnake. This week, two PCT hikers were bit by rattlesnakes, requiring Search and Rescue helicopter rescues, and two days in the ICU. We haven’t had any close encounters this trip: we spotted two rattlers on the trail and simply waited for them to leave.
Lots of river crossings. The most challenging was Whitewater River, a day north of Palm Springs. Kristen and I found a high log crossing while others crossed further downriver in very fast, knee-deep water. Day three we did thirty-three river crossings in one day— mostly knee-deep water.
We hiked up 5,000 feet one afternoon and Kristen began to slow, likely affected by altitude as we approached 8,000 feet. (She’s fine now.)
After getting both left and right hernias repaired (twenty and two years ago) my twenty-year-old repair is beginning to bulge. Best guess is I can tolerate it until we finish the trip, but it’s a potential show-stopper. In the short-term, it motivates us to redouble our efforts to shed backpack weight.
Three Minutes on the Trail
In early March, three men in their sixties started the PCT and, unlike us, they just keep moving forward without “skips” or “flip flops.” They call themselves the Codgers (as in old codgers) and they post YouTube videos each week.
They were among the first to arrive at Kennedy Meadows South— the gateway to the High Sierras— which is very good for old farts. The Codgers use a very simple video style which I tried to emulate today.
Here’s my three-minute video homage to the Codgers, showing what it’s like each day for us to walk the trail:
These three minutes represent a very small percentage of the 260,000 minutes we’ll spend on the trail over the next five months.
Kristen’s Fundraiser to Support the Next Generation of Women in Science
KarMMa has been writing essays that are published every two to four weeks in Endpoints News, a daily bioscience journal with 80,000 subscribers. Kristen draws parallels between her life on the trail and her career focused on innovating novel cancer therapies.
With her biotech following, Kristen turned our PCT journey into a fundraiser to raise $500K to support early career women physicians and scientists at UPenn focused on engineering the immune system to cure cancer and other serious diseases.
Here’s a reminder of why Kristen’s Trail name is KarMMa:
The double “M” in KarMMa is for multiple myeloma and the “Kar” refers to CAR-T cells. KarMMa was the trial name for the pivotal trial that led to the FDA approval of the first CAR-T cell product for the treatment of refractory multiple myeloma, a capstone of Kristen’s career.
Kristen retired from her highly successful 30-year career in biopharma just before our trip started. She’ll be serving on a few boards but is highly involved in helping young women and minorities advance their careers in both medicine and biotech. Did I mention that Kristen was named one of Forbes’ “50 Over 50 Women” this year?
On May 2nd Kristen will turn 60 and I know she’d love to see any flavor of “60” dollars contributed to this cause supporting young women scientists. ($60? $600? $6,000?—you get the drill.)
Here’s the fundraising page. Yes, it’s a deductible contribution and the page has a contact for donor-advised funds:
I look forward to seeing many sixes and zeros to help celebrate Kristen’s 60th birthday! Many thanks in advance.
From here (Hesperia) to Wrightwood it’s another fifty miles. We’ll spend a Zero Day on May 2nd to celebrate Kristen’s 60th, then hike another 80 miles to Agua Dulce. We expect to arrive there by May 9th, then fly to SFO on the 10th, where Karen Hege and Jaime Pearson will pick us up and drive us to Lake Tahoe.
After another 60th celebration at the Somers’ house on Donner Lake, we’ll head north again from Chester. We plan to hike straight to the Washington/Oregon border, then on July 20th we’ll head south to hike the High Sierras. We hope that lots of snow will have melted by then.
The “search for dirt” continues!
Pudding and KarMMa
(Gib and Kristen)
PS. For more photos, you can also follow us here:
PPS. The not so glamorous life of sleeping in a biker bar backyard. Four of us on the band stage:
Past PCT essays:
March 25, 2023: “Day One: Introducing our PCT hike”
March 26, 2023: “The Fears We Carry”
April 1, 2023: “Our First 100 Miles!”
April 7, 2023: “A Day In the Life”
April 15, 2023: “Deserts & Bears & Wind (Oh My!)”
April 22, 2023: “Luxury Light Thru Hiking”
May 4, 2023: “Demystifying the PCT”
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