Twin Lakes, CO to Rawlins, WY

You can’t change reality, but you can change your mindset.  You can control your reaction, feelings and emotions.

When I realized that simple idea, it changed everything.

I got back where I left the trail at Twin Lakes after a week off in Denver.  I desperately wanted to hike with other people after spending so much time alone.  I met up with some friends, and was hopeful.  And then, my friends got off trail to go visit Denver.  I was alone again.

Nooooooo.

And then something shifted.   I mostly hiked and camped alone.. but suddenly, I wasn’t lonely.  I listened to music and podcasts.  I slept in, hiked late, and felt a primal connection to the Earth.  Something shifted in my mind.

And I started to love being alone.   I’m not sure what changed.   Maybe I simply stopped caring about it.

A few days ago, I crossed into Wyoming!!

Colorado was one of the hardest states that I’ve ever hiked across.  I was met with so many obstacles, but everyday was completely stunning, and rewarding.   One day, near Rocky Mountain National Park, I stood and watched 6 moose in a clearing.  They saw me, and went back to munching on grass.

I couldn’t believe my eyes at least once a day.  Sometimes, I literally teared up because the beauty was overwhelming.  I often thought: “Seriously?  This is my office??”

Cheers to Colorado.  There were times that I hated you.  There were times that I struggled.  There were times when I thought “This is too hard.  Why am I doing this?”

Colorado… You only broke me down to build me up.  Now, I understand.

You only wanted to make me stronger.
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CDT: Pagosa Springs, CO to Twin Lakes, CO

I sat in my hotel room in Pagosa Springs with my CDT maps spread across the bed. My eyes followed the thin, red line of the CDT. I heard rumors that the trail ahead would be easier and less sketchy, but I wanted to see what clues my maps would reveal to me. How bad did this look? Did I really want to be up there again in snow?  Sometimes, I could tell the trail would be safe, like sections where the trail followed a high plateau. But then my eyes would focus on sections where the trail followed next to a steep cliff. I tried to imagine what it would be like… Would it be dangerous again?

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I asked myself:

.          Did you enjoy the CDT in the last section?

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Almost immediately, my legs started to shake in fear. The answer was painfully clear.

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I stopped looking at the maps. I already had my answer.. It was time to follow a lower, safer route through Colorado. I would be safer and much happier following the alternate trail at lower elevation.

It ended up being a really enjoyable section for me. But, it was so quiet out there. I only saw 2 CDT hikers, on trail, between Creede and Twin Lakes.   I tried to embrace the alone time. I don’t have to be surrounded by people for the entire trail. So I did my own thing, slept in, hiked late, and ran into plenty of moose along the way. I was safe, and I still had a continuous footpath.

I was happy.

I made it to Twin Lakes last Sunday, and Will came to pick me up. I decided to take a week off trail, so I could wait for my friends to catch up to me. It’s been nice to rest at home, and I have been eating so well this week!

I am excited about heading back to Twin Lakes soon, and hopefully, I will see more than 2 hikers in my next section.    🙂

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CDT: Chama, NM to Pagosa Springs, CO

I said a prayer on the day that I left Chama.  And I prayed every single day that I was on the divide.  I always thought that I was agnostic, but when you’re out there on the side of a steep, snowy mountain, the prayers flow out of you.

My stomach was in knots on the climb up from Chama.  For the last 3 years, I had listened to Will talk about his San Juans experience.  He entered the San Juans in May 2013, and he told me stories of post-holing in snow, only getting 10 mile days, and of freezing at night.

It sounded brutal.

But, of course, I wanted to give it a shot anyway.

I entered the San Juan mountains on June 7th in a record setting snow year for Colorado.  We found the snow to be patchy in places, but the sketchy traverses were frequently covered with snow.  In the morning, it was icy, and by 3pm, it was slushy stuff that crumpled under foot. I constantly prayed that my footing was solid. Everyday, I wore waterproof socks, microspikes, and I clung to my ice-axe like my life depended on it.

I slid off a snowy traverse at one point, and I ran into a tree that was 15 feet down.  It happened so fast.  I sat there, in the snow, for what seemed like forever.  I couldn’t stop shaking.  I looked below me and saw a steep slope that seemed to go on forever.  Going down was not an option.  When I finally calmed down,  I grabbed my ice-axe and kicked foot-holes so I could get back to the trail.  It took 3 hours for my hands to stop shaking.

The next day, I found myself following 2 guys on another steep snowfield.  It finally got so steep that I parked my butt on the trail and slid down when my landing looked safe enough.  It was one of those moments that was fun after you picked yourself up at the bottom and realized that you were safe.

The last few days have taught me a lot.  This was the real deal out here.  I wasn’t Superman.  I could really get hurt.

There are people who love this stuff.  My boyfriend, Will, is one of these people.  I could see him out here, heart pounding, wanting more.  But, I’m not one of those people.  I’m just a girl who wants to walk to Canada.  And I tried my best, but mountaineering isn’t really for me.

It was beautiful to hike the divide, but the conditions are currently too dangerous for me.

The good news is that there is a low elevation route for the next section.  I am excited to explore new parts of Colorado as I walk north through the Creede route.

And maybe I won’t have to pray so much in the next section.  😉

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CDT: Grants, NM to Chama, NM

Just a quick update to let everyone know that I made it to Colorado last night!!   Of course, the trail is already getting significantly harder.  Yesterday, I was lost in a maze of snow and blowdowns for most of the day.  I would check my GPS, get back on trail, and almost immediately get lost again. In the snow, there is no trail.  And trying to stay on trail is a pointless waste of time.  My friend, who left after me, and mostly navigates with maps arrived at camp before me.  I just looked at him when I rolled into camp at 9:15 and laughed.  Sometimes, maps are just better than GPS.   Or maybe I’m just completely hopeless.  🙂

I’m currently in Chama, NM and getting all geared up for the next section.  I have added snowshoes, an ice axe, water-proof socks, microspikes and warmer layers.   My pack is going to weigh a ton tomorrow, but I am excited to hike the snowy San Juans!  

I have a feeling that I am in for the hardest 2 weeks of my life.  I hope that I have what it takes.  


Sorry for the short update, but a girl needs her sleep!!

PS: Thanks to Will/Estero for spending the weekend in Taos with me.  Can’t wait to see you again soon!  ❤

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Miles

I wasn’t supposed to fall in love out here, but I couldn’t help myself.  I met him on the CDT on my first night out of Grants, NM. His trail name was Miles, and he loved hiking.  What was worse was that he had eyes that melted my heart.  

Damnit.  Not again.  No no noooo.

Help.


I first heard about the stray dog on my walk out of Grants.  Another hiker messaged me to say that a stray dog was found wandering around on trail following hikers.  My group made it about 20 miles that day and I had forgotten about the stray dog by the time we set up camp.

I forgot about it until a dog randomly wandered into our camp.  We scratched our heads, laughed, and gave him water.  He was covered in ticks and had no collar… most likely a stray vs runaway. I ate my dinner in my tent and stared at the dog through the bug netting.  I didn’t want him to become my problem.  This was MY cheese.  Go away, dog.  And if you even touch my tent, heaven help you.  That night, he curled up to sleep inches from my head.  I heard him quietly sighing all night.

The next day, my group woke up really early for a morning summit on Mt Taylor.  As I slid on my backpack, I saw the dog heading away from the trail.  Yes!!  I could sneak away.  This would be easy!

It didn’t work.  The dog magically beat me to the summit of Mt Taylor.   When I made it up there, he gave me this judging look like “Finally..  What took so long? Are you sure you’re a thruhiker?”

Crap. I looked at the dog and then 5,000 feet down at Grants.  Why did town have to be so far away?  It wasn’t even an option to go back now.  I tried to ignore him as much as I could, but the dog just kept following us anyway.  We talked about what to do with him.  Do we throw rocks at him?  Do we feed him our “extra” food and call an animal rescue group in 80 miles?  Will the dog even last that long?  I checked my map and tried to find closer towns, but we were in the middle of nowhere.  Was there even a “right” thing to do?  I had no answers, but I started rationing my food.. just in case.


I finally gave in and started feeding the dog my food.  I am weak.  I couldn’t abandon him to his slow death. He made it obvious that he would just keep following us to our next town.  And I didn’t want to look behind me and watch him starve to death.

I finally got phone reception on the side of a mountain.  The dog and I took a break in the shade while I called an animal rescue group.  The lady on the other end listened to my story and seemed honestly concerned.  But she told me that she was currently full.  She told me to call back when I made it to town.  I clung to hope that someone could help us.

I called back the animal rescue group when I was 3 hours from town.  There was no answer, so I left a message on voicemail.  I also tried animal control and the non-emergency police number.  They all went to voicemail and I left messages for them to call me back.  A mile from town, I started to worry… Nobody had called me back, and I absolutely couldn’t keep the dog in my hotel room.  I guessed that he wasn’t housebroken, and would pee and poop all over my hotel room, not to mention his tick infestation.  In one last ditch effort, Craiglist and the animal shelter in Grants were checked for missing dogs.  Nothing came back.

I briefly thought of keeping the dog on trail.  But it wasn’t the right thing for me to do.  The unofficial motto for the CDT is “Embrace the Brutality.”  I willingly signed up for this sufferfest and the dog did not. It simply wasn’t fair for him to walk to Canada with me. Plus I am hitting some serious Colorado snow in the next section, and it would be dangerous for Miles to join me.

I had to make a painful decision.  I looked at him, tears pooling in my eyes and told him that I loved him, that he was a good dog who deserved a family, and that we were out of options.  We walked by a few farms and I turned to him and said “No!”.  He looked confused until I said it again.  “NO NO NO”.  I walked away quickly.  The last time that I saw him, he was sitting under a sage bush.  It broke my heart, but I didn’t know what else to do.  And who knows…maybe animal control would have put him down anyway.  Maybe this actually was the best option for him, even if it ripped me apart to walk away.


Miles.. happy trails to my sweet boy..  it was a pleasure to hike with you.  And I am so sorry.


For everything.

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CDT: Silver City, NM to Grants, NM

The other day, I was hiking, and suddenly, the sky opened up and it started to hail.  I looked up and smiled.  The hail was a welcome relief from the constant sun and heat.  I quickly pulled out my umbrella and kept walking without missing a beat. 

I eventually caught up to my friend sitting under a tree.  He was talking to an older gentleman– maybe mid 60s, who was dressed in a clean khaki outfit. The older man introduced himself to me as “Doug the Hermit” and told me that he had a cabin tucked away close by.

What??  A hermit?  Really??  I had never met a hermit before, but somehow I envisioned black robes, and a long white beard.  Maybe someone who looked like Gandalf or Santa Claus?  Apparently, I was totally wrong!

Hanging out with Doug the Hermit

Doug told us that he was a Roman Catholic hermit and he had been living here, alone, for 18 years.  He had friends in “the real world” and leaves his cabin once a year to get supplies.  I kept asking him if he ever got lonely, and he would laugh and shake his head. He made it sound like he had plenty to occupy his time.. making meals, gardening, hiking, and praying.  We kept asking him questions about his life… and then I asked him if his cabin had wifi and he laughed at me.  Whoops, guess not.   🙂

My hiker friend and I had more miles to make, so we had to leave Doug.  That night, I camped at the Gila River with 4 other hikers.  And I kept thinking about Doug.  And the more I thought about him, the more impressed I was with his religious hermitage.  I have spent many nights camping, but what makes this whole adventure worth it is that I’ve shared these experiences with other people.  And I admit, for me, sharing these moments and trails with other hikers makes it so much easier too.  At times, my hiking experience is like a smelly slumber party with my best friends.

We have hiked across beautiful parts of New Mexico lately, and I can’t wait to see what Northern New Mexico has in store for us!  Enjoy the photos!

photo by JPEG 🙂

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CDT: Mexico to Silver City, NM

If I had one word to sum up the CDT’s first 150 miles:  Intense.

I started my hike on May 1st with 8 other hikers.  I am slightly embarrassed to admit that the first 100 miles of trail completely kicked my butt!  It was brutal hiking due to the constant sun exposure and heat.  Unlike the PCT, the CDT desert is a nearly shadeless landscape.  Everyday, I felt like an ant caught under a magnifying lens as I crawled to the next water source. It was painful, and I scolded myself for thinking negative thoughts. 

I reminded myself: “There’s beauty in everything. Sometimes you just have to look deeper.”  I tried to find beauty in the blooming cactus flowers, or the darting jack rabbits, but it was hard.  As much as I tried to enjoy it, the first 100 miles suffocated me.  It was beautiful, but I was too drained to fully enjoy it.

One day I literally sat in a water cache box for an hour because I was so hot, and it was the only shade in that area.  On the CDT, you are forced to make things work because you literally have no other option.  I sat in the box, drank lots of water, ate snacks, read the log book, and pushed on when I felt well again. 

I have since mailed unneeded items up the trail to reduce pack weight, and I bought a silver hiking sun-umbrella to combat the exposure.  I don’t do well in heat, and I’m going to carry that silly umbrella all the way to Canada!  

The trail, and my attitude are both improving quickly. In the last 50 miles, the trail has climbed into the trees again.  It feels amazing to be in a forest again!  I have been hiking with a big goofy grin on my face.  And constantly whispering “Thank You” to the trees.

I’m currently enjoying a stay at an Airbnb rental in Silver City, NM with a great group of fellow hikers.  I think we all needed this break to regroup for the next stretch of trail.

Here are my favorite photos of the last 150 miles.  Enjoy!!  

PS: I won’t have good wifi for the next sections, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear much from me until further north 🙂


 



 
There’s beauty all around us.  Sometimes we just forget how to search for it.

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Getting Caught Up…

Whoops..  Here is a long overdue post of my past hiking adventures!  Sorry it took so long, and enjoy the blog post.  ❤

I start the CDT on May 1st, and hopefully, I will find the time and energy to blog regularly while on trail.   Or, maybe I can at least blog once per state?  Hey, at least I am being realistic for a change.  😉   If you have any questions about any of these hikes that I didn’t address, feel free to ask away: Rayana@gmail.com

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Colorado Trail (2015):

The Colorado Trail was a huge factor in deciding to settle in Colorado.  I loved the idea of having a long-distance trail in my backyard.  I saved up 2 weeks of vacation, and knocked out Durango to Twin Lakes in 1 shot.  I spent the rest of my summer piecing the rest of the trail together.  A huge “Thank You” to Will/Estero for all the shuttle rides.  You made this hike possible for me, and I am so grateful for such a supportive boyfriend.   🙂

The Colorado Trail would be an awesome trail for a first thru-hike.  It was easy to follow the trail, since it was so well-marked.  I thought that the Colorado Trail had the best scenery, mile for mile, of any trail.  It was a great way to spend my first summer in Colorado.  I kept thinking “This is the reason I moved to Colorado!” and “Shit, Why can’t I breathe up here?”

The only “con” for me was that I was really lonely from Salida to Denver.  I was surprised that I spent so much time alone in those sections, and I really hated camping alone.   Even after all my thru-hikes, I’m still a little scared to camp alone.  Eventually, I was so tired, that I stopped caring, and just listening to the elk calls at night, and passed out.

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Wonderland Trail (2016):

The Wonderland Trail was a total last minute idea.  In 2016, a computer glitch in the reservation system left the Wonderland Trail as a free-for-all.  The entire trail was a first-come-first-serve system.  Yes!!!  No Brainer!  Time to go hiking!  I booked a flight to Portland and got a ride to Mt Rainier National Park with my older brother, Gabriel.  I was lucky to get a permit, but it started at a different entry point… and I only hiked 5 miles of trail in the first 2 days.  Oh well.

I didn’t care.  I enjoyed a slow start, and then hiked the rest of the trail in 5 days.  It was a ton of fun, but I made a mistake in shoe selection by going too light, and my arches fell.  As a result, I ended up with painful shin splints.

Just goes to show that even a “short” trail can kick your butt!

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San Diego Trans-County Trail (2017):

A few months ago, I joined a group of hikers to hike the San Diego Trail-County Trail.  It was so fun to be among “hiker trash” again, but we got hit with lots of rain and cold weather.  The group ended up splintering into smaller groups due to weather, and that was a little disappointing.   Maybe I’ll give it a shot next year and hope for better weather?  At one point, it was just down to 4 crazy hikers bushwhacking our way up a mountain.  It was fun, and I’m glad at least some hikers wanted to suffer with me  😉

I should mention, it’s more like a route, than an actual trail.  It was a mixture of following GPS tracks near Salton Sea, hiking the California Hiking and Riding Trail, skirting trails and green belts around San Diego, small amount of road walks and one really annoying bushwhack/trespass (?) up El Cajon Mountain.

If you are interested in this trail, please check out this facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/542292329178926/

It was raining too much, so I ditched my camera on this hike.  A lot of these photos are from other hikers.  I probably won’t go that ultralight in the future.  Photos are what help me remember my hikes, and ditching a camera isn’t worth it, to me.

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Acorn is back.

Wow–  it has been 2 years since I last blogged!

Honestly, I spent the last 2 years working a lot (yuck).  Everyday, I would wake up before the sun, put on my blue scrubs, and go to the hospital. I tried to be normal. I stopped carrying toilet paper in my pocket. I made some wise investments, flipped a house and saved my pennies. And everyday, I would miss the trail. Everyday, I would dream about my next adventure.  I constantly looked at Estero’s triple crown plaque over the fireplace and wondered “When will it be my turn?”

I did shorter trails in my spare time and climbed 14ers.  I hiked the Colorado Trail (Durango to Denver) in 2015, and earlier this year, I hiked the Wonderland Trail around Mt Rainier. In those brief periods of time, I felt alive again.

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Home.

During this time, things at work were changing for the worse.  A merger contract was signed which would move my job to another location.  Worst of all, this new location would be ridiculously understaffed.  I was asked to resubmit my resume, interview, and fight my coworkers for the job.  Umm… What?  Why did I want to fight for a job that would make me miserable?  Hives started to break out all over my stomach from the increased stress.

Yep….

….You know exactly where this is going.

I am free again.  And dammit, I’m going hiking.  Estero is a wonderful partner, and so supportive of my crazy dreams, even if he can’t drop everything and hike with me again (I wish he could!).

 

I will be kicking off 2017 with a short ~150 mile hike in California:  San Diego Trans-County Trail.

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Every year, 15-20 people hike this trail together in January.  I’m so excited to experience the southern California desert again, and be among “my people”.   And yes, we all jump in the Ocean at the end.  🙂

And, I am praying for a low snow year, because these trails are both high on my list:

 

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(Ahhhh!!)

 

I am very eager to see where 2017 will lead me.  And hopefully, I can find a less stressful career when I finish.  (Maybe a traveling Microbiologist?)

It’s late now, but maybe this week, I’ll finally upload my Colorado Trail and Wonderland Trail photos.  I have so much to show you.

It feels good to be back.

Love Always,   Acorn

 

 

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South Lake Tahoe, CA to Manning Park, CANADA [Mile 2668]

Here is a map to update you on the progress of our PCT thru-hike:

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(Yes!  We finished!!)

What can I say?

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I stopped blogging.  (Oops. Sorry.)
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On the PCT, I always felt the pressure to keep moving. The towns on the PCT were far apart, and the days in town were just too short to accomplish everything.  In addition, we had to finish the trail by late Sept, to avoid potentially dangerous conditions in Northern Washington.

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So, we walked, and walked.  And then, we walked some more.  We were constantly putting in big days.  I was tired, and for the first time in 5,000 miles, I even stopped writing in my daily journal.
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But, the good news, is that all the craziness was worth it . . .
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On Sept 23rd, Estero and I completed the Pacific Crest Trail !!  We walked all the way from Mexico to Canada –together– and we don’t want to kill each other!  Date #2 was a success!
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Since then, we have stayed quite busy.  We went to the ALDHA-West gathering, where Estero received his Triple Crown award (awarded for completion of the AT, PCT, CDT).  We flew to Florida, bought a car, drove to Maryland & Pennsylvania to see family.  Then we drove to Colorado, and quickly fell in love with the state, the laid-back people and the amazing weather.
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By the end of October, we had an apartment in Denver, and a few weeks later, we both accepted jobs.  We have been busy adjusting to normal life, decorating our nest, attempting to work out, and even adopting a goofy kitten named Clover.
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In 2015, I plan to begin hiking 14ers in Colorado.  There are 58 epic peaks above 14,000 feet in Colorado, and I’d love to fly my kite on all of them!  I am also dreaming of a Colorado Trail hike in the near future (It’s ok, Mom. It’s only 450 miles).  There are a lot of places that I want to hike… The Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu, Alaska, Hawaii, Utah…. (the CDT, someday).  But it’s been a very busy few years, and I look forward to a normal life, for now.
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Thank You so much to everyone who supported me on these 3 trails.  Thanks to the countless Trail Angels who have offered sage advice, food, beds, showers and transportation.  Thanks to Keen for sponsoring me with socks for my PCT hike.  Thanks to my parents for putting up with my crazy dreams (sorta).  Thanks to Estero for being such an incredible partner and a constant source of inspiration.
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Thanks to you, for reading.
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Feel free to contact me anytime:  Rayana@gmail.com or on Facebook: Rayana Acorn.
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Happy Trails, until we meet again!
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To finish this off, here are my favorite pictures from Lake Tahoe, CA to Manning Park, Canada.  You should probably grab some snacks for this part:
 IMG_0033 IMG_0052 IMG_0076 IMG_0083 IMG_0086 IMG_0088 IMG_0090 IMG_0098 IMG_0127 IMG_0131 IMG_0150 IMG_0155 IMG_0161 IMG_0181 IMG_0186 IMG_0189 IMG_0194 IMG_0212 IMG_0213
IMG_0218
 20140802_145926 20140806_110857   20140907_160603 20140922_122906 IMG_0222 IMG_0246 IMG_0265 IMG_0270 IMG_0273 IMG_0280 IMG_0303 IMG_0309 IMG_0323 IMG_0330 IMG_0338 IMG_0344 IMG_0345 IMG_0349 IMG_0359 IMG_0365 IMG_0377 IMG_0384 IMG_0393 IMG_0400 IMG_0412 IMG_0417 IMG_0443 IMG_0451
  20140827_115822 20140827_120816 20140902_084304 20140917_104433 20140922_154528 20140922_155012  IMG_0457 IMG_0461 IMG_0463 IMG_0465 IMG_0467 IMG_0486 IMG_0489 IMG_0494 IMG_0497 IMG_0500 IMG_0502 IMG_0506 IMG_0507 IMG_0512 IMG_0515 IMG_0521 IMG_0522 IMG_0524 IMG_0534 IMG_0540 IMG_0545 IMG_0554 IMG_0556 IMG_0564 IMG_0574 IMG_0575 IMG_0576 IMG_0582 IMG_0586 IMG_0588 IMG_0590 IMG_0591 IMG_0599 IMG_0608 IMG_0612 IMG_0617 IMG_0618 IMG_0621 IMG_0623 IMG_0625 IMG_0629 IMG_0630 IMG_0646 IMG_0656 IMG_0657 IMG_0659 IMG_0660 IMG_0661 IMG_0678 IMG_069520140923_143551_Richtone(HDR)
IMG_0703
IMG_0707
10458626_10102433135279359_3570308844933785658_n 10389199_10102433135334249_3673481295755549860_n
(Nothing is Impossible)
Categories: California, Canada, Oregon, PCT, Washington | 8 Comments

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