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PCT Day 90 – Sidelined by a Migraine

Last updated May 6, 2020 | Published on Jul 23, 2017

I awoke early this morning, determined to catch up to Monarch. She has a package waiting for her at the Post Office in Sierra City and wants to get there before the post office closes on Saturday. She was hoping to hike 23 miles a day for the next few days – it’s more than we’ve hiked before but I think we can probably do it if the stars align and all goes well the next few days. The elevation profile for next 20 miles looks pretty easy and I heard from a northbound hiker that recent trail maintenance makes for easy walking. I also heard there’s some snow as we get close to Sierra City, though, so that might slow us down some. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Fog in the Valley at Sunrise

Ok that’s not fog. That looks like a fire.

I was on the trail by 5:49 am, which is one of my earliest start times far. The trail was smooth and sloped gradually downhill as I reached the junction for Quincy. It was easy going and I made good time. I stopped for a breakfast break at 8:30 am and was pleased with my progress so far.

Beckwourth Trail – Bucks Summit Informational Sign

Shortly after crossing the junction for the small resort town of Buck’s Lake, I rounded a corner and found Monarch taking a break by the side of the trail. When I neared I realized she wasn’t just taking a normal break – something was really wrong. She was curled up on the ground in a fetal position with her shirt pulled over her face. She was laying directly on the ground with her face in some pine needles. Ruh roh.

“I think I have a migraine,” she said. “I’ve been laying here for over an hour. I feel terrible.”

I pulled out her foam pad and suggested that she may want to lay on that instead and covered her with my sleeping bag (thank you, Wilderness First Aid class, for teaching me that much!). She had all the classic signs of a migraine – nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and a headache. I don’t have a lot of experience with migraines but I know they can be really debilitating and there’s not much you can do but rest and wait them out.

This is what a migraine on trail looks like

Being sick on the trail is frustrating and no fun. Monarch was excited about her plans to hike a really high mileage day and it took her a while to come to grips with her new reality.

“I think we should hike at least 10 more miles today,” she said, as she was dry heaving onto the ground. That girl is one tough cookie.

“Hmm…” I said. “I think we should just lay here for a while and worry about hiking when you’re feeling better.”

“Ok,” she said, and fell asleep.
She woke up half an hour later. “I think I can hike in a few minutes,” she said.

We lay on our backs on the ground, looking up at the pine trees. “Wow, those trees look cool from this angle,” I said.

“I don’t know,” she replied, “the branches are fuzzy and distorted-looking. And would you mind talking a little quieter?”

“Maybe you should take another nap,” I suggested. She acquiesced and this time fell asleep and slept soundly for a couple of hours while I worked on my blog.

When Monarch awoke the second time she was visibly feeling better. Her face had more color and she could sit up without falling over. We ate some lunch and drank some water and slowly packed up to go. She wasn’t feeling 100%, but definitely better than before. So we decided to take it slow.

Fern Gully!

As we hiked up towards Lookout Rock, we passed a crew doing trail maintenance. We stopped to chat and discovered that it was a class with instructors teaching students how to clear downed trees with an old-fashioned double-handled saws. They had actually moved trees over the trail on purpose to practice this skill. Very cool.

PCTA Trail Crew

As we approached Lookout Rock, Monarch started feeling tired and dizzy so we stopped at a campsite just shy of the summit. It was a nice shaded spot under some trees. Big black ants were everywhere and kept crawling all over us, but they weren’t the biting kind so we lazily flicked them off or ignored them altogether.

Lookout Rock

I walked up to the summit to check it out and met some other hikers who planned to camp up there. One girl was hiking with a kitten that she found previously on the trail and adopted. They invited us to join them but we weren’t feeling very social and decided to just chill in our little area. I played music on my phone and we cooked dinner together.  A trail angel had set up a lending library not far from where we camped so we enjoyed perusing the selection.

Lending Library

So, today did not end up at all how I planned but I didn’t find. It was nice to be forced to relax and just hang out in the woods. Being flexible and rolling with whatever life throws at you seems to be the theme of the trail this year.

PCT 2017 Stats

PCT Day 90 – Wednesday July 12
Mile 1267.8 to Mile 1257.6

PCT Miles Hiked Today: 10.2
Total PCT Miles Hiked: 1049.1
Feet Ascended Today: 1216
Feet Descended Today: 1842
Current Elevation: 5882
Steps: 3215

For more on my experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, visit my Pacific Crest Trail 2017 page:

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Hi, I'm Unicorn!

I am an avid hiker, traveler, and adventurer who is on the mission to explore hiking trails around the world.  I’m also obsessed with National Parks, long-distance trails and other outdoorsy things.

I hope to share this knowledge with you and inspire you to explore new hiking trails too!

1 Comment

  1. Kate Zylland

    I’m so glad you were there to help Monarch! Being sick when you had other plans sucks, but being sick alone really sucks, and it sounds like you had just the right advice for her. You’re the trail angel of the day!


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