Well, sad news. After a few weeks of hiking, Marnie hurt her back and decided to get off trail and, since our friend Linda also got off trail, I had to get off trail too as I don’t want to hike solo. We hope to hop on somewhere down the line when Marnie’s back gets better, but for now we are each at home sort of wondering what to do with ourselves!
(Photo of us at Eagle Rock, an iconic natural rock formation outside of Warner Springs, CA.)
So here is my official announcement blog post — my bestie Marnie and I plan to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2022!! The trail traverses California, Oregon, and Washington, from Mexico to Canada, and is 2650 miles long. We plan to start at the southern terminus at the Mexico border and head north. It is a journey of five or six months, depending on how fast you hike.
We have gotten our thru-hike permits from the Pacific Crest Trail Association (albeit for days at the end of May which isn’t feasible when hiking through the California desert, we are looking for cancellations to get a better date and a date together) and we are working to get prepared for the trail.
EDIT: We were able to get permits for the end of March! Yay!
We would love it if you would pray for us for these specifics:
That God will be glorified in our hiking.
Provision (finances, bravery, physical and mental strength, etc.) for the trail.
Protection from injury/illness, ice, snow, water crossings, critters, anything else.
Fitness and ability to get good nutrition on trail (both of us sometimes find it hard to eat while backpacking).
Successful and smooth food and resupply boxes prep (there are places where there isn’t a good place to resupply for food, we will mail supply boxes to those places).
That we will get our “trail legs” soon so we can hike the miles we need to hike to finish on time (before the snows in Washington).
Energy to journal at the end of each day.
That neither of us will experience post-trail depression when we get home, but instead have energy and enthusiasm for the next stage of our lives.
Anything else applicable that you can think of!
Thank you!! Please feel free to ask any questions about our trip in the comments!
By popular demand, here is Mom’s Applesauce Fruitcake recipe, taken from a long ago edition of the Farm Journal. Note: We like these best baked in cupcake size. If you bake some, let me know in the comments!
3 cups thick applesauce 1 cup shortening 2 cups sugar
1 lb dates, pitted and chopped 1 lb raisins 1 lb walnuts (4 cups), chopped ¾ lb candied fruit (red and green cherries, pineapple), chopped Save some whole walnuts and cherries to decorate tops of fruitcakes.
4 ½ cups flour 4 tsp baking soda 1 tsp nutmeg ½ tsp ground cloves 1 tsp salt
*Boil applesauce, shortening, and sugar together five minutes, stirring occasionally. Be careful, it will pop out of pot. Let stand until cool.
*Line pans with waxed paper or grease and flour.
*Mix fruit and nuts together. Mix dry ingredients together and mix with fruit and nuts until each piece of fruit is coated.
*Stir in cooled applesauce mixture. Spoon into pans.
*Bake at 250˚ in loaf pans for 2 hours (less for small or cupcake pans) until wooden pick comes out clean.
*Peel off paper while cakes are still warm (or it won’t want to come off at all). Cool on racks. Pour glaze over cold cakes (recipe below). Store in plastic bags for two weeks to mellow. (Or gobble them up right now, they’re just as good either way!)
Fruitcake Glaze *Bring to a boil: ½ cup light corn syrup ¼ cup water
Cool to lukewarm, pour over cold cakes for a shiny glaze. Decorate immediately with whole candied fruit and whole nuts.
Mom and Dad got me this spectacular birthday cake made by our friend Jeanne. It is (or was) dark chocolate with cherry filling and chocolate buttercream, with real gold-dusted chocolate-dipped cherries for garnish. It didn’t take long for us to polish it off. YUM!!
Greetings, young adults! Is washing dishes your favorite chore? Of course not! But is it important for your health, the maintenance of your kitchenware, and the tidiness of your home? I’m pretty sure you’d say it is. These instructions will show you what you need and how to quickly wash your dishes and kitchenware to keep it all clean and germ-free. (That is, if you don’t have an automatic dishwasher. If you have a dishwasher, you should use it. It works much better than washing dishes by hand.)
First, gather your supplies. Start with a sturdy dish brush with a scraper on it. Buy some rubber gloves if you have sensitive skin. Then you will need a dish drainer, a clean dishcloth, clean dish towels, some dish soap (like Dawn), and bleach. If you have a one-basin sink you will want a clean dishpan. Since you will put bleach in the water you use to wash your dishes, you will also want an apron or old sweater to wear in case you splash. Have two scrubby sponges on hand, one blue and one pink (or at least two different colors of some sort), so you can tell which one is for dishes and which one is for the sink. Have some disinfecting cleanser (like Soft Scrub with bleach) to scrub your sink, and keep some paper towels and disinfecting spray cleaner around to get your counters all spiffied up after you’re done with the dishes. Your broom and dustpan will also come in handy.
Before washing the dishes, use your dish brush to scrape bits of food off the dishes/pots/et cetera and into the garbage disposal or trash can. If you scrape stuff into the garbage disposal, run the disposal for a minute with hot water to grind everything up and wash it down. Do not put eggshells or things that would be hard to grind up in the garbage disposal. (Eggshells will clog your drains. Trust me, they will.) Rinse the dishes well before stacking them on the counter to get ready to wash. Never stack dishes with chunks of food on them. You do not want bits of food and other debris in your wash water when you are washing your dishes!
Prepare your sink using your blue scrubby sponge and disinfecting cleanser. You wouldn’t take a bath in a dirty bathtub, because that would be gross. So would washing your dishes in a dirty sink! Sprinkle or squirt a generous amount of cleanser in the sink and give it a good scouring all around (both basins, if you have two). Don’t forget the sides and corners. Rinse out your sink, then rinse off and squeeze out your sponge and put it away where it can dry quickly.
Survey your rinsed dirty dishes and kitchenware. Find the dirtiest items – probably a pot, or a pan that used to be full of lasagna, or anything that might have hard-to-remove gunk left on it after scraping with your brush. Get out your pink scrubby sponge and use it to scrub as many food scraps off your dirtiest dishes as possible. Anything especially icky (like a cutting board or knife that had raw meat on it) should be scrubbed with your dish brush and a little bit of dish soap, and then rinsed before putting it in the wash water. If you need to scrub out a stainless-steel pot, a cleanser called Cameo works well. Rinse your scrubbed dishes and set them aside. Then rinse your pink sponge out and put it away near the blue sponge.
Now put some dish soap in your sink basin or dishpan and fill it with water as hot as you can stand. Add a dollop of bleach to the clean water to help sanitize your dishes. Whirl the water around until there are plenty of suds. Get out your dishcloth and put it in the soapy water. Note that you are using a clean dishcloth, not one that has been sitting around on your sink collecting germs and who-knows-what. Neither are you using a dirty old sponge, or the dish brush. The dish brush is for scraping only. We’re using a sponge for scrubbing, and a clean, germ-free cloth for washing.
Survey your dirty dishes once again. Pick out the least-dirty dishes this time, probably the glasses. Wash these in your suds with your dishcloth. Run hot water from the faucet into your other sink basin (or next to your dishpan) to rinse, and put the glasses in the dish drainer. Next, do the plates and bowls. Remember to wash all sides of each dish, because the backs get dirty too. Wash and rinse your plates and bowls and put them in the dish drainer.
If you are washing sharp knives, place them in the sink or dishpan with the blades all facing away from you. This way you know where the handles are so you can pick them up safely out of the suds to wash them. When washing a knife, ball the dishcloth up for safety so you have some more cloth between your hand and the knife blade while you are washing it. After you have washed the knives, put them in the dish drainer, points down.
Next, tackle the silverware. Pay special attention to each piece of silverware so you won’t find something yucky between the tines when you take a fork out of the drawer later. Wash, rinse, and place the silverware in the dish drainer. Finally, you’re going to come to the dirty dishes you scrubbed earlier. Scrub them even more thoroughly with your dishcloth until they are shiny. You’ve probably run out of room in the dish drainer by now, so place your washed and rinsed pot and lasagna dish on a dishtowel on your counter.
It’s now time to dry the dishes. Get your dish towel and start with the glasses and cups. If any cups or bowls nest together, make sure they are completely dry before nesting or germs might grow in the dampness between them. Then dry the plates and other dishes, silverware, knives, and pots and pans. Put everything away in its place in your kitchen.
Finish your dishwashing task by drying and putting away the dish drainer (unless you are a person who keeps it on the counter beside the sink all the time, that’s okay too), and hanging up your dish towel(s). Wring out your dishcloth and hang it somewhere in the laundry area to dry before putting it into the hamper. Wipe all your kitchen counters and your stovetop with your disinfecting spray and paper towels. Mop up all the water from the back of the sink, wipe off the backsplash, and wipe down the faucet. Wipe up any spills from the floor with a paper towel or rag. After your counters are clean and your floor is wiped, get your broom and dustpan and sweep the whole kitchen floor. Don’t forget the dining area floor if you have one.
That is the end. This simple task should preferably be done every day, or at least whenever there is a jumble of dishes on your counter.
Wasn’t that easier than you thought it would be? Now your parents are proud of you, your roommates are happy with you, and you can be proud and happy too, knowing everything in your kitchen is clean, tidy, and well-maintained!
I want to recommend The Bethany Tales, Four Intertwined Stories of Restoration and Hope, written by Bryan E. Canter. The book looks at the lives of four people from the village of Bethany in the time of Jesus – Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Simon.
“These four tales use the creative gift of imagination to explore what each of these men and women might have been thinking and feeling, while remaining true to the biblical accounts and consistent with life in first century Israel.”
I read the book around Eastertime, and found it hard to put down! I received a much deeper insight of Jesus’ relationships with people and his last days here on earth in reading the book. The author’s note at the beginning and the Bible passages behind the story at the end help with understanding the accounts even more. The Bethany Tales would be a blessing to anyone who wants a greater appreciation of these records in the Bible.
The Bethany Tales is available on Amazon and other sites in hardback, paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.
Hi, I’m Tuffy, and I am a big senior cat, age 12. I asked Mama if I could do a guest post on her blog to practice for my own blog and she said yes, I could. I am not so great at the spelling and stuff so she is helping me.
I will tell you some things about me. These are some things I like:
My family, especially Mama. Wet foods, fish flavor. Crunchy foods, fish flavor. Snackers, fish flavor and actual fishies. Mama says the fishies are “freeze-dried minnows”. My special water drinking fountain. Being in my comfortable and safe home. Napping in various places. Rubs from Dad. Pets from my family. Laptime with Mama. My catio. Helping Mama in her office. Scratching on my big carpet roll. Playing with my birdie, mousie, and springie thingie. Napping some more. More laptime. Sunbeams. Doing zoomies after I potty, MOL!
Here are some things I don’t like:
Philip, our kitten. He is too wiggly and he jumps out at me a lot. New people. A human hand approaching me from the front of my face. Wet foods, beef flavor. Fleas. When Mama is gone. When my claws are too long. Going to the doctor. Itchy ears.
My friend, Marnie, and I planned our first long backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail – a 2,600 mile long, two-foot wide path through the wilderness that spans the distance from Mexico to Canada. We didn’t plan to tackle the whole thing this time (that’s for next year).
Backpacking never fails to surprise us. Often for me it even gets embarrassing. On this particular outing, we decided to walk the fifty-three miles between Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, Oregon and the town of Cascade Locks. We left the day after we attended PCT Days, a festival with vendors, speakers, and prize giveaways celebrating all things PCT. We were expecting to use the detailed four-day, three-night itinerary outlined in the book, Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon, written by the very optimistic and positive-thinking Mr. Eli Boschetto. He also offers a three-day, two-night itinerary for this section, which the word “optimistic” cannot come close to describing.
I was most concerned about river crossings and really gave little thought to all the ups and downs the trail would make going into and out of canyons and all the time randomly whenever it wanted. We crossed the Zigzag River without incident, except that the little climb up the bank needed quite a bit of effort. Not everyone was so lucky. A man crossed toward us using his hiking poles and then watched as his girlfriend slipped on a rock. When she showed him her injured leg he said, “Oh, Sarah,” and still didn’t offer her a hand. We thought poor Sarah had herself a pain in the derrière to go with the gash on her knee!
By this time it was getting pretty late, and instead of crossing two rivers in the afternoon while we were tired we decided to wait until the next day. We camped just above our next challenge, the Sandy River, hoping that the narrow, raging torrent would be calmer in the morning. We looked for a place to hang our food away from bears (they don’t care about you, they just want your cookies) and finally found an appropriate branch. After a rather humiliating four or five tries, we managed to throw the combination carabiner/tennis ball gadget invented by Marnie’s husband up and over, and wrangled our food bags to a suitable height. It was certainly not up to the standard of the official PCT method of hanging a bear bag, but we hoped it would keep furry critters from snuffling at our tents. We made sure we weren’t camped under too many widowmakers (dead trees or branches that could fall and squash us), and slept soundly with the noise of a creek in the background.
We woke up about 8:00 a.m., packed up, and headed down to the river. The Sandy River, while low, was still rushing wildly. After crossing part of the very narrow log “bridge” over the swiftly-moving water my legs turned to Jell-O, so Marnie reached out her hand and yanked me across after I got about three-fourths of the way. My sister, the Pilates and Parkour guru, had given me advice about crossing logs before we left – “Just draw an imaginary line from where you are to where you want to go and follow the line,” she explained. This is much easier said than done. The Sandy River has a very large, dry, rocky bed, so it is hard to see where the trail starts up again on the other side. After conquering the log bridge, we had to scour the far shore for cairns (artistic-looking piles of rocks) that marked the way back to the PCT.
Shortly after successfully traversing the Sandy River, we reached the Muddy Fork, which, of course, turned out to be completely different. Just when we were certain that we had sort of gotten the hang of tree-walking, we were presented with an entirely different sort of obstacle. High above the very fast-flowing Muddy Fork, two giant logs hung in the air. Some unknown person (bless them!) had tied a scrawny rope along the upper log. To start navigating this hurdle, you have to scramble up on the logs, bruising your shins on the way. Then to cross, you lean way over the upper log to keep from falling backward into the river, and hold onto the rope while you sidle along the lower log, not looking down.
We inspected the crossing for a few minutes, wondering first how we were going to hoist ourselves up onto the huge lower log. I hollered, “Adventure!” and managed to get onto the log after a couple of jumps, with Marnie and two thru-hikers as an audience. (Thru-hikers are people who are hiking the whole PCT in a season.) A photo of the crossing in the book is captioned, “Put your balance beam skills to work on the log crossing over the Muddy Fork River.” We were not amused at this. And yet, one of the thru-hikers, with a full backpack, hopped up and skipped across the top of the highest log in a way that naturally annoyed the heck out of us.
After crossing the Muddy Fork River we got to where dozens of tiny waterfalls combine together to form the beautiful Ramona Falls. It was such a dazzling sight that we decided to spend a little time there on a conveniently-placed sitting log to soak up all the negative ions before moving on. I’m surprised at the popularity of Ramona Falls as a day-hike destination since the Muddy Fork crossing on the day-hike trail is supposed to be more difficult than the one we had survived. That’s the very reason I hadn’t seen Ramona Falls before.
The rest of this day was spent going up hills through various switchbacks, some of which are deemed “more moderate and easygoing” in the book, but which we deemed no such thing. At the end of the switchbacks, the book has the audacity to say the trail “levels out”. We saw no evidence of this and continued huffing and puffing on up. We found a small bubbling stream where we gladly rested and refilled our water supply while talking to some southbound (SOBO) thru-hikers and some section hikers. The SOBOs told us hungrily, “We’re booking it to Timberline Lodge so we can have the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet tomorrow!”
Our second night we camped at Lolo Pass, right at the trailhead parking lot. We were pleased to have the use of a lovely, clean picnic table to organize all our things and try the expensive dehydrated meal I bought at PCT Days. The meal was some sort of Asian slaw that you could supposedly use cold water to rehydrate. It didn’t rehydrate well at all and was crunchy instead of slaw-textured, so we ate other things and then zipped ourselves up into our tents.
At about 8:00 p.m. (also known as “hiker midnight”) we heard voices coming, the first of which said, “Ooh, a camp AND a picnic table? And that picnic table looks NEW!”
The second voice said, “I think I’m going to call it a night,” and then set up her tent and camped right next to us, also making use of the picnic table. She was up and gone before we even opened our tents the next morning. Thru-hikers are early risers.
Next we started off through the 11.4-mile Bull Run Watershed, the source of drinking water for Portland, Oregon. The trail is bordered with huckleberry bushes so we nibbled at the last of the ripe huckleberries as we hiked, and stopped to rest, fill up our water, and snack at Salvation Spring. Marnie had signal on her phone, so she let everyone know we would be finished a day later than planned since we hadn’t done the river crossings on the first day, and we’re, well…slow. Four or five thru-hikers stopped at Salvation Spring as well. One girl plopped down on the ground, laid out her tent ground sheet, and dumped out all her food to find something she felt like eating. She probably thought I was odd because I kept looking at her food supply to get ideas. They were all crunching on Doritos, which we decided was a snack goal for our next trip.
In the Bull Run Forest Reserve there are strict “No Trespassing” signs reminding hikers to stay on trail. When we finally got to a space where there was just…erm…no waiting anymore, we decided to trespass just one tree off trail. Based on the number of toilet paper “flowers” behind said tree, every other girl hiker had the same idea. I was surprised thru-hikers would make such a mess, every GOOD hiker knows what are called the Leave No Trace principles, one of which is to always pack out your T.P. instead of leaving it for others to see! It was at this point that I realized my “potty kit” had fallen out of my backpack somewhere as we walked. I actually gasped in horror out loud – all my toilet paper and my Opsak and my trowel were gone! Thankfully I had some tissues and an extra Ziploc bag. (Opsaks are odor-proof zipper bags. Ziploc bags are NOT odor-proof. Get an Opsak to pack out your T.P.) The girl who dumped out all her food at Salvation Spring came by later, and when I asked her if she had noticed my potty kit on the trail she sort of sniffed, “Oh, I saw it, but since I didn’t know which way you went I didn’t want to carry the extra weight.” My trowel was a $20.00 ultralight item called a “Deuce of Spades”. Part of their being expensive is that they come in many colors. Mine was pink, because, you know, pink.
On this afternoon we were getting tired from continually going up, and were concerned about how far away the next camp listed in the book was going to be. We decided to check out what was described as an “old abandoned logging road”. It looked like campsites, so we camped there among quite a few bees. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten up in the night to pee while backpacking. I don’t even like to walk through my house in the dark to go to the bathroom, so this was a big step. I honestly had no thought of cougars or bears in the night until a few days after getting home. Then I thought I’d better not think of cougars or bears in the night.
On day four on our way to Wahtum Lake a SOBO section hiker told us there was trail magic at the campground parking lot. He said we should go up the steps. (“Trail magic” is when a person called a “trail angel” brings food and/or drinks to give to thru-hikers. All thru-hikers look forward to receiving trail magic during their hikes!) We were hoping we might qualify for a cold Gatorade or something even though we weren’t thru-hiking, so we saw the stairs and started up the 97 railroad tie and dirt treads with various rise heights called the “Express” trail. This was an option our book made no mention of, probably for good reason. Halfway up our legs were screaming, and after a good cry we realized there was an actual trail to the parking lot, but we finished off the steps anyway even though we could see that there was no sign of trail magic. We decided the guy had been playing a mean joke on us. There was, however, a good, clean picnic table and a toilet! (And more bees). We took a long lunch break there and then went down to the peaceful lake to fill up on water.
We needed a lot of water because our next section was the Eagle Creek burn area, which according to our book was a “lush, green forest” but is now actually an exposed area of burned and dead trees. Acres and acres of land were burned in 2017 because a 15-year-old boy was throwing fireworks into a canyon, and at the sight of the aftermath both Marnie and I were wishing we could have had a hand in deciding the kid’s punishment. But we were glad to see that many plants laughed at the wildfire and grew back up along the trail, including salmonberry, thimbleberry, and ferns. We had planned to camp at a site listed in our book that would have had a beautiful view of the sunset and the valley below, but it was completely burned and even had warning signs saying dead trees could fall on us. We kept going, wondering if we could make it to the next listed campsite. Once we got into the green forest again, though, an unlisted campsite materialized right next to the trail. It was a bit rocky (and full of bees) but just the right size for our two tents.
Day five was supposed to be all downhill after a certain point, according to our book. We went around a mountain on what we call an “edge” trail, with the ground straight up on one side and straight down on the other side and two feet of trail in the middle. The trail went through the forest and then over ankle-turner rocks and back through the forest and again over rocks as it wound around the hill. After going downhill for a little ways the trail went back up (To where? The town is downhill!) and up. I was woozy and my legs were wobbly so I asked Marnie to pray with me for strength so we could finish up.
The next surprise: Guess where I ended up at 3:30 in the afternoon with just two-and-a-half miles left to get to town? If you guessed sitting in the middle of the trail swatting at bees and calling 911, you would be correct. After running on little sleep and not enough food (nothing tasted good and my mouth was dry) and pushing hard through half a day more than I should have without sleep or food, my legs continued to be wobbly and I was stumbling every fourth step. I looked at the next rocky part of the trail and figured my legs wouldn’t do it, so I reluctantly made what we call a “safety decision” and decided to sit down before I fell down (or worse yet, knocked Marnie down) and call for help. I argued to myself, “But I should keep going anyway!” many times. The oft-used hiker phrase, “Embrace the suck!” came to mind. But each time I heard back, “Call 911!” Oh, safety or not, I was mortified. So embarrassing! I mean, what self-respecting hiker couldn’t make it two miles (downhill!) to town?
This new adventure included talking to a very kind 911 operator and an equally kind sheriff’s deputy, who came with six or seven volunteer Search and Rescue gentlemen (including two doctors) who were enthusiastically concerned about me. They packed me up in a litter with one big nubby wheel on it, covered me with a blanket, and proceeded to roll me down the mountain with one of the guys walking on the downside of the trail. I don’t know how they did it, but I was definitely “helping” by hugging the upside of the litter the whole way! When we got to the Forest Service road where the rescue party had parked, a stern young deputy demanded my name and information, and was particularly interested to know the address where I got my mail. I was not looking forward to receiving anything they wanted to send me, which I assumed would be some sort of reprimand for taking up their valuable time, or a bill. We were then bundled up into the back of another deputy’s SUV (my first time riding in the back of a police car – quite sparse accommodations) and given a ride to the fire station in Cascade Locks so the EMTs could look at me. Two young EMTs eagerly poked my finger, listened to my chest, and hooked electrodes up to me. All my vital signs were normal but they suggested I go in an ambulance to the hospital, to which I said, “No, thank you.” I signed a serious-looking document that said I refused transport in the ambulance and would see my doctor when I got home, and was thoroughly scolded by the supervising EMT for not eating enough.
“But nothing tasted good,” I said.
“Everything should taste good when you’re hiking ten miles a day!” she admonished.
After winning the argument (I wasn’t up to the challenge) she then asked me who the President was (cussing optional, she said) and where I was and my address, et cetera, and since I answered all the questions correctly they let me go. The deputy dropped us off at the Best Western where we waited for just a few minutes before Marnie’s husband picked us up and took us to Dairy Queen. Even though we were filthy and hadn’t had a shower in five days, we went inside the restaurant to eat. I had a burger and a strawberry milkshake, as I was suddenly very hungry. Marnie chuckled as we left.
“What’s funny?” I asked.
“I must really have the hiker stink, when I went to refill my drink that man moved clear over there!”
After our dinner, we drove the hour and a half home and I took a shower and a two-day nap.
Frustrating as it was to need to be rescued (I didn’t tell anyone except my closest family and friends for months afterwards) I was encouraged that on our first long backpacking trip we were able to walk 51.74 miles. And me with hardly any food or sleep!
A few months later we went back to Cascade Locks and hiked up the PCT to the place where we had stopped so we could finish that part of the trail. We realized that the trail actually got easier from the place that we called for help and I probably could have made it (insert “Arrgh” emoticon here). Marnie had painted a rock that said, “The best view comes after the hardest climb,” and we left the rock there at my rescue spot in hopes of encouraging other struggling hikers.
Central takeaways from the hike: God doesn’t always answer prayer the way we might hope. We prayed for strength to get to where we needed to go, and God used the strength of others to accomplish it. God doesn’t always care that you might feel embarrassed. He knows what you need. And God knows where all the campsites are even if your book doesn’t.
Water takeaways: Drink lots of water. Bring electrolyte powders that taste good to put in your water. Water that is filtered out of a mountain lake or stream tastes much better than your water at home.
Food takeaways: Bring delicious food you will eat. Eat the food even if you don’t feel like it. Try all the food beforehand so you know if it’s delicious or not. Huckleberries are delicious. I would have felt better if I could have eaten more huckleberries. You may not be able to hang your food properly away from bears because there may be no branches low enough, live enough, or at all. Then just put your food in the foot of your tent and pray that the bears won’t notice it.
General backpacking takeaways: Backpacking is dirty. You will be dirty. Everything will be dirty. Your feet may never be clean again. Never underestimate the value of a nice picnic table or a good sitting log.
Thru-hiker takeaways: Don’t assume they don’t want to talk. If they will talk to you, talk to them. Ask them questions. (For instance, ask how they look so much less dirty than you do when you’ve only been out for two days.)
Bear takeaways: Well, none, because we didn’t see a bear. Or a deer. Or any wildlife except birds and a couple of chipmunks. And bees.