Ten Days on Trail

  • PCT Update: May 10, 2014
I’m back in Orange. I had a tremendous time in the woods, and hiked some 200 miles from the US/Mexico border to the San Gorgonio Wilderness north of Palm Springs. The trip was awesome and transformative, and though I found I wasn’t the right kind of crazy or dedicated to spend four months walking, I did have plenty of time to think and plan. So as strange and terrifying as it is to backpedal after such anticipation and hoopla, I’m here. Summer will be awesome, and there will be many more (shorter) adventures to come. Cheers to all of my new PCT friends that I know will hike on and into Canada.

Let me just start like this: nothing is like I thought.

The PCT is a completely different ballgame from anything I’ve previously hiked or experienced. It’s beautiful and nuanced, and hiking these first 152 miles has really humbled me. I’ve changed my gear setup and my strategy, and I’ll break it down a bit day-by-day.

Note: I’m having a tough time fixing the image display issue from the trail. Clicking an undisplayed image will still open the gallery for viewing.

First Steps

I got off the train to San Diego at 1:15 AM, and immediately made my first hiker friend. His trail name: Legend. He was carrying a small satchel and wearing a leather cowboy hat. He’d hiked the entire PCT last year, and this time around he was going ultra ultra light. No sleeping bag light. All this next to my 40 pound pack (before food and water.)

I invited Legend to crash for a few hours in my motel room, but he was determined to sleep at the train station before our 7:38 AM train to El Cajon. Long story short: I slept about 4 hours that night and barely caught the train in the morning. At El Cajon I found myself boarding the rural bus to Campo with seven other hikers, all determined to hike to Canada. All of them with ultralight packs. Oops.

We made it to Campo two hours later. Still about a mile from the southern terminus of the PCT and the U.S. / Mexico border, Legend and I were quick enough to hitch a ride with some hikers from Bellingham (and avoided an extra mile of road walking.)

With an 11 AM start, we were hours behind the thirty-or-so other hikers who started that morning at 7AM or earlier. I set foot on the well marked trail and met wildlife only two miles later: my first rattlesnake. It hissed, rattled, stood tall, then slithered into the brush. Turns out snakes are just fine not eating people.


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Scott & Jackie ca. 2012

What is The Hip Ship?

Adventure! Culture! Design!

Initially The Hip Ship was a radio show. And then it evolved in my imagination as a cosmopolitan magazine, a Pacific Crest Trail adventure blog, and then to it’s current state: a shared blogging space.

While it’s true that I’ll be mostly consumed with hiking the PCT for the next five months, I hope to write about the food, art, and people I see along the way. Jackie! has some terrific posts planned, and we might be joined by an additional author as well.

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2048, or, The Human Condition is Alive and Well, or, Sisyphus 2.0.

On March 9th, 2014, the game 2048 was released. Since then, my personal productivity has declined and “hanging out” with friends has devolved into playing the game side-by-side on whatever platform we can get our grubby millenial hands on. Temporary Game Addiction is not a particularly new phenomenon, the smartphone-toting world has seen it happen with Candy Crush and more recently, the short-lived, Flappy Bird, but 2048 felt different–the goal was not a high score or to continue to play through levels, but to simply reach a single achievement: create a tile with “2048” by combining like-numbered tiles in an exponential like fashion. As simple as the goal appears, it created a viral cycle for almost two weeks.   Initially, it was a thrill–learning a new game and attempting to take on the challenge, but the appeal of winning quickly faded into a futile battle. Tile 2048 seemed so close–each game seemed to be slowly improving–yet unattainable at the same time, with each loss always greeted by a slightly delayed “Game Over” overlay.


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Introductions (No icebreakers, necessary!)

I almost posted to The Hip Ship without any introduction or explanation. Modern day social cues would frown upon this and these still apply to the Internet, so hello, I am Jackie!! (One ! is for my name, the other is for my excitement.)

Scott had been floating the idea of a collaborative blog earlier this year and I’m so excited to finally get cracking. Since my history of blogging has been confined to personal entries of teenage angst or Simpsons fandom, I’m excited to be a part of a collection and conversation of ideas, stories, and questions on The Hip Ship. I realize I used “excited” three times in the past few sentences. No shame.

I am a filmmaker, a picky eater, and a clarinet player. Although I moved a good amount growing up, I recognize Boston (read: Wellesley, Massachusetts) as my hometown. Currently, I am in Southern California finishing film school and pursuing the dream of making movies while juggling financial instability and the impending quarterlife crisis of my twenties.

I enjoy macaroni & cheese, swimming, and productively defying authority. Each month, I like to make a Mix CD for my 2002 (or 2003, I’m not sure) Rav4 which is in pretty good condition, but I won’t deny that I’m not a seasoned driver. I also won’t deny unironically boogieing down to KISS 102.7 FM while driving. Music I enjoy includes: Sufjan Stevens, Dr. Dog, and The Beach Boys.

I’ll end this before it starts sounding too much like a dating profile. Hello! I am so excited to collaborate!


Bruges & Ypres

From Brussels we made two daytrips, one to Bruges and one to Ypres.

Bruges is rumored to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, perhaps one of the half-dozen cities that claim to be the “Venice of the North.” We visited on a drizzly Monday, in which all the museums were closed and everything was wet. I don’t recommend doing that, and won’t let it color my observations too much.

Boat tours in the city are cheap and worthwhile; they take between 30 and 45 minutes. Less expensive food can be had off of the side streets. There’s a church tower to climb and some neat windmills around the edge of the city, and mostly I just enjoyed walking around.

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Waffles, chocolate, and the capital of Europe.

This last week was a tremendous change of pace. We had our mid-semester break (which I spent in Ireland and the UK,) two weeks of class, then this FU-BEST program trip to Brussels, Belgium.

I’m not a fan of group travel in the slightest, and it took some real determination to stay with the fifty-odd students schlepping baggage from train to train from Berlin to Amsterdam and away to Brussels. Things just take longer, and tour groups have this frustrating tendency to block the sidewalks and right-of-way.

Nonetheless, Brussels is a beautiful town, and the culture is wholly unique. The northern half of the country speaks Dutch and the southern French. Brussels, nearly in the middle, speaks both. English is very common, as Brussels is home to both the EU and NATO.

Brussels surprised me with one of the largest churches in the world, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. it’s one of the ten largest in the world, and the largest building in art-deco style. It can hold up to 3,500 visitors and there’s a great view from the top, where you can see across the city to Atomium, a large inhabitable sculpture built for the world’s fair in 1958.

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Daytrip to Brandenburg

A trip westward, and some neglected odds and ends.

Last week I wasn’t feeling especially chipper, and I decided to head out an hour westward to the little city of Brandenburg. I took the S-Bahn (aboveground rail) as far as Wannsee, then hopped on a regional train for the (gorgeous) hop out towards Brandenburg.

Once I got my bearings I crossed the southern half of the city and rented a bicycle for €10. Brandenburg seems like a place that Germans  would visit, with a casual smattering of towers, gates, churches, and market squares in a very livable town. The river Havel marks the division between the old and new city, and is crossed by several lovely bridges. Cool thing: the Havel is joined by the Spree River in Berlin before it runs through Brandenburg; it then courses westward and empties into the Elbe, which flows through Hamburg and into the North Sea. Rivers are great.

Anyways, the neighboring lakes and towns are within easy cycling reach, and it made for a nice afternoon.

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A very lively place.

London is one of the finest cities that I’ve had the privilege of visiting–it feels as though New York took a tremendous step backwards in time. London is also nearly three times as populated as Berlin, with a metro population of ca. 12.5 million people.

Here I noticed a gradient of social differences between Berlin, Limerick, Dublin, and London. In Berlin I hardly ever see the police, unless they’re stationed somewhere. They wear these muted jackets and aren’t at all interested in jaywalking (ahem, Seattle.) In Limerick they were much more present, with fluorescent uniforms–though I’ve been told they don’t carry guns. Dublin was perhaps a step-up, with greater CCTV presence.

London however, reminds me very strongly of the militarized police force in the U.S.–the cops were very visible and there’s CCTV everywhere. It’s a constant reminder that both the U.K. and U.S. share some history as the targets of terror.

“The Tube” is extensive and a relatively inexpensive way to get around the city, and makes it quite easy to overnight 20 or 30 minutes outside of the city center. The London Eye was a great experience, a 30 minute ferris-wheel sunset tour of the Thames and beyond. It was easy to spot the Parliament House, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and other landmarks. Opposite all of these stands The Shard, the EU’s tallest skyscraper and historically one of the first to progress with planning and construction after the WTC attacks. Harrod’s, a gigantic luxury department store, made for a good end-of-day visit.

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To the land of sheep (Schafe) and green grass.

First stop on my mid-semester break adventure was Limerick, Ireland and the University of Limerick. My friend Julia from Chapman was super awesome and let me stay a few nights in her student housing, and I had a terrific time exploring the city and the (gorgeous) university. Limerick is the third largest city in Ireland, though it’s definitely not a tourist town.

I was nearly overwhelmed with the cheerful kindness of the Irish- look confused on the sidewalk and someone will undoubtedly ask if you need directions. The busses don’t exactly run on time, and this combined with the general atmosphere felt quite different than the orderliness of Berlin. The restaurants and pubs are also loud; much, much, more boisterous than any spots in Berlin. The Germans are just quiet people.

Julia’s friend Danny was a terrific chap and took us to a hurling match, a sport surprisingly similar to LaCrosse, though played with short wooden paddles and a good deal more contact. Limerick won the game, AND I got insider info throughout the match from an elderly irishman sitting next to me. Cheers.

The next stop after Limerick was Dublin, where I met up with Allie. Dublin is an interesting place- our hostel was right in Temple Bar, which is definitely the most pub-filled touristy section of the city. It’s a great place to stay for sure, but I’m not sure that we really found “authentic” Dublin.

We had a great time nonetheless, and had a look around most of the city’s big sites. The Guinness tour was a fun distraction, and we even saw King Lear at the Abbey Theater. Live professional theater always makes me feel sophisticated.

The next day found us in Howth, a coastal town only thirty minutes from the city. We made a great hike out of the trip and I definitely felt a little longing for home. I miss the water!

We also visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a monument not only to St. Patrick but also to Jonathan Swift–Irish satirist extraordinaire and author of A Modest Proposal.

Next up was London- I’ll put that in the next post!


The World’s Largest Film Festival

I feel like one lucky kid;

By some happenstance my time Berlin overlapped perfectly with the Berlinale Internationale Filmfestspiele. It’s the world’s most attended festival, with near to 400 films screening and hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The advertising for the fest was eye-catching to say the least; the city’s icon and animal on it’s coat-of-arms is the bear. With relatively inexpensive (though sometimes hard-to-get) tickets, the Festival is open to all levels of the public.

All in all I ended up catching four films; two with my Contemporary European Cinema class: Je ne suis pas mort and  Ze Marksa… and two on my own: …Moddhikhane Char and Side Effects.




I saw the first two films at the Cubixx theater near Alexanderplatz; nothing too special except that it’s built vertically and our theater was on perhaps the equivalent of the sixth or seventh story; it was also tremendously large with gorgeous, comfortable seats. €3.95 will get you either a water or a beer, Hello Germany.

Char I saw at the Delphi Filmpalast near Zoologischer Garten- it’s old and beautiful. The last film, Side Effects, I caught at Friedrichstadt-Palast. It’s a gigantic, state-of-the-art 1,900 seat theater with the largest stage in the world at 2,854 square meters of performing space. Furthermore, the projection equipment is supposed to be the best available, and I think it’s one of the most beautiful projections I’ve ever seen. Jaw dropping stats aside, the movie was great.


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