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A Journey on the Pacific Crest Trail with Sean Jansen

Sean Jansen is a rare human being who delights in the most amazing and intimidating of experiences. From driving solo to the further outreaches of desolate Baja coastlines to braving Northern California’s frigid large surf, to taking off for years on end to travel the world, he’s always got an adventure up his sleeve–which is why I didn’t flinch when he told me about trekking the ENTIRE  Pacific Crest Trail.

Born and raised in San Clemente, California, Jansen grew up surfing San Clemente’s wide variety of waves and absorbing the beach culture lifestyle. He currently enjoys chilly surf breaks, incredible nature preserves and a solid Eel River IPA about 950 miles north of his hometown in Humboldt county. Since a Lower Trestles session in 2010, he’s been a good friend of mine and has continually motivated me to surf harder, go outside of the proverbial orange bubble and enjoy nature.

According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, this infamous PCT stretches 2,650.10 miles from Mexico to Canada. PCT spans across mountain ranges, valleys, deeps forests and deserts–a photog’s dream for pictures a-la National Geographic.

To no surprise, Jansen hiked 131.06 miles beyond the calculated amount: 2,781.16 miles.

I recently caught up with Jansen about his hiking journey of epic proportions:

1.) What made you want to hike the entire PCT?

It was kind of like a culmination of a bunch of things.

I was living with my parents in Montana and was working construction saving every single penny. Within three months, I had saved several thousand dollars saved and had the option to go travel again, but I was kind of bored of traveling, as weird as that sounds. I wanted to do something different. A friend posted on Facebook that he was going to hike the PCT and that kind of re-invigorated my desire to want to hike.

I think it was just going to be an awesome thing that would further push my career to a higher level as a photographer and journalist. I can only imagine the images I would be able to capture if I were to be in nature every single day while experiencing the beauty the Lord has blessed us with on this planet. I think that’s the number one reason—just to get away from everything and go experience nature out there beyond highways, beyond jet planes–beauty that your own two feet can show you.

It’s your own will power to see the beauty that I’ve seen and that’s probably the number one reason.

 

2.) How did you mentally and physically prepare for this journey?

Mental preparation was really bad, I didn’t mentally prepare at all. My cousin decided to give us a ride to the southern terminus, which was only a 2 hour drive from San Clemente. My friend was getting all giddy in the car saying “Can you believe we’re about to do this?” and I’m just like “No, not really.”

It’s not that I wasn’t excited, I just wasn’t overwhelmed by the emotions of 90 percent of the people. It wasn’t until I woke up one morning on the trail and was like “Holy crap, this is actually happening.” And after I hiked the first 10-100 miles, that’s when it was really setting in. I  was realizing that I’m really out there and really doing this to see what I can really do.

The whole purpose of the trail was for me to learn every ounce I could learn about myself and the trail.  The mental and physical preparation was all a giant learning process. I would never change it to this day.

 

3.) What were some challenges you faced? Biggest challenge?

Every day was a challenge, mentally and physically. The trail was a challenge, because it changes every single day. You go from the desert, to the mountains, back to the desert, through snow, rain and wind.

You have to face challenges with other hikers–whether you accidentally fall in love with someone within the first week and you broke up with them and you have to keep seeing them. There were challenges dealing with friends that you got to know really well, but they decided they wanted to hike faster and took off and you never saw them again.

In every way you can think, there was a challenge. I kept saying the number one word of the trail was “change.” Everything about the trail and you changes with every step you take. You change personally, physically and the trail changes–so I can’t really pinpoint a challenge.

As photographer, I had to take off my backpack, pull out my camera (which weighed a couple of extra pounds), and put the camera back in the bag while everyone walks on. The photography aspect was my biggest challenge because:

1.) You’re carrying more weight and     2.) You have to get really creative. ……It’s exhausting, but it was worth it.

 

4.) Any close encounters with wildlife?
Yes absolutely—but I was never nervous or uncomfortable. You would hear stories about people who would have terrible encounters with wildlife—where they got charged at by a bear, for example.

In Oregon, well past dark, we always sleep with food inside of our tent. I literally had a bear scratching at my tent where my friend would’ve been. The next morning, there was fresh bear scat around my entire tent.

In Oregon and Washington, we would always hear Elk bugles ferociously close. That was probably the scariest of what we came across on the whole trail because once we got to Oregon and Washington, it was during their mating season and they’re notoriously territorial and aggressive.

 

5.) What supplies were you carrying along the way?

Beyond the fact that I’m a photographer and a fly-fisherman—I had a 65 liter backpack, which was overkill. It was way too big, which was a little surprising for what people think. One of my biggest concerns, before I started the trail, was where I was going to get water every day. So what you find out on the trail, was at least once a week, sometimes a little longer, you would get a re-supply of food because you would come across a highway or town.

In a typical backpack, you would carry food, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothing, a lighter, cooking gear among other stuff.  The average pack weighed without food or water was about 20 pounds. Some of us even carried solar panels on our backpacks to charge our gear. I had my camera gear and two batteries, one lens, a couple of filters and a tripod, which was an additional 7 pounds.

At my heaviest point, which was in the desert section where I carried 8 liters of water, my pack weight about 70 pounds. But as I drank water and ate food, my pack became lighter each day. Everyone else was in the 45-50 pound range.

 

6.) Any special secret spots you can talk about?

In the big bear area, there was this section of trail called the Deep Creek and a lot of us liked this because there was a hot spring. I followed a day hiker to a cliff jump spot, which was 200 yards off trail and I just ended up spending a day and a half there doing nothing but cliff jumping in 90 degree heat.

There was also lake with a waterfall along the John Muir trail section of the PCT that looked it was in either Tahiti or New Zealand—like it didn’t belong in California.

 

7.) What was your most memorable moment?

Of course, when you walk towards that northern terminus, seeing the border of Canada after hiking for 180 days straight—that is something I will never ever forget along with the people I did it with. I will never forget that.

It’s really just the small moments that create a giant memory. It changes your life, I get emotional thinking about it. There are so many small memories that create this giant pandemonium moment.

 

 

 

8.) How did your feet feel at the end of the journey?

As far as feet goes, the beginning section was rough because of the blisters and the new stage your feet are going to get into, then towards the latter section of the trail is where injuries occurred. I probably took a week off total.

The first month, every single day, I was popping blisters and covering them up with some sort of bandage. Towards the middle stage of the trail, I was fine, but towards the latter session of the trail, I started getting plantar fasciitis in Oregon—where the muscles in your feet just don’t want to work and you can’t bend your toes. It was very painful, but with a couple of days rest, ice and Ibuprofen, I was fine…and whiskey helps.

 

 

 

9.) Any epic life lessons you want to share?

Photo Courtesy: Sean Jansen

In retrospect, it’s really funny. I’m a total weirdo and I connected with every single human on that trail and all of us were weirdos, which worked out. We just didn’t care what people thought of us or about how bad we smelled in public. It was a huge life-changing opportunity, especially being from San Clemente, where in high school, image was everything. The whole trail was a life lesson, appreciation of everything—nature, yourself, other people around you.

10.) Do you foresee more long-distance hiking in the near future?

A lot more. In 2017, I’m going to do the Appalachian trail, which goes from Georgia to Maine.

In 2018 I’m hoping to hike the Continental Divide trail, which goes from Mexico to Canada. There’s a trail in Europe that goes from France to the Czech Republic. There’s definitely one in New Zealand that goes the entire span of the country.

Hiking is 100% part of my life now. Slow and steady is the best way to see the Earth.

Photo Courtesy: Sean Jansen

Check out more of Jansen’s PCT photos as well as tons of amazing surf, nature and travel pictures.

Boys will be Boys: Six Tips for Surfer Girls Traveling with Surfer Boys

It’s common knowledge that the mass majority of surfers in the lineup are guys. Okay ladies, let’s face it: the likelihood of an all-girls surf trip to Mexico is pretty slim. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve traveled to Mexico by myself, survived and loved it, however, not many of my surfer girlfriends are as eager to hop the border and rough it to find perfect un-crowded waves. Call me ‘crazy’ for going to Mexico by myself on my first excursion, call me ‘insane’ for the second trip with a bunch of boys. I don’t care. My end results were fun times with no regrets.

Testosterone is everywhere on a guys trip and every once in a while, they might think you’re cool enough to include in their boys club, but I don’t blame you if you re-consider and decide to wait until Mexico’s drug war has ended and kidnappings are at an all-time low.
But if you’re as impatient as I was and pale at the thought of empty points breaking without you, here are few tips about traveling with the boys:

1.) Let them be Boys
You are on this trip to surf and surf some more. They are on this trip to do the same along with all the beer guzzling contests, dirty jokes, burps and farts intact. Deal with it. Bodily functions are a-plenty, so if you have a weak stomach, perhaps you shouldn’t have gone on this trip. Bring a nose plug.

2.) Bring a good book or a pair of headphones.

Get ready for hair metal mixes, mass drunken sing-a-longs to a garden variety of rap songs, dirty jokes you didn’t know existed and fart smells that will fry your nose hair. Think I’m kidding? Think again, chica. But don’t be bitter, this is a boy’s trip and you’re, well, the minority. It doesn’t hurt to occasionally force-feed a little Cyndie Lauper down their throats, either. You would be surprised by the music middle ground you can reach with a group of guys. Who knows? There might be a closet Taylor Swift fan among the group.
But there are times when those dirty jokes or fart noises can get out of hand. Tired of hearing Metallica’s ‘Creeping Death’ for the 10 millionth time? Remember to come prepared with your head gear equipped with your favorite tunes.

3.) Know Your Limits and Plan Back-Up Activities
If you don’t want to stay up for that third keg of beer or you’d rather not surf the spot swarming with seals, let your guy friends be their gnarly testosterone selves. Go for a hike, surf a different spot or take some ‘you’ time. After all, traveling with all boys might make you forget that you are, in fact, a girl. Celebrate all that is feminine while they hunt for bone-crushing barrels that break in inch-deep water. But if you can hang, go for it! You will only command more respect among the Y-chromosomed. Just try not to emasculate them in the process. But, know your own limits so they don’t have to cut the trip short due to your cute cocky self scoring a broken limb or head injury instead of a sick drainer.

4.) Stroke Their, um, Ego
Despite the over-stated machismo image stereotyped for surfer boys, there is a secret sensitive Sally whose feelings and ego can get hurt. Guys aren’t made of stone, so always stay positive and patient. Make them feel good about their attempt at breakfast or their supposed ‘sense of direction.’ Most of all, compliment their waves. Whether they’re ripping or taking dives over the falls, find something good about that ride. A little ‘yeeww’ goes a long way.

5.) Why Can’t We Be Friends?
If you intend to hook up with one of the guys, stay home. Putting that dynamic into the mix can add an awkward vibe to the trip and tends to create jealousy or resentment among fellow compadres. Be cool and try not to cloud a male bonding experience with your cute, um, assets. Keep your pants on. If sparks fly, try to wait until you’re in familiar territory. Besides, I bet he will respect you that much more if you play a little hard-to-get and show him that he’s not the center of your universe…for now.

6.) Laugh
Perhaps the most important point of all: laughter is key. Yeah, boys can be gross, smelly and downright annoying, but really, just laugh. Don’t deny it, your inner tomboy busted with laughter when your buddy chugged four Tecates then proudly belched his A-B-C’s. Unless you’re sitting in the U.S./Mexico border traffic, the ipod’s gone stale and your buddy continues to drink until he unwittingly trades his passport for more tequila which consequently shoves you’re crew into the secondary line, let it fly. Besides, I’m guessing if you’ve made it to the end of this article, you probably aren’t 100 percent girly-girl, anyway. Ain’t no smirking and mouthing ‘what an idiot’ to a home girl who’s not there! Laugh it off.

Just a Quickie to Mexico

South-bound feels so good to hashtag…post…Tweet…or vocalize…whatever your communication fancy, tell it to the world, be stoked and unplug, if only for a day.

A couple of friends and I crossed the U.S./Mexico border for a couple of days and had the time of our lives, san distractions. Some times it is SO necessary to shut off the noise from everyday life and seek out another adventure that’s beyond a desk, phone or face-to-face.

Mexico’s great for that.

I CONFESS: I’ve got that old familiar itch and I intend to scratch it.


 

Good friends=Good times

Good friends=Good times

 

Raw (and yummy) Chocolate Avocado Pie

Avocado--The beginning of a very chocolaty relationship.

Avocado–The beginning of a very chocolaty relationship.

Ok, I know what most of you are probably thinking…

“Umm chocolate-avocado-what?”

And that’s okay because I thought the same thing when I discovered this tasty treat while casually browsing the menu at the Pura Vida health food store in Todos Santos, Baja.

Chocolate and avocados…What a concept, I thought.

Almost a pie...

Almost a pie…

After I got home, the pie haunted my curiosity and eventually, I found the time to give it a go just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Disclaimer: Don’t ask about the calories. Between the nuts and avos, this might not be the best thing to include in any sort of weight loss plan.

Going ‘raw’ was never a big deal to me, I just wanted to try this recipe because it looked easy and sounded delicious. Just be sure you have a food processor or similar culinary equipment and stagger the amount you process so as not to overwhelm your equipment…unless you’re a fancy pants and have a Magic Bullet.

So I confess…this is not my original recipe..I found the recipe here. Thank you, Food Network!! A few adjustments were made for my own preferences, but it is essentially not O.G. status. Happy “baking”/”rawing” …no?

>Crust<

  • 2 cups almonds (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed),
  • 2 cups unsulphured dates (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed),
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes *I added for texture preference*

>Mousse Filling<

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 4 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 3 tablespoons raw agave nectar (or substitute with honey—I am a honey junkie!!)
  • 2 tablespoons organic coconut oil (blend it as it is in solid form)
  • A splash of almond milk (or your preference)

For the crust: Blend ingredients  in a food processor until they are sticky. Use a wet hand to press the mixture into the base of a 9 or 10 ” pie pan…however, this recipe made more than enough pie crust…in fact, I made two pies out of the deal! So double the mousse if you want to make two pies! (sharing is caring, right?)

For the mousse filling: Seed and scoop out avocado into the food processor. Add cacao powder, agave nectar, coconut oil and almond milk. Spoon avocado mixture onto the crust and spread it evenly. Top with fresh berries and whatnot. Put in the freezer for 30 minutes before serving (I find it needs a smidge longer because the sticky crust needs more time to solidify). Store in fridge to maintain a decent consistency. Enjoy!!

Finito! The finished product!

Finito! The finished product!

Amazing Baja…Round Two

That’s right.

Only a day after I flew back from Cabo/Baja Sur, a couple of buddies and I turned right back around at 4 a.m. on New Year’s Eve to score more epic surf sessions somewhere VERY south of the U.S./Mexico border.

This time we took a very well-endowed truck and ended up in one of the most desolate areas in the western hemisphere. Nothing for miles, not even a single person in sight.

I'm SO not telling...

I’m SO not telling…

I’m not going to elaborate too much, as there are a few article possibilities in the works. I did, however, create an extremely cheesy but fun video about my trip.

You can watch it here.

Baja Sur, solo

The sky exploded with color on my birthday, Dec. 27, 2012.

The sky exploded with color on my birthday, Dec. 27, 2012.

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, had their apprehensions about my solo trip to the small town of Pescadero in Baja Sur, Mexico.

I heard it all:

You’re gonna get lost.” (Most realistic)

You’re gonna end up in a body bag.” (Really?)

You’re gonna get hacked up into small pieces and end up in a body bag buried in the middle of the desert.” (My personal favorite)

“You should write a will.” (Nice.)

Though my family and friends were adamantly turning my vacation into another sequel of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I refused to succumb to fear. In fact when they said these things, I only wanted to prove them wrong that much more. Though I really appreciated the legitimate concern, I didn’t want to change my schedule to nice “safe” Hawaii, nor compromise any part of my plan, especially after I was told I’d end up in a body bag.

This was going to happen. Screw fear.

Ready to G-O!

Ready to G-O!

Aside from 90 percent of my surfing done alone, I’ve camped for five days along the Big Sur coastline in 2009 along with another trip to Hawaii in 2007. I was calling this a mild introduction to the wide world/rabbit hole of travel.

Stoked on my birthday sunset!

Stoked birthday girl

   Reality didn’t set in until I stepped off the plane in San Jose del Cabo. Though the terrain looked like a familiar extension of southern California, sans houses and mini-malls, it still felt far away. I did it, I’m here…okay, now what.

Local donkey was a rescue...if you didn't have food, he didn't like you.

Local donkey was a rescue…if you didn’t have food, he didn’t like you.

After marveling at the first stamp in my passport, it occurred to me the next step was to find my rental car, among the flurry of time shares and vacation package sales reps salivating at the airport’s exit…Then and finally, onto Pescadero off highway 19…where ever that was.

It was Christmas Eve and I thought I had a rental car. Not so.

Despite the fact that I booked with the ironically named Advantage rental cars online, they said they did not have me on their reservation list. <Insert obvious ‘Advantage’ knee-slapper pun here.>

After an hour of crocodile tears and shameless claims for refunds, they rented me a car for a pretty penny. Several hurried signatures and multiple broad maps later, I jumped into my car as fast as I could. They told me to take the road through Cabo San Lucas and turn right at a bull ring. Some guy smoking pot told me to take the toll road, but my mind was made up. I sped through the early evening dust to find highway 19 before the sun set. And the sun did set…right as I became thoroughly lost in Cabo San Lucas.

Should’ve listened to the pothead.

In the states, you get at least a three mile warning before you find your turn-off. In Mexico signs (including stop signs) do not matter. They might appear or they might not. This was evident as I almost t-boned a city bus while driving thru a very non-Americanized area of Cabo in the dark on Christmas Eve.

I ran into back alley dead-ends and skidded around random scurrying dogs. Hertz’s bright yellow emblem burned like Harry Potter’s Voldemort scar on the back of my rental’s trunk while sets of eyes followed my blonde noggin and pasty complexion. Anxiety balled up in the back of my throat and for a second, I considered the possibility of spending the night in my car on the side of the road.

After asking “Donde esta highway 19?” over and over to various convenient store clerks, random passerbys and gas station attendants, I eventually found my highway.  Taking a deep breath, I stared at my only company, my borrowed surfboard bag, which was propped up in the passenger seat before speeding off into the dark desert. If surfboard bags could talk, this one might know what to say as it’s seen many destinations, such as India and South America, thanks to my well-traveled buddy Sean’s severe travel bug.

Sand crabs galore.

Sand crabs galore.

Half way through, I thought. I’m almost there, I can do this.

Outside of Cabo, there are no lights for anything except the Pemex gas stations. Darkness surrounded me while semis barreled past me, my eyes peeled for km 64 and a Pemex station.  Despite these set-backs, my faith never faltered. I knew everything was going to be alright.

The point on Christmas day, 2012.

The point on Christmas day, 2012.

I could hear Sean echoing in the back of my mind:

“Accept the fact that you’re going to get lost, Jackie,” he said as we carefully mapped out every step of my route the night before. “It’s just part of traveling. Besides, it’s not an adventure until you get lost.”

This was the mellow part of the road to my hotel...however, you don't need  four-wheel drive.

This was the mellow part of the road to my hotel…however, you don’t need four-wheel drive.

Eventually I found my way to the hotel through a couple of drunk local surfers who led me down a dark dirt road. At this point, my dwindling faith hung by a thread, the only legitimate sign about these locals was the wave drawn in the dust that caked their truck’s rear window. Nevertheless, they guided me and didn’t hesitate to invite me for drinks.

“No, gracias,” was my immediate response.

“There’s going to be waves tomorrow! Come surf Cerritos, chicaaa!” they chimmed while hanging out the truck windows.

 Sean was almost as worried as my parents and demanded some form of contact when I arrived. His was the only number I wrote on paper for an emergency (my cell phone was null-and-void for multiple reasons). If there was ever an emergency, I knew he could be down there faster than any government agency. He knew exactly where I was and said if I didn’t contact him in 48 hours, he’d start driving. And he was serious. So, in order not to ruin his family’s holiday, I managed to call him via a nice San Diego couple’s cell phone laughing about the experience thus far.

After thanking God multiple times, my tension finally eased as I fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves that pounded the shore outside of my casita at the San Pedrito Surf Hotel.

Christmas morning at the San Pedrito Surf Hotel, Dec. 25, 2012.

Christmas morning at the San Pedrito Surf Hotel, Dec. 25, 2012.

Five days solo in Baja Surbring it on.

Merry Christmas, Yakie. Lights out.

As dawn crept over the mountains, I woke up to a chilly off-shore breeze. It was Christmas day and the point was well overhead. Surfers arrived in droves with longboards, shortboards, fish and SUPs. Though it was quite the crowded spot, I didn’t mind. The water was clear and 77 degrees with off-shore breezes combing the swell. With my board underarm, I plunged into the ocean to commence my vacation. The swell did not dip below shoulder high in my short five day trip.

I quickly made friends with locals, ex-pats and fellow travelers in the water.

My breakfast on Christmas day...hit the spot after a surf.

My breakfast on Christmas day…hit the spot after a surf.

Two days after Christmas came my birthday and I decided to surf Cerritos, a peaky sandy beach break. While surfing, I met two sweet fellows, Robert and Michael—brothers from Northern California— who immediately adopted me as their own. They did not hesitate to share their fresh food and tequila with me as well as take me on a tour of Todos Santos, a cute artsy town that sits right on the Tropic of Capricorn.

HA- how ironic…I meet a bunch of Capricorns locals around my very Cap. birthday. And we partied on the Tropic of Capricorn.

Belazul Swimwear fashion show, Dec. 27, 2012.

Belazul Swimwear fashion show, Dec. 27, 2012.

That evening we all returned to Todos Santos to check out one of the premier events, the annual fashion show, featuring local bikini line Belazul Swimwear fashioned by Todos Santos local chica, Joella Corado. Her husband, Kurtis, gave me a heads up about the show the day before, so when I announced my plans to my new-found friends, they quickly obliged to join.

My friends from Northern California: Robert and Mike and the best scallop and mango salsa creation with watermelon/tequilla.

Robert and Mike and the best scallop and mango salsa creation with watermelon/tequilla.

Between the colorful and tasteful fashion, bikinis and belly dancing and after party with a healthy supply of drinks and dancing, I decided this was the best birthday I could possibly have. And- none was planned. Not to mention an amazing sunset…who could ask for more?

My new motto: Plan to make no plans.

The guys and I accidentally left one of the truck windows down during the party…nothing was missing. Either there was a shamrock up my butt or the stereotypes are extremely far-fetched…but once outside of Cabo, I never felt unsafe in Baja Sur.

On my last day, a new swell had arrived and the point was firing! All types of people were on it early. However, the water temp did not compensate for the Aussie who shoved me off a wave. After the rude awakening, I made a valiant effort for more waves but soon resolved that reality was waiting for me at the airport and I still had not eaten a fish taco.

Fish Taco/Airport > Crowded Point

And God help me if I missed my flight…my next adventure had me turning right back around days later and crossing the U.S./Mexico border, again, with six boys.

Next Destination: Parts unknown 

Objective: Uncrowded waves

Sean, no doubt, was twiddling his thumbs til I arrived, his bags already packed.

Solo or not, I’ll be back, Baja! Count on it!