Off the beaten trail

Most would concede that eating rattlesnakes and taking baths in lakes are not as appealing for a vacation, as say, the white sands of Bermuda beaches.

For graduate student Dana Gaydos, however, the snakes and the lakes were a few of the perks on what she calls “her dream getaway.”

Gaydos, who is working on her master’s degree in marine science at USF St. Petersburg, traveled to the Pacific Crest Trail for two months with just $700.

The trail is similar to the Appalachian Trail except for its West Coast location, which stretches from as far north as Canada to the Mexican border, and is about 2,500 miles long.

Gaydos began the journey with no equipment and little cash.

She would have to make do with just the $700 in her pockets to purchase plane tickets, hiking equipment and supplies for the two-month trip.

Gaydos said she packed just the bare necessities so her bag would not be heavy. After gathering the materials needed for the trip, she was prepared.

“I started from the beginning of California and stopped at Cradle Lake, Ore. I hiked over 500 miles and did it in two months and a week,” Gaydos said.

Holly Regar, a hydro-geologist and co-worker of Gaydos, also hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.

Regar, who was raised along the Appalachian Trail, said the Pacific Crest wasn’t something she was used to because she lives in Florida now.

“The elevation (was rough). I wasn’t used to being away from Florida, and I didn’t really know about it until I got there,” Regar said.

Money was tight, Gaydos said, so it took some creative thinking when it came to eating.

“What you could do to get food is buy it in a little town along the way. We did not do this because the little towns are so expensive, and they rip you off. I didn’t have that much money at the time because I just graduated from college and I didn’t have a job. I was on a tight budget,” she said. “We planned out our trip and we made packages of food and sent it to the different post offices in each town, and we had to figure out how many days it is going to take you to get to the next town.”

Gaydos said the plan was tedious because if she over packed there would be extra weight in the bags. However, she didn’t want to go hungry.

But when they got hungry, they turned to the rattler, which they cooked over a fire and ate.

They also had to bathe in the lakes. “If you take a shower every day, your body and hair produces a lot of oil, you’re replenishing it, and you take it out every time you wash yourself. So, after about three weeks of taking a shower every once and awhile, your body and hair does not produce the massive amount of oil that it usually does.”

Hiking along the trail had its moments and memories with the wild life, Gaydos said.

“One time, in the middle of the night … I was sleeping. And when you sleep in the summertime outside, you sweat. Well, I woke up because something was touching me; a deer was licking all over my shirt. It was crazy. Even when I jumped up, it ran away, but it still stayed really close and I could see his shiny eyes staring at me,” Gaydos said.

Gaydos said she met many people, including some who would make dinner for them and even take them on other excursions with boats on the rivers that they hiked by.