It was two years ago today that I left Campo, so I thought this would be a good time to wrap this blog up. Since I’ve been home, I’ve had time to edit my posts. When I was hiking I was pressed for time and posting from my little phone, so I’ve gone back and fixed all the typos and auto-corrects. For you English teachers out there, just know that I took freedom with my syntax on purpose. I write a lot of scientific and legal documents, so this is a nice opportunity to just write.
I also fattened up my blog entries with things I still remember, that I left out the first time. I tried not to edit the original posts (other than typos/syntax). I didn’t delete some of the things I’m a little embarrassed about. I just added content. It might be 50% longer now, and a better read, if anyone wants to read it again. Mostly me. This blog has been a great gift to me.
If you’re planning a thru-hike, plan to do a blog, even if you don’t make it public. It’s a great way to have your journal and your photos all in one place.
I will still probably make small edits (like it’s 1900 on April 6th as I write this. Why does it say posted on April 7?). I found some photos to add, I’ll add those in the next few days. Maybe I’ll never stop editing it. But other than some extra photos, you probably won’t notice the changes. I think it’s pretty complete. I may even learn how to make this site easier to navigate, but until then, if you want to go back or jump to a spot on the trip, go here:
But, before I go, I wanted to share my post-trail thoughts.
Naturally, the big question is: Am I really done? Will I go back and pick up where I left off and hike to Canada? Section-hike it a little at a time until I complete the whole trail? Go back and start over again from Campo? Honestly, I just don’t know. I have no plans.
Hiking the PCT is so… extreme. It’s a very long time to be away from home. Most of that time you’re outdoors in whatever weather is happening at the time, and this often leads to discomfort. No bed. Crappy food. And it beats you up physically pretty good.
And yet, I love being outside in Nature. The beautiful views, the fresh scents. Being out among all the other living things and away from humans and their garbage and ugly landscape they built. I sleep great in the woods without a bed. It’s good to work my body and get good and tired.
But the PCT is so much more than that. It’s a huge Adventure! Just saying, “Hike from Mexico to Canada” is enough to blow most people’s mind. You know it’s going to take around six months, so you head out from the Mexican border on this six-month adventure… and then you’re just out there. On the trail. And it’s a magical place to be!
You have a very clear mission every day for the next six months. Walk as far as you can north. It’s simple, and you can make progress with every footstep. Of course, you can’t just get up and walk to Canada, you have to stop for lots of reasons (sleep, eat, rest, resupply). In fact, you can stop anytime you want, for as long as you want, anywhere you want.
Therein lies the bliss. The freedom. The joy of having a purpose, which you are constantly making progress on, but you can take it at your own speed. Feeling tired and want to take it slow? Go for it. Feeling like you want to get to town and decide to hike as fast as you can? Why not? You can baby yourself, push yourself, linger at a nice place, or see how far you can go. It really is a special place, that strip of dirt out there so innocently.
And again, the Adventure is EPIC. Standing out in the wilderness on some ridge with a nice view has a different look when you’ve walked there from hundreds of miles away and have hundreds of miles yet to go. It has left a mark on me, and I think about it every day.
I’ve noticed this winter that cold really reminds me of the trail. Wind reminds me of the trail. Walking anywhere makes me think of the trail. And pretty much anytime I look at the sky. Day or night, clear or cloudy, looking at the sky reminds me of the PCT. So, no big thing. That hardly ever happens, right?
Which has led me to my new hobby, trying to cultivate that feeling that I got on the trail, at other times when I’m outside. I like to sit on the porch and watch the clouds. Sometimes they’re really beautiful and I know if I was out on the trail I’d probably take a picture. So, why should the fact that I’m at home and there’s no majestic mountain to frame it prevent me from appreciating how beautiful this planet is in the same way? It’s a state of mind, a perspective. It comes naturally in the wilderness. It’s much harder in town, but sometimes I can get there, and I like to think I’m getting better at it.
After two years, I am happy to report that I feel a much greater sense of accomplishment than I did when I had to leave the trail without even hiking all of California. But it’s true I hiked 1200 miles in three months! And there is no doubt I had to get off the trail. I got the splinter in June 2015 and I would say it still bothered me until April or May 2016. It was a serious injury. I have a nice scar. So, excluding the part that was out of my control, how did I do with the part I could control? I think I rocked it pretty hard.
I certainly feel more confident about my abilities: physically, socially, mentally. It’s a really huge thing to leave your life and head out on an adventure through the wilderness and a bunch of strange places. It gives me confidence that I can accomplish quite a bit if I really put my mind to it. Maybe I need to think bigger about the future? My mother said that I can be lazy, but I always rise to the occasion. Maybe I need to plan more occasions that need to be risen to?
Did I “find myself” on the trail. I guess not really, but I learned a lot about myself, even at my advanced age. For instance, I learned to ask for help. I’m weird about being self-contained, ready for anything, don’t-help-me-I-got-this. On the trail I learned that if you need help, the fastest way to get it is to walk up to the first person you see and tell them what you need. This lesson was reinforced when I got home and was working on the fires. Don’t be shy if you need help!
So, I’m feeling good about my PCT experience. I’m really glad I did it. No Regrets! I’m glad I went alone and hiked my own hike, which was more solitary than most. Other than the Canada thing, I got what I wanted.
Thanks to everyone who followed along, especially those of you who posted comments. It’s was a big morale booster out on the trail.
My Dad wants to go backpacking again this summer and we will be hiking close to home here in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. It’ll just be a fun, easy, out and back. If we feel good and hike far, I hope to make it all the way to Marble Mountain and camp at Sky High Lakes, which would mean I could hike ¼ mile or so of PCT I haven’t been on. How’s that for a section hike!
I guess I’m at a loss for words to explain what really happened to me out there. But it definitely was a good thing. One of those experiences you never forget. I have trail dreams frequently, especially if I read a few of my blog posts before bed. I didn’t make it to Canada, but looking back at my early post about my goals, I got close enough. Good times.