Let’s go for a hike! Seems innocent enough right? Except when this discussion between my friend, Blender, and I began, it was no simple out-n-back or loop trail we were talking about. We wanted to walk in the woods, take the trail less travelled by, and live by all the cheesy John Muir quotes that were plastered on our Pinterest boards. We were talking about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a 2,650 mile long-distance hiking trail from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, spanning California, Oregon, and Washington. Blender and I grew up together in a small town in Northern California, and after college came and went we were both searching for something more.
We touched the Mexican border, exactly a year ago on April 12th, ready to begin our journey. But we weren’t alone. In all the excitement of planning, Tumbleweed (my Dad) caught the adventure bug and so in true father-like fashion, he invited himself and his girlfriend, Fable, on our grand journey. With wide eyes, we all set out with a common goal, but all for differing reasons. Every thru-hiker has their own motive to be on the trail- whether it’s mental or physical, tangible or intangible- they’re out there for a reason. For me, I wanted to feel the ups and downs of life- both physically and mentally. I wanted to break the routine and mundane life I was creating for myself. I needed to see how far I could push myself and what more there was to life. Welcome to my existential crisis.
When writing about the PCT, there are many directions I could go in, be it terrain traversed, amazing people met, hard days or good days, or simply the gear I carried. I’ll start with the fact that my expectations of the trail did not match the reality. It became something I could have never comprehended before I began. With my hiker legs gone and my Altra Lone Peak footprints long washed away, the only accord I hold with the trail is in my mind. Maybe with the exception of my trail name, Compass, etched into trail logs, but even those will soon be taken out and replaced with a new year of thru-hikers. So the trail is what I hold in my spirit, it’s the memories that I’m blessed to share, it’s…
Blender and I at the highest point on trail in the Sierras, Forester Pass elevation 13,200 feet.
...Every morning taking down your tent, packing up all your belongings, and heading in the same direction as yesterday (hopefully). It’s wearing the same clothes, everyday after not having bathed in at least a week and hiking 20 plus miles a day. It’s swimming in all the lakes and rivers you can. It’s meeting another hiker and not knowing if you’ll see them again, only to end up hiking 800 miles together. It’s eating the same ramen every night, seasoned by your morning oatmeal because you didn’t quite clean out your pot well enough. It’s reaching the 700 mile marker with Tumbleweed, an above-the-knee amputee. It’s sleeping right next to the trail after hiking 50 miles in 24 hours. It’s hitchhiking and ending up at a pool in Palm Springs, eating ribs prepared by two trail angels, complete strangers who take you in and expect nothing in return. It’s annoying your best friend to the point that she walks far enough away to hear you if you’re hurt, but not quite close enough to hear your rambling. It’s the sunrise over Castle Crags. It’s the beauty of the High Sierras as the air thins and you’re able to feel the power that nature holds and how small you really are. t’s being surrounded by other hikers who all have a common goal and shared experiences.
It’s Tumbleweed, Blender, Fable, and Nest. All who encompass my trail experience and provided me with the support that I needed to simply keep hiking. I cannot express my gratitude towards them enough and how they have impacted my life.
Always stop at the top and take in the beauty of who and what surrounds you. Somewhere in Washington where we were grateful it wasn’t raining.
Left to right: Myself, Tumbleweed, and Fable.
Each one of them is an amazing individual who knows perseverance, ambition, and how to keep hiking even when you really don’t want to. Without them, the PCT would only be a continuous path of trail markers. With them, it is an achievement I am proud to share, a mindful of memories that I cherish, and all the forgotten moments that I long to remember.
Having finished six months ago, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the people I met or how amazing it felt to spend everyday outside. My experience on the PCT brought me to my current position serving as the Nature Study Area Development Coordinator at the Parks Foundation in Reno, Nevada. Helping restore a 219-acre abandoned golf course back into a thriving wetland serves to fuel my connection to nature since completing the PCT.
I hope you embark on a trails challenge of your own this year, whether it’s a mile or two along the Truckee River or 2,650 miles spanning from one country to another.
Maybe I’ll see you on the Continental Divide Trail in 2021.