I’ve spent this last week reflecting on 2014 as I make preparations for the coming year. I still find it difficult to wrap my mind around the magnitude of hiking and running 3,132 miles over the course of the last twelve months. Last New Year’s Day, I set out with only one ambitious goal for the year—to successfully thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I invested most of my annual time, money, and energy into fulfilling my goal, and through perseverance and sacrifice my dream became a reality.
I'm branching out. I've shared my story through writing and video, and this week I've made my first podcast debut. Earlier this week I shared my struggles with cerebral palsy and long distance hiking with an organization called The Bucket List Life. I share my story in episode #27, and I've listened to a dozen of the other episodes, which highlight unique individuals who pursue extraordinary life goals. Click the image below to check out the podcast.
Yesterday I wrote a guest blog post for The Might which is a blog geared towards family members and people challenged with disabilities and other medical conditions. This is the first blog I've written as a guest blogger and I hope to continue sharing my story with a wider audience. The blog provides an overview of my PCT hike so for those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning might not read anything new, but I did share a few new pictures.
check out the blog
After months of work, I finally have a video that I'm mostly satisfied with. I hope this video will be the first in a PCT series. Oh, and if you enjoy it please share it with your friends.
Every time I start a journey whether it’s a long distance trail, a new job, or a short film project I never know what the end result will look like, and the unknown terrifies me. I try to be strategic and knowledgeable about everything I take on, but in the end I have to take the final leap of faith and commit.
Lately, I’ve spent a large portion of my time working on a short film about my PCT thru-hike, but this project feels like pulling teeth. The first video will be less than five minutes and I’ve realized trying to tell my four and a half month journey in a handful of minutes is quite the challenge.
I loved my focus. When I left the Mexican board, Canada seemed like a dream, yet my objective was clear. On the first day of my hike, enslaved by the intense sun of Southern California, I decided to stop focusing on Canada and instead focus my efforts on reaching the next town, the next food drop, the next pint of ice cream. The moment I opened my eyes each morning I instantly knew my task for the day. Each day I moved further north towards my dream even though at times Canada felt so distant.
Before I entered into the High Sierra I created a music playlist designed to complement the epic terrain and help propel me through the steep climbs. The playlist (entitled Crushing It) consisted primarily of soundtracks from various movies such as Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, Batman, and Transformers. In the Sierra I came to the realization that the beauty of my surrounds provided ample motivation. Once I reached Northern California, however, the playlist became a great asset. In the sunny, hot afternoons while I hiked through the monotony of the vast forests, my epic playlist helped energize my spirit.
It’s been two weeks since I finished the PCT, and as I reemerge into society I find myself asking the question— now what? For more than four months I primarily focused my attention and energy on reaching Canada, and now I find myself caught in the competing currents of uncertainty. How do I come away from finishing the largest challenge of my life, and reintegrate into the monotony and normalcy of the life I left behind?
Many of the thru hikers on the PCT pick up their pace in the mild terrain of Oregon. In fact, some of the most ambitious hikers attempt to hike all 455 miles of the Oregon section in two weeks which is unofficially called the Oregon Challenge. I’ve heard several different variations of the challenge, but all of the variations entail hiking through Oregon at a fast clip. I didn’t even consider taking on the Oregon Challenge, however, I did set the goal to average 30 miles a day through Oregon.
It's easy to develop a superiority complex as a thru hiker. Once I made it to Washington all the day hikers, weekend backpackers, and section hikers on the trail would congratulate me on hiking as far as I had, and they'd tell me and all the other thru hikers how awesome we were. The more I basked in the light of praise the more prideful I became. Towards the end I began to see myself as an elite superhuman, but life always seems to find a way to humble me.
Forty miles from Canada, just past Glacier Pass, without warning I found myself face down on the trail.
Yesterday I walked into Canada and completed the Pacific Crest Trail. At the monument I signed into the final trail register, the following is my last registry remark:
139 days saturated with moments of joy and sorrow solidify into one unforgettable experience. Cerebral Palsy may have slowed me down, but I persevered. With the support of my friends, family, and fellow hikers I beat the odds and crushed the PCT.
The first mile of the day starts slow as I work out my tense joints and achey muscles. I'm not as energetic as I was just a month or so ago, but I'm pulled through each day by the hope of reaching Canada. My weariness grows, and like weeds along the trail, it chokes the beauty of creativity from fully blossoming, and at the end of the day when I settle into my tent I have no energy to string together thoughts for coherent blog posts. I have many stories to tell but not enough daylight in the day to hike and write. I guess I'll just have to share these stories after I get to Canada.
Hundreds of miles of the PCT wander through forests of dense trees which confine views to limited corridors. In Northern California these vast forests strangle ambition and many hikers leave the trail. It's easy to loose focus in the monotony of the forest, but without warning, beauty breaks through. At times I'm stopped dead in my tracks as light gracefully penetrates the tree canopy and the fading morning vapor. In these experiences I find myself thrown back into the essence of the moment. I forget about Mexico and I stop planning my arrival to Canada, I simply breath it in before I continue my cadence to the north.
I bought carbon fiber trekking poles for my Colorado Trail thru hike for two reasons. I tried to cut as much weight from my gear as possible, and I figured I'd rather carry carbon trekking poles instead of aluminum lighting rods, especially while hiking extended distances high in the San Juan Mountains. After the CT my parents met me in Durango and we backpacked into Chicago Basin to climb several fourteeners. Near the top of Sunlight Peak I cached my poles before scrambling up the final few pitches. When I returned I found marmots had chewed up my wrist straps and handle grips. Apparently marmots enjoy the salt found in sweaty trekking poles. I was bummed at first, but then I realized the marmots were simply helping me cut more weight.
As a kid my dad told me never to be the third hiker in a group. Jokingly, he'd say that a rattlesnake sees the first hiker, takes aim at the second hiker, and strikes the third hiker. As ridiculous as the tale may sound back in Northern California the tale almost became a reality.
Over the past few months, most of the thru hikers have established their daily routine on trail. By now most hikers know how to get the most miles out of each day. I've realized that I have a pretty precise hiking window for each day. I try to be on trail by six in the morning and I shoot to setup camp near seven in the evening. If I hike outside of these hours my performance will inevitably suffer the following day, so I try to make the best out of my thirteen hour hiking window.
This afternoon I hit the 2000 mile marker, and I can't believe I only have 660 miles left. The last few hundred miles have flown by.
Last week the Colorado Springs Gazette published an article about my PCT adventure here's the link if you'd like to check it out.