Unexpected turns

Begin and End in Weakness

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.

Breaking the Mundane

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.

Acute Perspectives

July 19 always sneaks up on me, but it always hits me hard. Eight years ago while playing soccer with a half dozen friends a burst of lighting knocked us all to the ground; everyone one rose to their feet except my friend Andrew. Each year, on the anniversary, I ask why everyone but Andrew lived to see another day. Each year my question is met with a deafening silence, but this year was slightly different.

Puddle Water

It was bound to happen while hiking the PCT in a severe drought year; after 1500 miles I was finally forced to filter my drinking water out of a swampy, stagnant pool. For the first 750 miles a water report helped hikes navigate through the arid sections. Hiker updated the water report via email and text message, and anytime the adjective "stagnant" appeared on the water report I planned according and carried extra water.

In Northern California no such water report exists, so I rely on the information found on my trail maps, which is often quite accurate,  but my luck finally ran out.

Defending the Snickers

I eat a candy bar every day. In fact, through the High Sierra I ate two everyday. I typically eat my daily candy bar (which is a Snickers the majority of the time) in the late afternoon as a treat to get over the drowsy afternoon slump. A few days ago I was hiking up a series of switchbacks listening to a podcast called The Trail Show, and I realized I needed my daily pick-me-up. I dug out my Snickers, pulled back the wrapper, and took a few bites as I slowly progressed up the slope. I turned the switchback with my half eaten Snickers in hand when something caught my eye. Thirty yards from the switchback stood a good size black bear.

Within a Year

A year ago today I began my first thru hike. When I started hiking the Colorado Trail I had no idea it would eventually lead me to the Pacific Crest Trail. As I nervously walked up Waterton Canyon I thought about how far off Durango seemed. Little did I know that exactly ten months later I would have the same anxiety as I peered off towards the northern horizon as I stood at the Mexican border.

Saving Christmas on the PCT

I hit the trail early because the wind kept me up most of the night.  I was camped near 9,000 feet on the side of San Jacinto Peak and a couple inches of crusty snow covered the northern slopes. My progress was slow due to the wind and sloppy trail. Within the first mile for the day I heard a startling sound as a tree exploded, sending shards of wood within a few yards of the trail.  I stood a safe distance from the commotion, but if I was walking just a little faster I think I would have had a heart attack. Apparently, the eighteen inch in diameter tree, rotten on the inside, could no longer withstand the wind and so it surrendered to the gust and splintered out about fifteen or so feet from its base. This was just the beginning of my day.