My mentality about achieving the seemingly impossible goal of walking from Canada to Mexico is hard to describe. Sometimes I feel invincible, like nothing could ever stop me from getting there. Other times I feel like there is no way my body will possibly allow me to put it through one more day of this. I hear about people I met on trail who have quit. I tell myself that it would take a debilitating injury or extreme family emergency to stop me from finishing. Until recently I was just as certain that Grizz, Toto, and Colonel (my trail family) would be right there with me until the end.
It was 4pm when I stopped for water half way up a mountain that was going on forever. I’d been hiking solo for the past few days trying to catch up with Grizz and Toto after I took a few days off to visit with family. I usually have an “airplane mode only” rule while on trail, but I was missing those guys so I decided to turn on my service to see if they’d sent any messages. Unfortunately they had. “Grizz’s lung collapsed. We’re at the hospital. Call me asap.” I called Toto. I felt so helpless knowing I was still 41 miles from the closest town. I told him I’d be there tomorrow. As soon as I hung up the phone I gunned it. I had a huge distance to cover if I wanted to make it to town plus find a ride to the hospital 1.5 hours away from the trail by the next day.
I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was angry this happened to him. I was scared it meant he wouldn’t be able to continue hiking. I was also paranoid about mountain lions in this particular area, to make my situation even more frantic.
The 3 days spent at the hospital were not easy for me. I’ve grown to hate hospitals ever since my brother’s been in and out of them for the past 3 years. The smell. The sick people. The arrogant surgeons. The sweet nurses who try. The horrible ones that don’t. It’s all too familiar to me.
The hardest part though was watching Grizz’s dream slowly slip away. It was so hard for me to watch because our dream was the same. Him and I had hiked at least 1000 miles and 2 months together. We had the same ambition, the same goal. He was there with me through the highs and the lows. I was absolutely certain that if anyone could complete a southbound hike of the PCT, it was Grizz.
I started this trip solo. I imagined I’d hike with people some, but I never imagined I’d find someone who I wanted to continue hiking with day in and day out. Grizz is no longer on trail, recovering and prepping for another attempt next year. Toto and I set off after a difficult goodbye. When we got back to Belden, the town we left off at, Colonel, the 4th member of our group, had caught up. It was crazy timing. We all hoped to hike together again, but we were so spread out it seemed unlikely. This incident brought us together and I intend on finishing the hike with them.
The first few days back on trail were tough. I questioned how I’d ever make it to the end. I missed hiking with Grizz. It all felt unfair. But the fresh air, the cold water, the stars, the sunrises and sunsets, the stunning views, the tough climbs and descents slowly took over again. Each day it got easier. I still wish he were hiking with me, but I’m happy and lucky to still be out here. I’m just as determined to complete my goal, if not more.
We’re entering the Sierras now and it’s already snowed on us once. If we can make it through before horrible weather I will feel like this crazy goal is actually attainable. Here’s to a late winter and a long hiking season!
Written September 16