I couldn’t stop laughing. As soon as I saw the sign for Campo, the small desert town 1 mile North of the Mexico border, I wanted to run. At that point I’d gone 750 miles without a full zero (rest day) so my body and mind made a compromise to finish out the last mile at a “speed walk” pace instead. I wore a big goofy grin on my face. I kept looking back at Grizz (who rejoined me 650 miles ago, after spending some time recovering off trail) and told him I thought I could see the monument. And then I laughed some more.
In case you couldn’t tell already, I’m a bit of an endurance junkie. It’s a dangerous game when you put me in a group of people who thrive on challenging themselves as much as I do.
It all started when we had the idea stuck in our head that we were going to summit Mount Whitney at sunrise on October 1, Toto’s 25th birthday. We slacked a bit in Red’s Meadow and were therefore on a tight schedule for our next resupply if we wanted to pull off the sunrise summit. We hiked the 8ish miles off trail over Kearsarge Pass and focused our energy on a fast resupply in town. We had an easy ride into Independence, quick dinner at Subway, the only reastuarant in town, and a swift gathering of 5 days of food for the next section. We even secured a ride from a retiree who loved driving PCT hikers up and down the mountain.
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.
I recently passed the midpoint of the Pacific Crest Trail. ~1,325 miles walked. It’s hard to comprehend that number or the idea of being halfway to Mexico. I’m so used to breaking the trail down into the next section, the next day, or the next water source. The end goal is often on my mind, but not in terms of miles.
Toto, Grizz, and I woke up at 530 and were on trail by 6. I was tired and achy. The last week and a half we started uping our milage..20, 30, 34,30,26,4,rest,17, 27..and now we just had 1.67 miles to get to Timberline Lodge for the most anticipated breakfast buffet in all of our lives. The thought of food woke me up quickly. The crisp morning air felt refreshing. The sunrise sending hues of pink over Mt. Hood reminded me why I was out here.
As I lay here, a mere 4 miles from the Colombia River Gorge anticipating my early morning crossing of the Bridge of Gods into Oregon, I reflect upon this last month.
“So what do you do if you slip?” Randy quizzed me as we stood before one of the longer snow fields I’ve crossed. Earlier that day, we were leap frogging back and forth and at some point he decided to hang with me and share some of his 40+ years of mountain wisdom .
“You’re telling me you did a 180 mile cross country ski race in Alaska in the winter and didn’t even carry a shelter or sleeping bag?” I asked in awe as Keith held his smart water bottle under a stream of fresh snow melt and took a sip.
-My eyes snapped open to the sound of a large mass crashing down the mountain with no regard to the brush in its path. It made a loud moan, almost resembling a squealing pig, but deeper. It sounded close, definitely within the campsite area. That moan again. It sounded frustrated, angry. “Is that really a bear?” was all I could think as lay in my tarp. Continue reading
“This exam is pass/fail. In order to begin an attempt of a full southbound thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, you must pass. There are no rules, just one task. You must complete the task to pass. There is no time limit. You may use any resources available to you.
The task: Get to the U.S./ Canada border, the start of the PCT.
You may begin” – I imagine myself anouncing in my authoritative teacher voice. Continue reading