I am grateful for the PCT.
In the first 110 miles of the hike, I have already learned so much about my abilities, my spirit and my values.
I am grateful for the streams that have provided me with water needed to live.
I am grateful for the ever changing scenery and different life forms that appear as I round each bend.
I am grateful for the ability to take “zero” days when my body needs some rest, especially in the midst of terrible weather.
I am grateful for my friends and family, who have been so supportive in so many aspects of the planning and preparation required of me before starting the PCT. Words are not sufficient to express the extent of my gratitude.
I am grateful for the unbelievably warm and welcoming people I have met on trail. Even during brief interactions, the wonder and kindness of our shared experiences and values is evident almost instantaneously. There is a most special energy here that I have never experienced before in my life. (A future post will elaborate on these ideas even further.)
I am grateful for Cheryl Strayed, who helped spark an idea within me about hiking the PCT while reading Wild, and then later helped spark my courage to submit my request for a leave of absence after finishing Tiny Beautiful Things. Words and ideas facilitated through print can have lasting ripple effects without the author ever knowing the full extent of their influence.
I am grateful for Anais Mitchell’s lyrics from Hadestown that have been a comforting and motivating push in my drive to explore new ideas and letting go of perceived barriers.
“You got a lonesome road to walk
And it ain’t along the railroad track
And it ain’t along the black-top tar
You’ve walked a hundred times before
I’ll tell you where the real road lies:
Between your ears, behind your eyes
That is the path to Paradise
Likewise, the road to ruin”
I am grateful for my own sense of adventure. Backpacking has always seemed just out of reach for me. In these first 110 miles, I have discovered that I am instantly a backpacker for life. Fears can dissolve once you confront them head on.
I am grateful for the time my job offers me, which will be most critical in my future attempts to section hike the remaining 2,540 miles of the PCT in the upcoming years. At the time of this publication, I am no longer part of the thru-hiker class of 2020. I arrived back on the East Coast this morning after an emotional few days. Being asked to leave the trail after less than two weeks was not something I anticipated as I took those first steps away from the monument on March 9th. It takes a great deal of planning and organization to uproot one’s life to live with everything on one’s back for nearly six months. The dismantling of those efforts in just a few days is a shock for sure. The abundance of caution that the PCTA asked for was upsetting, but understandable. Even though it was presented as a request, it seemed to me that it would likely become an order soon enough. Yosemite National Park has closed, which the PCT passes through for many miles. I suspect more sections will close in the near future, too. Trail communities provide so much for hikers, and it only made sense to respect their wishes to minimize movement and exposure to the people of those places. “The PCTA asks all those who are already on the trail—as well as those waiting to start—to cancel or postpone your journeys. The choice is no longer only personal, but one of social responsibility. We all must do everything we can to get beyond this pandemic as quickly as possible.”
As we all are experiencing in real time, a global pandemic requires each of us to make adjustments that we might not have foreseen. For me, it became urgent to fly home in case the ability to do so was no longer there in the coming days and weeks.
I am grateful for my cousin, John, who drove into the mountains to “rescue” me and my hiking buddy. With his help, we were both able to access flights to get us back towards our homes, just as the governor of California changed his request to stay at home into an official order. (Thanks, John!)
I am understandably devastated.
The PCT had always been a major part of this vision of a nomadic way of life during my year away from teaching, despite the doubts that I would actually be able to find success in the totality of the hike.
I am grateful for the understanding of my family and friends that I am processing so much right now, and just need some time to myself to figure out how this loss of an experience that means so much to me can be reimagined at some future point in time. Everything seems so uncertain everywhere, and finding clarity is not the easiest of tasks at the current moment.
As I process some of these ideas, other PCT posts will undoubtedly emerge, as well as a few that were already scheduled. As for now, I will use the next few weeks to gather my thoughts. As this year was always envisioned as multi-faceted journey with aspects often competing for my attention, the quietness will be welcomed as I focus entirely on the writing projects that I have been shaping over time.
Being in an airport during this period of time was utterly surreal. I was washing and avoiding, but the nerves are real and high. The time on trail was the safest I could have been, and being thrust back into a populated society is overwhelming in the state of a health emergency. I used my time waiting near my gate to edit and expand on the initial thoughts I typed up in my tent the other morning when everything began unfolding at a rapid pace.
I am fully aware that each of us has had our own world turned upside down in the last week or two. The fear and concern for each other’s safety is more important than anything else at the moment. In the spirit of sharing my PCT experiences, it felt important to discuss its early ending on this platform. The circumstances are simply out of my control. In spite of all of this upheaval, there is one thing that I keep reminding myself of as much as possible: There is still so much to be grateful for in spite of setbacks and changes of any perceived path we might imagine.