End of the trail (mile 2650.4-2658.9)
6 September 2016
Day total 8.6
Tally 197.4 miles
Total up/down: +1570/-1875ft
Camp: resort lodge floor and bus to Vancouver
LL: 49.062823, -120.782672
The end of the trail.
I don’t know what that entirely means to me yet. It is hard to put into one sentence the experience of 2658.9 miles and four months of hiking across two summers. These emotions are made more complicated by the suddenness of the trail ending last summer due to forest fires. I am sure I did a better job of conveying those emotions last summer when I was fresh from the trail. This reflection is more about feeling closure with the trail.
I can remember individual days with astounding accuracy from last summer, but I probably cannot tell you what I was doing or who I talked with three weeks ago. But then I feel like in general I can recall details from my other adventures with a higher level of accuracy than I could for the non-adventuring days. To some degree I suspect that relates to my journal-keeping habits for trips that I do not practice in between. But there is also something deeper. I think it has to do with my level of presence during adventures, and the lack there of during the day-to-day rat race. Some might call this mindfulness.
I am definitely guilty of multitasking to the detriment of whatever activity or whosever company I am trying to “enjoy.” I will be the first to admit that I revel in staying busy. That is where I feel most efficient. And anyone who has spent much time with me, even while traveling, will tell you that I have a skill at finding tasks to check off a list. That is just who I am; a list maker. My brain is a chaotic maze of thoughts bursting simultaneously like rice crispies poured onto milk. If I don’t scoop them up right away they become soggy with disinterest and sink to the bottom. This is not to say I am a compulsive person. In fact I tend to think through my actions with exhausting precision. That is how I have found myself feeling in somewhat frozen in motion from having not finished the PCT in 2015.
When I set out from the Mexican border to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I knew I would not stop until I reached Canada. I knew that with such intensity and focus that it never crossed my mind to question its validity. For 2461.6 miles, that goal was my reality. What I did not anticipate was a fire season so bad that several brave firefighters would lose their lives and almost 200 miles of trail would be closed. So on 21 August 2015, my hike was over. I went to Monument 78 at the northern terminus with my hiking companions at the time. I needed that moment to see what I had been pushing for all summer. I also knew that I would not be satisfied if I did not go back to finish.
That closure finally came yesterday, when I arrived at the monument again, about one year later, but this time on foot via the trail. And now it’s all over again. My emotions not yet organized. I feel incredible relief to be done with sadness that it is over, unexplainable gratitude to all the people who helped me along the way, deep love for this amazing trail and the people now in my life from it, humility for accepting my accomplishments while seeing the greater deeds done by others far more generous and adventurous than me, and growing joy that I have more adventures to come.
This trail is over. I hope to someday hike it again, but that will be a new trail. The trail is constantly changing as nature changes, but I too am constantly changing. This experience will always be mine, and from it I will see every future experience in a different light. The best gift is that I know I have accomplished what I set out to do, and now I can move forward, back into motion.