How it ends…

Well, I must apologize for my tardiness of this post. “Real life” as most of you know is full of so much goodness that it is hard to organize thoughts. That being said it has taken me awhile to really digest my PCT experience.

When I set out this spring my intended destination was Canada. The only thing I thought would stop me was an injury or running out of funds. Thankfully neither of those happened. However what did happen was this. I found the answers to the questions I was not initially looking for. I found the reasons I set out on this journey for in the first place. I was looking for time to just be in the woods. Time to spend with my own thoughts. I also found that Canada was not where I needed to be to find happiness.

Along the way I saw so much beauty. The stars over the desert, a sunset from the top of a peak, barrel cactus in bloom, tons of wildflowers, all phases of the moon, the view from Mount Whitney, I could go on forever. However the beauty I really sought was that which is found in others.

There is so much kindness in the world. What you see on the news or read about on the web, it is all very depressing. It’s easy to forget about the good. But there is real, actual beauty around us, every day. Strangers who will be kind to you even though your stench is horrible. Total strangers who would stop what they were doing to help you if you needed it. The beauty of the people is what I needed, and it is what I found.

From all the beautiful souls I met along the trail. Your perseverance, smiles, words, and friendship will forever be with me. Tent Stake, Sarah and Roi, Poet, Chad, Katy, Cheetah, Borealis, Coach and First Class, Heatwave, Angles, Slims, Owl, and all the others… you all are amazing souls, I feel so blessed that our paths crossed.

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To those amazing folks who go out of their way to help hikers. Scout and Frodo, Warner Springs Monty, The Sauflys, Ziggy and the Bear, The Anderson’s, and all of those unsung heroes. The food, rides, soda, beer, water, your time… It all made the experience what it was. Amazing. I thank you from the whole of my heart. I also promise to continue to pass on the spirit of the trail, and your kindness to others. We must forever pay it forward.

When I set out on this journey my intent was to hike solo. I knew I would find others to hike with, but my intent was never to be “stuck” with someone else or have them feel they were “stuck” with me.

Poor Arctic, had no chance!

I feel so fortunate to have found a close friend and hiking partner. What are the chances of two people to have so much in common to be in the same gear store that day? Instantly, I knew this poor guy was going to be a good friend of mine.

Well after nearly 3 and a half months of hiking, sharing dinner, lunch, breakfast, and nearly every waking moment together, I am so glad our paths crossed and that I made that sassy comment about your insole choice.

You made my PCT journey what it was, truly magical. I will forever be indebted for your kindness, laughter, and companionship.

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So what is my take home message? Well it is this… The key to life is to be happy. The kind of happy you feel deep down inside. I found that while I loved exploring California, my heart belongs to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Maybe someday I will finish the PCT, or maybe I won’t. But I don’t feel like I failed. I am ecstatic to see pictures of folks I have met along the way at the northern terminus. But I don’t need that for myself. I am happy with hiking 1,506 miles. Content to have ONLY hiked half. For me, the journey really is the destination. And damn was is AWESOME!

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Thank you all for following along with me and for your patience in my slow blogging. It meant a lot to share the experience. To know that others might be inspired to hike the PCT or even just hike around their own area, is what its all about. The reason other than a way for me to remember this experience, to hopefully inspire. Your comments brought joy to me along the trail, and will continue to remind me of the kindness in this magical world.

Thank You! 🙂

-Sunbeam-

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Day 105: Last day, 1500 Miles!

August 5, 2014
15 miles
1,506 miles total

It rained a bit last night, by it was a good morning to get up and moving. Torrey was off before we were, but after a good breakfast we were off.

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While it never really got sunny, the temp was great for hiking. Arctic saw his first bear of the trail. I was a bit ahead and walked right by it. A little before lunch we hit our last milestone for this adventure… 1,500 miles! It has been a crazy and amazing journey. I can’t believe how fast it went.

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After a quick lunch break by a spring we pushed on towards town. Knowing these were the last few miles it was strange, but it also felt good. This hike has been so good for my soul. I feel refreshed and whole once again. The woods and walking are a beautiful duo.

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We hit the road fairly early in the afternoon. As we saw little traffic, we decided to call a guy for a ride to Mt. Shasta. We didn’t wait long, and before we knew it we were in town. After the usual town chores (showers, laundry, etc.) We were on our way to grab a celebratory dinner.

We ran into other hikers, it was strange to say “Well, we are actually getting off trail.” The trail community is so lovely, it will be hard to part from it.

Tonight as it pours outside I am so very thankful for this opportunity. The trail, the community, the mountains… They are my home, my people, I will miss all of these beautiful things dearly.

Day 104: Graceful hiking…

August 4, 2014
24 miles
1487 miles total

Another cloudy morning. But the weather stayed cool. The miles seemed to have melted away in the morning. I did however have a close encounter with a bear. I didn’t actually see it, but as I came to a switchback I heard rustling of trees, grunting, and the sound of a large animal. I yelled “hey bear” in as manly of a voice as I could muster. It continued to move along the ridge. I stood at my location for a good five minutes deciding if it was good to go. Eventually I seemed like it was high enough on the ridge for me to go. I tapped my poles together and went for it. All was well… I continued to hike.

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We saw these huge plants near a creek. Arctic suggested that Emmit get a closer look. Can you spot him?

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Today I had two epic falls. The first as I was looking at a huge tree across the trail figuring on how to maneuver around it. The second as I was heading down to lunch. Both I found myself suddenly on the ground. I got a few lacerations on both knees. After cleaning out and bandaging up two of the worst cuts. I was good to go. My poor knees. I really must have been overdue for a fall. Especially with two in one day. Crazy.

Finally I made camp around 7:30. Arctic beat me here as it was mostly uphill. It’s nice to be done. I am sore, two vitamin I before be should do the trick.

Tonight my last night on this trail(for this year)… I feel mixed feelings about tomorrow. I have had such a wonderful experience on this trail, but at the same time I am ready to be done.

Day 103:

August 3, 2014
24 miles
1463 miles total

The smoke was heavy this morning. Everything was covered in a thin dusting of ash. Remnants and reminders of a forest that once stood tall and healthy. Now all that is left is ash and the burned out carcasses of former life.

I’ve never been this close to fire. Sure I have seen fires in news stories or read about them in the paper. But to actually see how fast and destructive they can be is a whole new thing. Actually being able to smell and taste the smoke, seeing new plumes and the huge mushroom cloud grow is a crazy experience. It is a good reminder that mother nature is in charge. The only thing that continues is change. These cycles and processes are forever in motion.

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With that we set out around 8 today. As we walked ash littered the trail and continued to fall as flurries throughout the morning.

Another exciting sight on the trail. More bear prints. When I stopped for second breakfast someone left a note on the dirt. Needless to say I ate quickly and continued on. But they were pretty cool to see.

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The rest of the day went without much else happening. We had a great lookout where we think we could see the outline of Mt. Shasta. But the smoke obscured it. We ate lunch near a spring, the cold water cooled us as it was another warm day.

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The last several miles flew by. Tonight we are camped on an old logging road near a creek. The .2 of a mile trek was well worth it for delicious creek water. Hopefully no logging trucks decide to drive down here. It doesn’t look like there has been anyone in a vehicle for a while. Others have definitely camped here too.

It’s crazy to think this adventure is nearly over. My body is starting to hurt in places it has never hurt before. My feet have this random shooting pain, and my calves feel as though I just started hiking. I think my body knows we are in the home stretch, it is ready to relax and heal. Only a few more days, and it will be time for a rest.

We can do it!