I have written this post at least 174 times since departing trail, mostly during the beginning of my shift at the warehouse when I’d daze off to transport myself to a more open field of view in a much more natural environment, only to be zapped back to reality when I’d start to second guess my box count accuracy and realized I needed to quit mentally blogging and get back to the job at hand that is paying for the trip behind us.
Last you heard from us (er… over 7 months ago…), we were trekking along in Northern California along the Pacific Crest Trail, having skipped the Sierras for the time being due to high snow levels. We had some slips, trips, and re-connections. After meeting with Kayleigh & James on trail, we continued our way north with beautiful views of Mt. Shasta popping out through the trees over a few days.
We ran into more friends from the start of trail once we hit the town of Shasta. Everyone was there! Cow Bell, Raman Shaman, Rally, Chacer, Squish, Carmen, Lost, Cups, Low Key, Triple A, Moonshine, and Bean Dip. It was amazing to hear everyone’s tales of the trail; each experience completely different than the other, despite hiking the same trail, or even traveling as hiking partners.
Everyone had varying travel plans on whether they were heading north or south, skipping back south or further north. We had completed 300 miles of northern California and had decided to bounce back down to Sierra City (180 miles by highways) to hike the Sierras southbound (hard to keep track of, I know). We would have a much more gradual elevation gain heading south, with our culmination of California at Mt. Whitney. We met some fellow hikers expecting a visit from their family who were headed back to Redding after lunch, so we hitched a ride with them.
Then another hitch, bus, and train ride later, and we were being picked up by my Bike & Build friend Stan, who lives outside of Sacramento. A brief visit with him & his wife, then off to bed for an early morning of hitching to Sierra City. 3 rides got us 80 miles to Truckee (again.) to resupply, then moved on 45 miles to Sierra City via 5 more hitches, where we’d continue our hike on trail southbound.
I was on the verge of achieving my writing goal: at the end of May, I was posting blog updates from almost a month behind actual time. My goal was to be caught up to real time by my birthday. I outlined my posts to know what content to put in each post and set to work: dictating my posts when the creative juices were flowing and editing when the brain was a little more exhausted, then schedule them to post online in a spaced out fashion to not overwhelm you, our dearly beloved friends, family, and fans. 😉 My positive progress was dampened pretty immediately about a week out from my birthday.
After a couple days of hiking south, we found ourselves in Truckee yet again (what, is this like our 5th visit? We’re practically honorary citizens at this point). We met back up with our British friend Prince who was needing to get to Tahoe. With the snow reports between Truckee and Tahoe, we joined him and made our way via local bus routes to Tahoe, where my high school friend Kirsten met us and let us crash at her place. We picked up our awaiting packages in South Lake Tahoe and rented some beds at a hostel to give us some time to evaluate our situation.
I’d been tracking every penny spent in preparation and during the hike. We had our estimated amount of money saved, plus wiggle room; budgeted out into categories for gear repairs, package mailing, few lodging splurges, groceries, and food craving indulgences. My spreadsheet unceremoniously displayed the dollars drop away with each extra unplanned day spent in town waiting for mail at the post office or healing from an injury. The running daily estimated allowance was approaching a critical juncture of being unable to continue on the trail. Now matter how we spun it, something had gone very array. The money just wasn’t there to support the remaining 2 months on trail and our re-assimilation period back into society and the work place.
As we sat there in the hostel computer room, we made the heart wrench decision to join the ranks of many other trail drop outs and leave the trail. It was a hollow feeling left by the embarrassment of failing at something we were so confident in our ability to complete. We’d overcome an assortment of physical ailments over the past 1000 miles. We’d had extreme highs and lows of communication, deep conversations during our weeks of solitude, and overall growth as a couple. My hair was finally darkening out of its ugly orange stage from the beginning. Our “home scene” was a well-oiled machine each night and morning during set-up and pack-up. But now wasn’t our time. Yes, we’d hiked a 1000 miles, but we didn’t complete a thru-hike. Was financial failure better or worse than physical or emotional failure?
I’ve gone through just about every emotion regarding my feelings toward our 2018 conclusion of our hike. I won’t turn this into a diary entry of attempted emotional deciphering, but I’ll leave off with this isn’t a conclusion, but rather a pause of a now 2-part LASH (long-ass section hike). The experience of hiking the trail and the growth and skills that come from it aren’t hinged on the congruent time spent. We’ll be back to see what the Sierras, Oregon, and Washington have to offer. Til then, we take the adventure opportunities as they present themselves. In this moment, we found ourselves celebrating my 28th birthday on a cross-country Amtrak to Illinois, with Steve starting his EMT certification course just after Independence Day.