Farewell to the Pacific Crest Trail

Now that the trail has ended I feel compelled to put some sort of finishing cap on it. How does one put to rest a thing they have worked on everyday for 6 months? Maybe “worked on” is an understatement here, I have lived this journey for a significant period of time. Did this experience change me in some profound way? It’s possible. Did I learn things about myself or life? Perhaps. I find myself wondering how to quantify these findings and am somewhat unable to, in any definitive way. I suppose to try to put these findings in some sort of order I should start with where I was when I began this adventure. So where was I? I was a guy that worked 10-12 hours a day, Monday through Friday (sometimes Saturday and/or Sunday). I identified myself by my job. I saw myself as a hard worker, trying to climb a corporate ladder. After a period of time at this job it became clear I had reached the highest rung I could at my current company. The people who were at higher levels in my department weren’t capable of giving up any more control than they had already. This realization is a bit of a death sentence. I could feel myself at the dead-end of this upward trajectory I had worked so hard to keep myself on. Long story short, things eventually came to a head and I was technically let go from this company. I feel that few situations like this end up feeling as mutual an end as this did, however. I wasn’t sad about leaving, with the exception of not getting to see those friends I had in the office any longer. I knew, though, that I wasn’t being let go because I did bad work. I would have risen to the level I was at in 5 years if I was bad at my job. I knew I was being let go because we had mutually given up on each other, this company and I. Towards the end, I would voice an opinion to a superior that fell on deaf ears, which is a troubling scenario professionally when your ideas are not only ignored but blatantly unwanted. But again, this didn’t feel like commentary on me, or my co-workers in the same position, or our collective work. I wasn’t the only person feeling like this at the time or having issues with some of the managers, I wasn’t even the only person let go on the last day I worked for this company. I wasn’t alone in my professional abusive relationship.

So what is a person to do when they finally get out of an abusive relationship? I think in almost all cases, the answer is to “heal.” Healing is a different process for each individual though. So how could I heal? After some long conversations with my wife, best friend, and biggest supporter, Marissa (She’s been mentioned on the blog numerous times throughout the journey), I (we) came to the conclusion I needed something challenging again. Something creative and vastly different from the last 5 years of my life. Her father, Gary (Pie), had done the Pacific Crest Trail in 1975 and I had heard many fond memories from his trail experience. 2,650 miles certainly seemed challenging as the wheels began to turn in my head about this as a possibility. I again sat down with Marissa and we looked at our finances to determine if we could afford the endeavor. It turned out we could get by and that was the final hurdle. So that’s the story of how I was drawn to the trail in 2015 and how I got to where I am now.

After all that, and after 2,650 miles, what has changed? I still consider myself a hard worker. You can’t complete a thing as long and taxing as the PCT without being such. I believe I can accomplish any goal I set for myself. I have definitely altered my priorities as this journey progressed. No longer does more time working mean a job better done. If you are the kind of person that works all night in the office you either love what you do, or you’re doing it incredibly wrong. I know now there has to be a healthier balance between work life and life. I can’t thank my wife enough for enduring those long nights and weekends that I was away at the office. Putting up with those long 80-hour work weeks that would occasionally keep me from participating in plans with family or friends. I hope my next professional opportunity is more conducive to a balanced way of living and I plan to do my part to make it so.

Speaking of thanking people, I must say that I thought daily about those that helped me achieve this goal. That list is obviously topped by my wife Marissa. There are many others that helped me along the way, however, and that list includes my in-laws (both hiking with Gary and support from Sandy), Gary’s brother Steve and his wife Ann (Ice Cream’s parents), my parents (Brian and Wendy), my aunt and uncle (Veronica and Rob) and the countless trail angels who put us up, fed us, gave us rides in and around town and got us safely back to the trail along the way. I’ve mentioned to a few people who along with being the coolest and craziest thing I’ve ever done, this is also the most selfish thing I’ve ever done. I honestly couldn’t have completed this without the help of all those people.

So, where do I go from here? With no more maps to guide me day in and day out, how do I find my way? The answer to the latter is truthfully, “who knows?” There is no blue print for life, you just live it. That is possibly something I didn’t understand before the trail. I used to think that if I worked hard I would climb some imaginary ladder and be a big “success”. Maybe that’s how it works for some. Then again, maybe I want to focus on truly making a difference in the lives of others. Surely there  is success in a fulfilling and enriching career as opposed to one that fills your bank account as much as possible. Whether that is working for a non-profit or a school or just being the best husband, son, brother, friend and someday father that I can be everyday then I think that is the ladder I should be climbing. For now, the answer to the question, “Where do I go from here?” is just “home.”

From here I go home, where I belong.

Godspeed.

PCT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

When one decides to go on a journey such as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) a lot of questions tend to arise from their friends and family. We’ve gathered a few of those questions from our loved ones in this article and hope to answer them to the best of our ability.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

1. How will you get food? Will you have an opportunity to bathe or shower?

We are buying much of our food supply before leaving. Most of the food stuffs will be in the form of freeze dried meals and supplemented with energy bars (mostly ClifBars) and trail mix. This allows us to pack our supply boxes before hand so that our families can simply drop them off at the post office when they are supposed to go out. We will have opportunities to shower periodically on the trail. There are towns roughly every 5 to 7 days on the PCT and many have a hotel or mountain resort or trail angel or camp that we will be able to grab a shower at.

2. How is everybody feeling about the journey as it draws closer to your departure date?

Everyone is excited to get going, we are currently putting the finishing touches on our supply packages but other than that we are all at a point where we are ready to hit the trail and get on with the fun!

3. The team will be packing a small first aid kit. Do you have an emergency plan in case a team member needs medical care?

Yes, the team will be carrying first aid kits for each member and should a member need medical attention in the field all the members of the team have had some CPR or basic first aid training in the past so we should be able to manage a sling or other first aid technique should that unfortunate event occur.

4. With the understanding that you will have cell phones. How will you be able to charge them? Do you have concerns about communicating with each other and your support team?

Jon will be carrying a GoalZero Switch 8 and Nomad 7 charging kit that will allow the team to charge their phones as we go. Because we hope to be able to blog along the way it is important that we can use some of the sun’s energy to be able to have our phones up and running at the day’s end so we can post that day’s experience. As for the communication aspect of this question, we’ll be able contact our family and friends and support members through our regular phones when there is enough service. When this cell service is missing we’ll need to use the satellite locator beacon and communicator that Gary will be carrying. This will allow us to contact people through satellite connections when cell services aren’t available.

5. Has the team had training or experience with face-to-face encounters with bears or other wild animals?

The majority of the crew have extensive hiking experience and Lora has worked as an intern under the National Park Service and has training in animal encounters and what to do in these situations. The animals we may encounter range from Mountain Lions and Bears, but will more likely be Snakes and Bugs.

6. Have you heard of the Book/Movie Wild?

Yes, we are aware of the book and movie. It was, in no way, any inspiration for the members that are hiking the trail this year. Gary and Jon both read about half the book before we decided we couldn’t take it anymore due to all her ill preparedness and poor decision making. Lora, I believe has read the whole book. All of us have seen the movie. I think we are all in agreement that the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed and the subsequent movie with Reese Witherspoon are about a story that is a self discovery story that includes the Pacific Crest Trail and not a Pacific Crest Trail story that includes some self discovery.

7. Do you think you will see many hikers on the trail?

We will likely see a good number of hikers on the trail this year. The increased popularity of the book/movie Wild have also boosted the number of people interested in the PCT this year. At last count, we estimated from the PCTA.org permit system that they had issued over 2100 long distance northbound permits for the 2015 year. That’s a lot of long distance hikers and doesn’t even include the people that will be hiking in sections that don’t require a long distance permit. We will also be attending the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off (ADZPCTKO) where we will see many of these hikers as well as those who have hiked the trail in previous years and our friends and family.

8. How long do you think your beards and hair will get? Will you be trimming either along the way?

The answer to something like this depends on the individual hiker. Gary has expressed some interest in being able to shave periodically during the 5 month long hike while Jon has said that he’ll probably go without a hair cut or a shave for the duration unless the hair or beard becomes some sort of annoyance. Really, it just depends on the comfort and preference of the hiker.

9. Will you have some sort of health log? Will the team do a weigh-in and weigh-out?

We are not currently planning on chronicling our weight for the journey as this is more than just a workout regiment. There will likely be some discussion of noticeable health changes as the journey progresses but we aren’t making it a priority topic for discussion.

10. How do you plan to spend your time on off days? games? journal? etc.?

Many of our off days have been planned for areas where we will be able to spend time with our families so the majority of those times will be spent catching up with loved ones. When we have down time on the trail such as evenings at camp we will have a few activities to enjoy. Many of us will be carrying a book while hiking. Jon will also be carrying a travel sized version of Backgammon and we’ll probably have a deck of cards on hand as well.

That covers the most common questions we’ve been getting from our family and friends. If you have more questions you’d like us to answer feel free to post them in the comments or use our contact us page!

NorCal Mom Cheering From The Sidelines

Hello, from Northern California. Situated along the Siskiyou Trail, Redding was a trade and travel route connecting California’s Central Valley and the Pacific Northwest. My name is Wendy Adams and I am Jon Adams’ mother. When Jon was a young boy he loved the Ninja Turtles, basketball and playing video games. Our family weekends were filled with athletic events, juggling between softball, volleyball, and basketball tournaments. Back then if you were to tell me that this young man would grow up to be a college scholar, world traveler, and one of the founding members of the San Diego PCT Sloggers I guess my response would have been to quote one of my favorite people…

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’! ― Audrey Hepburn.

And it is with this philosophy that my husband and I embrace the SD Sloggers 2015 adventure.  The one thing that I know how to do well is to cheer on the team from the sidelines. This NorCal mom is going to be the best darn cheerleader the Sloggers have ever seen.

Am I nervous or worried about the SD PCT Sloggers going on the trip?
Of course, a little. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t. I was always nervous watching my kids playing the sports they loved. I take comfort knowing that they are traveling as a team and that Gary Funk is an experienced PCT journeyman. There is always some level of risks involved and at the end of the day the rewards far outweigh those risks.

What am I doing to prepare for their Journey?  My training starts now, beginning with a task list.

  • Educational training, learn at least one fact a day. I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I honestly did not know about the Pacific Crest Trail until Jon started talking about his dream to slog it.
  • Ask questions! This task has already been underway as Jon can attest to. I know the team has done their research and the more I know about their plan the more assurance I have that they are well prepared.
  • Study the itinerary and create a map so that I can visually see their progress.
  • On a personal note, I am committing to a healthier lifestyle. My husband and I have plans to camp with the group when they are in our region. It just makes sense to me that choosing to eat a healthy diet and commit to being more physically active is a great way to show my support from the sidelines.
    Create a master calendar and try to stay organized. While the team is traveling there will be a lot of activities here at home. We have a family wedding the first of May, for example. Prepare to be flexible and ready to switch gears or plans at moments notice.
  • Cheer them on!  Using Facebook and Twitter will be a great use of social media to share with family, friends and fans.
  • And lastly I will be there with my pompoms and noise makers when we gather to celebrate their successful journey home!

Why Are You Called Sloggers? What is a Slogger, Anyway?!

We sometimes get asked, “What is a Slogger, anyway?” or “How did you come by that name?”

Let’s answer each of those questions one at a time, starting with the definition of a “Slogger.” Depending on the dictionary you are checking you may or may not find “Slogger” within the text, though many list it as a derivative of the root word, “slog.” So to better understand what we as “Sloggers” are we must define the root word, “slog.” Here is our definition of “Slog” in both verb and noun forms as defined by Google:

Slog definition

The verb form is the actual physical act of “slogging,” or working hard over a period of time or walking with effort and/or perseverance. These physical actions could not be more in line with the physical demands of a thru-hike such as the Pacific Crest Trail that will take us roughly 5 months to complete. In noun form, the term can refer to a period of time that was both difficult and tiresome during travel, which most thru-hikers of any trail might well define their experience on a day-to-day level as.

So we have defined the root word, “slog” but what is a “Slogger” anyway?! well, as with many nouns ending in a suffix “-er” a “Slogger” is one who exhibits or participates in the ideals or acts of “slogging.” Simply put, Sloggers will slog. We will work hard for long periods of time with effort and perseverance through a spell of difficult and/or tiring travel.

The definition, now that we’ve defined it, is also directly related to how we came to call ourselves the San Diego Sloggers. Firstly, we all reside in San Diego currently (though Jon is originally from the Northern California city of Redding). That being the case, the first part of our moniker essentially made itself. We then made a list of possible names that exemplified not only the journey we would be undertaking but the personalities of our group members and if it had a decent ring to it with “San Diego” that wasn’t going to hurt either. Out of other possibilities such as “Trekkers,” “Packers,” and the like we decided on our name to be through a vote of the members (and support staff).

When you see us in the midst of our slog this year hopefully we are proudly embodying the hard work and perseverance of a San Diego Slogger…now all we need are some individual trail names!