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.

Day 177: Lizard’s Finish Line! (Picture Drop!)

Today was the day I completed the Pacific Crest Trail. I had 18 miles to go from Scissors Crossing to get to Sunrise Trailhead and connect my footsteps for the entire trail. I woke up at 5:30am and we were out of our Borrego Springs house around 6am. We got to the spot where my two mothers picked me up the evening before about 6:30am and I began my hike about 10 minutes later.

The morning stretch of the hike went smoothly as the sun wasn’t terribly intense yet and by the time 9am rolled around I had already done about 8.5 miles and had only 9.5 to go. The afternoon was slightly slower as the sun and heat began to show itself more and more. My goal was to reach Sunrise Trailhead by 1pm and I ended up cruising in about 12:50pm despite the elevation gains I had to deal with the second half of the day.

Once I met my two mothers on the Sunrise Highway we were homeward bound! We got into San Diego a little after 2pm and my mother and I went to where Marissa, my wife, works so I could surprise her. I grabbed some flowers to take her as well. We had a lovely reunion while her kids were in their science class. My mother and I then went to a nearby eatery for me to get some food and wait for Marissa to get done teaching for the day and join us. It feels great to me home!

Here are some pictures from the last two days:

   
    
    
    

 
 
    
    
    
   

Day 176: Lizard Homework Series Day 9

The day started with an hour long drive from Temecula, CA down to Barrel Spring (where the PCT crosses S22. We arrived at the trail about 9:15am and I was hiking by 9:30am. My mother-in-law was already there, she was meeting up with my mother and they were heading down to Borrego Springs for the day.

I hiked south on the trail from here, starting with a bit of a climb. I noticed the temperature was starting to raise and with little shade available in this section it was clear that it was going to be a very hot day. Fortunately, with the benefit of a day pack I was able to carry about 4 liters of water which was enough to get me to Scissors Crossing, about 24 miles away. I found out from my mother-in-law, who was waiting at the highway with my mother, that the temperature was over 100 degrees F. I told her I believed her after hiking in the heat all day. We all hopped in the car and headed down to Borrego Springs for the night.

Tomorrow, I have just 18 miles from Scissors Crossing to reach the Sunrise Trailhead which will complete my steps for the entire trail. I can’t believe it will be completely done, finally. I can’t wait to see my wife and dog again! The plan is to try and beat the heat and get an earlier start than I got today. It takes about 30 minutes to get back up to Scissors Crossing from Borrego Springs so we are going to try and leave the house by 6am so I can be hiking by 6:30am instead of 9:30am. This should give me a few decent hours before the heat of the day sets in, and with less miles to go I am hoping I can finish well before the 5:30pm finish time I posted for today’s 24 miles. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Godspeed.

Day 175: Lizard Homework Series Day 8 (Some Pictures!)

I hate road walking. Today was my road walk to connect my steps around the fire closure still in effect near Idyllwild. That meant I needed to connect where the PCT comes out near Paradise Valley Cafe to Humber Park. I started at Humber Park this morning since we stayed in Idyllwild last night. 

  
Then I walked some paved roads until I got to AstroCamp, the space camp in town.

  
After space camp I hit a forest service road and started to head down the hill. Eventually the road lets out on Highway 74 near Hurkey Creek Park. Here are the rest of the pictures of today’s hike:

   
    
 
After the highway walk I arrived at Paradise Valley Cafe just before they closed at 3pm. I had a quick bite and all the water and then threw my day pack in my mother’s car before I ran the last mile to reconnect to the PCT from the cafe. After this my mother and I drove to Temecula where we had dinner with my sister and her boyfriend.

  
Tomorrow my mother will drop me off at Barrel Spring along S22 so I can hike south on the PCT to Scissors Crossing where she will pick me up again and we will head down to Borrego Springs for the night. It’s nice to have my mother around to help me day hike these make up sections and get them done as quickly as possible. Only 2 more days until I get to see my lovely wife again!

Godspeed.

Day 174: Lizard Homework Series Day 7 (Picture Drop!)

My mother and I were on the road all day today so no hiking to detail. We drove down Interstate 5 until we reached Interstate 210 which took us East toward Palm Springs and then we cut over to Idyllwild. We are shacked up here for the night and in the morning I will walk the road from here to the paradise Valley Cafe to close up the gap I left when I took a ride into town when my knee was acting up way back when. With no hiking today I thought I would drop my pictures from my first make up section:

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 
Godspeed.

Day 173:  Lizard Homework Series Day 6

22N60. This damned forest service road, I swear. This was the road I got sick on some 2 months ago, and it was the road I was to meet my mother on today. I woke up naturally around 6:15am and eventually got out of camp by 7:45am, knowing that it didn’t matter what time I got out because me mother wouldn’t get to our pick up spot until at least 2pm.

I arrived at forest road 22N60 at 12:15pm and killed time by calling my mother to let her know I was there, calling me wife to let her know I loved her, and calling my father to let him know I wanted to walk to him. After we chatted, my father and I, it became apparent that my mother was completely lost while trying to pick me up. So I started walking up towards Quincy-Laporte Road and made it maybe 1.5-2 miles before I got picked up by mother’s car. Thank heavens for that also, I wasn’t happy about having to rewalk the road I walked when I fell ill in 90+ degree heat, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Tomorrow we are on a true travel day so I am hoping to do a picture dump if I can find some wifi along the way. If not, patience is a virtue (that I hope you have).

Godspeed.

Day 172: Lizard Homework Series Day 5

Another 28 day was staring me in the face when I awoke this morning. I was out of camp about 7:30am this morning but my pace wasn’t as scorching as yesterday morning. I fear this is because I didn’t have the motivating prospect of a restaurant meal for lunch to push me on. I was still on a fine pace, however, and reached 13 miles at McFarland Spring about noon. This wasn’t exactly halfway but it was a good water spot, so I took my lunch here and filled up my water bag so I wouldn’t need to stop for water again until I reached the Middle Fork Feather River where I planned to make camp tonight.

I was cruising along in the afternoon without much to report, until a gnat gave me a nose bleed. This was a strange series of events that killed a half hour of hiking time for me while I had to deal with a bloody nose. The last 2 evenings from about 3pm to dark there have been an abundance of annoying little gnat bugs hovering about he trail in large swarms. I was doing my best to keep them out of my nose and eyes but apparently I didn’t do well enough. I was hiking along and somehow one of those little bastards times his flyby perfectly, or imperfectly as I can’t imagine he survived, in tune with my inhale and up the nose he went. Reacting without much thought I gave a quick snort to try and dislodge my nasal intruder and felt it immediately. The inside of my nose felt wet as it began to fill with blood. I actually said out loud, “a [explative deleted] gnat just gave me a [explative deleted] nosebleed.” I have found myself talking to myself a little bit more since I haven’t had anybody to talk to through this stretch but that is probably another post. In unrelated news, I am back in the land of lizards! I must have seen 50 of those little guys scurrying around as I walked by.

Tomorrow I have just over 12 miles to get to the road where I was picked up when I fell ill some 2 months ago. My mother is picking me up there again and we will begin a road trip south, hitting a couple smaller spots I need to fill in on the trail before I get to see my loving wife again. I am so very much looking forward to being home soon.

Godspeed.

Day 172: Lizard Homework Series Day 5

Another 28 day was staring me in the face when I awoke this morning. I was out of camp about 7:30am this morning but my pace wasn’t as scorching as yesterday morning. I fear this is because I didn’t have the motivating prospect of a restaurant meal for lunch to push me on. I was still on a fine pace, however, and reached 13 miles at McFarland Spring about noon. This wasn’t exactly halfway but it was a good water spot, so I took my lunch here and filled up my water bag so I wouldn’t need to stop for water again until I reached the Middle Fork Feather River where I planned to make camp tonight.

I was cruising along in the afternoon without much to report, until a gnat gave me a nose bleed. This was a strange series of events that killed a half hour of hiking time for me while I had to deal with a bloody nose. The last 2 evenings from about 3pm to dark there have been an abundance of annoying little gnat bugs hovering about he trail in large swarms. I was doing my best to keep them out of my nose and eyes but apparently I didn’t do well enough. I was hiking along and somehow one of those little bastards times his flyby perfectly, or imperfectly as I can’t imagine he survived, in tune with my inhale and up the nose he went. Reacting without much thought I gave a quick snort to try and dislodge my nasal intruder and felt it immediately. The inside of my nose felt wet as it began to fill with blood. I actually said out loud, “a [explative deleted] gnat just gave me a [explative deleted] nosebleed.” I have found myself talking to myself a little bit more since I haven’t had anybody to talk to through this stretch but that is probably another post. In unrelated news, I am back in the land of lizards! I must have seen 50 of those little guys scurrying around as I walked by.

Tomorrow I have just over 12 miles to get to the road where I was picked up when I fell ill some 2 months ago. My mother is picking me up there again and we will begin a road trip south, hitting a couple smaller spots I need to fill in on the trail before I get to see my loving wife again. I am so very much looking forward to being home soon.

Godspeed.

Day 171: Lizard Homework Series Day 4

Today was set up to be a pretty intense day. I wanted to do 28 miles which also included a 5,000 foot drop in elevation and a 5,000 foot climb into and out of the small town of Belden. In order to get all this in I needed a great start to the morning, and I did alright. I was out of camp by 7:45am and off like a shot. I camped 19 miles from Belden, which meant if I wanted a meal in the restaurant I needed to be there around 2pm in order to have enough sunlight to not have to headlamp into camp. I was cruising this morning, conscious of the pacing. I arrived at Belden at 1:50pm, not a bad 19 mile morning!

This timing afforded me the ability to get a late lunch at the restaurant and charge up my devices for a while before needing to head out again. I figured that if I hit the trail by 4pm at the latest I would get to my chosen camp along Clear Creek in another 9 miles right when last light was coming down at 7:30pm. I started putting my shoes on and packing my devices all up around 3:30pm and was out the door by 4pm. This was the start of the climb and it was every bit as nasty as it looked on the elevation map. I got to the top of the climb about 6pm but still had about 4 miles to go to reach Clear Creek, putting me pretty much right on my projected 7:30pm pace. I got to the creek and found a campsite right as last light fell. I grabbed my headlamp and filled up my filter bag at the creek and then set up camp.

It feels good to have accomplished this day. I was able to knock out 28 miles AND killed 2 hours (from 2-4pm)! Tomorrow I hope to repeat the feat without the nice 2 hour lunch. Another 28 would give me only 12 miles to get to the road where my mother will pick me up at the same sport she picked me up the first time when I got sick. I very much feel as though I am hiking towards the light at the end of the tunnel at this point, with only about 5 more days of hiking to complete my steps from border to border.

Godspeed.

Day 170: Lizard Homework Series Day 3

I was happy to see the sun when I woke up this morning. The sky was still mostly covered I. Clouds but the sun had found a patch of blue to shine through and give me hope for the day. I was packed up and on the trail by 8am despite most of my gear being wet from the night’s rain. I hike a couple hours before stopping for a snack and a dry out session as the sun had found a pretty good sized hole in the clouds.

There was a decent amount of up and down during today’s 23 miles as I got up to around 7,000 feet in elevation at times. That’s up from about 5,000 feet yesterday. Tomorrow I have the drop down into Belden which is at 2,000ish feet in elevation. It should be a fairly quick drop down into the town but I am not necessarily looking forward to the 5,000 foot climb out of town. We will see how it goes.

Godspeed.