During the last 1000 solo miles on the PCT, I learned a lot about myself and my limits. I learned how far I can be pushed by fear. I learned how far I can push myself through pain. I learned how happiness creates energy, and desperation sucks it all away. It is a mind game out here. Just as Billy Goat said to UB one day, ‘If the mind can think it, the body will follow’.
I rode the roller coaster of emotions each day, finding new thoughts to spur on motivation, and new tactics to pull myself out of some dark places. Life on the trail isn’t always as simple as eating, sleeping, shitting and hiking. Just as life off trail can easily become complicated, life on trail can follow suit. Out here, without distractions, comforts, friends or family; emotions become magnified, and the only person to talk things through with is sometimes ourselves.
Fortunately I did find some great people on trail to share the ups and downs with, and after 1000 miles alone, I realised just how much I missed sharing these incredible experiences. I also knew there was only one person I wanted to spend the remainder of the journey with.
I only discovered UB was in Oregon when I met Heidi and her family at Windigo Pass. I thought if we ever had the chance to hike together again it might happen somewhere in Washington, but little did I know UB was blitzing the trail, doing 40 and 50 miles a day, and was less than two days behind me when I reached Elk Lake.
Since our reunion on trail I’ve experienced some very powerful transformations. I thought I had learned a number of important lessons out here that the trail was destined to reveal to me, but what I have come to realise over the last few days was so far beyond what I ever expected to find out here. Today I probably had the greatest epiphany of my entire life, and it was only after I fell to rock bottom, and the trail exposed some of my darkest secrets and regrets, that I was able to start realising that the way I have been living life, on and off trail, needs some readjustment.
As the saying goes, no one is perfect, and I realised a lot of my imperfections as I walked the 15 miles from Hwy 242 to Big Lake Youth Camp this afternoon. I’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout my hike to have received a huge amount of support from so many people following my hike. From care packages of coffee to new shoes, from shirts to meal shouts, from snacks to Sofsoles. Strangers have taken me into their homes, met me on the trail, and written me words of support which have honestly helped me hike the distance I’ve travelled thus far.
But what have I given back? Sure I’m hiking from Mexico to Canada, keeping a blog and hopefully inspiring those who follow my adventure. But would I be prepared to give as much as I have taken from others? When I posed that question to myself this afternoon I realised that somewhere along the trail I got so caught up in the gifts and attention, that I lost sight of what was really important out here. I don’t think I really understood why I was out here until this afternoon, when I realised that I had taken more than I would have been prepared to give in return. That although I’ve been one to give, I’ve only parted with things I’ve been comfortable in sharing, rather than going without so another can benefit.
As I opened my eyes to these realities, I started to reflect on all the things I’ve done in my past that I’m not proud of, and how behavioural habits have seen me repeat the same mistakes multiple times. Even with good intentions we can hurt the ones we love, we can become overtaken by greed, and we can take for granted the things we are given. For all of these things I know I have been guilty of more than once, on and off trail.
I’ve never followed religion or believed in God, but today I felt like I was able to make sense of so many things that once seemed impossible to understand. Somehow a light was turned on, and it not only exposed many flaws, but a lot of answers I didn’t even know I was searching for. After hours of hiking without a break, I finally sat down in the shade of a tree and waited for UB to catch up. He understood I needed time and space to work through these thoughts, just as he had needed at the beginning of the trip. The trail has an incredible power to heal, and I only got a taste of just how powerful this journey can be for those who are willing to open themselves up, and give into the mercy of the trail.
Less than a mile up the trail, UB and I reached the 2000 mile mark. At that moment I think we both realised just how far we’d come, together and alone, and just how much we had grown, together and as individuals.
Actions speak louder than words, but for now I just want to say thank you to everyone who has played a role in my journey along the Pacific Crest Trail so far. There are many things I would do differently given the chance, but I’m grateful that I still have over 600 miles to discover more about the person I want to be when I reach the northern terminus, and step into the next chapter of my life.