Picking up the pieces

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.



27 thoughts on “Picking up the pieces

  1. Great summation and still miles to go. It is a real pity, as you point out, that it takes doing something like you are doing for all of us to realize how good we really have it in life and how we should act/react to things. You are a strong person and definitely better than many. Stay safe and well.

  2. Hi MukMuk,
    I commented on UB’s blog back at the beginning of April that I was looking forward to following his adventure and watching him grow. Thanks to him, I’ve also been enjoying following your adventure and watching you grow. And through you two sharing your growth, we have all been growing a bit, too!
    Thank you for sharing. May you continue to be blessed with both trials and joys as you journey along and to bless us as we watch and cheer from the sidelines! Guy

  3. Just made a reply but it never made it in. So trying again because of the profound post you put up. Only you can really make sense of the picture emerging from these 2000 miles. The panorama you have painted is washed with the highs, lows, pain, tears and anguish and then brightened by the laughter, happiness, sensitivity and pure joy the people and places have brought you (and us). You shouldn’t fret about the extraordinary generosity of people along the way – that’s just the way it is and how some people are. We can be too tough a judges on ourselves sometimes so keep your regrets in perspective and to a minimum at this point. You’ve got plenty of life left to find the times and places to give back – what comes around goes around. So march on Muk Muk and may these last 600 complete a picture-story that you can finally make sense of and be at peace with the ending. Maybe rather than beginning another chapter you may find yourself starting a completely new story.

  4. WOW! Look at that Glow! 2000 miles for you am UB! Congrats very little left to go, but I really hope you two enjoy Washington. I am sure you will be much further north by then, but the PCT Days area September 7 & 8th at the Columbia river. I will be seeing you both in Washington further north!

    I hope your hip is improving and the hiking is good, it looks like it from you post.

    Keep Hiking!

  5. We ALL go through times of discovery and evolution about who we are, strive to be, fail to be. It’s a lifelong process that at times may be all consuming, and at other times just a fine tuning. Hang in there!

    As I’ve said before, the gifts and offers of magic are always without strings. I give because others have given to me in so many ways, and because I am fortunate that I can.

    If you don’t already know, YOU have given so much to me personally through your posts this year that it is I who feels unable to say thank you enough. You brought me wildflowers, pictures of the areas I explored in my youth, and glimpses of the trail that I hope to see someday.

    Your posts have brightened my days while I’ve struggled through the ups and downs of a longer-than-anticipated recovery from a broken ankle that has kept me off the trails since May 31.

    Thanks MukMuk for just being you and sharing.

  6. Wow, that is quite the introspection and so well written. All of us vicariouis hangers-on to your great journey are proud of you. Hike good

  7. Great post. Your willingness to share the journey with us is extraordinary. So glad you and UB are together again to share in the accomplishment. What a wonderful way to conclude this huge adventure.

  8. Yes, after 60 plus years on the planet, I can honestly say that life is a test. Even in retirement, it seems that the envelope still gets pushed now and then. There’s an aliveness that emanates from it. And, as others have said, it’s about the journey. Doesn’t seem to matter who or where you are. It’s not about good or bad or pass/fail. Everyone who shares their experience on the trail has given back a great deal whether in words or pictures. Reading the “thru” journals has been a valuable grounding experience. Seeing the stark reality through the eyes of hikers is so useful. Just as the positive descriptions are a reinforcement of how good it can be. As a mostly solo hiker, I really am energized by the people I bump into. Hopefully, should a thru hike be in the cards, I’ll appreciate being surrounded by the humanity so often described. To connect with a hiker or group would be a bonus. It’s great to read of how people migrate in and around other hikers on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. So, thanks for including us in your experience, and congratulations on your journey.

  9. Wow Muk Muk…
    You have blown me away, again !
    Your insights and self awareness are a beautiful thing to behold. As you write, opening up and sharing so honestly, you truely are “GIVING OF YOURSELF” to all of us. We are blessed to receive and to be inspired by you and your words.
    Not to mention your muscles, your moxie, your courage and your balls ! Oh, wait… do only “MEN” have balls ?
    I think you have a golden pair

    Seriously though, todays post made me “check” my attitude as well. Just yesterday I had made a dicision that I now realize was incredibly selfish. I knew it at the time, I suppose. But thought to myself “Noone will ever know the difference anyway”.
    Thanks to your words here today, I have changed my mind. So for that, I say thank you.

    And though she doesn’t know it yet… My friend KOKO ( Keep On Keepin On is her trail name ) thanks you too.

    Stay strong, enjoy the small things and remember…


    Till next time,
    From Alaska

  10. Life on a roller coaster is better than no life. Living is all about testing our boundaries, taking chances, exploring, falling and getting up with scabs, scars and bruises to remind us of our journey. I’ve enjoyed following both your and UB’s journeys and was secretly hoping for a fun and fab reunion. I was watching his SPOT and couldn’t believe the miles he was pounding out and as I watched him closing the gab, I held my breath. I felt joy in meeting you and being able to provide a bit of magic. I have no doubt you give and give and give more in your everyday life than you’ve ever realized and you will continue to give as you continue your life. There is no doubt you will leave the trail a changed woman, how can you not? You’ve spent 5-6 months with more mental, physical and emotional challenges than most of us will experience in a lifetime. Keep living, growing, changing . . . you’re always in my heart.

  11. Wow, incredibly insightful post, Muk Muk. Nice to read that the trail has provided such deep meaning to you both physically and spiritually. I’m reminded of the song by Canadian folksinger Bruce Cockburn entitled “Wondering Where the Lions Are”…I think it’s a wonderful metaphor for the 2nd half of your PCT hike!

  12. Rozanne,

    Wonderful post.

    One of the gifts you ARE giving to others, is this blog. It may seem that cataloging your experience is not all that noteworthy to others, but judging by the feedback and how I know it makes me feel when I read of your exploits, you are expressing something very real and close to people’s hearts.

    You are letting people into your life and that is a tremendous sharing, giving act! I know you didn’t start out for it to be that way, except for your family, but your effort (posts) has transformed the usual “I did this, I am here” journal.

    You have allowed people to live through YOU. We all have shortcomings because we are human. The fact that you shared your desires to change or effect change in yourself and your world is more of the humanness that you bring to your writing and videos.

    Speaking of giving, I made something for you, it’s not heavy, and I would like to shake your hand it give it to you here in Washington. I wrote to you earlier in California about providing some trail magic in Washington at Hwy 2 to Skykomish. Hopefully I can get away when you are there. I can send my number later and you can let me know. Your schedule had you there around the 13th of next month but you may be a few days behind that.

    As you said happiness creates energy, then there should be a lot of energy flowing your way. Glad your spirits are lifted and that you are discovering a new part of yourself. We all did just a little bit too.

    Thanks for giving of yourself.


    • Wow thanks Tim, those are some amazing words, I really appreciate your thoughts. Would be great to meet you in Washington, hope our paths will cross. Thank you again, Muk

    • I agree with what Tim said.

      You have given me a greater gift than I could ever give you just by keeping this consistent journal of your experiences on the trail, good and bad. I have been so inspired by your journey and the struggles you’ve pushed through and been willing to share with so many strangers.

      Thank you so much for being so open and honest about your feelings on the trail and how hard and how wonderful it’s been for you.

      It’s my dream to one day hike at least the Oregon and Washington portion of the PCT and your experience has taught me so much!

      I wish I could meet you up here in Washington but I’m sure there are so many people who want to say hi at this point you’ll probably be overwhelmed at all your stops in Washington. 🙂 My thoughts and prayers go with you all the way through Washington to the end of your journey. Keep hiking!

      • I have been glued to your and ubs blog everyday. Just totally inspired and in tears. Could you do one thing for me since I have been saving all your great pictures to my desktop. Have someone take a picture of you two holding hands going down the trail with your packs on. I would love to see that. Thank you 🙂

  13. Hi darling, It is amazing the picture you have been painting and still in the process of finishing. All the emotions you have gone through are like waves of the sea, changing at times. You have been swimming on and through those waves and sometimes they rolled you under, but you came up every time. Your strength and determination got you through. How busy your mind has been with your self discovering. Please don’t be too harsh on yourselves.You are a very giving and sharing person. Look what you have given us all. The people on the trail and the trail angels enjoyed spoiling you. Did you know that giving and receiving give pleasure to both sides. Life is a mystery and it is there to make the most of it. Be happy within yourself that is an important part. The last 600 miles to go and maybe some more discoveries. I am so proud of you and you have done so well, fantastic. Love you darling, Mutti xxoo

  14. WOW! Keep on keeping on, I so enjoy following your trek!
    Second resupply box in the mail. Off to Chinook Pass, to offer up some trail magic.
    Looking so forward to talking to you in person! I’m hoping the rain will subside for your hike in Washington.

    • You and the ladies are absolutely wonderful Brooke! Can’t wait to meet you all in person and give you a massive hug! Words can’t thank you enough for taking care of my resupply throughout Washington. What a blessing! See you soon!!! Xx

  15. Once in a saintly passion
    I cried with desperate grief,
    “O Lord, my heart is black with guile,
    Of sinners I am chief.”
    Then stooped my guardian angel
    And whispered from behind,
    “Vanity, my little man,
    You’re nothing of the kind.”
    –James Thomson

    My, hopefully humorous, way of saying that you’re probably not so bad. We all should want to be better though, perhaps you will inspire us once again.

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