PCT Day 170, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 89

PCT miles: 1823.8 
September 29

For an entire year, before even stepping foot on the trail, I would find myself getting emotional when I imagined Matthew & I tagging the Northern Terminus after a successful thru-hike- the idea of accomplishing something so crazy, so colossal- it overwhelmed me.  

Once getting our permits, my excitement only grew.  We had the IDEAL start date, mid-April.  My mind was consumed by the PCT- it was all I could think about.  I researched and purchased gear, I read blogs and books, I made lists and reminders, and I dreamed about the day we would finish.  It’s funny- now that I think about it, I never thought much about miles 0 through 2,652…just those last few steps.  I pictured us tired and relieved and so incredibly happy standing at the monument- September 17th, Matthew’s birthday, would be a great day to finish, I thought.  My eyes would burn- such an epic adventure, an amazing opportunity- how lucky we were!

When we set off from the US/Mexico border, I wondered if I could actually make it to Canada- it was so friggin far away!  Could I handle the whole being in nature for so long thing? Pooping in the woods? All the dirt? The bugs? The elements? THE MOUNTAIN LIONS?!!  And my knees- would they hold up? I didn’t know if I had it in me, but that border still called to me…

A few years back a thru-hiker told us, “if you can make it two weeks, you can make it to Canada.” SO, once we made it to that two week mark, I had no doubt in my mind that we were making it to Canada.  My soul was set on fire; I was alive and thriving.  I was SO. Fuckin. Happy.  With each passing day my determination, along with my legs, were growing stronger.  My doubts were fading.  Whenever Matt and I were asked if we were going all of the way to Canada, our response was always, “well, that’s the plan!!”  But I knew we would; we were unstoppable.
We were so motivated, so sure of ourselves, and SO unprepared for what happened on Day 45…

Never in all of my planning and dreaming and walking did I ever imagine that our thru-hike attempt would come to an end on September 29 in Tehachapi, California, at mile 566.5…a place we had first walked to four months before…a place that threatened to end our thru-hike attempt and probably would have ended the thru-hike attempt of many others…

But quitting was never an option we considered.  No, after taking time off to heal, we started walking again. And we walked and we walked and we walked for another 89 days and 1257.3 miles.  We walked through most of Washington, most of Oregon, and in the end, most of California.  We ended our thru-hike attempt on Sept 29 in Tehachapi, California, at mile 566.5, with a total of 1823.8 miles completed of the 2653.1 mile trail.  Yeah, we flipped and we flopped and threw in a hop, but when all was said and done, we walked from the US/Mexico border to South Lake Tahoe, then 27 miles into Oregon to 188miles shy of Canada.

From our Inreach/GPS

We are ending 816.6* miles short of a thru-hike.  It would have taken us ONE month to hike those 600 miles of NorCal {our 33 days of Trailcation 2019??} and those remaining 216 miles?  We could have done it.  We chose not to hike those 216 miles when we realized that completing a thru-hike in our shortened season was going to be nearly impossible OR at the very least really, really miserable.  Instead, we slowed down and experienced all that the trail had to offer and savored all of the moments meant to be enjoyed. {Smiles over miles, yes?} 

Had things gone differently on day 45 we WOULD have done it- and really, despite day 45, we still could have done it: since officially coming back on July 3 we took 8 zero days and a total of 14 days off for the knee injury and travel.  We could have finished Washington instead of briefly joining our tramily in the Sierra and if we were willing to continue hiking through October in snow, freezing rain, and freezing temps, we still could finish NorCal- but we aren’t. Northern Washington is currently covered in snow, and it has already snowed a decent amount in Oregon and NorCal.  As another hiker said to us, our happiness (and safety) isn’t worth being able to say that we did it. 

It’s bittersweet to know that in the end we had everything, both mentally and physically, that it takes to complete a thru-hike…everything but time and luck.

So, those last 816.6* miles?? (*don’t bother doing the math.  2653.1{miles of the PCT} minus 1823.8 {miles hiked} does NOT equal 816.6…it took me over an hour of frustration before Matt reminded me that we took some alternate trails!) The Skip and the Jump will have to come another time, if at all.  We definitely want to complete Washington, and finishing the entire trail WOULD be neat, but I would prefer to bang out those remaining miles in one shot.  I want to be able to say, “I’m out here finishing my thru-hike attempt.”

I have SO much respect for section hikers and all of the logistics they need to figure out to piece together the trail and the dedication and determination they have to come back year after year, but I am not one of them. 

I told Matt that we should compromise: he prefers section hiking & I prefer thru-hiking, SO, we cut the trail into two “sections” but we “thru-hike” each section…he’s skeptical.   However way we finish the trail, we won’t be thru-hikers, but instead LASHers (Long-Ass Section Hikers.)

I recognize that we may never have the opportunity to take this time off from work and escape from “real” life ever again, so finishing the trail in one shot might not be feasible.  And really, life is full of so many beautiful complications; who knows- we might just stumble across a new path we didn’t realize we wanted and find ourselves so happily distracted that the trail no longer haunts us…I’m skeptical, but we shall see… 

For now, it’s time to shower, eat, and enjoy some time with friends and family.