Day 3 of my PCT thru hike:
As I woke up in my tent at 4:57am I surveyed the aches and pains of my body. My cramping seemed to have stopped, my small bandage on my back was still holding, and my feet were blister free. These were all good signs for the day ahead of me, where all I needed to accomplish was hike 21 miles down off the mountain, and hitch into town for food, shower, and rest.
I quickly gathered my gear and packed everything up. I pulled out my food bag and water for a quick breakfast before I started hiking, especially since I didn’t have dinner the night before. As I drank a liter of water, I was disappointed to find that I still had no appetite. I choked down a couple fun size Snickers and was on my way by 5:20am.
Normally a 5:20am start would mean a nice cool morning, especially when it consisted of so much descending, but unfortunately it didn’t take long for me to start dripping with sweat this morning.
I pushed through the first 3 miles quite easily until I reached the water source that I was unable to reach the night before. There I drank my remaining water, filled up another 4 liters, and drank two carnation instant breakfasts in hope to not only hydrate me, but get some much needed calories in me as well.
After my short break I continued on down the trail. Every minute I descended further down into the desert and the sun rose just a bit. There was no doubt that it was going to be a hot day. But I knew I could make it to the road by 12:30, then get to town to hide from the heat. That was my motivation all day.
I continued down the trail, taking breaks frequently, drink my electrolyte water and attempting to force down some food. I passed two young ladies around mile 6 that had found sone early morning shade to rest in while the sun was still low. Unfortunately these were the only people I saw all day.
When I left them I felt pretty strong still, but with signs of wavering a bit, my quads and calves seemed to be contemplating cramping up on me, but they were still a long ways away.
My next 7 miles were a long grind, but I was able to get through them. Once again, taking breaks frequently. I could tell I wasn’t quite myself today, my heart rate shot through the roof on any little climb, I had no energy, and the progressively darker pee throughout the day didn’t seem to bode well. Nonetheless I pushed on after a longer break in a little bit of shade. Town was only 9 miles away, and I wasn’t going to spend the entire afternoon baking in the desert heat when I could walk to town.
When I stood up from this break I knew things were not going well. I felt a little dizzy and I could tell that I was definitely struggling, but the nearest trailhead was 9 miles away, and I had to get there to escape this heat and give my body a chance to rest. This is when everything went downhill. I hit a short but steep climb, I took it little by little, doubling over to catch my breath every few steps. I finally pushed towards the top and immediately regretted everything I had done. I collapsed down next to a rock and vomited what must have been every single ounce of water I drank that day. A few minutes later when I was finally done, I curled up in the fetal position to try to get all of my body under the shade of my umbrella. I closed my eyes and contemplated my choices. 6 miles to go, closing in on the hottest part of the day, and can’t make it up hills. The odds were not good.
After 20-30 minutes of rest, I stood up, stumbling around a little bit. Gathered my gear and started on. At this point, every muscle in my body made it quite clear that they were on the verge of cramping. I’ll be honest, in the next hour, I can’t remember how many times I collapsed, but I don’t remember making very many miles. I do remember setting up my tent in an attempt to find shade, but realizing I would bake and die in there. I couldn’t find shade anywhere besides my umbrella. This whole section is a bit of a blur.
I do believe that after I set up my tent and tore it town (wasting and tremendous amount of energy) I made it about 50 feet before my full body seized up, I collapsed down, puked everything out, and crumpled into the fetal position again.
I literally couldn’t move, any water I drank I immediately threw up, I was baking under my umbrella during the hottest part of the day, and there were 5 miles to the nearest trailhead.
I had no other option but to text my mom. Surely my parents would be able to save me like they always have. That’s what they live for, not letting me die. After a brief texting conversation, I came to the realization that I was not getting off this mountain on my own two legs. I decided I was officially in an emergency. I called 911 and the rest was history. Although it felt like an eternity, I was located quickly, enjoyed my first helicopter ride, and emergency response took good care of me from there.
So that has been the question, and rightfully so. And although I think I’ve known the answer since Monday as I recovered in the hospital, I’ve spent the last few days tossing it back and forth in my head.
I am a mere 72.7 miles into this hike, and just the fact that I have been contemplating quitting this early on, shows exactly where my head is at. Physically I have no doubt that I could complete this hike barring anymore emergency situations or injuries, but mentally I’m simply not in it anymore. With one thru hike under my belt, I understand the mental toughness you need to complete it, and I can tell that mine isn’t there after this incident.
In the last few days I have spent a lot of time talking with my parents and Sarah about the pros and cons of continuing this hike or not. I’m extremely fortunate to have a support system like this, none of them have pushed me either way even though I did tell my mom to just make the decision for me. They all obviously don’t want to see me airlifted again, but at the same time none of them have told me to come home.
After much contemplation I have decided to not continue this attempt as much as it pains me to say. In the last week my mentality has changed tremendously, but I can’t say exactly what has changed. Maybe I just realized I don’t want to put my life in danger when I have such an amazing group of people supporting me. Maybe I just realized I don’t want to take 3-4 months away from my family and friends. Maybe I’m just afraid. The point is, it doesn’t matter what my reasoning is, because if my head and heart is telling me no, then why would I keep hiking?
So, after all this, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me. To everyone who has sent me words of encouragement. To everyone who has checked in on me as I have been recovering. Even the people who tried to push me one way or the other, I know you all had my best interest in mind.
If I disappointed you, then you’re more than welcome to take my thru hike permit and show me how it’s done. I’ll cheer you on every step of the way. If you’re currently on the trail, happy trails to you and stay safe out there. I’ll be enjoying the trail through you guys this year.
Now if you think this is the end of my adventuring, then you are terribly wrong. I don’t even plan on this being the end of my thru hiking. But we will see what time brings.
For now I’m going to enjoy the rest of my week in California now that I have this decision off my chest. But I’ll leave you guys with words of wisdom from my grandpa…
“The old cowboys tell you when a horse bucks you off, get back on. Of course, that’s from the old cowboys. Some that took that advice didn’t get to be old cowboys”
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