I Love You Even When Your Feet Stink: 702 Miles on the PCT
702 miles- the distance it takes to reach the Kennedy Meadows South pickup location, NOBO. Kennedy is the gateway to the Sierras. On the last 5 mile approach, the trail opens from choking desert heat to cool pine forests skirted by a flowing river. The skyline is shadowed with jagged shapes of towering mountains. Anxious energy already begins to fill the air with anticipation for entering the high Sierras. Before hitting this stretch and climbing above 10,000 feet, most hikers spend time in Kennedy Meadows resting, resupplying, and reflecting upon what they’ve just accomplished.
It’s one thing to hike this distance through the Mojave, solo, but it’s an entirely different experience being married and hiking with your partner. We’re not the first to do it, and won’t be the last, but I can truly attest that it changes the rules of the game. It’s akin to hiking with your best friend, personal cheerleader, pot washer, teacher, and lover. Finding a life partner who also wants to embark on adventures as crazy as you do…well…it’s a unicorn scenario.
I’m Yeti Legs (aka Wesley), and my wife is Basecamp (aka Marie). We sold it all to begin this voyage at the southern monument March 6th and…It. Has. Been. A. Ride. With permission, I can speak for the both of us when I say it’s grown us even stronger as a team. The trail is a natural, beautiful crucible. If you come out on the other side, you will be a changed person. This isn’t just to say by completing the trail, but by even attempting it you’ll be different than you were.
This is my first post as a blogger on The Trek so far. A lot has transpired in the last 2 months over 702 miles. In summary, you start the trail. It’s a wonderful, electric day when you begin. As the days progress, the heat worsens, and the daylight hours grow. You realize that you hurt, every single day. Some days are better than others. Your appetite increases as you become insatiably ravenous. You find yourself thinking of food throughout the day, and the next town you stop at. In fact, you may find yourself hiking specifically for towns and food and friends. You meet other hikers along the way. Some are just folks you see, some you know, and some you develop a bond with that can’t be severed. You develop routines as packing and setting up camp become commonplace. You wake to flaming sunrises or the cool moon. You lay your head down at night as the day fades to a star-filled sky, alight with constellations beyond what you can fathom. The hurts you felt are still there, but seem to somehow matter less. Walking simply becomes what you do- through sands, by cacti and Joshua trees, through alpine forests in the desert, by pines and cedars. The padding of the soil, of the sand, of the grass and pine needles feels more natural than the pavement of a street or tiles in a grocery. Colors become enriched. You smell the water before it rains. You hear everything. The trail is a communion with nature; a beautiful marriage of pains, laughs, cries, hopes, wind, sun, rain, snow, colors, sound, and sights. You become more in-tune the longer you’re immersed in it.
The trail is a marriage, and like marriage. Basecamp and I have grown in each other since embarking on this journey. Removed from the comforts of our life prior, we’ve been forced to wrestle with the dirty and the now. We are with one another each day, all day. We share a tent, food, cook pots, GPS, and even sunscreen. We’ve been placed in situations that would have never happened back home- on logistic or even primal levels. I hike faster than she does, so she leads. She plans far better than I do, so she creates the schedules. I cook, she washes. Her hands get cold and stay cold, mine warm easily. She overheats in the sun, I curse out overgrown bushes when they slap me. I’m slower to pack, she’s standing there ready. All these things, huge or nuanced, make themselves known.
We are out here in our own tiny trail bubble. Relationships blossom here, but it’s the two of us at the end of each day in our tent. Everything can and will come out, so you just deal with it like a blister or sprained ankle. If you don’t manage it, it could ruin the whole thing. You evolve (or adapt) as a person and as a team. You work through your differences and compliment the other’s weaknesses.
As our muscles have grown, so have we on individual levels. Basecamp has developed a stronger respect for wildlife, no longer killing spiders or other insects that freak her out, but admitting this is their home and that we are just passing through- a snapshot in their life. I’ve regained a sense of patience and slowed down my mind not always having to fill each moment with a task or chore, but simply being. We’ve both pitched absolute freaking fits out here, but are learning to be calm and quiet.
One thing that has changed for the worse is the smell. You stink and stink badly, no matter how many times you wash yourself or your clothes. Your feet are the most used part of your body on trail, and they smell downright foul after 20 miles of dirt and sweat. You can wet-wipe your tootsies until you’re blue in the face, but they will still reel. Despite the rancid odors that fill out tent each night (nights without the rain fly smell better than with it) we still choose one another. We still hold each other close and kiss around soiled faces. Just as I was writing this in our tent at the Kennedy Meadows General store with filthy feet, Basecamp looked at me and said, “I love you even when your feet stink.” And so here we are in one another’s mess. We choose the other while gazing at the stars through our tent mesh, together and stronger, before we depart into the high Sierras tomorrow morning.
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