Journey of a Lifetime: Mile 1411-2653
Well, needless to say I have been absent from posting for quite some time again. While the typical excuse of “I was out enjoying my hike” rings true, there is more to it. I have more so struggled with trying to put into words the process of thru hiking. It is inherently one of the most boring things to talk about because quite simply all I have done since my last post was walk, a lot.
Once the novelty of a thru hike wears off it really boils down to just a few essential truths. You walk through some of the most beautiful landscapes and wonder how they can ever be topped by what is yet to come. You walk into and out of more endearing and memorable towns. You walk through enough shoes to last the average person 2-3 years. You walk with some of the most interesting and incredible people you have ever met. At the end of he day (as well as the beginning and middle) you’re just walking, but somehow it doesn’t feel like JUST walking.
Alas, my brief walking rant aside, here is a quick summary about the back half of my cross country adventure.
While I cannot say I ever suffered from the infamous “NorCal Blues,” which is best described as dread and boredom that can be brought on by the Northern California section of the PCT, I saw many that did. It seemed like the first section that really got the better of people mentally. Sure I knew quite a few folks who got injured earlier and were unfortunately sent home, but there was vastly more hikers who fell victim to the blues and took a break, skipped up, or even ended their hikes. I think both myself and my crew were still on a high from the Sierra and we were just excited to ditch some pack weight and crush some miles. Our game plan was simple: Get out of California before it started on fire. Luckily, we made that a reality. NorCal was where I realized just how strong both our legs and spirits were. 30-ish mile days were our norm and we were able to get into Oregon unscathed by the fires that broke out soon after our exit.
Rolling with the Punches
”Rolling with the punches” was an expression I heard a ton when I was in Oregon. Really there was no other way to describe it. After a brief illness and a few days off I was back on trail, and after that first day back we awoken to news of the Windego fire that was burning just 40 miles north of us and closed the section that we were currently in. After a backtrack, and some killer breakfast at Diamond Lake, we then officially on the roller coaster of fire closures. With the Lionhead still closed there was a brief hitch-hiking tour that took us around the closed sections, and unfortunately a little bit of trail that still open too. I tried to console myself tbh saying, “it would make coming back to hike this easier” but I regretted it immediately. Nonetheless, we eventually ended up north of the Lionshead and back on trail heading north. Before we knew it we were in Cascade Locks with old friends from all the fires in NorCal. Many of our old friends from the desert had to skip up some serious miles and resume their hikes on the OR/WA border.
Onward and Upward
Washington is where the hiking got a lot harder again. Oregon is insanely well graded and you can crush miles quite easily. Washington on the other hand comes with some serious climbs. Our legs had truly been tested thus far and the North Cascades were no match. While I loved the sights and climbs my favorite part was actually the remoteness. There are very few roads or towns and this made it really feel like we were back in the wilderness. I didn’t mind a few longer food carries because that just meant uninterrupted hiking. Before we knew it we were bumping down a dirt road toward Stehekin to pick up our last boxes.
We left Stehekin with some mixed emotions. I was definitely excited to finish and take a break from hiking I was also a little saddened by the end of this adventure. I would soon be heading home to see all my friends and family but that also meant leaving my trail friends behind. With little time to process all this change we soon found ourselves at the northern terminus. It was surreal to finally hit the monument we had all been chasing for so long. In a strange way it felt like I hadn’t earned it though because of the miles I missed. I at least try to bargain with myself that I will be back to do the 200 miles in a year or two, that way I can truly say I walked the entire way.
So, What’s Next?
For the time being I will be out doing some more hiking and such. A road trip with my wife across the northwest and the eventually landing back in Wisconsin. I intend to throw in a few more posts just about be good and bad as well as a review of how all my gear and planning panned out. Other than that I’ll be back to my normal ranting and raving over conservation and wildlife policy that you’re accustomed to, hopefully still here on The Trek. 👀
Just want to take a quick second and thank all of the people that made this experience possible for me. First and foremost, my wife Anna for holding down the fort at home while I was off running through the mountains. Without here support none of this happens. Second, the hikers and trail angles, it doesn’t matter if we shared a simple hello or a thousand miles together, you are all what makes this trail a special place. Lastly I would like to extend my gratitude to the wild land firefighters, rangers, trail crews, and policy makers. This is the part of the trail that no one sees or recognizes. Say what you want about the Forest Service but the fact that they can draw a somewhat straight line across 3 states and 2500+ miles all within wilderness areas, national forests, and parks is simply incredible.
So from the bottom of my heart, thank you and again thank you to everyone who took the time to follow along.
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