Day 64 – 15.4 miles

Today is town day. I am feeling very worn out, and I think a big part of that is because I know I’m almost done. I feel my mind drifting away from what I’m doing in the current moment and wandering to what I want to do when I’m home.

I pass by a trail crew with a dog. The dog nips at my heels and I’m feeling frustrated with how inconsiderate people are with their dogs. I threaten to hit it, and only after that, do they realize the dog is trying to bite me. They are annoyed with me, but I can guarantee I’m more annoyed with them.

I hike with Story for the last few miles and it’s nice to have some company. We arrive at the trailhead a bit earlier than our ride, but that’s ok. It was super hot, but there was a forest service truck nearby. I figure since their dog tried to bite me, I can use this truck for shade and not feel bad. I plopped down and enjoyed being horizontal.

Dusty picked us up and asked if we could all go to dinner together. The brewery was great, I was famished and some real food was phenomenal.

I camp in the city park. I have relatively good cell service and my brother calls. We talk for hours and he asks if I’d like to try to summit Shasta with him when I get home. Of course I would.

I cowboy again, and drift off to the sounds of town around me.

Day 65 – 13.6 miles

I wake up and eat cold oats in the park. I’m able to talk to Dave for a while and it makes me miss home even more than I already do. He tells me he can’t wait for me to come home, and I can’t wait either. I tell him he’s coming over when I get home and I’m gonna make breakfast.

Somehow, a pipe bursts at the park, so they turn the water off on me right as I am ready to take my morning shit. I reluctantly walk to the store and try to figure out a different plan since I had anticipated on staying at the park til our ride back to trail at 2pm.

I find solstice at the local library. There is water, restrooms and shade. I lie down on the bench, looking like complete hikertrash and the children start showing up. 10:30 story time. The kids can’t help but stare, and the parents try to be polite. I am shaping the future generations in subtle ways that I probably don’t understand yet.

We get dropped off at 3pm and I’m feeling like an absolute weapon. I take off and lose everyone almost immediately. I meet a man on horseback, he asks me where I’m from and I tell him Paradise. He says sorry for my loss and tells me I’m so resilient and strong and to keep going.

I tear up but don’t dare let him know behind my sunglasses. I don’t know why this still makes me cry, it’s been four years and it still gets me every time. Some things you don’t get over, you just learn to live with it. I move along and let the tears run down my face. Sometimes I wonder how much someone can go through before they implode.

Karl calls me in the midst of crying and I have to confess that I’m a complete mess again. I feel embarrassed and ashamed, but at the same time, I can’t fake it. So I guess it’s better to be genuine than to fake having everything together. I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever feel like I have things together.

The smoke rolls in and I walk into it knowing that the equestrian was right – I am strong and resilient, and I will keep going.

I cowboy again, the stars lulling me to sleep. I feel myself slowly slipping away. I see what I think are flashlights but I’m not sure if it’s actually there.

Day 66 – 24.6 miles

The scenery was beautiful, but I was in a really bad headspace and couldn’t seem to enjoy anything. I push hard, nearly throwing up at the top of the climb. I haven’t been sleeping well for a few days and I know it’s affecting my mood. Something happens when you don’t sleep for a while, things seem odd.

I called my friend Dave and sobbed into the phone. Like a good friend, he tells me that I’m amazing. He tells me that I’m doing something that people only dream of doing. He tells me I’m strong. He says there’s no shame in quitting, he says what I’ve done is an accomplishment in itself. He says everything a good friend should say.

But it’s not the answer I wanted. Now, I’m convincing Dave why I can’t quit. Maybe I’m actually convincing myself. Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you’ll get it.

Day 67 – 28.5 miles

I wake up in better spirits despite getting randomly poured on at 3am while cowboy camping. I have service in camp and it’s nice.

I push hard, going through the Trinity Alps in a single day which I wouldn’t recommend. My body hurts but I keep going, if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s going despite hurting. I feel like I’ve been hurting most of my life.

I have a complete meltdown again, and I wonder if I’m ever going to feel ok again. I listen to music but it doesn’t help much. I finally make it to a trailhead to eat dinner, it’s three miles to the lake and I’m looking forward to it, I hear it’s lovely.

It suddenly begins raining violently and I’m forced to take cover under my Tyvek. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I want to leave. A man walks up to me and asks what I’m doing. Annoyed, I replied “hiding from the fucking rain, what’s it look like?!”

Despite my less than desirable response, he offers me an avocado and shelter in his Tesla. Might as well have been a van with a “free candy” sign on it. I say yes. I feel terrible for sitting in his Tesla in my current disgusting state but he’s kind, he tells me he’s a retiree and is on a road trip.

It starts to get dark, I tell him I have to leave. I hustle to the lake, only to arrive to a cold wet and rocky camp. I had a bad feeling there, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I ultimately decided this is not the place to camp, I was getting turned around in the dark, having to rely on my phone to get me back which I try to not do.

It’s not like me to feel lost like this. I head back to the PCT, then see one more side trail. I decide it’s worth taking a look, so I take it. Halfway down, I see something that stops me in my tracks. A pair of yellow eyes appear. I clack my pokes and yell “Heyo critter!”. Nothing. My heart sinks, the gravity of the situation suddenly hits me and I know this is a mountain lion.

I throw rocks. Still nothing. Fuck. I turn around and desperately try to find my way back the PCT. I arrive, only to discover it’s eyes still behind me. Panicked, I decide to flip my headlamp around in a poor attempt to trick this beast. Maybe if it thinks I’m not turning my back it will stop following me. I use my phone yo illuminate the path ahead.

For over a mile, I check behind me periodically to discover the worst, it’s still there. I can’t shake it.

I feel like the fire is happening all over again. I feel like my doctor has just told me that I can’t escape spinal fusion. I feel like I’ve been told every shitty thing in my life all at once. But I can’t do anything about it but keep moving. Keep moving forward, the thing I seem to keep doing despite feeling like I can’t.

My feet fall apart, I limp faster and faster. Eventually, the eyes disappear but I can’t stop. I go another three miles, I’m shaking. It’s raining, it’s windy, and I set up on an exposed ridge. I don’t sleep. I feel like I’m crawling out of my skin.

Day 68 – 29.4 miles

I would say I wake up to the sunrise, but I haven’t slept, the night shook me to my core.

The sunrise is beautiful but I am so tired that my eyes are burning. I am running out of food somehow and know I have another big day ahead of me.

I continue, full steam ahead. I feel terrible, and am now scared to be alone. Apparently in the chaos the night before, I had forgotten to turn both my phone and the light on my phone off and am horrified to discover my phone only has 15% when I wake up.

I plug my battery back in, but nothing happens…..

My cord has taken a shit on me in literally the worst time. I frantically write down all the water sources on my Tyvek, thankfully my watch still had enough battery to clock my miles so I could at least rely on that. I turn my phone off and mentally prepare for a silent day to myself.

I go 15 miles without a break, I don’t see the point, I feel bad anyway. I eat the last of my oats, dribbling them on my shirt in the process. I laugh out loud to myself over my situation. Sitting literally in the middle of the trail, dribbling cold oats on myself. How did I get here even?!

I turn my phone on briefly to check on a water source, because the last one was dry and I’m out. I have 4 more miles without water, and I am almost too tired to care. I take a quick picture of the crags, and I hike until dusk. Castle Crags sprawl before me. I’ve been here before. This was a winter favorite in a past life of mine.

I am scared to hike into the night. I don’t look up even once, my headlamp facing only the ground before me. I talk to myself. Am I going insane? I feel like it. I tell myself I’m going to Castella tonight but don’t make it.

I find a creek and call it quits. My stomach is eating itself and I don’t sleep well again. I see shadows in every tree and creeping across the ground. I don’t know if they’re real or not, I’ve been seeing weird things.

Day 69 – 3 miles

I limp into Castella. I hand the cashier my phone right as it dies.

She asks how the hike has been, I tell her it’s been complicated. This is a great experience, but also I know this will leave me with more questions than answers. You don’t come out here to find yourself, you come out here to challenge everything you thought you were.

I try to fall asleep in the parking lot but a trucker wakes me up by being nosey. It’s nice to finally talk to someone but I’m annoyed. Creeps are everywhere.

I get picked up and go to Mount Shasta. I decide to take an extra day because of how I’m feeling, and also a cold snap is coming in and my sleeping bad isn’t warm enough.

I do all my chores knowing that when I get to the hotel, I can take a hot shower and lie down. Except when I get to the hotel, the power is out, and I have another meltdown.

After the fire, I moved back to the ridge and lived in a travel trailer. PG&E had “public safety power shut offs” after the fire, and it felt like a punishment to be without power for 4-5 days a week for months while trying to financially and mentally recover from the fire. I remember going to work early just so I could have a hot breakfast. I remember thinking how am I supposed to better myself when I’m living in the dark. When I don’t have running water. No power. Nothing.

I go back to the laundromat to charge my phone. I talk to Karl and it makes me feel better but I also can’t help but feel bad about always being in shambles. I can’t get it together.

I take myself out to dinner, and it’s nice to have a hot meal. I get back to the hotel and the power is back on. I feel thankful, I take a shower, then bath. I call my mom and apologize for my negativity earlier. She says she understands and tells me about some struggles in her life lately. We connect on a deeper level.

My brother calls and cheers me up entirely. I know he knows how I’m feeling, I think he might be the only person that actually knows how I’m feeling and understands this mental struggle.

He says he’ll pick me up in Belden. I’ll be home soon, and then I’ll be missing this.

Day 70 – 0 miles

I am in a weird mood again, and I call Dave. I miss home. He tells me he hasn’t climbed into the hammock for a while. I tell him when I get back, we’re going get taco truck and hang out. Just like old times.

I feel like going for a run. I feel antsy.

Karl calls, he offers to drive down here before driving across the county for a month.

I want to be done with this hike and am eager to get back on trail, but I also want to spend time with someone who’s important to me. I don’t know why life works like this, but it does.

I gladly derail all of my plans, I tell Karl I’m in.

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Comments 1

  • Chris : Oct 23rd

    I wouldn’t have slept well either after encountering a mountain lion at night.

    “I gladly derail all of my plans, I tell Karl I’m in.” – Interesting turn of events, now I’m curious as to what the “I’m in.” actually is. Are you going to travel with him across country, or just hang out with him? Either way, I’ll be waiting for your next post.


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