PCT SOBO WEEK 11
Day 71 – 0 miles
My plans get further derailed, by myself.
I decide to up the ante and tell Karl let’s just go to Burney Falls. He’s never gone, I think he’ll like it. He agreed and now I am getting back on trail there instead of at Castella. I don’t think I care if I miss a few more miles.
Life isn’t a linear journey. Sometimes the PCT isn’t either.
Being an impulsive person makes life exciting, but has also really effed me over before. I think that it’s worth the risk overall though. I’d rather have an interesting life than a safe and boring one anyway.
I lie in my dimly lit hotel room and listen to music. I crank the heater because I remember I don’t have one of these at home, and I think it’s gonna be another cold winter.
Day 72 – 0 miles
Checkout was at 11am, and I had leftover cereal that I had bought for dinner the night before. I made my way to the diner, got a breakfast, then went for the park – the ultimate place to loiter.
It was the winter solstice, so you could imagine the crowd at the headwaters of the Sacramento River in Mount Shasta. The vibe was good, I felt overwhelmed by the crowd. I had loads of people want pictures of my leg tattoos.
Karl called, he was here. We’re going to Dunsmuir.
Rivaling the hands down beat zero day in Ashland, Dunsmuir was wonderful. We watched Workaholics and I felt good, I’m glad we’re friends. I feel like we met at the right time.
Day 73 – 12.2 miles
Burney Falls was overrun with tourists. I felt out of place in my stained shirt. We walked around and saw the sights for a bit, and I knew that saying goodbye would be hard.
Recently, I realized that I got what I came here to do, and trail hasn’t quite been feeling the same. Instead of hiking with purpose, I’m just hiking to get through it and finish the damn thing.
We say goodbye and it’s hard for me to walk away. But I know that I have to stay focused on my goals, and I need to finish. I will make it to Belden.
I cry at the trailhead as Karl drives away. Mentally, I feel like absolute dogshit, and just hope that I’m making the right decision. I don’t want to say goodbye.
Day 74 – 24.6 miles
Upon waking, I realize that I’ve misjudged the water situation. For some reason, I thought that Hat Creek Rim was after Old Station, and not before. I think it’s because I’ve always looked at this section going northbound…. I feel stupid and irritable.
I load up on mediocre water, and start my day. At first, it was hot and rocky. Very reminiscent of the desert. I think about the Arizona Trail a lot and miss my buddy, I’ve realized that I actually don’t like spending this much time alone.
In the blink of an eye, the weather changes on me. It is now frigid and windy. The wind stings my eyes and chaps my skin. I just don’t feel like my heart is here right now. I think it might be driving across the country right now.
The sun set casts an umber glow and I feel thankful to be here, despite also not wanting to be here. Life is confusing. The cold sets in hard, and I find myself scrambling to find a place to camp.
I settle for a stealth camp in some bushes. The wind is relentless and I don’t sleep.
Day 75 – 26.6 miles
I couldn’t have slept for more than an hour. I feel god awful as the wind whips me around, my eyes are swollen again.
I get going. It’s a painful rocky descent to Old Station. The wind picks up and is relentless. I arrive and piece together a day and half extra food to get me to Belden, I scrap my plans to resupply in Chester. I understand that I will now be rationing my food, and accept the fact that I’m just going to be hungry.
Everything flies around uncontrollably as I try to do simple things like put my socks back on. My head is pounding and the coffee isn’t doing anything. I feel sick and lie down. Wind whips me with dirt from the surrounding parking lots. As I lay in the dirt, contemplating my life, the wind also rips open a nearby dumpster, and now I’m being pelted with trash. I am miserable.
I start making my way to the post office. I stick my thumb out and a man with no windows pulls over. I take the ride because despite the skeezy appearance, I have a good feeling. It works out great and he’s a real gem. He tells me about how he thumbed across the country once. He tells me to keep chasin that dream.
This isn’t the dream anymore, I must admit. My heart is somewhere else right now, I have gotten what I wanted out of this and I am done. I feel like I’m on the cusp of sanity and everything I feel contradicts itself.
I find Story and she helps me find a place to charge my shit. I feel relieved. She had ambitious plans for the night since she’s just had a rest. I decide I feel like shit anyway so I might as well send it too.
We enter Lassen and I cry like a baby. Dark clouds encircle us, the cold wind stinging my eyes and chapping my skin. I apologize to Story for being too much. She tells me if I’m too much for someone, that it’s actually cause they aren’t enough, and damn, that really hit home.
I just barely run out of daylight before getting to camp. I begin to hallucinate slightly from lack of sleep, I see flashing lights that I know aren’t real. Story is there and the weather is taking a turn for the worse, she tells me she didn’t see any lights, now I know they weren’t real. It begins to rain and we set up just in the nick of time.
The PCT has this fun thing where it breaks you down – whether it be physically, mentally, hell, even existentially – to the point where you feel like you can’t. But then you somehow still do. And I think there’s a life lesson in there somewhere.
It pours rain and the wind rips at the walls of my tent. I put my headphones in, listen to music, and swallow the pit in my stomach.
Day 76 – 22.8 miles
Holy shit, did it rain. The wind was downright terrifying with all the snags around. Thankfully we had a solid spot in a nice grove of very live, very solid trees.
Everything was wet and I was in no hurry to get going. I didn’t wanna go at all, I just wanna lie around and eat. And it’s still sprinkling even, how great.
Story is ambitious, something I lack entirely today. I don’t see her again, and I probably won’t. I have no intention of trying very hard. She says she’ll see me later, I tell her goodbye because I know this is the last time I will see her.
Halfway through the day, I cross Kings Creek and remember my training trips to Lassen. In May, the creek was terrifyingly fast and high, and I crossed anyway. Waist deep in freezing water, I was thrown around, busting my knee open on a submerged rock, and I thought I might die. Shaking, I flung myself ashore and even then, was wondering if it’s all worth it. And now here I am, months later, at the same place, wondering the same thing.
I wanted to be ready. And I was ready, for the river crossings but nothing else. I’m slowing beginning to realize that you aren’t really ever ready for anything. Everyone is just sorta figuring it out as they go.
I had a weird feeling of acceptance today. I begin to wonder if I’ve been grieving the end of this journey since starting at the Canadian border. And now that I’m faced with my final days, I feel at peace with that.
As the day progresses, so does the pain of my shin splints that I’ve been battling since starting. I pass a sign that says “Belden, 59 miles”, and 59 feels impossible.
Day 77 – 23.6 miles
It has become apparent to me that I am probably injured, or have tendinitis at the least. My shin is killing me and nothing I do seems to provide any kind of relief.
Everything is wet and muddy. Wet ash is sure special. It’s also freezing cold, but I know I have to get going, especially knowing how my shin is feeling and my current aversion to night hiking (which I suspect is what’s gotten me into this very predicament).
The only people I see all day, I make a terrible impression on. I get to a bog that used to have a large catwalk over it…. Well it burnt, like everything else. So now you have to wade through it – “knee deep”, a comment on FarOut said.
It’s cold. And wet, and muddy, and cloudy. And windy. And this sucks. I get to the bog, where I see two people putting their shoes back on. The said I could go barefoot if I’m careful, to which I replied “I don’t fucking care anymore” and went crashing though an actually very waist deep bog.
I seem to learn everything the hard way in life.
Today tested me in a way that taught me something. I need to be nicer to myself. I let myself go slow. And I’m gonna go as far as I want tomorrow, far or not, doesn’t matter. It’s my last day. I hurt, and I soaked it all in. I went slow, the sun set across the High Lakes. I looked at the trail and said aloud “hah, you dog”, because it’s showing me… I’m showing me… everything I need to see right now. It’s nothing that I came here for, but everything that I need.
This is my back yard. This was the woods growing up. We’d all drive up in my dads truck and cut our Christmas tree. I don’t know how the Dixie Fire spared this one perfect spot, but it’s one of the few things in my life that looks the same as when I was a kid. It’s still there, nothing else is.
I camped at Humboldt summit. I decided to one last cowboy. I hurt so bad today, and thought about quitting all day, I really hate this right now, but something about lying here makes it all worth it and ultimately, I am sad that it’s almost over.
Day 78 – 25.2 miles
I didn’t know it, but today was my last day on trail. I awoke to ice, a thin layer of frost covered everything. My wet shoes were frozen solid, and I barely slept. I am exhausted.
I wait for the sun, I can’t get myself to try. My shin still hurts, and I brace for a rough day.
Somehow, after the second mile, the pain went away entirely. I didn’t stop, I just kept walking. I passed by Frog Mountain and remembered the time I climbed it six years ago.
I started the descent into the Feather River Canyon. I haven’t been down the Chips Creek drainage before. I was saving this drainage for one day when I do the PCT. And now here I am, doing the PCT, it still doesn’t feel real.
I checked FarOut, and saw Belden was only 14 miles away. I was getting there tonight. I am finishing this today. Everyone I tell already knew I was going to do this, I surprised myself still somehow.
The sun started to set. I called my brother and he said he’d pick me up tonight. I stop and eat a bar, I’ve been rationing food and I feel sick. I take a short break and call my grandma. I call my dad and he tells me he’s proud of me, I tell him I am too. I text Karl, and he tells me he knew I was going to do this. How does everyone seem to know me better than I know myself?
I pass by Ben Lomond. My favorite peak in the canyon. I let my cat’s ashes go up there last November. The canyon comes into view and I can’t believe I’m here.
I feel numb. I just keep walking. I know I hurt but I can’t feel a thing. Night falls, and I’m hiking in the dark now. I pass Chips Creek, where I went on my first overnight trip. I pass the stretch of the PCT that I’ve hiked more than any other.
I finally believe that maybe I can do this. That I am doing this. I’m about to finish this.
Belden comes into view. The lights from the lodge are dim compared to the light of the full moon. I hear someone shout out to me from the porch, there’s drunk truckers cheering me on.
I cross the bridge, and go to the bar. They are surprised to see it was a women who was hiking in the dark, and they buy me a meal and some shots. They ask how far I’m going, and I told them I just finished. This is it.
They are in disbelief, as well as I am. I feel shell shocked and don’t really know what to say. I go to the bathroom and take a picture in the mirror, just like last year, this is my terminus.
I walked home again, but that’s not what this was about this time. It was about finding home, not going back to it.
Home isn’t just a place. It can be a feeling, a place, someone you care about, a thing that you do. It’s a lot of things. But it’s not just a place, it’s a feeling and I think as long as you find something to be passionate about, you will always feel it.
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