Rose, Bud, Thorn: A Reflection

“I think we should play a game.”

An evening in the Mojave.

I had been deep in thought when Sprout suddenly spoke up. It had been another long day and we were pushing into the evening after having taken a siesta to wait out the hottest part of the day. It was going to be another late night and we would need to get up early the next morning to beat the heat again. We were also solely relying on water caches at this point, as there were no natural water sources in the area. Without the help of kind souls (aka trail angels) who maintained these water caches, we would’ve had to carry enough water to sustain ourselves for a 36.2-mile stretch. In addition to these circumstances, Sprout had been experiencing some worrisome pain in her foot (which thankfully, has seen some improvement since).

It seemed as if this final stretch of the desert was testing us – were we truly cut out for this journey?

As Sprout’s words brought me back to the present, I grounded myself in the natural beauty of my surroundings. The sun had set, leaving behind beautifully blended blue and pink pastel layers and a nearly full moon in its place. The Joshua trees that dotted the landscape cast strange shadows over the trail; the Mojave could be unhospitable at times, but there was no doubt that it was beautiful in its own sense.

“What kind of game?” I asked. Sprout responded, “Have you heard of ‘Rose, Bud, Thorn’ before? I think it would be fun to share our reflections on the journey we’ve had.”

Although I was reluctant at first, I agreed to participate. We were both familiar with this type of activity, as it was the sort of thing we had previously used in leading outdoor education programs (and don’t forget, we met while doing just this sort of thing).

Classic Dobby and Sprout moment at mile 600.

Sprout jogged my memory and reminded me that “rose” is a particular thing that’s stood out to you, “bud” is something you’re looking forward to, and “thorn” is a challenge you’ve faced.

So, here it goes – my “Rose, Bud, Thorn” from this journey so far:

Rose – I reached the exact place where I previously had to exit the PCT with my dog Lily. There was a point in my life when I wasn’t sure if I would set foot on this trail again – and specifically, this particular section of trail that held so many memories. As it turns out, I was able to rewalk this section and continue on after reaching this memorable spot!

Bud – I’m looking forward to facing the challenges that are sure to present themselves in this upcoming section of trail through the Sierra. I learned so much about myself through the desert (on both occasions) and I realize that there are many more opportunities to learn ahead.

Thorn – Life on the trail is constantly in flux; the views change, the people around you change, and the trail has a way of challenging you in unexpected ways. In my particular case, I’m juggling additional responsibilities such as attempting to hike the trail low-waste and removing litter from the trail. Finding balance is something I often struggle with, both on and off-trail, and this hike is presenting me with plenty of opportunities to grow in this area.

Got a visit from a rattlesnake (or a few, actually) this past week on trail.

So there you have it – my reflection on the first 700 miles of trail. The time has come to enter the bigger mountains before us and leave the desert behind. I look forward to sharing new adventures with y’all soon and as always, happy trails.


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