Search this blog

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

PCT: Post-hike reflections

Five months have passed since I got off trail.  How has my life changed?  Here are some random highlights in no particular order...

One of the many majestic views along the Pacific Crest Trail

  • When I left for the PCT, I was unhappily married.  After some clarity brought to me by being on the PCT, I'm now divorced and happily so.  
  • When I first got off the PCT, I returned to a house that didn't feel like my home.  I went into a very very dark depression during the time I was reluctantly staying there while I searched for a home to live in post-divorce.  I was so depressed, lonely, and I missed my trail family dearly.  I missed the simplicity of life on the trail.  I missed the positive energy of the trail.  I was actively considering suicide daily.  Eventually the curtain started to fall on my old life.  I bought a house, moved, visited my doctor for a medication tweak for my bipolar disorder, and light began returning to my life.  I started getting outside again.  I started playing music again.  I started reaching out to friends again and I even began dating.  I was determined to focus on the positive things in life again.  I had overcome the post-trail depression which was probably made worse by my huge life changes upon coming home, bipolar disorder, etc.  I finally escaped the darkness, but just barely.
  • When I got off the PCT, I could barely walk because my ankle hurt so bad.  In October 2018, I received a platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection in my ankle from my orthopedic surgeon.  It has worked wonders.  I hike and/or ride my mountain bike on an average of four days a week.  I have little or no pain now.  I am even considering a return to the PCT in 2020, or maybe I'll bike the Colorado Trail in 2019.
  • I gained back all the weight I had lost on the PCT in a matter of weeks, thanks to an Oreo cookie addiction.  That being said, I am still much stronger.  I can go for a day hike for 14 miles and not even really feel like I've had a sufficient workout. 
  • In my post-PCT depression, I burned some bridges I wish I hadn't.  My PCT friend Ranger called me one day when I was laying on my dining room floor in my new place crying uncontrollably wishing I could just end the pain.  I didn't answer the phone.  I didn't know what to say.  I haven't called him back since because I feel like I'd have to explain the long period of me being a jerk and not returning his call.  I miss talking to him.  I also burned a bridge with my trail friend Sleeping Beauty.  She and I were good friends and mountaineering partners in Colorado before I hiked the PCT.  On the PCT we had a few tough moments but we parted ways on a mostly positive note.  We had a text message/email exchange during my deep depression and I pushed her away too, just like I had with Ranger.  I've apologized to her via email since, but sometimes burned bridges can't be reconstructed.  It's a painful lesson to learn, but a valuable one that I am determined not to repeat in the future.
  • Since the PCT, and over the last five months, I have grown into a better person.  Honestly, I think a much better person.  I have way more patience than I ever did prior to this hike.  I am a more spiritual person in touch with my soul's purpose on this planet.  I try to find the positive side in everything now.  The PCT taught me that the stagnant water covered with bees, with a dead rodent floating in it, and a wild turkey simultaneously drinking and shitting in it is NOT a bad water source.  It is instead a beautiful source of life, once treated and filtered of course.  It's all perspective.

Here are the top five things I took away from the PCT and the aftermath.  These points will forever be my mantra for life. 
  1. Live in the moment every day.  It sounds like a cliche, but it's so important.  If you can't stop to enjoy what is happening right now, you will never have lived.  You will have just existed and squandered opportunities to live while you planned, worried, second guessed yourself, etc.  I urge you to focus on what's around you.  Not your phone, not the TV... the real things; expressing yourself, conversation, the beauty of nature, your precious relationships, and educating yourself.
  2. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.  - My dad has said this to me and my siblings my entire life.  But now, at age 44, I finally completely embrace this as a fundamental puzzle piece in my soul's purpose in life.  With every interaction with others, I now I ask myself if I am interacting with the intent of love, fairness, and integrity.  Or more easily put, I ask myself if I am treating others the way I want to be treated.  If I can't definitively answer "YES" to that question, I stop and rethink what I am doing, maybe adjust my attitude, consider my response or the tone of what I am saying and ask myself that question again.
  3. Let go of the anchors holding you down - You can't grow inside if there's resentment, fear, shame, anger, or other negative emotions occupying the space in your heart needed to grow.  As a very close friend said to me recently "..just let it out".  Let it all out and allow yourself to heal, grow, and become a person you are happy with when you look at yourself.  Now for a personal sidebar.  I very recently talked about a traumatic incident from my childhood that I have never mentioned to anyone.  As I talked, I cried and I cried hard.  Each tear and each word freed me a little and left free space in my heart.  I had no idea this incident even had that profound of an effect on my overall self until after I shared it.  The emotions I bottled up had been subtly controlling me for the majority of my life.  I can't encourage you enough to engage in this real talk with someone you care about and trust.  And I mean this, if you are reading this, and you have no one, send me an email and I will make time to listen to your story.  YOUR story is just as important as mine.  
  4. Happiness is only real when shared. - Yes I stole this from the movie "Into the wild" because it's true.  People are not meant to live isolated lives.  While some solitude allows us time to focus internally at times, it's a fine line between solitude and loneliness.  Loneliness is simply a feeling your soul is giving you telling you that you need to make changes.  On the PCT, I discovered when I would get to a stunning vista, a beautiful alpine lake, or witness a glorious sunset, that I enjoyed these things so much more if I was with someone I cared about.
    A magical sunrise on the Crestones in Colorado.  Years later, I still wish someone was there to share this view with me.
  5. Love is all that matters.  If you remember anything from this post, remember this.  Love is all that matters.  Everything else is a chasing of the wind.  Whether that love is shared with a family, a trail family, a friend, a significant other, a child, a dog, or a pet chupacabra.  It is all that matters.  If you are ever looking for a "meaning" in your life, it probably starts with love and ends with love.  Whether that meaning is giving your love to someone or something, learning how to accept being loved, teaching others how to live lovingly, creating art or music for others to love, etc.  Or maybe, just maybe your purpose is to just love the person that you are.  There are countless ways to bring love into your life.  Start by smiling at the next person you see.  You can change the world this way.  Once you share your smile, someone else may share theirs.  If everyone just smiled genuinely at each person they encountered each day, that love would change the planet.  Go change the planet, you have the power to do that, as do I

My daughter and I on Huron Peak several years ago.  I love her so much.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

PCT - Day 69: 7/4/2018 - tough decision and true friends

Trail miles: 9.1 from 1126.9 - 1136.0
Miles walked: 16.5 (side trail & Reno bonus miles)

My ankle was in intense pain all night long. I barely slept at all and that’s after a Vicodin and an Advil PM. I decided at 5:00 am that enough was enough. I was getting off trail. My ankle was becoming a liability, and honestly hiking day after day in progressively worsening pain was not fun.

I ate a few handfuls of granola and a Snickers bar while watching the sunrise. I cried numerous times today, but the tears that came with my final PCT sunrise were the most intense. My dream of completing this 2650 mile journey was coming to an end before I even reached the halfway point. My tears were not just from the broken dream. They were also for the great friends I would be saying goodbye to, and some that I would never get the opportunity to say goodbye to. My tears were also for the uncertain life circumstances that awaited me back in Colorado. But mostly my tears were for the love that I’d be missing; love that I felt daily from my trail family, trail angels, and the trail itself.

I limped away from my final PCT campsite around 5:50 am. Ten minutes into my morning, I walked past where Opera and Tapeworm had camped the previous night. Apparently I had stopped .2 miles short of them last night.

It was obvious to them that I was in a great deal of pain as I hobbled toward them. I told them I was going to get off trail because of my ankle problems. Tapeworm gave me a hug and I choked back some tears. Opera then gave me a hug and I couldn’t stop my tears when I saw that she had tears in her eyes too. I wished them well and walked away slowly while sobbing to myself and hiding behind my sunglasses.

An hour later Opera and Tapeworm caught up to me. I had only covered about a mile in that first hour. I moved over to let them pass and they told me they were going to hike with me to make sure I made it out safely. Love filled my heart from this gesture, but I still felt guilty since they were having to slow down significantly to hike with me.

We hiked up to a ridge that would ultimately lead to the Alpine Meadows Ski Area. We walked through beautiful fields of purple, blue, and yellow wildflowers. During our morning, we reminisced about good times we shared in the desert. Recalling these great memories was enjoyable yet it hurt too; since I knew I would no longer be out here creating those memories. I walked in front of the three of us sometimes laughing, sometimes crying silently. All the while they retold stories from earlier in our adventure.

We finally reached a creek where we refilled water. Opera asked a day hiker where the nearest trailhead was and learned there was a trailhead on Alpine Meadows Road about four miles away. I decided I would exit the PCT here.

We ate lunch while I soaked my swollen ankle in the cold creek. Tapeworm asked me if there was anything he could do for me. I handed him the picture of Jack that I’d been carrying and asked that he take the photo north, so Jack’s adventure could continue. He agreed and slipped the picture into a Ziploc bag and tucked it into his pack. This means the world to me as well as my brother’s family back in Massachusetts.

After lunch we hiked .1 mile to the Five Lakes Trail junction. Here I would head east to Alpine Meadows Road and they would continue north towards Canada. Tapeworm stopped and took his pack off and pulled out the remainder of a bottle of whiskey. The three of us stood there in the afternoon sun passing a Coke bottle full of Evan Williams whiskey back and forth until it was all gone.

We then hugged again and this time I lost it. Tapeworm and Opera both in turn each said “I love you.”

I was choked up by this and could only get my failing voice to mumble an “I love you too.”

I turned and started walking away with tears filling my eyes. I looked back only once, just in time to see them as they hiked out of sight.

I hiked down that side trail lost in thought. Eventually I made it to Alpine Meadows Road and quickly got a hitch to highway 89. After another 20 minutes in the sun, I was picked up again and given a ride to I-80 in Truckee. I attempted to hitch to Reno for about 45 minutes before I finally just said “Fuck it” and paid another $88 for an Uber to Reno.

I checked into my free room at Harrahs, showered, did some laundry in the sink, and put on wet boxers and shorts. I then hobbled 1.5 miles to a Walgreens and back to buy a bag of jalapeƱo potato chips, some Mt Dew, and deodorant; which I assume the passengers on my flight home will appreciate on Friday.

I then made the mistake of eating at a sushi restaurant in the casino. The sushi sucked. It made day old gas station sushi seem like a good idea. Disappointed and still depressed about leaving trail, I stopped at a blackjack table on my slow walk back to my room. I turned a $100 into $300 in ten minutes, so I cashed out and decided to go put my glorious king size bed to good use. Hopefully my ankle would allow sleep tonight.

I’m planning on visiting my orthopedic surgeon next week. If there’s some miracle he can perform, I might be back. I do feel like that’s unlikely though. Either way, I truly enjoyed my 1100 miles or so and have memories that will last a lifetime. I also created connections to people that may necessitate new travel adventures all over the planet to keep in touch.

Thanks to all of my blog readers, all the amazing trail angels, anyone who ever gave me a ride when I was hitchhiking, Siona for tirelessly helping with my resupply, my Dad for putting these blog posts together, and the wonderful people I work with for allowing me to embark on this crazy adventure in the first place.

The biggest thanks however goes to all the other PCT hikers. Each and every one of you shared your beautiful soul with me for hours, days, weeks, or months. Your smiles, our shared laughter, and our genuine love created a bond that made this adventure what it was. I love you all! I will never forget you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

PCT - Day 68: 7/3/2018 - Susie & a Bag of Dicks

Trail miles: 25.3 from 1101.6 - 1126.9
Miles walked: 25.6

It was a hot night last night next to Susie, and as a result I didn’t sleep well. Susie is a lake by the way. I finally crawled out of my tent at 5:00 am. Two falcons dive-bombed me as I hunted for a private place to go to the bathroom. They buzzed my head a few times and were very vocal that my presence was not welcome. I assume this is for one of two reasons.  Either, I was unknowingly walking near their nest. Or it could be, that they being falcons, are still bitter about blowing a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. These birds must have seen my Boston Red Sox hat and just assumed I was also a New England Patriots fan.

I was on the trail at 6:00 am, walking away and stealing a last look at Susie from above, but now my focus was on Dicks. Dicks is the name of a Pass and a lake, but it’s spelled Dicks, not Dick’s. This led me to wonder why this lake is named after dicks. It’s not shaped like a dick. I mean, Guitar Lake was shaped like a guitar, so I thought maybe Dicks Lake would be shaped like a bunch of dicks, or at least more than one dick since the name is the plural Dicks. Instead the lake is sort of shaped like a bag of dicks, but it’s not named “Bag of Dicks Lake”, just Dicks Lake. I met several southbound TRT (Tahoe Rim Trail) hikers walking away from Dicks and I would ask “Did you just come from Dicks?” I got a lot of weird looks for asking this question for some reason. Also, nobody could tell me why it wasn’t named “Bag of Dicks Lake”. Oh well, it’s a mystery.

Thankfully the PCT skirted Dicks. It instead brought me right along the edge of a spectacular lake named Fontanillis. I don’t know what that word is, but I assume it’s related to dicks. After all, in a few miles I also walked along Blackwood Creek. Blackwood is certainly related to dicks.

My ankle was really tender and painful all day. I had taken a Voltaren to start my day, and by 11:00 am, I needed to swallow a Vicodin just to be able to walk. I again ran the gauntlet of thoughts and emotions about possibly getting off trail due to my piece of shit ankle.

I was still making decent time though, and around 1:00 pm, I stopped a couple miles into the Desolation Wilderness to eat lunch. I had already covered nearly 17 miles. I elevated my ankle and foot like I do on all my breaks, and tried to nap, but my brain wanted to continue to hike. I wanted to try and knock out 25 or maybe 30 miles.

Around mile 21, I knew I would not be doing 30. My ankle was screaming in pain. The pain only subsided briefly while I was chatting with a cute French woman from Paris who was hiking a section of the TRT. Another mystery from today is why do I get so worked up over girls with foreign accents? I know I’m not the only one this applies to either.

After I slogged a few more miles, I found a solo campsite overlooking Lake Tahoe in the distance. I was trying to catch up to Opera and Tapeworm but this view was too good to pass up, and my ankle desperately needed rest.

I am going to try to do another 25 miles tomorrow in hopes of closing the gap between myself and Chilly Bin and Peanut Butter. If I wake up and my ankle is worse than today, I may have to make a tough decision on whether or not to continue and hike in severe pain all the time, or get off trail and let my dream of thru hiking the PCT die. That’s a decision I’ll delay for yet another day, like I have been doing for a few hundred miles now.

PCT - Day 67: 7/2/2018 - Back on the Trail

Trail miles: 9.3 from 1092.3 - 1101.6
Miles walked: 9.8

I returned to the PCT today after spending eight days traveling and hanging out with my family in New England. I was hopeful that my unexpected time off trail would have at least served as good rest for my ailing right ankle.

Yesterday I left my brother’s place in Fitchburg, MA around 3:15 pm ET. After a 75 minute drive to Boston, two flights, and an $88 Uber ride, I was curling up in a king size bed in a room at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe around 1:30am PT.

Of course, I woke up around 6:00 am. After reading a bit, I showered and then checked out of my room. It was hard to leave the luxurious accommodations especially since my room was complimentary. I still get free rooms sometimes in Caesar’s owned casinos thanks to my reputation from my poker playing days.

Around 8:30 am, I was sitting in front of the office at the hostel awaiting the 9:00 am opening so I could get my resupply packages and stuff I had left there a week prior.

While I was sitting there, Tapeworm and Opera walked downstairs. We hadn’t seen each other since Crabtree Meadows on June 4th. It was really great seeing my friends again and we shared a hug. Tapeworm informed me that I had missed Chilly Bin and Peanut Butter by no more than 30 minutes. This saddened me slightly since I was really looking forward to seeing them.  Opera and Tapeworm hung out while I opened all my packages, which included a much needed new pair of shoes. Yay!

Tapeworm & Opera

After buying some fuel, eating, and shipping home my bounce box, we took an Uber to Echo Lake where we would pick up the PCT again.

Echo Lake was mobbed with day hikers which added to my less than awesome feeling. I was struggling getting motivated and after an average $8 milkshake, I was really ready for a nap. Instead of a nap though, we began our hike at 2:30 pm in the hottest part of the day. Almost immediately I was sweating like a whore in church.

Echo Lake
Within an hour I realized the eight days of rest did nothing for my ankle. It hurt as much as ever and felt unstable and weak to boot. I have self diagnosed my ankle problem as an anterior ankle impingement. I don’t believe there’s much that can be done.

By the time we reached Lake Aloha, I was considering where I would be ending my hike since I think my ankle will continue to get worse with each day. This was one of a handful of reasons I was in a somber mood while taking in the views of this spectacular lake.

Another reason for my somber mood was because I kept thinking about Jack. I now carry a picture of Jack in my backpack, which I took out at Lake Aloha so Jack could share the view. I kept wondering if Jack knew how much he is missed by his friends and family.

I limped across the imaginary line at mile 1100 and stopped shortly after to get water.

Mile 1100

 While putting my water treatment bag away, a guy walked up who looked really familiar. It took me a second but my mouth dropped with surprise when I realized it was Paint Peeler! I hadn’t seen him since the town of Julian around mile 80 back on day five of my hike. Over a 1000 miles later there we were, talking and walking together like we’d been hiking together the whole time. This was really strange since earlier in the day, I had crossed paths with Surgeon and Mouse while buying fuel. I hadn’t seen them since Idyllwild. I learned that Paint Peeler had also been battling ankle problems in addition to a broken toe. His perseverance motivated me to continue rather than bailing on my hike even if it meant hiking with constant ankle pain. Paint Peeler stopped for the night around Heather Lake. I pushed onto Susie Lake where Opera and Tapeworm were waiting.

We ate dinner and shared laughs like old times. A little bottle of whiskey even made the way around our triangle. It was so heartwarming to be sitting in the dirt and eating with my friends again.

After dinner, Tapeworm and Opera were busy rigging a bear bag hang as I took a short stroll and watched the final alpenglow fade on the mountains in the distance. I thought again of my nephew Jack. I thought of a few people that I wished I could share this moment with. Instead, I stood alone on the rocky hillside watching the last of the light fade to black. Then suddenly, that moment of my life was gone... shared with no one.

Tomorrow may bring another moment similar to this, but then again, maybe not. Every single moment is precious.   If everyone treated these moments as THE potential last moment, just imagine the powerful love we’d all share.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

PCT - Day 66: 6/23/2018 - Help from Greg and Carolyn

Trail miles: 13.7 from 1057.4 - 1071.1
Miles walked: 18.1

I received a call from my Dad while in my tent last night. He informed me that Jack passed away during surgery. I didn’t sleep much after that. That and there were multiple deer wandering around my campsite making me constantly have to inspect whether it was deer or a bear.

From the time I woke up Jack was dominating my thoughts. I desperately wanted to be off trail and to be home with my family. I have no idea how to console someone with the sudden loss of a child or sibling. I was hiking with a heavy heart with tears flowing freely for much of the morning. Three times I simply dropped my trekking poles and sat in the middle of the trail and cried. The second time this happened I ran into the first hiker I saw all day. His dog was ahead of him and it walked up and started licking the tears from my face. The guy asked me if I was doing ok. I briefly explained to him what was going on and he then politely apologized for his dog and quietly walked away.

I didn’t even really pay attention to the trail or the surroundings much today. About 7 miles into my day, I crossed Blue Lakes Road where I immediately got the idea of hitchhiking into South Lake Tahoe so I could accelerate getting to Reno for a flight to Boston. I tried hitchhiking for about ten minutes but only saw one car, which drove by and waved at me, but didn’t stop. I saw a couple other hikers a hundred yards down the road. I walked over and discovered they’d been hitchhiking for over an hour and had only seen three cars. They suggested I might have better luck getting to Tahoe by hitchhiking from Carson Pass which was another 11.1 miles north on the PCT. Just then, another car drove by, I stuck my thumb out and was again waved at as they drove by. It’s as if they were saying “I see you, but I’m not picking you up”. This angered me.  I could have chucked a rock through this guy’s rear window as he drove by. Instead I stormed off and started hiking the 11.1 extra miles to Carson Pass.

I took pictures of flowers as I went to calm myself down. The Chesse-Burg-Er birds gave me audible hugs with their song. I hiked with a purpose only focusing on my foot placement, yet I still tweaked my ailing ankle another two times in a five mile stretch. While climbing a steep hill above the Lost Lakes, I passed numerous ponds where the mosquitoes tried to use my ears like secret passageways, as if my head was a game of Ms. Pac-Man.

It was so hot, and I was in mission-mode. I refused to even stop to drink water. After a few hours my body began shutting down from lack of hydration and food. I still refused to stop until I intersected with a Jeep road in hopes of scoring a ride to town from a weekend warrior. Twenty minutes later, I sat in a small patch of shade at this intersection of a 4x4 road and the PCT. It was almost 2:00 pm. I ate a snack and drank some water. 

As I was cooling down, I caught some movement from the 4x4 road. A young couple was walking in my direction. As they approached, I asked if they knew any place closer to potentially hitch from in order to get into Tahoe. They reiterated what I already knew... Carson Pass. I explained why I was asking and thanked them. They walked off, but quickly returned and offered to drive me to South Lake Tahoe. I graciously accepted this offer and offered gas money which they refused. We introduced ourselves and this is how I met Greg and Carolyn. 

These two were the most kindhearted people I’d met in 1071 miles. We hiked two miles on the dirt road towards their truck. We were heading back south at a lower elevation from the direction I’d just come from earlier. We took a short detour to see the Lost Lakes since that was one of their objectives in the first place. We talked a bit but also hiked in silence that under most circumstances would have been awkward. Today that silence was like the silence a couple of good friends can share without it being uncomfortable.

They drove me about an hour to South Lake Tahoe. Once I received a cell signal on our drive, I was trying to coordinate my travel plans and chatting with family. Greg and Carolyn were very understanding. They dropped me at the hostel and I hugged them and thanked them profusely.

I went into the hostel explained my situation and they informed me that they were sold out and I couldn’t stay the night. They did give me a free beer and offered me a “day use” which included a shower for $10. I took this offer knowing I needed to shower before boarding a plane. 

While I was in the hostel lobby, Carolyn poked her head in and just said “We’re taking you to Reno.” This made my already fragile emotional state just crumble. I could’ve hugged Carolyn for ten minutes.

Ziploc was also at the hostel when I arrived, and she knew of what happened with Jack. She was great and offered to help in any way possible. After a hug that kept my tears going, she ran to get me a couple things from the store while I showered and stripped my pack of anything TSA would bitch about (trekking poles, knife, tent poles & stakes, fuel, etc.). All the while, Greg and Carolyn waited patiently for me to get my shit together.

As I was readying to leave, I realized I would likely never see Ziploc again. I gave her a big hug and my heart was again broken. This time it was with the idea that I’d probably never see my amazing German friend again. Ziploc and I clashed a lot because we both have strong personalities, but in the end, I really enjoyed her company even if I never had a chance of keeping up with her when hiking with her. By the time I get back to trail, she will be 200+ miles in front of me.

After Ziploc and I shared a teary and emotional goodbye, Greg and Carolyn drove me 90 minutes in traffic to Reno’s airport. I had reluctantly accepted that I’d be spending a long night at the airport since every single hotel in Reno and South Lake Tahoe was sold out thanks to numerous weekend events.  When they dropped me off, I gave Greg and Carolyn hugs that expressed my deepest gratitude. Thanks to them, soon I’ll be able to share hugs with my family in Massachusetts. These two angels were empathetic, classy, and truly amazing; just the kind of character Jack was. 

~ For those that follow this blog closely, my return flight to Reno is on 7/2. I hope to make it back to the PCT sometime on 7/3. Until then, this blog will be going dark. Thank you for your understanding. ~

Saturday, June 23, 2018

PCT - Day 65: 6/22/2018 - Trail Angels and Sad News

Trail miles: 21.2 from 1036.2 - 1057.4
Miles walked: 22.9

What a roller coaster of emotions today. This day was a day of dreams becoming reality, but also nightmares coming to fruition.

First, I’ll let the readers know that this post is going to be difficult to digest. Maybe don’t read this one at the office.

The morning started like most mornings on the trail. I woke up at 5:30 am and immediately pulled my hood down to block the light and went back to sleep until 6:40 am. After packing up my brand new tent (which is awesome), I was on the trail at 7:15 am and clicking off miles pretty quickly. The trail took me through a forest and past a meadow or two, some creeks, and a lake or two.

During my morning hike, I grabbed a few jelly beans from a bag of jelly beans and looked in my hand and there was a jelly bean flower. I assume this flower is for my wife who is nice enough to remove all the black jelly beans before sending me these in a resupply box.

Jellybean flower

I had stopped on a ridge to upload content for my blog when Mermaid showed up. I’d met her only once or twice before and each encounter was brief. This time we hiked together and talked for a few miles. The conversation flowed well but eventually she and a friend of hers named Raven, who’d caught up with us, turned on the jets to make it to trail magic. Text messages from people in front of us confirmed rumors of “trail magic deluxe!” at highway 4.

The last two miles before the trail magic, my ankle was really bad. I was in a lot of pain and I limped into the trail magic at Ebbetts Pass. My bad mood from the ankle troubles suddenly vanished.

Trail Magic Ahead

This trail magic was like nothing I’d ever seen. Multiple trail angels tended to each hiker. They saw I was limping and before I knew it I was sitting in a chair with a ziploc bag full of ice on my ankle. Then I was ASKED... “Pizza or Burger?” I looked at their setup and they had a grill AND a pizza oven!

I of course went with the pizza option and while it was being baked, I feasted on a banana, cookies, potato chips, and a caramel covered brownie. I washed this and the amazing pizza down with three sodas.

The trail magic is run by two guys named Alan and Tim. They are dedicated and they’ve even branded a van with the name “Limit Situation Trail Magic”. These trail angels are so generous (like all the trail angels we meet). When I asked why they do it, Alan’s response nearly brought me to tears, because it did bring him to tears. He said he does it because it’s one of the truest ways to connect with people. He said the hikers he feeds and treats like kings and queens are truly grateful. 

Hikers and Angels Connecting
He also noted that the time hikers spend lounging at his setup is quality time where hikers and the trail angels get to really connect with one another without interruptions of cell phones, etc. I have the utmost respect and gratitude for Alan and his huge heart.  Guys like him restore faith in humanity.

After spending over three hours just hanging out with Scuzi, Spiceman, Raven, Mermaid, Pants, and others I was the first to depart at 4:15 pm, knowing my ankle would give me some trouble and I still wanted to hike another 6-8 miles. 

I ended up hiking almost 10 more miles through terrain that resembled parts of Colorado. Aspens, wildflowers, and conglomerate rock dominated the afternoon’s trail. As daylight was waning, I finally exited a canyon and found a tent site.

This was right as the sun was setting. Before I even started settling up my tent, I took my phone out of airplane mode and that’s when my day took another drastic turn.

New Tent

I learned from my brother Chris that my nephew Jack had been in a very bad motorcycle accident tonight. He was airlifted to a hospital in Boston and apparently he had to be revived a few times en route. I dropped to the ground and wept after hanging up the phone. I called my other brother Eric and he answered. He was at the hospital waiting for Jack to emerge from surgery. I felt helpless. There was nothing I could say or do. Eric was emotional as any parent would be in this situation and he told me what I could do was say a prayer since I, being in the mountains, was probably closer to God than anyone else in our family at the moment. After crying on the phone with Eric, I sat in the dirt while watching the alpen glow from the sunset and uttered my first prayer in twenty years. I prayed aloud for Jack to pull through this and make a full recovery.

I then cried some more while doing routine hiker chores like treating water, making dinner, and setting up my tent. While cooking, I was staring off into the twilight and a huge buck trotted right by about 20 feet in front of me. He had an enormous rack and stopped for 2 seconds in front of me, looked at me, and then trotted off. I like to think it was a positive sign for Jack. 

I also learned tonight that HoosierDaddy is getting off trail at South Lake Tahoe and heading home due to some medical problems. That guy was a class act and I’m certain this breaks his heart. I just wish I could give him a hug and tell him what a great friend I think he is.

Tonight, I lie awake wondering how the surgery is going and waiting for any message or phone call. Thus far it’s almost two hours after hiker midnight and I’ve heard nothing. It’s almost 2:00 am now in Boston.

This morning I would have done anything to be rid of this ankle pain. Tonight I’d hike another 1600 miles to Canada with this pain or worse if it meant that Jack recovers from this.

Editorial update from Adam's Dad: It is with a heavy heart that I write this update. At 2:13 am (Boston time) just after Adam sent this email for me to post, I got a call from Eric and found out that Jack had passed away due to injuries from the accident.  I called Adam  and  updated him.  He plans to hike to South Lake Tahoe as soon as he can.  He then expects to fly to Massachusetts to be with his family in this time of sorrow.  

RIP Jack Wilbur 1997 - 2018

Friday, June 22, 2018

PCT - Day 64: 6/21/2018 - Zombie hiking, random thoughts, and Ant Power

Trail miles: 19.3 from 1016.9 - 1036.2
Miles walked: 20.5

Yes today was the international “hike naked” day. I didn’t see anyone participating unfortunately.

$35 at Kennedy Meadows North gets a shower, laundry, and a bed in a dorm. After drinking a lot of beer and wine I barely even woke up at 2:00 am when the generator turned on for some unknown reason. When it did, our room was lit up with bright light. I slept through that, but woke up at 4:45 am for no reason and never really got back to sleep.

We ate breakfast and Dan, the bartender from the saloon, gave us a ride to the trailhead. It took me a while to get into hiking mode. I felt like just taking a nap for much of the day.

I hiked by myself all day and barely talked to anyone for longer than a minute or so. I really miss my trail family from the pre-Sierra days. It was nice to have lunch with people on occasion. Now I’m often finding myself in zombie hiking mode listening to music.

The day started with a climb up over 10,500 feet. The views along this part of today’s hike were great but not as picturesque as the Sierra. 

I would have given up these views to not have to deal with more snow. On the north side, when I started descending, the trail was difficult to locate in all the snow. This made for some slow going, postholing, and route finding until I finally found a trail again.

I had started on the trail shortly after 8:30 am. By noon I’d only covered about 7 miles. I sat down and ate lunch by a creek and spent half my lunch break swatting flies. I was intrigued at the power of one ant, when it began dragging away a dead fly body.

Another random thought I had at lunch is wouldn’t it be cool to know the history behind every log you seen on the forest floor? Was it wind? Was it heavy snow? Was it bark beetles? When did this tree become a log? Was anyone ever around to see this?

I also thought about how the trail teaches us to not delay saying things to those we care about. It’s entirely possible a hiker you’re friends with and hanging out with for weeks can suddenly be ahead or behind you. Without cell signals for the majority of the time, sometimes you don’t even know. The point is, if you want to communicate how important another person is to you, do it now. I think this is a good principle to apply to off-trail life too.

As an example, I know a guy who was not super close to his father. There were conversations that were always delayed and feelings never openly communicated. Then one day the father died of a heart attack and those unsaid things died too and left a hole in that guy’s heart for a long time. The point is, express yourself. It’s good to live with no regrets.

After lunch, I zombie-hiked through the noticeable heat wave, which appropriately showed up on the first day of summer. I hiked through the forest up very steep hills and down muddy slopes. One of these muddy slopes got the best of me and I went for a 10 foot slide on my rear end. My freshly laundered shorts, now covered in mud.

My ankle was not good, but not the worst it’s been either. The outside of my left knee is now starting to bother me. Likely an issue caused by compensating for my shitty right ankle. That being said my main issue today was simply lack of sleep. I stopped and took a 30 minute nap on the ground at 3:30 pm. I woke up feeling better and hiked another 8 miles before settling up camp at a tent site in the forest. 

I’m camped by myself for the ?fourth? night in a row. I like the quiet that comes with sleeping in a campsite alone. I do however miss sharing good conversation over dinner. Tonight while eating I wondered again where Chilly Bin was since I think she’s the closest person from my trail family that’s behind me. She was one of my favorite people to hike with since she and I often hiked at the same pace and had good talks and good humor. I miss her singing too. I hope she catches me before I leave South Lake Tahoe next week.

I plan on getting to town on Sunday, and then taking two zero days. I plan on using one of my zero days to just play poker at a casino and rest my legs. The other zero day is likely involving a pool, a hot tub, Jessica Alba (in my dreams), and a few cold IPAs.

Since this blog post was merely a collection of random thoughts, here’s one last one. I really miss is watching Red Sox games with my wife while sitting on the couch with my two huskies, drinking a Firestone Union Jack and eating my homemade mashed potato pizza topped with mushrooms, red onion, fresh basil, and andouille sausage. I must hike faster to make it home in time for the playoffs.