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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. ~

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