Miles walked: 16.5 (side trail & Reno bonus miles)
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 jalapeño 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.