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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.


  1. Adam, I can't tell you how proud I am of you. To hike over 1100 miles is an incredible feat and full of wonderful memories and new friends. I can only imagine how disappointing it is for you to have to leave the trail due to your ankle injury.

    Interesting enough, your sister and I also made a decision to get off trail prematurely at the same time you were doing so. We had hiked about 1/2 way to our 30 mile goal when after two days of getting rained on and feeling totally exhausted and in pain. We knew the next 15 miles were going to be more difficult, so we made a call to end our hike. We also called for a ride to our car. We didn't know how wise our decision was until we go into the car and it started raining at the rate of 2" per hour. For the next few hours it poured. I can't image how we would have dealt with flash floods on a trail. We then appreciated the decision we made.

    So, maybe your decision was also wise one. Who knows you may have saved yourself from very serious damage, so you may hike again. Time may tell.

    I remember your advice you gave me in the Chicago Basin when you said something like 'reaching the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.' You taught hiking well.

    There is no shame in being wise.

    Love you

  2. Adam - I've enjoyed reading your blog. You're a great writer and should consider doing more with your writing. You have an interesting perspective and honesty that keeps the reader engaged. I can hear your voice, your laughter, your anger and tears as you express your emotions. That is a gift. You are gifted in many ways that I don't think you realize. These are things that have always come easy for you, but are difficult for others. I'm sorry for the loss of Jack. I can only imagine the pain that your family, especially his parents & siblings, are feeling. It is so hard to lose someone too soon, and I know that pain & grief. I hope to hear your laughter, in person, soon. Take care, friend!
    Love ya,

  3. As one of the 'silent' readers of your blog posts, I'll chime in at the very end to say I've enjoyed your posts immensely and appreciated the candor of your writing. I hope your ankle can be repaired in short order, so that you can get back on a trail, if not the PCT.

    Best wishes!


  4. Circus Act, I have enjoyed your blogs immensely and hope they continue, either after you miraculous healing and return to the PCT or on future trails and adventures. I wish I had some great words of wisdom that would make your situation even the tiniest bit better, but I don’t...

  5. Adam, This post has me crying, I was so hoping you and your trail family would get together again and put on a bunch of miles!! I find it so amazing that you were able to get this far with so much pain, you have a strong core in your nature and made of sturdy stock as my mom would say! This is Opera’s mom by the way and our house is ready here to give you some trail magic if you are ever out in the Vancouver area, and I truly mean that!! Please stay in touch with Opera so we know how you’re doing!

    1. Hello, what is Opera's blog? I'd love to follow.


  6. Adam, not sure if you have watched Opera’s videos but love the photo of you at the end of episode 16 with Mehdi and at the beginning of her video episode 18!!

  7. Ah, episode 18... it lives in infamy in the internet. :)

  8. Adam, sitting here at JJ’s in Old Station reading your blog post and I can’t stop crying.
    Remember what you said numerous times to me... what is more important, reaching Canada or having a great time on the PCT and eventually not making it.
    Your time ended earlier than you wished for, but as you wrote yourself, you had the time of your life.
    Sending a big hug your way and hope that Germany will be one of the future travel adventures.
    Thanks for all the memories created on the PCT mile 298.5 to 1090!

    1. The feeling is mutual, but now I’m the one crying in the airport while reading this. I will miss you so much.

  9. It’s amazing to me that you not only got to pursue a personal dream by hiking over 1100 miles, but you also built a strong community of friends out there, that obviously extended out into this blog. We who have been following you are lucky to have experienced what you did, even if it was vicariously. Your writing has let us live those ups and downs with you. I know it’s terrible to have to stop now. But I am proud of what you have done, both physically, and mentally. You’ve been through a lot and lived each day to its fullest. Now you can take that — the real trail magic — and bring it back with you.

  10. Been following you since the beginning and loved every bit of it. My wife and I plan I thru hiking the PCT but not for a few more years when our kids are all grown. Thanks for taking us on this journey with you!

  11. Adam, so sorry you had to leave the trail. Your intestinal fortitude is incredible and inspiring. I'll miss the blogs for sure! Good luck with your ankle and your return to Colorado. God bless!!

  12. I've really enjoyed following along - thank you for documenting your journey for those of us who can only dream of hiking the PCT! I'm so sorry that the last few weeks have been so tough with your nephew's passing and having to get off trail. I hope the next few weeks bring you peace and whatever else you need during this time.