As many of you already know, I’m already in Santa Fe. The next few days should shed some light on how that decision was made. Just know that I’m safe and sound and feeling the love from everyone. Thanks for your concern. 

PCT mile 799.7 – 800

Plus 15.1 miles to Road’s End

Today I bailed. I woke up at my normal time, hiked .3 miles to PCT mile 800, then hiked .2 miles back to the Paradise Valley trail junction. 

  

Today was a really good day. My knees still hurt, but I hiked 15 miles in about nine hours, which is a definite improvement over yesterday. It gives me hope that I might still be able to make good miles further up trail, unencumbered by snow, snow gear and excessive amounts of food. 

  

What was also so good about today is how comfortable I feel with my decision to bail out of the Sierras. You hear the phrase “hike your own hike” out here a lot. What I came to understand really fast, though, is that this is a phrase uttered out of one side of the mouth, while out of the other side spills judgement. “Hike your own hike, but I guess I’m just a purist.” “Hike your own hike, but I can’t imagine carrying a pack that heavy.” “Hike your own hike, but I don’t understand why people want to listen to music while they’re out here.” I can already see the faces and hear the words of hikers I will tell of my decision to hitch around the Sierras to more manageable trail. Their faces will tighten with the effort of not portraying the judgements they are making, but their eyes will tell all. I thought of this several times today, and I can’t lie and say it doesn’t bother me, but I’ve decided not to care. I feel that I am making the best decision for me in this moment and that is what matters.

In the end, maybe I’m not out here to hike the whole trail from start to finish after all. I thought that I was here to prove to myself that I could start at the beginning and soldier through to the end, against all odds, despite any obstacles, come hell or high water. But what if this thing is more about self-reliance and resilience? 

Come to think of it, I’ve done a helluva lot of soldiering through uncomfortable circumstances in my life. What I’ve done less of is realizing what isn’t working, and then finding what feels better instead. So, here I am, learning how to do what feels better, or at least learning how to take risks on what might feel better. 

  

Today was a beautiful day spent on beautiful trail. I saw my first bear, just the top of his back as he made his way through the brush. I walked up and down expertly built rock staircases. I met my first trail maintenance crew. I walked next to the most unimaginably clear-blue-green rushing water all day. 

  

I met a lot of day hikers and people heading in to do the Rae Lakes loop- people who looked like they were enjoying themselves, and not like they were in some kind of mad race to the finish like so many PCT hikers out here. 

At Road’s End I met Jacob, who gave me a ride down the road, almost out of the park to where he had planned to camp for the evening. I was going to try to catch a ride towards Fresno, but it seemed risky to start a two-hour hitch endeavor at 5:00, so I decided to camp here for the night. Why pay for a hotel tonight when I can camp here for free and figure the rest out in the morning? 

Jacob reminds me of a composite of a few of our friends back home, so it’s been a fun afternoon. Tomorrow morning I will try to catch a hitch with someone leaving the park. I still haven’t decided where it would be best to go from here. South Lake Tahoe, maybe? Maybe Chester? I don’t have the NorCal section maps and elevation profiles loaded onto my phone, so I’ll have to wait until I have service to make an informed decision. I feel deeply peaceful with waiting, though, because I know it will all work out. That alone is progress I can be proud of.