Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Change of Plans . . .

June 17, 2012
Day 78

As we started out our climb up Kearsarge Pass from Onion Valley, we stopped and enjoyed some fishing for a short while, but had to move on if we were going to make it up and over Glenn Pass today. After climbing Kearsarge and returning to the PCT we decided to take a short lunch break. This is where we decided to “change our adventure” and end our thru-hike.

Before embarking on our thru-hike, I promised myself I would never get off the trail on a bad day. I didn’t want to stop because I was cold, wet, hot, exhausted, frustrated, hungry or as a result of any of the other physical and emotional factors that take a toll on a hiker. Today was not a bad day; today was a beautiful day in the Sierras. The sun was shining, the landscape was beautiful and we were both well rested.

As we sat on the rocks next to the PCT and snacked on trail mix, Tailgate turned to me and asked me what I wanted to do after the trail. I frankly answered, “I have no idea.”  Like many other thru-hikers, we have no home or job to return to. Our decisions after the trail will determine much of how the next chapter of our life will unfold.  I wanted many things out of this experience and I think I was hoping for the answer to this question (and a few others) to present itself somewhere along the trail.

Some of the things I hoped to gain from this thru-hike:  
  • I wanted to test myself physically like I never had before.
  • I wanted to have an adventure with my husband.
  • I wanted to experience and become a part of the tight-knit hiker community.
  • I wanted to carry my home on my back and experience the thrills that come along with that.
  • I wanted to immerse myself in nature in a new way.

I believe I gained all of these in varying degrees. However, there are many other things that I hoped for (maybe unrealistically) that just weren’t a part of a thru-hike. Unrealistically, I imagined myself taking afternoon naps on the trail, fishing for entire days and stopping to have lunch at any beautiful lake I came across. The reality for us was that we didn’t have the time to do these things while keeping on schedule.  I felt I had tested myself physically and now I was resenting the fact that I couldn’t stop and enjoy these spectacular places with my husband.

On that rock, we both came to realization that we gained all we could from this hike. I don’t think I gained everything I hoped for, but I gained all that I could from a hike like this. There came a point for me when I realized that I had what it took physically to hike the miles I needed to complete a thru-hike. I walked through the hottest, driest and highest sections of the trail. I hiked over 800 miles. I made it through the Mojave, I walked 20+mile sections with no water, I weathered snow and rain, I climbed to the tallest point in the continental US and the tallest point on the PCT. I now felt like I was in the prettiest section and I couldn’t stop to enjoy it. I envied section hikers that were stopped by a stream fishing while I marched on. I was inspired by the sierras, like so many before me have been. I thought of John Muir and understood his captivation with this area. I suppose the question became: do I continue on to Canada because I want to complete this thru-hike or do I slow down and enjoy the most beautiful landscape I’ve come to know?

The answer to this question was glaringly clear to us. We picked up our packs and headed back over Kearsarge. We hiked Kearsarge twice that day with full packs and smiles on our faces. We seemed to be completely on the same page about this decision, which I am thankful for.  With the record number of thru-hiking permits issued this year, there are many that will make it to Canada. We only have the most respect and admiration for those who do complete a successful thru-hike.  However, I encourage everyone to “hike your own hike” or “have your own adventure”. After all, it is the journey that matters; not the destination.  One thing we have realized on our hike is that time is so precious, especially time with those that you love. I want to indulge my wandering sprit and spend the rest of our summer exploring and enjoying the beauty that nature has to offer

Our journey will continue as we grab our car and start heading north, starting out near Mammoth. The plan is to hike sections of whatever trail we find along the way and explore anything that sparks our interest. We don’t know how long we will be gone or how far we will go. Part of the fun is not having a plan or a schedule.

The experiences we have had on this trip have been indescribable and phenomenal. I will always cherish the relationships we have formed with fellow hikers, trail angels and strangers along the way. Also the support we have received from the home team has been so invaluable and generous. Thank you to all of those who have followed our journey thus far, it means so much to us.

We look forward to sharing the continued adventures of Tailgate and Twist through our blog. Start looking for more posts after the the 4th of July.