Total distance: 2658.9
I woke up this morning around 4:30 am to the sound of little drops pelting my tarp. I smiled because I knew I had another hour before I would need to get up and hike and figured the rain would be gone by that time. The forecast had read perfectly clear skies for the next week so this must be nothing.
When what seemed to be only a few seconds later, my alarm went off, but the pelting continued. I frowned and moaned a loud grumpy sound and threw a tiny tantrum that I would be rained on during my summit day. I begrudgingly got my things together and faced the frigid air outside my tarp. The wind was blowing and I couldn’t see further than fifty feet through the cloud that had encompassed the mountain. Mist was blanketing my beard and sending a chill throughout my body. I stood for a few minutes and debated on getting back in my bag and summiting later in the afternoon then I had planned. After a long inner argument, I quickly took down camp and began a four mph pace up to 7,000 feet for one last time before descending down to the monument.
As I rounded the bluff that was completely exposed to the wind and misty rain, the wind began to pick up and it seemed to be getting colder. I prayed for the clouds to part, but they kept rolling in with no sign of clearance. When I finally made it to the top it started to snow. Not just a few flakes here and there, but full on snow to where the ground became white in places and holding my hand outside my umbrella I would catch enough powder to make a tiny snowball within a minute. I laughed. Bellowed actually, and recorded a short video of the ridiculousness that was my morning and howled loudly in excitement for one last raw experience on the trail.
I started down the mountain and the comforting snow turned into a nagging rain that drenched the shrubs on the forest floor, which would inevitably drench my lower half. I picked up my pace even more and blasted through huckleberry bushes and tore my legs to pieces scratching through the thick shrubs. Honestly, it felt good to struggle and to fight and to push and suffer knowing that in a few short hours I would be warm, dry and hopefully drinking an imperial stout and enjoying a Cuban cigar with Grizzly Adams and Billy Goat.
Around 9 am I rounded a switchback and saw a group of people standing around talking and laughing and when I came into view they began to cheer. There stood monument 78 and the end of the PCT. I threw both hands in the air and stumbled to the monument with my eyes flickering away the growing tears as I slapped a hand on the cold structure and claimed the thru hike complete.
It’s interesting how I felt in that moment. I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of victory and triumph, but I felt contentment and fulfillment as if I had tied up an old loose end that had been hanging over my head for years. I was proud, but not expressively. I felt validated, but not complete. This didn’t feel like the AT felt where I put so much pressure on myself to finish the trail. This felt more like something I knew I could do all along and it was only a matter of time before I stood where I was.
I sat for a long while and went through a range of emotions in reflecting on the past three months and eventually got to a place of peace and contentment and stood up to hug the monument and kiss the metallic pillar that marked the end of my thru hike. I walked away with a small limp in my left leg from my foot pain and laughed at the picture painted of the entire trail. This trail has worked me in every way imaginable and challenged me beyond what I could have comprehended beforehand. I have learned a massive amount about my body and solitude and nutrition and the west coast. To me this feels like another beginning and another step in the direction I began to take when I finished the AT.
I slowly made my way down the 9 mile hike to Manning Park and had my teary eyed moment realizing it was all over and those wondrous moments have come to an end. I didn’t feel a single ounce of regret or sadness, but a healthy perspective on completing the experience and figuring out my next step.
When I got to the park I was given a key to a shower and access to the hot tub along with a ticket for a free beer. Another tear crept up. I sat down to join some other hikers and the stories began to flow. We would sit there together for the next few hours sharing stories and congratulating each other for what we all just completed.
It’s hard to verbalize an experience like this. It almost feels wrong to try. As if while I write or speak about it I start shaving off the fullness and grandeur of such a time. It’s incredibly easy to romanticize the past and as long as I keep the trail in my head and don’t express it in any way, then I maintain control of its reality and power in my mind, but that can be dangerous and a lonely place to sit. That is why I have written about it everyday and chosen to express bits and pieces of the experience. There are parts I will always withhold from the world for my own understanding and autonomy, but it has been such an incredible release in regurgitating my daily journey through this blog.