What Now?

I'm exhausted.  Not from hiking, but from planning our next moves.  Don't get me wrong, this last week was a ball buster with the heat and 4000 foot climbs, but that's just a physical thing.  I'm mentally exhausted right now and losing my desire to keep fighting this trail.  

North facing slopes

North facing slopes

Since my last post, I hiked out of Dunsmuir for two days and had to ditch into Etna early because of unknown and varying trail conditions.  I finally got back on the trail about 40 miles before the Oregon border, having jumped an amazing portion of the trail called the Trinity Alps.  I can't even think about it without cringing, but it is what it is and I just have to take what I can get.

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Crossing into Oregon was bittersweet.  On one hand it felt great to be closer to home, while on the other I was haunted knowing that I had not been able to hike all of California.  I'm now in Ashland, Oregon and utterly confused on what I'm actually trying to do here.

I'm not tired from hiking.  In fact, my body is feeling great right now.  Other than my feet being tender at the end of a 25 mile day, I can tell my body is owning this trail.  By the time I wake up in the morning, I'm ready to go again.

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What is killing me right now is this guessing game of trail conditions and snow levels.  I am spending more energy calling ranger stations and Google searching what's ahead of me on the trail than I want to.  I am tired of it.  I want to simply come into town, resupply, and leave.  Planning the next 100 miles is becoming such a pain in the ass that my enjoyment levels are at an all time low.   

Sometimes you just rock out to Britney Spears... 

Sometimes you just rock out to Britney Spears... 

I am in this bad bubble of time.  Too early for the snow to melt and I'm not willing to go home for a month to wait it out.  Bouncing ahead will only make things worse.  Heading back to sections I missed sounds like a logistical nightmare and the thought of having to plan that out puts a pit in my stomach.  I simply want to hike.  That's it.   

Rock pillows  

Rock pillows  

So, here I sit in Ashland wondering how far up we can go before it's crap again.  I am trying to be grateful for any miles I can get in, but to be honest  it isn't working too well.  I have spent years looking forward to this hike so to have it turn into such a crapshoot makes it incredibly difficult to deal with.  The fact of the matter is that 2017 is just a bad year on the PCT.

Castle Crags  

Castle Crags  

My thoughts naturally turn to the trail ending early for me and for the first time since April 10th, I finally get the feeling that I'm on the PCT.  It's been surreal and at times almost fake, until now.  The thought of this grand experience ending and having to go back to normal everyday life actually chokes me up a bit.  I see now why people can get addicted to this lifestyle.  It's a dream state.  Life is simple out here.  All you need is right there on your back and as long as you have food and water you can do anything you want.  

The PCT has  become like a good friend to me at times.  Like a real relationship almost.  Each memory from this trail is a blessing.  So many moments, so many miles, and so many beautiful images will forever be seated in my heart.  It makes me hurt, it gives me joy, and it remains next to me 24 hours a day, and it pulls no punches.  It's there whether I hike that day or not.  I argue with the trail and then, like any normal relationship, it gives me something beautiful.  I have spent time singing, danced a jig, teared up, sweated, and hurt.    

A tiny little slice of heaven. 

A tiny little slice of heaven. 

At the end of each day, the trail is still there.  It goes  nowhere.  Maybe that's why people fall in love with these long trails.  Unlike people, the trail will never leave you and for those who have dealt with personal losses, I'm almost certain that's it's most beautiful characteristic.  You become emotionally attached to it simply by spending time with the dirt and rocks.  Your blood becomes mixed forever.

Not seen are mosquitoes  

Not seen are mosquitoes  

Sentiments like these only come with miles spent on trail.  I'm not sure you can feel like this without having committed to at least trying to thru hike.  When you do, it's an entirely new perspective and you begin to look at the trail differently.  I may not be able to hike the hike I had hoped for, but in time I'll be okay with it.   

Loaner bikes in Etna! 

Loaner bikes in Etna! 

For now I will continue to migrate north for as long as I can.  My blood will continue to mix with the PCT and it will remain honest with me and humble me in many more ways.   I have no idea how much longer I can hike before conditions end this hike.  

Bittersweet moment  

Bittersweet moment  

Whether or not I am able to reach Canada is unknown.  One thing I do know is that this trail will be here tomorrow, the day after that, and the day after that.  It will remain for years whether I'm on it or not.  In the dark, under snow, or in the rain.  It will be there waiting.

 

In Oregon By Land, 

Emory Ronald