Let me just get it out of the way and tell you that I made it two days from Crater Lake National Park and decided it was best to go home for a couple of weeks to let the snow melt. My body is thanking me for my decision to do so and believe it or not, my mind is as well. We hiked from Ashland to Fish Lake where we met a Forest Ranger who told us there was still a lot of snow in the Park and that if we didn't have to go, that it's best to reroute or wait for the snow to melt.
We had skipped miles and miles and found ourselves backed into a corner. If we continued to reroute we would continue to find days worth of snow and it just didn't sound very fun. Additionally, my body just wasn't responding as it had previously. The pads of my feet are smashed down to the point that walking barefoot on a wood floor is uncomfortable and my left knee was beginning to hate me again. As always, the Trail has a way of telling you what to do so as Jose and I sat there on a park bench at Fish Lake, we both agreed that we'd go home for two weeks to let the snow melt.
I called a friend in Portland and without hesitation, he said he'd come pick me up the next morning. When he arrived, I jumped in the car and said "Well, what do you want to do?" He stared at me like I had a horn growing out of my head and said "Okay...let's go to Sisters, Oregon for the night." Pre-PCT Emory would have asked if we could go home that very day, but the new Emory was now rolling with the punches and simply going with the flow. Sure, I wanted to go home to see Jess, but my friend had just driven five hours to pick me up and it just seemed right to spend a day with him before being thrust back into the world again.
That evening, we drank wine on the deck of a hotel, met a couple of his friends who were at the lake, took a canoe out in the dark to watch the stars, and played a game. It truly was a great evening and when the morning came, we packed our things and headed home.
Being home was weird for both myself and Jessica. I wasn't supposed to be home just yet so we were both in a little bit of culture shock about the entire thing. For almost three months, my life was contained inside a backpack and now it wasn't. I had access to anything and everything. Hitchhiking was no longer needed to get places, I had clean clothes, access to water, and a warm bed that was inhabited with the girl I just so happened to love. It was strange at first, but after a day or so I began to normalize after being thrust back into society.
I miss the trail dearly. Though I don't know how to express it just yet, I think it's good enough just to convey that I miss my life on the trail. Maybe it's the miles, maybe it's the laughs, or maybe it's the silence. Early morning hikes at 6 AM through the forest are hard to find a replacement for and the idea that by the end of the day I'll have covered 25 miles is certainly something to take into consideration. Life is simple out there and life back home isn't. Which is better? I really don't know just yet, but I can see now why Thru Hikers can become addicted to the lifestyle.
Early in the hike, I met a hiker who goes by the name Big Spoon. I asked him why he was out there and he replied "I don't know, man. Life just seems more real out here." I didn't know what to think of his answer at the time. Part of me was sad that for him the trail was more real than life back home, but ever since that conversation with Big Spoon, it's been on my mind. His words have been with me for hundreds of miles and my gut continued to tell me that he had it all wrong; life wasn't real on the trail. Rather, real life was back home with a job, family, a girl, and normal life stuff. To me, the trail was a sort of dream state and not reality. I didn't pass judgement on him, but I did disagree with his point of view.
I thought about this whole "reality" thing for weeks and weeks. Big Spoon was tormenting me with this tiny little bomb of a comment. For the life of me I couldn't see what he meant. How the hell could the trail be more real than life back home? After all those hours of pondering I finally figured it out and when I did, I felt equally free and embarrassed.
For Big Spoon, the trail really is more real than the life he leads back home. Whatever that life may look like, it is for some reason not something he feels kindred to. The trail, however is. What I failed to realize when he told me why he was out there was that what is real to me is not always going to be real to others. We build our own realities and they come in many formats. Big Spoon is happy on the trail because he connects with it and he feels alive in that reality. I was wrong in thinking that the trail isn't real life. Of course it's real! It's real to those who make it their reality which is why I think some hikers decide to do these long hikes year after year.
I no longer believe that habitual Thru Hikers are running from reality, but rather I now believe that they're actually running toward it. It just so happens that the world we live in today requires these crazy hikers to work seasonally to save money so they can live the dirt bag lifestyle they love. It's beautiful and I love how much they love it. If I had millions of dollars at my disposal, I'd do my best to grant them their wish of living in the mountains so they can cover dozens of miles each day, take those early morning hikes, be covered in morning dew, brave the extremes, and be happy.
People always ask my why I'm hiking the PCT, especially now that I'm home for a bit and in the middle of it all. I've begun to tell them that I could probably give them some vanilla answer, but that I think I'm still figuring it out. I really don't know why I'm hiking the PCT except that I was drawn to it. I believe now more than ever that the reason I'm hiking the PCT is still to be determined. I'll know when I know and until then, I'll wait patiently for it to present itself.
In about a week and a half I'll return to Fish Lake and begin hiking North to Canada. I have about 6 weeks left of hiking and I can't wait to see all of Oregon and Washington. It's been great being home and reconnecting with friends and loved ones, but I still have work to do on the PCT. I miss my buddy Jose and the laughter we share on a daily basis. I miss the smiles I put on peoples faces when I tell them my trail name is Pooparazzi, and I miss the random kindness of complete strangers. It will be difficult to leave home once again, but in the grand scheme of things, it'll be over much faster than I probably want it to be and I'll return to my regular life and day dream of that summer when I hiked the PCT.
I want to thank those of you following this blog and your words of encouragement. You'll never know how incredibly blessed I feel that you read these words and leave comments. I love interacting with all of you and hope that at some point during this journey of mine that you get something out of it as well.
Be safe out there this summer and enjoy every moment of it.