Bishop, CA - Mile 789 - Jul 23rd, 2017
Sixty-one days of writers block, excluding day one and now day 63; that's assuming I'll find the words I want to write now. It would be easy enough to share the broken record of thoughts that runs through my head when I hike alone, so maybe I'll start there though it feels so personal. Better yet - a rough review of events seems in order. Or perhaps you, the reader, want to hear of the beauty of the trail through my eyes. I camped at the junction of the PCT and Mt. Whitney, mile 766.5, day 60, awaking to finally find the inspiration to write a personal journal entry in the small, cover-less fold of papers I call my journal. As I looked out at the meadow and swatted mosquitoes that morning, I realized that I had not written anything about the trail since the first day. I jotted a couple of sentences about every day leading up to what was then day 61, the last day of my second month on trail.
I will take for granted that you have heard of the beauty of the land through which I walk. There are no words to describe it. The majesty of the mountain tops, the awe of the snowy passes, and even the expanse of rolling desert landscapes are breathtaking in their own way. The work required to walk to and through these places makes them all the more precious, making photos seem like a rip-off compared to walking up to a lush meadow after a long day of hiking to be stopped in my tracks by the beauty before my eyes.
If you're reading expecting cohesion of story or linearity of thought, spare yourself. My mind wanders just as much now while writing as it does while hiking. I perceive that some perspective is in order, so I will venture to grant it. I started with 65lbs on my back with gear mostly purchased through a major outdoor retailer. Hiking alone, I figured my best bet for survival would be to find a group and stay with them. I had never backpacked before, and I knew that my trek would be unduly arduous if not impossible should I insist on solitude early on in the trip.
Mount Laguna, mile 40, was perhaps one of the most critical stops for my success thus far. I spent the entire day there at the local outfitter, owned and operated by "Super Dave", a seasoned hiker with an eye for the right gear to hike a trail as demanding as this. One of his employees, Michael, performed pack "shakedowns" - going through every single piece of gear in one's pack and giving expert advice as to how necessary that gear really was. I was the first person Michael shook down that day, and I stayed to watch and listen to every single shakedown he and another individual, Terminus Tom, performed. It blew my mind to hear them discuss with such detail exactly what one would need - more mind blowing was just how little one could get by with in their opinion. I swapped out gear and went from a base weight of about 40 pounds to 20 pounds or so. Since then, I've slowly shed even more gear as I have come to find certain things unnecessary. This was also the first time my complete lack of preparation became apparent; while I watched youtube videos about starting fires from nothing in the snow, I had missed the majority of necessary preparation that deals with the practical - how to hike well during the vast majority of the time when poop is not hitting the fan in a life or death situation.
The next big stop for me was in Big Bear, mile 266 or so. I stayed six nights with trail angels Papa Smurph and Mountain Mama fine tuning my gear and setup. I had accumulated enough experience hiking that a full servicing and assessment of what I had seemed most necessary. I helped to shake down one hiker's pack, and since then have shaken down a few other people's packs to give my amateur advice on what gear was really important. Big Bear is also where my sister joined me for a day, marking one of the best days on trail thus far.
The heat of the late season soon caught up with me as I walked through Southern California in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. Within time, I acclimated and found ways to deal with such conditions - waiting out the heat of the day, ample water intake, hiking early and hiking late - all of these I found to be practical ways to travel effectively through the desert. I was finally hiking truly alone - no group expecting me at camp, nobody keeping tabs on me, no set plan to which I felt obliged to stick. I was a changed hiker leaving Big Bear, unable to even grasp just how much more I would develop as a solo hiker in the weeks to come.
As I hiked alone, I came to find a more natural pace for myself and a system for planning out my days. My thoughts became more distinct as what I refer to as the broken record began to play in my head. I had heard of it before and have heard of it since - the creeping sensation that one is loosing their mind as the same thoughts replay during a full day of walking alone. Meeting a new person began to mean more than a simple greeting. Even hearing the voice of another person would be enough to snap me out of my own head. I began to get comfortable on my own, and I relished in the solitude for a couple of weeks or so. As the pendulum swings, though, I was soon to find a new happy medium in a looser meaning of the term "group."
In Kennedy Meadows, mile 702, I added some snow gear to my setup to prepare for the high sierras. My tent also awaited me there, as I had found from the first week that I was comfortable enough cowboy camping. I had mailed my tent ahead to Kennedy Meadows in Acton, mile 445ish, as it became quite clearly dead weight. I reasoned that if it rained at night I would simply pack up my things and walk to stay warm, though my gamble payed off and that situation never arose. There I also mailed my boots home as some trail angels had given me a pair of lightweight trail runners back in Wrightwood, roughly mile 370.
Hiker Heaven, mile 455, I picked up a package my sister had so kindly sent me with new sunglasses and the flip flops you can see in my pictures. I began to intermittently hike in the sandals to toughen up my feet as well as make my walking less difficult - every pound added on the feet is like adding 5 or 6 pounds to your pack, so weight reduction there is amplified in its benefit just as addition there is amplified in its detriment. Roughly another 24 miles from there at Casa de Luna, the house of a trail angel in Green Valley, I selected a Hawaiian dress from their assortment of Hawaiian shirts and dresses. It made perfect sense - I had no clean clothes into which I could change after a shower, and I surely wasn't going to walk around wearing only a Hawaiian shirt. I picked out a dress, though I was a little optimistic about the size I would need as I found myself nearly unable to breathe in the first dress I tried on. After finding the right size, the thought began to solidify - I had began chaffing just the last mile into Casa De Luna, and the dress seemed the best way to keep the family jewels happy in the heat.
A six day journey from Kennedy Meadows and a night at the casino puts me where I sit now in the lobby of a hotel in Bishop, CA. In the last week, I summited the highest mountain in North America, slept atop the highest pass on the entire trail, fished in streams and lakes with a pole one of my crew members found, crossed snow fields and rivers, and have relished in the beauty of the sierras. I started off from Kennedy Meadows with Wayfinder and Limbo, adding Moonwalker and Constantine to our group the second day of the journey. We call ourselves the pentabubble, the five-sided bubble.
There is so much more to tell, and I hope to tell it soon. Honestly, I've been afraid to write. I haven't known how to tell about a new found faith in Jesus Christ, or all the weed I've smoked on the trail, or of skinny dipping in the backcountry, or of all my thoughts on morality and right and wrong and truth that have swirled so constantly in my mind during long days alone. Most markedly, the last week I have become more outspoken about my faith, talking about God more openly with the pentabubble and selecting a verse of the day to read to my crew. They have told me of how they look forward to it now, and that has brought me great joy. Though what of my thoughts about nudity, solo scriptura, or the duty of a Christian to follow the laws of the land? What about of the verse in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, and that anyone teaching others to break the law will be called least in the kingdom of God? Does that mean I should follow all of the Old Testament law, including that which is so conveniently classified as "Levitical" law and ceromonial law, or just the ten commandments, or neither? Should I hike no miles on the Sabboth? Does God care if I consider saturday or sunday the day of rest? Does it matter if I start a day of rest at sundown, as sundown is the beginning of the day from what i understand of Jewish custom? Does solo scriptura mean that there is no wisdom in other writings of faith? Am I trying to see what I want to see and force Christianity into the confines of what I think it should be? What then separates me from the "unbelievers" who I have so frequently tried to convince that what I believe is right? If I claim to believe the Bible is the infallible word of God, there is no convenient way around the multiple verses in the book of Hebrews that says the one who willingly sins after finding Jesus cannot have eternal life, as it is though they have re-crucified him by their deeds. Would I live differently if I was convinced that I was not going to share in eternal life? Is God ok with nudity? I've hiked and swam naked a few times already, including up at Forester Pass and I really enjoyed it. Why in Acts does Peter stand and speak to the assembly about the death of Judas Iscariot, describing a different death than was described in the Gospels? Why is Jesus calling Andrew the day after his baptism in the book of John, when in another gospel Jesus was immediately lead into the desert by the Holy Spirit after his baptism for 40 days of fasting and temptation? Am I seeing what I want to see? Am I the man I want to be?
Until next time folks. Canada isn't getting any closer sitting here...
Bishop, CA - Mile 789 - Jul 23rd, 2017