The section from Ashland to Crater Lake wasn’t physically challenging but I found myself in a mental battle for the week. Oregon had given us the first truly “wavy” section of the PCT. Even the big climbs were small and the trail was gently graded up and down. I found myself tired though. Three months on the trail hadn’t settled anything in my mind. I was missing the simplicity of a life of not walking (although walking is pretty simple).
The first few days we resort hopped, going from outpost of civilization to outpost. Hyatt Lake to Fish Lake, to Crater Lake. It was easy and fun miles, we kept finding old friends along the way and it was a reminder that we were all still out here going north together. As we left Fish Lake Resort I found myself going back and forth between being happy I was on trail and wanting the rest of my time to fly by. I was increasingly spending time on trail sending out resumes and filling out job applications when I had cell signal, looking at houses to rent and all the other things I would need to do to get my life going again.
For a few weeks I’ve been dealing with knee pain, most likely quadricep tendinitis. It’s been a challenge to get up every morning knowing I was going to spend a few hours in some level of pain or discomfort before it warmed up and soothed itself out for the afternoon. I’ve been stretching, taking morning ibuprofen and sometimes applying Tiger Balm in the afternoons if it didn’t calm down. The reality of tendinitis is it dosen’t really heal until you cease activity, which I can’t do just yet. I think that that discomfort though is a large reason for me being ready to be done. It’s this feeling of my body physically telling me, you should take a break. But I’m only 700 miles from the finish…
As we crossed 1800 miles and entered Crater Lake National Park, I felt the resolve to finish what I’m doing and complete this years long goal but I also felt the need to finally figure out why I’m doing this. I wanted to know what was the purpose of this long walk for me. I’d spent years dreaming about it, I’ve spent months walking. I’ve seen beautiful things, been amazing places and met wonderful people, but what was it all for. Was there no purpose or outcome of this grand journey? Is the purpose for me to appreciate what I have? Is it to understand the world in a different way? I worry sometimes that I’ll come out of this in a month more confused than when I went in with no sense of direction. Thru-hiking probably isn’t meant to hand you an epiphany, you still have to find your own meaning.
I’m taking a few days off trail now to rest the legs and the mind. To sleep in a bed, binge watch movies and let my body go comatose for a bit. On the other side of this final break I’ll have a five day sprint to the latest fire closure near McKenzie Pass, a day to get around that, then two days to arrive in Cascade Locks on August 20th for PCT Trail Days, a celebration of everything hiking. In about a week I’ll be done with Oregon. Ahead of that lies the final 500 miles through Washington, 21 days to the Canadian Border, 3 weeks of the final push. I hope to find my meaning for all of this in those 30 days. I hope to enjoy as much of that time as I can.
The PCT stands for the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,653 route extending from Mexico to Canada along the west coast of the United States. Every year several thousands attempt it and only a few hundred finish.