Real life isn’t typically like the movies. Events don’t always climax at the end and the get resolved. But my last stretch of trail was different. It was most definitely the most climatic ending I could have imagined.
It started the day we left Mammoth for the 128 miles to Kersarge Pass, my end point. Our bags were packed with a heavy six days of food. It felt like it was trying to pull me to the ground and the steepness of the trail was helping it.
The first day out we did 17 miles, despite feeling bad. We pushed on until darkness only stopping for quick breaks. We all assumed we were suffering from altitude sickness but we were wrong. Day two we were all plagued with extreme fatigue and lots of fluids leaving our bodies from both ends. With well over a 100 miles to go, this was not a good sign.
For two days we hiked through the pain. Hardly eating and constantly laying down to sleep, we were barely able to break 20 miles a day. This meant that the section would take longer then anticipated and food would have to be rationed. At this point most people would have bailed. But we had walked for five months to get here and nothing would stop us. Logical? No. But the summit fever we had, was stronger than the actual fever we had. So we walked on.
I had packed out vegetables like onion, garlic, and jalapeño. So every night I was able to make a broth for soup and that along with meds I had been carrying from my mom healed me by the third morning. I was low on food and still fatigued but no longer sick at my stomach. I could make it.
As I packed up camp on the fourth morning I noticed Lt Dan and Curry weren’t moving around much so I went over and talked to them. While I had been getting better they had both gotten even sicker. Hardly able to walk they didn’t know if they would be able to make it. For Lt this was extremely difficult. Like me, he is not someone that quits something and is extremely determined but he had been forced into a corner and may not have a choice.
I told them where nick and I would hike to that night and that I hopped to see them there. As I hugged each of them goodbye I could see tears in their eyes. After telling each of them I loved them, I was hiking away. That would be the last time I would see each of them on trail.
Nick and I made it to where we said we would camp by four pm. Despite being able to go father we stopped for camp in hopes the others behind us would catch up.
Unlucky the spot we picked to camp was a alpine lake that rested above 11,000 feet. With only rock around it, viscous winds whipped through the area and made setting up an ultra-lite tent nearly impossible. With no other option we cleared a spot under some small trees and laid down to cowboy camp. The winds blew their hardest all night and made sleep difficult but our spot was sheltered enough to keep us protected. The one thing it couldn’t do much about though was the cold. That night the temperatures dipped into the teens. At five am I awoke in the dark to a horrible sensation when camping without a tent, falling snow.
We quickly threw our tents over ourselves in an attempt to keep the snow off our sleeping bags. By morning light we were covered in a few inches of snow and it was letting up. Still 30 miles from town we had not planning to get there until the following day, but the storm had thrown a wrench in our plans. All of our gear was wet. This meant our bags would not keep us warm and the next night would most likely be equally as cold. With no other option we decided to attempt to make it all the way to town.
I had done many 30 mile days before but this was different. The cold temperature made your body hurt, the altitude cut down on the available oxygen, and the brutally steep rocky trail made hiking tediously slow. Either way, once again we didn’t have a choice. It was do or die.
With snow still falling we threw our gear haphazardly into our backpacks and started our day.
Even though we had slept high we still had over 1000 feet to climb for this first pass. As we neared the top, the snow thickened and the wind blew hard. With less than a hundred feet of visibility and snow filling my eyes I had to tell myself verbally that I would be fine over and over again to not freak out. Panic attacks are not something I deal with but today would be different. Together, nick and I were able to navigate the snowy pass and descend to a lower elevation. The snow still fell but the wind no longer filled the air with it.
After the first pass I felt as if I had hiked a full day but I was not done yet. Not even half way. Two more passes remained between me and my finish.
The second pass was bigger than the first and we reached it early in the afternoon. My experience was similar to the first pass. High winds attempted to knock me off my feet high upon the alpine trail but I managed to keep my footing and once again climb the white pass.
By this point in the day we had been hiking for about 9 hours with a single break. My feet were soaked with freezing water and my hands had now turned purple from the temperatures, which had yet to climb above freezing.
On the outside things were bad. Night was approaching and we still had another pass to cover. My body was drained of energy as well but mentally I had gotten stronger all day.
I was one pass away from finishing. From hiking all the way from mexico to canada. No matter what was going on I was going to make it. I could taste the victory of a battle I had fought for five months for. This was nothing more than my final test.
As we descended the second pass and started the ascent of the third and final pass the storm broke. The temperate didn’t rise or the clouds fully leave, but it was no longer snowing. This was a sign.
As I climbed further I could see the sign atop of kersarge pass. This sigh had been in my mind for months because it was to be my end point. And now, it was here. I continued to trudge up the mountain toward it, but as I approached I felt strange. This whole time I had been walking toward the end. And now that I was almost here, a sadness came over my body. This had been the greatest adventure of my life and now it was almost over. As I walked I felt my throat get tight and my eyes fill with tears. I hiked on through the cold with tears running down my face. I had put my blood, sweat and tears into this journey. I had battled the cold, wind, rain, fires, dessert, and raging rivers. I had met people that would become lifelong friends. I had laughed and cried and lived wildly in the most beautiful wilderness in the world. All the time walking toward this moment and now it was here. I reached the top and reached out a purple finger to touch the sign.
After all this time I had done it. I had through hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. In a fierce mixture of emotions I was ecstatic to have accomplished my goal and distraught for it to be over. On top Nick snapped a few pictures of me, we hugged and headed down to the trail head. For the last time, I would head to town.
The PCT now would be nothing but a memory for me. The best memory anyone could ever have.
12 Replies to “The End…”
Wow, Noel. I know there will be many wonderful adventures ahead because it is who you are. Enjoy life.
Did the other two eventually make it?
I am so proud of you Sweet Noel!!
Off to the next adventure!! Gods Speed!!
When one door closes another opens…congratulations on your achievement…now on to your next fun adventure! So happy for you!!
Man what an accomplishment!! So impressed with you. Way to go man
Congratulations on your victory! I hope you carry your lessons on all of your life’s struggles!
Wow! You had me “glued to my screen,” holding my breath … and then crying along with you! What an adventure and such an accomplishment! I’m so proud of you, and I can’t wait to read your book … whatever it may be! You are amazing! May God go with you on your next adventure!
What a test. What an accomplishment! Now you really know that you can do all things–through Christ Who strengthens you. Phil 4:13. Love you, Noel.
What a great adventure!
An amazing accomplishment! I hope your friends were able to safely get off the mountain, too. Best wishes!
Amazing unforgettable adventure!
I loved every bit of it of your blog and photos.
Thanks for sharing.
God Bless you!
Patty from SA
Congratulations! Thanks for finishing up your blog and letting us know what happened. Even though you were home I was wondering how the end of your trip went and didn’t want to be left hanging. Thanks so much for sharing it all with us, and best wishes for all your future adventures!
Congratulations on your safe completion of the PCT journey. We have enjoyed reading your blog and following the challenges you have endured. GREAT JOB!!!