THE HTV BOOK
June 21st, 2017 I found myself sitting in a pizza joint in Burney, CA (Mile 1411.3) attempting to hold back tears as I knew the big decision I was about to make.
I had been on the PCT for 2 months and now I was sitting here ready to quit. My friends didn’t know, but as we were talking I was texting my Mom, who was only an hour away in my hometown of Redding, and making arrangements to be picked up the next day. Earlier I had inquired with my friend Jake to see if they still had a room at their house in NE Portland and if I could move in if possible. There was no way in fuck I was going to quit the PCT and move back in my parents. Not today, Satan.
I experienced a fair amount of failure throughout my twenties. Most of that stemmed from partying way too much which in turn made me lazy which in turn made me not accomplish the things I always said I was going to do. Here I was at 29 years old still starting something and not finishing it, again. Only this time, I genuinely felt like a fucking loser and that I might never ever amount to anything.
I returned home to Portland less than a week later, and within a few days of returning, I was back at my old job in NW, working as a bartender. I always told myself I wouldn’t be a 30 year old bartender, but here I was, just doing the same shit I’ve always done for the last 10 years. My first day back at work, I took a 10 minute break outside and cried. I hadn’t cried this hard in a long time; being back at work so soon was quite shocking.
After that little cry, I did pretty well the next few weeks. I went back to hanging out with my old friends, going to the same bars and restaurants and just continued my life where it left off. It was a few months later when my friend’s from my attempted 2017 hike started to finish the trail that I began feeling really sad. Seeing them smiling at the Northern Terminus and knowing what they had just accomplished broke my heart a little bit. Obviously, I was very proud but there was also a lot of jealousy buried underneath my happiness for them. Seeing that monument through my phone screen over and over, day after day, killed me inside.
I spent the next few months in a really deep, deep depression. I started gaining a lot of weight; which eventually turned into a loss of my sex drive because I felt so disgusting and couldn’t fathom the thought of someone seeing me naked. I started being negligent to my health, drinking alone a lot and feeling like a one big worthless pile of shit.
The end of December came and I quit my job. I couldn’t stand to be there anymore. I hated that I had to be social on days where I would rather just be in bed and throwing myself a pity party. Luckily, bartending is one of those professions you can get away with being a sassy bitch, and I was really fucking good at it.
With the new year came more money, to my surprise. I booked a couple of wedding gigs and got a nice tax return. Suddenly, it clicked that I might be able to go back and afford to pull off a thru hike. The only downside to this all was that I had to go back to the job I quit 2 weeks prior with my tail between my legs and ask for my job back. My co-workers gave me a lot of shit, but I knew I could suck it up for 4 months because I was going to return to the PCT, finish it and never go back to bartending again. That was my promise to myself.
Those 4 months flew by so quick. Getting through 8 hour shifts, 5 days a week was hell, but I was definitely able to let the work-related shit slide knowing that I was about to go live outside for 6 months and not focus on anything except walking toward Canada. Finally, April 15th came and I was standing at the Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. I romanticized that moment for months and months and finally I was there and it was perfectly as I imagined. I was ready to walk, but first, I soaked in the fact that I was home.
5 miles into the trail, I looked out to the less-than-desirable desert view. It’s probably one of the most boring scenes from the trail, but I didn’t care because I knew right then and there that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I finally stopped trying to be tough and surrendered myself to the the trail’s hypnotizing beauty. Then I burst into tears.
I hadn’t felt this happy, or happy in general, in so long. In fact, I almost forgot what the emotion even felt like. I think of that moment often and can without a doubt say that it’s one of the honest averments of my life. There I was, 27lbs. strapped to my back, 2.645 miles of dirt path ahead of me and the daunting thought of “Will I finish this time?” Yes, I was a little nervous of the unknown trials ahead and the possibility that I would experience yet another failed thru hike. However, this time I was ready to go it alone; I was ready to finish or die trying. Deep in my heart I knew I wasn’t scared this round; deep in my heart, truly, there was no other place in the entire fucking world that I wanted to be.