(Click image for full size)
This morning I walked the 9 miles from the Canadian border to Manning
Park. Nothing that unusual on this hike except that a trail angel had left
a fifth of Canadian Club on the trail for finishing thru-hikers to enjoy.
Even at 7 AM we enjoyed a few swigs of this and it made the remainder of
the trip pass a little more smoothly. One more kindness bestowed on us
This is an epilogue of sorts. Hopefully you won't find it overly long.
When I started this journey, I was well aware that I might not be able to
complete it. No matter how well prepared you are, you can't know how your
body will handle five months of this kind of stress. An average hiking
day was more than 20 miles per day and over 5,000 feet in elevation gain
and loss. All told I traveled 2,660 miles horizontally and more than 90
miles up and 90 miles down. And all of this over rocky, uneven terrain
crossing down logs, snow fields, swollen streams , and other obstacles .
With a backpack on. You just can't know how your body is going to react to
Probably more importantly, you can't know how your mind and your spirit are
going to react to this challenge. That uncertainty is one of the reasons I
felt compelled to attempt this trip. You can't know unless you accept the
challenge and try it and I felt the need to do this.
After the first half of the trip, I came to realize that the larger
challenge was not physical but mental. Waking up each day and getting
going sometimes taxed my willpower to the breaking point. Keeping going
late in the afternoon was also a challenge.
Particularly when I was having knee problems in Northern California, I was
ready to throw in the towel and walk away. I want to acknowledge those of
you who sent cards, emails and words of encouragement during that time.
Those were incredibly important during a time when my trek was hanging in
the balance. You can't know how important your thoughts and well wishes
were during that pivotal time. I am so happy I saw this through to the end.
I especially want to acknowledge my wife, Vicky, who not only provided
logistical support by sending resupply packages at various times, but also
provided emotional support throughout the trip. Her visits during this
trek were something to look forward to and were hugely motivating for me.
Those legs of the trip were great fun and I am so grateful we were able to
share that time on the trail together.
I can't say that I had any great existential revelations during the trip,
although I did have some good solitary time to think about the next chapter
of my life. There are some specific things I want to pursue in the near
future, but the most important revelations I had are not the specifics at
all. The most important realizations I had concern my basic core values.
When you strip everything away other than the bare essentials of food,
water, and shelter, you have a lot of time to think about what things in
life are most important to you. That's a very simple idea, but so few of
us can find the time in our hectic lives to do it.
There is great benefit in having made the time to take a trip like this
and ponder these issues. Because I'm a fairly private person I don't
intend to lay out my realizations on my core values. It won't be relevant
to readers anyway since everyone's core values will be different.
The challenge going forward is putting these thoughts into action. Not
acting would be kind of like waking up in my tent in the morning and not
hiking - that's not going to get me anywhere. Now that I have a better
sense of what's most important to me, I have a few minor tweaks to make in
But first I need a few days to drink coffee in bed, get reacquainted with
my wife and son, and not walk anywhere... Except to the refrigerator.