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Kristin "Mouse" Schoonveld
Begins: May 26, 2016
Date: Thu, Jun 16th, 2016
Start: PCT mile 1716, near Ashland, OR
Trip Distance: 34.0
Entry Visits: 2,300
Journal Visits: 20,350
Guestbook Views: 1,378
Guestbook Entrys: 53
Pacific Crest Trail Map
It was 108 degrees when Doug and I left Bakersfield on the afternoon of June 2nd, exactly two weeks ago, on our way back to Hikertown. I was planning to hike for a few hours that evening, to avoid the worst of the heat, on my way to Tehachapi. We'd spent the day in the coolest, most comfortable way we could imagine: at the movie theater. We never go to the movies, but it seemed like the perfect way to hide from the inferno outside before I hit the trail again. All through the movie my stomach churned, and it wasn't in sympathy for young Mowgli's identity crisis. I wish! No, the anxiety was building yet again as I prepared myself for another segment of this thru-hike. What's wrong with me?! I mean, outside of the heat and the 250 miles of desert that lay ahead, why was I so upset? I don't know. But as we left the theater and picked up a few more supplies at the grocery store, we learned of the PCT closure due to a fire, from Walker Pass to Kennedy Meadows. And we continued to hear reports of hikers backed up at Kennedy Meadows because there was still too much snow in the Sierra for safe travel. Fire and ice.
It wasn't more than 15 miles south from Bakersfield on I-5 that I burst in to tears. Doug knew. He pulled off at the next exit and we sat in the hot shade of a gas station while I cried. 'Do you want me to head north?' 'Yes!!' In fact, we turned west, toward the coast and cooler temps. We've spent the last two weeks meandering around central and northern California, snaking our way up the coast, sleeping in dark, cool forests, and it has been utter bliss. We concocted elaborate, quite logical explanations for my PCT exodus. But I don't feel bad or have any regrets. Well, maybe only very small regrets.
The plain truth is that maybe I'm not a thruhiker. I'm just not. I'm strong, and I love to hike, and I love solitude and wild places, etc, etc, etc. But the mystery is that all of those things added together do not necessarily equal the sum of a thruhiker. Thruhiking is relentless and passive at the same time. It is lightfooted yet persistent. It is determined yet casual, almost ambivalent. It requires a balance of paradoxes that I seem not to possess. Not at this point in my life anyway. Who knows what wisdom will seep in over the course of my life? I could be, probably will be a very different person a decade or two from now.
But while I may not be a thruhiker, I can confidently, very confidently, call myself an avid and successful long distance hiker. Damn straight! And it is with that shift in perspective, whether it's just a matter of semantics or not, that I set off on a long distance hike across Oregon. Yes! I'm leaving tomorrow from the California-Oregon border and will hike north, back home to the Columbia River, a distance of not quite 500 miles.
Disappointment may only be our expectations getting the better of us. I wanted so badly to be a thruhiker. My whole being vibrated and thrummed at the idea of such an experience, as though it were an inevitability I'd been moving towards my whole life.
How many more times will I come here and write about not doing what I set out to do? Probably not a useful question to ask.
Wish me luck and peace.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. The PCT traverses 24 national forests, 37 wilderness areas and 7 national parks. The PCT passes through 6 out of 7 of North Americas ecozones. Learn more: www.pcta.org