Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Summer's End

        It's been a while since the last post, in which I disclosed the information that I would be skipping a large portion of the PCT in order to make it to Canada before school started.  Since that time, I have done very little hiking to be honest.  Once I skipped up to Bend, OR I was so tired from the overnight train ride that I decided to get a hotel room in Bend via recomendation of Trail Angel Floyd Gust.  I checked in at The Mill Inn Bed and Breakfast and immediately fell asleep, in my room.  I was so exhausted after halfway sleeping all night on the train, guarding my pack, that I almost missed my stop (which consisted of a wooden ramp in the middle of the woods).  There, at my stop, a bus was waiting for me to take me to Bend and Floyd was waiting with a small white sign with black lettering with the three simple letters,    P-C-T.  After I told him where I wanted to go and how tired I was I decided to spend the rest of the day in Bend after my train ride and some grocery shopping for the next 150 mile segment.  Floyd arranged to pick me up from the B&B the next morning and I enjoyed the rest of the day, long nap included.  Floyd picked me up later that next morning around 9 and took me through Sisters, OR and back to the trail.  It was a bittersweet moment hopping back on the trail, in a good way though.  As I hiked through the first 3 miles of forest fire ridden trail and dusty dirt, I rounded and fought my way through heavy brush and blow downs.  I thought it would never end, I was also worried about the trail conditions up ahead, Floyd said they still had a decent amount of snow up in the mountains.... Floyd was right.  The snow up north in Oregon was much more frustrating than the snow I found in the Sierra Mountains.  In Oregon, it was snow drifts, at a relatively low elevation.  Therefore, the trail was not very well maintained at this time of the year and the snow drifts were much larger than I had ever imagined.  Nevertheless, I fought through and made it 26 miles on my first day out after a week off of hiking.  Evidently I ended up taking a wrong turn in a snow drift covered mountain and started hiking down the old PCT, now an alternative route.  When I saw a sign pointing "To Pacific Crest Trail" an hour later, I knew something was wrong.  Fortunately I had run into a hiker going from the CA/OR border to Canada, and she took the same wrong turn.  We took a look at her map, and figured out that the trail we were on led back up with the current PCT.  I wasn't the happiest camper, but I hiked until I found some running water, and made do with a camp infested with Mozzies.  After hastily making camp and setting up my tent, I cooked dinner, and proceeded to eat it in my tent.  At this point it was late in the night, well hiker late, at 9:30pm.  I was tired, swarmed by mosquitoes, and ready for bed.  
        I hadn't slept so well in a loooooong time.  I woke up and it was 9:00am, and I felt like I could sleep all day.  Finally, I got up and hiking after a quick break of camp and was making miles by 9:30am.  Despite the late start, I made pretty good mileage, easy to do when you only take two or three breaks in an entire day and your guide book says there's a camp store with sodas and ice cream where you're planning to camp.  Of course, there was a change of ownership in the Lake Ollalie Resort and the camp store identified in my guide book was closed.  They did still offer campsites, which I refused to pay for, out of heavy disappointment.  The campsite manager did give me a coke after I inquired about the camp store, and it was quite refreshing.  All day I had been fighting over the issue of whether or not I wanted to hike like this all the way into Canada for the rest of the summer, and that really got me thinking.  
       I reflected on why I was hiking, and what it meant to me and others.  The truth of the matter is, without someone(s) to share the experience with is of utmost difficulty, not just physically, but mentally as well.  I reached into my pack, and grabbed a plastic bottle, in it, the ashes of Stephen Harrington, and I though to myself how wonderful it would have been to shared this experience with him.  Then I thought about the Appalachian Trail, and how I always had Ben there with me to live the experience.  It was at that point when I realized, especially after hiking with Tom and Kobie, that without others out on the trail, happiness is only true when shared with others.  Not only do I think that that philosophy is true on the trail, but in life as well.  With thoughts like this in your head, when you're all alone, it is easy to get carried away on the wrong mental path.  There's no one there to bring you back and say "Hey man, we got this."  Without that, I never felt so alone in my life.  It was at that point when I pretty much decided, tomorrow morning would be the beginning of the end of my hike.
       It may come to a shock to a lot of you, some may disappointed, confused, or let down.  But, I tried my best to complete the trail, and without anyone there with me, I just felt an unbearable selfishness.  Not only towards family, but friends as well.  I had ditched Ben, headed out on my own, on a trail that we both wished to do together.  I never fully realized our friendship until this trip, alone, because it ain't easy out there alone.  I had roommates back in Charlotte that needed my help moving out of our apartment.  Mom and Randy even moved all my stuff out a week earlier to my new place in Charlotte.  I know everyone supports my hike, but it just seemed like it should come to an early end.  So the next morning, after waking up in the Lake Ollalie campsite just south of Mt. Hood, my pounding headache and upset stomach were tell tale signs, that the time to call it was upon me.  I luckily caught the hitch of all hitches to Portland, OR from the middle of nowhere via Estacada, OR .  I wanted to be done, to be home, to be excited about school in the Fall; and I can proudly say I felt all of those things.  Not to mention hiking over 1,000 miles in a Summer, and meeting some amazing people along the way (Tom, Kobie, Stacie and the film crew,  Tom & Tori, Ryan, Jeff, and many others).  It all started coming together that this wasn't what I wanted to do anymore, maybe finishing in Canada wasn't suppose to happen, maybe Steve really taught me a lesson.  A lesson that we all need each other, that we cannot do anything alone, and although we can try, even if we succeed, who do we have to share that with?  These are all questions that I thought about before I decided to call it a summer.  
       I have a big year in school ahead of me, and although living in the woods for 2.5 months brings you closer to nature, I kept thinking about my transition to school from the AT and how fast it was.  It did not want that to be the case.  I thought about what I really wanted to accomplish this summer on the trail, and I think I did.  To get away, to realign myself with the great outdoors, to reflect on the past four years of school, and to reconfirm that studying architecture is what I really wanted to due and pursue.  All of these things were answered.  It was nice to get away, to catch my breath after 4 years of intensive design school, but I knew the hardest was yet to come.  I knew that each day on the trail wouldn't wear me out as much as each day in architecture school.  That's my new plan, to put as much as my passion of hiking into that of architecture.  I know I am capable of great things, and that is what I wish to do.  After spending a few days in Portland, Stacie drove up from Northern California and after a rush overnight mailing of my Birth Certificate, I drove the film crew car up into Canada to see the end of the trail.  I made it to Manning Park, the official end of the Pacific Crest Trail.  It was a frustrating moment, in which I was unable to find the PCT northern terminus monument; because it is actually on the border of the USA and Canada, which is 12 miles south of where I was.  In attempt to find the ending terminus I carried just a video camera (thinking the end was just a couple tenths of a mile from the parking lot) and ended up hiking not only four miles, but four miles straight uphill!  After realizing I was ill-prepared and not able to make it to the end, or had taken the wrong way, I headed back to the car.  I decided not to spread Stephen's ashes in a parking lot at the end of the PCT, it just didn't feel right.  So I recorded a video for the documentary summarizing my hike.  It was hard to put into words the past 2.5 months, I can't even recap any 2.5 month period of my life (excluding the AT), because you just seem to live differently in civilization.  Instead of meetings, projects and deadlines, main points revolve around things something much deeper.  Who I've met, what I have seen, and what I have experienced are all things I thought about.  I met a lot of good people, saw a lot of beautiful things, and experienced a trip of a lifetime.  
        After a frustrating border patrol check back into the United States, I drove back to Seattle, and felt satisfied in the trip.  It was nice to see California, Oregon, Washington, and Canada; all of them places I had never been before.  I intend on finishing the PCT, and continuing the completion of the Triple Crown (AT, PCT, and CDT).  It was simply time to come home, and with family and friends and wonderful as the one(s) I have, it makes it easy to do so.  No one made me come out on the PCT, and I'm aware of that.  As I currently move into my new house, and tell all my friends and family about my trip, everyone asks "how was your trip?", all I can do is smile and say "It was awesome".  I don't regret a single thing, and I want nothing more than to complete the PCT within the near future with not only Steve, but with Ben, and whoever wants to come along, because I never really realized until now, its now what you do, its who you do it with, and that mind-set can not only be lived on the trail, but in your day-to-day as well.  Thanks again to everyone following the blog and supporting me along the way, I hope I  have not let you down.

Spencer "Warpzilla" McKay