I knew the moment that I stepped on the Greyhound bus leaving Manning Park that I wouldn’t be at true peace again until I was back on a long distance trail. The mountains and woods is where I belong year round. I was so unprepared for the bustle of such a large city, Vancouver. Skeeter Bait and I stood watching people push and shove to get on the rail system twice before we joined in. Civilization is just too much for me! We wandered around searching for the hotel my dad booked for us at the Hilton! Two nights ago I was sleeping on the PCT on a foam mat with mice crawling around everywhere to living the high life at the Hilton for a night. We were pleased to hear we had been upgraded to a suite and were given a key to attend appetizer hour. Thanks dad for traveling for too many years for work and gifting me with your free flights and rooms. No need to shower as we slid our key into the executive suite and joined the well dressed business folk. If they knew that I had just walked 2,660 miles, they might of brought out larger plates. Instead we used quite a few small plates feasting with a view of the city and mountains. The shower was almost as wonderful as the warm bath robe I got to lounge in. Then we headed off to the largest mall in Vancouver to buy some new clothes and that was even more overwhelming. I have never seen so many people. I found myself smiling only when watching the interactions between parents and children between dodging people and getting bumped around. The majority of thru hikers range from age 18-60. I never met any children thru hiking this season unfortunately, but I was always eager to talk to any family with kids out hiking. I hope to share my love of backpacking and camping with my children someday. For now, I’ll just borrow my friend’s children. I have never been much of a shopper. I’m too cheap to waste money on the wants in life. But I needed a pair of pants that fit and a new top so the people sitting next to me on the plane won’t cry.
The two of us wandered around the city that evening grabbing a bite to eat and drink reflecting on a life changing experience. I am so blessed to have met so many wonderful friends along the journey. Huge shout out to all the ladies that kicked ass this year! I found myself surrounded by mostly all men on the AT and this year the ladies were out in full force. Thru hiking is one of the greatest equalizers. Even the strongest can get an injury in one wrong step. Even the weakest can gain strength and conquer the trail through patience. Thru hiking comes down to two things- determination and health. You have to want it! The weather and terrain will test you when you least expect it. I survived 50 mph wind gusts, torrential rain, a brutal hail attack, snowy mornings, nights, and days. When it rains for multiple days, the trail really tests your resolve. I still find pleasure and laugh at these moments in between the swearing and bitching. Staying healthy can be just as tricky. I recommend daily stretching, vitamins, eating lots of calories, and most importantly ALWAYS filter your water. A few people decided to stop filtering toward the end of their hike and greatly regretted that decision. With this advice a little luck also doesn’t hurt. I had one hard fall that split my head open in the High Sierra. I was lucky not to get hurt too badly. Be careful!
The Pacific Crest Trail was a wonderful experience full of so much kindness. I still am shocked at how many people go out of their way to help us hikers live our dreams. I could write for hours about the generosity I’ve received. You all hold a special place in my heart and your kindness will never be forgotten. I look forward to giving back to the trail communities and doing trail work. The scenery is what brought tears to my eyes. We live in a beautiful country with many opportunities to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. So lucky our country has preserved so much land and now it is our responsibility to take care of it. I experienced so many magical moments along the way that will bring joy to me on any tough day. I found so many favorite sections that I might just have to thru hike it again.
My third day post trail was the longest day ever. Skeeter and I parted at the train station as I made my way towards the airport. My mind was racing as I watched the sun set and the mountains fade away. Traveling by plane is much quicker than by foot and my family shot down the idea of hitch hiking home. I was surprised to run into Foxtrot in Seattle and even be on the same plane. I began flying around 11pm that night and was picked up the next day around the 1:30pm in Boston. I was unable to fall asleep realizing how quickly my journey had gone and that I was really headed home. I cried! Only two tears fell, but my heart and soul was mourning the loss of the lifestyle I love. I searched for mountains way out in the distance finding only the lovely city of Boston. My mother and grandma picked me up at the airport and brought me back to the home I’ve lived in for the last 29 years. I was greeted by our two rescue dogs and the cats looking me over before rubbing against my leg. It seemed like I had just left and little had changed. My best friend, her daughter, and husband stopped by to surprise me. Then I was off to sleep on the couch cuddling a dog by 6:30pm. As quick as it had begun, the hike was over and I was back home like nothing had changed. My desire to thru hike and live this lifestyle only grew. Frodo was right telling me the PCT would only convince me to continue hiking. I would hike the whole trail again in a heartbeat, but a few others come first! ❤️Tracy