Total Miles: 1000.9
It was punishment for something, I realize that now. I don’t know exactly what past slight or transgression, of course, but I clearly must’ve deserved this. What we thought had been vicious mosquitoes turned out to be merely the undercard for the main event today. Even while hiking, there would be a dozen on my kneecap alone. Every slight reprieve we might find would be followed promptly by a new assault. My only comfort was the promise of the evening sanctuary inside my tent.
The skeeters weren’t the only trouble today. Ford after ford of icy cold water complemented two brutally steep climbs that began our day. For dessert, the trail disappeared most of the afternoon either amid meadows of mud or beneath rushing creeks not long after my first migraine of the trail had set in.
But in our chase to catch back up with our friends, a big milestone was within reach: the 1,000-mile mark. It’s an almost incomprehensibly long distance when you think about it, regardless of the mode transportation, but there’s something even more unimaginable when you realize you’ve done it simply by walking. Have my legs and feet really carried me that far?
You’d think such a milestone would be a time for celebration, but for many it’s around this point that their thru-hike comes to an end. When you realize you’ve walked 1,000 miles only to then be met by the cold reality that you’re not even half way, it can be a sobering moment. Combine that with the maddening mosquitoes, the much more difficult trail these past few days, and the fact that your days in the Sierra–perhaps the most anticipated stretch of the entire PCT–are numbered, and you’ve collected a number of reasons to raise the white flag. We met several hikers yesterday and today contemplating this very decision.
It’s no secret that long distance hiking isn’t for everyone, and even for those that do it there will always be days when the reasons to go home start to assemble themselves into a towering stack and I’m no exception. But what it has taught me is to relentlessly reinterpret situations to the positive, even if you have to squint your eyes and lie to yourself to do it. This whole adventure is entirely about mindset and attitude, nothing more. People with a lifetime of skill have gone home while those who’ve never backpacked a day in their lives have successfully completed a thru-hike. If nothing else, days like today are memories to be filed away for future reference, to be retrieved when a new challenge presents itself and your mind is searching for the answer to the question, “Have I ever experienced _______ this bad before?”