The last post from Jessica (for now) about her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail.
When I set out on the Pacific Crest Trail nearly five months ago, I had one goal: to see if I could walk from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada. That day feels like so long ago, yet I remember it vividly: my family driving me to the Boise Airport, my mom tearing up when she gave me a hug goodbye, my backpack feeling foreign on my shoulders, my dog Marcy at my side.
I remember the sheer panic I felt, landing in San Diego a few hours later and finding out my backpack had gotten stuck in Oakland. The feeling was quickly replaced with gratitude when it arrived on a later flight and a trail angel drove me back and forth from the airport twice to collect it.
On that silent, early-morning car ride to the PCT trailhead, I contemplated the question above: can I do this? Can I walk 2,660 miles, from Mexico to Canada? I had no idea. But I was ready to try.
Those early days felt much like a new relationship: everything seems perfect, fun, exciting and new. Taking my first lunch break in a patch of shade in the Southern California desert and meeting people from all over the country and all over the world—all excited to take on the same challenge as me. Setting up my tent for the first time that night. Making my first pot of Idahoan Mashed Potatoes. They felt warm and delicious in my stomach, the ultimate comfort food. I remember the first gnarly trough full of stagnant, green water with dead bugs floating in it. I had no other choice but to scoop it up in my water filter and hope for the best. The sun was hot, but a grand adventure was ahead of me and I thought, “I wonder if I’ll make it all the way.”
The honeymoon phase stayed alive for a long time on the trail. Scenery changed around me, from sun-blasted desert spotted with pink flowers and spiny Joshua Trees to the rivers, mountains and lakes of the high Sierra’s. I swapped hiking partners; Marcy the dog went home after the first 100 miles and I hiked with a guy named Storytime shortly after.
Together, we got terribly sunburned in the desert. We walked through the night to avoid Mojave heat. We excitedly waved down dozens of cars to take us into nearby towns, where we delighted in hot food and hot showers. We huddled close during snowstorms and we summited the top of Mount Whitney—the tallest mountain in the Lower 48. We took thousands of pictures and showed off our Long Distance Hiking Permits in Yosemite National Park. We shared many a packet of Idahoan Potatoes.
I often asked Storytime if he thought we’d make it to the borer of Canada. I still didn’t know for sure. I was here to find out. He often assured me we would.
But when we reached South Lake Tahoe—Mile 1,065.5—we had a decision to make: continue on with the trail to the bitter end, using up the depleting funds we had, or take what was left and start a new life together in Portland, Ore. We drank coffee and ate pizza and talked it over. By the time our waiter came with the check, our decision was made.
We rented a car and launched our next adventure. As we drove into Oregon, I asked Storytime again if we would reach the end of the Pacific Crest Trail. He assured me we would. “The trail isn’t going anywhere,” he said. “We didn’t quit on a bad day. We didn’t let the trail beat us. We’re going to finish it.”
Just a few short weeks later, I came home to our new, little apartment after my first day of work in this new, not-so-little city. On our new, little dining table, Storytime had arranged a spread of wine, steak, garlic bread and—you guessed it—Idahoan Mashed Potatoes. Only this time: I got to eat them with a real spoon, and not a plastic spork. They tasted just as good.