Journey Home

10/6/16
Hart’s Pass
27 miles

After reaching the border, we doubled back about 3.5 miles and camped. This left us with 27 miles to reach Hart’s Pass the next day, and the weather was only slated to deteriorate from this point onward, for the foreseeable future.

It rained for a good chunk of the night, but the morning looked misleadingly clear. We hit it hard,  wanting only to be as close to potential civilization as possible before things got worse.

Ironic that my final day on the trail,  a day that didn’t contribute to the reaching of Canada, would be my longest day in bad weather to date.


After the first 4 miles headed back, gaining elevation as we went,  it was either snowing,  hale-ing, or raining for the rest of the day. Everything above 6 thousand feet was already covered in a few inches of snow from the night before.

So that’s how this final day went; battling the elements one last time. Nothing crazy,  but I was very happy to have my umbrella once again.

The best part of back tracking south that far, was getting to see all the people heading north that were just behind you.  I got to see maybe 15 people in the span of that 27 miles.  Some new faces,  but most of them recognizeable. People I hadn’t seen since Oregon, northern California, and even the desert.  Congratulating them on their soon to be accomplishment, and in turn being congratulated for reaching ours.

When we arrived back at Hart’s Pass, a most welcomed sight awaited us.  A trail angel named Roger had set up a very elaborate camp filled with tents, tarps, drinks, food, and a homemade burn barrel/furnace.  The fire was the cherry on top. It snowed several more inches during the night, but the morning was absolutely gorgeous.

There were a handful of other thru hikers that had back tracked and were now looking for a ride back to civilization, and Roger informed us that if no one came by Hart’s Pass before noon, he’d give as many people as he could a ride into the towns of Mazama or Winthrop.  Not a soul showed up all morning, so at 11:30, we began loading up the old Volkswagen Van Roger had drove up in.  All in all, we crammed 11 hikers and their packs into that old van. Out of that eleven, six had finished their thru hikes, and five were quitting.  Five people were quitting their thru hike a mere 30 miles from the finish line. Yes the weather was slated to get much, much worse, but I couldn’t fathom bowing out that close, no matter what the obstacle. At the very least I would have waited out any weather in a town, then came back; whatever it takes!


Sadly, a great deal of people had to quit the trail over the next week or so. I don’t know an exact figure, but I’m guessing well over a hundred. Bad storms were rolling in, the winds were high, and the snow getting deeper; it simply wasn’t safe. Katana and I had made it by the skin of our teeth, and I wouldn’t change a thing.


We ended up in the novelty western town of Winthrop, over 30 miles away. While walking around downtown, a man named Ryan who’d read my book and followed my blog recognized me (probably Katana actually) and stopped to talk. This was the first time someone other than a fellow hiker had recognized myself and Katana in a town; what an interesting new experience. After chatting about the hike and some contrasts between the PCT and the AT, Ryan gave me $40 to have lunch on him. This was extremely kind and overly generous, so I let him know I’d also put it towards some other hiker’s meals that I was meeting for lunch.  We took a picture together before departing; great guy.


I’m going to summarize the rest of this day and the following days fairly quickly, as there were a ton of logistics and driving. I made the decision to drive home instead of fly. I didn’t want to step onto a plane in northern Washington, then step off one in Florida. Finishing this hike had been a little harder than I thought, and I really didn’t want to rush home, as homesick as I was. I needed a transition period to decompress. The thought of diving straight back into society and facing the questions and congratulations of friends and family back home felt overwhelming, even to think about. I wanted to put it off.


So in short (I’ll go into more detail at a later date) I paid for a rental car from Seattle to Winthrop, then back to Seattle. The hikers Ledge and Twang had gone into Canada on the same day I finished, then got a ride almost right away to Seattle. I bought the rental, then they drove about 4 hours to pick up myself, and two other hikers named Blaze and Dart.  Blaze, Twang, and Ledge had become like family to me in the last  stretch of the trail. I spent more time hiking and camping with them in final 180 miles than I did with anyone else since Kennedy Meadows south. So first we went from Winthrop to Seattle where we spent the night at a the house of another thru hiker named Focus. The next day I rented a truck and in the evening, drove myself, CatFox, Blaze, and Twang down to Salem, Oregon where Twang’s parents lived, and where Blaze had parked her car for the hike. We spent the night there before departing in the late morning the next day. Blaze was from Delaware, and planned to drive straight home from Oregon. One of my best friends from the AT, named DSOH, lived in Washington D.C., so I made arrangements to be dropped off there on the way. So Blaze and I split the cost of the drive across country. It took 4 long days of driving through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland before finally reaching D.C.

Edit
I spent three days staying with DSOH, his roommate Luke, and his girlfriend Laura. This pit stop was exactly what I needed. Over those several days, we went out downtown to eat, drink, go to a Bill Burr comedy show at the national theater, do Brazilian Jujitsu, and generally have a good time enjoying each other’s company and relaxing. Spending time with other hikers post trail helps to make the transition a little smoother. DSOH knew what it was like to assimilate back into society after a thru hike, so being around someone who understood what you were going through, that you could talk to, was very calming and healing.


On the morning of my 4th day in D.C., I climbed into my final rental car, then made the nearly 1,000 mile drive back to Navarre in a little over 15 hours. As I write this, I’m 17 days post trail, and I’ve been home 5 days. I have to admit, this transition hasn’t been easy; much more difficult than coming home from the AT. I think it’s the solitude I experienced on this hike that’s making it difficult. I can truly say that I don’t want anything to do with pretty much anyone. That sounds so bad to admit, but it’s how I feel. Since returning, I feel scatterbrained, as well as a major lack of focus. I’m happy, but at the same time I feel incredibly morose. Every time I come back, the world seems just a little more bat shit crazy than when I left it; or is it just me?

Katana is doing well, sleeping a lot. She seems to be a little more subdued after this hike than after the AT. She could be taking ques from my energy, or maybe it’s just because she’s older. Either way, I can’t help but notice some post trail depression in her. She really, really loved Washington.



My body feels great. Not having to dive straight into surgery like I did after the AT has been a huge plus. I went on a run the other day, the first physical activity I’ve done since the trail, and I felt fantastic. My knees hurt at first, but once they warmed up, no issues. My lungs still felt strong, and I ended my run early, when I probably could have gone several more miles.

It’s still very early being back, but I’m already planning for the next excursions; I have a A LOT of irons in the fire. One that’s for sureis my southbound thru hike of the Continental Divide Trail next June. In the short term, I may do the Florida trail this winter, but that’s up in the air, pending some other projects. I do plan to begin writing a book of this most recent adventure on the PCT. I still have a lot to share with you all that never made it into the blog; people, stories, side adventures, as well as little details that make all the difference.

I suppose I do have more to say, but I want to save the good stuff for the book. So for now I’ll just say “thank YOU.” Thank you everyone for following along in spirit throughout this adventure, supporting me with your kind words of encouragement, and helping me to fulfill what I consider my new calling; inspiring and empowering people to pursue their own definition of happiness.

This will not be my final blog entry. I do plan to keep writing in between adventures and keeping any followers in the loop. Also, I do plan to create an official website for a new blog, instead of using the WordPress platform. I don’t have a timeline on it, but I’ll certainly share it on here when I do.

Please feel free to share any questions, comments, or concerns regarding ANYTHING. Now that I’m finished with the hike, I have nothing but time on my hands to respond to you all, so please, don’t be shy.

Remember, the journey is the destination…

21 Comments

  1. Put me first in line to read your next book…..you are an excellent writer along with being an avid adventurer. Why haven’t you been featured in Outdoor magazine, Men’s Journal or some other he-man magazine????? They’re missing out on the treasure that is you!! I love reading about your awesome adventures.

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  2. Congratulations, I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. Wishing you the best with your post trail writing, which in my humble opinion is key to helping with post trail sadness and brain fog! Thank you for sharing, you are a gifted writer and one tough hiker.

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  3. I love reading about your adventures, I feel like I get to experience things that I will never get to through you and Katana. Thanks for the trip! Keep them coming too! I enjoyed reading your book and have read your blog every time you update it on the PCT trip.

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  4. I am owned by 2 Shibas. I absolutely loved your book about your adventures on the AT, and I so much enjoyed this blog on your PCT hike. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of coping with Katana’s diagnosis but you both seem really resilient. I love your writing style, and I can’t wait for more blog updates and upcoming book(s). My best wishes to you both 🙂

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  5. I have followed your journey all summer. This is my first comment. I have very much enjoyed your experiences. Welcome back to Florida. Give Katana a hug for me. What a gamer.

    Rick Leggett
    Niceville

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  6. Congratulations again on finishing your hike. Looking forward to reading the next book. Anytime your coming through Chattanooga, TN don’t hesitate to holler at us if you need a place to crash.

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  7. Hi Kyle! Congratulations on completing the PCT! Wow! What an accomplishment! After finishing your book I decided to Google you to see what you were up to. That’s when I discovered somewhere around April or May of this year you were on the PCT. I went back to the beginning and caught up to where you were which was California. You were still in the desert. I have thoroughly enjoyed keeping up with you and Katana. I’m also happy to read that you are going to continue blogging. You’re a good writer. I really appreciate your transparency. I live in WNC near beautiful mountains and great hiking trails. Have you heard of the MST, the Mountains to Sea Trail? Perhaps one day you might walk it too! Happy trails!

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  8. I loved every entry you put on this blog,so I am very happy that you will continue writing! I have wondered what it would be like to return home after such a long and epic hike,essentially alone for hundreds of miles. I can see how it was comforting to have Katana along with you for most of it. I am so glad you both made it thru safely. So,if you have time to answer questions,I have at least one: Are there any particular books you would recommend to anyone thinking of doing a long distance hike? Best regards to you and Katana. I wish you peace in your transition to being home.

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  9. Kyle, I don’t have to congratulate you on your journey and your success again and you know best of all the efforts that went into this victory.
    What stands out from this post is how tough it is to readjust to life in the real world and you pretty much describe how I feel every time coming off the trail or when a backpacking trip is coming to an end. It’s an almost depressive state and it leaves me wondering if there is even a place for me to fit in real life.
    It’s hard to relate to many things for people like us and I understand exactly what you are describing. Even Katana is picking up on it and it’s probably a mixture of your vibes as well as her own.
    To distract you a bit, I’m asking for your consideration as I’m in need of a trail name. 😉 I’m not sure who would ever name me and even though I don’t know if it’s even possible to name somebody you have never met from afar, it would be an honor. So if something ever comes to mind from the little you know about me, let me know.
    I think it’s great what you got planned with the blog and the book and you know people are here to support you, follow you and fever towards revisiting those moments with you.
    I wrote a little post about trail magic yesterday and it was you who introduced me to it. I plan to pay further respect in another post coming soon 😉
    Take care for now and have a great Sunday. It’s work for me and getting is over with quickly lol.

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  10. So I have followed you on the AT trail and PCT trail and you have inspired me. I would of loved to done what you have did. I have a million questions that I could ask but I am sure I will find out on my own. As I have never backpacked but my boys are taking me next year for my 50th birthday for at least 3 night. My simple questions would be , is there any training that I can do to prepare and is there any one thing that you wish you knew you should of brought with you or wanted that you should have, also how do you keep your phone charged for the phones?

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  11. Kyle, you asked if this world is getting more bat shit crazy and frankly I think it is. I can’t imagine the post trail feeling but it must be tough. You experienced the truth of raw emotion and physical endurance. You pushed yourself to extreme measures not many others would even dream of. So when you come back to a world full of spoiled, materialistic, unmotivated, complainy people it must be nauseating????? What we value in our society is beyond ridiculous. You experienced real interactions with nature and other hikers with similar mind sets such as yourself. How to you come back to the world of media brainwashed puppets? Sorry I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer but somehow you have to find peace back in the concrete jungle. You have your trail memories to share with others. Inspiring people is what you are meant to do. Your writing gift is so amazing and special. I think you are right where you are supposed to be. Thank you for your transparency in this opaque world. It is refreshing. Blessings to you and Katana….and I can’t wait to read your next book. ♡

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  12. Kyle,

    Thank you again for sharing your experience and congratulations to you and Katana! You have and continue to be an inspiration for me and I am so grateful to have someone to relate to in views and feelings about life. I am so proud of you for enduring through this hike despite all the challenges you have faced. I hope your transition back is gentle and I can only imagine how it must feel considering the withdrawal I feel after only a week away from the real world. However, you are tough and I can’t feel too sorry for you after seeing all of those fish you caught once coming back home! Continue to keep us updated and if you ever need a place to stay in Delaware let me know. Give Katana a snuggle for me!
    ~Amanda

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  13. Congratulations, man. I have read your blog and FB posts religiously. My husband knows you as “That Kyle” from me discussing your travels, as in, “Hey, that Kyle is in Oregon now.” We did a lot of criss-crossing the country this year, spending a month camping the western National Parks, so it was cool to follow along your journey to many of the same places. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I look forward to the next book and the next adventure.

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  14. I grew up in eastern Washington, but have spent most of my life. In San Diego, so consequently have driven to and from Mexico to Canada,many timies,using every route available. Took 395, the whole way, and that is one road that can be pretty lonesome in some areas. So, I was very interested in your journey, and followed it with my son. I worried about you in that hot spot in the Redding area.and. In the northern cascades, too, but you made it. Congratulations!
    Betty White. .(Gary white’s mom,who youMay remember,from the
    A.T.)

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  15. Congratulations, have followed you since your blog on the AT, your book on the AT and your adventure on the PCT. Look forward to your book on the PCT. You have inspired me to do a section hike on the AT this summer

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  16. Kyle, I’m reading your book again, it gives me so much inspiration about being simple, which I always strive to do. If you are ever in NJ, you are welcome to speak to my CompSci students who need to unplug for balance… I replied before and you gave me a great response. Looking forward to your new book.
    Thanks,
    Steve

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  17. Looking forward to your next book brother. First one was great and just reading some of your blog I can only imagine this one will be too.

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  18. Just got your new book, where did that come from? I’m loving it and slowly reading it, lots of info, I love your points of view and agree with your philosophy about life, very Zen.

    When is the PCT book coming?
    Best,
    Steve

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    1. Kyle,
      I need to recommend a book to all of my CompSci High School students for summer reading and its going to be your Lost book. They need to be well rounded with more than technology, I can’t wait.

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