Epilogue: Post-Trail Days 2-3 (Oct. 18-19)

A Bus, Two Planes, and a VW Jetta

So yesterday, I said 2 other hikers were in the dorm with us, but by the time we returned from bowling last night, the place had nearly filled up. We came in the dark room and did our best to keep quiet. That all worked out fine, but the next morning Cheer and I also left in the dark and both revealed that neither of us got much sleep. The dorm had bunks and were very creaky, so not a great combo when filled up with folks.

Anyway, Cheer kindly got up early with me to go to breakfast. We went to Jack’s Restaurant, which had been one of my favorites during the first go around. We were the first customers of the day and had a lovely, but quick dining experience.

Around 7:00am, we left and Cheer dropped me off at the bus stop outside of Vons grocery store. We said our goodbyes and I waited a few minutes until the bus showed up right on time, 7:25am. Cheer planned to visit the Looney Bean one last time and then make her way back to Southern California.It was about a 4 hour bus ride up to the Reno airport. The whole way had lovely views outside of the Sierra…

We even stopped in Mammoth Lakes, CA along the way, so I got a quick glance at yet another trail town I’d visited. On the bus, I got started on catching up with the blog, but also couldn’t help myself from starting the process of thinking back on it all. Sheesh Oh Pete’s, what an experience. It was hard to really comprehend it as a whole, being that it took a half year to complete. And so…I didn’t. Memories flashed in and out as I knew they would going forward too, but mainly I was content just enjoying the fact that fact that a motored vehicle was transporting me rather than my poor feet.

All went smoothly with my bus ride, time at the airports, and with both of my flights from Reno, NV to Chicago, IL and Chicago, IL to Grand Rapids, MI. I devoured some unhealthy food and drinks and even watched an in-flight movie (The Martian). So many people too! It’s not like I was out of touch with civilization the whole time during my trail life, we had numerous town visits and such, but I still felt myself observing others, questioning what all these people were up to, and feeling a bit like an outsider to it all.

There was a slight delay at Gerald R. Ford (Grand Rapids) airport due to another plane being in our space at the “dock,” but around 12:30am I was on the curb outside. Minutes later, brother Abe was there with a big grin and a hug. A joyous reunion was had during the 15 minute drive to our parents home.

The next day almost my whole fam would come over for a visit and I would be surrounded by nieces and nephews and the very familiar chaotic noise that accompanies them. I soaked it all in! Not only was I getting to see my family for the first time in months, but we were outside on a wonderful day and did all of my favorite Fall things…carving pumpkins, sitting by a campfire, and enjoying a (few) tasty meals together! What a superb welcome back to Michigan!

As mentioned a few times now, it’s hard for me to comprehend all the ways that this unexpected journey has impacted me. I don’t want to overstate this and exaggerate, but without a doubt it was a life changing experience. Rather than use entirely my own thoughts on the matter, however, in the similar style that I’ve used throughout this blog, I’ll look to other, more wise voices that have stood out to me along my journey…

First, I thought it’d be very fitting to revisit Frodo’s advice from his Uncle Bilbo Baggins that I posted in one of my first entries…

“He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.'”

How very true and prophetic those words seemed to be. Surely, I had some idea of what I was getting into at the beginning of all this, but there was no way for me to know how my journey would play out and where I’d end up. There’s something pretty great about that. I didn’t know I’d meet a stellar squad of comrades to enter into the Sierra with, that I’d paint my nails and dance in a Hawaiian shirt at Casa de Luna, or that I’d that I’d eventually bail out from the snowy mountains using the terribly terrific Taboose Pass. I didn’t know I’d find myself at the top of El Capitan, face to face with Ferdinand the mountain goat, or saying “Prost” in a Bavarian-styled town in central Washington with a new friend from Germany. So many unknowns…so many unexpected experiences!

There are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number 1 is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number 2 is think. You should spend time in thought. Number 3 is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special. – Coach Jim Valvano

I listened to Jimmy V’s speech towards the later part of my hike. Very powerful. If you have no idea who he is or what his legacy is, look him up and YouTube his ESPY speech. Looking back on my journey of the PCT, like no other time in my life, do I feel I was living out those three things…laughing plenty every day while also having a healthy amount of time to let my thoughts wander. Maybe I wasn’t having my emotions moved me to tears every day, but you better believe the beauty of it all got me some times.

Certainly, I had much to think about out there and a lot of time to do so. I intentionally chose to not include this aspect of my trail journey much in my blog posts and I don’t plan to go into it too deeply here. I did feel it was important to at least mention though, since it really was a big part of it all. Meditation, reflection, spiritual questioning/pondering…whatever you call it, I discovered how beneficial and necessary it was for me while going through this season of my life.

Before the trail, I didn’t often question how/where I fit in with the bigger picture ideas of the world and how that maybe should effect my day to day actions. I found that becoming lost in the wonder of such beautiful surroundings gave me hope when so often before I’d become negative when
contemplating the problems of our society and world. I want to hold onto that going forward and to try to find a way to hope more and believe that change is possible.

My old pal Andy Dufresne (from my days at Shawshank Prison) once wrote to a friend,

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Now that I’ve left the blissful ignorance of being on trail, the separation no longer exists from the troubled ongoings of the world. I’m getting pretty deep here. I realize this is quite different than anything in my blog so far. It’s been all about wonderful pictures and my daily adventures, but I want to share some true words of wisdom that resonated so strongly with me. As a kid of course I learned about Martin Luther King Jr. in school, but ashamedly it wasn’t until this instance on trail when I listened to his speech via a podcast that it hit me how remarkable of a communicator he was. Such truth!

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these words a year to the day prior to his assassination (if my brief research is accurate). It was an extreme time then and I can’t imagine living through it. I feel now is an extreme time too and so much of what he said then seems to fit with where we find ourselves today…

“Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept…has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional Bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality…Let us hope that this becomes the order of the day...

We are now forced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now…Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world….Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard?…Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is yours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”

You may be wondering why I’m including all this in this post. Well, truthfully I’m not entirely sure. I’ve never had a plan for this blog and with all of this, this whole journey, I’ve just been writing whatever has come to mind. It’s really been a tool for me to process what I’m going through and something that I’m hoping will be fun to read through eventually down the road.

And so in that same spirit, I’m going to finish up this post by saying thanks to all the people who were a part of the journey! It’s very clear to me that even more so than the incredible scenery (if you’ve followed along the whole way with me you’ll know it was quite spectacular), it was the people and the relationships formed that left an even bigger mark. The people of the PCT! They/You are the ones that not only made this such a memorable and positive experience, but helped me along each stretch to finish all 2,653 miles. If I think about going this whole way having not had my friends and comrades along with me, it just seems empty.

And so here’s a shout out to all those who were part of my adventure, both in spirit and along the trail. To those who followed along the blog, or texted encouragement along the way, it really did mean a lot to me and kept me going.

Along the way I got into the habit of writing down folks’ names that I came across along the trail. I apologise to those folks I missed…Cheer’s PCT’ers of 2019!!!

Alec the Liverpool fan
Alex and Sophie
Audri and William from France
Barrel Roll
Bass Bone
Big Cheese
Blueberry (#2)
Bobby O
Buffy and Scout
Carl the Trail Angel
Christine from Germany
Cow Whisperer
Dan and Jen Trail Angels
Dave from Grand Rapids
D.O.C.K. (Dictator of Caring and Kindness)
Easy Strider
Eliza from Vancouver (and Aspen the dog)
Enno from Germany
Fast Times
Fat Rat
Frank from Portland, OR
Garrit from Indianapolis
Goose (#2)
Hoosier Daddy
Island Time
James T
Jeff from Minnesota
Jillian and Charlene from Kalamazoo
John from Vancouver Island
Kangaroo Rat
Kent from Northern CA
Kevin and Jen
Kieth from North Dakota
King Olli
Kristin from San diego
Kyle from Irvine
Lady Bling
Lady Magic Sunshine
Leah and Daniel from Canada
Lisa from Rhode Island
Lone Wolf
Madd Baker
Marco from Switzerland
Mark from North Carolina
Marosh and Ria from Slovakia
Martin from Germany
Master Trailsman (Hibernating Marmot)
Matilda and Crystel
Matt from Colorado
Michael from Denver
Michael the fellow Groundwater Sampler
Midnight Joker
Moritz from Germany
Mountain and Lion
Olive Oil
PB and J
Plane Crash
Polka Dots
Poppins (Mary) from England
Prince Humperdinck
Saucy Mynx
Shawn the Sheep
Scott from Ann Arbor
Scott from Oregon
Scott from Wisconsin
Slip N’ Slide
Sound Effects
Spicy Bite
Steam Machine
Super Strider Sheryl
TAR Man (Total Ankle Replacement)
Tea Time
Three Bean
Trojan Warhorse
Two pounds
Two Shoe
Yard Sale
Yukon Cornelius
Zohar from Israel!