Post Trail Blues – 87 Days Later

I know it has been quite some time that I have left you all in suspense. To answer your questions, I didn’t quit. You know, I’ve quit most things in my life, due to various reasons, ranging from injustice, to unhappiness. This was not one of them. I didn’t quit. I thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017… the year of Fire and Ice.

It has been 87 days since I sat on the Northern Terminus Monument of the Pacific Crest Trail. I finished the trail in 139 days (156 days if you include the 7 days I took off to visit family in Vegas, or the 10 days I took off when I almost quit). On day 87 on the trail, I had hiked 1370.8 miles, more than I’ll ever accomplish in a another consecutive 87 days in my life time.

In the 87 days I have been off trail, I had surgery, visited 24 states during two cross country road trips, checked off all 50 US states from my bucket list, accepted a new travel nursing contract, moved to San Diego, started a new job, met new friends, went on a date, continued to have the appetite I had on trail and resulting in weighing 10 pounds more than my pre-trail weight, went on a diet and lost 13.6 pounds (so far), accepted another travel nursing contract for February in Palo Alto, thought about getting a puppy, signed up to be a dog sitter on Rover, applied for baby sitting jobs to fill my weekend time, spent a lot of money I didn’t have… Should I go on? To many of you, it may seem like I’ve accompanied a lot in 87 days, but I don’t feel as if I have accomplished anything; none of these things gave me the fulfillment I had on trail. I was somebody on the trail. I was doing something great. I inspired many of you, and gave others, the motivation to follow their dreams. I felt like somebody for the first time in a long time.

I started the Pacific Crest Trail to find myself, to figure out what it is that would make me happy in this short life of ours (simply put), and honestly, I thought I had found myself.

Some of you know that I have PTSD from the military and various traumas in my life. The years have gotten better with time and the symptoms more manageable.  When I was on the trail, my symptoms almost diminished. I thought I was cured. I slept without sleeping pills, for the first time since I was 17 years old. The bears that roamed at night, the mountain lions that screamed in the darkness, the glowing eyes of an animal I will never know, were far less frightening than the nightmares that haunt me, and the people who have hurt me. I wasn’t triggered out there, I was at peace… Finally. When I got home from the trail, the symptoms abruptly returned and it was very hard to accept;  I wasn’t better after all. I started the Pacific Crest Trail to find myself; as it turns out, I feel more lost than before.

img_3507

Blogging about my trail experience has been hard lately. Reading what I wrote on the trail; reliving the memories of such an amazing time in my life; seeing the true happiness and serenity in the smile on my face, a feeling that I hadn’t experienced in so long and have yet to experience since; knowing that I am back to a reality that is far more complex, filled with dozens of daily decisions; has been quite a tough pill to swallow. I convinced myself I was too busy to work on my trail blog posts, but that is not the case.

The truth is, when I am not working, I’ve limited the distractions of this life, by staying in my apartment, with more than plenty of time to blog. I’ve set aside time, on several occasions to post, but some how managed to find something else to do instead. Why? Because I miss it. When I read my journal entries, edit trail photos, force myself to relive the life and happiness I had on trail, I am not concentrating on finding happiness in this world… the world we all must inevitably live in. I have to keep looking for this happiness, I have to have hope that I can find that feeling, that peace and serenity, off the trail as well. I have inevitably  become an adventure addict. The high I get from the adventures, from the challenging hikes that I conquer, from the views that take my breath away, from the dangers that I might face, from the obstacles that I overcome, from doing what so few have done or would ever attempt to do, all distract me from the pain I feel without these adventures; the pain that I have been forced to feel since the trail. The real solution is finding someone to help me work through my past, and that, that will be my next big adventure.

I don’t share this with you for pity. I don’t want your sympathy. I have been very blessed in this life and God loves me. I share this with you, so you know that I have not forgotten, I am not too busy. Every one who has a desire to, attempts, or completes a long distance trail is a bit crazy… I know you all were thinking the same thing. Heck, we all are a little crazy. To hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I feel like most people are running away from something, searching for something, or holding onto hope that the trail can cure whatever is going on in their life. I can assure you, the trail will not necessarily provide what you are looking for, it might only be a temporary fix. I read an article that stated something similar and I thought I would be different than he suggested. I thought I really would find myself. I was wrong.

Again, I am sorry that I haven’t updated you, haven’t finished my trail blog entries, haven’t given advice to those of you who plan on doing the PCT in the future, and haven’t posted a gear review… I will. I will finish in time, but it will take time. Thank you for your patience. I will continue to give updates, no matter how far and in between my posts will be. Thank you all for your comments, messages, and continued support. You are not forgotten. Until next time…

20 thoughts on “Post Trail Blues – 87 Days Later

  1. Take care of you DC! Posts don’t matter – sure they are great to read about but when it comes down to it is irrelevant to personal happiness and mental security. Sure I wonder about blogs you have not posted but i would never think less of you if you never posted another. You are a human, wants, needs, and life hurdles. Hopes for you in overcoming that which may torment you. I lost my adopted mother to evil cancer in 2016. I am still coming to terms with it and understand taking a day at a time. Blessings to you. ( ps – not religious )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow…you have put into words feelings that I, as well as many people I’m sure, have felt whether it be after a long thru hike or some other adventure in their life. While reading I nodded my head in agreement several times. Thank you for sharing, and I hope that those blues will diminish very soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves, in finding themselves.” I think we adventure addicts always struggle with the reality of normal life. Going on a long hiking trip provides hope of new life, new you, that is why we have the notion of pilgrimage. Most people get that for duration of the trip, some get it after and most revert back to the before. The real change can only come from within, from change of mindset. I wish you find your peace, and if not just keep on walking, there are planty of long distance trails out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You continue to inspire me off the trail with this genuine insight. I know it has changed your life forever and incorporating all the GOOD learned from the trail, will take time. Life is a constant, dyanmic of flux and flow. Us nurses know how precious and fleeting it can be too. I’m excited for all your future endeavors. I’m excited to one day do the PCT myself too because of ladies like you. Take care

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reading this post made me think of my post-PCT blues. Two of my friends from the PCT moved on easily and well. That is not me. Here is my story in case that helps:

    When I finished the trail, it didn’t feel like I finished it. I had no emotion about it even though hiking the PCT was the best time of my life. I think it was because it didn’t set in. It just felt like I was on a town break and would be back out again soon.

    For two days, I allowed myself to eat as much as I wanted and whatever I wanted. I then stopped and went on a strict diet to combat the typical post-PCT weight gain. I still chunked up noticeably.

    My feet also swelled up and I couldn’t move around much. I started running after one week even though it took a month for the swelling and pain to go away. Running didn’t make me any happier even though it normally does.

    I stopped sleeping well so I started sleeping outside. Eventually I moved inside when I discovered that if I tried to watch a movie or TV show, I would fall asleep. Even now, I typically have to use that trick to fall asleep.

    I went around and visited some friends to try to meet some social obligations I felt but didn’t feel like meeting. I found that my friends didn’t understand me, even the outdoor adventurous ones. I soon discovered that after I felt I met all social obligations, everyone seemed to want more from me further exasperating the issue. Eventually, I noticed three people who kept treating me exactly how I needed to be treated and my opinion of them grew immensely. Unfortunately, I have other friends who I had to back away from in order to keep my sanity.

    Since my parents live close to the PCT in Washington, I occasionally went to White, Snoqualmie, or Stevens Pass to see some PCT friends and provide them with anything they needed to finish the trail. I picked up two friends at Hart’s Pass after they finished, spent about a day and a half with them, and got them to the airport. Shortly after that, they inspired me to attempt to hike the Triple Crown in a single year in 2018. Post-PCT blues left, for a bit.

    I went on a road trip around the country to visit friends and family since I was in between jobs, but broke down in Santa Fe. Prior to the PCT, my vehicle had no issues and after I returned, within 2.5 months, I had to pour $4k into it just to keep it running. The blues returned with that added stress.

    A friend of mine from the PCT who left a very successful business he started to hike the PCT returned home after and simply moved on to various business ventures. He is the man I want to be when I grow up. In January, he emailed me about my plans and said, “Don’t forget to have fun.” I took it to heart and I started enjoying my training immensely. My fitness level took off exceeding even my hopes. PCT blues were gone.

    I also caught a career break when I found an engineering firm that was willing to take a chance on me even though I planned to leave them in less than a year. That has allowed me to fund my hike much more easily.

    I had some hiccups during this time, but mostly things went well until I fell on a bouldering route and sprained my ankle in July. The blues returned hard. I stopped working on anything related to my Triple Crown hike because it hurt too much. I wanted my ankle to heal so badly, but it wouldn’t. I kept thinking that just around the corner, I would make massive progress and be back to running, hiking, and climbing again. Instead, it went slow. Most weeks I could detect progress, but it wasn’t until October that I could run at all. It wasn’t until last week that I could run without a limp.

    Now, I feel pretty good because I can run maintaining good form every day. I can hike every weekend and some business travel allowed me to visit Independence and Lone Pine providing me with some PCT nostalgia as well as Grand Canyon and Moab for some badly needed hiking. I had to change my Triple Crown plans by re-ordering the trails to give my ankle more time to heal, but find myself captivated by the work to get ready for it again. For now, the blues appear to be diminished although not completely gone.

    Here are a few things that really helped me:
    1. I held on to a few habits from the PCT such as I don’t shower everyday. I also mostly wear clothes that I could take on a backpacking trip (rarely wear cotton anymore). Last, I keep myself ready to travel at a moments notice. Those things help me remain Pathfinder…at least a little bit.

    2. I try to have fun everyday. A friend of mine who cycled the Trans-American talked about how since he is retired, each day he wakes up and thinks what will make me happy today? Then he does that. I try to do a bit of that myself.

    3. I try to be uncommon. When other people veg out, I try to do something productive. When the weather makes most people stay inside, I try to go outside and embrace being cold and wet. Running up a hill with ice crystals blowing sideways in the wind with a minor case of diarrhea is the most extreme example I have.

    4. I found people who intuitively treated me as I needed to be treated. Eventually, that led to better interactions with everyone else.

    5. The most important thing I did was create a plan to get back out on a long distance hike. The purpose it gave me has helped more than anything else. My two friends who moved on with ease both had new adventures lined up when they left even though they were totally different than hiking the PCT.

    I obviously don’t have a cure otherwise I would be completely over it. Best of luck and I hope this helps (one of the curses of being an engineer is that I want to fix things that can’t be fixed).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Not sure if this helps, but there are those of us who have always had the dream of hiking the PCT but possibly never will given life circumstances. (Perhaps when retirement hits. ) I experience a blues of never being able to scratch the wanderlust itch like that or to do something like the PCT, at least for now. Following someone’s PCT story is the closest I can come and is, in a way, a partial cure for the blues. So thank you. May you find your own cure. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was challenged by a friend of mine to bring back what I learned from hiking the PCT. They are called my three bring back principles. A quiet mind, the creation of joy and the three l’s. They are much better described orally. I will put them in writing some day. I wrote froggy’s top ten the top ten things I learned on the PCT. I shared the orally with many hikers

    Dan Jenkins said that laughter is the only thing that can cut trouble down to a size that you can talk to it. Google froggy’s top ten and you may find some laughter and a moment to cut that trouble down a size.

    Be well bumblebee. Froggy

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s