Chronicles of the Wayward Moot

WELCOME TO THE MOOT, oh world-wanderers and word-whisperers. After two years of Peace Corps. After 2,200 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. What. Comes. Next?

17/11/2008

To all those who shared in this incredible adventure - A preliminary update.

Fully aware that I will have misspelled some of your email addresses and somehow omitted certain persons who deserve to be in on this email (Photon, Nargles, and Ricola are examples, can anyone forward this to them please?), I'll submit nonetheless my attempt at a combined "what's up," "thank you," "HOLLA," and "hope all is well" message to the great void of the interweb and hope that these tidings bring joy wherever they find you.

This is Bobcat or Flying Bobcat as were my various titles over the last six + months on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Maybe you met me for just a few minutes.  Maybe we hiked together for a few days or weeks or shared a laugh and a motel room in town.  Maybe you hosted me in your home and let me cook you gumbo.  However we met, I'm writing to say thanks for being part of this adventure.  Each of you, in your own tiny or enormous way, made this what it was and I can't say enough how important each interaction was towards lending some energy to make a good hike great.  It definitely works like ripples in a pond: one tiny gesture of kindness or understanding goes a long way when you're out there with little but the wind and the trees and the cliffs for company.  I hope that in time I'll get the chance to read how everyone's trips ended up.  While the detailed version of all this with the requisite photos and videos is posted on my blog (link at the bottom), here's the "cliffs notes" edition.  It's still long, but yall know how hard it is to condense the details of half a year of adventure...:

Made it Campo to Crater Lake without missing a footstep.  At that point the goal was to connect each footstep Mex-Can or get snowed out trying to do so.  As some of you know, I got pleasantly delayed at the incomparably supersweet Drakesbad Guest Ranch and stayed there working (more like eating and soaking and socializing) for a week with another thru-hiker, YAK.  He and I continued north from there and immediately got sucked into the "vortex" again at the Heitman's Hiker Hideaway.  Escaping that magical place we took it nice and slow (109 degrees in the shade helps keep the pace down) all the way to I-5 and Ashland, with the intervening adventures ranging from a hitch into Etna with a guy in full sniper-style camouflage so drunk and high he insisted on gifting us his fishing pole when he dropped us off (the trout in the Trinity Alps were delectable) to an encounter with a black widow spider to taking part in a Duckie Race while celebrating Sasquatch lore at Happy Camp, California's annual Bigfoot Jamboree.  Crater Lake surprised with an unexpected reunion with my old boss from Alaska 8 years ago.  He was the chief ranger of the former site of Mt. Mazama and took me into his cabin for three nights, allowing ample time for exploring all kinds of nooks and crannies of that amazing place, including a night boiling lake crawfish with the biology rangers and playing beer pong with the people who normally are collecting admission in their pressed uniforms and Smokey the Bear hats.

From Crater Lake I hitched and then bussed up to Manning Park to continue southbound since the trail registers indicated I was more than a week behind the next closest hiker.  Seemed to be the only way to see hiker friends coming the other direction instead of doing the remaining 700 miles completely alone, and the jam session in the Stehekin pavilion alone made that decision worth it.  Fire, ukulele, and beer make for a great time, as you can imagine.  The first southbound section was pure hiking nirvana with amazingly great weather, reunions with people I hadn't seen since the first week out of Campo, and the best ridge-upon-ridge-upon-ridge panoramas of the whole trip once I bushwhacked off trail to get to some high points.  An awful respiratory infection kept me in the environs of Stehekin for a week before I recovered enough to get going into the Glacier Peak section, and there a combination of more on-trail sickness and four days of a winter storm that showed my flimsy tarptent who's boss left me scared, staggering and hypothermic before I eventually made it to the Dinsmore's River Haven bloody and battered and thankful eight(!) days after leaving Stehekin.  I met Andrea Dinsmore on October 5 and took a zero day there as the only hiker in town.  Jerry said that their most crowded night this year was 25 or so.  (Only one bathroom ... I was glad to be the only one around, more blueberry pancakes and sausage to go around hehe!)

From Skykomish my route became more than circuitous as I hitched to Seattle, then took a train to Portland, and eventually found myself in Puerto Rico of all places as the suit-and-tied best man at a friend's wedding.  Frostbite to sunburn?  That's just the nature of the game I suppose!  Back in Portland I stayed with Miss Potatohead (anyone got her email address?  Or those of the Amigos?) and her family before catching a ride with a colleague from my time in Peace Corps Ecuador and her sister for an exploratory road trip through Oregon.  Twenty days would pass before I returned to Crater Lake and got back on the trail ... an uncomfortably long hiatus but full of waterfalls, volcanoes, Carribbean political rallies/street circuses, trespassing unwittingly on Indian tribal territory, the best hot springs of the entire trip, the world's largest radio telescope, brewery-comparisons in Bend, and one last skinny-dip in the country's deepest and clearest lake. 

Northward I happily trudged and cowboy camped under the stars even as nighttime temperatures dipped below freezing ... without a rain jacket!  I'd left it in my friend's Jeep back at Rim Village, but since the weather was so good I didn't realize until five days later hehehe. 

172 miles later I came up to the edge of Hwy 20 in a rainy mess of cloud and stuck my thumb out.  A truck that looked like it was a reject from the Mad Max prop department skidded to a halt and I got in and found myself face to face with a guy who looked like a cross between Edward Scissorhands and Heath Ledger's version of the Joker.  It was as if a spastic monkey on crack had put his makeup on.  We did the usual hitchhiking smalltalk thing and then after a few minutes I asked if there had been some kind of concert or ritual the night before.  He looked at me suspiciously and brought me back into the "real" world ... dude, it was Halloween last night.  Oh man, I haven't even known what day of the week it is for the last three years.  So it goes.  In Bend I stayed with some incredible couchsurfers and worked on making up the hiker calorie deficit.  Got a new tattoo to commemorate this latest life transition at the best shop in town and  made friends with the artist / owner of the studio.  The weather on November 1st, my last day on the trail, was fugly.  It only got worse and the snowline came down down down.  That's what I'd told myself I'd hike until, and there it was, with 400 miles left unseen  So it went.  Hiking in the wintry viewless nastiness for a month with friends is one thing, but going it alone didn't make sense when considering how one's margin for error shrinks considerably.  However it boiled down, I'd made it more than 2,000 unbroken PCT miles going north and nearly 200 going south.  I'd met countless incredible people, you all among them.  I'd seen endless vistas, inspiring mountains, limitless opportunities.  I'd broken a toe on both feet.  I'd gotten my first mohawk.  I'd ferreted out twelve hot springs near the trail and sweated and steamed myself silly at all of them.  I'd spent the night of the 4th of July bivouacking atop Half Dome in Yosemite Valley and cooked an alcohol stove lunch in the crater of Wizard Island.  I'd gotten paid to goof off with winsome Europeans at an exclusive resort.  Maybe best of all is what I didn't do:  I never woke up dreading the hike.  It never felt like work, and I never felt that there wasn't enough time to stop and smell the roses or gawk at the views or just stop halfway through the planned day and camp right there because it was too freaking amazing to pass up.

I'm writing today from Yosemite National Park.  Here visiting another fellow Peace Corps Volunteer from my time in Ecuador.  We're off to the Grand Canyon tomorrow and parts unknown.  The Goat Rocks and Timberline Lodge can wait for another year when the season is more amenable and I've got someone fun and upbeat to share the miles with.  After going home for Thanksgiving I'll be house-sitting in Bend for a month and then I'll be ??? in ???.  It should be a ??? time full of ??? and plenty of ???  My trail here has encountered a fork, but there are no obvious signs posted to indicate the right way.  They're ALL the right way it seems.  Possibilities for the next step that have been suggested include: Becoming a merchant mariner.  Working on an Alaskan fishing boat.  Working as an Alaskan tour director.  Freezing my butt off in Antarctica.  Going back to New Zealand.  Going back to South America.  Writing a book.  Publishing my photography.  Teaching ecology to kids.  Teaching first aid to Peruvians.  The ideas just don't end. 

Any ideas? 

Again, many many thanks to everyone who shared this adventure with me.  Only a fellow hiker can understand the appeal of the trail.  Look me up on couchsurfing.com or at matadortravel.com and stay in touch.  I hope all of your post-hike endeavors bring you challenges and rewards untold. 

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.


ALL THE BEST,

Flying Bobcat  PCT 2008

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