My Dearest PCT,
I miss you. I haven't taken a stride along your path in nearly four days and that's four days longer than I'd wish. Seattle is keeping my mind occupied, but she doesn't hold my heart the way you do. She doesn't embrace me like you did -- the way you wrapped me in your swaying branches and warm air. She doesn't cradle me the way you did in your soft ground each night for four months.
Do you miss me? Do you miss the way I skipped and lollygagged through your sand and dirt and water covered walkway? Or the way I allowed your beauty to stop me in my tracks and end my day early so I could stare in awe as I ate my ramen noodles? Or the way I peeped through my tent door at you while the sun soaked my morning? Do you miss my giggles and tears of joy? Do you long for my presence the way I long for you to pull the stars over me like a blanket again?
We both knew it was only temporary and yet, I let down my guard completely for you. You've seen sides of me which nobody else has. You've seen me dancing down the trail amongst joshua trees and curled into a rocking ball of blubbering mess beneath your towering pines. You've seen me fall onto your jagged rocks and pick myself up trying to forget how fragile I am amongst your vastness. You saw me fall in love with you wholly and without pause. And you caught me when I did.
It wasn't all sunshine and blue skies, though. You took a lot from me. You took blood from my knees in places like the pine forest of Fuller Ridge where I sat in your cocoon of clouds. You took sweat from my every pore every single day through desert sands and High Sierra snow. But mostly, you took a piece of my heart that I never want back.
When I made it through your hundred degree desert days with no shade or water and had finally synced my schedule with the sun, you told me that I'd gotten too comfortable. You spent the next month breaking me down through trail-finding in record snowpack, wading through raging snow melt, maneuvering obstacle courses of down trees, kicking deer out of campsites, freezing nights, perpetually wet shoes and socks, too heavy of a pack, and a terrifying amount of isolation.
Your tough love came with its rewards, though. You showed me that I'm stronger than I thought and braver than I knew. You let me see the world sprawled out below me after every strenuous climb and filled my bottle with the best water I've ever tasted whenever I felt weak. You gave me the honor of seeing you in a way that so few people have the opportunity to and for that I will always be grateful.
I was so relieved to have made it through your most difficult section only to be greeted with uninspiring walks through Northern California which led us into wildfires and trail closures. You fooled me by having me believe that your record snowpack was my biggest challenge this season. I thought I was racing snow to Canada, but as it turns out I was racing wildfires to NorCal, Oregon, and Washington.
You showed me that expectations on a thru-hike are a terrifying possession and that nature doesn't care what I think. I spent so much time in this relationship trying to sync up and 'hike my own hike' as the saying goes, but you didn't care what my idea of a thru-hike was. You didn't care that I wanted to finish at a certain time or that I wanted a straight path from Mexico to Canada. You had other plans to teach me things and I will always love you for that.
Thank you for the beautiful souls you introduced me to and convinced me to call my family. Thank you for teaching me about rattle snakes, horny toads, marmots, timber tigers, shrews, mule deer, grouse, black bears, and mountain goats. Thank you for reminding me how tiny I am and how there is infinite beauty in nature.
My journey with you has ended prematurely and I'd be lying if I didn't admit to feeling a little broken. You abandoned me and I feel a little lost, a little defeated, a little aimless, a little empty. A roof over my head instead of your clouds feels foreign. Waking up to the sound of cars instead of your birds feels wrong. What's keeping my spirits up is knowing that one day I'll wake up in your embrace again.
I've explored only just over half of you and sometime sooner rather than later, I've got plans to finish what I started. I see that you need some time and I owe you that much, but this isn't the end of us. Until we meet again, Pacific Crest Trail, I love you more than words can say or pictures can show and I know you love me too.
Take care of the piece of me I left with you,