• Brandon A. Kelone

Pacific Crest Trail Diary 10: Day 69 (Chester, CA)

Updated: Sep 21, 2018

I feel like my last posting was too harsh. I've read it back over several times, and 100% of it is what it needs to be. It's a very appropriate reflection of my trail experience in the moment of writing the piece. What it failed to do however was really say how good this experience is and has been throughout--even through the hard times that I wrote so much about in my last journal entry. 

The trail is unimaginably difficult for all the reasons that you could guess and for just as many as you'd not. Every single day is a series of challenges, but ultimately they are worth the hardship. Almost every night, after I finish hiking at around 9 and get camp setup, I lay down in my tent and just let go of the world. It is an experience of absolute surrender, and in those moments at the end of the day, I really do find heaven. And those moments happen every day; not a single day passes that I do not think to myself how wonderful it is to be a part of this experience. I even cry at least every 10 days or so because of being overwhelmed with indescribable feelings. I'll be walking and often listening to some music when it will all hit me that all of the things that I've given up have been so worth it to achieve this thing that started as an ecstatic dream on the back side of Kiniknik Lake in 2013. There are moments of absolute bliss like this that happen every day and they are so much more powerful than anything I've ever found in "the real world."

I crossed the half way point of the trail yesterday. I thought that it would be a really moving moment, but in truth it was not. It had been a long day (hiked 32+ miles that day) and about an hour before it had dumped rain and even hailed for awhile. So I signed the trail register, took a couple of pictures, and had a snack before moving on; the sun was setting and I still had miles to the next water source where I could camp. On the hike from there to camp however I realized that things did feel different. I felt like I could actually do this thing that I've set out to do. 

It was really a good day yesterday. Clouds rolled in and it cooled the temperatures 20 degrees from the 101 that it had been the day before. There were even accumulations of hail for awhile which was very strange after the temperatures in the last week. I also met up with someone I know on trail. He was coming into town today for food and resupply, and although I didn't need the resupply, it was worth joining if only for the breakfast. When we arrived today we connected with a few other hikers and breakfast was AMAZING. We then proceeded to the laundry mat, got a shower, and have proceeded to watch the July 4th parade and drink beer. It's been really great. The plan is to head back to trail tonight with a burger and beers. Then we'll camp not far from the road for free tonight--enjoy a camp fire and company. 

The people on this trail, some of them are really good people, and I will be forever grateful to have met them all. 

And on the topic of people, I also have to say how grateful I am for all the feedback that I've received after my last post. I have been teaching writing and practicing writing for a lot of years now, but I sit here today unpublished and without any way to know if the things I put on a page will ever connect with another soul. But after my last post I had several people contact me--on Facebook or via private message--who I never would have imagined were following this journey. People from high school or old jobs who I haven't seen in 10 years, former students, old acquaintances from all over. And I will never be able to really show how much that has meant to me! I think about you all a lot on trail. Every one of you who have contacted me are in my thoughts a lot and I'm so grateful! You've made me feel a little less alone under the hot sun. 

Oh! Almost forgot, I finally had a run In with a bear on trail. I was night hiking out of Belden and listening to an audiobook when it came to my attention that a very large animal was dashing away from a distance of about twenty feet. I took a quick video and some poor-quality photos as he stood there watching me after enough distance was between us, but I didn't hang around too long. I feel somewhat validated now and that my trail can be complete. What makes it nuts is that the same night and about a half mile from that same place (I learned about this the next day), two other hikers had run-ins with a mountain lion. I saw pictures of that and it's scary as hell--its eyes lit up by the flash in the night darkness. 

Anyways, things are good and bad and terrible and wonderful and magical, terrifying, and all sorts of things for which there are no words. There are a few other things that are really important that are going on in my trail life right now, but I must refrain for now. But I'll update again soon. 

Love you all to death! 


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