• Brandon A. Kelone

Pacific Crest Trail Diary 7: PCT Day 58 (South Lake Tahoe)

Updated: Sep 21, 2018

I suppose that I'm going to have to get used to this whole writing on my cell phone thing. It's just too hard to get access to computers on trail, even when I'm in a trail town. And although this is a bit clunky and difficult as compared to writing on a keyboard, it still beats pen and paper or the other alternative of not being able to write at all. 

Kennedy Meadows North was something that I was sort of excited to get away from. I was uncomfortable with the other people staying there (I couldn't relate to them at all), but most of them slept in, so the place was pretty quiet when I woke up and got breakfast with the other PCT hikers who also stayed at the dorm there. I also slept surprisingly well for being in a "trail town" so was excited to get back on trail. 

It took about a half hour to catch a ride back to trail, but the dude who picked me up was a local guy who knew the area really well. His name was Jon and he is working to start a small brewery in the area that will be called "Bear Tent Brewing." He was a really great guy and really excited about the brewery and about the mountains. He also worked for a search and rescue team, so had lots of stories of people needing to get rescued in the mountains as a result of stupidity or ignorance. Meeting people like Jon really has become one of the highlights of hiking the PCT. I spend a lot of time alone, so when I meet good people like him, it just further highlights the good that exists in humanity. 

Loneliness has been the single most difficult thing that I have had to fight with on trail. I am a solitary person, and I have been that way my whole life really, but the PCT is giving me a much deeper exploration into who I am. Seriously--five months by myself; it's a long time to spend alone. Of course I meet other hikers on trail and I know probably 70% of the other hikers in a 100 mile radius, but I don't REALLY know them and they certainly don't really know me. And that's what I have found is so hard--there are very few people in my life right now who know who I am and why I'm here and what makes me passionate. I feel a lot out here--a lot a lot. I feel extreme happiness, joy, longing, sadness, excitement, and wonder, but I don't get to share that with anyone in the way that I wish I could. It's hard. I really miss having people close in my life. I miss feeling love--not that I think no one in the world loves or cares about me, but that actual feeling of love and passion between myself and another human being who I can look in the eye and know that there's something ineffable between us. Kennedy Meadows North made that harder too because there were so many people there. I sat on the porch there drinking beer and watching families, friends, and lovers as they laughed and talked with one another. It's hard to feel so alone and watch that one thing that could make you feel complete as it is dangled in front of you. It's really hard. I spend a lot of time thinking about that loneliness. 

I've had the great fortune of meeting an old trail acquaintance here in Lake Tahoe. I didn't think I'd see him again, but 400 miles later we crossed paths and are staying here in Tahoe together. He told me this morning over breakfast that man should seek 80% of his time alone and 20% with others. If that distribution can be accomplished, then loneliness isn't a problem. I agreed with him, and wondered where/how to find that 20% because right now I feel like I'm ostensively spending 100% of my time alone. It's really hard and I'm trying to work through this struggle. 

I have become more comfortable with myself in these times on trail, and I rather like that--it was part of the goal in coming on this trip, but I think back to McCandless from "Into The Wild" and how even if he found happiness in his wandering, it ultimately didn't matter if he had to die alone. I don't know; maybe I need to reread the book because I'm missing the big picture, but that is something I think about a lot. 

I am out here to set the foundation for a book that I plan to write in the winter after this trail, and I do think to myself that it's important for me to suffer in the ways that I am so that I can someday share those experiences on the page, and in that way I am not alone, but that is a hard thing to convince myself of when I am physically isolated for days on end in the wilderness. 

I feel like I'm just rambling here... It's hard to maintain a single thought when I'm using my thumbs to write on a phone screen. *bargh*

The hike since I last posted has been good though (other than the loneliness). The weather has been perfect, the sun stays up late, the water is good, and the vertical profile has severely mellowed out since the High Sierra. The High Sierra are nothing but up and down and up and down from 8,000ft-12,000ft and then back and back and again and again. There isn't a single flat mile in those mountains. Now however there is still a good bit of up and down, but it's barely a quarter as heavy as the last couple of weeks. There has also been a good bit of wildlife and some great scenery AND the damn mosquitoes are no longer an issue like they were in Yosemite, so the days are good. But man... The loneliness. 

There was a fire this week. I hear that it made national news. It started last Friday, was big by Saturday, and on Sunday I saw it for the first time. Flames shot out over the mountain ridges as trees became engulfed. It was really scary for a few hours because the fire was moving fast and the trail headed in that direction before making a sharp turn and moving away. I was walking towards it for an hour or so and it really scared me. Ultimately it has not closed the trail, but homes in the area have been evacuated and I understand that the fire is mostly under control now. It's scary when you're out there alone though and you have no news about it and can only judge by the smoke and flames that you see with your own eyes. 

Something that really upset me a lot however came two days later. When I arrived in Lake Tahoe I got cell service for the first time in over a week and I had messages from my little brother telling me that the trail is closed because of the fire and I need to either quit the trail or hitch around. What is so upsetting about that is that he is over 100 miles north of the fire; he hasn't even seen smoke and he's trying to tell me that I need to give up. It's really insulting. I hate, hate, HATE this part of the trail! Everyone here wants to tell you why you can't do it, and why you need to give up. Another example from a week ago: when I arrived at Red's Meadow another hiker told me that the river fords in the next 100 miles are really bad and that if I didn't have dry sacks for all of my gear that I wouldn't be able to make it. She told me that the river crossings are literally over your chest. I told here that I believe nothing on trail until I see it myself, and she gave ms a scoff and a "well don't say I didn't warn you" kind of look. As it turns out, the fords were never deeper than 16 inches! Quite an exaggeration, I'd say. But that just exemplifies this thing that happens over and over on trail about people telling you why you need to give up. I guess it especially hurt coming from my little brother who is on this trail because of my actions in inviting him to hike the PCT. He is now about 100 miles north of me largely because he has skipped segments of the trail that I have chosen to hike. I perceive that he feels superiority and that he is "better" and " knows the trail better" than I do because he is 100 miles north of me, and I want to tell him to f*** himself. He is on trail because I asked him to join me on this hike, and he is now telling me about how I need to give up on something that he doesn't understand. He is hiking a different hike than I am; I am hiking a 100% continuous path from Mexico to Canada, and he is hiking the portions that he wants and skipping those that he doesn't, so it's really insulting to get "advice" from him telling me to turn back. 

This issue is something that really upsets me, and I don't know if I've done any justice in explaining it on the page, as it really is a complex situation and trying to explain it while writing on my phone is not easy. Forgive me if I've failed to get the point across. 

I made it through the fire though and to my next resupply (Echo Lakes), but they only have open hours every day from 11-2 (open three hours a day!?!? Are you kidding me?) and I got there yesterday at 4pm. So rather than sitting and waiting at the post office until the next morning, I decided to hitch a ride (10 miles) into Lake Tahoe where I heard the room rates were really cheap. As I was trying to get a room however, I learned that the guy I mentioned earlier (I'll refer to him as "Teacher" from now on) was already here at the Motel 6 so I crashed on his room floor last night. I'd planned to bounce out today and get my package at Echo Lakes, but now I plan to stay another night since that is his plan. I think we both want to share miles again on trail, so we may leave tomorrow morning and hike together for a couple days if things work out the way we have planned. This also gives me time to write this journal entry and get some other trail town business taken care of. 

I must mention one other pain in the butt though: wifi!!! I cannot download most of my podcasts via cell data because they are too large of files and must be done on wifi. I also need wifi to download audiobooks, back up my pictures, and get new Spotify music, but there is no good public wifi available anywhere! It takes up to 5 hours to download a single podcast on the Motel 6 "high speed" connection (what a joke...) and so I tried walking a mile to McDonalds so I could use theirs to learn that it's just as slow. So I'm kind of pissed that I can't get anything downloaded, but that's life--I came out here to learn to appreciate things, and I guess that's what I'm getting out of the trip. I'm really learning to miss wifi. 

So I guess that will be it for now. I still have my good times and bad, but as a whole this adventure has changed me in the ways I was seeking, and I'm proud to have completed the challenges that I've faced so far. I do worry that I'm still 300 miles short of half-way and that I am struggling with such strong feelings of loneliness, but the best I can do is take it one step, hour, or day at a time. And in the end, hopefully that gets me to Canada and gives me something to write a book about. 

To those of you who have contacted me to send letters or packages snail mail, I cannot thank you enough! It really helps with the loneliness when I can sit beside a river and read a letter from someone back home--someone who actually knows me as a person--even if I've read it a dozen times already. I got one letter from a student, for example, and I've carried it for 900 miles so far. I read it at night in my tent sometimes. It reminds me of the person I was before this hike and what I'm seeking out here, and of those who care about me back home. For those who care to write, I've posted addresses and dates that I'll be there on my Facepage this morning. 

So thanks to those of you who are still reading this motel-room-ramble. 

Love you all, miss you more than words can say, and looking forward to seeing you all again soon. 

Until next time--Wormwood out.

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