A 2016 Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike in 4 Minutes! (MUST WATCH!)

Four minutes of your time will be well spent.

Simply put, I was waiting to live. Young, capable, and free to pursue my own American Dream I decided to walk into a more deliberate life.

On April Fool's Day 2016 (age 26) I quit my engineering job in my home state of Ohio, drove to San Diego, and sold my car when I got there. For the six months that followed, I hiked 2,650 continuous miles between the U.S. border of Mexico and the U.S. border of Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

This video mostly contains 2 second clips of my thru-hike of the PCT in chronological order.

My blog covering my thru-hike is posted on notwaitingtolive.com. The site also has my blog of a cycling trip across the U.S. and my blog of my current project, converting a 2017 Ford Transit van into a tiny mobile home (which is all a part of my bigger vision, the "Million Dollar Mountain").

2017 New Year's Resolution: Cold Shower Challenge

Posting this a little early:

Watch at least the first two minutes, I have a challenge for all my friends. I want you all to start off 2017 with a quantifiable goal, and a cold shower.

A cold shower is the physical manifestation of the choice to do something more difficult, when the easier option is right in front of you. What the cold shower simulates is the path of challenges ahead in 2017. I promise you, those not willing to take a cold shower for their goal will not find that success in 2017. And those that take just one cold shower will be on their way to building momentum towards that goal.

Pass it on, because it's a lesson that brought me a long way last year. Where I am now is literally beyond my imagination a year ago.

Just Do It

A man in his late 20s, dressed in black, with a medium build that suggests he's earned ten or so extra pounds of muscle on his frame, stands infront of a green screen. His shoulders slumped forward, his right palm fixed to the outside of his left hand, the man displays a stance of respect. At first glance, the face, recognizable amongst my generation as a movie star, looks poised to make an appeal to the tens of millions of viewers who will eventually watch this video short on YouTube.

Standard appeals to the masses are numerous, but this appeal wasn't selected from the socioeconomic cornucopia of digestable rhetoric.

Within the first frames the man infront of the screen, actor Shia Lebeouf, transitions from a postion of respect to a pose of aggression with a single roar, "DO IT! ... Just do it!"

Now flexing with a crescent alignment of his extended arms most resembling a professional wrestler (the TV kind), the actor has the audiences' attention.

Lowering the intensity a notch he continues, "Don't let your dreams be dreams. Yesterday you said tomorrow, so just do it!"

He goes on with the same theme before again ratching the tone up a notch.

"DO IT, just do it. Yes you can!" 

What is this guy talking about?

Inbetween he says something in particular that resonates with me, "You should get to the point where anyone else would quit, and you're not going to stop there."

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When I reached the U.S. border of Canada on Monday October 24, I had been walking for six months. The walk that started at the U.S. border of Mexico (April 24) was so vast an experience I cannot even recount the major events in a continuous stream of memory.

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If you're familiar with the Pacific Crest Trail you'll notice that I did not finish at the official trail monument. Instead I finished at the US/Canada border 15 miles east of the monument, 32 trail miles north of the nearest US road. After Methow Pass, at PCT Mile 2606.9, I took an alternate route to reduce my distance above the heavy snow line by about 20 miles. In the end I walked just over that PCT magic number of trail miles to the border (2,650). The detour at the very end was made with my ultimate goal and ultimate safety in mind.

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Without a reference to cite, based on my own feel of the situation, I believe I was the last continuous set of footsteps to reach Canada. The last two weeks of bad weather emptied the trail, encouraging the hikers ahead and behind me to either quit, skip ahead to the border via any means possible, or take an alternate route below the snow line.

Partially a result of dumb luck, partially a result of carrying a pace slower than one required to finish by October 1, I reached the point where anyone else had quit.

Faced with a choice to finish, I approached the final miles to the Canadian border the same way I approached the initial miles to the Mexican border, "Just do it!" 

This journey was made possible by countless Americans who either indirectly or directly helped me along the way. For those that plan, negotiate, and maintain the Pacific Crest Trail I express the same gratitude as for those that picked up this bearded white guy with a big bag along side this country's roads, and the same for those who provided me food and shelter.

While this journey played out in symphony with strangers, completing this walk was still my choice. I caution those who believe in a preordained destiny to reflect honestly on what is creating the associated meaning to their actions. This goal of mine was neither easy, nor a life long dream. There was real tangible sacrifice I made to get to the starting line. And by no means was a finish guaranteed. But I decided to just do it, just find a way and just do it..

Sincerely I hope that someday, someone, will read about my take on this adventure and be inspired to just do it, whatever "it" is to them.

I earned this moment to say I had plenty of available cop outs to avoid starting the trail all together. Citing student loans, I don't personally know a soul that would've challenged me if I stayed at my job because I, "didn't have any money." I could've rode that job as an excuse to maintain career stability at a Fortune 500 company. I could've stayed atleast another month, no questions asked, to earn the requisite experience to qualify as a professional engineer. But then I would've missed this year's window to experience the entire Pacific Crest Trail. 

And of course physical and mental stresses of the trail would pave the way for a socially acceptable early exit well before the weather got bad...  

The actor I referenced to open this post was mocked by most of the general viewing public for his YouTube performance, "Just Do It". But regardless of how the message was recieved, the equation remains that simple. Finding a way may look very different for each of us, but the principle of identifying and surmounting our own obstacles remains the same.

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Before reaching San Diego to head off to the Pacific Crest Trail, I drove the Ford Escape I purchased after graduating from college (with money I earned) on one last epic road trip. Even though this car had leather seats, 18" rims, and less than 60,000 miles on the engine, I came to the realization this (delightful) vehicle was not helping me reach my personal goals.

Every penny I got in exchange for this vehicle was spent on the pursuit of the Pacific Crest Trail.

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As someone with limited resources, typical of the average American, I'm sharing this with you, not to condemn consumerism or luxury, but as an example of letting go for a purpose. If your resources are limited, take an inventory of your assets and liabilities. Relate them to your goals. And be brutally honest with yourself about what is bringing you closer to your own goals, and what is simply a luxury that may or may not be limiting your potential to reach your own goals. Almost all of us have the ability to answer this question for ourselves, "How is this specifically bringing me quantifiably closer to my own goal?"

Goals aligned with interests and pursued with perserverance become passions. What are you waiting for?

This website isn't called notwaitingtolive.com because of the Pacific Crest Trail. This website bares this name because I have personal goals. And you know what, I'm not waiting. I'm just going to do it.

Stay tuned. The next adventure starts within a week. 

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Decision Points

This week I listened to George W. Bush's (G.W.) narration of his autobiography, "Decision Points". From his first person perspective, the book covers the major decisions of his two terms in office as President of the United States of America.

After listening, I just wanted to hug the guy. As a man I believe he is widely misunderstood. A countless many shoot their criticism from the hip at G.W. just at the mention of his name. But I speculate most of his critics would shift some of their positions of criticism against him after hearing his take on the issues from his own voice. And even if a hardened few see this book as little more than a propaganda reel, I do believe the intellectual integrity of all criticism against G.W. can only be strengthened by giving this one a read.

Out of respect for the man, and not an edorsement of any particular policy or ideaology, I'll quote what he says is his most meaningful accomplishment as President.

"History can debate the decisions I made, the policies I chose, and the tools I left behind.  But there can be no debate about one fact, after the nightmare of September the 11th, America went 7 and 1/2 years without another terrorist attack on our soil." -- George W. Bush

Just off the top of my head I can think of terrorist attacks in California, New York, and Florida within the past year.... This book was written in 2010, over a year after George W. Bush left office.

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As I churned out the miles listening to this book I began to think about my own decision points related to the Pacific Crest Trail.

On the trail nearly six months now, just a year ago I decided to quit my steady job as a civil engineer in Columbus, Ohio. In the face of $600/month student loan repayments, one month short of the work experience to qualify as a Professional Engineer, I quit. I emptied my 401k, drove to San Diego, and sold the car I was just about to pay off.

Actually, take a step back. A nested decision point was my choice to drive to San Diego. My original start date was April 11, as stated on my thru-hike permit. But just days before my flight, I got an inkling to just drive, to just let it ride, and embrace the moment. I metaphorically ripped up that plane ticket. Over 6,000 road trip miles and one surf toe injury later, I arrived at the United States border of Mexico in Campo, California on April 24.

On the trail the choices were mostly limited to variations of distances to cover between resupply points and what time to wake up and go to bed.

But about halfway through, my water filter broke. From there on out I haven't treated any water aside from a dozen or so iodine tablet treatments. The water has just been that good from northern California up.

Other choices were less risky, like replacing my lost spoon with a tent stake after Lake Tahoe; or, taking that side trip to Yosemite at the expense of two days. 

Along the way, a more serious decision for others, many common locations signaled an end to the trail.

As unlikely as I thought it would be, I encountered my first person to quit the thru-hike to Canada on Day 2.

More would certainly quit than I would personally encounter. But with regularity, common exits for failed thru-hikes occurred after Mt. Whitney, Tuolumne Meadows, Lake Tahoe, and the small towns of Northern California. The Oregon border, and to my surprise, the Washington border were also popular end points for many.

Even more surprising, just this past week, with only 190 miles go, I heard word of 10 hikers quitting the trail. I even saw a guy ahead of me turn around and pass me on his way back to the nearest road.

Each individuals' personal choices to quit the trail at any point are complex and I won't pretend to have a simple solution for all cases. Even more complex were the choices many hikers made to skip miles.

A starting point for estimating how many hikers reached their decision point to quit the trail is 50%. Lumping off half is easy work. A better estimate is complicated by incorporating the hundreds of hikers who skip hundreds of miles to allegedly be completed at some other time... Word of mouth estimates of the fail rate from hikers I've encountered range from 50-85%.

Skipping miles or quitting were never really options for me. Pressed with the choice early on in southern California I hiked a 50 mile section of trail other hikers were bussing around. From what I could tell maybe only 20% of hikers elected to take this risk, in the face of a potential four digit fine.

My goal all along, which I would many times say aloud to myself over the past year, "I will walk from the U.S. border of Mexico to the U.S. border of Canada this summer."

And to this point, I have pulled within 80 miles of Canada.

The decision point I faced this week focused on the weather. Conventional wisdom is to be off trail by October 1. If you're reading at the time of this post, today is Thursday, October 13.

Last Friday, as I walked down to Steven's Pass to head for Skykomish, hikers with the most recent weather report broke the news of the coming weather. This news, I suspect, influenced at least some of the 10 hikers that quit at Steven's Pass this past weekend.

Back on trail by last Friday evening, after a welcomed night in a Skykomish motel, the rain began to fall. Between 11pm Friday and early Sunday morning, an inch of rain fell.
As a play on the weather, I had downloaded the movie "The Perfect Storm" on my phone. I was too cold and wet in my tent to watch.

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Almost precisely at Mile 2,500 on Sunday night, snow began to fall. Not until Tuesday when the sun came out was I able to dry out my sleeping bag.

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Rubbed raw by four days of hiking and four nights in a wet sleeping bag, my feet were better off in sandals than shoes, regardless of temperature.

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This past week I covered my toughest 100 miles yet, my hardest week. For some perspective, after covering 18 miles on Tuesday I asked Snooze Button how much climbing was required to do 20 miles the next day. He chuckled while looking at the map, "8,000 feet."

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All the ins and outs of a tough week aside, I stepped onto the bus to Stehekin, Washington today (81 trail miles from the border) and read the weekends' weather report. On Saturday, two days from now, "There is a 1 in 3 chance of a storm long to be remebered to hit northern Washington."

Now somewhere in my raising I learned "2 out of 3 ain't bad". But facing a "storm long to be remembered" at 7,000 feet above sea level is enough to give me pause...

Falling trees are deadlier than bears.

In my next post I'll cover Stehekin, possibly America's best kept secret. But long story short, it's the last weekend of the season up here. Nothing's in stock. And the motel is $155 per night.

To ride out the storm I caught the day's 3 hour ferry ride to Lake Chelan, a small Washington city with standard motel rates.

Decision point after decision point I continue to take a "find a way" approach to Canada. My spirits are still high. This is far from a death march. And I'm pretty damn glad to be out here each and every day.

Completing this walk is my personal mission. But I reflect on the freedom that allows me to pursue the life of my choosing. And in that reflection I see the men and women who sacrificed their lives, who bore the burden and historical criticism of tough decisions to settle and defend the land that includes the land I walk on; land that Thomas Jefferson once purchased for 3 cents an acre from France's Dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.

The thought of these men and women motivate me to not give up, to find a way. And on a more personal note, I don't want to let down all the kind folks who have helped me make it this far. All those that gave me rides to and from the trail, a bed to sleep in, food, beer... I want them to have helped a guy who walked all the way from the U.S. border of Mexico to the U.S. border of Canada, not one who decided to finish 100 miles short.

PCT Mile 2,569.4.