One Journey Ends and Another Begins

WHATS NEXT YOU ASK?

Or maybe you don't ask...but if you do, here ya go.

As most of you reoccurring readers know, I'm off of the Pacific Crest Trail for the remainder of the year. If you're new to the blog, well, now ya know. When I made the decision to get off of the PCT, it wasn't easy. I was making a decision that was going to impact the rest of my year, and who knows what else. After I left Portland and flew home back to Ohio, I was immediately welcomed back by all of my friends and family. The first day back in Ohio I was lucky enough to attend one of my best friends' wedding reception. It was a beautiful night as everyone laughed and hung out into the evening. After three days at my parents house in Canton, OH, I meandered on down to Cincinnati to do some work for a friend of mine. He needed some photos of a few houses taken as well as some appliances moved and general labor help. I needed some quick cash, so my buddy Danny and I went down for a couple of days. Cincinnati is a pretty rad city, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that I almost stayed in Ohio because of the opportunities in Cincinnati. Although my decision could have been easy, I decided to stick with my original plan. 

Orignial Plan?

Surprisingly enough, while I was in Lassen National Park eating breakfast at JJ's Cafe, I was on the phone with the same good friend mentioned above, Danny. I'm talking to Danny on the phone outside of the cafe and all of the sudden a man walks behind me as I'm mentioning something about Denver, CO. He interrupts briefly to inform me that him and his wife own a gardening service in Denver. "Come over and talk to us after you're off the phone, man!" he belts out as he strolls away. I did just that.

After about 20 minutes of conversation about the trail, what I'm doing, and what I'll be doing after the trail, both Chris and Amy, the two owners, offer me a seasonal gardening gig in Denver whenever I get off trail. Now, to be honest, I really didn't give it much thought at that very moment. To be completely open, at that point I hadn't give anything much thought other than how I was going to finish the PCT. Although I had obviously thought about what I would do, and when, after I got off trail, I wasn't sure what that would be. I knew I had 100 days, I guess I was just obvious to the fact that the time was finally there. Ducky and I strolled off into the National Park and the moment passed. 

Fast forward to the last day on trail before I headed to Portland. 

I was debating on exactly what I wanted to do as we all sat in the hotel room. I knew it was decision time, but I just wasn't sure what I had in store for me. As you may know, I had a few options. One of those said options was taking the seasonal gig in Denver for the rest of the year and figuring the rest out once I got there. I mulled over it for the rest of the day, and when the time finally came to head to Portland with Scooter, my mind was made up. Now, it wasn't just an 'easy' decision, as some would probably like to assume. I really could have gone, and still could, go back to corporate if I every so choose. I could stay in Canton, and pay $200 less per month just for rent alone, not even calculating in other expenses that are higher in Denver and other cities. I could have gone back to Columbus, only to fall rightly so back into my routines. I could have stayed and been comfortable. 

I asked myself, "Would I regret this? Would I take a risk?" 

I answered yes to both questions.

I would go to Denver after a week at home, work for Amy and Chris, and figure the rest out. My main motivations weren't for the money, because after all, gardening doesn't pay too much, but more for the location. After working in corporate sales for the majority of the last three years in between thru hikes, I knew that I didn't want to immediately go back into an office, but I definitely needed to work. Although gardening isn't the most lucrative job, I'm at the point where I'll gladly sacrifice some pay for a less stressful, more enjoyable gig that doesn't drive me up a wall into insanity. 

I drive a 2009 Nissan Versa. I bought it after I got home from the CDT. Funny enough, I sold my Honda Element before I started the CDT. It's white, has a slight rattle in the exhaust, is manual, and is the very base model they made. No power anything. No cruise. No AC. Neemor, Scooter and I took it 7,000 miles across the country and back with no problems. Well, next to no problems. I trusted it to get me to Colorado once more, so the 1,100 mile journey began out of Cincinnati. I said my goodbyes to Danny, Jiries, and Jay and got ready to here the hum of a car for the next 24 hours. I don't mind driving for long distances, just like I don't mind walking for long distances, I suppose. I got some quick snacks at the gas station, filled up my Nalgene and hit it. Indiana and Illinois flew by, and then Missouri felt like it dragged on forever. Not until I got to Kansas did I realize how much I truly hate 70West. It's one road. Forever. 

I slept for 6 hours from 11-5 and woke up in a daze. I tried to drive for another hour and a half before I ended up pulling off on a country dirt road and zonking for another 2 hours. I was exhausted, but with only 7 hours left, it would be over before I knew it. I pulled into my good friend Justin's apartment as my eyes began to get heavy again. Turns out, Justin's roommate is traveling for work and never even moved into the place. His open room is going to be vacant for the foreseeable couple of months. I wasn't planning on getting a place due to the cost of the rent here in Denver, but the opportunity was too good to not take it. Although the apartment isn't in Denver Proper, it's not far. Just a short 20 mile drive outside the city is the Centennial / Aurora area. Only about 40 minutes from Boulder and almost equal distance to Colorado Springs, it's a damn good location. I was planning on living out of my car and spending most of my time at the coffee shop, in the mountains, or at the climbing gym, but life always has a different plan. I brought in the two boxes of clothes and gear that I brought with me an that was it.

I'm now living in Denver. 

Sonic ascending Bierstadt last June

Sonic ascending Bierstadt last June

I have a few goals while I'm out here, and they all revolve around photography and the mountains. I'm in the process of putting a list together of the 14'ers I'd like to summit before the season is up, and my hopeful and maybe ambitious goal is around 20 of them. I only have Saturday and Sunday each weekend, but I'm going to make the most of each day. During the week I'll be going to work, just as most of us do, from 8-4, then either writing, editing, or filming. Somewhere in the time after work I'll be fitting in some training runs at the local state park near me to work on sprints, hills, and tempo runs. I want to be in shape to where I can link together a dew 14'ers in one go, meaning I need to keep the shape I'm currently in.

As far as the photography portion of the reason I moved to Denver; I'm going to immerse myself in the outdoor industry here and really try and start working more with brands, small companies, and people who have an awesome product or idea. I want to film for companies. I want to take photos for brands who represent the values and ideas that I value and hold close as well. I want to shoot rad climbers sending insane routes. I want to hop out on the trails and shoot Ultras and work with people who have a vision. Not only that, but with the real estate market as good as it is here, I want to capitalize on some additional work in that market. Although real estate photography would never be my first option as a profession, it is something I'm relatively decent at and enjoy. Some of the houses I've shot are quite pretty and have some intricate architecture to them. Really, when I look at it from a broad perspective, Denver is a place I think I can really thrive at. I think there's enough of what I love here to make it worth while for me to pursue something here.

Red Bass climbing the ridge towards the summit of Parkview on the CDT

Red Bass climbing the ridge towards the summit of Parkview on the CDT

After all, I moved here voluntarily with the initial intention of living out of my car.  

Be on the look out for a Trip Report from every 14'er I summit this year. My next project is based here in Colorado, and I'm incredibly excited to share it with you.

Pacific Crest Trail: Decision Time

One by one, everyone left the room. First Beehive, then Craynip. Not long after, Smokebreak followed. All of a sudden Scooter and I found ourselves alone in a hotel room that was now nothing more than the remnants of a night in a hotel room with six dudes. Scattered pillows and blankets. Random drink cups and paper bags littered throughout. Relatively similar to what one would come to expect from a group of people that have been hiking for three months. 

I said my goodbyes to Smokebreak with a little more earnest than the others besides Beehive; although I knew I’d see him before I saw Smokebreak next. 

We left the hotel room not long after and headed towards town once again. We were going to meet up with Taco, Miraj, and Slug somewhere downtown. The Safeway appeared on the corner so we stopped in to get some snacks and use the restroom and coincidently ran into the three. We piled our gear in the corner of the Starbucks and decided to chill for a bit before going to the park to hang for even longer before they hiked out. 

The time came for them to hike out so I said my final goodbyes to them as well. Taco and I had a moment, I’d say. He had become one of my favorite people I’ve ever met and we’ve shared some incredible conversations over the last few months.  

Noticed I said ‘they’?  

Once I got into Ashland, I knew it was time to take a look at my resources and to undoubtedly make a decision for what the rest of my summer would hold. To fill some of you in, I worked in corporate sales for about 7 months before I left for the CDT last year and have been traveling using the funds from that endeavor for the last 17 months. Prior to jumping onto the PCT, I calculated roughly 100 days of travel without having to sell my car or tack on too much credit to the card. I told myself that once I hit the 100 day mark I would make a decision. As life would have it, roughly 100 days after I left Ohio, the time came. I had a few options on what I could do. 

If you would have asked me before I left about what I would choose to do once my funds ran out, I would have immediately responded with an irrational “Oh, I’m selling my car. I wouldn’t consider anything else.”. 

A lot can change in three months, though. I hadn’t had the foresight to predict getting Giardia going into Bishop, initially taking my momentum away from the miles. I didn’t have the ability to foresee, or even fathom the possibility of meeting Pauline and falling in love. I couldn’t have ever imagined anything that actually occurred on the PCT, leading me to believe that I actually had no idea of my plans once the funds ran out. 

I considered everything, analyzed my choices, and made a decision. Now, I make it sound easy, well, because it was. I realistically only had three options, so narrowing it down and choosing was fairly simple. I’m fairly certain I had my mind made up long before this moment, but I just wasn’t sure. 

To let you in on something; Ducky was in Portland and we were legitimately going slightly stir crazy at the thought of trying to see each other again. We had been talking about trying to find a way to be with each other once more before she left for Amsterdam. Well, this was my chance to not only see her again, but to also make my final decision on whether or not I would continue hiking north, go home and begin work, or find work out west.

It just so happened to be that Scooter was also going to Portland the following day. His lungs took a brutal beating from the smoke that was emitted from the Hendrix Fire. His lungs were already quite beat up from an infection in the winter, so after much deliberation on his part, he made the decision to get off the PCT to prevent further damage.

So the decision was made. I would go to Portland to meet up with Pauline and make my final decision from there; whether I would sell my car or not, or find work, etc. 

I booked my greyhound ticket for Monday with Scooter and all that was left was the waiting game. We had one more night in Ashland then off to Portland.

Scooter and I have spent a lot of time on Trail together over the last few years, so we decided to find a nice stealth spot out of town to camp at before we got the bus the next morning. We didn’t want to get another hotel room so we meandered into the woods just outside of town and found a nice spot to camp for the night. We talked about how much of a whirlwind this year has been; reminiscing quite a bit about our road trip earlier in the year, our Long Trail Thru Hike last October, and the miles we hiked together  this year on the PCT. We’ve shared some incredible experiences together over these three years and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m thankful to have a friend who I’ve seen so much of the country with. 

 I slipped into sleep as darkness came and my last night in Ashland was over. 

Scooter and I woke up early and slowly got back into town to get ready for a long day of travel. We had a bus to catch to Medford, then a Greyhound to Eugene with a transfer eventually taking us to Portland. 

It was a long bus ride with little to no sleep. The constant hum of the engine kept me awake while the consistent and overwhelming screams of a child a few seats ahead of me began to drive me insane. We eventually stumbled out of the bus into downtown Portland without a clue where to go or what we were going to do for the next few hours. Ducky had already booked an AirBnB so we slowly meandered that way after stopping into the Montbell shop. 

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Shortly after we ended up getting an uber to the AirBnB. The last few hours with Scooter were quickly coming to a close, so we decided to grab some grub before he headed out back to Philly. The local pizza by the slice joint sounded appealing. 

After we finished our pizza, it was time. Scooter got up from the table, as did I. We embraced each other with a long hug and a few words of encouragement for each other. I know I’ll see Scooter sooner than later, but it was still tough to see him leave. 

I admire him far more than he knows. He’s one of the most driven and motivated people I’ve ever known. He’s eccentric, positive, indescribably genuine and truly just a good dude. I’m thankful we had the oppprtunity to hike another 1000 miles together this year. I watched him walk towards the bus stop as I attempted to process the fact that I had watched all of my friends either hike out, or go home. It’s an odd feeling seeing people continue on and pursue other passions when your amidst a thru hike. 

It was just Ducky and I at that point; something I had been looking forward to once again.

We didn’t have any real plans for what we would do in Portland, but most of the time, that’s exactly how I want to explore a city. 

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We began each of our slow, bright mornings in Portland with an americano for myself and a dry cappuccino for her. We tried a few different coffee shops off of Division St. over the course of time in the city, something both Pauline and I enjoy every bit of. Coffee is such a big part of both of our morning routines so it’s always nice trying new spots with her. She generally prefers her coffee with a croissant of some sort, so the search for the best bakery was on.  

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Our slow mornings were quickly followed by slower afternoons. The majority of our afternoons were spent napping and planning where we would get dinner that night. We found a few places that really peaked our interests. Each night we enjoyed each other’s company in a beautiful city, eating beautiful food, and having beautiful, riveting conversations. Pauline and I are very like minded in many different ways, but we hold very different lifestyles in our respective cities. This makes for an incredible amount of perspectives held within each conversation, creating long, engaging and truly eye opening conversations that would last for hours. That’s something I’ve really come to love about our relationship. 

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 So the days went on, and on, and on; or at least that’s how it felt. I’ve come to realize that time spent with Pauline is unlike any other. Minutes feel like hours. Hours like days. Everything is in full slow motion with her. I find myself absolutely astonished at how both quick and at how so slow each day moves with her. I felt like I had all the time in the world while I simultaneously watched the last few grains of sand drop into the bottom of the hour glass. We dared not talk about our final goodbye, well, until it finally came time. 

So if you haven’t figured it out by now, I made my final decision to get off of the PCT when I went to Portland. This post has both nothing to do with the PCT and everything to do with it. I’ll write a more dedicated blog post with my final thoughts on the PCT later, but yes, I made the decision to get off trail and see what was around the next bend, wherever that may be. 

Pauline had a flight booked back to Amsterdam on the 28th, and I chose to fly out a day before her, and all of a sudden the day had arrived. 

It was the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to say to someone.

I’ll keep it to that for now as far as our time in Portland together goes. The more I write and talk about it, the more I find myself wishing that I didn’t have to make any of these decisions.

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I got on the plane; my mind clouded with emotion. I had a layover in Chicago, then onto Cleveland where my good friend Danny would pick me up. 

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I’m home now, but only for a short amount of time before I embark on the next chapter of this wild adventure we call life. 

I’ve got one more blog post coming from the PCT. A culmination of thoughts I wrote down while on Trail, and post trail thoughts. My conclusion on the PCT will be in that post.  

Stay tuned.