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.