My Purple Shoes

Its 6:00pm, and I’ve been on the clock for an hour.
The dish room is hot, the steam from the machine
hitting my face in plumes, fogging my glasses,
the same glasses I mailed home when I was on the trail,
for the same reason-when I sweat, my glasses fog.

Its 7:00pm now, and the machine churns and churns,
pushing clean dishes out,
plates and utensils that just a moment ago were covered in the filth of my college       cafeteria,
now fully sanitized.
I lift them out and place them on the rack behind.
As I watch the machine, waiting for more dishes to appear,
images of the open places I once wandered,
flash through my mind.

Its 8:00pm and I’ve left the machine now.
I’m walking through the kitchen, restoring dishes to their homes.
I look down at my shoes, and I notice how clean they are,
all the water from the dish room has washed the dirt of the trail away.
I finished my walk from Mexico to Canada in these purple shoes,
and I have to think, this is not the retirement plan they had in mind.

Its 9:00pm and my shift is over.
I walk outside, and immediately breathe deep the fresh night air.
My eyes jump to the few stray starts above,
washed out by campus lights.
My name is Himalaya. I’m a thru-hiker, not a dishwasher, I sigh.
As I stand here, just a small, insignificant girl with big dreams,
I yearn for the wild places, the dirt, the grime,
Not the steamy clean of the dish room
that washes the memories from my purple shoes.

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~ Sarah

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Breaking the Mediocre Cycle: My Philosophy of Adventure

(In light of finishing the Pacific Crest Trail two months ago now, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to maintain an adventurous life in the “off season.” Here are some thoughts I wrote on the matter nearly two years ago.)


My mediocre day begins at 5:30 in the morning with mediocre expectations. Instead of getting up, I push the snooze button on my alarm and roll over. I finally rise and do the “usual” – yawn, make coffee, dress, pack my bag, eat breakfast, brush teeth, and go. As I ride to school I may glance out the window and see the rolling hills of coffee fields, but the crispness of the morning air is cold and painful, and the coffee plants are covered in dust. They are the “usual” that I expect to see on the way.

I arrive at school ready for the “usual” day. My mind is on getting home so I can do my homework and go to sleep and wake up and repeat until hopefully the weekend will come. So I wait for the bell to ring so that I can get up and go to the next class so that I can eventually go to lunch and eventually get home and repeat. I try to distract myself by talking to friends or imagining myself off on some grand adventure. And when I get to the end of the day, I find that I cannot remember what I did that day. I’m just happy to be home so I can finish up my work and go to sleep. But the alarm will go off at 5:30 tomorrow. And the mediocre cycle will begin again.

But I am not content with the mediocre cycle. I look for adventure. An adventure is generally defined as an experience that is unusual and exciting. In my life, I have identified three different types of adventures: planned, unexpected, and spontaneous. Planned adventures are experiences that are created, thought out, and executed. For example, my family planned for over a year to climb Mt. Kenya. We researched, saved money, and prepared before we did it. There are also spontaneous adventures, which are unplanned choices to do something that is unusual and exciting, such as sleeping on top of a bus under the stars. And lastly, there are unexpected adventures, such as getting lost. These experiences are uncalled for, unplanned, and usually involve a lack of control over the circumstances. At the time they rarely seem like adventures, but looking back, they make very adventurous stories to tell.

To sum it up, the mediocre cycle occurs when we see life as normal. It

occurs when life becomes a game of waiting for the next chance to do something out of the norm, or to go on an adventure.

The problem is, even if I go on hundreds of adventures, life always returns to “normal”. Unless I am in the middle of one of these types of adventures, my life appears boring and mundane. But every moment, from the time we wake up to the time we fall in bed each day, can be an adventure. We must learn to live an adventure, not live for the next adventure. Adventurous living is not to escape the routine of life. It is to intentionally find within the routine and the seemingly mundane, the exciting and unusual things that surround us. Though the three main types of adventures are good to have in life, they are not necessary to have an adventurous lifestyle. In this way, even the farmer who has never left his hometown can have an adventurous life and break the mediocre cycle.

There is one similarity in planned, spontaneous, and unexpected adventures. Each of them require some element of intentionality. In planned and spontaneous adventures, you must be intentional to do something, whether long or short term. In an unexpected adventure, you must be intentional to see an unwanted situation as an adventure. The key to an adventurous lifestyle is a mindset of intentionally seeing and doing the unusual and exciting.

Seeing adventure in everything is the purpose of an intentional mindset, but it is difficult to accomplish this in everyday life. Thankfully there are five tools to help us experience adventure. These are the five senses: touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste. If we were aware of everything our bodies sense in a day, we would all be on sensory overload. So it is good that we filter senses. But, seeing moments as unusual and exciting takes becoming more aware of the senses that we are missing. In any given moment, I can feel my heart beating and breath coming off my lungs. There are hundreds of different sounds entering through my ear canals and countless scents wafting towards me. My eyes are picking up thousands of discrete images and processing them, all at the same time. Even if I focus on one sense only, I am sure to be overwhelmed by what transpires around me. For no moment will ever be the same, and every moment is full of the unusual and exciting.

Having an intentional mindset to see the adventures in everyday life can result in doing the unusual and exciting. With this mindset, you can find ways to incorporate smaller planned, spontaneous, and unexpected adventures in everyday life, rather than waiting for bigger adventures.  Planned: You can plan to do things that are out of the norm. For example, some days I will make plans to have breakfast with a friend. Though it is not a huge adventure, in the traditional sense of the word, it is an unusual and exciting thing that makes life a little bit less “normal”. Spontaneous: There is always something spontaneous to do. For example, choosing to wear an outfit that you haven’t worn in months is a spontaneous decision that is unusual and exciting. Maybe no one else will notice, but you can secretly be pleased with yourself. Another example is to go to class or work by a new route. This is unusual, and it can be exciting, if you make it so. Unexpected: Life has it’s way of giving us unexpected adventures, but it takes intentionality to identify it as one. For example, getting stuck in traffic and being late to work can be an adventure if you make it one.

If we could become children again, we wouldn’t need intentionality to live adventurous lives. Everything is unusual and exciting for a child, at least for a while. As G. K. Chesterton notes in Orthodoxy[1], they don’t need stories about walking out the door to fight dragons, they need only walk out the door to be excited and thrilled by life. It is the adult who needs fantasy and fairy tales to remind them of the uniqueness of the world we live in. It is the adult that needs adventures to break the mediocre cycle. A child sees each breath of air, each flower, each face as unusual and exciting. The world is thrilling. As we grow older, though, life becomes normal. We forget to see the adventure in it. To see each moment as an adventure, we need to think and become more like a child. A child will never slip into the mediocre cycle because they do not see the world as mediocre. But it takes intentionality to see the world as a child would.

We break the mediocre cycle by refusing to see life as mediocre, and by intentionally choosing to look for the unusual and exciting in everything, just like a child. So I savour the raw feeling of my heart drumming in my chest. I watch my breaths fade into the cool morning and think of how they mingle with the exhaled air of generations of people. I listen to the music of laughter, and contemplate our notes riding the sound waves. I choose to engage the electricity of eye contact. I dance in the rain, discuss poetry with peers, and smell the flowers. And when they ask me why I smile at the light falling through the clouds, I ask, “Why not?”

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Live adventurously friends!

~ Sarah


[1] Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy, John Lane Company, 1908.

 

Errantry: A pilgrimage over and just begun

In June 2017, my “gap” year began. I graduated, left my home, my high school, my friends, and in summary, my comfortable bubble, to seek out adventure and growth, or in other words, errantry, a word I’ve used a lot this year.

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To remind you, errantry is the act of wandering with the intention of finding and engaging in adventure.

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An errantry, I had indeed, both literally and figuratively.

In Amsterdam, while working at the Shelter Jordan Hostel, I got to see the inner workings of hostels, I learned to share in spirituality with travelers, and I engaged in community. Adventure was always a bike ride away, be it canal jumping, live jazz, castles, or good food with friends. But it was here that I learned that it was not just adventure I was after. I realised that I wanted to grow in my own faith, my own spirituality. For so long in my life, I believed in God simply because it felt like the most natural thing to do, but for the first time, I wanted to doubt, I wanted to question, I wanted to find some answers for myself.

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So I took that with me in the week I spent in Switzerland, and in the three months I spent in Nepal.

If you followed my journey this year, you know that it was my second time to Nepal. I returned to fulfill a promise that I made back in 2015, that I would come back one day. At both Mendie’s Haven and Asha Nepal, two children’s homes, I simply lived life. I shared what little I had, and they shared what they had. Through language barriers and cultural differences, I grew in my understanding of the world. I wanted to assimilate as much as possible. I was open to all new things. I tried hard to learn the language. But what was most beautiful and profound to me, was that though there were so many differences between cultures and world views and languages, what we had in common was our faith in God. I got to see God working in these homes and in the local churches on a daily basis, and it inspired me to continue in my pursuit of God this year. It is an encouragement to me that our God’s love is the same in any culture and in any place.

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When December came around, it was time for me to take these lessons, not to a new place, but to an old one: “home.” By “home,” I mean to say America, the country written on my passport. I will tell you the truth, this transition was not easy for me. Going to a new place is like moving forward, not just physically, but a step forward in who I am. But when I return to a place I think I know already, it feels like regression. I start to revert back to my old self, and it takes a lot more effort for me to continue growing as an individual.

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I lived in Washington with my family who had returned to the US for a year. There I worked Outback Steakhouse as a hostess and at Panera as a cashier, and for a little while as a hotel housekeeper. Rather than jumping in, ready to engage the place I was living, I chose complacency. I worked 60 – 80 hours a week, and to be honest, it really drained the part of me that wanted adventure, that desired spiritual growth, that longed for errantry. I saw my time there as a means to an end. It was the necessary evil of money that I was after, so that I could begin the final phase of my year, the Pacific Crest Trail. As a result, I did not engage in life there as I usually do, and it made my time difficult. I made the money needed to go onto the next stage of my year, but I missed out on a lot as a result. I learned in this time, once again, that it is always worth it to fully engage your environment, and when you don’t, you miss out.

On April 25, I quit my jobs, and on May 2 my errantry continued as I began the Pacific Crest Trail. I wrote in my journal a few days before, “Dreams, they really do come true.” This had been my brother’s and my dream for two years now, and finally, after training, planning, and saving, we were ready to start. It was our attempt to walk from Mexico to Canada, over 2,650 miles of trail, of challenges and beauty and memories and like-minded people.

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I learned many things on the trail, of which I wrote about in my last entry on the PCT. But there are two I want to highlight here.

I took the lesson I learned while working in Washington, and implemented it on the trail. Even though I was never in one place longer than a day, and most people that I met I would never see again, I tried to be intentional to engage the moment and be present.

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The trail was no doubt that hardest thing I have ever done, mentally and physically. I had to rely a lot on God throughout it. Not only that, but I had A LOT of time to think as I was walking. I was able to question and doubt and struggle. Though I am still working things out in my faith, being on the trail in raw beauty and in my most basic and natural state allowed me to silence myself enough to see God again.

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My errantry is over now. We finished the trail on August 17, and less than a week later I found myself on a plane to New York, where I began college at a small liberal arts school in the middle of nowhere (I guess I have an affinity for rural places).

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And though throughout the year, I was living in search of errantry, overtime, it became more of a spiritual pilgrimage than anything–a journey to rediscover God and his love, to ask questions and find answers, to be uncomfortable.

The year is over now, but with each God given breath I take, I look forward to where he will lead me, in my spiritual journey and in my love of errantry.

Thank you to those of you who took the time to follow me on my gap year!

– Sarah

 

The End: Part 4

Despite our late bed time, we woke early on the 17th of August (two days earlier than planned), determined to let nothing get between us and Canada. Though we had made it through the last possible road closure, we still worried that they would air drop a runner in, who could flush everyone out of the last 30 miles.

It was a weird feeling, knowing that we would finish that day, but thirty miles is a long way, and though we didn’t want to rush the end, to some extent, I just wanted to get there.

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Everything was going fine that morning. It wasn’t too smoky, and we thought we pretty much had it in the bag. About 13 miles in, a hiker, our of breath and looking rather spooked came down the trail toward us. He had the look of a thru-hiker, weathered and strong, but he was going South. Knowing that hikers that do not have Canada entry permits must hike the thirty miles back to Harts Pass after finishing, we asked if he had just finished that day.

He looked at us, wide-eyed, and nodded. As we were about to congratulate him, he opened his mouth to speak. “There’s a fire just a half a mile West of Holman Pass that just started. If I were you, I would run to get there in time, before it crosses the trail and its too late.”

“Where is Holman Pass?” I asked.

“Look at you map.” He said in an unfriendly way.

We immediately looked at our maps and saw that it was 3.5 miles away from us. If we rushed, we could maybe get there in a little under an hour, but we knew we would be cutting it close.

We thanked him for the heads up, and then we started out, adrenaline once again pumping through our veins. Only someone who has walked 2630+ miles and is only 20 miles from the finish is crazy enough to, almost literally, run into a fire, so that they can get to Canada.

As we went, Stay Puft commented, “Are you glad we pushed ahead last night, or what?”

We honestly weren’t sure if our friends Gandalf and Chiwauwau would make it.

We kept pushing, almost running. I started to sing “I see fire” by Ed Sheeran, and immediately the boys (who are usually supportive of my singing) immediately shut me up, saying “Walk now, sing later!”

As we went, the smoke got denser and denser. We were going downhill, into where the fire was, and eventually ash started falling on us from all around. How do we know when it’s too dangerous? At what point should we turn back? I thought. I was praying a lot too. “God, you’ve let us get this far, please let us finish!”

We were racing against fire, against time, against all odds.

And then, we saw the sign for Holman Pass. We made it, now we just had to get out. Up, up, up, and out onto the ridge where there was clear air. We were free. Past what we hoped would be the final threat.

We knew the fire was knew, because all that time, there were no helicopters or planes overhead. But as we got up onto the ridge, we started to hear the took, took, took of a helicopter, and the low purr of an airplane engine.

We were 13 miles away now, with one last climb and then the final descent into Canada, but I was not willing to think it was in the bag until I saw the monument.

My heart eventually returned to a normal pace, and as I walked, I let my self soak in the surroundings- the mountains lit by the warm afternoon sun, the cool breeze on my face, the wildflowers that pepper the hills, the springs that dance across the trail. I let my mind wander back to beginning days, when this moment seemed impossibly far away. I thought of the days I cursed each step I took, yet kept taking steps because I wasn’t a quitter, and because, for whatever reason, I wanted to walk from Mexico to Canada. I thought of the good times too, when we laughed for the sake of laughter and smiles because we simply had too.

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As the last few miles ticked down, I thought of the many lessons I learned.

Every day was struggle, a fight, but moving forward was always the most natural thing to do. It was the only thing to do.

Time was not a number, but a place in the sky, and dirt and grime were not something I wore, they were part of my identity.

Some days I woke up and honestly didn’t know if I could even sit up, and then I did, and I would walk thirty miles or more. Sometimes you just have to start by making a move, by sitting up, putting on your crusty socks, and beginning the day. As Influx always used to say, “The miles get hiked when you decide you’re going to hike them.”

I learned every day, that people are just people. There is no status or “difference” that should separate us. When everyone is stripped back to their most basic and natural forms, we are all the same really, and there are no limitations in friendships.

I learned to never quit in the moment of discouragement, but to always get a good night’s sleep first. Cling to the hope of morning and the promise of a new day.

We approached the last water source, just a mile away from the border, and there we stopped for a minute. We shouldn’t be here I thought. There are so many reasons we should have failed. There were so many factors beyond our control. Why us? Why not the many who attempted and did everything in their power, yet could not overpower chance, or is it the will of God?

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The three of us looked at each other in a moment of recognition, and then Stay Puft went ahead, into the last mile, wanting to finish alone. After some time, Jon Michael and I began the last mile of the Pacific Crest Trail together. We walked in silence, my breath felt light, and my heart beat gently within. It was so surreal, so overwhelming. For so long, I wanted to be in this moment, and now that I was in that moment, I wasn’t sure I wanted the trail to end. I wasn’t sure I wanted Canada to be around the corner.

And then it was there before us, that simple wooden monument that marks the Northern terminus, and next to it, the obelisk that marks the changing of territories. I wanted to shout and scream and dance for joy, but nothing came out. It was just silence. Awe. Joy. Sorrow. Victory. And the end. The End.

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There was no one there to congratulate us or cheer us on. It was just the three of us, and honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any different. When we looked at each other in this moment, we didn’t need words to explain or communicate the meaning, the feeling of what had just taken place. We just knew.

We wrote in the last logbook of the trail. We took photos. We laughed. We cried. We thanked God. And then, we walked into Canada.

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We camped just a quarter mile into Canada that night, and the following day we walked into Manning Park, BC, where our Aunt would pick us up. When we got there, we heard the news that we made it past Harts Pass (the final road crossing) just a few hours before they closed the last 30 miles of the trail for the rest of the season. No one else would be able to finish at the actual monument in 2018. We were relieved to hear that Gandalf and Chiwauwau made it as well, but saddened to know that many the friends we had made who were behind us, would not make it.

In our last three days we hiked over 100 miles, and on the second to last day, we made a new personal distance record: 39 miles in a day. We fought until the very last day. We refused to leave it up to chance, and praise be to God, we did it. We walked from Mexico to Canada.

Dreams, they really do come true.

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May I never forget the feeling of wind in my hair, of pain in my feet, of legs and body well worn from a hard days work, of sleeping on my oh so thin Z-lite pad, of walking through the land so beautiful, in my most natural state of being. May I never forget the wanderers I sojourned with, all from different walks of life, yet bound by this single purpose that takes us northward day after day. May I never forget the satisfaction of a good, hot meal, of a warm shower, a bed, and all the small conveniences that we take for granted in everyday life. May I listen always to my heart and to the calling of the wild, that pulls closer to my dreams and farther from the chains that would hold me back. Even in the darkest of days, when everything seemed like hell, the trail was changing me, remolding me into who I am today. I will not forget. The trail goes on friends, Canada is not the end. It was never meant to be.

– Himalaya

The End: Part 3

Jon Michael and Stay Puft caught up to the three of us, and Chiwauwau filled them in on the situation. He also told us that he didn’t think we should be too worried, but that it could be a concern. Stay Puft wanted to push all the way to Hart’s Pass that night, which would be another 16 miles, making our day into nearly a 40 mile day. I told him he was crazy, and that there was no way I was gong to do that to myself, but he could go right ahead.

We all started hiking together. I wanted to only go 3 more miles as planned and hope that everything would be fine when we made it to Hart’s Pass later the next day. But as we went, Jon Michael started to get really passionate and inspired. He prepared a little motivational speech for us that went something like this:

“So guys, I’ve been thinking about how many miles we walked, how long we’ve pushed, how close we are. So close! So Close! I remember back in the desert, in the Sierra, in Nor. Cal, in Oregon, and even in Washington, we would ask ourselves how far we would push ourselves if we broke a leg or sprained an ankle, and we would say numbers like 60 miles or 45 miles, or “I would army crawl to the border if I had too because its my dream. I don’t know why its my dream, but it is, and I would do anything to get there.” We’ve been working at it for hundreds of days. We’ve sacrificed a lot. We eat cold soaked ramen, we’ve sacrificed our hygiene, our beds, good meals, sleep. We’re tired, we’re dirty, we’re in pain.

But there’s something in us that keeps us going forward. And do you know what? If we were to keep going right now and not stop, were about 15 hours from the border. FIFTEEN hours! And I’ve been asking myself a question. Are you willing to leave it up to the chance of a wildfire, or will you say I will not compromise, I will not stop walking, even when you’re tired, and you hate everything, and you hurt, will you keep going because the dream is so strong in you? You didn’t know you could dig that deep, but you keep digging to get one more step closer to Canada and the dream you’ve been fighting for. Will you keep nailing the nails back into the coffin? Don’t let the body out to haunt you for the rest of your life, because you let want of food or need of sleep or pain stop you.

This is the broken leg. These are the broken ribs. This is the army crawl to Canada. No more messing around. Its time to get out the headlamps, head into the night, climb the climbs and descend into the valley, and say “screw you!” to the next climb, and then climb it anyway! It’s time to go to Canada!”

He was crying. I was crying. Probably even Stay Puft had a few tears in his eyes. And we all were laughing too, the laughs of wild people, overcome by emotion and determination. We were all on board. All game to finish. We were not going to let chance stop us. We were going to Hart’s Pass that night, if it was the last thing we did.

Gandolf and Chiwauwau were too tired to keep going, so the three of us headed into the night, the sunlight slowing fading. Three friends, scared and determined and Canada bound.

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Stay Puft took my much heavier pack in exchange for his ultra-light pack so we could move quicker, and as the sun left us in a smoked out night, our headlamps illuminating the way, I couldn’t help but smile some more.

Conversation came and went, my eyes started to feel dry and heavy, and my body, hyped up on adrenaline, eventually started to grow weary. But we refused to stop until we were at Harts Pass.

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At 11:30pm, we staggered onto the road, the last point of human contact before the Canada, and then beyond it, where we pitched our tents only 30 miles from the border, and fell onto our mattresses.

– Himalaya

(Continued in Part 4)

The End: Part 2

When we entered Washington, we felt, for the first time ever, that mentally and physically, it was actually possible to finish. We had worked ahead, so that our time in Washington would be more relaxed, with no 30+ mile days. Believe it or not, a 25 mile day felt like a vacation day to us.

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Our friend, Stay Puft, who had been hiking with us since mile 700, decided he wanted to finish the trail with us, so the three of us spent many days on the trail having campfires at night, soaking our feet in streams, bathing in lakes, eating wild berries, and soaking in the cooler Washington weather (and still hiking over 25 miles a day of course). It was the way we always wished we could spend our time on the trail, but were never able to do because we always had to hike so far each day.

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“I really enjoyed descending into the valley, especially since the sun finally started shining. There is so much moss and undergrowth. We are enjoying another warm campfire. Only a week left! Oh, and we reached mile 2,500 today!” (Excerpt from my journal, Day 102)

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We managed to make it all the way through Oregon without any threat of fire, though many wildfires began shortly after we passed through them. But as we continued North into Washington, our luck started run out. We started to hear rumors of fires in the North, and we had to go through several fire detours. Thankfully it was still possible to connect our steps through them, but it meant adding a lot more mileage than we had planned for.

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On August 14 (Day 105), we headed into another detour. The trail was only closed for 20 miles that were going to be basically all downhill. The detour however, was 30 miles, including an extra mountain pass and a 7 mile road walk (which are hated by all hikers). The next day, knowing that the detour was going to put us behind schedule and because we had heard rumors of more fires between us and the border, we decided to push ahead as far as we could. When we went to bed that night, we were only 70 miles away from the border.

The plan was to simply hop, skip, and jump to Canada in three days so we could finish on the 18th (a day earlier than planned). It would be easy, only two 25 mile days, and a 20 to end on. But I didn’t sleep well that night. I don’t think any of us did. We decided to wake up early and try to get to Highway 20 (Rainy Pass) as quickly as possible, because it was the second to last road we would cross before the end, and we wanted to get there before they closed the trail due to the fires. We were not going to let anything compromise the end of the trip.

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All this time we had no cell service, so no way of confirming or denying the little information we had heard about the fires. We also had no way of informing our Aunt, who planned to pick us up on the 19th, that we were still on track to finish. In fact, a few days earlier while we were on the fire detour, we actually had to flag down a car and ask if the driver would deliver a message to our Mom, who could send it to our Aunt. The dude, Brendon, didn’t have a cell phone, but he promised to send an email for us. Our telegram read:

“19 August @ 12pm on track to finish. No service. Please pass to Auntie Lisa. – Sarah and Jon Michael.”

When we crossed Highway 20, we all breathed a sigh of relief. No trail closure. We were clear to go on. Stay Puft actualy said the words: “I feel like for the first time, we have this in the bag.” We were now only 60 miles from the border.

That same evening, I was almost to our intended camping spot, when Gandolf and Chiwauwau, two other hiking buddies caught up to me. Both looking tired and worried they proceeded to tell me that there are not one, but two fires North of us. There is a fire 10-12 miles to the West and another to at least 20 miles to the East. The wind has been consistently blowing East, so the fire to the West has a good chance of spreading closer to the trail, which means that Harts Pass, the final road crossing, could be closed soon, making it impossible for us to finish.

As I sat there, listening to them, it started to dawn on me that after 107 days of restless walking, of pushing myself to my very limit every day, of waking up before the sun, of getting sunburned and windswept, all this time holding on to the hope of one day walking into Canada, I might not get to take those last steps.

-Himalaya

(Continued in Part 3)

The End: Part 1

Day 78, the day I puked and we kept walking, and I puked again, and we kept walking- that was where I left you, dear readers, and almost never came back to tell the end of the tale.

I guess, like some kind of war-vet, or like Frodo and the hobbits at the end of The Lord of the Rings, I find myself at a loss for words. There is so much that I felt and experienced in the last few weeks of the trail, and I have few ideas of how to begin telling of it.

Or maybe it is fear that has prevented pen from page. It’s been nearly a month since we crossed over to Canada, and I have done a good job of keeping myself distracted. I live far away from the West Coast mountains, starting college in New York just days after finishing. I have thrown myself into my studies, into the art of making friends, into settling into a new place again, and I have not let myself process that the trail really is gone. I’m afraid that when I open my journal to remember again, a flood of emotion and grief that I am not prepared for will overcome me.

But now it is 5:00pm on a good as any Thursday in September. I am listening to a newly discovered music group, sipping coffee, and snacking on crackers and cheese. My journal is open beside me, ready for me to recall the memories and secrets it holds deep within.

This is how it came to pass. This is how a brother and sister who had never backpacked before, walked from Mexico to Canada. This is how our trail came to an end…

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– Himalaya

(Continues in Part 2)