… I’m on a water-less stretch 25 miles just South of Mount Whitney, the very bottom of the high part of the Sierra Nevada. I filled up my water-supply to full capacity a couple of hours ago at Chicken Spring Lake and had been in a long decent since reaching Cottonwood Pass. I had hiked long past sunset into the darkness last night and somehow lost my maps for this part of the trail. Since the PCT gets the most traffic around here, I stuck with following the main trail. But for the last hour had been doubting this strategy. I went with my gut-feeling, pulled out my smartphone and with the last 2% of my battery remaining checked my position … I had walked four miles of the trail. I dropped down my bag and started to process this last bit of bad news.
Ten days ago I had left the small town of Lee Vining where I holed up to weather out a storm. I was now getting on to one of the most beautiful as well as daunting stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail: the High Sierras. A long stretch over several high passes with little options for resupply along the way. The first four day stretch takes me through the back country of Yosemite National Park along two pack stations, Reds Meadow and Vermilion Valley Resort. I have got a resupply package waiting for me at VVR, so I only have to carry a light backpack. I get lucky at Reds Meadow when my neighbours on the camping invite me over to their fire-pit to feed me food and beers. They even show me the way to a hot-spring nearby where I go and soak for an hour after dinner. At VVR I get my last resupply, I plan on walking the next 186 miles / 300 kilometres with leaving the trail. All the food for this stretch has to fit in my bear canister. This means I have to fit all the food for the next seven days in this bucket and actually can’t take as much food as I would want to. But even now my backpack feels heavier than I have ever felt it before.
The following days are amazing. Each day I walk to postcard-like sceneries, with impressive mountains surrounding me and deep-blue lakes that beg me to stop for a swim. I cross four big passes that are over 3000 metres / 10000 feet high: Mather, Pinchot, Glenn and Forester pass. Each time I have to conquer hundreds of switchbacks upwards to get to these points and each time and each time I get rewarded with amazing 360 degree views.
But at the same time, it becomes mentally harder to motivate myself to keep going every single day. It’s already mid October and there aren’t that much other hikers out there any more. The lack tof a sociable aspect is weighing hard on me. At the same time The days are becoming shorter which means I have to hike even faster and often past sunset into the dark. I’ve already been hit by snow twice and every day feels colder out there.
In the end all these aspects come together and over the last days at the end of the High Sierra I’ve decided that I will leave the trail at Southern Kennedy Meadows. I no longer felt that the joy I got out of hiking outweighed the harshness and isolation. So when, on that faithful morning, after taking a wrong turn coming down from Cotton Pass, I all of the sudden end up in Crabtree Meadows, I decide to finally finish my hike. I no longer have the energy in me to go further.
I might return some day. Give it another attempt to complete the whole trail. But for now, I’m satisfied. I’m proud of every step I took. I hiked 927 miles or 1493 kilometres through the amazing outdoors of the American West Coast.
It’s been almost three months since that day I decided to get off the Pacific Crest Trail and it seems that I’m finally ready to write about my last days on the trail. I believe it is just as well a testament as to how hard it was to walk away from the trail as it is a testament to difficulty of keeping a blog up-to-date. I’m now spending my last days in Belgium before I set out for another adventure.
In the last weeks I’ve put together some videos about my life on the trail. Nothing fancy, but some might like it. First bit is in Dutch, rest is in English.
And you can find some pictures right here.