Nov 6, 2012

A Chronicle of Limits, Part 12

The following is the final entry in a series concerning my experience with the Pacific Crest Trail. The previous eleven parts can be found via the “Blog Archive” down amidst the right-hand column. Thank you for sharing this part of the journey with me.

26 June: Tuesday
I have left the wilderness.

A lumberyard employee, Ben, with his infant son picked me up at Sonora Pass. Ben dropped me off at Kennedy Meadows Campground where I was able to access a pay phone and finally update Mama & Papa. What a blessed support they are.

I hiked out of the campground back to Highway 108 where an elderly couple, their son, and grandson eventually picked me up in a red pickup truck. They dropped me off at Dardanelle, but not before I learned of their Montana origins. As soon as I was out of the truck and ready to stick my thumb out again, I was waved across the street to enjoy a drink and apple with Jesse, a Mexican from Walnut Creek who is supporting a local PG&E project. So far, everyone up in these mountains seems to be interested in fishing and vaguely familiar with the PCT. Jesse’s hospitality was encouraging, exactly what I hope for in my travels. When the PG&E superintendent arrived, I thanked Jesse, shook his hand, and returned to the roadside.

This time it took a while longer. I can only imagine my impression on people swiftly passing by. Sadly, this is not the era of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. “There are too many assholes,” Mark, my next driver angel, would say. He actually passed me at first, but then decided that he had the space and that I looked harmless enough. He had just concluded a welding job for the Forest Service at a local vista point. He graciously drove me to the town of Sonora in his cramped, dirty, red SUV. I was very grateful.

Mark was interesting to converse with. A hippie who had hitchhiked across America in the early 1970’s, he talked about acid, music concerts, including seeing Jimi Hendrix and Santana—the latter of whom, in his musical prologue years, allegedly played at Mark’s junior high dances—being brought up not playing catch with his father, but rather joining him in mountain adventures, and dreaming of living in Sonora with his own horses on a small ranch. One anecdote involved a trip to nearby Leavitt Lake where Mark, his two brothers, and father survived an unprecedented September snow storm by breaking into a friend’s truck. Wearing running shoes, Mark and his youngest brother got frostbite and were out of school six months while their feet healed.

In all, we talked about life.

What else is there to discuss?

It is lovely.

* * *


Mama & Papa picked me up in Sonora, to which we drove back to San Jose.

It was not just the loneliness that led me to depart the PCT—that certainly affected my will—there were physical reasons. The heels of my feet were in bad shape, but would not have been too worrisome if I had not run out of band-aids. (Note: Do not underestimate the amount of band-aids necessary to protect feet during the first few weeks of heavy backpacking.) It was the backpacking diet that could not sustain me. There is much that I still need to learn in that regard.

Though this particular account is concluded, the story of my Pacific Crest Trail journey is not. While I would only consider a second attempt at thru-hiking the PCT if accompanied by at least one other person, I will certainly continue to “section hike” the PCT as opportunity allows. God willing, I will have a lifetime to do so. There is no hurry anymore.

I too often try to consume something quickly when it is sometimes best to partake in slower smaller bites. It is like being offered a succulent meal, where each small bite can be delicious and meaningful; but where instead I systematically devour it like a factory machine. Why? While I would certainly still benefit from caloric and even some flavor of the meal, having eaten it in fifteen minutes; why not allow its same gifts to be multiplied by an hour of enjoyment, including the blessedness of fellowship around the table? To me, the PCT is a holistic feast. There is so much to enjoy. Like people. Like God. I usually strive to not succumb to the cultural trend of “sound bite” digestion. We cannot really know someone or even most things well in such a rushed “productive” fashion. Relationship takes commitment, endurance, and perhaps above all, shared experience that can only be attained with repetition across time. Sometimes it even requires quiet. We generally cannot know all the answers after only one encounter. If we are honest, we generally cannot ever fully know—at least in this life. But we can be dedicated to a life of knowing: of trying to appreciate and to understand. That is not to say that we cannot know an aspect of something in a short while. Those respected few who have completed the PCT in one season have not necessarily experienced the journey in a lesser way than those who complete the PCT in sections across many seasons. They are different albeit equally worthy approaches. Even section hiking the PCT is limited in terms of really knowing the famous national trail. There are different ways to emphasize a subject. One of the most repeated and important truths about hiking the PCT is that it must be done in a way that is meaningful to the participant. There are different ways to get to know someone or something.

I have learned much from the PCT. I trust that I will continue to learn. Though I did not successfully thru-hike the PCT this summer, perhaps I have gained and been able to give so much more. The adventure is not finished. There are still many blank pages waiting for meaning.

Soli deo gloria. Amen.

1 comment:

mama g said...

Dear Joshua Denison Grubb, thank you for sharing your inner self in this account of your PCT adventure. There are many profound morsels within the text. Your insights both personally and universally are poignant and gripping. There are quotable phrases and deep questions to ponder. I thank God that we were able to journey with you beyond this experience, through forests, valleys, across rivers, along beaches, along vast mountains and deep blue filled craters, even up in flying machines where vistas took even broader strokes. I pray you feel that you belong when you share the adventure whether with us or others blessed to be in God's presence along with you. You are a guide with your words and with your passion. There are many more paths to take and I am confident you shall walk or run them and you shall never be alone. luv, Mum