I apologize for the delay in completing this blog. I was immediately caught up in a tidal wave of societal obligations and a rapid effort to get the income flowing again. It all seems like a blur to me now as I settle deeper into society.
The day I finished the trail I had an overwhelming urge to stall the whole thing. I woke up before everyone, wanting to take the day to myself as so much of the trail had been for me, to get lost in trail and thought for eternity. The morning was bitter cold, but as the clouds lifted from the surrounding valleys, rising with the sun, I was humbled yet again by the beauty of the trail. My heart ached for this to last forever; to never return to waking up to the city sounds of garbage trucks and construction.
The end was just hours away; a goal I only halfheartedly wanted to see come to fruition because with the amazingness of the accomplishment came the sudden crash of reality. I took deep breaths as I left camp ahead of our still sleeping gang (though Deco, Sunrise, Bumerang, Baggins and Axe had already departed). I spent every effort to be in every moment of that day, to embrace the cold air and to drink in the beauty of my surroundings with every step. I tried to walk slowly, though the thru hiker in me kept pushing forward and I’d have to remind myself to slow down a little. It went by too fast.
In the moment when I reached the monument, my first instinct was to stop. I stood and stared at the obelisk, a white stone against the beautiful backdrop of Waterton Lake and the surrounding mountains. The day had become sunny and warm and I missed the cold morning when I still had a day of hiking left. After months of waking and walking, I was finally face to face with the monument, a symbol of so many things I had endured over the months prior, a symbol of my own strength and capability, a reminder of my weaknesses. I felt both accomplished and defeated.
I walked over and touched the cool stone, reading the word “CANADA,” over and over as if it weren’t real. I sat down and let the tears flow. I couldn’t even tell if I was happy or sad because I was overwhelmingly and simultaneously experiencing both emotions at once.
I walked around the monument in a couple of passes as if I were looking for a hidden passageway that wouldn’t take me away from the trail, but deeper into its soul. I sat again and couldn’t say a word until Baggins handed me a bottle of whiskey.
I took a drink and began to feel everything again, the weight and lightness of finishing a long trail. The sudden magnitude of completion; the glory and the heartache. Axe, Baggins, Deco, Chris, Sunrise, Bumerang and myself sat silently passing whiskey back and forth, staring at the finish line, waiting for our friends.
Gradually they all came walking up, each having their own moment at the crossing; Limey, Uberdude, Dragon, Judd, Righton, Titan. There we all were, versions of ourselves built and broken by months of enduring everything from unspeakable beauty to crushing blows that challenged our fortitude. We made it!
We stayed at the border for hours, popping champagne and celebrating. We took countless photos and every time I looked into the eyes of one of my companions I met a gaze of someone who was reborn. We were all reborn that day and every day that led us there; through the hot and cold, the pain and the comfort, the sun and the stars, seemingly endless road walks (yeah I miss them too), so many cows and so many passes, beautiful passes, mindblowing passes; crossing rivers, treading through grizzly country, glissading down snowy mountains … so many unique and thrilling experiences, so much beauty and exhilaration. It was a flood of memory and emotion and it carried us all away as we walked the final 4 miles into the town of Waterton, Canada.
We all spent the night together in a hotel suite where we drank beers, played cards and shared memories of our time together; our time that would come to an end in the morning. After everything, some of us may never see each other again and that is a blow that is as hard to face as walking away from the trail. All of it together made me who I am today and I am grateful to every experience both good and bad, every encounter with every person. I couldn’t be more blessed than to have had this opportunity and every day that I sit and reflect on the journey, I am reminded how wonderful the world can be.
Special Thanks to:
Faith Sheridan – Mom, your constant support and ability to get shoes in the mail on the fly was instrumental to the whole thing. I am a lucky lady to have a lady like you as my mom and #1 fan. I love you!
Craig and Pam Seaver – You guys have been so great in your cheerleading and support for both of my hikes! It was really wonderful to be able to see you in CO before and during my hike. I love you guys!
Elaine Hilbert – You are such an amazing woman and friend! Thanks for the storage space, the post trail living space and meals as well as the wonderful packages. Every package you sent me was so thoughtful and I felt the love in every ginger snap and cinnamon/cayenne almond! Thank you for being you, I’m so extra lucky to have you in my life!
Phoenix, Brendan and Sam – Team resupply at Mad Hippie! Thank you, thank you, thank you (one for each of you)!!! You were so reliable at getting my boxes to me on time and the little extra pieces of love in there brought me so much joy.
Tickled Pink – Thanks for the rides, the food, the beers, the whiskey, the place to stay, the many supportive conversations and (mostly) sage advice, the floats down the Yampa, the mail and the love. You were such a big part of this whole thing and I couldn’t imagine doing it without you. I look forward to our next adventure together (PNT 2017)
Last On The Bus – Thanks for the food, the trail magic (best on trail – shhh, don’t tell Pink), the rides (before and during the trail), the friendship and the laughter. You are awesome even if Pink tries to convince me otherwise.
Matt Ruddy – You sent me one of the best, most thought out and healthy resupply boxes ever! I enjoyed every piece you sent and thank you for taking the time to to put that together for me. You give Steelers fans a good name!
Chuck and Wanda from Buena Vista – For the cold soda in the desert, the tireless effort to find me in the Great Basin when my neuroma was causing me distress and your selfless invitation to join you in your home. You are beautiful people whom I wish I could have thanked in person. Thank you for everything!
Scott, Jenny and Whitney Calvin – Huzzah for the Calvins!! You guys were so awesome to all of us out there and at such a perfect time in our hike. You are such a beautiful and loving family and it felt wonderful to have you there for team SNB# as our greatest supporters; meeting us at passes, feeding us so much good food (especially thanks for the avocado :-D), sharing beers and coffee, electricity and the shade of your awning…great conversations and so much more. I’m happy to be in your fold!
UberMom and UberDad – You two were such a treat to meet in Many Glacier; feeding us with such wonderful, healthful food … and muffins and puppy love! It was so fun to meet you and share a night on trail with you – and then for the first beer at the end of the hike and the ride back to the states. I thoroughly enjoyed you both and hope to see you in Mexico someday!
Jessica Gleason – One of my dearest friends and thoughtful box builders! I loved all of the personal touches that only you could have thought of, it was like a warm hug from one of my warmest friends. I love, love, love you lady!
The Hepners (especially Andy): I know you had a lot on your plates this summer and I thank you for finding a place to park my car while I was out walking. Also for allowing me to stay with you and eat your food pre and post hike (I was of course much more ravenous after the fact!), and for always being a warm and welcoming bunch. I love being a part of the Hepner clan when time permits – and I continue to spread the joys of Mormon Bridge in your honor. ❤
People who donated money: Ryan Hall, Inger Kleckaz, The Reverend Blisster, The Allens, Elaine Hilbert, Jill Foisy, Muriel Driscol, Mom. Seriously, you guys are so kind and generous! I barely feel like I deserve your hard earned cash when I’m out gallivanting, but I promise it all went to good use and I am ever grateful and lucky to have you all in my corner! Thank you!
Trail Angels: Nita-the toaster house was one of the best parts of the whole trail. We are so lucky to have you!! Chuck and Wanda, Radar (water, gatorade and Tyvek, oh my!), The man in Silver City who bought me dinner, Wendy for opening up her home in Silver City, The woman at Doc Campbells who gave us a bottle of wine, The man who gave me an apple in the basin (best apple ever), everyone who cached water for us (The Taylors, Trujillos, Mumms and others whose names I never learned), The Presbyterian Church in Pinedale, Every single person who picked me up hitch hiking and everyone who provided kind words, food, drink and all other support.
To all of the fear mongerers: Thanks for adding fuel to my fire. Nothing will spark me into action faster than people who tell me it can’t be done. Also, for letting me prove you wrong. SNB#!!!!
Thanks to the CDTC who put their efforts into providing everything they can to us on trail and in town, for tirelessly fighting for the easements which make it possible for us to travel on public lands, for providing shuttle service and water caches and for being our voice as a community. Thank you!
My fellow hikers: Cerveza, Rampaige, Wilderness, Elusive, Muley (you’ll always be Spring Chicken to me <3), Polar Bear, Right On, Cloud, Uberdude, Titan, Judd, Slingshot, Cowboy Stripper, Limey, Homework, Knees, Freebird, Charge, Squirrel, Handstand, Sunrise, Bumerang, Deco, Dragon, Lucky, Anvil, Porchlight, Wildfeather, Bandit, Snapshot, Beaut, Goosebumps, Speedstick, ABC, Baggins, Axe, Scorpion, Animal, Greg In Wild, Shadow. All of you had an impact on my hike and the experience wouldn’t have been the same without you. I’ll never be able to remember the CDT without remembering all of you. Love to you!
And dear blog readers, thank you. It is nice to know that people are out there following along because it always made me feel less alone. Your silent support means as much as the active support and it is nice to know that my words aren’t just floating in space with no one to read them. Thank you so much for reading!!
If I missed anyone, it wasn’t deliberate! As you can see there were so many people who made this hike possible and not one goes unappreciated. Every single person who gives even the smallest ounce of themselves for someone like me to go on these hikes makes it possible and reminds me that people are good. You all come together to make a community of positivity that is so essential in our world. I look forward to paying it forward in the future and I look forward to having you all in my corner as I move on to my next hike …
(more blogs to come)
If this link works, it will take you to see some of our jubilant border celebration (let me know!): https://www.facebook.com/tjasa.zajc1/videos/10157469597460075/