Tales from the PCT – I almost quit.

It is what it is!

Maybe it’s not the best idea to start writing about the PCT with the thought of quitting. Maybe it’s more fun to write about the stunning beauty of nature. Or trail-angels. Or fellow hikers I’ve met. Or maybe I should write about my planning-procedure or gear. But maybe not! Maybe I should start with the time where I almost quit, because, well, I only ALMOST quit. And because of ALMOST it raises the question on “Why didn’t I quit?”. The answer to this is a story of beautiful, kind and nice people who where there just at the right time. They came to me like angels telling me the story that everything is taken care of, when one is on the right track. Here is my remembrance to them.

Oregon was hard for me. After four month in California fighting the desert and the Sierra Nevada mountain-range, after enjoying the heat in beautiful northern california, Oregon is placed somewhere in nowhere. Just like everyone else I was excited to finally leave California. It had the feeling of a new beginning. Still about 1.600 km (1,000 mi) away from the finish-line, hiking in Oregon was just plain work for me. While many/most hikers talked about crushing miles in Oregon, 30 mi + (50 km) each day, I barely managed 20 mi (30 km) on average. Most of Oregon, at least in my memory, was burned down. Nature was ruined by lots of wild forest-fires, the landscape wasn’t too appealing also and I struggled with lack of motivation and funds. Under those conditions I reached, approximately half way through Oregon, Elk Lake Resort. Initially I didn’t want to go there. I already took quite a few zero days in the last two weeks and I didn’t have enough money on me to spend it on restaurants and expensive Resort camping-places. I remember hiking my way through another miserable Oregon-day when I passed the sign leading the path to the Resort and thinking to myself that I should just keep on going, so I did. It wasn’t much after that when I turned around and foolishly decided otherwise. “What the heck? If I do quit, at least I can spend my last money in a resort enjoying myself and who knows…!” Well, who knew? I hiked down to the resort looking for a nice quiet spot to pitch my tent in the dark so no one would spot me. Yes I was trying to camp there without paying, shame on me. But, as I walked towards the Resort entrance, I met a fellow hiker I met before and he told me that the Resort offers free spots for camping for PCT through-hiker. Encouraged by his words I walked up to the reception and asked the lady behind the counter if there’s a place for me to pitch my tent for free. She told me that usually they don’t offer free camping but today was my lucky day. She told me that a group of motorcyclists made reservations for three spots but ended up using only two and they donated the free spot to PCT hikers and that I can pitch my tent there for free. Luckily and happily I walked to the designated spot just to find out that it was already taken. Miserable as I was with the recent roller-coaster ride of having – not having – having – not having a camp-site I was close on giving up. Maybe I was mistaken? Maybe! I spotted a couple on the site which I thought was for me (the site, not the couple!), walked up to them and asked if they may have taken the wrong spot. They smiled and told me that the signage is a little bit confusing and misleading and that my spot was the free one right next to theirs. What a relieve! I excused myself and pitched my tent. After I finished, the couple and I introduced each other; their names are Sarah and Jeff! At that point I wasn’t much into talking, I just wanted to take a shower and relax, so I took off quickly leaving them behind as they where setting up their site.
I walked down to where the showers and the restaurant where. After taking a shower I saw quite a few fellow hikers sitting on the restaurants porch and I was about to walk up to join them when two stranger, obviously a couple, passed my way and started one of those polite american small-talks. “Are you a PCT-hiker?” – “Yes, sir, I am” was my response. “Are you going all the way?” – “That’s the plan” I answered even though I was still uncertain of what I am actually going to do. “When did you start?” – “March 29th”. “Your accent, where are you from?” – “Germany” I said. “Oh, that’s nice. We have friends in Germany and have been there many times. Where from?” – “I’m from a town near to Cologne, it’s called Wuppertal.” “We know this town” they said excitedly. I was as surprised as they where to find someone at the other side of the world knowing the town I come from. “Yes, you have the suspension rail-way, this mono-rail thing where you hang upside down as public transportation. What’s it called again?”. “It’s the Schwebebahn” I answered with a smile on my face not knowing how to react to this whole situation right now. It instantly put me in a good mood and made me forget all my miserability. We talked for a few more minutes and introduced each other with names before we split again. Their names are Jim and Jane.
Before I finally walked up to join fellow hikers on the porch I decided to bring my shower-stuff to my tent and get some money. A few minutes later I joined a couple of hikers. One of them turned to me and handed me a business-card and said “Here, this is from Jim and Jane. When you walk through their town, you are invited to stay at their place.” I took the card, thanked and put it in my pocket. Later that evening I walked back to my tent already in a way better mood than before. As soon as I got there it was Jeff and Sarah who invited me to join them for a cold beer and some talking. It was a lovely evening! They told me that they live up north not far away from the PCT and if I make it through there I am also invited to stay with them.
How lucky I was to stay at Elk Lake Resort! How lucky I was that I was guided there!
The next day I enjoyed beautiful weather at the lake, some swimming and relaxing. I refused to think about tomorrow and about the worries about hiking. But, as time goes by, this day had to come to an end and I had to make a decision on what to do. Free parking at the camp-site would come to an end after tonight and my motivation wasn’t up again yet. That’s the situation I laid myself to sleep in.
The next morning I woke up pretty early. I don’t quite remember what I decided to do but I do remember meeting this guy I talked with for a few minutes and he said something like “Something good can only happen when you say Yes to opportunities!”. After that I made up my mind, walked up to Sarah and Jeff to ask them when they leave, where they would go and if they could give me a ride to Bend, a city close by from where I could contact Jane and Jim to follow their invitation to their home. Their answer was a surprisingly perfect. They where putting their things together, they want to leave in 30 minutes, they need to go to Bend anyways and yes, they want to give me a ride. 30 minutes later we sat in their car on the way to Bend. They dropped my off at a Starbucks where we enjoyed a coffee together and before they took off they handed me a can of fine tuna. I ate it a few days later after another tough day – how delicious it was, how much energy and motivation it gave me! Anyways, now here I was in Bend at a Starbucks trying to reach Jane and Jim. As I didn’t have a phone I sent them an e-mail. They responded soon and later that day he picked me up at a certain place he asked me to be. I stayed two days with them. They were awesome. I don’t want to write too much about what we talked about, but I want to say that they are two interesting, far traveled, kind people. I planned to stay for only one night, because I felt bad for taking advantage of their hospitality. But they hosted another hiking couple, too; actually it was the couple who handed me the business-card, and in the morning after the first night they asked if they could stay another night. As I still didn’t feel very motivated, I joined in and stayed another day and night. The whole day I was lying in the garden enjoying the beautiful view of the Three Sisters. After those two nights sleeping in a real bed, listening to Jane’s and Jim’s stories I was reborn. I was ready to hike again. I was now sure than ever that I now can finish the trail and that it doesn’t matter what happens next. I finally understood what I only heard so often on the trail before: “IT IS WHAT IT IS!”, simple as that. Jim gave me a ride back to the trail and even though Oregon was still a tough time, I was finally happy again.

About two weeks later I came to Washington and I called up Sarah and Jeff. They came and picked me up and they, too, let me stay in their home for two, or was it three?, nights. We again had nice talks about cooking and food and politics, we went for a walk, cooked together and shared stories together. After they brought me back to the trail back in Oregon I crossed the Bridge of Gods leaving Oregon for good and facing Washington state for my last 800 km (500 mi.) of my trip on the PCT.

I would have not finished the PCT at the Canadian border if I wouldn’t have met Sarah and Jeff, Jane and Jim. If they wouldn’t have opened their hearts and homes for me, I would have just quit somewhere in Oregon. It’s because of them I can tell stories of how I finished the PCT and it’s because of them that I can think about going on future hikes. I am forever thankful for them being part of this adventure and, because of this, part of my life.
Please, Lord, bless them always!

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