The Gratitude Cafe Part 11 - the final chapter

DAY 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111 - Idyllwild to campsite 238.4 km, to campsite 195.52km, to Warner Springs, to Third Gate, to campsite 101.92km, to campsite 57.76km to the Mexican Border!

Idyllwild brought another angel into my life. Tiffany. I was so thrilled to have crossed paths with this woman. She is an incredible inspiration and possess a heart of pure gold. Tiffany was so unbelievably generous with opening her house up to me and sharing her space. We had endless conversation and shared our lives and truths. She has a wealth of PCT knowledge and is one of the hardest working women I have ever met. I am grateful for my time spent with her and connecting on a very truthful level. She's a special angel and I cannot thank her enough for allowing me into her life.

Hitting back out on the trail was timed quite unfortunately. It was raining when I awoke at Tiffany's house and I worried what the day might bring. My trail angel, so kindly, drove me to my trail starting point and I began my ascent to rejoin the Pct. The higher I climbed, the cloudier it got. The rain had stopped, so I wasn't getting drenched, but it sure was cold and excessively windy. At times, it was hard to stand up, as a gust of wind would almost sweep me away! I dug my trekking poles into the sides of ridges to give myself balance at times. I could hardly see the trail 10 metres in front of me. I was worried that the day may turn into a fight with a storm and contemplated what the best solution was; keep hiking or bunker down in my tent. I decided to keep hiking.

This is where decisions start to become difficult. By this stage of the hike, I have become quite familiar with the things I can and cannot handle. Part of thru-hiking or long distance hiking, means dealing with the elements. Rain is going to happen. If you were to try to avoid every drop of rain, there is a part of me that thinks ‘Why even bother immersing yourself in the wilderness?’ With the wilderness, comes the rain, snow, mud, dirt, animals and all sorts of wild scenarios. The fear of being caught in the rain almost flys away from your being, because you will be fine. You will find a way to deal with the elements. Of course there are dangerous elements that come into play, but by this stage of the trail, I am was confident enough to know what my limits were and are. Also, being out of the heat, is a blessing through Southern California. The more moisture in the air, the more pleasant the hiking. There is also a point where you can’t just keep running away and finding a place to be “safe” out of the woods. That’s purely giving up. I’m not that human and never will be. I will find a way to deal. Of course, I go about it the right way. My parents are aware where I am at all times on this hike and thus, if something terrible was to turn, they would know who to contact to find me (and I have my emergency device). But again, in life, we don’t have an emergency button to solve all of our problems. So it’s a lesson in thinking before we leap and knowing our limitations. As much as there are all those sayings about giving in to things in life; in all honesty, life does NOT physically have a net. There are always solutions, but putting yourself in dangerous situations doesn’t mean you will come out unscathed. So know yourself. 

I was being told all morning that it would pass by midday. And that it did! Which I was more than ecstatic about. Not because of the ‘no rain or mud’ situation, but that this was supposedly one of the most beautiful parts of the trail. I did not want to miss it. And it certainly was. 

This section of the PCT suffered a huge fire in 2006. It destroyed a major section of the trail, which has been closed for years. They have enforced a detour and slowly reopening sections as they repair the trail. Some people completely skip this section and just get to town as quickly as possible. I'm so glad I didn't! It was such a fascinating part of the trail. The terrain was almost pre-Sierras. It reminded me of sections coming in to Sierra city, way before my High Sierras journey.

I crossed the highway near Paradise Valley Cafe (I didn't visit) and hit the 150miles to go milestone! Again, a rush of joy and sadness. It's so gut wrenching to think this will all be over in one week. I've walked so many miles, and like that, it is almost the end. I remember my Day 1 on trail thinking how incredibly far I had to go, and here I was with only 150 miles. Each day was starting to feel like an accomplishment within itself, and I suppose this is a good way to say goodbye to the journey.

As I hiked up towards my campsite, a sunset was directly in my path of travel. At that moment, I made a promise to myself to capture every sunrise and sunset left on my trail. To stop and actually watch it happen. 

It's strange how time was suddenly passing me by. What once felt like a lifetime away (ie Mexico) is now down to counting the days. 

I've always been one to have a countdown. In my show regime, when we are coming toward closing night in most cities, I would always countdown. Not in a pessimistic or negative aspect, but just a way to acknowledge how many shows signified the end. The finish line of such a huge chapter of my life. 

I find it odd that I wasn’t counting down. I wasn’t feeling the necessity to touch that monument. I knew it was going to happen, and I was ready, but I just didn’t want it to end yet! I was like that annoying child at Dream World who asks "Just one more ride, pleeeaaassseee?" over and over and over, trying to make the day longer than actually possible! At some point, the theme park has to close. All good things must come to an end (and so must some bad things). 

I found a nook for my house for the night and set up amongst the shrubbery. It wasn't a usual campsite, tucked off the side of the trail. I really enjoyed it actually. It felt a bit 'outback' and reminded me of home. It was one of the most diverse campsites on the trail and it reminded me of all the change I have been through; terrain and mentally!

The next morning, I was out before sunrise with a little dark hiking. The first part of the day involved some ridge hiking which took me directly by sunrise and I received my daily dosage. It was spectacular and warm, glowing from afar and creating a huge beacon of yellow along the horizon.

This day, was a pure desert experience. Back to the dry. That involves all things dirt, rock, sun, heat, gnats and a huge water carry. Although it wasn't as intensely desert as some previous sections, it was just interesting to feel the sudden shift again into the Southern California.

I did enjoy that this section had some overwhelmingly beautiful ridges to walk along, offering outstanding mountain range views as I roller coastered along the terrain. Southern California is embedded with incredible mountain ranges, which are internationally not talked about as much as the High Sierras. The San Gabriel Mountains, the San Bernardinos, the Santa Ana ranges, the San Jacinto mountains. They are still as spectacular as all the other ranges throughout the PCT, only with the more temperate weather. 

With a large water carry, and having to collect water from incredibly generous humans who allow you access to their property water tanks, within the space of 15 miles or so, the terrain turned green again. Mountains filled with trees and shrubbery, and delicious landscape decorated with rocky boulders. 

I chose a campsite at the top of a ridge, shaded by some oak trees and a perfect hidden paradise of the days sunset. After quickly setting up my tent, I burrowed my way though some trees to edge towards a ridge near my campsite. A fire ball of orange lit up the western sky, radiating pink and purple hues back across to the east. Another spectacular way to say goodbye to the day. Sometimes you have to seek a little to find the beauty. 

The next day, I was a few miles out from Warner Springs. An important stop on the PCT for a water source, but more importantly for NOBOs. After starting from the Mexican border, this is one of their first significant stops, which sees a lot of people leaving the trail; realising it's not for them, it's too hot, they aren't well equipped, they aren't enjoying it, or they have just had enough. Everyone hikes their own hike and it’s no problem to actually leave the trail. So the community centre are extremely hiker friendly, offering onsite camping, electrical charging, toilets, showers, water sources and more. 

I was heading in to Warner Springs to pick up my resupply package and charge my electronics. Arriving around 11am on a Sunday was not the most ideal time for a resupply. Everything in this little town is closed over the weekend and things are pretty quiet on the hiker front. I sat down at a picnic table outside the Community Centre and decided to find the outlet outside the building. The community had recently changed their opening hours, so my arrival was greeted by a closed door. 

It was no big deal as there was camping on the grounds for me to stay the night and head to the post office in the morning to collect my package and hit the trail again. So I decided to sty warm in the sun. This is where the desert plays mind games! Well, temperature mind games. The spectacular meadows surrounding Warner Springs were bringing in heavy gusts of wind and a significant temperature change. The sun was warm against my skin, with the breeze keeping me cool. It’s a fickle part of the world!

As I was walking around the building, I noticed a sign. “Thanksgiving Dinner. Sunday 4-6pm” - WHAT?? It wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet, but a free community dinner was happening for all of the locals and anyone in the visiting area. Well, how is that for being in the right place at the right time? 

Sitting at the picnic bench, another hiker was walking towards the building. I hadn’t recognised this hiker before on trail, so it had to be some one walking northbound on the trail. He set his pack down and seemed incredibly familiar with the community centre. He introduced himself to me as Kurt, later to learn his trail name is ‘Barn Fart’. And no, he didn’t fart in a barn in order to get his name. He received his trail name years ago, when trail names were merely a way to destinguish bearded and dirty hikers who all looked the same and possessed similar names.

Turns out, Kurt has hiked a lot of the PCT already. He section hikes a lot of it these days, as he pretty much lives in the woods. He doesn’t own a house, or rent one. He simply hikes and lives out on trails, to then resupply in towns. The reason he was so familiar with the Community Centre, was because he had volunteered there throughout peak hiker season over the past few years. 

All of a sudden, other members of the community started turning up and prepping for this evenings dinner. Kurt, being well known to all, was invited inside to have coffee and chats with the locals whilst charging devices and doing laundry etc. So I too, was invited! What a beautiful community of people. I sat and listened to all of their incredible stories, hearing of the community support network, their faith and the outstanding kindness that surrounds the volunteers who work at this centre. They invited me to Thanksgiving, which I happily said yes to, and some hours later, I followed across to the school grounds to enjoy a wonderful home cooked dinner served by the generous folks of the Warner Springs Community.

I learned a lot from spending a few hours with Kurt. Life can continue to be incredibly simple after you finish hiking a long-distance trail. You don’t need to make life complicated again just because you go back to a big city. I saw a lot of what I want to take with me, in Kurt’s life. Keeping life simple is going to be hard. People expect so much. They expect you to answer your phone, to answer texts, to answer emails, to have URGENT written on everything. This, I will struggle with. We are all so demanding of each other, that sometimes you just need to make a cup of tea, sit down, and just be. And sometimes we don’t realise that unexpected stress can sometimes be upon us from the ones we love most. 

I felt a slight sadness leaving the Warner Springs community and Kurt. It was officially my last PCT resupply stop. The final package was received and I packed my bags to head back to the trail. I left with a heavy heart, but contentment that I will make this transition into the ‘real world’ as smooth as possible. If it means shutting myself off for a while, then so be it. 

So, the PCT was calling to walk those last 109 miles.

The wide open fields and meadows before and after Warner Springs, are what I would call one of my favourite parts of hiking this trail. And hiking in general. I adore open fields. Maybe it reminds me of my childhood and the vast fields and paddocks that used to surround my environment? Just like walking through the woods, I feel the child in me come to life. Which is quite ironic really. The child in us never grows up. A little bit of Peter Pan is always in us. I started the trail on July 12th 2017 walking through the woods of Washington feeling fantastical and child-like, only to have walked 2400+ miles to feel the exact same feeling. Only 4 months later, I feel it in a sense of freedom. The freedom to let go. The freedom to move. The freedom to begin.

Hiking 8 miles South of Warner Springs, leads PCT hikers to a huge rock formation, that from the back, looks like a basic pile of random boulders. Taking a very small side trail around the rocks, gives you this. Eagle Rock. (And yes, I hit play on Daddy Cool). A pure rock formation, untouched by man. A formation that happens to look like an Eagle.

It was at this moment that I found myself putting two and two together, and the unintentional significance I discovered. 

As funny as hitting play on the playlist to jam out Daddy Cool’s ‘Eagle Rock’ is, I stopped and looked. This huge rock formation, alone, in the middle of miles and miles of open field. I realised it was my symbol of what I was feeling whilst trekking through this whole meadow. Freedom. The eagle. The wings. Flying. Soaring. I smiled to myself, knowing that this was the reminder I needed for coming closer to the border. 

That same day, I hiked passed the 100 mile marker. I had a moment remembering back to when I passed the 50 mile marker up near the Canadian Border, signifying 2500+ miles to go. My heart sank back then, however, it also did the same thing today, only strangely the complete opposing thought came into my head. In Washington, I thought ‘Holy shit, so far to go’ and this time I thought ‘Holy shit, so little to go’. It also put into perspective how far I have come; not just distance wise, but strength wise. In Washington, including the 31 miles north to touch the border, it took me almost 5 days to hit the 50 mile mark. And yet here I was, in Southern California, about to complete these last 100 miles in less than 4 days. It really started to sink in how incredible my body is. 

The fact that I have been able to solidly walk from Canada to Mexico, without injury, without fatigue and without any physical complication, is pretty extraordinary. People go through months and months of injuries, pushing them off trail to rest, or even making the difficult decision to leave the trail all together. This happens to people from Day 1. And here I am, still strong. 

On a very personal note, I have taken my body for granted in the past. I have been through moments of appreciation for it, but it’s only been moments. I don’t appreciate it enough for the incredible things it can do. No ‘Body’ is perfect. There is no such thing. And why would you want it to be perfect? How frustrating, because when it isn’t well, injured or a little broken, the expectation for it to go back to being ‘perfect’ is much greater than it was before. This is can raise my hand high to experiencing. 

Realising that my body (and mind) got me from Canada to Mexico, by foot, without injury, is extraordinary. My body is extraordinary. It can do so much more than I ever thought. It’s strong and it’s capable of anything. My body can do a lot more things than most people could dream of and I will never disrespect it. It is my lifeline and I will forever nurture it for being able to get me this far.

As the day ventured on, the water carries were becoming significantly longer. I try to avoid carrying too much water because of the excessive weight issue. It’s not something I would recommend to anyone attempting to hike the PCT. I am quite well known for not drinking water. Ever. I don’t really enjoy water. But here, it is clearly the only source of fluid, and in the scorching desert sun, it is essential. So carrying at least 5 litres of water through this section was a little tough. Most hikers carry 7-8 litres, but I try to make the water last and control the ‘chugging’ water reflex and attempt to sip. Funny how you get this far along the trail and know your water habits quite well. You know how much you need for dinner, how much you need for breakfast and even down to how much you drink before 11am! It’s crazy, but you just start to become quite in tune with your wants and needs. Important stuff, right?

After camping at a nearby HUGE water cache stocked by amazing trail angels who look after the water supply for hikers, I awoke to another ridge walk in the dark to watch as the sun came up. The next noted water source was a water cache stocked by another set of trail angels, under a highway underpass in roughly 15 miles (24 kms). I thought the earlier I hiked, the less thirsty without the sun beating down and the less water I would need to carry. Correct. 

I kept a continual pace around the ridges for a decent hike downhill towards the highway underpass, heading towards Julian. Julian is a famous hikers stop for “Free Pie”. It was almost PCT blasphemy that I didn’t stop there! Firstly, you need to catch a hitch into the town and secondly, I didn’t want Pie. Some hikers dream for that, but it really doesn’t float my boat. Plus, my insulin levels would kill me. So no pie and no Julian. Maybe I’ll go back and visit once day!

Now, I’ve been dealing with these spikey desert plants since Northern California. And I’m not talking Cacti. There’s plenty of that around, but they don’t seem to be right on trail. This spikey desert plant loves to grow across the trail. I assume it’s quite well cut down during the Northbound season, but by the time us SOBOs are heading through, it’s starting to become overgrown. So, it loves to grow across trail and the only way past it is to go through it. This is where shorts aren’t the greatest hiking outfit choice. (But forgive me, it’s the desert and hot!) So what happens? The spikey desert plant attacks me. A good thorn to the knee. But I was fine. (PS You can see the barbed wire scar on my right leg that dad and I kept secret for all those years - now, THAT was a cut. This knee thing was nothing compared to that).

There’s always a slight fear when heading towards a water cache. Maybe all the water has gone? There are only a few SOBO thru-hikers left out on the trail. SOBO’s are generally the last of the hiking season and it’s always scary to think sometimes we are the forgotten ones out here. There is such an incredible support network during NOBO hiking season. It’s the peak time of year, so they are looked after and acknowledged a lot more than us SOBO’s. It’s not a bad thing. It’s more of a worrisome part of the journey, because you are never guaranteed that people are still looking out for hikers out here. It’s almost as if you are hiking back in the 1980’s when the PCT wasn’t as well known, and I suppose that is the true experience. I always try to not drink all my water before guaranteeing that the source is still alive!

And luckily, the underpass was stocked! So incredible. I sat down to rehydrate as much as possible, so that carrying to the campsite wasn’t too difficult. It was mainly an uphill towards tonight’s campspot. It was only 10am, so to put it in timing terms, I had to carry enough water to get me to 5pm, then dinner, then breakfast, then until around 10am the next day. Not something one would refer to as FUN.

The carry started at around 10:30am across a huge, flat, sandy, dry, desert section that was leading towards a constant climb. I found a tree every so often, just to stop and chill. 

As the climb began, I had to be careful how much water to drink. This is when chewing gum comes in handy. Something I had figured out back in Oregon. I started to always carry gum. It stimulates your salivary glands and the sensation of hydration, so you aren’t just drinking because your mouth is dry. A doctor would argue that it’s probably terrible because you aren’t hydrating enough, but hey, I’ve hiked from Canada to Mexico (almost). Go jump! Haha

The sunlight was absolutely scorching today. I had already done 15 miles by 10am, and the sun was now in it’s prime position for the day. It had set up shop to burn my being for the next 5 hours. So I decided to stop, lay down and take a load off for a while. As opposed to climbing uphill, this was my view to the sky. As hot as it was, this was a moment I won’t forget on the trail. Just me. The big blue sky. The quiet of the desert mountains. The minimal breeze that was finding me in the shade. Of course, there were other things like ants and dirt, but the beautiful things outweighed those types of things. 

Absolutely NO REGRETS on the choice to stop and lay down. The sun was not cooling off, but it was definitely moving. So when I got back on my feet and started walking up the ridges again, the suns position was backing behind the mountains. WONDERFUL! 

I would happily hike into the evenings, however, the little green eyes you see everywhere are not my most enjoyable moments of the trail. They send a rush of anxiety through your system and a sense of panic. (Side note: after getting off the trail, I read stories from several thru-hikers coming in contact with mountain lions/cougars throughout this section. I suppose I can think myself lucky!)

I noticed the terrain starting to turn incredibly green again, and after a day in the heat and dry elements, I was climbing up a mountain and the temperature was dropping significantly. Even though the sun was still out, it was quite cold all of a sudden. This is where the PCT really confuses me. Crossing a dirt road at the top of the mountain, initiated a distinct change in terrain again. It’s a bit like a psychotic individual who has many tempers that you never know which one will rear its ugly head. You just have to be patient and ready for what’s to come. Without warning!

The Southern California sunset was in fine form again that evening. The hues were just as spectacular as I imagined each sunset to be and the mountains were amidst the beauty. I found my campsite at the bottom of a drop into a valley area. I set up camp beside a dry creek bed for the night. 

There was some strange animal around my tent throughout the evening. I am not sure if it hung around for the whole night, because I went to sleep, but it was rustling about and around the place for a few constant hours whilst I ate dinner and set up for the night. I got up to pee a couple of times before actually falling asleep, and didn’t see anything in the flesh. I saw some green eyes, but there were a few different ones about. I made a bit of noise to let it know that I was in the area, but nothing ever came about from it, so who knows! I have no idea what it was. It was probably more annoying than anything.

I awoke to a direct uphill climb that was breathtaking. Not in the sense of amazement, but literally, so difficult to breathe. Ha! It was almost a vertical climb and I had to try and enjoy the struggle. The sun was rising by the minute and it was the one thing that encouraged me to stop and not worry about running uphill to get it over and done with. It wasn’t a long climb, just a straight UP! 

Today I was trekking by a little town in Southern California called Mt Laguna. A little side information, a lot of our Australian Olympic runners train in Mt Laguna. Part of my wanted to. Take the alternate route into the town to see, but I knew all of our team were currently back in Melbourne. I also didn’t need to resupply or get food in Mt Laguna, so I had planned to just keep hiking to the border. 

The terrain into this section is also one of the most beautiful sections of the PCT. It’s quite fascinating that the desert has delivered so many outstanding sections. I expected it to be a lot less impressive and just walking through bland dirt. Coming in towards Mt Laguna was green and mountainous. The elevation had taken me above and I was now walking through high winds and beautiful fauna. 

There was an amazing cliff section that I was hiking through that was decorated with memorial signs of loved ones who had passed. The point is called Kwaaymii point. I wasn’t too sure what the section was famous for in order for people to want to be acknowledged at this cliff. I wondered if it was a well known suicide spot or if many accidents happened around the area. 

After I found some cell reception, I was able to find out what this area actually entails. It is a popular area for hang gliders and visitors from the San Diego area. It gives an incredible view of Cottonwood Canyon, but apparently the spot has become a favourite of many, and thus when passing, family member place memorial plaques on the stones.

It really is a gorgeous section, but incredibly windy. I can see how hang gliders would have a field day!

Hiking on, I hit the 52 mile marker! Now that was something special. So close.

I had reached a point where I didn’t know whether I wanted to hurry up to get to the border, or slow down. Part of me was caught between a rock and a hard place. I could easily have run to the border from here in a day and a half, but that wasn’t me. I had not done that on the PCT, so why would I do that on my final steps. I was also not one to dawdle through the days. I had my pace and knew my vibe. And that’s when it hit me.

I know myself better than anyone now. I know when I need to stop, when I need to go and when I need to get away. I know the way I do things now. I have always rowed my own boat, but somewhere throughout the last few years, I didn’t. I cared too much about what other people thought and let others control me. That’s not who I had set out to be. My parents knew that the minute I was born. I wasn’t going to be all ‘Dirty Dancing’ and the ‘No one puts baby in the corner’ type of girl. I had my career plans laid out. I was secretive in them. I was not a boasting child. I wrote down my goals in hidden books (actually, probably not that secret. My older brothers ALWAYS found my bloody diary!! It’s like they chipped it!) and was always clear on what I wanted to achieve. The thing is, and this will be a surprise to most reading this, I haven’t achieved it yet. 

More on that later...

So I decided to do what I did the whole time. Walk at my pace, not too slow and not too fast, and enjoy those final moments the way that Gretel would. Not in anybody else’s shoes. I’ve walked 2400 miles in my own shoes and no one else has walked in them. 

Passing through Mt Laguna, saw the return of the gnats. It wouldn’t be my PCT experience without them, right? They were soooo welcoming to the Mt Laguna area, and soooo excited to see me. I sound crazy giving them behavioural aspects, but seriously, my tolerance level will be extremely high after dealing with these bastards!!!

I set up tent under a beautiful big oak tree, a little into darkness. It was actually an agressively windy tent site and that’s always a little difficult. Setting up the tent requires a quick pegging technique which I had down pat by now, but it just takes a little extra time to really make sure that the tent is well pitched. I had heard many stories along the PCT of people’s tents falling over in the night and that was something I always made sure didn’t happen. Pitch it well, rest well.

The following day, I started out early to avoid some of the heat. News of a Southern California heat wave was still in order and I was about to walk through the hottest part of it. 

The sun was rising with a beautiful orange haze, but it was one of the first sunrises where I could feel the immediate shift in temperature. It was about 6:45am and I was sweltering. I had stripped myself off of all my clothing and was hiking in shorts and a crop top bra. The air was burning my skin. Yes, the air! Not just the sun. It was going to be a nasty day. 

I was keeping a good pace today, trying to make decent normal Gretel mileage, but also the heat and water sources were at top priority. My first water stop was around 10 miles (16 kms) to oaks campground. I arrived at this campground thrilled that all the spigots were still on! A lot of the campgrounds have been winterised and the rangers have turn off all of the water supplies. 

I met two lovely gentlemen who were camping at the campground for the Thanksgiving weekend and they chatted to me for ages about hiking the PCT. Something they had never done but knew a lot about. They were so inspired and it was a meeting that I needed at this point. It was a reminder that this epic journey was inspiring, even to the middle aged plus men out there. They were intrigued and fascinated by everything I had been through, and it was interesting to see how enlightened and refreshed they were after talking to me. It was as if they wanted to do this their whole lives but their fears had never allowed them to. And meeting me, had allowed them to take the leap and do it before they ran out of time. 

I know some may read that as a “Oh, two men thinking Shit, if a girl can do that, I can!” But it wasn’t like that at all. I could tell these men saw the strength and clarity it had given me and were inspired to push their limits. Whether I am a girl or not, I am glad to have walked away making a difference to someone’s journey.

I later ran into one of the men on his BMX bike and he gave me two mandarins! FRESH FRUIT!! It’s heaven on a trail. Trust me. 

The next water source was located at another campground in Lake Moreno. A rather large tourist camp spot with plenty of RV’s and family’s around to decorate the scene. I arrived by the scorching time of midday and decided to chill out under a tree, eat lunch and rest out of the heat. I was in no particular hurry, knowing that I would be hitting the border tomorrow morning. I could ease up on the miles with only 22 miles to go! 

After lunch, I hit the trail again, only to realise that the heat hadn’t eased off at all. It was hanging around like a bad smell and had no intentions of leaving soon.

So heat hiking it was! There was so much sun exposure, I made the choice to stop every so often to sit under a shrub and cool down. This is when hiking is hard on the body. My body overheats very easy. It likes to be cool. There is an intense frustration that hits me when I am in hot areas. I feel uncomfortable in my skin and I need to remove unnecessary articles of clothing! Haha

I also had to keep in mind that my next water source wasn’t until 4 miles from the border. So lets carry water, one last time!! 

This next section, however, is quite well known for it’s extreme temperature. You can see in the photo below the big zig zag that is going up and down the mountain. Luckily, I was going downhill! Those poor Nobo’s have to hike up it in scorching heat. Hauser Creek is reknowned for being a difficult area, but in early peak hiker season, the NOBO’s have water at Hauser Creek before they climb. During my SOBO season, there is not a drop at the bottom of the mountain. So go down to the creek to get nothing, only to climb back up the other side!

Coming down Hauser creek was probably my hottest hiking day on record. I have pretty decent skin thanks to my dad. He is quite dark in complexion and thus, I turn a shade of brown easier than some of my brothers. I very rarely feel a burning sensation on my skin. However, today, at 2-3pm, I was descending that mountain and the heat was unbearable on my legs and arms. It is an entirely exposed mountain with no shade along any of the ridges. 

I was very lucky to find a huge boulder sitting at the edge of one of the ridges. I just had to stop. I needed water and a break from the direct heat. The only problem is, I had to be very careful with the amount of water I drank. I had to have enough from the campground to the border. But it was so hot!

After officially my final uphill climb of the PCT, I found my campsite at the top of a ridge hidden amongst some gorgeous oak trees. I set up my tent, and unpacked my bag, only to notice, I didn’t have my usual amount of water. I was almost a Litre less than I would have at night. How did this happen? I have been so careful with water amounts since the beginning of the trail. I don’t know how I miscalculated how much water I had. The only thing I can think of is that I drank a lot more water coming down into Hauser Creek than I thought I did! It is a scary feeling not having enough water. But, I never told anyone this, but throughout the deser, I carried 400mL of water in an emergency pouch in case anything was to happen. So, the totally fear factor quickly went out the window, because I had something if I needed it. 

A way of saving water on times like these, I had realised combing my morning coffee and oats together was a way of getting my caffeine fix and breakfast with half less water! 

After dinner, everything started to emotionally fall apart. I was ticking off the final moments. The final campsite. The final dinner. The final night. I really wanted to cowboy camp on such a beautiful night. It was warm and balmy. The perfect conditions to camp without a tent. But then I thought, it may be my final night, but to mountain lions, snakes and scorpions, they don’t give a rats ass that it’s my final night. I’m still dinner to them. HA!

Instead, I hopped out of my tent and stood out under the stars. The sky was vast, navy blue and glistening with stars. I looked up and took in the moment. Tears began to fall down my face. Uncontrollably.  

I didn’t want this to be over. I have never been the most emotional person, and probably only a few people have witnessed me upset in the past. And if you have, I obviously trusted you a lot. So compliments to you. 

But this was different. It had been many years since I truly felt like I cried real tears. Most of the tears I have fought back and thus have been tainted with strength. Strong tears, I will call them. I have sat at the bottom of my shower over the last couple of years and cried, but I never felt release. It was almost as if I was still fighting them. 

Yet here I was, under the stars, wiping tears away as if they were falling from the heavens. And smiling. And not one inch of my being was holding them back. I wasn’t swallowing them. I wasn’t afraid to just stand in this truth. For the first time, I actually felt alive. 

This was by far the hardest, yet most wonderful night on the trail. I realised so many things about myself. The mountains are here for me. I can always get to a mountain if I want. The border is not the end. My fear factors are out the door. And most importantly, I am renewed and ready.

I breathed in my final moments of the night sky and appreciated everything the world had offered me over the last few months. And so I closed my eyes on the evening and dreamt all things PCT.

The next morning, I only had 10 miles to the border and I wasn’t sure if the heat was going to be sticking around today or not, so early morning hiking was best. Plus without a water source for a few miles, it alleviated having to drink too much water before the border.

And there she was. My final sunrise of the PCT. I let strange today. It was as if the emotions of last night had made me ready for today. I was smiling and enjoying every moment, listening to my music and taking these final steps towards the end of a rather LONG walk.

The sky was illuminated with a sensational yellow hue. It was a different sunrise to the previous mornings. It wasn’t as orange and burning with radiance. It was gentle and subtle, and felt like I was walking alongside a painting of how life should be. Only this wasn’t how my life should be. It’s how it was.

Today, I had cell reception for all of the last few miles coming in towards the border. With 3 miles to go, I rang my folks. Of course, of all days, Gabe (my little brother) lost his dental retainer in the shopping mall in Houston, Texas. So my parents were trying to sort out what was the best way to try and find a replacement retainer. And here I was, walking the final moments of my PCT! Good one, Gabe. Hah!

But luckily, he found it, on the floor at the Apple Store. Yep. Of all the places. 

So with one mile to go, I talked to my parents as I hiked. It was such a big journey, not just for me, but for them also. They were a part of every step and making everything happen. Without them, this would’ve been close to impossible. Of course it would have been possible, but without having anyone in the USA as my ‘person,’ it would’ve been much more difficult.

As I came towards the final steps, I saw that monument in the distance. It was tangible and so close.

I videoed my moment coming towards it, and it was personally an emotional moment, but a sense of completion. I didn’t feel as ‘sad” as I thought I would, because I think my final thoughts and contemplation was done last night. As I stepped towards it and touched it, it was real. That was it. I walked from Canada to Mexico, in 111 days of walking, from July 12th 2017 to November 24th 2017. I did it. I actually got here. And you want to know something... I never thought I wouldn’t get to Mexico. I am not that person. At least I didn’t used to be. Somewhere along the way, I turned into that person of self doubt, but I stood at this border realising I am no longer that person. She is in the past. She made me who I am, but I no longer need her. 

I felt different standing here at the border. I didn’t feel like this was the end. I felt like it was the beginning again. I know that sounds like an awful thought, having walked that far to only feel like it’s just starting. However, this is life. Things should never really have an end. We always fall into a slump when things come to what we label an ‘END’. Let’s serioulsy think about it. Jobs end. Relationships end. Friendships end. Roads end. But we still continue to live on. Peoples stories still continue. You still get up and keep going. If we thought of everything as an ending, we would forever live in sadness and regret. We are all made up of moments. Moments that come and go, but we still keep creating new moments.  

So, I made it. Me and my blue backpack, JLaw (nicknamed JLaw, because calling it ‘Mystique’ the blue character from Xmen that Jennifer Lawrence played, sounds weird and JLaw is a champ of a human and a way better name).

And I sat at that border fence and felt strange. It wasn’t bucket list for me. It wasn’t about mileage and pace. I had nothing to prove and no one to be doing this for. It was for me. And I did it. Which resulted in this leg mount on the monument, because I wanted to leg mount of the monument the minute I started the trail. And luckily I didn’t pull a hamstring after not dancing or stretching for months.

The border signified something a little more drastic actually. I saw the monument with all the miles I had walked. I also saw Trumpy’s wall. And the patrolling helicopters. And the patrolling range rovers. And suddenly a wave of reality flashed at me. Back into the big crazy world where things are odd, strange and complicated. Where we are less simple and more influenced to fit the mold of others. Where kindness goes out the door and genuine humans are less likely to be found. Where we worry over the slightest of things that have not a single comparison to being faced with lions, bears and rattlesnakes, oh my. This was reality and I was standing in it and about to head even further back into it.

I would be lying to say that adjusting has been simple and easy. It’s a big reason why this post has taken so long to face. I needed time to digest what was going on, because the moment I hit back into the city, I hit the ground running and the world just happened a little too fast. There have been so many things to organise and find my feet in the real world again. I have mentally been very stable, which many people struggle with. For me, the physical adjustment has been more difficult. The post-hiking swelling, the lack of actual walking, the joint stiffness and muscular soreness from not hiking 12 hours a day, the dietary changes etc. It’s been a slow process to find my simplicity again. 

I have had to play it on the down-low in order to just keep life a little more simple. I was experiencing incredible headaches and daily migraines, to the point where I tried to go out hiking again, and had to fall to the ground with incredible head pain. The body just wasn’t sure what was going on and I wasn’t listening to it, because I was wanting it to all be like it was out on the trail. Great expectations and stilly expectations. 

A few days out from Christmas, and I have found my balance again and listening to me. 

Whilst hiking the PCT, it answered so many important things for me. I realised the things I wanted and set out to do in life, but never completed. Mainly because of other opportunities and different journeys. But now, it’s time to do me. 

After the High Sierras, I had my defining moment. It was time for me to finally do what I had been scared to do my entire life. I have kept this all off the blog, as it was a personal discovery for me that didn’t need the influences of others. I also like to be definite before shouting things from the top of a mountain. 

I cannot remember what I have written in earlier posts, so if I happened to have mentioned this earlier, my apologies. When I was 11, we had a grade 7 year book. The biggest piece of crappy year book ever. It was quite literally 50 pages of spiralled A4 paper. Quality Rockhampton public school. Ha! We all had a little questionairre to fill out in regards to who we were and what we wanted to be. Ranging from favourite song to quotes. Of course, 60 students all wrote 11/12 year old answers. Last year, I found the book. I started to read it, chuckling to myself. Everyone’s ambitions. Rocket Scientists. Billionaires. Botanists. Zoo Keepers. There were 59 answers of ridiculous ambitions that not one student is today. 

Except me. I wrote “To be an Actress, Singer and Dancer”. I was that child. I had shit figured out at 10. I remember telling someone at 12 years old I was going to go to WAAPA... What 12 year old knew that? I had researched it as one of the most prestigious Australian acting schools and read about it in books at the library and online. I knew what I wanted to be and never felt afraid to get to it. It was ALWAYS tangible. Like the Mexican border. 

The moment that defined this need was Titanic. Yes. Titanic the movie. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. I was 10 when it made it to the movies. I couldn’t afford to go to the movies. A) I was saving up to move to the big city, as if my $10 was going to get me there haha but B) my family couldn’t afford to go to the movies. I had heard everyone talking about Titanic at school, and I was so fascinated by the film. It was only by the lucky chance, my dance teachers daughter (now sister-in-law) was given the movie on VHS. After she had watched it, she gave it to me. 

My life changed. I watched that movie a total of 68 times and learned every word. My brothers can vouch for this! I could recite the whole script as a one woman show and watched it every moment I could. I studied the actors. It was at that moment, I fell in love with film. I wanted to be on the big screen. That was my goal. And I haven’t achieved it yet.

I went in all sorts of directions. I still did the WAAPA thing and have had great opportunities pull me in wonderful directions. But as I got older, I feared the Film and TV industry. The older I got, the less tangible it seemed. Plus, the stigma between Theatre actors and Screen Actors. The failed Hollywood attempts by many. I feared it. Music Theatre was my safety net. Highly employable as a triple threat (singer, dancer, actor) so a high sell resume. 

Please know, I am not complaining at all. I have had wonderful opportunities and amazing experiences and I would not be the person I am today with that behind me. But I have spent years not doing what I really set out to do. And now is the time.

Thus, I refer to the PCT as the beginning. It has removed my sense of fear. My worry of what others think. The constant need to impress others. I am the best canvas I will ever be right at this point in time, and just like the Mexican border, Hollywood is my next PCT.

So readers, the journey continues. Over the last few months of the PCT, I had my audition and interview, and have been accepted to the Lee Strasberg Film Institute to begin my study in January 2018. I am going back to study for a bit, to freshen up on all the techniques I have lost in theatre land and make the most of molding myself into the best actor I can be before tackling Hollywood. I am all about learning and educating oneself as much as possible, and now is my time. 

I haven’t been announcing anything yet, as we all know until you receive your Visa documents etc, the world is one big uncertain place. 

As I sat for days on end in Calgary, Canada, waiting for my Visa to arrive from the embassy to confirm that I actually could go to Los Angeles, on Tuesday, I turned the TV on. Today was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the realease of Titanic. They were playing it on one of the channels. In the past few years, every time I have seen the movie being played on TV, it’s been difficult to watch, as it was my reminder of the ambition I had but didn’t truly follow. But today, I sat back and started to revel in the joy of knowing all of the script still. Fifteen minutes later, the reception calls to tell me my visa had finally arrived. I then sat there holding my Visa, watching Titanic, revelling in the irony of it all. I smiled to myself. Yep. I’m in the right place. The universe is still on my side. 

Not many get to have the opportunity to reset themselves again and gain the clarity I have. I am eternally grateful to the PCT for pushing my boundaries and allowing me to see the clear vision I had that became so tainted and affected over the years. 

Life is truly one big journey. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Two things are certain in life; Death and Taxes” so I am going to make the most of everything in between. I didn’t do this for anyone but me, but I am hoping that I have inspired someone out there to either keep going, reset themselves or take a chance on something. 

Here’s to the next journey. Goodbye, Australia. Hello, Hollywood. 

- Gx


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