Trail Timing

Synchronicities are a dime a dozen on the trail. Somehow, just when you desperately need it, the universe manages to serve all the correct ingredients at the right time to make you stop and think, ‘huh, now ain’t that special.’

Some synchronicities make you wonder how much time the trail gods have on their hands because the meticulous planning involved in bringing people or acts of nature together at a particular time is often astounding.

I experienced my own trail timing this week when I passed through San Diego on my way back to Vancouver. It’s the beginning of the hiker season, and I bumped into a woman named Jan who knows Scout and Frodo, two infamous trail angels in the San Diego area, who take hikers in and help them through their often scary and nerve-riddled Day Zero.

When Jan told me they were looking for drivers to take folks to the Southern Terminus this weekend, my eyes lit up. She also invited me over to Scout and Frodo’s for dinner on Friday night to meet the hikers who were staying with them.

I won’t lie. I was also riddled with nerves. Partly from excitement, partly from the idea of being in a big group of hikers when I’m not a (current) PCT hiker, and partly because I was borrowing my friend Donna’s standard 4X4 and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to drive it. Oh, and directions… I didn’t have data on my phone so no Google Maps.

Frodo and Scout serving their one of their infamous dinners

The dinner at Scout and Frodo’s was a beautifully executed operation, an A+ in my humble event planning opinion. But what I loved most were the hikers. Some were madly arranging their last bits of gear, others were helping with dinner, and some were merely basking in the afternoon sun in the back yard focussing on their journeys ahead. There were the shy types, the loud and obnoxious talkers, and the quietly confident hikers who had at least one thru-hike under their belts. I felt instantly connected to them all.

The only time the backyard was quiet was when everyone had started eating

That night, before my 4am wake-up call, I also read in the PCT’s Trail Dirt newsletter that two extraordinary people would be volunteering at the Southern Terminus the next morning. If you followed my PCT adventure, you’d remember the glow stick hike UB organised from Hiker Town along the aqueduct for a fellow hiker named Glow in the Dark. Glow in the Dark and her husband 3-Guy were hiking sections of the trail in 2013 amidst her cancer treatments. Patti has written an incredible book about her battle with cancer and her journey along the Pacific Crest Trail called Hiking Cancer, which includes in the glow stick hike and photos from the event.

Patti (Glow in the Dark), me, & Lynn (3-Guy)

Glow in the Dark had no idea I was going to be there, yet the moment she spotted me, her eyes lit up with recognition, and we fell into an emotional embrace. It’s funny because Glow in the Dark and I had never actually met before, though we’ve communicated so much through my blog and via email that it felt like both her and 3-Guy have been friends for years.

Left: 2013, Right: 2019

Once the main group set off from the terminus, I set off on my own, hoping to spend some quality time alone with the trail to reflect on my experience six years earlier. It’s amazing how many things looked familiar, and yet how much I completely didn’t recognise. I forgot how many buildings there were near Campo, and that I didn’t feel like I was in the middle of nowhere until after mile two.

I’d organised to meet Glow and the Dark and 3-Guy back at the terminus at noon for lunch, so I decided to walk as far as I could in the three hours I had. At one point I felt like I’d been transported back into trail life when I noticed there was no artificial sound, and all I could hear were the birds and the breeze whooshing through the canyon. I could feel my loose strands of hair caressing my cheeks, and remembered just how meditative hiking can feel when you’re completely removed from civilisation.

Every hiker I bumped into during my eight-mile sojourn became an instant friend. That’s the beauty of the trail community on the PCT, there’s such a profound sense of belonging you never feel alone out there because everyone’s connected, not only by a physical pathway, but their common goal of reaching Canada. I think of hikers on the PCT as electrons travelling down a wire. The trail harnesses an energy I could feel so intensely I could have run all the way home to Vancouver instead.

Everyone needs their mascot! Muk Muk, Sheepie, Groot & Hedgehog

The timing of my reunion also held significance. I finished draft five on my manuscript the day before, and it’s been almost six years since I began my PCT journey on April 15, 2013.

Left: 2013, Right: 2019

I took the below video to articulate the exact feeling of this reunion, and I think the hardest reality to swallow was the notion it’s almost time for me to move on from this experience and step into a new chapter. It’s a tough thing to do. It feels akin to breaking up with a beloved partner or the death of a life that once was. But part of me will always be on that trail, whether I’m walking it or writing about it in my memoir.

As Ravenson said in 2013, “Though we take the memories with us, we leave part of ourselves behind.”

How right she was.

Happy trails class of 2019!

Muk Muk

20 thoughts on “Trail Timing”

  1. Wow how cool to be there at the start 6 years later!!!! The Tramper
    Ladies are still section hiking the PCT. We have set a day June 25 this
    Summer to do the nasty Belden to hwy 36 , we will be thinking of you
    and the Mt Lion encounter I’m sure as we hike that section. We did some sections
    At Shasta last June and it was beautiful, lots of Pitcher plants insect digesting.
    My Son is now living in Squamish BC with his girlfriend Jackie, if your ever
    Hiking up there you should hook up with them, they backpacked part of the
    Lost coast trail. I was up there last week skiing at Whistler and was able
    To visit them, Jonathan my son was flying out to Verbier Switzerland for
    The final FreeRideWorldTour.com event and he got 1st place in men’s snowboarding
    A really extreme event free riding down a huge Mt!!!! Check it out sometime.
    Looking forward to a beautiful summer and the release of your book I’m sure
    It will as amazing as you are!!!!!!!! Ann Penfield. , Jonathan Packedpow@gmail.com

    1. Ann it’s so good to hear from you!! I’ll never forget you and the wonderful Tahoe Tramper gang (or the breakfast you shouted me at Timberline and the necklace!) I’m so excited you guys are heading back to the trail in June! Look out for Myrtle Flats hehe. I still get shivers thinking about it! Wow your son must be an awesome snowboarder! What an achievement! Let me know if you’re back in BC anytime again this year as I’d love to connect! Please send my love to the rest of the gang too! Muk ❤️

  2. I was shocked to learn it’s been six years since I “met” you! Wow, how times flies. I cried a little bit with you as I watched your video as it does feel like you are saying goodbye. However, your journey will live on forever in your book. Can’t wait to read the book, and to also continue to follow along on you next adventure. You are an inspiration to hike your own hike of life! Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thank you for such a wonderful note! Yesterday was such a phenomenal experience. It has filled me with enough inspiration and energy for the entire year! As you said, it feels like a goodbye to this chapter of my life, but there’s so many great things coming down the trail of life ahead! I look forward to sharing them with you!! Much love, Muk

  3. Ahhhhh, you were so close to me yesterday…Sorry time was limited and I didn’t get to see you again….what a fun experience at the terminus of the PCT….and you memories sparked as you traveled along the trail…I love hearing sharing as you do so often….done with the 5th go around…whew….publishing next? Do you have a publisher? Seems you must with 5 do-overs….tough! I am really excited to hear of your next adventure in this life you call your own…(in a way, we are all a part of you because you have shared your soul and deepest heart with us and we have been let in, so to speak.)….So many of us have found you to be a friend and have been so touched by you in your journeys, thinking and pondering life….thanks from my deepest heart to be with you heart and soul…loving you gently and greatly, your old friend from San Diego, Barbie! PS Has it really been so long ago that you traveled the PCT? Wow!! How time rushes by…right?…right!

    1. Oh Barbie, I too am sorry our paths have not crossed this time. You have been in my thoughts though, working away at the telling of your epic life story, which from my years of writing I know just have tough (and at times rewarding) it can be. Your words mean so much to me and I feel blessed to have you and others to share my life journey with. Like the trail, our communities are what keep the energy of life pumping through our blood, so thank you for always being such a wonderful support and friend! Muk 💕

  4. Again, you found that heart string of mine and gave it a tug. You speak so honestly. It is truely beautiful.

    As for moving away from the PCT….
    Life’s pendulum swings, then swings again.
    Keep saying “Look Ma, no hands”

    And enjoy the ride.

    Can’t wait to know you will be less than half the world away soon. Happy returns to the North Country.

    Lyndella

    1. Thank you Lyndella! I love the image of life’s pendulum swinging me back into the arms of the trail one day, whatever form the ‘trail’ happens to be in at that moment of my life. Anything that brings me as much joy as that wondrous strip of dirt and the adventure it holds for me in its path is something I will cherish to discover!! I too look forward to being back in the north soon too! Much 💜💜💜

  5. Muk, love your last post !! I choked up when talked of leaving the pct behind..You can move on to make new chapters, but remember, you are only a few pages ahead and can flip back to the pct chapter anytime for a visit..its funny how the trail feels like an old friend.

    1. Oh I love this message!! I get tears in my eyes thinking about a life with no PCT, but you’re absolutely right, it’s always possible to flip back. Just maybe not as frequently as I’ve been required to do these last few years while writing. Not to say the process is anywhere near finished, but the finish line is getting close enough to see the other side!! 🤗 xoxo

  6. This looks to be the best year I’ve seen to do the PCT or AZT. It must be surreal to engage in the culture once more after your absence.

  7. Oh Muk, so glad to see you got back to the Southern Terminus and were able to have some closure, as tough as it must have been. That is the only part of the PCT I’ve done (3 miles to the RR tracks and back), but I think I may have told you, I’m going to be NOBO in 2020! I’ll be blogging it as well, and as you were one of my main inspirations, I have already secured a domain name with a little nod to your 2013 hike.

    I am following a Kiwi’s blog this year (www.restlesskiwiadventures.com) and when she mentioned Glow in the Dark at the Southern Terminus, I instantly thought of you and UB night hiking with the glow sticks!

    Thank you for your passion, your authenticity, your writing style, your willingness to bare your soul, and sharing your outlook on the world. You have made a real difference in my life, even though we have never met. It’s pretty incredible. Best wishes to whatever the future holds and I’ll continue to follow!

    1. Oh Ian! You just made me cry happy tears. It’s been such an emotional week and hearing feedback like yours brings me such joy. I don’t think there is any greater reward in life than to inspire others to discover their passions and chase their dreams, so if I’ve played a role for you in that, it absolutely warms my heart! I can’t wait to follow your journey in 2020!! Be sure to share your domain the moment you start writing! Thank you for this comment! Muk 🙂

    1. LOL!!! God I thought about you out there! Sadly didn’t make it to Hauser Creek where you were undoubtably waiting to celebrate! 🙂

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