“People like you are the reason I come out here!” A trail runner cheered at Jake and me.
We were hiking into Snoqualmie Pass in the rain when we came across a very energetic runner who stopped to ask our trail names.
“We still don’t have them,” we told him.
He was a little disappointed but he stopped to chat with us anyway. He asked us about our favorite sections of the trail so far and told us about a trip he was training for on the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier.
Rain had been showering us that morning and we were soggy and tired. But something about his energy and enthusiasm lifted my mood.
And then came the question:
“Are you hiking to Mexico?”
I’ve been nervous about telling people on trail that I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It is such an audacious declaration like a college freshman declaring she’s getting a PhD. We’ve been officially on trail less than three weeks. I’ve completed less than 10 percent of the trail to date. So when people (day hikers, park rangers, a clerk at the hardware store in Leavenworth) ask if we’re hiking to Mexico, I have generally responded, “I’m trying.” Depending on my resolve at any given moment, “trying” might be paired with a smile or a shrug.
At any given moment I am probably not thinking about the Mexican border but instead our next resupply, the place we plan to camp that night, or on tough days, the next step I’m about to take.
At some point in the last five days (Saturday, to be precise), I crossed from 213.7 miles to 213.8 miles. At that moment, this became the longest I’ve been on an official trail in my life. The John Muir trail is 213.7 miles. I hiked it in 2015 with my friend Maria because it had been on our respective bucket lists and I love Yosemite. I thought the JMT had cured me of long hikes. It turned out to be my gateway drug.
So on Saturday, somewhere overlooking Hyas Lake and the Cle Elum River, somewhere between Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie Pass, when I crossed to 213.8, I decided that I am a thru hiker on this trail.
When the trail runner near Snoqualmie asked if we were hiking to Mexico, I proudly told him, “yes!”
And grateful for his energy and enthusiasm, I added, “People like you are the reason we stay on trail.”