Only 100 miles from my intended destination, I had to call it quits and go to a hospital, all because I accidentally touched a plant. Couldn't I simply apologize to the plant or something?
A week later, I got my hospital bill: $1,397.00. I saw a doctor and a nurse for less than 10 minutes. No tests, no equipment used. All they did was look at my arm. Assuming the doctor makes $100/hour and the nurse makes $50/hour, that should come to less than $20. I'd like to know how the hospital came to the conclusion that $1,397.00 made any sense.
The saving grace in the situation was Brian and Heather. People I'd never met, who went out of their way to come get me off the trail, take me to the hospital at midnight, and housed and fed me for a few days while I made arrangements to go home early. If not for them, I'm not sure how things would've worked out. I can't thank these people enough.
After a couple days in Redding, I took a train to Oakland and got to hang out with a good friend for a few days before heading back to Texas. Athan and I met doing Texas 4,000, a charity bike ride from Austin to Anchorage, which is what originally got me into this kind of thing. We've been best friends ever since.
During Texas 4,000, Athan came up with the idea of drinking a milkshake in every state along the way. It was such a good idea I had to join him on that. Ever since then, we've made a habit of celebrating major accomplishments with a milkshake (running a marathon, an A on a final exam), and every long adventure I've done has had a similar gimmick (a beer in every country, a float in every state). This summer, I couldn't think of such a theme. For one, I'm running out of single-serving treats that are easy to find anywhere. And for another...a treat in every what? This summer, the entire hike was spent in the same state. A soda in every county? There aren't even signs for counties. I wouldn't know when I was in a new one.
By the end of this summer, Athan had recently finished his CPA exams. I'd hiked more than half of the PCT. Both of us had a lot of celebration built up. We'd do it together, and we'd go big.
Enter: The Kitchen Sink. A sundae made of eight softball-sized scoops, totalling two full gallons of ice cream. Eight toppings of your choice, to go along with what looked like about half a can of whipped cream, three bananas, and a cherry for each scoop of ice cream. Only about a dozen people had ever finished one on their own. We figured the two of us could do it.
Early on, I was loving every bite of it, but about halfway through, things started to change, until ice cream didn't even taste good anymore. Both of us slowed until we began to stare at the thing for long periods in between bites. When I started complaining how cold I felt, Athan couldn't stop laughing. We managed to get to the point there was nothing left but an inch of melted sludge and a half-dozen chunks of banana and called it quits. Good enough.
The rest of the weekend went as well as I could've hoped: an improving arm, hanging out with good friends, I even got to take in an A's game. By the time I boarded a plane back to Texas, all things felt good in the world.
Making it to mile 1,500 would've been good for many reasons, mostly involving the next hike, when I complete the northern half of the PCT: It would be shorter, more leisurely, with more opportunities to take zeros and near-os. I'd already be done with all the areas that get hot. Getting a ride back to the trail at that specific location would be much easier than almost anywhere else. But 1,400 miles is still more than half the trail, and I've covered most of the hardest parts, including everywhere it's necessary to carry a heavier pack, due to extra clothing, a bear can, or lots of water. And from what I understand, Oregon goes by fairly effortlessly.
Another summer comes to a close, and it's time to get back in the classroom and shift the focus to different types of lessons. Perhaps unsurprisingly to people that know me well, I missed calculus, and I'm excited about this year's classes. Especially after getting the students' AP test scores over the summer. From my first to second year, we showed marked improvement, and it'll be exciting to see just how good we can get and keep building on it. Wimberley High School students make me proud.
To my hiking buddies: Antoine, Avatar, Sam, Connor, Matt, Austin, Briot, Marine, Bigfeet, Bandit, Flame, KegLegs, Upstream, Disney, and many more, I enjoyed hiking with you. I'm rooting for you all the way. I expect you'll make it.
The northern PCT awaits. Another summer, the remaining 1,250 miles will still be there, and I'll be ready for them.