Beads of sweat roll down the side of my beverage, collecting on the New Belgium coaster. A slight breeze of artificial, cool air hits my left ankle while I sit on leather. Needless to say, I am not on the PCT. That corridor of continuous change. The beautiful and wondrous sanctuary for travelers and those seeking adventure continues to exist in what feels like an alternate reality just to the North-West. The contrast of Los Angeles, the smog and noise is a polar opposite. My former company continue exercising an existence of simplicity and utility while this boiling ass-fault (get it…) sprawl is filled with hoards of designer clothed zombies, stumbling in all directions with shopping bags full of excess.
I left the trail for financial reasons. I began hiking this season, not knowing if I would be able to afford to make the trip all the way to Canada. Spoiler alert, I ran out of money before making it there. I’m not upset, nor am I bitter towards those that are continuing on without me. I am filled with inspiration and awe from my experience. I only hiked about 800 miles of the 2600+ miles of trail that exists. If you ever get on the trail, you will learn quickly what I have come to understand intimately; the experience is the journey. Maybe you don’t have to hike the trail to make this assumption.
My journey ended in one of the most remarkable experiences of selflessness and kindness that I have experienced in my life. Snooze (Megan) and I finished hiking at Vermillion Valley Resort, an oasis of civilization in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. From VVR we hitched into the small resort town of Mono Hot Springs where we soaked and enjoyed a night of camping. The next morning, beautiful cardboard sign in hand, we packed our bags and sat outside the Forest Service campground, thumbing for a ride. Within an hour of sitting down, a white pickup slowed down and a kind traveler said that if we were still there when he finished eating lunch, he would gladly drive us to Fresno. We smiled and told him we’d be there.
Within an hour the familiar truck came rolling back towards us and we quickly jumped to our feet to throw our bags in the bed. Buck was a clean-dressed, friendly guy in his 50’s. With almost questionable enthusiasm, he said he would be more then happy to drive us to Fresno (2+ hours East). Upon jumping into the truck we all struck up conversation immediately and knew we were in good company. Buck had been coming up to Mono Hot Springs since he was a young man to go fishing. His wife had given him the ok to take a small vacation and relive some of his fishing glory days so he made the love drive up into the mountains. Although the fishing was questionable, he had a pleasant visit. Buck asked about the ins and outs of hiking on the JMT/PCT, told us about his adventures hitch hiking across the country as a teenager, and recalled fondly the kindness and open-hearted nature of those on the road. He said he had such a positive experience traveling when he was younger, that he wanted to give back by helping us on our way. We liked Buck a lot.
Eventually we rolled into the city of Fresno and arrived in front of a dilapidated building in what seemed to be a sketchy part of town. This was the Greyhound bus station where we would catch a cheap and uncomfortable bus ride the rest of the way to Los Angeles. Before we could offer Buck some gas money, he was practically forcing a folded bill into my hand. We refused for a minute, making quite the scene which eventually compelled me to grab his offering. We explained that we couldn’t take any money from him, he had already driven out of his way. Could we give this back and give YOU some gas money we suggested. Buck wouldn’t have it, saying that our company was payment enough and that we knew we were ‘good people’. Pay it forward he said. We tried to get his contact info but he was reluctant saying he didn’t want us to mail him any money back. We stood there amazed at his generosity and after a brief hug and exchange of smiles, Buck was back on the road. Opening my hand, I found $40, bus fare for Snooze and I to get to LA. This is real trail magic folks.
After purchasing our tickets, we walked through a deserted hispanic part of town, searching for food. The streets were empty and all the businesses closed, a very strange scene for a city. Eventually we were able to get something to eat and returned to the bus station. Our ride to LA was what you might expect for a bus – long and cramped. The WIFI that the poster in the station glorified was next to useless and neither of the 120 volt outlets that were advertised worked consistently.
Getting into downtown at 11pm, we waited on torturous metal benches until my Dad whisked us away to Studio City. Snooze and I spent the next few days catching up on much needed sleep, watching terrible day-time television, and indulging in restaurant food. Gotta love ‘real life’. We both longed for the trail, the simplicity of adhering to the schedule of the sun. The monotony of walking for hours. This strange and impermanent existence had become so normal to us, it was unsettling to change it. But change it we must – Megan had to get back to Connecticut for her Sister’s High School graduation and I needed a job. We parted ways at LAX, heads still full of fresh memories from our JMT adventure.
So that brings us to the present. I’m here, living with my Dad in LA, looking for a job. Oh how fun the real world is. Find a job so I can pay my bills so my credit score isn’t totally fuct (too late). Get a job so I can make my car payment and student loan payment. But hopefully the job I find can be more then just a means to an income – hopefully it can be enjoyable. Do you have a job for me?