Chapter One – Not what I’ve expected

After spending almost two weeks in Atlanta the time had come for me to leave. A lot of things didn’t work out as planned and I had to deal with some serious issues. I managed to fix my gear and went out for a test hike. I thought that I was ready for what ever may lay ahead of me on the PCT. Little did I know what exactly that would be. But wait, let’s start from the beginning.

On March 13th my friend Clarity gave me a ride to a town called Duluth where we would meet up with our friend Click. He was willing to put me up for the night at his place so that I will be able to catch my flight early next morning. He lives closer to the airport of Atlanta and Clarity and I wouldn’t have to get up like 2 – 3 am that morning. We had lunch and caught up talking and had a lot of fun. After a while we split paths, Clarity got back home and Click and I drove back to his place.
I really enjoyed hanging out with my friend and his girlfriend, friends and neighbors. I got invited for dinner later that night which was amazingly delicious 🙂

After a couple of hours of sleep, Click and I got up the next morning because I had to go to the Marta Station, Atlanta’s public train transportation system. After 1 hour in the train I got to the airport and managed to get my luggage checked in. Security check took me about 2 hours. Atlanta is insane. Especially in terms of flying out domestic… I managed to get to my terminal almost in time. But that was a tight thing. Flying Delta was a great experience, especially the customer service was always amazing with them. Too bad that most European airlines are still way behind them… Anyways. The flight was great and I got to San Diego in time. 4,5 hours in total and then I got picked up by Judy, a trail angel located just outside of the city, with a legit Ford Mustang 😀

Judy and John are hosting hikers for a couple years now and are definitely some of the kindest people I ever met. I feel lucky and very grateful that I had a chance to meet them.

As we got to Judy’s place I took a shower and prepared myself for my first supply run to the next Walmart later that day. I don’t know exactly why but, once again, I bought way too much food for the first couple of days on trail. Seems to be a common thing, people told me. It just takes a while to get back into the rhythm and routines of trail life.
As we got back I started to pack up all of my stuff and had a nice and very interesting talk to Judy’s husband, John. I kinda told him a little bit about me and my story. The reasons why I’m out here and my situation and plans for the future.
He told me that I probably won’t find the answers I’m looking for. Because it’s more like a daily survival while hiking a trail than just a walk in the woods as Bill Bryson wants us to believe in. I know, that one is about the AT but I simply like the cross reference 😉

Hearing that was a hard thing for me since it almost destroyed what I thought I will experience. I did the AT, right? This is just another trail. And what does he know about me or my inner strength. I can do that. That’s for sure, came into my mind almost instantly. I’m pretty stubborn. I enjoyed talking to him and asked him a bunch of questions. About the terminus and the trail and what to expect the first couple of miles.

It wasn’t really bad and I got excited about the next morning and the start of my hike.
About one year of my free time was put into that project. I will do that thing! I can do that trail! I want to do that now!
We had freaking awesome food that night. Judy made some macaroni and chicken with a lot of cheese on top… You could kill for that stuff! We all ate as much as we could while talking about the next morning, the weather and water situation (it was supposed to be cold and rainy, of course) and where everyone wanted to stay for the night. I didn’t really wanted to do 20 miles the first day. That’d be stupid. Depending on the water situation. I don’t like to dry-camp (bringing all the extra water for the night and the next day to the first water source). That was my thought, but replied: “I will see I guess”

One thing that I find to be really annoying sometimes is, how people make small things pretty big. That means overdrawing things or situations to make oneself more important or experienced. I think that happens to most people. Me included…
Either way, I can deal with that. I just don’t take everything too serious. Stubborn, remember?

We had to get up around 5 am next morning to get some last breakfast and a good cup of coffee before heading out to the monument. 7 am. On time. No excuses 😉

Breakfast was good and the weather wasn’t too bad. A little chilly and overcast, but no rain for now. I was hoping for some sunshine this morning but wasn’t not too sure about it either. It is what it is, always remember that! The coffee was great by the way.

After some last tasks and packing up all my stuff, we got out and into Judy’s car. Two cars for six people this morning.
It was almost an hour ride to get to the monument and we encountered some serious shower’s. It’s gonna be bad…
We arrived around 8.15 am, wind picked up and it started raining again. It’s been cold and wet but we were excited beyond all measure. This is it. We were ready to go and do that thing!

Pictures were taken in every possible position which wasn’t too funny because of the weather. But hey, that’s great memories!
After a couple of minutes I signed the register and took off. I wanted do get out of the rain or find a dry spot when possible to put my Raincover on my pack. I found a spot under a tree a mile or two later. Then I felt ready to go for what ever comes up next.

 

I don’t know why but I heavily underestimated my water situation that much that it seems to be a real rookie mistake to me. I had a bottle of Gatorade and about 700ml of water on me when I started. The first water source was at mile mark 4.2 or something like that, where I didn’t fill up.

Back home I will never leave the house without at least one liter of something to drink on me…

As I said, I don’t know what has happened there…

I ran into a group of two couples which have done the AT last year and whom I met about 2 miles in. Very cool peeps.

When you hear about a desert you may think that this means it’s completely flat and very sandy, you couldn’t be more wrong. Especially when you have just started the PCT in California. There were a bunch of ups and downs, a lot of switch backs, rocks and bushes. The sun came out after a while and I began to worry about my water situation. I checked my guide and the water report and instantly regretted that I didn’t fill up water at the first source. But I also didn’t want to go back so I kept on hiking. I took a break every once in a while to make sure that I won’t kill myself on the very first day. My pack felt heavy even though I had no idea about my weight. My body still had to adjust to the daily workout.

 

It also happened that I compared that trail to what I’ve experienced back in 2015. It was alright. But not as great as on the AT. I’m aware that my situation was totally different back then. This time was harder on so many levels which I didn’t expect. But this is normal from my perspective. Everything needs to be adjusted on that trail. Learning by doing.
I didn’t find it very interesting nor extraordinary beautiful. Which of course doesn’t mean anything. Just that I couldn’t feel it yet.

I made 11 miles by 2 pm. Met up with the group I’ve met that morning and decided to stay with them for the night. I felt tired and was almost out of water… Didn’t I say that I don’t want to dry-camp? Worked out pretty well, didn’t it? The guys were so kind to split water with me. Luckily they had enough on them to share.

I felt stupid.

One thing I never really liked was stopping and calling it a day to early. But I was tired on my feet and my back was sore. Pushing on to hike another 5 miles to the next “possible” water source at Hauser Creek (which was reported to be dry) wasn’t very tempting either. So there was not much I could do about it but stay and enjoy.
So we were waiting for the rest of the group to catch up and to make a decision then. Stay and camp or push on? We decided to stay and take it easy.

We pitched our tents and hang out for a while. Talking about the trail, the AT and our stories, and so on. These guys were awesome and pretty funny.

After a while new hikers came in. Some just stopped by to talk for a bit, others decided to stay with us as well.
We ended up camping with 12 people I think. Some of them had to pitch their tents on the trail. Fun times! 😉
The sun was finally setting and it got slowly dark outside so we decided to crawl into our tents. At least I did. I was curious about how the ZPacks will perform on trail. This was my first single wall tent. Helicopters were circling above us. Border patrol I guess.

The night was cold outside but I kept warm in my sleeping bag. Nice and cozy. Condensation was an issue but not too bad.
When I woke up in the morning I realized how cold it must have been that night. My tent was covered in ice. In and out side. Wow. Didn’t really expect that but that’s the dessert I think. Especially in mid March!

I made breakfast and started packing up my stuff. After maybe 30 minutes I was ready to leave and to hike on to the next stop. Lake Morena was just 9 miles away and to Hauser Creek was all down hill from here on.

I made those 5 miles within 2 hours and found 2 people camping there. I talked to them just briefly, no water around. Crap. I looked up the other side of the mountain where the trail goes on and it didn’t looked too bad. Mostly uphill but also a lot of switch backs. The first 100 miles on the AT were way worse than that, so I can do it.

So I said good bye and took off. It was still early in the day and it wasn’t too hot but the Californian sun is a beast. Even under slightly overcast skies, it was damn hot. That 4 mile uphill stretch was brutal. I kid you not but I took like 50 breaks on my way up that mofo. I knew about my water situation and tried to not drink too much. Luckily, almost on top, I met a guy going south who was so kind to fill up my nearly empty water bottle.

(Found a “White Blaze” and was a little bit confused… We’re still on the PCT, right?)

The sun came out completely as I hit the summit and there were no clouds left to provide me some shades. One thing I didn’t payed enough attention on was, that there are almost no trees along the trail where you could sit and take a break in the shadows. Being exposed to the sun all day long makes you feel beaten down. At least that’s what I felt like. I took a longer break to eat some snacks before hiking on, down into Lake Morena.

The first thing I did when I got there was to go to a store and buy something to drink. A gallon of water and some Gatorade to re hydrate. I was hungry but couldn’t eat. I knew that my pack is way to heavy and I tried to get rid of some stuff. Too bad that there was no post office nearby. A trail angel came along and she told us that she will bring firewood to the next campground, 7 miles away. She offered me to send some of my stuff to Clarity if I wanted to. I was in. I couldn’t hike on without getting rid of unneeded items.

So I decided to pack up and join her, giving me a ride to that campground. There would be a guy named “Phantom” who is volunteering for the PCTA and who may be able to figure out what I can safely send away. He’s an almost triple-crowner who has to finish some sections of the CDT to finally get it.

I figured that it would be the smartest decision to go there and check my gear. Then hike on.
When we arrived, nobody was around. I went to Phantoms camp spot and put out all of my gear. Due to the condensation last night, my tent, sleeping pad and bag were a little bit damp so I put all of it in the sun for letting it dry out.
I also went through all of my gear and food in order to get rid of those items that were simply to heavy or I may not need them. After a while I build a small pile of clothes that I didn’t want to carry anymore. I prepared everything for my trail angel to be sent back to Atlanta. Then I went through all of my food, getting rid of a big block of cheese and some sausage as well as most of my tortillas.

I asked myself what the heck was going on that I’ve bought all that heavy food… Seems I’ve forgotten a lot from my last hike…

Another 2 hours later Phantom showed up with another guy who was staying there as well. He was south bound, almost done with the trail after about a year of hiking. On and off. Very interesting. We all went through my gear and none of us found another useless item to get rid off. Damn. I still managed to drop like 4 or 5 lbs of stuff and food. Not too bad.
Later in the evening our trail angel came back with a big load of firewood and 2 pizzas and a six pack of beer. We started a fire right after a short shower came through. So we were standing around the fire pit, having good and hot pizza for dinner and some pretty decent beer. Not bad. Really, not bad at all.

The weather here was crazy the last couple of weeks, that’s what they’ve told me. Seems my timing problem still exists. Snow was in the forecast and the next section of the trail was a little bit more dangerous than what I already did.
To be honest, I wasn’t really prepared for snow. And didn’t want to deal with it either.
The night was okay even though it rained and got pretty cold. I was hoping for the best but it still rained when I got up the next morning.

So I tried to get back to sleep, but it didn’t work. Too many noises around. Raindrops, people talking, cars driving by.
I got into my food bag to grab some snacks for breakfast. Went out to the restroom after I was done eating, went back into my tent waiting. After a while I heard someone call my name and I got out for some hot coffee. The other guy from last night was there, offering some coffee and buns for a second breakfast.
Appreciated!

We drank and ate for a while talking about all possible topics. The trail and the weather, even some private topics. His name is Will and he told me about his past. How it came that he started a year long southbound hike on the PCT. And I told him about me and shared my story.

While we were talking he came up with some good points. I set out on this journey to find some very important answers to my questions. At this time I was already in doubt about whether I’m supposed to be here, hiking the trail or better back home to take care of other things which seem to be way more important right now. He also said that hiking the PCT will not give me the answers I’m so desperately looking for. Hiking a long distance trail requires a specific level of commitment. And the last couple days made me think about my own mindset and I begun questioning that I have what it needs to do it all the way up to Canada.

The more we were talking I came to the conclusion that I’m kinda “wasting” my time out here. I hadn’t as much fun out here as I expected and I had the feeling that I should be home with my girlfriend.

A couple weeks before I left Germany my girlfriend told me that she is pregnant. I was smiling all over the face and felt pure happiness.

For like 2 minutes.

Then I was sad because I thought I have to skip my plans before I even started.

We talked for a while and she told me that I should go anyway! I gotta go and do it.

And I really thought that this would be okay for me. I would be back soon enough to be with her when she’s giving birth to our child.

But as soon as I got on trail I couldn’t find a good reason to do it, while she’s back home dealing with all that on her own. And I still had to find some answers for me. I wouldn’t find them while hiking, that’s what I figured. I couldn’t simply go back home right now either. I felt torn and pretty unhappy about the whole situation. We were still talking and somehow we talked about getting a rental car and simply hike parts of the trail I wanted to do.

I made a decision.

It wasn’t easy for me to admit that my hike is over. 2 days in, after 20 miles hiking. I thought that I can’t go back right now. So I decided to rent a car and drive up north to do sections of the trail. Luckily a trail angel, Robert, showed up right around noon. He offered me a ride back to San Diego where I could get a rental car and do some hiking where I wanted. I packed up all my stuff and got into his car. We drove down to the city and got to his place. He allowed me to use his computer to make a reservation online. Then we drank a beer and talked for a while.

An hour later we took off to go to the rental car company where I would pick up the car and start driving up north.

I got to Warner Springs a couple hours later where I got a room for the night.

Driving in San Diego was a pretty terrifying experience but I managed to get through the city without killing myself…

I spend the next couple of days driving through the mountains to see some trail towns. But I also didn’t feel very good doing that. I still felt like wasting my precious time by doing something that wasn’t much fun.

I know, many people would just go to see some touristy places or go on a road trip. I couldn’t feel it. I felt lonely and had no fun out there.

One night in a motel room I got online and found a workshop in Switzerland, which will take place mid April. And the topic was exactly what I wanted to be clarified out here…

Something snapped inside of me and I knew where to go. Back home. And then to Switzerland taking part at that weekend workshop. I fell asleep and got up the next morning full of energy, having an idea on what to do next.

I made some phone calls and checked for flights back home which took a couple of hours. When everything was set, I left my room and drove back to San Diego to return my car and start my long journey back home.

Judy, the trail angel I stayed with a couple days ago, agreed on letting me stay with her till my flight goes in 3 days. I helped them wherever I could and also gave some advice to other hikers which were starting the trail soon. We did shakedowns with every hiker who wanted to. That was a lot of fun and I guess it was helpful for some of them.

My journey back home took me 4 days in total. I had to fly back to Atlanta to pick up the rest of my gear. Then I had to fly over to Boston because it was cheaper flying back to Europe. I ended up flying with a very cheap airline from Iceland (Never again!) where I would also have a stop over switching planes.

After 38 hours of being awake traveling or waiting I arrived in Berlin, March 24th in the morning…

One thing that I want to make clear about all that.

First, I do not consider my journey as a failure. It’s the opposite from my perspective. Even though I had to fly around the planet and hike a couple miles to realize that I’m at the wrong place at the wrong time and that I should be home. The trail will be there for another couple of years. The experiences back home won’t come back.

Second, I already did a long distance trail and I do not have to prove it again to anyone else but me. I know that I can do it because I did it. Agreed, the PCT is a whole different beast then the AT. Next time I will be prepared for that.

And third, I won’t blind but gear again, especially if it’s one of the major items. Lesson learned.

 

As I got back home I had to deal and reflect about what just had happened. I put myself out of my “normal” Life, into travelling Life and then into something absolutely new. Within 2 Months my Life has changed that much, that I simply needed some time for myself to see and feel how to adopt to that whole new situation.

Check out my last video here 😉

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Blade

My name is Ronny, I'm 34 years old right now and I'm known as "Blade" when hiking a long-distance trail. I am working as Linux Administrator when in Germany but my love belongs to the wild. I see myself as human being, open minded and a rebel at heart - AND i prefer to find my own path, to learn what the world and life can teach me.

I love to travel the world and to go and see places I've never been to before - that's why i "Boldly-Go" ;)

4 Comments

  1. Daniel

    Thumbs up dude! Can’t wait to read more from you.
    Wish you the best.

  2. Manni

    Congratulations for being a future Daddy!
    It was obviously a tough decision process, but it was probably for the best, I guess.

    Hope to read more about a new hike sometimes in the future. 😉

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