June 28, 2018
On Day 99 of my hike, I felt so isolated, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I woke up around 4:00am and just laid there in the bed for an hour, then I crept into the kitchen and quietly made myself some coffee. Then it was back to the room, so I wouldn’t disturb anyone else in the house.
Later in the morning, after I’d finished my coffee and done lots of stretches, Bob asked me if I wanted to ride along with him to S. Lake Tahoe to see a man about a trailer. I’d mentioned needing to pick up a resupply box there, so he thought we could swing by the Post Office. During our drive, he took me along some of the more scenic roads that afforded beautiful views of Lake Tahoe and we chatted a lot. He told me some things he’d learned about the history of the area since they’d moved there several years ago, which was fascinating.
While he spoke with someone about a trailer he wanted to buy, I made a few phone calls to various doctors and specialists, trying to find out what was what and who I might be able to go see. Actually, this is what I spent most of the day doing after Bob and I got back to their home in Sparks. Kris was working all day and Bob works from home, so after we got back I sat in my room making phone calls.
Trying to get different hospitals, specialists, and family doctors to talk to each other across state lines is an absolute nightmare. I will spare you the boring, infuriatingly complex details about the few days I spent in Sparks trying to arrange to see a specialist, but I will say that the doctors and nurses at Mammoth Hospital in California are some of the nicest, most caring, most professional people I’ve ever dealt with in the medical community. They were bending over backwards trying to help me get the documents and referrals I needed to see a specialist, but in the end, it was all for naught. My primary doctor in Indiana would not give me a referral without first seeing me, and the specialist wouldn’t take a referral from anyone else, and wouldn’t see me without one, so I was screwed. I had to either go back to Indiana or get back on trail.
I’d been feeling pretty good during my time at Kris and Bob’s. I had no symptoms and so much energy that I went running around the neighborhood at least once a day. I tried to pitch in when they prepared meals or help clean up, but they would have none of it. Kris and Bob wined and dined me the whole time I was there. They drove me wherever I needed to go and would not let me pay for gas. Bob was even so sneaky as to pay for my resupply groceries! I could never hope to deserve or repay such hospitality.
How many times had I cried silently in my tent, hating this hike and wanting to go home? How often did I become overwhelmed with burnout and simply wanted to quit? Laying on that cushy bed, faced with the real possibility of my hike being over, the devastation was crushing me. I wasn’t ready. I’d just started feeling strong, capable, and sure that I could finish this trail by the end of August if I let loose and started crushing miles. But no, that wouldn’t do. I missed my trail family too much. Sparky and Ghosthiker were the reason I’d made it this far, and I couldn’t imagine hiking without them.
But if I can’t find a specialist in Reno that will see me without a referral, I’ll have to travel back to Indiana. Laying in that bed, faced with the prospect of physically moving even further from the trail and my new family, I simply couldn’t do it. The thought of it made me physically ill. I needed to get back to the trail. The PCT had beat the shit out of me and made me hate it more often than I wanted to admit, but I didn’t hate it. I survived the desert and the mountains. The trail is more like home now than anywhere else, I realized suddenly, painfully. I can’t go home yet. I felt so isolated. Kris and Bob are beyond awesome but I wasn’t ready for this. I wasn’t ready to rejoin normal people. I needed to be back out there in the wild.