“Hey look at that! Do you think that’s accessible?” I ask as Boomer and I are resting at the top of the last pass before the Canadian border, feet sore but about two U.S. states past unbearable pain.
“That second trail? Yeah, actually it looks like it could be a shortcut across this small valley..” Boomer talked with his mouth full of delicious, dry Cliff Bar. “What do you think?”
The trail we were referring to was actually the old Pacific Crest Trail, that had since been moved down the mountain to the valley below us to avoid rock slides. Boomer had the same bad idea I did, and so we hiked.
* * *
In the summer of 2015, me and my boyfriend went on the adventure of a lifetime. Before I had even met him, I had decided that that summer I would hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada to try to reboot my life and climb out of the depression I had been in for a year. I planned on going on the trek solo and then I met Spencer, my love. He mentioned that he had heard of it, and had thought of going before but never made the decision. So when he met me and found out I was going with or without him, he decided that going with would be the best decision for him. He excused his decision by saying that I needed someone to ensure my safety, but I think he came along to ensure he wouldn’t lose me..
So we planned and planned and bought our gear and fantasied about how wonderful it would be; we glamorized the brutality of it all. Finally we got dropped of at the Mexi-Cali border and we were off. It was harder than we thought and our packs were a little too heavy.. The second day, my knee was hurting surprisingly bad, we got a late start, and I ended up stepping in a dip in the trail and re-fracturing my foot that I had fractured earlier that year.
We ended up getting picked up and lugged back to San Jose. I was heart broken and afraid I wouldn’t be able to hike at all. I had been dreaming of the trail for about 7 months and to be booted off by my own body on the second day was devastating. Luckily I had the support of my boyfriend who decided to come off trail with me and to wait until my foot healed. At that point we would hop back on trail where we might have been if we had been hiking from the start.
We ended up hopping back on trail about a month later, in Sequoia National Forest which is about 750 miles north of the Mexico border.
* * *
It was the last day we had before we made it to the Canadian Border; we had 1,689 miles behind us. Since we started again, we had earned our trail names: I, Hiccupz and Spencer, Boomer. For almost everyone else we were hiking with, which was about 6 other people, they would be crossing the border when we got to Canada, and the rest of us would be hiking 30 miles back from the border to Heart’s Pass where there was a road that would take us to another road that led to Seattle, Washington.
We were resting on the top of the last pass, eleven and a half miles before the border when we spotted the second P.C.T. trail that seemed like a shortcut to the other side of the valley. We decided that the shortcut wouldn’t be too bad, considering we had hiked shortcuts through unmaintained trail before.
We descended about 0.05 miles down the pass before we reached the beginning of the “shortcut”. A sign welcomed us with a warm, “Warning: Abandoned Trail Ahead”.
“Hm..” Boomer proclaimed. And so we continued..
The first 0.2 miles weren’t too bad but I could feel the difference in terrain than the average trail. The terrain was very rocky and unstable and the degree of the mountain was more sloped than normal which I expected but didn’t quite prepare for. The first landmark I remember was an ice spring that dribbled down the side of the mountain. The trail was about 8 inches wide, a little more than half the size of trail we were used to. If we leaned too much to the right or slipped on the ice below our feet, we would fall down the mountain to either our death, or to many broken bones. But we made it past the first hurrah.
We continued along the steep, narrow, gravelly trail when we reached the second ice spring. This spring was a little more frightening than the last. The trail was now probably only 6 inches wide, and the mountain side was more sloped, which meant we had a higher probability of death. Success! We made it past that bump in the road as well.
We continued forward, trying to enjoy that absolutely spectacular view to the right of us, but it was a challenge when the gravel below our feet was sliding underneath us, leaving us fearing for our life. Suddenly the trail disappeared, and we were left hiking over an old rock slide, on the side of a cliff. The terrain was so unstable we had to crawl to ensure our safety. The “shortcut” would had been much easier if we didn’t have backpacks, with all of our necessities inside, strapped on our backs weighing us down.
Something came over me as the trail got even steeper and as my feet started slipping more and more with every step; I became truly afraid for my life.
“Fuck. Fuck. Oh my God, holy shit fuck.” I became quite the poet as my foot slipped once again, and my whole 20 years of life flashed before my eyes.
As a child, teenager and even an adult, I have always been the friend who is calm, cool and collected in tense situations. An uncountable amount of times, I’ve seen my friends get frightened into tears when they had climbed too high on a rock, or too high up a tree. I would always be there to calm them and help them down. This time, the situation turned around. I felt my throat start to close up, my hands begin to shake and I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my face. I felt paralyzed.
“Come on Lexi!” Boomer shouted, about 50 feet ahead of me. I couldn’t respond when I was too busy choking back my frightened state.
“Lexi! What’s wrong?” The statement Boomer made sounded endearing, but was actually inspired by his frustration with my slowness. He hadn’t quite realized the state I was in, yet.
We had already passed the point in which it would still be safe to turn back. In fact, when we had first gotten to the point when we considered turning back and thought it was too late, in reality, it wasn’t. For the next 0.6 miles, I lived in rue of the decision to continue forward along this new and exciting path.
“I’m just… I’m SCARED!” I remember yelling across the sloped, gravelly cliff. When I looked to my right and downward at about a 45-50 degree angle, I saw the big boulders I would hit and the spiny bushes and trees I would slam into when I tumbled to my demise. I was having a full blown panic attack. Not caused by being in an uncomfortable social situation, where some nice civilian looks at you wrong.. But a panic attack brought on by an actual life or death situation. This time, there was a real reason I felt I was going to die.
For some reason, which I am still jealous of, Boomer didn’t feel the same way. Maybe God thought his hair looked better than mine that day, and decided to whisper to him the positive thoughts that I needed. I remember after crawling foot after foot over unstable gravel, we reached an even bigger ice spring. This one about 5 times as big as the other ones, and just as steep.
Oh GREAT, Washington! I thought to myself.
Instead of taking one “hop and a skip” over it, we had to actually crawl on our asses over big, ice covered rocks with 25-30 pound packs, without slipping once. I couldn’t do it. Boomer was there looking me straight in my tear streaked, puffy face, confused as to what was happening with me. And I just couldn’t do it. I tried. I was on my butt, trying go from the loose gravelly slope to the slippery rock and not fall down the icy mountain. But I couldn’t get myself in the right position. I got to a point where I couldn’t even lift myself back up onto the slope without falling. If Spencer wouldn’t have been there to hold me up and spot me as I moved, I think I would have died. Or at least have gotten close to it.
We finally, after an entire mile, found a spot on the “trail” where we could slowly walk/slide down the mountain side and hit the actual P.C.T.. I was so relieved I thought I might cry some more! We slid down the cliff, step by step. The moment we hit the flat, beautifully maintained Pacific Crest Trail, I felt like the weight of the entire mountain had been airlifted off of my shoulders. I could finally breathe again! I could see straight, instead of through fuzzy, teary eyed vision! We had our big finale and we could finally, after an hour long mile, be on our way to Canada.