PCT Finishers medal

Finishing the Trail

I’m looking at my PCT finishers medal as I type this and it’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since we began hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  I finished hiking the trail in September 2021 after 2652 miles of backpacking.  It was an incredibly humbling, glorious, awe inspiring experience, all wrapped together in a big bundle of sticky stinkiness.

In 2019 I hiked a little over 2000 miles and stopped hiking to care for my aging parents who were in a health crisis.  The goal was to finish hiking the trail in 2020, but Covid had other ideas.  So I finished my thru-hike in 2021 when I backpacked another 650 miles through the High Sierra Mountain section of California.  I enjoyed the 2019 experience much more than the 2021 experience.  2021 was all about finishing the PCT. 

Amazing colors are almost everywhere-if you only look closely

I still can’t believe that it’s really over.  I think about the trail every single day.  Every. Single. Day.  Honestly, the experience of hiking the PCT may have completely wrecked me for the remainder of my life.  It was THAT good, yet it was also THAT HARD.

Tramily

As we hiked the PCT in 2019 we learned about a spontaneous growth organism called a “tramily”.  (Did I also just describe a penis?!?)

Dinner with the Tramily
Dinner with the Tramily

A tramily is a group of folks that hike together and provide each other with fun, encouragement and support.  It’s an idealized family that generally doesn’t have the familial entanglements of a family of origin.  Through our daily posts that we loaded up onto our website, and the responses we received, we found a tramily of our own, you, our readers.

End of the trail

As I approached the last mile of my thru-hike, I was confused about what I should be thinking about and focusing on.  I’d expected a Zen’ish wrap up.  My Zen moment of deep reflection wasn’t coming, I was tired and ready to be done backpacking for a spell.  Here’s what I wrote on that day:

“Since the deep thoughts weren’t coming to me, I instead decided to meditate on you dear reader. For those that have commented on the blog, for those that have followed along with emails, for those that traveled with us in spirit, for those that gave us shelter, I meditated on your peace, your health and your happiness. If I knew your name, I used it. If I didn’t know your name, I tried to throw out good vibes to you anyway.

Any then, almost as soon as it started, it was all over. It was a day, just like any other day, but on this day, I completed my thru-hike of the PCT.”

It’s almost been eight months since I stepped off the PCT.  In December I received my Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail finishers medal.  (For a $40 donation to the PCTA you can have one too!)   It’s heavy, both in physical weight and emotional weight.

Finishers medal

I have the finishers medal sitting next to me right now.  It’s surreal to think that I hiked the entire PCT and have a medal (and the angry knees) to prove it.  I have a finishers medal from my very first marathon too.  It’s also a keeper.  (I’ll hang the PCT finishers medal up on the wall in my old age home to drone on to the care staff about every day.  They’ll hate me.)

I haven’t worn the finishers medal yet. I’m really not sure if I ever will. Wearing that medal will really mean that my PCT journey really has reached it terminus. Today, I’m just not there. It’s just too much to think about, that my hike really is all over. I know it’s over, but, maybe not.

PCT Finishers medal – and you

Back to the finishers medal: you, our readers, were our tramily as we hiked.  It only seems proper to me that you share in the joy of the PCT finishers medal too.  I’m planning to make a photo scrap book of our PCT journey and put it on our coffee table whenever we settle down. I’ll drone on endlessly to anyone who dares visit us. “Did you see the picture on page 793? Let’s look together”.  Anyway, you, via all sorts of technology, connected with us as we hiked.  We’d like you to be in our scrapbook with a PCT finishers medal photo all your own. 

So, we’d like to snail mail the finishers medal to you.  Take the medal on a hike, take it to the ball park, take it outside, take it on a journey inside your house, but take the medal somewhere and have your picture taken with your friends/family, with the medal, and then mail the medal to the next person.   Email us the photo.  Done!  I’m thinking this project will take several years.  This crazy PCT finishers medal is about to have a life all its own.  (How freaking fun is that?!?)  I’m curious how many miles this medal will travel!  Guesses?

What will we do while the PCT finishers medal is globe trotting?

While the PCT finishers medal is busy globe trotting, we’re going to get busy writing a book about our PCT adventures.  Our goal is to have a manuscript ready for submission/publication consideration by the time the medal has finished its travels. 

Mile post 1226’ish

Many of you made comments to us that “you should write a book”. So, come feast or famine, we’re going to take a stab at it. We have absolutely no idea what we’re doing, so it will fit in perfectly with our standard mode of operation. We’ll keep you posted.

What’s next in adventure travel?

Someday soon, I’d like to take a stab at a thru-hike on the 3,100 miles Continental Divide Trail.  I’m not sure that I have enough gas in the tank to finish it in a single year.  After 2,000 miles in 2019 on the PCT my body was really weary and broken down from the constant hiking.  So, 3,100 miles on the CDT seems a tad ambitious.   Maybe sooner, I’d like to pedal my bike along the northern tier pedal bike route in America.  Pedaling from the coast of Washington State to the coast of Maine seems like a ripping good time.  We’ll see how it plays out!  I have a bike and a little bit of ambition!  Seems very similar to the mindset before we hiked the PCT!

What’s next to allow us to continue with adventure travel?

Prior to quitting our jobs in 2019 we worked out a plan with our financial advisor to on an “income holiday” for 18-24 months.  We’ve now exceeded that plan by one year and some change.  It’s time to start pulling in a little income, so we’re both working towards part time/freelance jobs.  After three years of doing our own thing, it’s a little challenging to think about landing right back in a cubicle full time.  Freelance sounds so much better!

During the past two years I’ve spent a fair amount of time with my parents at their independent/assisted living/memory care facilities.  It’s funny, when we told our friends what we were doing, quitting our jobs to hike/travel/explore for a season, we received a lot of odd looks.  Truth be told, we haven’t received these kinds of looks from the elder statesmen/women at the independent/assisted living/memory care facilities.  What we’ve received has been resounding “YES!  DO IT! I wish I had done that!” 

So that’s our goal, to keep on doing it. Stay tuned.

18 Comments

  1. Athena Barber

    Congratulations on finishing your journey on the PCT! I have loved reading about your adventures and seeing the pics/videos. I think it is awesome that you took a work break and chose adventure! I am just a novice hiker and enjoy it very much. I call it my free therapy since it brings me peace even when my joints are angry with me. Haha.

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      The “work break” portion of our adventure seemed like the most frightening value in the equation before we started hiking.
      Within a few months it wasn’t as frightening. Once we’d passed the point of no return, quitting, it was much easier. We went hiking a few weeks ago with a friend of ours in Arizona. It was good to get out and stretch our legs and just enjoy nature again, even if we were aching for days afterwards!

      Reply
  2. Gregory Fast

    What a long, strange trip it’s been!

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      Absolutely. I can’t believe that we did it!

      Reply
  3. Sharon

    🥰Amazing…. What an awesome experience!! So happy you had an opportunity like this, but happier to see you took the opportunity to create so many beautiful (some funny😂) memories!!

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      We created a lot of great memories…and roughly 10,000 pictures. We’ll enjoy both when our hiking days are behind us.

      Reply
  4. Colleen

    Add Patrick and me to the “adventures of a medal” list!!!

    Reply
  5. Nancy Cales

    Hi guys! I’m going to pm you on fb. We started the cdt last year. Did most of New Mexico and going to do some of WY thru Colorado down to NM. The trail life does spoil you for work life. Every January all we can think about is the spring trail starts and by April I feel like I’m held prisoner if I can’t get out there. The simplicity of life, the beauty of the world and the daily adventures and stories that so few will ever know about. I find it so hard to conform to work life. Hopefully we can catch up soon!

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      I think for us it’s the simplicity of life while backpacking that we enjoy. Where’s the next water hole and where will I sleep tonight.
      It’s just perfect for a season.

      Reply
  6. Ashley

    I want to take the medal on an adventure!

    Reply
  7. Karen Huck

    Well honestly I lost NO weight! But if you can make money on me losing weight reading your blog we’d both make millions. Who needs to work!!!!!
    Love reading this and was always inspired.
    I wrote a book about finding my biological family, let me know if you’d like the name of the woman who helped me. Can’t wait to take a picture with the medal!!!!!!

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      I like it! We’ll try to figure out how to help our readers, and ourselves, lose weight from reading our content!
      Sign us up!

      Reply
  8. Liz from FresnoRetro

    Awesome!! Congratulations! I feel blessed I was able to follow you along on this journey, especially during this time of COVID. Reading your adventures helped keep this armchair traveler inspired. It reminded me that our Lord has given us so much beauty through nature and the people we meet. God Bless

    Reply
    • Clive & Marilyn

      So excited to hear about your next plans. Am awestruck by your medal plan. Such a wild and generous idea. I wonder if I would be hoarding and stroking it, saying Precious, over and over! We would definitely bike it between Dallas and Ft Worth on the new connector paths being linked up. Take good care of each other and we are grateful for generous sharing.

      Reply
      • mcgarveysan

        How fun to take the medal on a hike between Dallas and Ft. Worth! We haven’t done any hiking in Texas so I’m a little envious. We talked about Texas for winter this year, but opted for Arizona instead. Perhaps we’ll find our way to a warm Texas beach in early 2023. More than happy to share the medal!

    • mcgarveysan

      We sure had a great time hiking! We have so much to be thankful for in our lives.

      Reply

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