(1) Where are you from?
I am from Augsburg, Germany
(2) What day did you start?
(3) What day did you finish?
(4) Do you have a trail name?
(5) If so, where did it come from?
Another hiker was having a hard time because her ex was starting just a few days behind her and she did not want to see him. She struggled with the heat and not being able to hike as fast as she wanted to. We talked a lot about this situation and I also was watching out for her a little bit (just like I was watching out for everyone else in my tramily). We sat down on some rocks in the middle of the day while it was about 100 degrees (not kidding there) and she said "you know, you are like big uncle". My reaction "no no no! You are just a few years younger than I am, that does not work". "Then you are Big Brother, you are Big Bro". She kept on calling me Big Bro the following days until i finally embraced it after about a week or so.
(6) What did you dream of when things weren’t going well?
A lot of different things. Sometimes it was just something cold to drink. When it was really bad i dreamed about having the guts to go off trail.
(7) Did you experience anything miraculous?
Trail magic is always miraculous.
But there were things you cannot explain. You need something, or have a problem, and suddenly you get it or there is a solution to that. You go to the post office, meet a trail angel there, get a ride, get your shirt and trousers stitched and all of a sudden all your problems are gone. Just like that. Because someone helped you.
And there is the story of my hat. I think I already told that in the interview. The short version: I LOVED my hat. Absolutely loved it! When getting a ride into Trout Lake i forgot it in the car. Normally i NEVER take it off. But since it was raining and i had my poncho on, i had to take my hat off to get out of my poncho. And then forgot it in the trunk. That was by far the sadest moment for me on trail. I felt like a kid that just got his favorite toy stolen. There about nothing i knew about the man that gave us a ride. He was not a local, is living in Oregon, his name is Larry, about 80 years old, owns a cabin somewhere in the Trout Lake area, was at church that sunday morning and was having cookies after the service. And he drove a blue Subaru. I was 100% sure to NEVER see my hat again. Not a chance. But i did not want to give up.
I was standing at the road for hours, hoping to see his car again. I asked the owners of the general store and the gas station if they knew him. They did not. So i went to the churches in Trout Lake. I hoped to find someone there that knows Larry. There was a car leaving the carpark in front of the church. I stopped the car and talked to the passenger. I told him the story of my hat (which goes all the way back in to the desert - the story of how i got this hat...i liked my hat that much that i talked about it on the trail, my friends on trail told me they would love to make a drinking game out of it. Every time i say the word "hat" they would have a shot. But that's not possible because they would be drunk in about a minute). Anyway. He did not know Larry, but asked for my phone number so he could call me in case he hears something about it.
I skept really bad that night. Actually i had dreams about my hat.
The next morning at 7:30 AM - i was just writing letters to hang out at the general store and the churches - i received a phone call. It was the man from the church.
The communication started like that
"Good morning Michael, is it you? The PCT hiker?"
"Good morning, yes that's me"
"I found your hat"
I was so happy!
What happened? He called several people (he didnt want to tell me how many - but i guess a lot) because he wanted to help me. Someone told him "I don't know him, but my son works for a man named Larry. The description...might be him". And it was. I got Larrys number and called him. He promised me to send my hat back to the trail. That's what he did.
That was absolutely miraculous to me.
After i finished the trail i send him a thank you card and the money for the package. When i got home he send me a card and a note that he donated the money to the PCTA. Great guy!!
(8) Any memorable encounters with the elements, or wildlife?
A few. But not more than any other hiker is guess.
I threw stones at a deer once when i was camping alone in NorCal. I thought the bear that i scared off an hour earlier came back. It was black dark and i could not see the animal. I am 99,9% certain i did not hit the deer. I said sorry and about ten minutes later it was eating 3 yards away, right in front of my tent. I was really sorry.
(9) Think back to your “pre-hike self.” Now think of yourself here at the end. Has anything changed?
I do not know. I guess i have changed. More confident maybe. But i do not really see the changes because they happened over a timespan of several weeks/months. I think I am a happier person than before. I learned to say goodbye to people and things. I did not master that, but i got much better at it. When you are hiking out it might be the last time you see a special other hiker again. Maybe you are just faster (or the other hiker is). He is taking a zero and you do not. YOu have to go off trail. There are a lot of reasons why you might not see the other hiker EVER again. So better be OK with that.
(10) Now that you are off the trail, what do you miss most about it?
I miss all of it. Everything! The nature, the other hikers, just everything!
I think i told you in the interview that there will not be anything that i won't miss because you cannot have one without the other. I stand by it. I miss being cold. I miss being misserable. Just because that is all part of being on this amazing trail, with wonderful people.
(11) Before you started, what were you most afraid of?
Being bitten by a rattlesnake while going for a number 2 in the middle of the night.
(12) Now that you are finished, what are you most afraid of?
Going back into "normal" life and work until I die without experiencing something like that again
(13) What’s the difference between life on the trail and life off the trail?
I did not figure out how to compare these two. Hiking the PCT is hard. Sometimes very hard. In hindsight it was much easier than i thought. When i was on the trail it was the hardest i ever did.
Compared to the life off trail, the life on the trail is easier. I think. There are not as many concerns. You still have them, but they are very basic. It is about water, food, the place to sleep, the weather, the gear. That's about it. In normal life the concerns are much bigger, even though they are much smaller. I have tapped water, a store everywhere, an aparment...and so as i have all that, all the first-world-problems come back up. Problems that do not affect your wellbeing. It is all about money again, all about being a good member of society - and in the end of capitalism. All the things that do not matter on the trail at all. All of a sudden it does matter where you are from, what you did in your past, what you do for a living, where you were born or what your political views are. That did not matter on the trail. Everyone was the same. I liked that a lot.