Ruby (Mariel)

Mile 2,591

 
 
 

(1) Where are you from?

I'm from Brownfield Maine. lived half of my life in the Northeast, but originated from Milwaukee Wisconsin.

(2) What day did you start?

Start date March 28th

(3) What day did you finish?

Finish date October 4th

(4) Do you have a trail name?

Ruby

(5) If so, where did it come from?

Approaching mile 200 a couple named Pacecar and Groover said we needed to be named. So they gave my husband some options and we would decide by the 200 mark. Kevin picked Cheeto and they named me Ruby because they thought it fit a spunky personality.

(6) What did you dream of when things weren’t going well?

When things weren't going well, I would here the words of my crossfit trainer," when the suck happens make the best of it."

I would daydream of a cold rainy day at home where I could cuddle up with a book and a cup of coffee. A day to idle and putter without guilt.  Or perhaps a long deep sleep in a comfy bed.

(7) Did you experience anything miraculous?

This was definitely a high point!!! Miraculous? Yes in that it maybe a once in a life time event for me. "Alone at the top of the canyon"  Kevin and I had just descended off Forester pass, (the highest pass on the PCT) in Kings Canyon National Park. It was a clear sunny day, with no complications with snow travel, yet.  We had crossed the largest snow fields and enjoyed a long leisurely lunch on a set of exposed rocks taking in the immensity of the peaks around us.  There was one couple ahead, Sonic and Fish, who had hiked below and out of sight.  We had decided to get a move on, not knowing how long it would take to find a camp. As we got lower, north of the pass, Sonic and Fish reappeared in sight crossing more snow fields we had thought we were through with. They must of been taking another break on a lower ledge while we were higher up. Glad in a way to still see them and know we were not the ONLY ones so remotely out here. Then we saw them postholing!! Oh No I hate postholing! They made it through with difficulty. As we hit the same area we started gingerly "skating" across the snow thinking "light". Daylight was waning, the mountain tops were being painted in golden colors. At this point we knew we were the last over the pass for the day, and soon we would join other hikers in the next camp. But the next camp was under snow and there were no other hikers!! We hiked on almost losing the trail until we found the nearest DRY ground. This camp became the the quietest, highest, remotest, and with complete solitude, camp we experienced on trail! The mountains engulfed us on three sides of the canyon, so vast, so colorful in the setting sun. We watched the moon rise, and counted our lucky stars that we were gifted with the presence of such beauty and solitude. We didn't meet other hikers until halfway through the next day, so we knew we were really "alone" at the top of the canyon.

(8) Any memorable encounters with the elements, or wildlife?

Elements   For myself my most fearful moment came at a river crossing. I was always wary of the rivers. You here them way before you get near, and think " I hope we don't have to cross this one." This one became the worse as I lost sight of Kevin. He had gone to scout the banking for a easier crossing, other than where the trail crossed the river. Generally upstream, but he had been looking both up and down stream while I was looking down at the phone app. to find comments left from previous hikers that might help. Kevin found a good crossing and went ahead to the other side. I didn't see him cross and only heard him yelling for me. I immediately thought he fell in and was calling for help!! I couldn't find him as I was bushwacking up and down the bank! I was alone, and calling back with the river noise drowning out any coherent words. Eventually I caught site of him standing on the other side. Relieved, I found the place he crossed on a giant log. The crossing was so easy for him when he saw the log that he didn't wait for me. He had no idea of the panic I was feeling on the other side! Every moment like this taught us to set up some rules to follow the rest of the trail. Because we shared one phone and carried no maps, we had other losing moments!

(9) Think back to your “pre-hike self.” Now think of yourself here at the end. Has anything changed?

Yes there are some subtle changes. I feel more confident in who I am. Less concerned in what others might think or perceive of me, I feel less guarded. I think life has a way of wearing one down so you build a shell, while the trail strips that shell away. I am proud of completing the trail. I had a faith in myself that I could do this. Now that accomplishment sits in me.

(10) Now that you are off the trail, what do you miss most about it?

Missing Most?? So much!! Like childbirth, you forget the pain, sweat, and those moments you say to yourself, I will never do this again! Now there is a yearning for the woods, the rivers, the cold clear lakes, the endless mountains. The anticipation of a new day, the next view, the new person you'll meet. The yearning to be in such beauty. For me there were no spine chilling moments, no goosebumps. Oh I thought there would be. I thought for sure I would turn a corner and see some view that would make me cry. But the truth is, you worked hard to get there. The beauty, the rawness, the natural world I longed to be immersed in for 5 months straight, was the real world. It just didn't come across like an epic scene in a movie with an equally epic sound track.

(11) Before you started, what were you most afraid of?

Pre-trail I was most afraid that my body would fail me. Knee joints, feet in particular. I was also most afraid of river crossings. I had no prior experience with that.

(12) Now that you are finished, what are you most afraid of?

Now that I am finished I'm most afraid of losing the physical strength I achieved and gaining back the weight I lost!  I'm also afraid of the lack of ambition I feel towards work and the routine of an off trail existence

(13) What’s the difference between life on the trail and life off the trail?

The difference is big. Trail life is so pared down. Basically you focus on eating, sleeping, and mostly hiking. If your comfortable with being uncomfortable in many ways, then being outdoors will be natural to you. While hiking you get to daydream, write, story tell, sing, and think of what is real and what is not. There is a party in your head, while every little thing gets observed though your eyes and stored deep in your memories. Life with your partner also gets easier as you rely on each others friendship and support, without all the extra b**t  life throws in the way. It is a wonderful respite from the life we all share.

(14) Would you like to add anything else?

I would like to add that as a thru hiker you realize that no one (with the exception of other thru-hikers) really knows what you went through. People ask general questions, and want two minute answers.

They want quick, glossy answers. Even your best buds don't have the patience to really hear what your experience was. It is a bit sad, but then maybe the experience is best kept untold. It stays deep inside, fueling you towards the next adventure. There is real post trail "depression" or a transitional phase. It's good to be aware of it before you start a thru hike.  It is wise to think of your re-entering strategy before the trail ends.  Also, while all those you tube PCT videos get you excited for the trail, they can create expectations in your head. It is one persons view through a lens. Leave home with no expectations and a blank  page, to make your own experience.