This is why I came out here in the first place:
To push myself.
To grow and learn.
To chase after dreams, and make them come true.
To make friends.
To make memories.
To live the absolute most glorious life I can.
Those people lounging in the sun, with views of a crater lake, of trees and grass, of snow and blue skies, of Mt Rainier floating on a bed of clouds: they are five people I now consider family.
I may have only met them four months ago, but they have my heart. They’ve journeyed with me across America; through different states and seasons and over many, many, many miles. They’ve cheered me as I’ve climbed mountains, they’ve held me as I’ve cried. They’ve caught me peeing behind bushes, they’ve shared some of their deepest heart secrets with me.
Maya and Dario – my first ever Pacific Crest Trail best friends – woke me up with [what they thought were quiet] whispers outside my tent, an abrupt zipper door opening and a GoPro shoved in my direction, with their huge cheeky smiles right behind it. We knew we would be crossing paths somewhere in this stretch, so to have them right here in front of me after so long was the best wake I could have woken up. It was like no time had passed at all since I’ve seen them.
Benjamin Button was already with us from last night, and as we sat around drinking morning wine (I had packed in an Australian bottle to share with M&D – just didn’t realise we’d be drinking it in the morning!), more friends arrived on their way north.
Every day now seems to be a reunion and celebration of friendships I have made along the way.
Some people I travelled for weeks and months alongside. Others, I may have met only in passing once or twice before, but they’ve left a mark regardless.
It makes no difference.
We’re in this together now.
The footsteps we’ve left behind us are as good as a signature on a dotted line. There is an unspoken fraternity we have joined, by being here.
Our initiation was to answer the call of the outdoors, and follow it. To survive the desert, with its rattlesnakes and fierce winds and scorching temperatures on little water. To conquer the Sierras, with its raging rivers and inquisitive bears and seemingly endless climbs. To continue through NorCal and Oregon, without letting the green tunnel get the better of you after so much beauty. And Washington. Oh, Washington. This is the celebration that we’re in. We’ve made it. We stuck it out, and will forever be counted amongst those who have walked this walk. Some of us have sections yet to complete (Oregon, I’m coming back for you, I promise!), some of us have raced through. Some take years to cover the distance in bite sized chunks, and some walk all the way there and then back again in one go.
We all share the bond:
This stretch that leads from the Mexican border to the Canadian one.
This route that has been trampled and traversed by countless feet over countless years.
This dirt road that holds our fears, and our dreams, and our challenges, and our victories, and our blood and our sweat and our tears.
Above all, it holds our hearts.