2107 Miles Down & Just 530 Miles To Go

August 16, 2013

We’ve been asked a few times this summer – where’s Dustin? Is Dustin still a guide here? The answer is – absolutely, just not this year. He’s off hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with his girl Caroline.  I caught up with Dustin and asked him to scratch out a blog post for us on his next rest day… Enjoy. – Tye

Sticking With It

By Dustin Balderach
Ever since we thru-hiked the entire 2,178-mile long Appalachian Trail during the summer of 2009, my girlfriend, Caroline, and I dreamed of thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Things finally lined up for us to attempt it this summer and with George’s blessing, I took the summer off from guiding on Rainier to attempt the 2,660-mile long Pacific Crest Trail – the longest continuous footpath on the planet.

Currently we are in northern Oregon at Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood – mile 2107. 126 days have elapsed, nearly 4 months, since we left the PCT southern terminus an hour east of San Diego on the Mexican border – that was April 16th. It has been the trip of a lifetime. It has been amazing, fun, and beautiful. It has been hard. All rewarding journeys are hard.

Whether its climbing Mt Rainier, running a marathon (which I have never done and have no desire to do), waiting out the weather or enduring the cold on a big expedition or thru-hiking a long distance trail, all these things require a great deal of physical toughness and the ability to fight the hardest battle of all; the psychological one. I’m sure many books have been written about mental toughness and I don’t have any particular breakthroughs on the issue, other than to say the more you do it, the easier I think it becomes.

Sure there are the hot, dry, shade-less stretches, the cold, rainy, windy stretches, miles of forest, miles of desert, and miles of difficult rocky trail (actually hundreds of miles of each of those). But the physical challenges are dwarfed by the mental ones. Waking up at 6 AM and hiking until 8 PM everyday for several months at time is much more of a psychological challenge then a physical one. The soreness is only occasionally an issue, blisters left frequent, backpacks only heavy when fully loaded with food and water and we actually get plenty of sleep at night. The mental battle is nearly constant. The hardest days recently have been 4 days of less than 1/2 mile visibility due to smoke in southern Oregon. Its mentally tough to walk through smoke for 4 days without seeing any views. But I do think the mental aspects have gotten easier lately. Perhaps only because we only have 1 month left.

Never did either of us want to quit, but there sure have been plenty of times when we’d rather be some place else. But once we get into town, get a shower, laundry, and some food, we are usually itching to get back out on the trail. Back out to the mental battle of doing something tough day after day after day. We just bare down and give it hell and keep on walking because we know that we will eventually break out of the trees or descend out of the cold or the smoke will clear and be rewarded with an amazing view that makes it all worth it (like the view from the top of Mt. Whitney at mile 867 or of Crater Lake in southern Oregon at mile 1834). But you have to stick out the tough times in order to really enjoy the great ones. Whatever you are doing that is difficult, stick it out, tough it out, keep on running, because in the end the harder the journey the greater the rewards.

Now we really have motivation not to quit, I mean we only have 530 more miles until we reach Canada, and in a few days we’ll cross into the ‘home stretch’ – Washington!

See you on Rainier next year!

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