Spoiler alert: I am no longer on the PCT

The title of this post gives the subject matter away before I even begin. I suppose that’s okay. Best to not bury the lede. Good morning, dear blog readers. I am no longer on the PCT. I left the trail on May 29. I’m glad I did, but it’s also complicated. Sigh.

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I’ve been putting off writing this post for a variety of reasons. First of all, I’m a perfectionist and I wanted my blog to follow the correct narrative order as opposed to being interrupted with this announcement; I wanted the story to unfold on its own, and for the posts from the additional 20 days I spent on trail that I haven’t yet written about to slowly tease out the reasons why I had to get off trail and go home. But it’s been taking me forever to get my additional 20 blog posts (days 20-40) ready to publish, so instead of telling a meaningful story I just stalled out. (I do intend to publish my trail journal from the PCT days 20-40. I do. I’m just not sure when.) Second of all, I figured a lot of people who read this blog already knew I was no longer on trail because we’re either friends in real life or they follow my Instagram, and third of all, to be real, I was sad and embarrassed to not complete my hike.

But now it’s July 31 and I’m about to embark on a new adventure that I want to tell you all about, so it’s time to be a big kid and just write this damn post. Okay, let’s do this!

Hi. It’s been a minute, huh? Thanks for being patient with me. How’s your summer going? Don’t be shy, I really want to know. Tell me in the comments, if you want to.

How’s my summer going, you ask? Well yes, it’s true, I got off the Pacific Crest Trail. As in, I have not been hiking it for the past two months. I can’t believe it’s been two months. Here’s the post I wrote on Instagram a few days after getting off trail:

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hi guys. some small ultimately insignificant news that feels large to me: i hopped off the pacific crest trail on monday, visited the ocean in LA, and now i’m back in portland. i hiked 454 miles which is a lot of miles but also not nearly as many miles as i intended to hike when i started this journey. i spent some time feeling embarrassed and turning the word “failure” over in my brain and my heart but i don’t feel bad anymore – i feel proud of myself for making the right decision for me. i have a lot more to say about all this (you’re all shocked, i’m sure) but i’ll tackle it in my blog. at first i just wanted to lay low but it honestly felt very weird for people to keep sending me sweet encouraging texts etc while i napped in a comfy bed (i’ve slept so many hours since getting off the trail). thank you to everyone who followed along with my journey and was so supportive and kind – it meant so much to me and helped me keep going and i hope i haven’t let you down (or if i have i hope you don’t tell me that because i don’t think my fragile ego could handle it!). i will continue publishing my blog posts about the 40 days i spent on the trail and i am making some exciting Plan B hiking and traveling plans for the summer which i’ll also write about when the time is right. and if you live in portland maybe i’ll see you at the queer dance party tmrw night (or maybe i’ll keep being a hermit idk)! xoxo

I probably should have just posted that spiel to my blog immediately, because over the past few months I’ve gotten quite a few people inquiring where I went or if I was okay, and I felt guilty each time that there were humans who were wondering about me and I’d left y’all hanging. I’m sorry about that. I’m especially sorry to the sweet people who have messaged me via email or Instagram or text message who I simply haven’t gotten back to – I read every single message and tucked them all into a special pocket of my heart where my sadness and embarrassment about the PCT live, and they make some of the pain and shame feel a lot better. They are an excellent balm. I haven’t not responded because I’m not grateful for the support or because I don’t care – I care so much! All I can say is that blogging is really emotional work, and even simply communicating with other humans is really emotional work, especially if you’re me, which is to say, supremely emotional! I have been overwhelmed and I remain overwhelmed. I still don’t really know how to say all the things I want to say, but I will eventually. Again – thank you for being patient. And thank you for supporting me.

The super cool news is that I did indeed cook up a pretty fucking fantastic Plan B, just as I said I would in that Instagram caption, and I can’t wait to tell y’all about it. It will involve more adventures, more blogging, and more time spent with my delightful pink sleeping bag and, inevitably, all my feelings. It will also involve my sweet girlfriend, a large airplane, and tons of cheese and wine. I posted about this, too, on Instagram, and here’s what I wrote the night we bought our plane tickets!

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i took this photo on April 20, on my first day hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. i wanted to hike the whole thing – all 2,650 miles. i only made it 454 miles before a combination of things – physical injuries, mental exhaustion, loneliness, snow, logistics – sent me home. i’ve been pretty sad since getting off the trail, and i keep telling myself to write about it because i know it will help me sort things out in my brain – writing always does that for me – but so far i haven’t. i will. but right now i just wanted to share some exciting news: i have another hike planned this year! last night @alleyhector and i bought tickets to Europe, and on September 1 we will begin walking the Camino de Santiago, a 550 mile route in Spain. it’s very very different from the PCT, and i think that’s a good thing for me right now. anyway this all feels so bizarre because i put so much time and energy into researching every single aspect of the PCT and getting ready for the Camino is going to be a whirlwind in comparison, but i am really excited and i think this is the right choice, in as much as anything ever is the “right” choice! my goals for the next couple of months include publishing my blog posts for days 20-40 of my PCT blog, getting my gear together for the Camino, and getting my butt back onto some local trails because i have been straight up avoiding hiking since getting home. i plan to blog daily on the Camino, so if you enjoyed my PCT posts perhaps you will be excited to follow along on this upcoming journey. thanks as always for all the support and kindness y’all sent my way while i was on the PCT – i am so, so grateful for all of it – and exxxtra thanks for humoring me when i write these ultra long instagram captions! love you happy monday xoxo!

Alley and I have been working on a really cute two part joint blog post to share with our readers re: this new plan, and we’ll publish it tomorrow. Stay tuned for that!

So I hope that gives some context to why my blog posts abruptly stopped and why my Instagram photos stopped reflecting the PCT. I have an essay coming up for Autostraddle that delves deeper into why I left the trail – it’s a follow up to my original essay about the PCT that I wrote for Autostraddle, This Queer Fat Femme Is Thru-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and You Can Follow Along. If you haven’t read that yet, you should – it’s kind of adorable to see how young and naive I was just a few short months ago!

I also published an essay about my experience on the PCT in SHAPE magazine: What It’s Like Being the Fat Girl On the Hiking Trail. I was super anxious about publishing this because it’s very vulnerable, even for me, and I worried about how it would be received, but I was pleasantly surprised because people have been nothing but kind and empathetic, and I got so much positive feedback from women who have felt the exact same way. So that’s really neat and makes me very happy. (I mean, it makes me eternally bummed out that so many women feel the same because what the fuck why are we all being made to feel “less than” on the goddamn trails, Jesus fucking Christ, but it makes me happy that we can all connect about it and that no one told me I was being silly or overreacting and instead totally validated my experiences in sharing their own, you know?) Also, not to obsess over this until the day I die but Cheryl Strayed read the essay and liked it and told me so! For those who don’t know, Cheryl Strayed is one of my top five favorite authors and her book, Tiny Beautiful Things, is basically the reason I left New York and ended up living in Oregon, and I respect her writing tremendously and think she is just so fucking rad, so being noticed in a positive way by her is one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me. I’m often hyperbolic but in this case I mean that very sincerely. I’ll probably never stop talking about it, sorry not sorry!

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Oh, and one more housekeeping order of business! My fundraiser is still open, and I would still love to raise the total $2,650 for Big City Mountaineers this hiking season. Just because I’m not hiking every one of those miles doesn’t mean that we should stop raising money for such an important organization, right?! So! If you’ve enjoyed my words this summer, if my journey has inspired you, if you’ve wanted to send me a care package or do something to say “thanks for baring your soul all the time on the internet” – please consider donating to my fundraiser! For those of you who are waiting on postcards because you donated more than $36 to my fundraiser (THANK YOU!!), I will send you a postcard from Europe instead of from the PCT. If receiving a postcard from me from Europe sounds fantastic and you really want that to happen for you, you should totally donate $36 or more to my fundraiser! And if you don’t have the means to donate, please consider sharing it on your social networks. Check it out! Thank you! I love you!

Whew. Are we all caught up? I’m sorry again for disappearing. Blogging is weird but ultimately I love it, and I really genuinely enjoy being in conversation with all of you. I hope you’ll still be interested in following along with my adventures, even though they are no longer on the PCT. Thanks, as always, for reading and cheering me on. This would all be so much less fun without you.

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17 thoughts on “Spoiler alert: I am no longer on the PCT

  1. Joy de Beyer says:

    Dear Vanessa,
    Yours is only the second blog I have ever followed. I started reading it because I’m an avid reader, a mother of two young women, I was at school with your mom as a kid and walked past her house on my way home every day. But I kept reading your blog because I loved your writing and photos, and started to love you too. I so admire your courage and expressiveness and spirit – you are amazing. I’d be SO proud of you if you were my daughter. You wrote that you you “only” hiked 454 miles of the PCT – ONLY???????? 45 miles would have been a lot. 454 miles is huge. Really. Please love and admire yourself for what you achieved, and dont judge yourself for what you did not do. I – and probably most of us – could not have done even a fraction of what you did. You were so brave to attempt it and to hike so far and for so many days. Im in awe. And I loved your blogs and photos, so thank you a thousand times!
    x Joy

    • Vanessa says:

      Joy,
      Thank you so much for writing this comment and for following along with my blog. I’m so glad my writing resonated with you and I really appreciate your perspective re: the use of the word “only” and my attitude toward myself. I am working on being proud of myself! Hiking the Camino is helping. I hope I get to meet you in person one day!! Lots of love from Spain! XO

  2. LAUREN HARRISON says:

    Oh my, so jelly! I think you are amazing, and LOOK at how far you’ve come! I think 454 miles is an incredible feat, and am hoping that one day I will be able to have the strength to hike even half that far. I have suffered from extensive debilitating pain issues for the past 8 years, with virtually no help from doctors. I used to hike and backpack every weekend and believed that I would do so until at least the ripe old age of 100, but I got defeated. YOU inspired me to push forward, and I did buy a brand new backpack (YAHOOEEEEEEEEE!!) to replace the old one from a bad marriage and give me something to plan for. My pack is hanging in front of my computer, and I slowly stuff it with new lightweight gear to as I prepare for my dream of returning to the trail. As I read your posts, I decided to get up and move, even if I could only handle short distances. Last week I managed 6 miles above 10,500 feet in a lightning storm and downpour, and though my legs were shaky and hurting, I was SO ENERGIZED! You reminded me of **POSSIBILITIES** that I had forgotten. It actually occurred to me that the only person that I had to compete with was MYSELF, and no one else. It doesn’t matter if can’t make 15 miles in one day, I will do what serves ME AND MY HEART. It’s not a race, it’s an adventure. Instead of fretting, I will maybe take twice as long as others on the trail, but the whole point is to just get out and DO IT. The only way to get stronger to put it into practice. I applaud you for stepping outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself to new limits; you truly are an inspiration. CONGRATULATIONS on those frickin’ 454 miles!! I’ve always wanted to do the Camino, and friends have said that it might be something that I should really consider. I’m excited that you’ve chosen another adventure and will be following your blog. PEACE OUT!!

    • Vanessa says:

      LAUREN. This comment overwhelmed me with emotion in a wonderful way (and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond — I’ve been really behind on all blog related things). I am SO impressed with the progress YOU have made, and I feel beyond honored that I could play a role in your journey. Your outlook is awesome and honestly inspiring to me. I think you would love the Camino – I hope you are able to make it here one day. Big love to you and your accomplishments!!

  3. Megan Denny says:

    How exciting! Just think, 2017 will be the year you hiked 1,000 miles ON TWO CONTINENTS. Looking forward to following the future adventures of Al and Vanessa. Love ya!

  4. Kristina Mosholder says:

    Vanessa,
    I wondered what happened to you and I am super glad to hear you are ok:) I’m sorry the PCT didn’t work out for you, but am happy you are going to do the Camino! I hope to get there one day. I am looking forward to following your new adventure!

    Kristina

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank you so much for following along, Kristina, and for these kind words. So far the Camino is really lovely and I would recommend it to just about anyone! I hope to have blog posts about it up soon. Thank you again for reading.

  5. Jill says:

    Yay updates! Congrats for every mile you did hike. Since you asked, my summer has been cool and involves driving cross-country twice – I can only imagine how hard it would be to walk that distance! Have fun in Spain with Alley 🙂

  6. paulapatchblog says:

    You are awesome, and 454 miles is a lot!!! I understand that you feel embarrassed and ashamed, but I–and it appears none of us is–am not disappointed in you. What you experienced is normal–really, above average normal–and not anything to be ashamed about. Cheryl Strayed is exactly right: We all walk at our own pace. Enjoy the new trail. And tell us about those last few days on the PCT.

    • Vanessa says:

      A very belated thank you for this generous and kind comment ❤ I will indeed get to telling you all about the last 20 days of my PCT section hike! It has felt overwhelming to write those final posts, but in the meanwhile I'm having a lot of fun drafting posts about the Camino, which I'm walking now and will be walking through October. So hopefully those are fun to read too, and I can get to the final PCT posts this winter!

  7. rmd1023 says:

    Hooray for new adventures! And that’s a pretty fuckin solid chunk of trail you section-hiked. (btw – I’m that nerd who twit-stalked you to see if you’d been eaten by a bear)

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