Reaffirming My Values and Leaving the Trail

I decided to leave the trail for a multitude of reasons. Yes, my feet were trashed, yes, I was tired, and yes, the trail is hard. But none of those were the main reasons.

I learned so much in just under a month on trail and 300 miles-ish of hiking. Within the first three days I realized that my expectations of the experience were wildly different than the reality, despite my years of planning. I knew it would be hard, both physically and mentally. I knew it would be unlike anything I had ever gone through.

But one of the first things I learned was that I am indeed a social animal. I need people. I did not like hiking alone. I did not expect this and the amount of couples, partners, and groups I found that hiked together from the beginning was more than I thought. Solo hikers were fewer and further between. It’s easy to say people suck and that the world is a fucked up place, especially in today’s environment being bombarded by social media (if you let yourself), the internet, and the endless other connections available, but humans are capable of really kind and considerate behavior too.

One of the things I wanted to get out of the trail was a restoration of faith in humanity. I got that in a very short time with the people I met on trail and off. Interacting in a deeply personal way with people so dedicated to the same goal was such a rewarding experience. From Sticks and Clay to the Rocket Surgeons to Postmaster and 4Runner and everyone in between, they all gave me a deeper appreciation. Not to mention the trail angels. I know this would have continued on down the trail, but I will come back and experience it again later on.

Second, I reaffirmed something I really already knew and one of my bedrock, core values: I want to experience this world with my family. Courtney and my dogs are the most important things on this earth to me. I am 40 years old and have set up my life in a very specific way on purpose, with the intention of sharing our experiences together. Shit, it was in my wedding vows. I wanted to try this solo adventure and see how it went, but I quickly realized it wasn’t aligned with my values.

A thru hike is an amazing idea and accomplishment for people who are in certain circumstances. I will venture down the road of folly and say that a thru hike is more suited for people who have a very specific reason for staying on trail (Sticks) or those who have no reason to not leave the trail. I am not one of those people. And there is nothing wrong with either situation. It’s just not me.

There is a reason many people are section hikers, a class of which I now consider myself. You can hike parts of the trail whenever and wherever it pleases you. You can pick and choose sections during the most beautiful parts of the year for that area. You can stretch out the experience over multiple years or even decades, which actually sounds even more appealing and amazing to me than a thru hike. Most importantly, you can tailor your hikes to what fits with your lifestyle. Six months on one trail sounds great on paper, but in my reality, it’s much better broken up.

Sticks met a guy in Julian named Cheez It. He has hiked the trail 7 times and never finished. Every time he’s gotten to the point where he’s just done with it and wants to go home. To paraphrase him: Don’t make up an injury or something. Just admit you miss your family and you want to go home!

He’s not wrong.

What am I at? Third? I really got tired of the lifestyle. Living in the dirt is just…not that great. I love hiking. I love camping. But after two or three weeks, the minutiae of camp chores is just mentally exhausting. That said, I did learn to love the simplicity of it. I loved my little tent and the system I had down. Once I got everything done, I was damn comfy in there. But there were definitely times I was setting up and was like, “this is asinine”. Also, I got good at shitting in the woods, but I still vastly prefer a toilet.

Fourth, my feet are actually trashed. As of this writing, I can’t feel my left big toe, though it seems to be getting better. It also feels like there’s a hole boring into the ball of my right foot. Not super fun.

Another thing I want to make sure I say is that this adventure was something I wanted to do for my grandfathers. Moondad, my mother’s father, passed in 2006 and Granddad, my father’s father, passed just recently. Both of them were men who appreciated the outdoors and I feel like they would be proud of me for this. I am not a religious person, but I want to think there is something spiritual in this world and I like to think they were looking over me and would have been interested in this. They definitely were family men that also would have understood my reasons for putting family over trail. I loved both of them and am glad they were with me on this journey.

As I sit here writing this with my wife and my dogs next to me, I know I made the right choice for me. Biff just gave me a full on whine/groan for no reason. That’s what I love. They are my world.

I came back home and two days later, Court, Biff, Finn, and I set off on a road trip to one of our absolute favorite places: Telluride. We have spent so much time there in the past three years that it is starting to feel like a second home. So I’m already back on trail, just a different one!

I plan on going back out to trail this July to meet Sticks and Clay. I don’t know if I will hike a couple of weeks or maybe just do trail magic for hikers. Being out there is what matters. Not how long you are out there or how far you hike.

The producer of one of my favorite PCT documentaries told me to get out on trail for a week and it would change my life. He wasn’t wrong either.

I look forward to continuing the trail over the years and I’ll probably blog it here. I’m paying to keep this blog up, so I might as well use it.

Thanks to those who followed me on this abbreviated journey and I hope perhaps it was inspiring or at least entertaining.

Hike on and, most importantly, hike your own hike.

Jud Wiebe trail – Telluride – May 24, 2023

Rattlesnakes and Mount Laguna

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

I spent a ton of time writing this originally the other night and wordpress deleted it. So I’m going to do my best to recreate it.

14 miles today. We woke up early and hit the trail after a restful, though windy night. I hiked with Postman and Forerunner (couple from Washington) for the first part of the day and watched the light come down on the mountains and do away with the shadows.

A couple of miles in, we came across our first rattlesnake on the side of a hill.


At least he rattled, unlike the ones I’ve come across in Texas.

Right as we got to the unexploded military ordnance area 😐, we met up with about 5 other hikers and formed a little bubble. We ate lunch together and hiked the rest of the day all the way to Mount Laguna.

Watch your step

Once we hit about 6000 feet, pine trees started to appear. That smell is one of my favorite things. Reminds me of the Sierra.

About a mile before the turnoff for the lodge and campgrounds, I realized I had gotten my first blister. It was on the outside of my left heel, which I had already pre-taped as a preventative measure, though it’s not an exact science.

Blister is under that tape

I lanced it through the tape with a sterilized needle, though I’m sure my wife wouldn’t advise that.

Most of the hikers split a campsite, but my lovely wife had booked me a room for the night at the lodge (motel room really, but hell, I’ll take it!). I checked in and got my first resupply box as well! I was also given a bucket and detergent to wash my clothes in, with explicit instructions to dump the dirty water outside and not down the drain.

Once I had dropped my stuff in my room (including a bag of Epsom salt for a soak later), I went out to the saloon to meet my hiker friends for some drinks and food!

There were some sweet pups there too. I miss mine.

I had a couple of beers, but retired to my room early with my pulled pork bbq sandwich and fries. I ate most of it and left the rest for breakfast. Then it was laundry and bath time.

This is the bucket after only 3 days of hiking.

Tomorrow is back into the woods!

Last Night at Home

Thursday, April 20, 2023

I’m enjoying my last night at home with my wife and my dogs. They got all sorts of treats and new toys for my going away. Going to miss the hell out of these two boys.

Finn (big) and Biff (little)

I packed all my gear into my big Samsonite suitcase and got my next resupply box (with ice axe and microspikes) ready for Court to send when she gets back from San Diego.

Everything I will have in my life for the next few months

Oh, I also shaved my head (!). I used to shave it all the time when I was in my 20s, but grew it out for my wife. But the trail doesn’t care what I look like and I don’t want to have to deal with it.


So that’s it. We are dropping the dogs off at a friend’s tonight and getting up early to fly to San Diego for the weekend. There I will do a couple of last minute errands like buying fuel for my stove and anything else I might decide I need.

Then Monday morning, the 24th of April, I will walk away from the Southern Terminus monument. Surreal.

Alright…we’re back!

My dream won’t die. I called my 2020 PCT attempt off before it even began, but it would’ve been derailed by Covid anyway. In the 3 years since, I’ve continued to train, upgrade and test gear, and work on my mental health to hopefully try again one day.

Well that day is March 8th, 2023 (as of now).

The permit process was a bit different this year and a bit more fair, I think. The PCTA (the organization that issues long distance permits) required everyone who wanted to try for a permit to pre-register an account that they used to log in with on permit day. This stopped people from using multiple browsers and devices to get multiple spots in line. Admittedly, I was one of those people in 2020, with 3 digital spots in line, but I’m glad they found a way to make it work.

That said, they also assigned people who had registered their own specific time to log in on permit day. I got a very late time, so most of the best start dates were already full. March 8th was the closest date available to my preferred early April start date, so I snagged it.

They released 35 permits per day on the November permitting day and will release an additional 15 per day on January 10th. I have an opportunity to try and change my date by getting another spot on that January day, so that’s my plan.

If I can’t, then March 8th it will be. That’s way earlier than I would like, but it also could help me get further down the trail before the wildfire season really cranks up, which has been getting worse every year it seems. I could also get through the desert earlier when the water is more plentiful. If it ends up being a high snow year, I will hit the Sierra very early, and may have to flip up to NorCal and come back to hit the Sierra later in the season. So pros and cons, but that’s one of the realities of the trail. Rolling with the punches.

ANYWAY, I wanted to officially crank the blog back up and as you may have noticed, I changed the URL to reflect the correct year now. I’ll continue to blog sporadically with training hikes and other random musings up until my start date and then try and bring everyone along as much as possible once I hit the trail.

Hike on!

Pulling the Plug

Man, this is a tough post to make, but I am going to put this entire venture on hold.

I spent two nights at Colorado Bend State Park on a solo trip this past weekend and I had a lot of time to think out there.

The trip was great and I really got some gear and routines starting to dial in, but the time has come to step back and take myself out of the running for a thru hike this year.

A lot of factors went into this decision.

One of my main reasons for hiking the PCT was to better appreciate my off-trail life. I realized that the last year or so of my life that I’ve been planning for the thru hike has also been one of the best years of my marriage, career, and just life overall. I don’t see any reason to disrupt it right now.

Also, when I got back from Colorado Bend, I found out that my company was going through a massive transition and was laying off a sizeable portion of our employees. I am safe for now, but my work situation went from a great time to leave and hike to suddenly a horrible time to leave. I wasn’t going to have a leave of absence, so I would have had to quit and then come back and hope to get re-hired. Suddenly that seems like a much slimmer possibility.

There were other factors in play as well, but the bottom line is that now is just not the right time to attempt this.

I may decide to attempt a thru in the future or I may just section hike and take bites out of the trail over the years. There are tons of people who section hike the long trails over time and that also allows you to cherry pick sections during specific weather windows and times of year, which allows you to appreciate those parts of the trail at their best.

I’m still coming to grips with all of this, but for now, I’m staying put and continuing to visit national parks and hike as much as possible.

Thanks to anyone and everyone that supported me through the preparation for this crazy dream and I’m sorry that you won’t be able to follow along with the adventure. When and if I make further decisions, I’ll post it here.

Thanks again for believing in me.


2 Months Until Liftoff!

January 23, 2020

Two months, or 8 weeks, until I start from the border. And February is a short month, so really, 59 days.

I watched the 2019 PCT Water webinar last night (for the second time) and also the 2019 Sierra webinar. These are both invaluable resources for hikers on how to use the water report ( and also just general thru hiking strategy and safety tips.

I don’t think people realize what a logistical challenge this endeavor is, at least if you want to be smart and safe about it. That is one of the more attractive things about the PCT to me. It reminds me of my tour managing days. Plan, but be flexible. It’s a weird skill that I actually do very well when I want to.

Ok, that’s all I got. Just wanted to document the negative 2 month mark!

Buescher State Park New Year Hike

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Ian, Court, Biff, and Finn

6.1 miles

Vultures near the cabin

We went out to my parent’s cabin near La Grange over the weekend and took the dogs out on one of our favorite hikes nearby at Buescher State Park. Part of the park burned a few years back and the trails haven’t been completely restored yet, but it’s still a good 6 mile loop.

It wasn’t much of a training hike, as I just had my regular day pack, but it was good to get out in the nice January weather and get a hike in regardless. Every mile counts!

Starting off a little chilly
Pond in burn area
Burn area
New growth

I also got my first hike with my new insoles (Superfeet Green) that were recommended by my sports doctor when I went to get my feet x-rayed to make sure I didn’t have a stress fracture. All was clear, but he told me my feet are a bit flat and those insoles should help in the long run. They felt fine, but I think I’ll have to size up when I get my new pair before the PCT. Hoping my feet don’t swell too too much because I think La Sportiva doesn’t make the Ultra Raptors in anything bigger than 47.5 and I’m at 47 now.

I’m also riding and working out on our Peloton at home 3-4 times a week, as well as doing core, lower body, arm, and full body work outs. I’m going to start adding some meditation. I bought Court the Peloton last Christmas and it really is awesome. We both use it almost daily. Highly recommend.

End of trail pic
Pond back at the cabin

The Roaring 20s are here!

Now we’re all going to be like the Gatsbys right? With the beginning of the New Year, this hike is starting to get really real. I had a dream last night that I was starting at the Mexican border with a couple of practice hikes, but that won’t be the case. Once I get started, it’s on!

I’m going to ramp up the training this month and of course make sure I’ve got all my gear odds and ends sewn up. Among other things, I need to seam seal my tent to make sure it is fully water proof. Also, I’m taking a wilderness first aid course through REI at the end of February.

I need to find time on the weekends to get out and do some solo overnights to really test my gear and of course get used to being on my own. I’ll probably try to hit Lake Georgetown and maybe a state park or two, though the weather may dictate some of it. It’s been a pretty mild winter so far and it would be nice if that continues, but I have a feeling it might not last.

I’m hoping to get the blog to a point soon where I’m happy with the basic content. I’m sure it will continue be a work in progress though.

Til we meet again!