Resilient. Why did I ever give her the trail name 'Bearclaw.' Yeah, it fit at the time within a few days of starting but over the course of the whole Pacific Crest Trail she displayed her most evident and obvious trait: her resiliency. Then, on the day we would reach the northern terminus, she showed her gutsiest day on trail. She moved swifter than I had ever seen, told her feet to 'fuck off,' and flowed within the stellar beauty of the North Cascades. This was my favorite day on trail with her.
Resilient. She proved it to me a long time ago. Like in SoCal when she began to hurt and she endured my attitude. Like in the Sierra Nevada when we hiked apart, the only time we were apart, when she faced challenges she never imagined like crossing massive snowfields, postholing exhaustingly for miles in some stretches, fording raging creeks and enduring the cold characteristics of the alpine. Like when she became stricken with Giardia and managed to hike 30mpd in sweltering, muggy heat of NorCal. We sat in a motel room in Ashland holding each other, embracing with tears, consumed by the notion that she may have to quit, even believing that her sickness may be something worse than Giardia. She didn't, though. She outright refused.
Resilient. Like when people from her past told her she couldn't do this endeavor, that she was incapable of accomplishing such a feat without any experience especially with her background. Like when her family abandoned her, then and now. Like when naysayers told her she was abandoning her boys. Like when her Achilles tendonitis became so flared up it buckled her knees and she could not hike any more in southern Washington. She wept not in pain but in exasperation. She never once thought that the actuality of giving up would come to the forefront. She would endure all that came her way. Like having to bail from Chinook Pass to hitch into the town of Packwood to again buy and test out a new pair of shoes to help alleviate her pain in her feet. The pain spread to her arch that resembled the flesh being mushed in a meat grinder. She hunched over with even more intense pain, then I had to help her sit down on the asphalt in a parking lot in Packwood. Again, we thought she may have to throw in the towel. Myself, 2 doctors who are friends, and some others told her that the time to quit is when you cannot endure anymore. I told her "if you can still visualize your goal, you can endure anything to achieve it."
She marched on with resilience. Her legs became stronger though her feet hurt like hell. I became a lot more patient and did not worry about her as much. In a sense, we both embraced the situation. More obstacles came. We laid in our tarp for 15 hours as torrential rain thunked one of the hardest sections of the PCT between Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass. As a matter of fact, that particular night was the absolute darkest I have ever experienced on any trail. One day, we ambled on for about 12 miles in rainy drudgery. I kept looking back at her to she if she wanted to hunker down for camp. She kept adamantly shaking her head. She would not be defeated. Then, the weather stayed somewhat stable and we got to gaze and be mesmerized by the flanks and cragginess of Glacier Peak. Our mileage picked up despite her pain levels getting higher. Our sights turned to Stehekin and Lake Chelan, a place we had been dreaming about for months, a place we had originally planned to say our wedding vows. We idled away time at Stehekin drinking microbrews with a few other thru-hikers. We reveled in serenity and isolation; the world did not matter. With utter resilience we reached Canada together. She raised her arms and uproariously laughed that laugh I first heard in Aspen, CO long ago.
I met April merely 6 weeks before we embarked on the PCT together. That weekend I committed to hike with her. I admit it wasn't as smooth as I thought, however, I had a firm belief in each other. My deep intuition told me she was the one. Then, a little over a week ago, just over 6 months of knowing each other, together we jogged down the trail and connected our steps, all 2660m, at Willamette Pass in Central Oregon completing the PCT. We had flipped ahead to Cascade Locks, WA on the Columbia River as our timing became off with the Giardia dilemma, our wedding, and the wildfires burning in the area we would've been hiking. After Canada and waylayed in Vancouver for 4 days, we finally made it back to Cascade Locks to head south. She relapsed with Giardia. This time the sickness hitting even harder than it did before. We had 2 more zeros in Government Camp to let her get better. We knew the illness would not go away quickly but we needed her to get 'just good enough' to continue on. Again her resilience fought against her inner attacker. We spent the last few days on trails hardly seeing a soul reflecting about all the miles we had walked and all the places we had seen.
Think about it. I mean, really, really think about it! We undertook an adventure hardly knowing each other. I tussled with letting go of my ego and my own selfish intentions while she healed herself of her past, wounds that dug deep and tormented her soul. At times I struggled with giving her what she needed because all I could think about was the ultimate goal. Yet I fell deeper in love with her as we moved along. Her bout with Giardia in NorCal and Oregon made the reality of what we were doing as real. That experience solidified us as a real couple. Those tender moments alone together in those desolate motel rooms truly consummated our vow of marriage together. We became one. We vocalized it aloud in front of other thru-hiker witnesses on the slopes of Mt. Hood within sight of Timberline Lodge right on the PCT. Our marriage really brought a bright light to some dark days in Washington when her foot pain got worse.
I am proud of our accomplishment together. I am even more proud of her. At times, we look at each other in disbelief and say, "Did we just hike the whole PCT together?" We chuckle aloud with each other and the stolid look on our faces show our cemented belief in each other. We always knew we would do it though hiking seemed perpetually never-ending. The trail became our home. We endured many, many obstacles and digested new processes that each individual was going through. We were forced to take unplanned time off. 26 zero days total, in fact! I find it incredible we still hiked the PCT in a little bit over 4 1/2 months even with that many zero days. We showed flexibility with each other and compromised beyond anything I felt I was capable of. Her pain became unexpectedly unbearable and we showed each other more support. And we still even enjoyed our time the further we hiked on. Also, I am very grateful for her putting up with me, with my 'Terminator' type drive. Sometimes our synchronicity seemed a bit off but we kept at it. We are some of the most stubborn and determined people. Most of all, I am proud to have on my arm a wife who is crazy-gutsy and filled with an unfathomable reslience.
Thank you Bearclaw, my wife and partner. What a crazy madhouse of a time we had!