Thursday, August 27, 2015

PCT 2014, Day 124: Eyes on the Prize

DAY 124
August 26th, Tuesday

We didn’t wake up until 8:45 the next day, which was ridiculously late for us. The women who had been screaming the night before were packing up their car; they had clearly been asked to leave. Gary was ready to leave too, but then the women walked up and apologized for causing trouble last night— it was clear that they had little memory of what had happened, but they were suitably contrite. Also, the camp host made a point of coming over and apologizing. And so we were pacified.

We ate bagels for breakfast, toasted on the grill, and then Zach and Ivy and I decided to go wading in the lake. We put on shorts and walked down to the beach, where we could see Mount Hood in the distance. The water was freezing, but all three of us managed to get the guts to dive under at some point. Shivering, even in the bright sun, we splashed and played.

Ivy had to leave today; she was headed to California to visit her best friend. We were so glad we had been able to see her, though.

Gary left to take Ivy back to Portland, and Zach took Gary’s bike out for a spin on the trail, and I tried to make use of the spotty cell reception. I learned that Mom and Dad hadn’t received our entry into Canada permits yet. These permits are very important because the trail enters Canada in the middle of the wilderness, and it’s polite to ask a country’s permission before sneaking in. But we should’ve gotten them by now. (When Zach and I returned home, we found the permits amid our junk mail— but more puzzling than Mom and Dad overlooking them, Canada had absolutely no record of ever sending them. I suspect the permits spontaneously generated after our return.)

So now we had to figure out how to fill out the permits, which involved about ten various documents that we didn’t have with us, while on trail. This was not going to be fun. Amid the frustration of bad cell reception and the troubles of home, I began to feel so stressed and overwhelmed that I felt like screaming. 

I hung up, then retreated to the tent and laid on our bed, staring up at the trees and feeling like I was going to cry. At last I fell asleep instead, and the nap helped a little.

Zach returned from his bike ride (with bloody knees and a scraped hand from a little wreck) and found me curled up in a fetal position in our tent. He laid down beside me and asked me what was wrong. I vented my frustrations, but he assured me that we’d be able to get the documents together.

The conversation meandered on from there, and as we talked, I realized that something had been gnawing at the back of my mind: I really, really wished that we could stop hiking the trail now. Being around family again made me realize how much I missed my family back in St. Louis.

I sighed. “Wouldn’t it be a great story, though? ‘We were going to hike all the way to Canada, but then we realized that family is most important, and that we shouldn’t be so obsessed with goals’…”

Zach chuckled. “You could write an inspirational book.”

“No one would blame us.”

He nodded. “But you know what?”


“We wouldn’t get the medals if we did that.”

We looked at each other, and then giggled a little. There was no actual dilemma here: as much as both of us wanted to quit and just go back to Portland right now, we wouldn’t. Couldn’t, even. Our goal was to hike to Canada, and there was no way we were giving up now.

We really wanted those medals.

Gary returned later that afternoon, and made gourmet cheeseburgers for dinner. We talked about hiking and running and trail stories and marathons and places we’d traveled and many other things. Gary also told us that he’d like to come hike a few little sections of trail with us over the next week or so, as long as we were in range, so that gave us something to look forward to.

Sitting under the stars with my husband and father-in-law, I felt very blessed to be part of the Strader family. There were no incidents that night, and we all slept deeply.



  1. All these beautiful lake pictures make me want to be kayaking on them...LOL

  2. Whew...gave me a scare there talking of quitting now after having come so far. Yes, great is most important, but I don't believe they'd want you to quit now knowing how much you have already gone through and gotten so way are you guys stopping now...onward...hike on! (Your family does sound awesome!)