I lay awake, alone in my tent. It’s very late by hiker standards and I have a big mileage day tomorrow with another exhausting mountain pass to conquer. The sound of frogs in the lake and a giant waterfall are the only noise I hear from my lakeside tent. My mind is racing and I cannot turn it off.

A few days ago I got the surprising news that I was chosen from the wait list for a graduate school of my dreams. The Global Health program at Tufts University in Boston accepted me for fall 2015. This fall. As in, two months away. While I am ecstatic for what this means for my career, I am at a loss on how to process the emotions for what this means about my time on the Pacific Crest Trail. Knowing my personal financial priorities have sharply shifted with this new opportunity, I cannot afford to use every last penny for survival on the trail.

Thus, I am left with the decision of when to bring my time on the trail to a halt. Do I have time to make it to the halfway point? Maybe just to 1,000 miles. Or will I merely finish out the Sierras, only reaching Yosemite or Lake Tahoe? It’s an especially difficult decision as I have seen some of the most breathtakingly beautiful places of my life in nature the last few days. A decision has to be made very soon, and I am the only one who can choose.

906

A week later, I am sitting with my Sierra hiking buddy at a coffee shop in Mammoth Lakes. After much thought, I decided to take an enjoyable pace my last precious days on the trail instead of rushing through to make mileage. I hiked 906 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2 1/2 months. Even more than 906 miles were logged in on my feet if I count the mileage to and from all of my resupply towns and the climb up Mount Whitney. I am not sure what the exact number is yet, but I know I loved every day on the trail, and that is what matters the most to me.

Epic ending

My last few days were epic: a bear sighting (finally!) almost too close for comfort, my first attempt at fly fishing, learning to gut a fish, awesome times with my favorite people, gorgeous lakes, endless picture-worthy views, and a grand finale breath taking sunset. I could not have asked for more. Only a wish to return to the trail soon, to experience all the beauty and adventure I dream it still beholds for me. 

Farewell

For now, my time on the trail has come to an end. I shed a tear as I said my silent farewell to the trail.  It has given me so much. It not only built my physical strength and delicately revealed my deep inner strength; it also provided precious healing to my soul and allowed me freedom to thrive as a woman whose heart is nurtured best when in nature’s elements. Yet, it’s time for me to move forward and start my journey on the next path life has for me. A new adventure into the unknown.

Goodbye, my dear, old friend.  Though I do not know when I will see you again, do not forget me. I will be back.

Elizabeth Ketterer of Cle Elum has been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this summer. She started in April at the California-Mexico border, and made her way through a good portion of California.

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