And what do you do when it's over? When you're back in Albuquerque at a cafe down the street from your old place...trying to fend off the reality of just being stationary for more than an hour? When your heart is already starting to miss everything and you're worried that you might somehow lose the memories, the perspective, and life that you had for over six months and get wrangled back into some sort of unsatisfying situation? I told myself last week after a week off the trail that it'd feel good to just sit down or sleep in a bed-that I was finally ok with getting off the trail after half a year. That it was time. I felt rather stoic about the whole thing in fact. That is...I thought it would feel normal. But it doesn't-and it's rather strange to sit here now...my mind has been in a million different places in the past hour and I'm not sure where to start. I had a difficult time deciding what I needed to do when I woke up. I packed a bag to just bicycle....somewhere, then stood looking at my seven-month-old beard in the mirror wondering who this person was. Should I just go on a long ride to clear my head? Where's my old cycling cleats? What is this feeling in the pit of my stomach telling me to run? What am I doing here? Why was I living here before? Who was I? The contrasts started accumulating and made my heart race while I put on my old trail-socks and blue PCT logo shirt just for comfort. Is it over?
 Yes, we finally finished October 1st. We came over Kearsarge Pass around noon and looked down on the tiny town of Independence miles below. The feeling wasn't one of completion for me. No aching heart. In fact, it wasn't until the Amtrak finally made it into Albuquerque and I'd taken a cab up Central Avenue and been informed he didn't take cards in front of my old apartment and been driven to an ATM three blocks away and then taken back to the apartment and then been dropped off at a bike shop and purchased a bicycle to get around town and ridden it 7 miles back to the apartment...taken a shower...opened my old computer...looked at my old life...talked to Hanne, already back in Switzerland, and felt how much I missed her...tried to download folders of thousands of pictures and videos from various clouds and drop-boxes..and woken up this morning utterly confused as to where I was, that I felt the weight of something being 'finished'. I wasn't expecting this particular feeling. Slight dread mixed with a strange awareness that my mind is trying to recognize old patterns in a town that I had no particular business being in for the past ten years. I was just here...compulsively working on music, building a studio, taking on small projects, in and out of arbitrary relationships, holding various jobs that I didn't care about, playing on stages with and in front of people that I had nothing in common with. The entire thing suddenly felt devoid of real meaning. My mind is saying: "We know this...but we don't understand it anymore." And I recognize that it's a normal sort of sentiment after a thru-hike but I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I sat down in the great swivel chair in the middle of the studio I'd been so proud of when I found it for a steal at the antique store across the street and looked at the huge empty monitor I used to stare at for hours wringing my hands over the slightest nuance of tone and timbre and admitted to myself for the first time in years that I hadn't been truly happy like this. It hadn't been a bad life. In fact I'd always felt rather lucky as far as lives go...but I'd forgotten why and lost some of the plot. That is...I'd been sulking instead of living...but everything had shifted this past year. My priorities and values and sense of self and how profoundly short and unpredictable life can be had been front and center. I'd had the time to literally step back and analyze patterns of behavior as long as I wanted in a rare sort of detached mode. This is what thru-hikes are for. Rarefied living-and we'd done it. And now I'm back here...trying to make sure I don't sulk too much as my feet hit the ground and my heart lands far, far away from a trail that became my home, my life, and my love.

Love, Will

What follows are the last journal entries word-for-word from North Kennedy Meadows to September 30th:

9/14 "The Real Sierras"

Got another Cowboy Breakfast at the pack station in Kennedy Meadows, grabbed a couple extra items and walked to the main road. Hardly any cars going to Sonora Pass-eventually an elderly lady with a cool converted minivan camper stopped as she was leaving KM. We hit the trail around 12:30, a little late but only 14 miles to go today. Instant climbing up to 11k, spectacular views, rugged stretched of rocky barren trail-winds hitting 40-50 mph on the passes and higher points. Wispy clouds. New fires in the distance where we'd just come through. Alpine lakes-all snow melt. Streams and creeks all receding and drying up. Passed a few hunters. Deer season starts tomorrow but I think we're generally further in than most people want to haul a deer out of. Thoughts of returning home. How tos. What ifs. It's going to be a process but it'll be fine. Made it to Walker River with a little bridge. Little more than a trickle now. Met two kids from Quebec. "Scamper" and "Captain Fantastic" (?) All smiles. We'll maybe see them again but they're pretty fast. Four guys across the north side of the bridge. Hellos. Etc. No other info. One might be a SOBO. Wonder how many we'll actually see on this stretch. 20 miles tomorrow. 5 more miles and we enter YOSEMITE.

9/15 "Bearanoia"

Yes, I'd rather tangle with a cougar than a bear. Don't ask me why. Saw #5 today 2 miles from camp coming down through some bushes. He looked at us and meandered off. We did the usual pole-clacking, speaking in loud voices to let it know we were coming through. "Walking through the woods, walking through the woods. Hey, Mr. Bear now we're walking through the woods." Ugh. Anyway. Otherwise beautiful relaxed pace that took us up only one or two steep sections. Officially in Yosemite. Various lakes dotting the sides of the trail. Grass now yellow next to worn-in 6 inch groove cut by thousands of feet over years. Lines on rocks where the water has receded multiple feet just this season. More deer. Three today. 2 around noon and one that just wandered up to us from the darkness 15 minutes ago while we ate. Higher energy in the Sierras. Not as sore. More 'awake' in the morning. Maybe it's the psychological  aspect of being so close to Kearsarge and the familiarity with the terrain. Either way-beautiful. Tomorrow Smedberg Lake. Going to be surreal to be back. Night Night Love.

9/16 "There's Beauty All Around"

Back in early June around Burney Falls thru-hiker "Ah-Solo" scoffed at our idea of returning to the Sierras. "Just a bunch of rock...better in winter anyway". Ansel Adams and present company disagree. There is an almost surreal and heavenly sense of clarity and constant play of light and shadow. The sheer granite walls, stained with hundreds of years of runoff. The half moon arching over monuments of epic proportions. The golden afternoon sun dancing on Smedberg lake when we finally got here. Yosemite becomes a paradise under these various conditions of light throughout the season. I'm glad we did it this way. Now here we are...a 14-mile grueling day full of vertical switchbacks and stairs. Camped on the west side. In the morning we'll pass the spot we turned around at months ago. It was emotional walking by the shore earlier. This entire journey-of footsteps, moments, memories, and my mother. I keep having dreams that she's still alive and there's something I can do to help. One last thing to try. I dreampt we went to a pool just to allow her to relax. As the months wear on out here my anger...occasional outrage...becomes grief. There's nothing I can do. There's finality to death. I can be an adult and accept it...it comes for us all...and I'm not sure I believe in 'death' per se to begin with. Saw mama bear + two cubs today across a stream. They were curious but mama hauled them away up a hill. Beautiful day. Night Night.

9/18 "Where Have We Really Been?"

4 pm. Tuolumne Meadows. A different world since we huddled under a frozen sky and found food left in a bear box from the year before. A park ranger had tried (and failed) to harass us in the morning since we were technically in the wrong spot-also the only humans in the park because it hadn't opened yet. Today we made it to the old bridge and drying creeks we'd been so tepid about in late May. Caravans of mules and horses passed on their way to extract all the gear from the ranger stations fives miles in. I've had a cold for the past 24 hrs so even five miles into TM felt pretty laborious. A few SOBOS crowded and mingled with tourists. Employees looked like fresh high school grads happy to see the final weeks of their summer jobs. Assorted climbers etc. We barely paid attention. Straight for the double-bacon cheeseburger at the "Grill Station" tent. Coffee. Resupply. You can always feel the stares but sometimes you choose whether to put out a responsive vibe or not. Today just a little under the weather. Up at the hiker sites w/ one or two other tents. Tomorrow we'll get a full breakfast and head out again. Only two days to Red Meadow Resort (?) sp. And into Mammoth for a zero. Barely 150 m to go. Unreal. And this upcoming section looks like some pretty insane passes. Uncharted territory all the way to the bottom of Kearsarge. On the 19th (tomorrow) !!! It'll be half a year doing this. Wow. I can't even quantify what it's going to feel like when it's over. Not that I'm in the slightest rush for that to happen. Tomorrow shoot for an easy 16 m due to health. I think I picked it up back in Seattle. Distinct chill in the air now. Wore my gloves bought at Seattle REI the other night. 12 more days. Blue jays and squirrels trying to snatch our food already here. Thus far only 'plans' upon returning are getting Hanne to airport. Finding a decent 105 carbon bike. Getting my stuff out of ABQ for good. Connecting with Aubrey, Ran, fam as much as possible. Hope we can get everyone together for a big dinner at least when I get back. Randy's in Seattle w/ his son Josh and GF Liz right now. This life. So profoundly short. I wasted a bit of it worrying what others thought...the insecurity of youth. Funny to grow up and realize you're not that different from any other kid growing up in America. I have resentments, yes. Anger. Processing. But either way -  if I could go back I would have gone for the meaningful stuff sooner - with less hesitation. Less waiting. Less need. That's life. At least there's been this.

9/23 "John Denver and Us"

Hitched out of Agnew Meadows on the 19th with a couple locals. Dropped us at the Motel 6. Cold bug was coming on. Figured we'd probably want to let it heal before hitting an 8-day stretch. Mexican dinner. Back to the motel to sleep. Woke up about the same. Edgy. Disagreements and misunderstandings blown out of proportion by both of us. Maybe the volcano was just ready. Seemed to happen every two months or so. But we figured it out. Took bus to Von's and resupped 8 days for under $100! Downside is bank account is about 1k less that I thought. Sigh. But I'm going to call bank in Bishop. Seems MUCH lower than it should be. Either way....stayed extra night at Motel 6 - then moved over to the Mammoth RV which was more our vibe. Just needed one more day and it was a good idea. We made a sort of Mediterranean/German dinner w/ wine by a campfire and woke up hearing John Denver coming from another site. My kind of morning. Bus to the village. Hitched back to Agnew M. w/ a nice older couple and back on the trail at 2pm. Did about 10 miles. 7 more (days) to go until the end. It's coming up fast and I'm not sure how to think about it right now. There seems to be this window-through all of this-where I can make whatever I wish to happen to come about. The will and vision are strong...but after 2,650 miles do I just need a breather? Just go to Switzerland? What's my soul say? Need to listen quietly this next week. Either way, life happens.
Love, Will

9/24 "Last Full Moon"

Nestled below Silver Pass-lots of section/JMT hikers today. The packs are HEAVY still with 7 days of food left in bear canisters and most available pockets. Slow going. Hanne exhausted right out of the gate. My exhaustion crept up and consumed me by lunch time. Just trudged. All day. On foot after another. Super rugged scarred peaks lined up alongside each other after Virginia Lake. More switchbacks. More up and down. You'd think after 2,500 + miles we'd be totally acclimated. Just depends where the body's at on any given day. Trying to eat the heaviest foods first-anything to lose an ounce or two. Last night coughing until a vision of gold-pure liquid gold surrounded my feet. Coughing stopped instantly. A voice said almost like a reminder: "Remember, the universe does not distinguish thoughts from matter-whatever vibration you put out there is read by the conscious mind etc". I've still wasted so much time being bitter about ancient wounds on the trail. I feel so free out here and shudder imagining a return to society/people/pettiness/ignorance/crassness etc. I must work to align my thought with the life I truly want to have-not the one given.

9/25 "Still Beats Me Up"

Today was climbs and descents...yes, like every single day on the PCT however, these were rough. Today was pretty much up, down, up, down, and slightly up. My shoulders, neck, hips, everything acted up today and I felt a twinge of leftover sickness in the stomach and neck when I swallowed. Just winded. Funny how you can still have relatively rough days even after 2,500+ miles. Got to camp along a nice stream though. Views from Silver Pass pretty amazing. 360 with lakes and rugged Sierras all around. 4 more days with tomorrow and the next day being the most challenging. We're technically climbing UP through the Sierras even though we're heading south. Hopefully this bear canister lightens up. Odd day psychologically. After lunch and Emergen-C packet felt disassociated then just edgy until camp. It happens. Sun, hills, etc. Something in my stomach. What else is new. Hope tomorrow just feels a little easier and everything heals w this bug. Night Night.

9/26 "The Body Knows"

Nose running. Spitting and coughing up colorful amounts of phlegm. Throat sore-hard to swallow w/ that irritating 'dry spot' in the back of the nasal cavity. Muscles sore from lack of healing while body is allocating resources somewhere else. Cramps in both shoulders. Lazy floating rib on my right side now stabbing when I bend over. Doubled over in stomach pain last hour on trail-Hanne made the tent while I moaned belly up with my head on a log. Other than that King's canyon is a mythical autumn cathedral of yellow aspen, deep river pools, and great granite walls casting shadows across the valley. Less than 70 miles to go and it's still testing every last muscle and nerve sometimes. Whatever was killing my stomach came out after dinner. Sweet relief. Throat still sore. Can't tell if sore throat or stiff/strained neck on left side. These last 4 days could be pretty ridiculous if everything doesn't clear up pronto. I think my body is finally saying 'Ya, we're done here." Hopefully whatever left my stomach was the last of it! Plz plz plz. Night, Will

9/27 "Beyond Words"

I feel like I waited 6 mos for this day. For these mountains. This light. Climbed slowly all day until rounding increasingly larger lakes and formations. Contrasted against fall grass and shrubs. Crystal blue against the sky. Ungodly heights of scarred solid rock shooting into the sky. Didn't know if I'd get that 'moment' before the end. Today put everything in its proper perspective. Climbing above the trees 10-13k pristine and rarefied. Finally. And I felt mom's spirit-only in the most beautiful of places would she deign to appear. The photos will never do it justice. Maybe 2-4 good captures out of 50 shots. This is the 'moment'. The meeting of the architect. No offering whether song or cinema we create down below will ever come close to what I saw today. Camped next to Helen Lake in a little spot guarded by rocks. 3 more days-and I think most of them are above 10k so hopefully some of the same.

9/28 "My Timbers are Shivered"

Downhill most of the day. Good pace. Finally not feeling under the weather. Just lingering throat but felt better as well today. Followed Middle Fork Kings River then Palisade Creek up up up unholy 3 mi switchbacks toward Mather Pass. Fewer hikers. Saw the two SOBO girls from Muir Pass once again. Bear can weight is finally manageable-not back-breaking. The Sierras are yellow, white, grey, black, some green and red. Aspens changing before our eyes and willows turning red as well. Yellow grasses and meadows with meandering creeks down the middle. Light clouds. Paradise. Tonight we are at another beautiful lake (Palisade) in a valley surrounded on all sides by sheer mountain walls and a tapestry of stars surrounding the great band of the Milky Way. Some philosophical talks after dinner about our place in the universe, relative scale, the dumbassery of chaos theory etc haha. Two more full days. Hope tomorrow is equal in grandeur but I'd be satisfied with what I've seen of the Sierras this far. Unstoppable beauty. Feel so lucky to have finally witnessed it. Night Night.

9/29 "Two Passes" - day 195

Got atop Mather Pass by 10:30 this morning. Brisk-sunlight hitting our campsite early though. 360 views of full Sierra magic. We walked down the other side in 20 min. and came out on a long 5 mile plain that went through rocks, fields, eventually back into the woods where we had lunch at King Fork Creek before heading toward Pinchot Pass. Even more stunning when we got up there. I truly feel that this is the best time for us to have come through. All the colors of autumn warm enough to enjoy. All the snow has turned into streams and lakes but they're not overflowing. The trail is dry and the air is clear. Shadows from a low September sun are stark and bring out the full depth of the mountains. Small details in shadow and geological feature from 50 miles away. Tomorrow is our last full day on the PCT - only 12 miles too! We'll go halfway to Glen Pass and camp - then make an early ascent in the morning and head up Kearsage to the parking lot. Hoping to get a ride to Independence. None of the finality of this has hit me. It's just another day in a series of days on the trail. Am I ready for it to be over? No. I don't think so. I'm ready for a big hot breakfast at Bishop but that's as far as my heartstrings allow right now...It's unreal. It's epic and exhilarating - it's beyond anything I could have imagined. Right now...I just don't have words.

9/30 "4.9 more miles"

Today was slow. Easy. A little cold in the morning. No passes-just streams, rivers, autumn colors, lakes, a suspension bridge. A group of Asians appearing around 11 when we took our lunch break. We climbed. Hanne listened to an audiobook-I listened to the random ramblings in my head-wish I had an audiobook sometimes...but then we approached Rae Lakes and the trail wound right up between upper and lower Rae with Glen Pass looking down. We found a tent site next to a big granite wall facing the lake and made an early dinner and talked about what the end of the PCT means. So many memories, beautiful people, beautiful towns and experiences. I feel new. Whatever that means. I feel like I came to terms with at least a good portion of the muck of the previous years-being unable to just be myself for so long. Herded and corralled from schools to jobs to relationships I didn't even really want to be in. 6 months in the woods is a massive amount of time to reflect. Who knows what happens when I get back. I'm just glad I have these memories. They'll be with me forever. In the morning we walk over the pass, then 3 more to Kearsarge Pass trail where we got out in May with Freebird after Forrester and Whitney. I still don't have words for this. It's been a pleasure...and for my mother-an honor.


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