The past week has seen a lot of driving, a lot of long goodbyes and waves and hugs and promises and emotions. Getting to Albuquerque was like getting home from the moon for a few days. I left my bag packed, went on long windy bike rides just to be outside, and tried to organize my head and everything I told myself I'd get down to after the trail ended. The predominant feeling is a wistfulness and heartbreak; a longing for the trail. This 18" line of dirt that took us from one campsite to another without asking any questions for half a year and let us be who we essentially are: curious animals who love fresh air and water just as much as the next marmots. It'll take some time to fully appreciate this. I received my official 'certificate of completion' in the mail this afternoon which looks like some kind of diploma. The enclosed letter reminded me I was now free to boast of my accomplishment-to paraphrase, but I had to sigh and set it with another stack of papers in a cluttered studio for now. Looking for my old passport I came across all the pre-PCT research and planning I'd written out. Drop locations, supply lists, monetary expenditure estimates, approximate calories expended per day etc, all scrawled in spiral notebooks with some kind of childish fascination for what I was about to do. But the truth is, a thru-hike is only accomplished with an entire network of people. It's easy to forget that when you're the one out there sweating and dodging wildfires but as a trail angel suggested to us outside of Tehachapi, it's more of an organism than an organization. You end up feeling profoundly thankful for the smallest things: The last drip of rubber glue to patch a hole in a sleeping pad after a long day, a single apple with all the fructose you can enjoy in 1 1/2 minutes, a trail closure re-opening just before you come through, the forest service employees who cut up the blow-downs as best they can, and on and on along with the 101 strange moments of synchronicity that mysteriously add up over time. During the summer it's you and 500-700 other souls on the trail in a great train, crossing each other's paths, trying to complete the whole 2,650 miles. You hear all the stories. You wonder how each other are fairing with injuries and setbacks. You share this one great narrative through the seasons, and you have only respect and support for those around you. Some people you meet will have to leave the trail prematurely. You stop seeing their names in the trail logs. You ask other hikers months later: "Whatever happended to so-and-so?" Some people you see once at the beginning and once 5 months later and you stand stunned in each other's presence for a moment before sharing a few stories and wishing each other luck. Some people you see for weeks at a time until they dissapear further ahead or take longer breaks behind. The point is that there's nothing like it...socially, physically, or mentally and I've noticed it's just painfully difficult to get the sentiments from your mind to others before their attention wanders elsewhere. There's just no real way to encapsulate it which is totally understandable. I can't fully comprehend it myself but I've been caught between the feeling that I was the 'experiencer' and the fact that so many helping hands made the experience possible. I sat back in the studio today, trying to set up hypothetical mastering chains I'd imagined on the trail and the scene from one of my favorite movies came to me: In 'Contact' when Jodie Foster comes back from a portal which seems like a few minutes to everyone back home...when in reality she's had such an unreal experience that all she can do is stare into space and whisper "I had no idea." Ok, maybe I'm pushing it there but the fact is that there's some people that need thanks and I promised to write a sort of 'thank you blog':

      The PCTA, Forest Service personnel, the throngs of PCT volunteers, the Trail Angel Network and affiliated groups for their total selflessness, the dozens of other ordinary citizens and locals that helped us make it from trail to town to store to post office. John and Kris Yarnel for reaching out to two 'youngsters' and extending their help, their home, and words of encouragement throughout the trip. Travis Wozniak for helping to send resupplies before I had to ditch the whole idea, my ex Allison for taking me to the trail-head back in March, my cousin Kristin for her contributions and conversation and heart and care during this whole experience, my sister Aubrey and brother-in-law Michael for putting us up in their house and a hotel during and after the trail, my ex-step-father Tom for his encouragement and financial help and inspiring quotes, my dad Bill Phillips in Louisiana for his helpful donation to my gofundme account, my little sister Lauren whose kids all drew me pictures along with extra snacks sent to Independence, my friend Jav Romero who also donated to the fund and sent many encouraging words, Dustin Casteel for keeping the door open at my old place after such a long absence, the other hikers who completed/attempted/had the same dream: it's you guys who will share your stories and inspire others for years to come.

To Hanne: For sticking by my side through the best and worst of it. All day, every day. I don't honestly know if I could have done it without you. Your help, your planning, your heart. I'm so glad I didn't show up a day late at the southern terminus. I love you so much.

A special thanks goes to my step-father Randy who's knowledge, assistance, and support allowed me to actually finish this thing. I was under-prepared, under-funded, and under-experienced in a number of ways. I was prepared to slog it come hell or high water, taking odd jobs for food if it came down to that but Randy's help made it possible to stay on course with Hanne and do what we needed to do before autumn set in too deeply. I can't express what it meant to me knowing what we all went through this year, how it important it had been to mom, and how much I personally needed it. From gear to huge financial help when I was so close to the end-you showed how much you cared and continue to care in the face of everything you've gone through. Our family has been better and stronger since the day you came into it. Thank you.

And to my mother,
     This more than anything I wanted you to know: that your life has been an inspiration to so many, that it carried over into so many lives and showed so many people an example of a caring, humble, determined soul who's authenticity was a stronger light than the impositions of the 'real world'. To have had a parent like you, with your co-existing sensitivity and conviction was truly rare and remarkable. I never felt like I had a mom like the other kids. You were the one who read us books about cycling across America and then said "Sure, go ahead. Get out there. You can do it too." You opened doors for me as a young adult that I would never have found alone and most of all you showed me that nature held the real secrets, the real stories, the real magic in this world. I know beyond an doubt that your legacy will live on and quietly weave itself into our lives and those around us for ages to come.

Thank you all again.



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