A Human-Powered Road Trip Up the Pacific Crest Trail
Story & Photos by Tommy “Twerk” Corey // @twerkinthedirt
I merged onto the I-5 North freeway towards Portland. Tears ran down from my face as I thought about how weird it was that I was finally returning home after seven months. This was the day I was dreading because I knew it would finally solidify that my life for the last half of the year was over.
Six months ago, I took my first step north on the Pacific Crest Trail in Campo, California. This wasn’t just a quick weekend backpacking trip. This was an incredible journey that would become my life. I walked on a two-foot-wide dirt path that led to me to the US/Canada border and the end of my adventure.
I actually walked about 900 miles of the PCT the year prior but got off. Months later, I found myself back in Portland, doing the same old shit, feeling uninspired and missing the simplicity of living and walking in the woods every day. I missed the idea of having a goal, one bigger than I could ever dream possible. So I made the decision to go back. And this time, I was going to finish.
Mile 2035.9. U.S.
August 30th, 2018. 5:00 a.m.
The alarm on my phone goes off and I sit up in my one-man tent, ready for the day. I boil some water and make myself some instant coffee. Although this is a normal routine, it still tastes like shit. I get my burst of energy for the morning and pack my belongings into my little white Cuben Fiber backpack. I have a 2,000-foot climb from this step forward — which pisses me off, but it’s what I signed up for.
As I make my way up the mountain, the sun rises and kisses my face through the trees. This is always my favorite part of the day. I think about how everyone back home is probably still in bed and has to go to work today. Me? I just walk. I watch my feet as I take each step, for the trail is fairly rough. For a moment I forget about the sweat, pain in my feet, and the abrasive grade of the rocky trail as I see the sun touch Mount Jefferson in the background.
I put on my headphones. Whitney Houston has gotten me up many mountains in the last 2,000 miles, so I put her music on. As I near the top of the climb, “Run to You” is playing. I want to belt out loud with her, but I hum instead, just in case I stumble upon another hiker. That song pretty much became one of my anthems while hiking the 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, and it will always remind me of the six months I spent in the woods.
When I reach the top, the chorus kicks in: “I want to run to you, oooo oooo. I want to run to youuuu, oooo ooooo oooohoooo.” And then I see it. I see Mount Hood. I see home. The cloudy sky and Hood’s statuesque peak makes me feel like I’m Frodo on my mission to Mordor. Like a movie scene, with this cheesy Whitney song blasting in my ears and the beautiful scenery surrounding me, I start to cry. Not because I’m exhausted or because I missed home or because I want to be done hiking the trail. I start to cry because in that moment I realize, for the first time in five months and over 2,000 miles, that I just walked home from Mexico.
I really didn’t think I would make it to this point. Seeing Mount Hood meant that Washington was close and I was at the beginning of my last section of the trail.
“I might actually make it to Canada,” I said to myself. “I might fucking make it.” I keep saying this as I walk with a big smile and tears rolling down my face.
Mile 2,652. Canada.
October 5th, 2018. 11:28 a.m.
“1 Mile to go!” read a sign on the trail made up of small rocks. My stomach dropped and my heart sank. This was the last mile of my 2,650-mile journey. There were no wheels, no gasoline, and no one else telling me what to do. My own two feet had carried me all the way to this point from the Mexican border. This was my human-powered road trip.
That last mile I thought about everything that I had been through in the last six months. I thought about the time I night-hiked 17 miles along the Los Angeles Aqueduct and had very intimate and personal talk with hiker friends. I thought about the time I got stung on my face right before crossing Bridge of the Gods, and how the next morning I looked like Quasimodo. The lonely stretches of the snowy Sierra mountains, to the even lonelier flat stretches through the Oregon hills, to the times I never wanted to say goodbye to the people I was sitting with around the campfire in Washington. All those moments raced through my head as I knew this was my very last mile.
As I came down the mountain, I could hear people yelling and hollering and celebrating their victories. I couldn’t stop smiling. I raced down the switchbacks, and when I came around the corner of the last one, I saw the monument. The beautiful, wood-carved northern terminus that represented six months of pain, misery, snot, blood, sweat, and a lot of tears. It also represented the happiest 6 months I could’ve ever possibly imagined. It was all the people I had met, the photographs I had taken, and the times I was alone but didn’t actually feel lonely. It was the most present I had ever been in my entire life. And here I was, staring at the end.
I stopped in my tracks and everyone started cheering for me. My hands went over my face and I leaned down into my knees and cried. I cried harder than I had in a very long time. It was all over. I made it. The long journey of a human-powered road trip was finally finished.
As I stand there with my head down, almost inconsolable, my friend Rumi walks over to me and puts her arms around me.
“We did it,” she says in a sweet voice. We stay there embracing for a minute longer before I finally am able to show my face to all the other hikers standing in front of the monument.
I walk over to the monument, put my hand on it, take a deep breath with tears still running down my face and snow falling from the sky, and I say, “I did it.”