Thursday, July 10, 2014

JMT FKT Attempt 2014

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

I first read John Muir’s words when I was in college and, though I had never been to the mountains, that simple phrase resonated and I felt their call. The day after I graduated I answered. I started walking northward from Springer Mountain in Georgia and 11 years later I have never once looked back. I feel the call every single day and every moment away is fraught with longing that is tangibly painful.

I have wanted to run the John Muir Trail for years. Probably for as long as I have pondered the speed record on the PCT. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to get caught up in the pressure to do something big. Something to top the PCT speed record. And so I went for it this year even though the timing wasn’t right physically or emotionally. In the end that would cause me to not complete the journey, but as with all things, there is a reason and a time and a purpose. I learned plenty. I pushed my body to the brink of what it could handle…and continued onward through it. I made a decision I do not regret. I am more determined than ever to go back and complete the route in my goal time.

I wrote on my Facebook page:
Ever since I first read his words John Muir has been my hero--a soul mate separated by generations. I love his fervor for the wilderness; his wild abandon as he traveled deep into the mountains with little more than a loaf of bread and desire to experience life out there.
As you read this, I am following in Muir's footprints--on his namesake trail--with little more than some food on my back and desire in my heart.
I am here for the full immersion. Stripped down to food alone with 200+ miles of glorious, wild landscape ahead of me. I will not sleep until I have seen it all, drank it all in. I go alone and will remain so for the duration.
In preparation for this adventure I was terrified. I have never done this. I've never gone so deep without plans to sleep. I have never traveled so far without camping. I have never run over a 12,000ft pass, much less 5 of them.
I may fail spectacularly.
I may turn from the route and stagger out to a road for reprieve.
I may discover that I simply cannot push myself this far this time.
But...
I might discover that I can.
I may find in the deep night far from lights and civilization the spirit of John Muir still roaming these mountains. I may feel the exhilaration he felt exploring uncharted territory. Only for me, that unknown landscape lies within. No map can tell me what I will find within myself out here.

I slept fitfully at the Whitney Portal. Fear has never kept me awake like that before. I awoke at 2:26am and crawled out of my sleeping bag. Kevin helped me break camp. I shoved a muffin down my throat. I turned on the SPOT and in the warm darkness I headed upward to the highest point in the lower 48.

The climb was easy. I didn’t notice any trouble breathing or an excessive heart rate. My watch beeped and I struggled to eat, even though I knew I should be hungry. I passed dozens of parties on my way up the mountain. I reached 13,000ft and I realized that my head felt fuzzy, as though I hadn’t slept in a week. My heart was pounding in my temples and a small stabbing pain in the front of my head told me I was in need of oxygen. By 14,000ft my legs felt wobbly and I felt a little dizzy. I reached the benchmark on the summit and plopped down. I don’t even remember looking at the view. I forced myself to eat something, although I was nauseous and could barely swallow it without wanting to vomit. My legs felt weak. The dizziness and fog in my brain were worse. I looked at my watch. 4:55 to do the 11 mile approach. Now, the 211 miles to Yosemite Valley would begin. I stood up and headed down. Running.

I ran past the people I’d already passed that morning. Many cheered for me and gave me high 5’s even though they had no idea what I was actually doing. To them I was just this girl in a dress running down a 14,000ft mountain. I reached Guitar Lake in a little over an hour. Again I tried to eat. I gagged and couldn’t swallow. More oddly, I didn’t feel hungry even though I had been moving for almost 8 hours. I decided to stop forcing it until I actually felt hungry.

I met some thru-hikers at Wallace Creek and we chatted while I gathered water. Several of them were from Washington and one had listened to me speak in Portland in February. I wished them well on their journeys and ran onward. I ascended to the Bighorn Plateau and gazed up at the tiny notch in the formidable rock wall. Forester Pass looks impossible, and yet, I knew it was not. The streak of snow below the pass was a familiar face.

I passed through the tarns below the pass and reached the switchbacks blasted from the rock walls. I began to climb and immediately noticed my pulse pounding in my temples. I had to stop and put my hands on my knees, head down and breathe deeply for 30 seconds before I could continue. I did not know it at the time, but this would be something I would do every 50 yards on every pass from here until the end.

I reached the top of Forester Pass and dropped down again for the first time since the summit of Whitney. I still wasn’t hungry. I struggled to eat something. I was thirsty. I’d been drinking, but the arid air at altitude and heat and exertion were depleting it faster than I could take it in. I downed what I had and plunged into the snow. I bee-lined through snow and talus toward the switchbacks far below. Once on clear trail again I ran.

The descent from Forester is long. Down, down, down into a deep valley. Before you cross tree line you can see the bisecting valley in the far distance and you cannot believe that is where you turn right and ascend to Glenn Pass, but it is. I reached the junction and turned to climb, but I couldn’t. I sat down and tried to eat. I couldn’t. No matter what I tried to put in it came back out. I’d been on the move for 16 hours.

I climbed slowly with frequent stops to catch my breath. I passed Charlotte Lake and gazed down on it. Last year I had been awestruck by how beautiful it was. I’d made a mental note that it was someplace to take Kevin. This time, though I was there at the same time of day with the same Sierra golden light pouring over everything, the lake looked dull. Just another lake. I climbed on.

There is something about Glenn Pass that haunts me. I feel anxious and vaguely afraid everywhere near it. It is foreboding to me and I could never imagine camping there or the Rae Lakes Basin. Unease prickled the back of my neck as sunset grew nigh. I struggled to climb. I couldn’t breathe. My heart was pounding so hard I expected to go into arrhythmia. My legs were weak. My head was spinning. I stopped often. The top seemed so far away. Yet, I knew there was snow on the north slope. I had to get over the pass before dark. I pushed forward completely out of water and unable to eat. I played mental games. I thought of other people, places, moments. Anything to take me out of my body.

I reached the top as the last rays of light were being sucked into the horizon. There was snow. More than I had anticipated. I squinted down and tried to call to mind the course of descent. I took a large step across the moat and onto the boot pack in the snow. It was icy and I slipped many times. I followed tracks which would end on rock and then I would seek a cairn or take a guess and find my way. Slowly through the darkness I wound down from the pass. I found water pouring from under a rock and I drank. I crossed the dark water of the inlet/outlet of the Rae Lakes. I plowed through the winding terrain. “There is a spring coming up. It’s just ahead. Not much further.” I finally recognized it and filled my bottle and bladder. I drank. I drank. My kidneys were aching, but I kept telling myself it was just from my pack rubbing. My period had started the night before so in addition to losing even more iron from my anemic body I had no way to know if I was pissing blood. Rhabdo was in my back of my mind, but it somehow didn’t matter much. I was going onward regardless.

I tried to run. I should have been able to run. The miles descending Wood’s Creek are easy. Instead I hiked. I reached the camp near the suspension bridge at midnight. I sat down and fell asleep for 10 minutes. I got up and began the climb to Pinchot Pass.

I have run through the night many times. This was harder than any night before. I kept stopping to breathe. My progress was tremendously slow. I crossed the 24 hour mark still unable to eat. I felt my mind slipping into that space where it is disconnected from my body. It was a blessed feeling, but far too soon. I fought it.
The sliver moon rose and I clicked off my headlamp. I stood there in the absolute blackness and gazed upward. The Milky Way sliced the star riddled sky. I was aware that I was staring at the edge of the galaxy…in more ways than one. I took a deep breath, cementing that moment in my mind forever. Then I moved on.

As gray light began the hallucinations started. Every tree was a person. Every rock a tent. Then I started seeing people where there was nothing to even shape shift. I couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t. And really, it didn’t matter. What was real was the trail under my feet. I could still determine that. The breathing, the movement, the nausea, the waves of exhaustion. Those were real. The miles and miles ahead of me. The passes left to climb. The thousands of feet of gain. Those were real.

I reached the top of Pinchot Pass and put in my music. I started running and I turned it up to drown out the pounding of my heart in my head and to keep me conscious. I ran and ran and ran. Hallucinations faded some as I moved forward. I crossed the South Fork of the King River and turned the music off. I started the climb.

I passed thru-hikers breaking camp and soon they were behind me in a line as we crossed above tree line and strode across the rocky plains. Hallucinations were coming fast and furious. Fatigue had me dizzy. Finally without preamble I stepped aside and sat down. They passed me and I closed my eyes. Five minutes later I snapped awake, reminded that I had to press onward. I rose to my feet and pushed forward.

As I walked onward the moss and shadows and rock of the wall ahead of me suddenly shifted into the biggest cottonwood tree imaginable. I mean 2,000ft high. I blinked and shook my head but it remained…just like those dot paintings from the early 90’s with hidden images that pop out when you stare long enough. I looked down at my dusty Lone Peaks rhythmically striking the ground. When I looked back up it was the side of a mountain again. I squinted. Now, a tree. I played with my mind and the hallucination as I walked across the rocky landscape. The trail turned and began to climb. I looked upward and tried not to be discouraged at the amount of vertical relief towering above me.

I reached the end of the switchback, bent, placed my hands on my knees and lowered my head. I breathed deeply into my belly as the spinning in my head subsided. I counted breaths. After 45 I could no longer hear and feel my heart trying to escape my chest. I straightened and waited a moment to let the blood pressure equalize and the spinning to stop again. I focused on the end of the switchback 50 yards ahead. “I only have to walk to there.”

I repeated this technique over and over and over and over as I ascended from the valley floor to the rocky heights. Finally I was 3 switchbacks from the top. I mustered strength and walked again, head down, staring at my feet. A few yards from the apex I looked up. A cinnamon bear with chocolate paws and ears was clambering over the rocks from the switchback below. I stared at the hallucination as it turned toward me, a mere 10 feet away. I could see the texture of the fur, the annoyance in its eyes…

“Hughhhh!” It started toward me, eyes locked on mine.

I blinked, my mind moving slowly. “Oh shit. I would hallucinate a happy bear…not an angry bear. This is not a hallucination!” I backed away. The bear followed me not so slowly. I did not trust myself to not trip walking backward so I turned sideways. I walked looking in its direction, but no longer allowing it to make eye contact. I reached the end of the switchback and scooped up two medium sized rocks as I clambered off the end of the trail and turned to face the approaching bear.

“BEAR!!!!!!!” A woman yelled from above me. Ok. Definitely wasn’t a hallucination.

The bear stopped walking toward me and looked up. It tried to climb up between the switchbacks, but slid back. It walked a few more steps toward me.

“I think it wants to use the trail. Get off the end of the switchback like I am.”

The woman above did so. The bear tried again to cut the switchback. This time it was successful. With a burst of incredible power it bolted down the trail, off the end of the switchback, and up the rocks disappearing over the pass.

I looked back at the trail. I had to do this switchback again. I took a deep breath and dropped the rocks.
I sat on Mather Pass and closed my eyes. My head swam. I needed sleep. I looked down at my hands. They were still purple. My body had stopped being capable of circulating enough oxygen to both my working muscles and my extremities many hours ago. My kidneys ached. I tried to remember the last time I’d peed. I couldn’t. I couldn’t remember much of anything. I talked to the group of thru-hikers who’d just arrived. I don’t know what I said. All I know is that after a few moments I started my descent toward the Golden Staircase.

When it was flat I ran. When it wasn’t I walked. I reached the Golden Staircase and turned on my music. I ran as much as I could as I descended. I strode along the flats. I wondered who the woman running alongside me was and why she couldn’t run any faster. “I could run so much faster than this.” Then the realization came crashing through the fog in my mind: I AM that woman. That clarity was immediately followed by two confusing questions: “Who am I? Where am I?”

I ran in a daze as I pondered the realization and the question. Finally I remembered the answer. “I am Heather Anderson. I am running the JMT in California.”

My mind was a frayed wire. It was barely connected to my body. It was this disassociation that was even making it possible for me to continue. I vaguely remembered moments like this from the PCT, but never so severe. I’d never felt that I was someone completely separate from my body before. I enjoyed the brief clarity that came with the tiny amount of caffeinated Trail Butter I’d managed to choke down. I knew my kidneys were stressed. My lungs and chest ached. A rattily, wet cough had begun. I knew my body was circulating the precious commodity of oxygen to the moving muscles at the sake of everything else, including my digestive tract and extremities, maybe even my brain. Sleep deprivation was taking its toll in combination with lack of calories and AMS. I was not going to be able to go much longer without sleeping. I spotted a pine tree just yards off the trail and I climbed up to it. It was sort of flat. I plopped down and closed my eyes. I gave myself permission to sleep for 2 hours. I lost consciousness almost immediately.

I snapped awake an hour later. I put on my shoes and got up. I started hiking. I looked down. My hands were pink and healthy looking. I felt alert. I met two thru-hikers; Johnny Cash and Hot Legs. We chatted and fell in together as we climbed toward Muir Pass. I was hiking 3 mph again. I felt normal. We stopped for water. I no longer cared about the long term risk of Giardia. I knew only that I needed to survive the next 100+ miles. They stopped to treat/filter and I continued on.

An hour or so later all the rejuvenation I had ran out and my pace slowed. I was well into the rocky, lake riddled terrain that dominates the climb to Muir Pass. My chest was aching like it has never ached before. My hands were a dusky purple again. I went into yet another coughing fit. Phlegm shot out of my mouth and I stared at it. There is was, like a ruby on the ground. I looked up at the ridges far above me. I took a deep breath and kept walking.

A few minutes later Hot Legs caught up to me.

“Where’s Johnny Cash?”
“He stopped to eat. I figured if Anish can do this without eating so can I. Mind if I hike with you?”
“Not at all. I’m just going really slowly now. I ran out of energy. And I just coughed up blood.”
He was silent for a little while.
“I don’t mind this pace.”
We walked on, chatting about the mundane things that thru-hikers talk about.
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a paramedic.”
I laughed, which turned into a cough. “So you know all about coughing up blood, don’t you?”
“Yeah. Do you have any burning in your chest?”
“No. My lungs are just sore. Like an overworked muscle. I think maybe it was just from all the dry air and dust.”
He was quiet for a minute. “Yeah, maybe. I’d say if it happens again you should go to the hospital.”

We began to lose the trail in the rocks and water run-off. We wandered and problem solved. Every once in a while I would say, “Oh! I made this mistake last year. The trail is over there.”

Darkness fell. I knew I was moving at a glacial pace. Johnny Cash caught up.

“I have to sit down. You guys go on ahead.”
“Nope, we’ll wait.”

Twice more I stopped to sit and tried to send them on. Hot Legs assured me, “I want to wait.” I stopped apologizing and instead was thankful for the company.

We reached the top of Muir Pass just before 11pm. We stepped into the hut. I was surprised at how warm it was. They went about setting out their bags and preparing for bed. I took a bite of a bar and leaned against my pack. I closed my eyes and slept.

30 minutes later I woke up and took another bite of a bar. One bite at a time was all I could manage. It had been taking me 7-10 hours to finish a bar over the last 24 hours. I fell asleep for another 15 minutes. I woke up and stood. I swung the door open quietly and stepped out into the cold midnight air.

I walked and staggered down the pass. I crossed between lakes and across the outlet of Evolution Creek. I was stumbling and tripping. I sat down and fell asleep for 5 minutes. I woke up and started walking. I felt totally demoralized. There was so much more climbing on this descent than I remembered. I had been counting on making up some time on this 20 mile descent. I tripped and nearly fell into the large, silent lake only inches off trail. I realized that I had fallen asleep while walking. I sat down and fell asleep.

I woke 10 minutes later and stood up. Suddenly, I couldn’t remember which direction I’d come from. I pulled out my phone and looked at Halfmile. I headed out, happy I’d checked. I’d started out the wrong way. Soon I was walking alongside a beautiful, dark lake. The stars twinkled above and reflected in the water in a mesmerizing fashion. Suddenly I realized it was the lake I had almost fallen into. I stopped, confused. I looked down…there were my footprints going the other way. I looked at Halfmile. I backtracked. I looked at Halfmile again. I started to cry. “I KNOW I passed this lake going the other way!”
My fuzzy mind was twisted and confused. There was no way I could understand what was going on. Halfmile must be wrong. There must be a glitch. I pulled out my compass. The needle spun and pointed in the same direction Halfmile said to go.

“No, no, no…”

I knew that no matter what my frazzled brain believed I had to trust my instruments. I knew that the compass and the Halfmile app weren’t wrong. I walked back past Wanda Lake. Dawn tinged the horizon. I realized vaguely that after my first five minute nap I must’ve turned the wrong way and walked for over an hour back toward the pass.

Light came, but I was still cold. Too cold to sleep. I tried to run. I kept waking up standing in the bushes or off the trail not knowing how I got there. Realizing I’d traveled a 100 yards from where I last remembered being awake. Over and over I slept while running and walking, once I even realized I was drooling as though I'd been asleep with my mouth open, face first into a pillow.

Objectively I knew I needed rest, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep for long. I was too cold. I reached the ford of Evolution Creek. I climbed onto a high bit of bank and looked into the water. I picked a line that avoided the deep holes and plunged in. The frigid water numbed my feet and awakened my mind. I sloshed out the other side, thankful that in three crossings I had yet to get washed downstream toward the fatal falls.
I ran and hiked onward. As the day grew warmer I grew stronger. At last it was warm enough I could sleep. I found a flat spot and lay down. I wanted a 2 hour nap before I tried to climb Seldon Pass. I slept for 15 minutes. Awake I continued on. Lower in elevation I wasn’t coughing as much, but the cumulative fatigue and stress were taking their toll. I continued to take a bite of bar every hour. I began to drink more, not bothering to filter everything. My kidneys stopped aching and I rejoiced in the simple fact that I needed to urinate. I dropped at the top of the pass like every other and slept 5 minutes. I got up and descended to Bear Creek.

My mind had often left my body over the last 36 hours or more. I wasn’t even sure how long I’d been out there and moving. I tried to count nights and days and miles remaining. About 100. I realized that I was on pace to break the women’s unsupported record by a day and a half. That I wouldn’t be bringing the parity to the men’s and women’s records that I had hoped, but it was something, right? I was feeling better. Two bites of bar an hour. No gasping for air. 9,000ft felt so good.

I can do this, right? The danger was past. I fleetingly thought of how I’d run off the trail repeatedly this morning. How I’d nearly fallen into a lake. The moment I almost lost my balance and plunged off a cliffy switchback somewhere in a dark night. The fatigue would only get worse. My calorie deficit was immense. But I can do this. I can suffer more. I can suffer longer. Do I want to?

In my mind I composed the text I’d send from Red’s Meadow recounting the trauma I’d been through, but that I was continuing on. So my boyfriend and my support at start and finish would know why it was taking me so damn long. A jarring sound brought my wandering thoughts back to the moment. I stared down at my pocket. The noise came again. A text?

I pulled out my phone. I don’t know why it wasn’t off as it should have been. On the other hand, I believe things happen for a reason. I sat down on a log and opened the text from my boyfriend. I blurted out what had been in my head and sent it. Then I copied it and sent it to Kevin.

Again, things happen for a reason. Kevin was sitting on Cloud’s Rest…the only cell reception he’d had all day. He heard the text and ignored it at first. Then he looked. “I need to quit.”

The worry I read in the texts I received back solidified my waffling. “Pick me up at Mammoth tomorrow morning. Probably around 10am.”

I climbed Bear Ridge and descended to Mono Creek. I thought I remembered there being a car there once before. But there were no roads. No sign of the campground I thought I remembered. I found a nice tree and crawled under it at 9:30pm. I wrapped up in my emergency blanket and all my clothes. I knew I was cold because I was depleted, but there was no way I could climb Silver Pass without some sleep. I set my alarm for 2 hours later and hoped I wasn’t going to pop awake in 1.

Something about deciding to quit can give you permission to actually rest. The alarm went off and I clenched my eyes more closed. “Kevin?” I mumbled. My voice was hoarse and raspy as it had been for 24 hours. Why wasn’t Kevin shutting off his alarm?

I sat up and realized I was lying beneath a tree, my cell phone chiming merrily. Cognizance of what I was doing came back and I shut the alarm off. I texted Kevin, “I am 35 miles away and heading out. See you in the morning.” I switched the SPOT to tracking as he’d requested and got up. I was shivering. I was so cold. I left the down jacket, balaclava, hat, mittens, wool pants and dress on. I walked for a few minutes thinking the climb would warm me. It didn’t. I wrapped the emergency blanket around my like a sarong. I struggled to think of the word sarong. It took me 15 minutes to come up with. I staggered through the night, cursing the many false summits of Silver Pass. Every bend I hoped I was there. I thought it was only 10,000ft, but I passed the 10,000ft sign and the trail showed no signs of topping out. My cough came back. I spit out phlegm, but none of it was red. At last I crested the pass. I didn’t even slow down. I needed out.

Eventually the sun came up and I took off the emergency blanket. I allowed my mind to wander to do whatever it needed to do to keep me conscious and moving. I wouldn’t sleep again. I was quitting. I just needed to reach Red’s Meadow.

After Purple Lake I couldn’t do it. I prayed for the strength to get out. I prayed for something to make the ordeal less miserable. The trail began to rise and I sat down. I leaned against a tree. “Just 5 minutes.”

10 minutes later I woke up and started walking. Within a few moments a thru-hiker passed me. I noticed his Altra Olympus’ as he strode ahead.

“How do you like those?”

He slowed to answer and I dug deeply to keep up with him as he responded. I made up my mind that I would keep pace with him come hell or high water no matter how badly I felt. He mentioned he was trying to make it to town before the brew pub closed.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to try and keep up with you. I just want to get out of here and a thru-hiker motivated by beer is gonna be the best pacer I can imagine!”

LaZBoy and I hiked the last 20 miles together. I struggled on the climbs, but he held back for me. I could keep pace on the descents. I started to question my decision to stop. But I knew the moment I had no one to distract me that I would fall back into my sleepwalking ways. I couldn’t fathom another 60 miles like that. Another 24 hours without sleeping. I realized LaZBoy was the answer to my request to get out of here quickly and less miserably. I was silently thankful.

We strode into Red’s Meadow and I bought a liter bottle of water. The bus pulled in moments later and I got on board. I sat in the seat and guzzled the water. We pulled away, rolling down the mountain road. I didn’t look back. I felt no desire to still be struggling along the trail. I felt no regret.

21 comments:

  1. Congrats on exploring the edge of the Galaxy!

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    1. Thanks! I feel good about biting off more than I could handle. It means I was outside my comfort zone!

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  2. A very interesting read. Thanks for sharing it.
    Quitting is a very hard and brave decision. I am sure you will be more prepared for your next challenge.

    Happy trails, and I'm glad you are well.

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  3. Not only a great attempt, but a great write-up. I was riveted reading it. Thank you for sharing it with the interwebs.

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  4. I don't think I have ever read a first-hand account of a struggle between mind and body like this before. It was interesting to me to read with the little voice in the back of my head saying how often I would have stopped when you continued on. Really shows what it takes to go after something like this. I'm sure we'll be reading soon about your next attempt which will be a success :-)

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    1. Thanks! Yes, I plan to go back when I'm not anemic, acclimate and finish what I started!!

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  5. Absolutely amazing read! Your ability to push yourself is almost equaled by your story telling!

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    1. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the account.

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  6. Last week I had to bail out of the SoBo JMT at MTR because of a bad case of giardasis. Reading the recounting your herculean run/hike makes me realized how puny my condition was compared to your. You are absolutely amazing! I really enjoyed your telling of the story and I was completely gripped by your narrative the say I did with the likes of Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. I really hope that you will have a second and successful shot at it especially b/c it seems that you did the most difficult part of the trail.
    I'm looking forward to reading your next story!

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  7. Fascinating story Heather. Congratulations on going for such a tough route. I'm sure you'll crush it, although not without the beautiful and intense struggle you so clearly seek, the next time you go for it. I fastpacked the Tahoe 200 course in 4 days this week and holy moly that was hard. I thought of you a lot. Your hiking was inspiring for me when I didn't want to keep going. I did sleep though and that really helped. Each night.

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  8. I had the same problem with eating this year on my PCT section from Trail Pass to Sierra City. I just could not swallow. I did manage to get some foods down but just like you it took a long time to chew them and get them down. I wound up loosing so much weight that I ended up weighing what I had weighed at age 13, 50 years ago. Sorry you had to go through all that you had to go through.

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  9. A friend just recommended this story to me. I missed it when you posted it. WOW thanks for sharing with such honesty. This is very inspiring.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Joan! I am always happy to hear that my explorations of my own limits inspire others.

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  10. Almost a year later, out of the blue, I tried to look back and find a blog post where you talked about your JMT FKT attempt. It was such an honor meeting you when I did. I only got to hike with you for a short amount of time, yet I was able to learn so much from you. How far the human body and mind can endure if pushed to its limits, and what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. I don't care that you didn't beat the record, the fact you wanted it and you went after it and pushed yourself like you did...that's true determination. I just want you to know you're an incredible inspiration to myself even to this day, and as i continue to see you push your limits farther and farther (AT FKT?!) and continue breaking records I am left inspired to make my own path and push my limits to continue doing what i love.

    Keep on kicking ass Heather, and I'll keep rooting for you.
    -Hot Legs (Richard)

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    1. Hot Legs! I am so happy to hear from you. I think of my experience on the JMT quite often and the role you played. Thank you for sticking with me up Muir even when I was at an absolute snails pace. I hope you are continuing your adventures!!

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