So I’m about 180 miles away from Canada sitting in my tent thinking about what to write. I have about six different paragraphs of ideas written down that are all kind of scattered around. I wanted to see if I can do this all in one shot instead, so here we go…Washington has been absolutely beautiful up to this point. I’m talking spectacular. Super lush and rich in color, with probably the most breath taking scenery on the trail. There’s a bittersweet feeling looming over me knowing these days are coming to an end. With that being said, Washington without a doubt has been a grind. Mentally and physically I think I’ve been at my limit since the middle of Oregon and would be lying if I said a little part of me won’t be happy when this is done. I’m still enjoying my time out here, but Washington’s rain and rugged terrain, along with this ankle injury, has taken a toll on me for sure. It just makes it harder to really enjoy these days to the fullest having been out here for so long. Hiking multiple days with all your gear soaked while you’re frozen to your core gives the word miserable a whole new meaning. Plus you or your gear are never really fully that dry. There’s always this dampness lingering around that makes you look up at the clouds every two seconds hoping the sun decides to break through. But when the sun does decide to break through the clouds, god damn there’s nothing like it. There’s just this giant ball of fire floating in space and at any second can take away the misery of the rain and provide you with an amount of happiness that can’t be matched. Rain aside, one thing I really enjoyed with Washington was the variety in wildlife along with some of these smaller trail towns. I saw everything from mountain goats, to pikas, to marmots, to elk, and wrapped up my last week on trail with two bears. Passed by as a black bear was high up on the rocks. While down in the woods heard a branch snap followed by a loud breath to see a brown bear walking through the brush ten feet away from me. Thankfully he didn’t notice me and I wasn’t sticking around to ask questions. My favorite had to be the elk though. Huge beautiful majestic creatures they were. Walking along the ridges of mountains, looking down in a canyon full of nothing but pine and evergreen trees hearing their bugle fill the valley has been one of the coolest things to experience on trail. They sound like a mythical creature howling through the woods. As for the towns, usually no more than a long block of everything you need. The last town stop for me was Stehekin. I wrote in the trail register that I’d be back here after I retire but in all honesty I might head back to spend a summer there working. Easily my favorite town off the trail. The town is completely off the grid and the only way in is by plane, ferry or hiking through the mountains. Just this little town tucked away in the mountains like something you see in the movies. But then again, this whole trip seemed like something you see in the movies. And I’m not talking Wild. All in all, Washington easily lived up to the hype and I’ll be back sometime down the road.
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir
I’ve been thinking back to my first day out here more and more as these days wind down. I can remember it perfectly, but it feels like a life time ago. But then some days it feels like it was yesterday. Time begins to turn to such a foreign concept out here on the trail. When your days stop revolving around time and aren’t dictated by weekdays vs weekends, the ambiguity of time really starts to throw you for a loop. “Oh it was only a month ago.” A month isn’t a long time at all. But man, a month out here and I’ll have hiked through an entire state. So you can see how month after month of that it can really start to mess with your head. I’ve said it before that it’s almost too hard to comprehend that if I were to follow this trail all the way back, that I’d end up at Mexico. That first day I felt like a child going to school for the first time. Extremely excited. Extremely nervous. Comfort zone nowhere to be found. I’ve been so extremely grateful to have had this experience and learn all the things that I’ve learned along. When I think about the guy who started this, and that the guy who’s going to finish is the same person, it almost seems like I’m doing myself a disservice. Clearly the same me, but the amount of knowledge and experience that was jam packed into these five months seems like it would have taken years to learn otherwise. This has been such an eye opening trip and I hope to give back some of what I’ve learned through these words. And so we go…
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus
One of the main reasons for coming out here was because I was at a point in my life where I was going through tons of self doubt. This wasn’t little self doubt either. This was like self doubt on steroids. I wouldn’t say that I’m a depressed person by any means, but I did get to a breaking point where I had to admit to myself that on some level I just wasn’t all that happy with certain aspects in my life. Thinking about doing this trail while I was dealing with that level of self doubt scared the shit out of me. What happens if I don’t even make it out there? What happens if I quit in the first month because it’s not for me? What if? There were two things that scared me the most. Looking like a complete fool if I quit, and confirming my self doubts by quitting on myself. This was never about the “look at me factor.” This was about me needing to do something for myself. But also let’s be honest. Telling everyone you’re going to hike from Mexico to Canada, “I’ll see you guys in 6 months.” One month later…yea I tried but it was too hard. Uh yea, not really a good look my man. And if you’d asked me in the beginning if I was going to complete the entire trail, I most likely told you “I really don’t know.” But man, if I kept thinking about those doubts, I knew I wasn’t going to get anywhere. Sometimes in life you just gotta risk it for the biscuit. So that’s where the jumping into lava came into play.
“But that’s the thing. Before you can believe it I gotta believe it.” – Sekou Andrews
One thing that caught my attention while listening to a podcast was “or you can jump into lava.” It wasn’t used in the context that I had previously posted before, but it got me thinking. How many times have I read some lame cliche quote about leaving your comfort zone? Too many. No one wants to hear cliche anything. But the thing with cliches is that there’s usually truth in them. Well that was the case with this. I knew that I needed to break up this negative momentum that I was caught in, but wasn’t exactly sure what to do. Hearing about the Pacific Crest Trail seemed like my type of win. It’s not everyone’s win, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want something bad enough, you’ll make it happen. That “win” can also be anything. It doesn’t have to be a five month hiatus. It can be getting a new job. Getting in better shape. Quitting a job you hate. Some form of breaking up the norm. But if you get to that point where you become consciously aware that there’s some level of dissatisfaction in your life and you don’t do anything about it, you only have yourself to blame. No one else will ever be responsible for your own level of happiness except you. And I do get that it’s not always that simple. But it’s 100% doable. The biggest thing that helped me in recent years was the awareness that I got through meditation. It woke me up enough to be honest with myself. And once I was honest with myself, it became too hard let that dissatisfaction run my life. Meditation was a life changer for me that I won’t get into on here, but I did write a separate post on a crash course about it if anyone’s interested. I can only speak about my experiences and what’s worked for me. If any of this should help, run with it.
Change isn’t easy though. There’s a lot of fear when it comes to change and justifiably so. In a sense, your shedding part of your identity for the unknown. You start heading into uncharted territories in the mind. But whether or not you investigate those uncharted territories, they’re always going to be there. The sooner you deal with them, the sooner it’ll be easier to navigate through those areas. Man, I’ve had nothing but time to think out here and examine those areas. I truly valued this time where I was able to slow down, get out of my own way, and just get a good look at everything. Not all of it was a cake walk though. There were easily times where I was forced to look at all those darker corners in the mind when I wanted absolutely no part. I’ll just deal with that another time I would tell myself. But there’s only so many times you can tell yourself that before you reach your breaking point. It came down to where I took those fears and ran them through the worst case scenarios just to watch them disappear. It was like once I was able to accept the worst possible outcome and still be ok with the result, what was really left after that? Nothing. Internal work isn’t always pretty, but I believe it’s essential for growth. And if a storm should ever blow you off course against your will after that, you’ll already know how to navigate through those waters. Cheesy analogy but there’s some logic in there…somewhere. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’ll pay off in the long run.
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield
I don’t think I ever intended this trip to head in an inspirational direction. Not to say that it has, but every once in a while I’ll hear it from people. Man, I would still be doing this if there was only a hundred people out here. I’m a sucker for inspiration though. Whether it’s music, reading, watching motivational videos (watch a Mateusz M. video on YouTube and tell me you don’t want to go run a marathon after) I’m about it. My big one for travel was seeing a bunch of people my age running a muck all over the world. I would think, “well damn, if they could pull it off, there’s gotta be a way.” Personally I think it makes life easier when you’re able to find inspiration everywhere you look. But even I have my limit with inspiration. If you think I’m some guy shitting out inspiration 24/7, I’m sure there’s some people who will gladly tell you otherwise. I think it’s so crazy when you see people shoot down positivity and inspiration. Stay away from those kinds of people. You gotta have a limit. I get it. But without a doubt you need inspiration in your life and everyone finds that in different ways. I’ve had a lot of people tell me how they wish they could do something like this. Let me just say, and please really try to see the truth in this next line. If I, Justin Alito, Joe Schmo, can take the time to plan this trip out and successfully complete it…I don’t want to hear shit from anyone. And that’s not to take away from how awesome I am but you get the idea. You know those times where you randomly impress yourself and just go “shit, I knew there was something I liked about you.” Yea, well that is how I feel about this. So when I hear that from people I laugh because it’s 100% doable. You just have to make it happen if you really want something bad enough. It’s that simple when you get past the bullshit.
“He who who says he can, and he who says he can’t, are both usually right.” – Confucius
The last thing I want to talk about is probably the most important thing that I can take away from this whole trip. The power of choice and the freedom that can come from it. I want to jump back to the Sierras for this. I’ll never forget this day hiking through the Sierras where I experienced what I felt true freedom was to me. I don’t remember exactly where it was in the Sierras, but I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. I was looking around in total amazement feeling like a kid, asking myself “where the fuck am I even at right now?” I was laughing at how surreal that moment was. I wasn’t lost, don’t worry. I’m telling you that going into the Sierras is like entering a new world. I was in one of the most incredible places in the world witnessing what I felt like was my first real experience of true freedom. This feeling of being so unbelievably content with absolutely nothing to worry about. No work. No work coming up anytime soon. No bills I had to worry about. No negativity of other people around me. Nobody to impress. No judgement to worry about. No extra necessities other than what was strapped on my back in the heart of nature having one of the best days of my life. All because I chose to be out here. All because I chose to take a huge risk on this trip. I didn’t want to accept that this anxiety was now going to be part of my story. I didn’t want to accept “well I guess there’s nothing I can do about it.” And if you’re reading that saying it’s not that easy, you’re right. Change isn’t easy. I worked my ass off to get out here and busted my ass to complete this trail. But when it comes down to it, it’s as simple as choosing to take control of your life. Choosing to not be a passenger letting life pass you by. Choosing where to invest your time and energy. Choosing to create your reality in a clear intentional way and taking the necessary steps to change any part that’s not working for you. It’s so much easier to play the role of the victim than it is to do something about it. If there’s going to be any sort of change on a grander scale, it has to happen on an individual level first.
“You wanna be influenced by all these people, but the main influence that I think you should learn from the greats is that you have to find it in yourself. You can’t rely on anybody else.” – Aubrey Marcus
Everything I said. Easier said than done. Especially coming from the guy who hasn’t participated in the real world for 5 months. One of my goals from this is to take what I’ve learned out here and not let it get lost by the return of day to day life. Writing has never been my thing so thank you for putting up with these post. I look back at some of them cracking up while also cringing. Oh well, what are you gonna do? Embrace your ridiculousness my friends. I will say though, it has been fun at times trying to put this experience into words while staying authentic to myself in the form of writing. Honestly thank you to anyone who supported me through this entire journey. I’ve never been good with one on one thank yous, but I’ve made it a point to express how much it means to me at the end of every post. So if you’ve been reading them you already know. And if not, people probably think “this asshole.” Suckers. Or maybe they’re the smarter ones for not reading? What do I know? I’m just a young lad exploring the lands of my ancestors, fist fighting bears as I ride off into the sunset on my moutain lion. I hope you guys enjoyed following my story as I tried to navigate through these last five months. I don’t pretend to have things figured out by any means. I’m so far from the idea of really having things figured out, but at the end of the day, all I’m really trying to do is give back the things that I’ve come to learn through my experiences in a way that’s relatable. So like I said before, not all of this will relate to you but if it does, run with it. Cheers.
“What good is livin’ a life you’ve been giving if all you do is stand in one place.” – Lord Huron
I want to leave off with this last little bit of information about an incredible talk I had with this guy during my last week out here. I got into camp late that night and was absolutely exhausted but happy to see there was another human being around. Once I was done setting up camp, I grabbed my dinner and went over to talk with this guy. After talking for a little while I asked him why he was out here. I love hearing what people have to say to that. So he starts to tell me how he use to own a roofing company years ago where he had 12 guys working for him, was making six figures after taxes and buying $30,000 watches. In his mind he said he had made it. “I thought that’s what people did when they were making that much money.” Then he goes on to tell me that one day his mom sat him down telling him how he didn’t seem happy in the slightest bit. It wasn’t until that moment when he realized that despite “making it” in his eyes, he really wasn’t happy. He got rid of his company and did the AT twice and just completed the PCT and turned back to yo-yo Washington. Now do I know if everything he said was true? Couldn’t tell ya and don’t really care. I could hear the sincerity in his words through our conversation and regardless if he was lying, there was still truth behind what he was saying. I’m paraphrasing this a little bit because I don’t remember word for word but I remember the message perfectly. It’s something we always hear.
“If you think you can pursue happiness the way you pursue an animal on a hunt, you couldn’t be further from the truth. All these external achievements and possessions are only going to bring you temporary happiness. There’s an empty feeling that comes with that type of happiness. True happiness only comes from within. It’s something you have to find and create within yourself. I was effected by hurricane Katrina and saw the true meaning of despair. I saw people lose everything. But somehow they were still able to keep their spirits high and stay positive. We as human beings can be so incredibly fragile at certain points, but also so incredibly strong when really pushed to our limits and tested. It will always comes in waves and you have to never forget to recognize the role balance plays throughout life.” – Napoleon
Sincerely, some bad mother fucker who made it happen and spent the last 5 months of his life hiking from Mexico to Canada.