We made it to Mexico! I had this vision of what the last miles would be like - easy, peaceful, a time for reflection and excitement. Just like when I made it to Canada 2 years ago from the Oregon/Washington border, we would hang out at the monument and soak in the glory. Well, like most things in life, we got something other than expected.
We went to sleep in our tent 11 miles from the border the night before with border patrol helicopters flying overhead. Halfway through the night it started raining, waking us intermittently. We got up at the usual 4 am, ready to walk in the dark at 5 am. The rain continued. Gradually our pants and socks began to soak through and eventually we were completely wet. Just like that time in Washington so many months ago. So our last miles were not peaceful. We had a wet push to the finish and spent minimal time at the monument - we wrote 2 short sentences in the hiker register and took only 1 photo. Then we turned around. That was it. That was Mexico.
The first people to congratulate us on our finish were strangers - a man drove by in his truck and asked if I was lost as I was walking back to the general store in Campo.
"Nope, not lost! Just headed to the store. I walked here from Canada."
It stopped raining as soon as we finished our hike, so we sat outside the store drying out and waiting for the bus. As per usual, this gave us the opportunity to talk to all the local folks who show up - a crazy lady with a cart, a stump of wood, and a cell phone she didn't know how to use; the store clerk; the friendly old man; the dude who's overweight friend had hiked all the way to Canada and lost 80 lbs; and the fellow who lived right next to the store and had seen all kinds of crazy things go down at the border.
In the few hours we spent outside the store, most of the people we talked to had the same question for us - how was it? Well, it's impossible to sum up, really. Especially so close after the fact. It's such a huge feat that even my own brain can't quite comprehend it. Some more specific questions are easier to answer. So here are our answers to some frequently asked questions.
What have we learned?
No matter what the problem, the solution is to keep walking. Too windy? Too rocky? Foot hurts? Tired of going uphill? Tired of walking? Keep walking! Eventually the wind will stop, the terrain will change, something else will hurt to distract you from past pain, or the pain will go away. Eventually we'll get there, whatever the destination may be, and we can stop walking. But the only way there is to walk.
What was the hardest part?
We've had different challenges at different times, so it's tough to say which was the hardest. The snow in Washington was surely difficult to traverse and wore us out right off the bat. Then the monotony of Oregon and Northern California was a mental challenge. The steep climbs and thin oxygen in the Sierras in combination with long food-carries and the weight of a bear canister made for a strenuous stretch of trail. Then the strong winds that wrapped us up like a sheet of ice and relentlessly pushed us sideways in the high desert. Then the cold cold nights. The 20 mile waterless climb up Mt. San Jacinto. There were endless challenges. All different.
What was the best part?
Washington. Washington was surely the best. Not quite as lifeless as the high Sierra, but just as dramatic. Complete with high pointy peaks but also green flowering meadows, bubbling streams, fern filled forests, and
volcanoes in the distance. We've missed Washington ever since we left, and are so happy to call this place our home. We're both tired of walking but are still looking forward to a damp day hike once we get back to the Pacific Northwest.
Why did we do this?
We like the lifestyle. Eating lunch on the ground next to a stream, sleeping under the stars, absorbing the silent beauty. At the end of the day we are truly in touch with our most basic needs... eating, sleeping, talking to a friend. It keeps us centered.
But also, as we stated on our home page, we're trying to make this into something bigger. We reached a point where what we saw in the world was overwhelmingly frustrating. In a food environment where the unhealthy choice is the easy one, sometimes we feel helpless. This hike and project is our way of helping to make change and take things into our own hands. We hope that we've reached some people with our message and are still trying to reach our fundraising goal. :)
What's the best part about being back in the developed world?
Pooping in a toilet.
What are we doing next?
Bug - I'm going back to Seattle to see my dog (Sprout!), friends, and find a place to live. I'll be starting an 8 month dietetic internship in March of next year, with rotations in Washington DC with the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, with my good friends at the Bastyr Dining Commons in Seattle, and at a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Willits, California. When all that's over, I'll become a Registered Dietitian and get right to work helping people make better food choices and reverse chronic diseases.
Mud - I'll be back in the Seattle area and applying to Grad schools for a Master's in Public Health and Nutrition. I'm looking forward to hanging out with my friends and dog (Trigger!), doing some handy man work, as well as visiting some family in Texas... all the while, eating as much fresh produce as I can find.
It feels good to have finally accomplished this goal, and it's exciting to move on to the next phase of our lives. We are so thankful for all of the support we've experienced from friends and strangers alike in the past few months. We couldn't have done it without you.
Stay tuned for some video/slideshow summaries of our journey, and in the mean time... our donation page for A Well Fed World will stay open through the end of the year. If you haven't looked into this organization (or our resources page), or made a small donation, take some time to check it out! We will continue to welcome donations, questions and comments!
Got a dollar? HELP US SAVE THE PLANET. DONATE PLEASE :)
You never know what's going to happen when you walk out into the desert alone. I've been on my own for the last week or so, as Mud already did these miles in the spring. He went off to check out the town of Loma Linda and explore grad school opportunities
Meanwhile, I've found that some of the most interesting things happen as soon as I'm on the trail by myself.
I first found that I wasn't alone at all-running into trail friends unexpectedly and walking with new people for a few days. But when our schedules no longer matched, we parted ways.
I then met some of the less friendly creatures of the terrain. First, a hunter. I noticed this man as I walked through heavy brush, traversing a steep slope. He was about ten feet away. We made brief eye contact before he crouched down on the trail. I walked a few more steps and then was startled by the thunderous bang of a gun shot. And then three more. I froze. This man barely acknowledged me. We stood in silence for a few seconds. When I saw that his gun was no longer primed for shooting I asked if I could pass. He stared intently into the distance for what seemed like an eternity, until finally he responded: "go ahead". His focus and intensity was unwavering. Who am I to get in the way of a good kill?
Hunting season is finally over. Personally, I'm happy to have these men off the trail. They go out into the wilderness with the sole intention of killing. Who knows what else they're capable of. I don't trust them.
The next unfriendly creature I met was at night. The sun had just set, the moon had not yet risen, and the temperature had just dropped by 10 degrees. I was walking quickly to get to camp and heard a ruckus below the trail. Immediately off the trail to my right was a snake - rattling and hissing. My headlamp reflected its small beady eyes and flicking tongue. This guy was not happy to see me. I bolted ahead, feeling jumpy at the slightest sound and looking behind me every few minutes. Not that the snake would chase me down the trail... But I just wanted to be sure. Luckily, the rest of the night was peaceful and uneventful.
At last, a friendly, though odd, surprise came my way. I crossed a paved road where a man was standing near his car. After I crossed, he called out to me: "How far are you going?" Impressed with my response, he then asked if he could walk with me. He seemed harmless and kind of nerdy, so I agreed. He was headed out for his usual evening hike. This man had seen Mud and me in town before we parted ways and said we looked "so official". Official? I've never heard that one before. He was fascinated by the trail and thru-hikers and treated me like a celebrity he had been waiting his life to meet. He was full of questions and chatty as a chipmunk. He kept repeating that I was "like one of his heroes".
I'm not so sure about the hero part. I'm just a person who's been doing a lot of one thing for a really long time - walking. But it was nice to have a few miles of conversation and a slight ego boost to propel me down the trail.
We now sit in Idyllwild, soaking in the fall mountain beauty and relaxing for a day. Mud is on board for the next 150 miles - our last week of this journey. It's hard to believe that all this walking will come to an end in just a few days...
by Bug and Mud
We've gotten a reputation among other hikers on the trail as the ones with the good food. We often have leftovers from our resupply boxes and try to give them away as much as possible. Our friend Henrick is always thrilled to get some "Mud and Bug food!" for the next section of his hike. Others come over to where we are organizing our provisions and ask what we're eating. It always feels good to be able to share food, or even ideas about food, with others. After all, that is our mission in life and what this journey is all about.
Lastly, the best find of all is a grocery store with fresh produce. We load a basket with greens, avocado, lime, salsa, tortilla chips, apples, watermelon, bananas, and of course some goodies like chocolate. We assemble a salad in our hotel room. If there is a microwave, we may also have some Annie's organic frozen meals. It's not homemade, but sometimes it beats eating out.
A few times we have been lucky enough to find a kitchen. Below is one of our favorite easy meals to make - burritos!
Needless to say, the challenges of eating well in small towns and resorts is starting to wear on us. After four months, the monotony of trail food is less than appetizing, even on an empty stomach. We're gonna keep walking and keep eating, but we are certainly looking forward to the day we have a kitchen once again. Oh, the plants we will eat.
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