Where’s Al O’Neal on the PCT
Well folks, for now, we have come to the end of our trail tails. But we will pick up again next summer.
Here are the final words from Space Cowboy. (AKA Al O’Neal)
The morning broke without me even knowing as I soundly slept in a warm bed at the Manning Park Lodge. At about 8:45 my wife and son and I went over to have breakfast and saw a group of thru hikers, some of whom I vaguely recognized from the trail, dining at a nearby table. I went over to talk with them and found out that they had made it to the monument but had to skip about thirty miles of the trail because of accumulated snow and weather conditions. Their descriptions of the accumulated snow on the passes and conditions at Rainy Pass when they arrived there confirmed my expectation that I had made the right decision for myself in deciding not to move on from Stehekin. For me, it was just the safe thing to do.
The equipment I was carrying and the shoes I had were just not going to cut it for me in those conditions. Up until that morning, I had hoped against hope that there might be lighter than expected snow on the passes and that, possibly, the weather would warm again long enough to create a window of opportunity and allow my passage to the border and to Manning Park.
It was now clear that, with waist deep drifts being reported, that wasn’t going to happen. I thought about my many trail friends who were out there somewhere in the snow giving it all they had to finish and said a small prayer for their safe completion.
The sinking feeling of personal disappointment was, to my surprise, short lived. My focus dwelled on what I had accomplished and the fantastic experiences I had had in hiking as much of the PCT as I did.
The great people I met, the wildlife I encountered, and the mind blowing beauty I walked through the heart of were far more powerful images for me than my desire for a single season finish. When I arrived at Ziggy and the Bear’s back in late April, there was a real controversy about whether or not one could hike the Lake Fire Closure. My wife had come up to meet me there.
We had planned to go up and stay a night at Big Bear Lake where I slack packed nine miles of the trail to the road north of Echo Summit. On the way up we stopped off in Yucaipa to visit with some relatives and I read in the paper that the authorities were letting people hike it in spite of the official closure notice.
It was frustrating and I wasn’t going to change our plans in the middle of the game so I skipped the fire closure. It’s some thirty to forty miles of trail to Onyx Summit and I now plan to go back before the snow flies up there and hike it so that the only remaining section I will have to complete next summer will be the eighty-nine miles from High Bridge at Stehekin to Manning Park, BC.
There is going to be a total solar eclipse on August 21st next year and I’m going to combine the two trips, probably hiking the final miles over a comfortable span of five days in early September.
In the meantime, I have taken about two thousand images of my attempted thru hike and I am looking forward to the video footage to be included in the forthcoming Korean Broadcasting System’s documentary, “Journey on Foot”, to be aired in March. Those of you who are interested will be able to access the series of four episodes on YouTube. It will be in Korean with English subtitles. Thank you all for following along this summer. I will keep posting until my finish but with less frequency so check back every once in a while and, if you are feeling generous, please remember and consider a donation or a follow up donation to the HistioCure Foundation. Don’t forget to put “Kali” or “PCT” in the “in honor of” space on the form.
From Luggage: I would also like to thank friends and strangers alike for their continued support of this journey. A special thanks to those who donated to the cause of LCH.
God Bless you all. I hope our story has touched, and will continue to touch, those around the world. See you all again next summer, when Space Cowboy walks again!