It is exactly eight months to the day that Glowworm and I met in San Diego so I figured it would be somewhat fitting to tell the story that I conveniently left out of all of my blog posts through my 160 days on trail. Enjoy, for what it’s worth.
Welp, I am finally sitting down to write my long overdue post-PCT update. The original plan was to have three or four of these suckers by now, but as expected those plans completely failed to pan out. In fact, plans failing to pan out or not panning out has basically been the thesis of my life in the two or so months since living the life of a malnourished, mentally deranged, and rather confused nomad. So, let’s get this straight now, I am not going to pathetically attempt (and fail) to recount all the has happened in the last two months. Glowworm did a halfway decent job of summing up the happenings of our post trail escapades in Vancouver and Seattle as well as missing the trail in her most recent post. Her recounting of those events and feelings are far more reverent, appropriate, and sincere than anything I would have ever written so consider yourself lucky for her to have penned such eloquent and meaningful pieces of literature. If you enjoyed those pieces (if you haven’t, shame on you for being so heartless, but I will permit you some level of redemption by giving you the link: https://thecaffeinatedhiker.wordpress.com/).
Ok, now that I’ve made you slightly guilty, I will happily inform you that this post will once again probably be inappropriate for children, tweens, teens, young adults, people-in-that-awkward-stage-between-35-and-40, middle aged folk, new inductees to AARP, the elderly, the holy shit you’re still alive’s, and the dead. I can, however, guarantee with no real authority that this will probably be the best thing that you will read over the next 5 minutes.
I’m sure at this point you’re thinking, “Okay, okay! Jesus, get to the point.” Fine. I will. I will get to the point, but not without expressing my distaste for what I’m about to write. Love stories make me sick. If there’s anything good that can come out of Kim Jong-Un’s recent ICBM test it’s the possibility that it could wipe out Rom Coms for all eternity. “Like the world has never seen!” as our beloved and well-spoken President Donny Trump would say. I say this because this post is the sappy, mushy gushy, sickening, Nicholas Sparks-worthy love story that everyone (mostly women, especially Glowworm’s friends) has been violently demanding for centuries. Okay, maybe not centuries, but it feels close to it. And, so it’s not horribly one-sided, I have permitted Glowworm to interject freely to correct the many details I will omit or get miserably wrong. Alright, kids, here we go.
Once upon a time in a magical place called San Diego a young prince lay eyes on a beautiful princess and they fell in love. They then frolicked happily through the mountains together and lived happily ever after. The end.
Ha! You think it actually happened like that? Fuck no, it didn’t. It was actually far less tidy. The real story is Glowworm and I met on April 10, 2017 at Scout and Frodo’s home in San Diego. Scout and Frodo annually host the vast majority of PCT hikers at their home the night before they begin their treks. To be honest, Glowworm was the only person my age there so we were naturally drawn to each other, but more for lack of any other options than an impulsive romantic desire. Sorry to burst your bubble. (This is true, but the fact that I ever-so-subtly moved my things from a tent full of older men into his tent seems like it should have tipped us both off a bit). That being said, when I first caught sight of her she was lounging on a lawn chair letting the Southern California sun kiss her pasty Canadian flesh (I had just gotten out of Canadian winter, okay?). And yes, I thought she was quite beautiful.
You see, deep down I really felt like this was my last good shot at finding anyone. I dated someone early in high school for six months (For the record, as of writing this I have now been in a relationship with Glowworm a whole day longer!), but after that ended abruptly I never really pursued anyone until I was in college. When I was in college I pursued a couple girls, but those would fizzle out after a while. In all reality I just never felt comfortable dating and when I found someone I thought was attractive I wanted to pursue them away from my friends under the radar and that was almost impossible to do. So, between being generally awkward surrounding dating and loathing my friends meddling in my relationships I just never really had any good opportunities when most people find their eventual partner. That being said, when I met Glowworm I was purposefully trying to be cautious. I didn’t want to leap at the first girl my age that I came in contact with so I tried to refrain from showing my interest beyond just being friendly (Meanwhile, I was totally clueless. Always have been when it comes to romantic relationships, so I thought I’d just stumbled upon a wonderful friend and hiking buddy).
I continued this strategy the following morning when the whole group that stayed at Scout and Frodo’s (including Dr. McDirty and Cougar, our South African friends) departed from the Mexican border to embark on our journeys. Despite how much I wanted to leave with Glowworm, I forced myself to walk away thinking, “You just met this girl, there’ll be other girls and even if there aren’t that not why you’re here.” (I saw him leaving the monument ahead of me and was instantly filled with disappointment… Looking back I don’t know how I didn’t realize my feelings sooner). I must admit, though, I couldn’t shake her from my mind and fortunately by lunch (after purposefully slowing my pace...thanks a lot) she caught up to me. We hiked the rest of the day together and that night camped in the same tentsite along with our eventual friends Dr. McDirty and Cougar. In the days following, I was in lockstep with Glowworm making sure she was never too far out of my sight all the while trying not to come off as too overbearing.
A couple days before we reached the first town of Warner Springs we had been hiking together on a really hot afternoon through the desert and at around 4:00 I found a nice shaded campsite and announced that I was going to stop and camp here. Glowworm responded and said that she was going to hike on. My heart sank. We had camped with each other up until then and all of the hopes of maybe eventually getting her to like me somewhat were dashed in that moment (I honestly had just made a goal to keep hiking until at least 5:00 that day… I ended up having my only night camped alone on the entire trail and can’t say I enjoyed it too much. I will say that I was very happy to see him passing by my tent the next morning).
She didn’t get very far, as I realized the following morning. She was only a mile or two up the trail and I passed her early in the morning before the sun had properly spread its rays over the valley. At an overpass nearby, I waited as much as I could in hopes that she would show up and sure enough, she hiked in and took a break as well. Later that day the circumstances were flipped (except for the fact that I explicitly tried to get him to stay and camp with me… *cough cough*), Glowworm had decided in the afternoon to camp early while I (in an effort to prove that I wasn’t too interested or in any way needy of her) opted to continue on and hike into the evening.
It was a poor choice, as I discovered the next day. I made the mistake of indulging some guy in a conversation about NASA and the space program that I could never seem to end and had to experience Eagle Rock all by my lonesome (except for this extremely talkative dude). By the time I got to Warner Springs I knew I had made the wrong choice. I was suddenly alone without anyone that I had previously met to visit with and all I could do was scan the vast sea of tents at the Warner Springs Resource Center in hopes of seeing her bright orange shirt. Finally, much to my joy I saw her and promptly moved my gear over to where she was (semi-discretely). (Meanwhile, I walked into Warner Springs desperately hoping to find him there. I’ll never forget how happy I felt when I saw him there in his red rain jacket and tights… Oh, the glory of laundry outfits).
From then on, we hiked together as a group with our friends Dr. McDirty and Cougar and our friendship slowly grew. We got to know each other in the way that all friends do: by finding common ground on trivial things. We discovered that we both like musicals (especially Hamilton), our mothers both worked in similar capacities in elementary schools, we had similar political and religious views, we enjoyed hiking and being outside (duh), and just generally got along with one another and enjoyed the other’s company.
By the time we had reached Big Bear Lake I knew I liked her. I could no longer deny my attraction to her; it was genuine. At the time, though, I had no fucking clue whether or not if she felt the same way. (Spoiler alert: I was STILL clueless). Fortunately, the hostel where we wanted to stay only had two private two-bed rooms available. Obviously, Cougar and Dr. McDirty took one of those rooms and Glowworm and I took the “just friends” room as Sarge (the hostel owner) described it after I insisted we weren’t a thing. I thought the whole “just friends” thing was funny and so did Glowworm, but as I later learned we thought it was funny for completely different reasons. (I thought it was funny because we genuinely were just friends… oops).
A couple weeks later in Tehachapi was when I began sensing that she may have the same feelings for me. As with all great love stories, it involved alcohol and a hot tub. (So romantic). The short of it was we went out to the hot tub on a hot sunny day and each drank a large can of beer which eventually turned into a couple more beers that somehow appeared which eventually turned into me going to the gas station to buy a six pack which eventually turned into us getting drunk in a hot tub that we had somehow eclipsed six hours dwelling in. But it was in the last 30 minutes or so after everyone else had left that I first really felt there was some kind of special connection between us (probably the alcohol, but eh, whatever). And as we talked we noticeably started situating ourselves ever closer together. That night was comically stereotypical of a burgeoning relationship that’s yet unspoken as we awkwardly tried to snuggle with each other (but not too much). It was a feeble attempt by Glowworm to initiate it (I thought I was being pretty obvious…), and an even feebler attempt by me to try and respond.
The funny thing was I still don’t think Glowworm had the clarity that I felt in my feelings for her. (It’s true, you guys. Despite everything, despite how obvious it all should have been, I still hadn’t let myself consider the possibility of an actual romantic relationship). As time has gone on I’ve discovered that she has a much harder time coming to terms with the way she feels about things than I do. I’ve never been one to shy away from the way I feel about things (whereas my automatic reaction to feelings is to shy away from them… I mean come on, feelings are scary); maybe not always publicly, but I’ve always tended to be fairly honest with myself. And it was at this point along the trail that I knew that if I was ever going to take this wild opportunity of actually by some miracle finding someone on this trail, she was going to be it.
It was in Lake Isabella, on the morning of the Indy 500, no less (I know, it’s the most Gummies circumstance ever) that I revealed my feelings for her. I was absolutely terrified. If she did not feel the same way then I not only blew it with her, but I also would have completely destroyed the rest of my hike and any fond memories I otherwise would have had. So, I had a lot to lose, but I knew that it was completely worth the risk. I would probably never have an opportunity like this again and I knew if I didn’t take it I’d regret it fully for the rest of my life. (Words cannot describe how grateful I am for that incredible leap of faith). But yeah, so anyway she liked me too and it was cool and then we watched the Indianapolis 500 which was sooooo thrilling!!!! And I got a girl to like me too. (In case anyone was wondering how it all went down, we were lying in bed that morning joking around about why we even stuck around each other when he said, “Do you want to know why?”, and I said “Why what?” (sticking to my clueless card for all it was worth), and he said “I really like you. I love hiking with you.” My heart simultaneously seemed to stop while also starting to beat furiously out of my chest and I came back with possibly the most me response ever of, “Me too,” while continuing to stare stubbornly at the motel room wall. That moment is seared into my brain forever).
Here’s the part where if this were a movie the music would go to a minor key and it would start raining and all those other bull shit things directors do to try and signal conflict and the turning point in the story. It’s no longer puppies and flowers, it’s dog shit and thorns or something to that effect. Fast forward to the night after leaving Lone Pine in the Sierras. It had been a stressful day. I ate way too much Kielbasa at lunch, it was our first major snow crossing of the Sierras, we thought we lost Cougar and Dr. McDirty only to find them at the campsite at Chicken Spring Lake, it was stupid windy, really fucking cold, and dark by the time we sat down to make camp. It was completely miserable, yet one of the most pivotal nights of my life.
Because I was so stressed out, as Glowworm and I were lying in our tent (actually her 1+ person tent, I presumably was the + … pretty sure the + was intended to be a small dog or a child or a backpack rather than another fully grown human, but we made it work) I more or less had a complete emotional breakdown. I just felt compelled for some reason to completely spill my guts (emotionally, not the Kielbasa) revealing things that I never thought I’d tell anyone and at some point, decided it was a good idea to tell her that I loved her. Mind you, we had only been a thing for less than a week so that probably wasn’t the most ideal timing, but eh, it seemed to work out. Anyway, she didn’t respond in the same way. She said she didn’t know how she felt (FEELINGS you guys, feelings are scary!!). And honestly, I wasn’t sure either. Regardless, I really felt like I blew it and pushed her away. Little did I know that was going to be the least of my concerns 24 hours later.
I’m sure you all know some version of the story by now, but the gist of it is, the next morning after getting very little sleep on a cold and windy night at 11,500 feet, I started to feel what felt like congestion as a result of a cold. By the end of the day I knew that it wasn’t just a cold and I needed to get out of there. It was scary. I couldn’t walk more than ten feet without having to stop for five minutes. That night we lay in our tent taking turns comforting each other. She would comfort me that everything would work out, then she’d start freaking out and I’d comfort her. It wasn’t how I would have written the story, but I wouldn’t have changed the experience for the world.
She saved me. There’s no navigating around it. It was Glowworm that made me oatmeal in the morning because I was too weak to do it myself. It was Glowworm who helped find alternate routes to potentially bail on. It was Glowworm who hiked through not one, but two frigid river crossings to what turned out to be an unoccupied ranger station in search of help and it was Glowworm whose GPS device I used to contact emergency services to get me to a hospital. It was also Glowworm who watched as someone who just confessed their love for her took off in a helicopter leaving her to trek through some of the most dangerous portions of the PCT alone (along with Dr. McDirty and Cougar). (Yeah, can’t say this was the high point of the trail for me. Although Gummies will certainly tell you that the helicopter ride was the coolest part of his hike, so you know, there’s that).
Going through all of that intensity on the trail to all of a sudden being in a hospital bed really sucked. Like was miserably boring, but also left me with quite a bit of heartache. Glowworm was doing some of the toughest and most stunning sections of the trail and I wanted nothing more than to share that with her instead of being boarded up in a hospital bed racking up medical bills. (Meanwhile, I found myself suddenly forced to confront my feelings and realized that, yeah, I was totally in love with this guy).
I finally had the chance to be reunited with her in Bishop compliments of my Uncle driving me around the Sierras (thanks, Uncle Russ) about a week later. And it was everything you would hope it would be if you were writing a moving script (Are you listening Hollywood? I could really use the money right now.) I arrived at the hostel in Bishop and went to my room to find Glowworm asleep in her bunk and after setting down my pack I slipped into bed with her where upon waking up she told me that she loved me. I defs scored mega boyfriend points at that moment (Um, yeah. Best way to wake up from a sad nap ever). But seriously, though, it was really emotional after being torn apart in that fashion, but it was even more wonderful to be reunited.
It was after our reunion in Bishop that we headed to Lake Tahoe for a much-needed break from the trail. Life had been so intense and so stressful that we just needed to get away from it all. We spent the week doing all the quintessential couples things like holding hands along the beach, cooking dinners with each other, going on long walks on the board walk, seeing movies, and shopping together. (Give me a minute to gag at all of these disgusting things…okay I’m good). During our time in Tahoe we both called our parents to officially tell them that we were dating as well as announce it to the interwebs. It’s crazy to look back and think that so much happened in a matter of only a few weeks.
Moving on from Tahoe we slowly progressed in our relationship. The trail was probably the most ideal incubator for a relationship. You’re with one another 24/7 with no place to hide the ups and downs. There was rarely a day where both of us were having a good day. More often than not one us was having a shit day and having to navigate that was far better at shaking us out as a couple than any experience in “real” life. Some of the things that we went through together were so unfathomably stressful that sharing those experiences with anyone else, even some of my closest friends, would have surely caused irreparable damage, yet we were able to grow stronger through those circumstances. (We got to know each other better in our few months together on the trail than would ever be possible in the same amount of time in the “real” world.)
We also proved that our weird idiosyncrasies weren’t enough to turn the other away. She somehow managed to stay interested in my despite me going on long tirades about the differences between superchargers and turbochargers, the Hart family March Madness pool, and various topics surrounding socio-economic political bullshit that I’m not even entirely sure what I was getting at. Anyway, despite all that, she somehow seemed to grow ever fonder of me. And I’m still trying to figure out how on Earth I got so lucky. Glowworm even admits to getting sick of the vast majority of people, even her closest friends, after about a week or so. It’s been eight months for us and nope, she still amazingly seems to enjoy my presence. And believe me, I gave her everything I had when it came to pushing her buttons. (This is absolutely true. I’ve never been able to spend so much time around one person without starting to want to rip my hair out. This fact was the reason why I always thought I’d never be able to have your traditional romantic relationship. The fact that I can listen to hours of musings on the inner workings of racecars and the complete history of the Indiana Pacers and still feel my heart brimming over with fondness and love is how I know I’ve found the one for me).
Alright so fast forward to mid-September. We finish the trail, I chug (and dump) milk at the border like any proper Hoosier should and they all lived happily ever after the end. Okay, it didn’t exactly happen that way. The plan was for me to get a job in Canada and for us to move in together upon getting said job. Since the specific story is long and exhausting the short of it is, it didn’t work out. Immigrating to another country is hard. Really fucking hard. If you don’t have a specific professional skill or trade you pretty much either need to be a student or have a Canadian relative to get a work permit. And before you ask, “Well why doesn’t Glowworm just come here?” The quick answer is, it’s even more challenging and complex.
After traveling for a week in Vancouver and Seattle I spent a couple weeks at Glowworm’s home in Barrie, ON. It felt so great to finally do everyday things together. Cooking dinner, watching Netflix, sleeping in a real bed. It’s those simple things that you really begin to value after spending so much time out on the trail. As time has wore on, “real” life has almost seemed a piece of cake compared to what we went through together on a daily basis out on the trail.
So, this is the part where I’m sick of writing and really don’t want to waste any time cutting to the chase. While Glowworm was visiting me for a few weeks in October we got the point where we started to realize that there really weren’t any other personal aspects in each other that we needed to understand more; we felt completely comfortable with one another. We never wanted to get married as a tool for me to get into Canada, but in all reality, that was never the goal. The goal has always been for us to be together.
One night while sitting in my car I thought I might as well at least acknowledge the elephant in the room. Everyone had been half joking to us, “Why don’t you guys just married,” in reference to my immigration troubles, but we had never really discussed going that route. While on the trail after we began dating we had always known that we would one day get married (we spent an entire day on the trail planning out our wedding), but never seriously considered doing it so soon. But by the time I brought it up, it just made sense. So, when I asked what her thoughts would be about the prospect of getting married, there wasn’t a doubt in her mind that this is what she wanted. (Anyone will tell you that I am probably the most indecisive person on the planet. This was the most sure about anything I’d ever felt in my life). So, I promised the before her birthday (February 17th) I would propose.
And on November 24, I did just that. We went to the Pacers/Raptors game (she is most definitely a Pacers fan and has no allegiance to the Toronto Raptors) and after an epic comeback Pacers victory, we went to the Circle downtown where the Circle of Lights had been lit while at the game and under the monument I knelt and proposed (under all the Christmas lights!!! It was so perfect and romantic and wonderful. Sorry, I’m done). She said yes, of course, but it was still so exhilarating and wonderful and I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with this woman.
There’s so much more I could say, so many more details I could provide, so many more stories I could tell, but I’m going to end this here. This really isn’t the end as much as it is the beginning. Sure, the PCT was a once in a lifetime adventure, but it pales in comparison to the journey that we’re about to embark on together. I love you, Kristin, and I can’t wait to marry you. (And I love you, Michael. More than I can describe in words, so thank you for writing it all out for me.)
I also happy to announce to all of my blog followers that our good friends Dr. McDirty (Mick) and Cougar (Jolene) shared with us days after our engagement that they too are now engaged. We’re so thrilled for you guys! I never would have thought that Kristin and I would be engaged in addition to you two when we all met on April 10th. Congrats!