Guest Column: Pitchers’ final dispatch

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A Winters Express op-ed column

By Robert “Pitcher” Nickelson, 2021 PCT NOBO Hiker Special to the Express My thru-hike dreams are over for this year, but not for good. I called it at approximately mile 600, almost seven weeks from the start. I had started to feel ill on the climb out of Tehachapi. After completing 10 miles I camped and rested, but the next morning was no relief. I had little energy but with no water, I had to push forward six miles to the next source. I made it to the water source and set up camp, as I decided I couldn’t risk continuing without ongoing access to water. I mostly slept and dealt with other bodily functions. The worry of a coming toilet paper shortage was looming. It’s not a good place to be sick on the trail. Doubts of my hike had entered my mind. The comforts of home would feel good. But other thoughts drove me on. My mind was telling me to quit being a little bitch and keep my man card. I rested a day in my tent and contemplated my situation. Sixteen miles back to comfort or 60 miles onward. I decided to reverse course and rehabilitate a bit in Tehachapi, still not giving up of going forward once I felt better. After a day of rest, I decided to go home. More than just the illness, I missed my life. I decided I would complete my hike over time and vowed to complete the unfinished miles before I die, but I will do sections that don’t require months to complete. My hike was a great experience. I loved it even when I hated it. The hikers and people were great, the mountains and deserts of California were great, and the balance of solitude combined with the hiker interactions were great. I have to give thanks to what are known as Trail Angels. They provide transportation, food and water, and a place to camp or shower if needed. I always tried to make a donation, but most refused. One Trail Angel said she dealt in a different currency. I said that different currency will not buy water or gas. She just smiled and asked where I needed a lift to. It turned out to be a great weight loss program. I lost close to 15 pounds during my trek. I will not miss my tuna wraps, nor top ramen with jerky, nor Cliff bars. I’m back on real food for foreseeable future. Happy Trails

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