I think one mentionable about my goal of completing a solo thru-hike is that I don't forecast accepting any possible moral victories. In our world, moral victories are spun on a daily basis.
“We didn't reach our goal, but in the process, we raised [x amount of] awareness."
“I didn't place in the comp, but in the process, I learned a whole lot about myself and the way that I compete.”
Never one to reject these sentiments – there’s many a time and place for these assuagements – but I'm leaving them behind as I fly to Cali. When facing down these mountain passes, and up them, I won't be negotiating the merit of partial completion. No matter how much I planned beforehand, no matter how many times I walked the trail before even getting out of bed in the morning, or what excuses I've already concocted for falling short, I know I won't have accomplished my goals until I've dragged my ass up that mountain. And if I don't end up dragging my ass up that mountain then, plainly put, I did not complete my thru-hike. I either made the distance, or I summarily failed.
There's just something so absolute in the quest for thru-hike completion. Get to the end. And when you do, no one can question whether weather never caught up to you, or whether you were supported by the best lightweight gear on the market, or whatever other factors may have supported you. No one can take that success away.
It is your moment to live with forever.
This was one of my thoughts as the small double-prop plane whisked me through airspace passing directly over the trail for a well-timed aerial reconnaissance of my challenge ahead. With the help of some Airplane Mode GPS, I spotted Mt. Whitney, unabashedly stretching up virtually half the distance between sea level and our cruising altitude. Peering up the land to the north, my gaze intersected countless jagged peaks within which I'd be standing two short weeks from now. The preview couldn't have felt any more real, drawing nerves and excitement from my body suddenly weary of this airline seat. I've spent the past three months talking the talk to my friends, family, and ex-coworkers; I was finally here to walk the walk.
I couldn't wait any longer to land at Mammoth. Take me down, it's been a long time coming and I'm ready to hit the trail.