The Breaking Of The Fellowship

May 27, 2018

If you’re not a ‘Lord of The Rings’ fan, firstly you’re living life wrong, secondly you won’t get the reference in the title. Being from New Zealand, which is this tiĺny place in the South Pacific next to Australia (not Austria), I get constantly questioned about ‘Lord of the Rings’. It was filmed there after all, and yes NZ looks exactly like the movie, but with less Orcs, and more Sheep.

But to bring this yarn (that’s kiwi for story) full circle, the title refers to the point in lord of the rings when the lads all go their separate ways. Quite apt considering the original crew of 5 I have been hiking with has dwindled to 3. I was originally going to absolutely saturate this article with ‘Lord of the rings’ references, but as I sit here in my tent at around 5100ft (1700m) on a ridge above the desert floor after a 25mi (40km) day. That sounds way too hard. So I’ve decided I’ll treat you to 3.

The crew saying one last goodbye to Rich

Hiking the PCT can be quite the bitter sweet experience, doing it by yourself is the only way to ensure you make it to Canada. We all know this going in, and everyone expects to have to leave someone (or be left) behind eventually. But not 10 days in. A lot of stories are told about people blowing out in the first couple of weeks, or in one woman’s case the first 4 miles. But you never think ‘that’ll be me, or one of my group’. Unfortunately it was one of my group. As much as I want to rip on him about the situation, not even I’m that ruthless.
The wrong shoe, heavy pack, starting off doing too many miles a day. This all lead to Rich ‘Sloth’ Shenton getting a pretty serious leg injury. 10 days later, he’s still waiting for the green light, from the Dr in the town we left him. Leaving Rich was a tough decision, but by keeping him around he was only going to be further corrupted by us, like Boromir was by the one Ring.

Another token picture of the crew, when we found some apples in the desert, excitement all around.

Rich’s possible trail ending injury has really put things in perspective. I am now constantly hyper sensitive to my daily aches and pains in my shoulders, knees, archillies and feet to name a few. But thats what they invented Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs for, and I have never seen such rampant abuse. One hiker was taking 1600mg of Ibuprofen a day to keep going, that’s some next level stuff.
In my struggle to prevent injury while walking 25mi (40km) per day, I have thinned out my pack and tried to drop as much senseless weight as possible. Unfortunately I can’t live on Lembas bread, wear no shoes and hike in a cloak for 5 months. I’m not that ultralight. But every gram less I have to carry, my body hates me a little less too.

And then there were 3. Trying to hide from the afternoon sun.

Losing a trail mate to Injury isn’t the only way. Enter Mitchell ‘Sprinkles’ Vonk, the youngest and most eager of the group. We literally just lost him. Straight up. One day we chose a campsite, went for water, and he just kept walking. He is still alive though, so don’t worry. He left us notes in the trail registers. We’ll find him one day somewhere in the wilderness. Stinking, dehydrated, sunken eyed, emaciated, crouching over a stream eating a raw fish in some kind of Gollum-esque fashion.

This is all I have left for company.

For the moment there’s only 3 of us, but who knows who will join or leave the group. Its a pretty weird place out here, people come and go. You may see the same person for days at a time, and then never again. Sometimes that’s a welcome thing.
You should probably go read/watch ‘Lord of the Rings’, that way you can understand half of what I’m talking about. And don’t sell me out to JRR Tolkien, although I’m Pretty sure he’s dead, which makes this huge breach of copyright totally ok.


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