Back home, I can't help but reflect on the trip, and I'm filled with contentment and satisfaction. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing. The snow, that was so glorious the entire winter of skiing, caused some inconveniences, but none that I regret. In the end, this trip did everything (and more) for me that I hoped it would, and I don't think I could've given myself a better 30th birthday present.
I return to real life in the best physical, mental, emotional and spiritual shape of my life. I know myself better than I ever have, and I've developed goals and aspirations moving forward. I couldn't be happier with my life's trajectory up to now, and I'm excited to see what the future will bring.
As this trip (and this blog) concludes, there are several people I'd like to thank. First off, my parents, whose incredible support in so many ways has gotten me to where I am today. Next, I want to thank my sister, who spent time and money to come out to California to meet me for a few days.
I'd also like to give a huge thank you to all of the friends and family who I met along the road. It was great seeing every one of you, and I'm so thankful for the meals and shelter that many of you provided.
The next thanks may be the most important of all (not to diminish any of the others) - my workplace. Big thanks to Stan and Taylor, whose amazing flexibility allowed me to take nearly 2 months off of work. Also, thanks to the rest of the guys in the office, who undoubtedly carried more than their share of the workload while I was away.
Another thanks is to the American taxpayers. Without funds supporting the national parks and forests, state parks and forests, etc., I would have spent a fortune on hotels or RV parks. Thankfully, I was able to sleep in my truck or tent for free most nights, enjoying the beautifully preserved areas that John Muir, among many others, fought so hard to protect. Also, without the public libraries (with free internet access) scattered across the country, even in the smallest towns, my updates to this blog (and my fantasy baseball team) would have been much less frequent.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone who's read this blog and encouraged me to write it. I'm astounded by the number of visitors to the site (although I'm sure my mom is padding my stats). Of all the things I did on this trip, the blog itself put me the most outside of my comfort zone. But for the same reason, in many ways, it has been the most rewarding.
I'm a private person, and I've always considered writing to be a weakness of mine, so sharing my actions, thoughts, and feelings to so many people in this format (or any format, for that matter) is terrifying. So, genuine or not, I truly appreciate all of the positive comments I've received regarding my writing and this blog. I've done my best to avoid producing a dry travel log, and I've tried to interject thoughts, feelings, emotions, and some humor to make it more interesting to read. If I've failed, remember, I'm an engineer. But if in some way I've succeeded, then it is in no doubt attributed to the great authors and intellectuals I've been reading of late.
For those interested in the stats, here is the final tally:
• 53 days on the road
• 7,600 miles driven
• 18 miles per gallon average fuel economy
• Approximately $1,600 spent on fuel
• At least 200 miles hiked with conservatively 60,000 ft of elevation gained and lost
• Also, I have my GPS routes for many of the later hikes (my watch was having problems early in the trip) laid over Google Earth. If you're interested, let me know, and I'll email you some of the more interesting ones.
I'll conclude with a great travel quote I came across somewhere along the way:
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust
Although this trip has included many vast and unbelievably beautiful landscapes, it is the inner transformations that have taken place that I value the greatest. I truly feel as though I'm returning to my so called "real life" with new eyes.