June 18, 2015
Photo at right: Seattle actor Jared Michael Brown on the Pacific Crest Trail
Inspired by his family-fueled passion for the outdoors (he is our publisher’s cousin), Seattle actor Jared Michael Brown will attempt hiking the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail this year. He began the first leg of his journey in late May, 2015, and as of this publication he is somewhere in California. OutdoorsNW magazine is a proud sponsor of Brown’s journey and we invite you to follow his updates on our award winning blog.
Story and Photos by Jared Michael Brown
Terrifying & Exhilarating.
Maddening & Freeing
Seemingly Impossible & Totally Attainable.
Two nights, now, I’ve chosen to complete my miles of the day during the pitch black, desert night.
Hiking is not for the faint of heart, it’s grueling and exhausting day in and day out. But NIGHT hiking is just… Insane. I just cannot describe how utterly laser focused and on point you have to be to make it through 8 hours of night hiking.
After two days, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not at all my cup of tea. In fact, it’s like a cup of tea with a spoon full of black tar in place of sugar and cream.
Night One: Ascent out of Agua Dulce…
– Elevation is even more daunting when you can only see 10 feet in front of you.
– Nearly stepped on 6 snakes, including one that decided he needed to lay there for 10 minutes while I, trapped – unable to go up or down divert from the trail – sat there and had a full-on conversation with the damn snake about how rude he was being by not just… scooting to one side.
– Turning a corner to find two gigantic orange eyes staring at me from the distance, watching my every step for 10 minutes, seemingly never blinking… I don’t know what it was, but I know from tonight that Coyotes have blue eyes in a torch’s light.
Night Two: Descent from Casa de Luna…
– Dusk means bugs. Every bug. Ever.
I almost threw myself off the trail swatting at the damn gnats.
– As I said, coyotes. Multiple. As I’m coming over a crest I see three sets of eyes from ahead, all laser focused on my movement. I stop, raise my poles, amplify my torch, and… start singing Phantom of the Opera at full voice. It was all I could think of at the moment.
– Not to mention, it’s just… Dark. I know the desert is monotonous sometimes, but not being able to see the beauty of this journey, only leading my thoughts in terms of mileage per day. It’s just not great.
I’ll have to do it for a bit longer. I don’t normally mind the heat, but 105 degrees by 10a? Nah, I’m good.
Tonight, as I was dragging myself up the hills, plunging through the darkness, my brain attached to the rhythm of my feet and my poles. I wish I could say it matched perfectly with some Bob Dylan song, or someone else cooler like that… But my brain started repeating:
“Noooooo Moooon. Nooooo Wiiiiiiind.
Noooooo Moooon. Nooooo Wiiiiiiind.”
… From Titanic. It was disheartening, and after a while, irritating. So I took a pack break…
I took a moment and sat down on a rock. At 5500 feet. Right at the PCT 500m mark. Set down my pack. Speared my poles. Turned off my torch. And looked up.
It took my breath away. I had nothing left to say or think. Other than:
Pitch black sky, with millions of visible stars fading and sparkling in and out, the histories of their once brilliant existence.
This universe that hovers above us isn’t as unreachable as we imagine. You can sit on a rock in the dead silence and dead darkness of the desert, look up and feel connected to the very elements of which ‘you’ are comprised. One with the universe. One with yourself.
The moment, this moment that I took, this moment I created for myself brought me to tears. The wind dried them before they got too far, but there was nothing left but to acknowledge self and outer self. This space I inhabit and how infinitesimal that space seems to be.
I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life. I kept whispering as I looked around the truly awesome night sky, “don’t lose this moment, you moron, don’t you dare lose this moment. Keep this tucked away forever.”
500 miles. 500. Miles. It’s an insane benchmark to even imagine three weeks ago, when I started. I didn’t think I’d make it past 100, (Laughs, almost crying).
I’ve honestly never felt so empowered and powerful in my life. Yes, I’m exhausted, running on 4 hours sleep, having just hiked 28 miles… But I think I’ve experienced a true moment of clarity.
And for me, that shit is long overdue.
More from the 400-500 Miles coming soon. I need to sleep now.
<3 you all.
Michael Jared Brown, from Richland, Washington has been an active theatre performer with Fifth Avenue Theatre and Seattle Children’s Theatre in Seattle since 2010.