January 2018 List of Books Read

Books I Read in January 2018


As an avid reader and writer, I will try to remember to post more often about what I’m reading and, from time to time, I’ll update you on what I’m writing and how my next novel (or novella – however I decide to move forward) is coming along.

For now, here’s my list of books read last month.

I found myself engrossed in the “Jet” series by Russell Blake. These books are fascinating to me because Jet, the main character, is so lively, smart, and lethal. She’s human on the inside – meaning she has many of the same emotions you and I have, like the protective instinct for our children, love, loyalty, self-preservation. But her actions are more machine-like: swift, decisive, and deadly. She’s a beautiful woman but also a highly skilled assassin. That is an intriguing combination. And the situations in which she finds herself add to the intrigue as she bounces all over the world just looking for a safe place to call home. She doesn’t want to have to keep killing people, but it’s either that or be killed. With her skill set, the choice is obvious, but always highly entertaining to watch it play out in your mind’s eye as you rapidly turn the pages (or swipe the Kindle screen).

I’m also enjoying Rick Riordan’s “Heroes of Olympus” series with my fourth-grade son. I may be more enthralled by these books than even he is. He loves Percy Jackson but might still be a bit young for them. I, on the other hand, love the action and the imagination that goes into the writing.

I finished Michael Grumley’s most recent installment in the “Breakthrough” series as well. Like I said in my last post, his books really make me think. There are some concepts that he explores that keep churning in my head as I wonder if and when those ideas may ever become reality. He wraps these notions with enough action and intrigue and compelling characters to keep the pages turning. His books contain elements of science-fiction, techno-military, and action adventure that propel you to keep reading because, like I said, theirs plenty of brain food flowing in the pages.

I guess that’s the answer to the question, “How do you find time to read when you’re also writing?” Reading fuels my imagination and opens up my mind. Or, as they say, it sparks my muse and gets the creative juices going. Not that I try to steal other authors’ ideas or hijack their style but reading makes me think up ways to make my characters more real and their situations more life-like. Getting a fresh brain rush is always good for an author.

I’ll post another list next month to show you what I’ve read in February.

Here’s January’s list:

Ripple by Michael Grumley 448 pages
Jet #3 – Vengeance by Russell Blake 237 pages
Jet #4 – Reckoning by Russell Blake 263 pages
Jet #5 – Legacy by Russell Blake 233 pages
Total 1181 pages


Leave a comment and share your favorite recently read books. Tell us why you like what you read.


My 2017 List of Books Read

My 2017 Reading List

2017 was a busy year for me and my family. We had a lot going on and kept ourselves quite busy. So busy, in fact, I didn’t get much hiking done and made no progress on my goal to complete the entire 2650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, although I spent some time on and around it. I just didn’t hike any new terrain; just repeated some that I had done previously.

But I digress.

Today, we’re talking about reading and the books I read and enjoyed in 2017. Here’s the list:

Jet – #.5 – Ops Files by Russell Blake 225 pages
Jet #2 – Betrayal by Russell Blake 239 pages
Total 464 pages
Damage Control by Robert Dugoni 406 pages
Total 406 pages
Breakthrough – Breakthrough #1 by Michael Grumley 324 pages
Total 324 pages
The Lost Hero – Heroes of Olympus #1 by Rick Riordan 557 pages
Leap – Breakthrough #2 by Michael Grumley 484 pages
Off Guard by . . . Me 471 pages
Total 1512 pages
Smart Social Media for Authors by Chris Syme 187 pages
Total 187 pages
Catalyst – Breakthrough #3 by Michael Grumley 438 pages
Total 438 pages
The Son of Neptune – Heroes of Olympus #2 by Rick Riordan 521 pages
Total 521 pages
Total for 2017 = 10 Books 3852 pages

As you can see, I started and made progress on a couple of series. The “Heroes of Olympus” series by Rick Riordan I am reading with my nine-year-old son who has taken an interest in the Percy Jackson books, which has rubbed off on me. I find them fascinating. Not that I liked or ever studied Greek or Roman mythology, but I am intrigued that either Mr. Riordan has spent way too much time studying the topic or has done an excellent job of making up a lot of really compelling and well-connected hogwash.

I also started reading the “Breakthrough” series by Michael Grumley, a guy I met and spent some time with in February. He’s a really nice guy who is a down-to-earth father and family man and full-time author – three qualities I aspire to. These books are long on plausible science-fiction-y imagination driven by a storyline that has some octane in it. I found them the kind of books that made me wonder at some of the possibilities he presents and where technology could someday take us in terms of our abilities to communicate with other species. While driving, my mind would be occupied by a bunch of “what-ifs” that Mr. Grumley had spun together in this series. I like that. It kept me awake on some of those long stretches of highway.

Late in 2016, a friend of mine turned me on to Russell Blake and his hard-hitting style. His stories are fast-moving tales of heroics by the highly-skilled and ever-intriguing female Mossad agent code named Jet. She’s a brilliant character. Human on the inside in term of her thoughts, motivations, and feelings while being super-human in her instincts, reflexes, and operational skills. Mr. Blake has me living on the edge of plausibility as I’m rapidly turning the pages, but it’s good entertainment. I warn you: the bodies pile up in masses as Jet moves from one sticky situation to another. But if you like thrillers like the Bourne series or Jack Reacher as I do, you’ll enjoy these books.

And, of course, since I spent hours and hours of my time writing the third book in my own action series, I had to count “Off Guard” as one of the books I read in 2017. Truth be known, I probably read it half a dozen times or more in 2017 just trying to get it right. So, if you included all those reads, my page count for the year would be much higher.

I started off 2018 with a bang, rifling through several more of the “Jet” series in January. They’re fairly short and easy to read, so I burn through them quickly. They’re also highly suspenseful and once you’re into the character and her unfolding story, you have to keep reading to find out what sort of scrape she’ll be into and out of next.

Stay tuned and I’ll update you on my January 2018 reads.

Thanks for spending some time with here with me.

Leave a comment and let me know what you’ve been reading lately.



PCT – CA Section J, Day 1

PCT – CA Section J (Sonora Pass to Echo Lake Resort above Hwy 50)

Day 1 – Sonora Pass to Small Camp by a Creek (Mile 1016.9 to Mile 1033.7-ish)

Thursday, August 18, 2016


An Inauspicious Start

               My hiking buddy for this trip would be my son Jared, 18 years old and college-bound. Jared’s a good sport and one of my favorite hiking companions, despite his quietness. This would be our last hurrah together – a blistering 76-mile march in four days from Sonora Pass to Echo Summit, just above Highway 50 heading into South Lake Tahoebefore he heads off to college. Jared had everything he needed for his freshman year packed and stacked in his room, ready for an early morning departure on Monday. Time was not on our side. If he was to keep his plans intact, we had very little margin for delay if we were to make our planned nineteen miles per day.

In order to get an early start on Thursday morning, we decided to camp Wednesday night at Pinecrest Campground, some thirteen miles west of Sonora Pass along Highway 108. Jared’s grandparents, my in-laws, who are some of the most supportive in-laws in history, agreed to drive us up to the trailhead knowing that it would include a night of camping without a tent or trailer. They slept in the back of their pick up and lent Jared and I some rather comfy cots.

We awoke early enough, but still managed to get to the Ranger Station after another group of hikers who peppered the only Ranger on duty with all manner of questions and shared all manner of details about their planned excursion. Me? I’m into simplicity and efficiency. I just wanted to get my permit and to get out of there as quickly as possible. Thanks to the gabby leader of the aforementioned group, we didn’t leave the Ranger Station until roughly 8:45. We were already 40 minutes behind schedule.

No sooner did we hit the road than we came upon road construction crews and signs warning of delays. They held true as we stopped several times to wait our turn to use the only available lane. My foot began to tap involuntarily as I realized we were burning daylight and would have trouble making the necessary nineteen miles that day. That, I knew, would impact the rest of the trip. 

At 10:30 or so, we finally hit the trail after pictures and hugs and plenty of warnings from my mother-in-law to be safe and take care of her grandson. The starting elevation is 9620 feet. We came from nearly sea level the night before. I knew the first few miles were going to be killer as we had to climb up and over the highest point of our journey, a 10,500-foot saddle between two volcanic peaks, within the first three miles. What a way to start. “Welcome to back to the Sierra, boys. Here’s some thin air for you to suck on!”

2.9 miles into our first day and we were winded. We sat to rest and Jared, who is not one to complain or whinge, said with one of his patent wry smiles, “You know, Dad, we could just head back down to the highway and catch a ride home. It’d be a lot easier.” Tempting as that offer was, I remained steely in my determination to check off another section of the mighty PCT and prove to my son that I could handle a little pain and exertion. And so could he.

Oh, My!

We pressed on a few more miles, rounding the shoulder of the second volcanic mountain. We kept a steady pace as the trail undulated across the rocky, semi-barren landscape. Somewhere around mile five, part way down the first of many gradual descents between mountain passes, we stopped under the shade of a group of stubby pines overlooking a moss-green lake in a meadow several hundred feet below. Five miles in with what we thought was the toughest climb behind us and we were feeling pretty good.

The trail was mostly empty. We had passed two groups of day hikers in the first couple of miles and met a couple of southbound through hikers heading toward Yosemite. But that was it. We hadn’t seen anyone else. It felt like it might just be the two of us alone in the wilderness for the next four days. The cool thing was, we were both OK with that.

The pattern for much of the next seventy plus miles began to take form after lunch. The trail bottomed out toward the end of the canyon we had been descending. We crossed a creek or two, then began to ascend with the aid of several switchbacks which grew progressively steeper. As we neared the top of the canyon wall, one false summit gave way to another, and another, until we finally traversed a pass or saddle and began to descend another canyon. Drop a thousand to fifteen hundred feet, cross a creek, ascend a thousand feet or two. Repeat.

At one point coming down one of those canyons, I had stopped to take some pictures and Jared had kept motoring ahead of me, knowing we needed to keep an aggressive pace if he was going to get home and keep his planned timeline. I came around a bend as the trail skirted a meadow and entered a forested area. Jared leaned against a rock. His eyes were wide open and his ear turned to listen. “Thought this might be prime bear territory,” he said.

“Did you hear something?” I asked.

“Yeah, but I’m not sure what it was. Might’ve been nothing. But, you never know.”

“Smart thinking, son.”

We stayed together, smartly, and talked out loud whenever we came upon areas where our visibility was limited. I was proud of Jared for his situational awareness and for remembering some of the things I had taught him when I was his Scoutmaster.

Halfway up the second canyon wall on our way to the second of many high altitude passes on this hike, we saw the seventh person of the trip and the first one since about mile two. This was eleven or twelve miles into our journey. He had an expensive camera around his neck and a waist pack with a couple of lenses along with his rather small hiking pack. He didn’t seem to want to stop and talk, but blew past us with nothing more than a “hello.”

Toward the end of the day, our legs were weary from our long and steady march over hill and dale. Our feet were sore and hot. And, dark clouds shrouded the sky above the jagged peaks to our left. A storm looked to be blowing in from the northwest. Moments later, raindrops began hitting us intermittently.

A Couple of Heroes

That’s when we saw the eighth and ninth people of the day and trip. Two older ladies were working to put up their lightweight backpacking tents. I waved and asked them about their hike. They had started at Yosemite and were working their way to Donner Summit. Although eighty miles into a two- hundred-mile trek, these two gals, who I estimated to be in their early to mid-sixties, looked cheerful and energetic. They told me they had been rained on enough this trip and wanted to get their tents up before it really opened up again. I expressed my admiration to them, telling them that I wanted to be like them – still hiking and enjoying the outdoors at their age. They wished me and Jared well and said, “We probably won’t see you again. There’s no way we can keep that kind of pace.” Yes, Jared and I were booking, trying to get as many miles in as we could before the rain started in earnest, but I remained impressed with these two brave and hearty souls and wished I had the time to talk more with them.

That was mile fourteen or so. Still way below our goal.

We pushed on as the rain was still only teasing. It would come down for thirty seconds then stop. Then do it again a few minutes later. Undaunted, we quickened our pace and came over another saddle. As we crested the summit, we passed through a barbed wire gate and began winding down alongside a small creek. The “gate” was really a couple of posts with several strands of barbed wire between them held against a post secured in the ground by a couple of loops of bailing wire. That should have been a clue.

“Do you hear that?”

To us, it was another milestone that marked our progress on the “Halfmile PCT” map app I use on my phone. We were roughly fifteen and a half miles from our starting point and somewhere around a mile or so from a promised creekside camp spot. An expansive meadow lay before us and to our left. Trees and another jagged peak rose toward the sky on our right. The creek headed into some trees. The trail followed, then climbed to another saddle. That’s when we heard it: a strange chorus of sorts. At first, it sounded like rushing water. Maybe there’s a waterfall ahead, I thought. No, it could be voices, Jared said. Lots of voices. That surely meant a scout troop camped where we were hoping to camp. That meant we were screwed and would have to hike longer than we had hoped, perhaps into the dark as it rained. As we continued, the trees thinned and we started through another open meadow. That’s when the origin of the sound became more clear. It was the sound of bells. Dozens of bells clattering on the collars of dozens, perhaps hundreds of cows grazing in these mountain meadows.

With the haunting sound correctly identified, our only concern now was avoiding a stampede and the occasional “trail pie” left behind. Of course, we were also worried about the rain as the clouds had thickened up and darkened considerably.

After winding our way through a gulley or two, we came around a bend and spotted a tent in a small stand of trees and heard the sound of a creek. I checked the app. Yep, this was it. Mile 16.7 and the small camp site it promised. We announced our arrival to the occupant of the tent and asked him if he minded if we camped there. He was more than gracious – almost anxious. We thanked him, learned his name was Jesse, and hastily scouted out the best spot to pitch our tent.

Within twenty minutes our tent was pitched, our raincoats were on, and our dinner was cooking. Or, I should say, was reconstituting. (Mountain House Spaghetti). As it sat in its bag soaking up the water we had boiled, we filtered more water for drinking into our water bladders and bottles. Dinner was amazing, as any food is when you’re that hungry and exhausted, and we finished it just in time. Drops started to spatter as we cleaned and repacked our utensils. Perfect timing.

During dinner we learned that Jesse, the tenth person we’d seen since starting on the trail, was from Portland and was hiking south from Belden to Yosemite, a 250-mile section of trail. Once in Yosemite, he planned to hike many of the trails in and around the park before the end of the summer.

Although we didn’t make the nineteen miles we needed to, we felt accomplished. 16.7 grueling miles in a little under eight hours. An extra mile or so each of the next three days and we’d be fine.

Exhaustion overtook us shortly after climbing into our sleeping bags. The rain stopped even before we fell asleep, but the clanging of cow bells in the distance provided an auditory backdrop to our dreams most of the night.



May 25th is the day

May 25th is the day “Off Guard” becomes available.  

The finale to the “Off” series is scheduled to be released next week.  I want to thank all those who have already ordered their copy and encourage those who haven’t to go ahead and invest three bucks into a fun, clean read that will keep you guessing.

I hope you have as much fun reading the “Off” series as I’ve had creating it.

Again, I appreciate all the support.

Enjoy the adventure!

“Off Guard” now on pre-order

“Off Guard” is now available for pre-order

I’m pleased to announce the release of the third book in the “Off” trilogy on May 25th.

I have worked hard on this third and final installment in Collin Cook’s saga. It has been a labor of love, with an emphasis on the labor. Wrapping up a series is more difficult than I suspected going in, but I feel good about how the story turned out. There’s action, drama, and more high-stakes consequences for failure.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

Knowing that his nemesis, Pho Nam Penh has a sinister plan to wreak havoc on the world’s economy and the global balance of power, Collin Cook, the everyday guy thrown into a cat-and-mouse game with global ramifications, chooses to face Penh and try to stop his diabolic scheme. Racing against the clock with the help of his good friend, Lukas, a top-ranking NSA cyber-crime expert, Collin’s journey tests every ounce of his resolve and strength. Will Collin and Lukas be able to outwit Penh one more time and prevent a catastrophe from being unleashed on the world?

I hope you’ll check it out.

Click here to order “Off Guard.”

As always, enjoy the adventure!


Best Ranking Ever

The Free Giveaway Continues

Look who’s #1
I like to share good news, just like I enjoy hearing everyone else’s good news. So, I hope you don’t mind indulging me in some good news sharing.
I decided to run a free promotion for my debut novel, “Off Kilter” this week (April 15-19) in the hopes of attracting more readers to my books. Well, here’s the good news: “Off Kilter” reached the top spot for Thrillers this weekend on Amazon’s Top 100 Free e-books list. That was really cool to see. It’s the first time I’ve ever hit number 1 on that list. But, what’s even better news is that it reached #3 overall across all genres! Again, that’s the highest I’ve ever ranked on Amazon’s top 100 e-books list.
That means that the promotion I paid for is doing its job and getting my name and my work out there and readers are picking it up and reading it. That’s really good news for an author.

If you haven’t picked up your Kindle e-book copy yet, hurry. The promotion ends April 19th.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading it and feel like you are part of the adventure. I also hope you’ll share your experience with other readers by leaving a review on Amazon for me. That would be very helpful.

Off Course is trending higher, too!

The other good news coming out of this weekend is that my second book, “Off Course,” is also trending upward. It reached #39 on the top 100 in the Thriller category for paid e-books and has stayed at or near the top 50 all weekend (at #51 right now). That, too, is an exciting trend that I hope continues.

And don’t forget, “Off Guard” is available for pre-sale.

Book 3 in the trilogy is now available on Amazon for pre-sale. It’s due to drop on May 25th and is only $2.99.
Happy reading everyone!

Download “Off Kilter” for Free

Free Giveaway


That’s right, I’m giving stuff away, but only for a limited time. “Off Kilter,” my debut novel, will be available on Kindle for free until April 19th.

“Off Kilter” is a fast-paced race around the world with Collin Cook, an ordinary guy thrown into extraordinary circumstances by tragedy. Collin has been targeted by the nefarious cyber-terrorist, Pho Nam Penh, who has framed Collin for a rash of recent crimes. By doing so, Penh cunningly elicits the help of Interpol and the FBI in the hunt for his targeted victim, Collin Cook. Penh is after the $30 Million insurance settlement Collin received as a result of the accident that claimed his family. With the help of his ingenious friend, Lukas Mueller, a high-ranking security expert with the NSA, Collin is on the run to save his own life and prevent Penh from gaining more power.

Enjoy the adventurefor FREE!!

And please, don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon. They are so helpful to authors like myself. They connect us with readers who are trying to figure out what to read next.


Kindle e-readers on sale, in case you don’t have one yet.

Cover for my new book

Almost There


Off Guard, book 3 of 3 in the “Off” series.

I’ve been working long and hard on the third and final installment of the “Off” series. “Off Guard” is scheduled to be released in mid-to-late May 2017. We just finalized the cover art for it. Tell me what you think. I’d love to hear your feedback.

“Off Guard” is now available for pre-sale on Amazon very soon. Click here to check it out:

Final Stages


The editing/revising process is taking me longer for this book because of all the loose ends I need to tie up as I finish the series. I don’t want the third volume to be a disappointment for my readers. I’ve read many trilogies where I felt the third and final book was a let-down. More than anything, I want this piece of Collin Cook’s story to be just as exciting and fast-paced as the first two segments. So, I keep revising and tweaking and adding things to make it all come together smoothly, and yet, unpredictably. I hope the final product will meet your expectations.

All 3 books of the “Off” series.

What’s Next?


After I finish the “Off” series, I’m excited to announce a new book that I’m working on titled “Chosen Path.” It will be different, but still a fast-paced adventure with interesting characters and unique settings. This book will draw from my experiences living and doing business in Korea, so I hope you will learn something about the people and the country that I have come to know and love.


Stay tuned for more news about release dates and special offers.

PCT – CA Section A Day 6

PCT – CA Section A

Day 6 –  Barrel Spring to Warner Springs (Mile 101 to Mile 110)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Getting an Early Start

Another warm night meant that I awoke with only my feet in my sleeping bag as the first rays of sun peaked over the hills and into my tent. Again, my trail-self did what my home-self doesn’t often do. I popped up energetically and started preparing for my day. Despite having hiked twenty-two miles the day before and a hundred and one miles over the previous five days, I felt ready to go. I knocked out breakfast quickly and repacked with surprising efficiency and hit the trail by 6:45. With only three liters of water in my pack, I felt surprisingly light compared to previous days where I was so concerned about running out. This morning, I knew I could do the nine miles with water to spare, especially if I beat the heat.

My biggest frustration that day was the fact that my solar-powered battery charger had apparently not gotten enough sunlight during the previous day, despite my best efforts to angle its panels at the sun. It hadn’t added any juice to my phone, which now had 12% battery life. That was going to be a problem, I knew, when it came time to take pictures.

I spent the morning roaming over a mix of wooded and grassy hills, through meadows and oak groves. Then, halfway through my march, I crossed the first live stream of the entire trip. A running creek was indeed a site to behold. I risked running my phone battery dry and snapped a few shots of this novelty.

Wildlife Encounter

Over the next hill, I saw more “wildlife” other than lizards than I had seen all trip. First, a pair of jack rabbits crossed my path and ran into the brush. Of course, my phone was not ready, so I wasn’t able to document it. Then, over the next rise, I ran into a small herd of cattle. I’m not scared of cows, but there was a moment where I felt more vulnerable than I had the entire trek. With sore feet, tired muscles, and a forty-pound pack, my ability to escape them was quite limited. As I swooped down the trail, the fifteen congregated, black-and-white-spotted cows, all turned toward me warily. Two or three of them did that hoof scraping thing, not in a particularly threatening manner, perhaps trying to ward me off. Three of them were lying right on the path, apparently holding no reverence for the sanctity of the mighty PCT. The others huddled in close around them, leading me to believe that they would protect their lazy sisters at all costs.

I began to bang my hiking poles together. That didn’t work. I called out to them, “Move cows, get out of my way. Go, go, go.” No response from the bovines. I waved my arms and poles as I continued to march toward them. Again, a couple of them scraped the ground with their front hooves. I stopped and eyed them, trying to figure out the best option. Of course, I had no intention of walking any further than I had to, but I also did not want to get stampeded. One option included walking in a wide arc around the group and around a pile of rocks to the top of the next hill. That would have required about 200 extra yards, I figured. Or, I could be more brave and walk only a few extra yards if I split a twenty-yard gap between the main group of ten cows near the trail and the three or four spread out to my right. That seemed the most efficient way to go. It would save me the time of waiting for these heifers to clear out and would save me the extra effort of circumnavigating around the whole group. So, I proceeded as confidently as one can when in close proximity to half-ton beasts who don’t want you near them. For added protection, I held my poles out perpendicular to my body on both sides and jabbed them toward the cows as they turned toward me. They were my only protection against being trampled. Fine, fine weapons, those hiking poles. After making safe passage through the herd, I thought: this is the stuff of “Far Side” cartoons and I laughed at the scene, wishing I had either had a camera to capture this on video or the genius ability of Gary Larson to humorously encapsulate the sight in some sort of anthropomorphic duel between the will of man versus the will of cow.

A few falsely confident strides and I was beyond them, though I didn’t take my eyes off them until I was near the top of the hill.

With that “danger” behind me, I passed over several more hills until I came to a field of towering boulders. One of them, known as Eagle Rock, was worthy of pictures, but with no battery, I had to abandon that thought and press on. The contrasts in the landscape along this portion of the trail was fascinating. Green pastures to stands of humongous oaks to rock fields to more chaparral to shady streamside groves. The variations in this nine-mile stretch kept my mind off of other things, like aching feet and gnawing hunger.

Before I knew it, I could hear the distant sound of cars, but couldn’t quite echo-locate their position, thanks to the trees and hills around me. But I knew that meant I was approaching Highway 79 and Warner Springs, my end-goal for this trip. My mouth began to water as I thought about hamburgers and chocolate shakes. I also became pointedly aware of the dirt and grime on my skin and the untidiness of my appearance. The promised showers in Warner Springs seemed to be beckoning me, so I increased my pace.

A Parking Problem

By 9:40 that morning, I was passing through the final pipe gate of my trek and striding along the shoulder of Highway 79 in front of the Warner Springs Fire District, looking for my car. Will had texted me earlier that he had left it in a parking lot between the Fire House and the school. There it was, my little black beauty. With a sense of victory and accomplishment, I dropped my pack next to the car and hurriedly removed my boots to let my feet breathe. The log divider in the parking lot made a perfect seat for the task and I was soon in my ultra-fashionable crocks and enjoying a long pull on my water bottle, which still had half a liter.

That’s when I saw two people eying me as they approached from opposite directions. They cautiously surveyed my appearance before proffering a question from ten yards away. “Are you one of those hikers?” the woman asked warily. The man, a fairly large, but not-so-menacing figure, stood behind her like a bodyguard, arms crossed and silent.

“Yes, I am,” I responded. “Just finishing my hike.”

“Well, you can’t leave your car here.”

I cocked my head and furrowed my brow. “OK,” I said as I stood slowly.

“We were just about to have it towed,” she added with an air of both hostility and benevolence. “I decided to give you until the end of the day.”

Again, unsure of what sort of response she wanted, I said, “OK, I’m heading out soon.”

“You’re not allowed to park here,” she continued. “This is for parents and teachers of this school. There’s no overnight parking.”

“Oh,” I said. “I won’t be here that long. I’m heading out as soon as I load up my gear.”

“But your car has been here since yesterday.”

Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought. “I see. Well, the friend that dropped it off for me apparently misunderstood my directions. I told him to park on the other side of the highway, but I guess he forgot or didn’t hear me.”

“But you can’t leave it here any longer,” said the impatient principal. “You’ll have to move it over there.”

Now I was growing a bit impatient. “Right. Well, I’m heading home here as soon as I pack up my car.”

Then I looked at the scene and tried to see it from her perspective. There I sat with my backpack on the ground next to me with some of its contents spilled out on the ground, my boots on top of it, with the trunk of my car open and Brian’s backpack visible. Maybe she thought I was reloading or just starting out. I don’t know. I was confused by her persistence and she must have been confused by the mixed signals coming from the array of stuff and the half-packed status of my pack and my car.

Calmly, I reiterated: “I’m leaving – I’m driving home today – as soon as I load up my car. This is where my hike ends.”

“Oh, you’re finished? Then why are you parking here?”

“I’m not parking, I’m loading up and driving home.”

She had something in her mind and what I was saying was not jibing with what she was thinking. Knowing that actions speak louder than words, I grabbed my pack and my boots and shoved them in my back seat, closed the trunk, and sat down in the driver’s seat. “I apologize for my friend leaving my car here. I hope it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience.” I started the engine, closed the door, and rolled down the window. “I do appreciate you not having it towed away, though,” I said with a smile. “That was very nice of you.” I put it in gear and drove away, having not processed the note on my seat informing me that Will had left the key I gave him on top of one of the tires. I had my wife’s key with me, which he must have forgotten. I drove off while the principal and her bodyguard watched, probably crushing the door remote into the hard-packed dirt of the parking lot as I did.

I drove into town and realized there were not too many services available in this remote place. The one and only convenience store I saw was out of business. The only restaurant I saw was at the golf course near the Post Office, but I felt too grungy to walk into a fine establishment like that. There were several other hikers walking along the shoulder of the highway as I reached the far end of town. I turned around and gave the town another try. The only two townsfolk I saw pointed me to where the community center was, across from the school parking lot, so I headed back there in hopes of taking a shower and finding some food. There was no food. The showers consisted of a bucket of lukewarm water and a locking, open-air shower stall behind the building. There was a line of probably ten or twelve hikers waiting their turn, many soaking their feet in buckets as they waited for the “shower”. It was a little after 10:00 a.m. I didn’t want to wait in line for a bucket shower when I could be 60 miles down the road by the time it was my turn. So, I thanked the lady at the counter, stuffed a few dollar bills in the collection jar on the desk nearby, and proceeded dig my overnight bag out of the trunk. I used the restroom to change my clothes and half a pack of baby wipes to freshen up as best I could. I washed my arms and face and neck in the sink, turning the white porcelain brown in the process. I had a clean hand towel in my duffel bag, too. That was the best I could do for now, and it felt fantastic. Amazing how refreshing soap and water and a clean towel are after six days without.

An hour later, I sat in a Carl’s Jr. in Temecula, 40 miles to the west, enjoying a hamburger, fries, and a chocolate shake. Halfway back to the Bay Area, I satisfied another craving by stopping for tacos. Eight hours after leaving Warner Springs, I was home, unloading my car when some friends came by to visit, compelling me to delay my long-anticipated shower for another half an hour. If they were grossed out, they didn’t let on, but I make it a point to stay on the opposite side of the living room as we chatted.

Final Thoughts on First Section

My short stint on the PCT was everything I wanted it to be, even if it was only five and a half days. It’s fascinating to meet the people out there, hear their stories, and share a moment or two of misery with strangers. I enjoyed swapping life stories, fun memories, and heartfelt lessons with my good friend Brian, whom I now considered an even better friend for our time together.

Although this is not the first section of the PCT that I’ve completed, it is the first section of the northbound trail. As such, it gave me a chance to reflect on my time out there and on the many sections I have yet to complete. I started to wonder, at times, if this goal to complete this 2650-mile trail was worth it. My thoughts went all over the place and back again. I thought about my home, my business, my family. But I also thought about my health and my peace of mind. Like other hikes, if I can incorporate my kids, I’ll get the best of both worlds: accomplishing a major goal while spending quality time with people I truly love in a place that brings provides so much peace and beauty.

Spending time in nature and on the PCT is good for the body and good for the soul. The hiking experience, like any other life experience, is what you make it. It can grind you down or it can build you up, depending on your attitude. Hiking and time in nature can give you time to think, a chance to feel freer than you can in civilization, and provide the soul with some much-needed peace and quiet. It can isolate you or it can connect you to other humans while it also connects you to nature and the Creator.