"Don't you think there are some people who just deserve to be killed?"
-John

And now you know everything there is to know about John. John would often toss out a shocking statement or question — out of nowhere — and then cross his arms, sit back, and wait for you to respond, grinning at you all the while. I used to call them his "verbal hand-grenades." He liked that description.

I was in Big Bear, getting a hitch to the restaurant for breakfast with Lt. Dan, Peanut, Gringo, and the Canadians. While we waited on the side of the road with our thumbs locked into the please-give-me-a-ride position, I overheard Peanut mention that someone named John was going to meet us at the restaurant. Everyone seemed happy at the news. I had no idea what was about to happen to me that morning or over the course of hundreds of miles up the trail.

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John, catching up with Katie and Peanut in Big Bear.

John was family man first, everything else second. He smoked cigars and had a gritty, gravely voice to match. John hiked slower than the rest of the group, but that is not to say that he didn't work hard for every single mile. He was a diabetic and I often worried about him on the trail. More than once, Roi or myself would walk behind John to make sure he made it up a climb or across a snowfield. When I would notice his speech starting to slur, I'd suggest a break and a snack. When socks, or gloves, or hats would fall off his pack — which they did all the time — I'd pick them up, carry them, and return them to John the next time I saw him. I once asked him why he was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and he didn't have a real clear answer. To be fair, when he asked me the same question, I didn't either. In that way, he and I were exactly the same: wanderers in search of something greater.

I hiked some of the high points of the trail with John, literally. I did Whitney and Forester with him.

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John, looking like a mountaineer after summiting Mt. Whitney with a single micro-spike.

I did some of the low points too. Hiking the snowfields in the Sierra could be just awful, but I watched John plow through it, hard or not. It was inspiring in a strange way.

I liked John, but the two of us didn't always see eye to eye on everything. There was John's way, and then there was everyone else's way. He was a bit of a rebel.

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John, taking a break next to the sign that says "The lawn has the day off. Please don't trample!"

The Canadians called me the group's social worker, because I was always trying to keep the peace or help the group work through something. As I said, I liked John, but looking back, I don't think I always enjoyed hiking with John. With all of the mental and physical stress the trail can place on a person, John was sometimes a little too intense for me on trail.

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John has one toe painted pink at Casa de Luna

But John — off trail — was funny, pleasant, kind, a good conversationalist, intelligent, and very generous. That is not to say he wasn't all of those things and more on trail.

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John wearing Joey's clothes while he does laundry.

There are quite a few standout examples of John's generosity: he offered to pick up Roi, then a complete stranger, from the airport and give him a place to stay before heading out on the trail. He opened his home to Roi, Peanut, and the Canadians when they needed a break from the trail. He organized the flip from Bishop up to Truckee, where he got us a place to stay with his friends, Joey and Sophie.

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Peanut (left), Roi (middle), and John (right) yuk-it-up in Belden.

The last time saw John on trail was Belden. I was trying to find a way across a stream and I heard "Hey Matthew! Matthew!" along with a crashing sound from behind me — only John crashes through the woods like that. We hiked together for the rest of the day, finally meeting up for the night in Belden, CA. Roi, Peanut, John and I had dinner at the bar together that evening. The next morning, John stayed behind in Belden. I never saw him again.

John, like me, was a member of the group, and as a group, we had a lot of fun together — even on the hard days. While John and I didn't always view the world the same way, I could not imagine my experience on the Pacific Crest Trail without him. You see, that's the thing about John: John is not a person — John is an experience.