"What are you listening to?" said Allen.
"Lord Huron" Peanut answered. I would find out later that she was trying to play it cool and hide the fact that she was out of breath in the middle of a climb.
"I love that band!" I said. I don't think she heard me, because Allen was still talking. No surprise there.
"You have a resting bitch face."
After meeting Allen, I realized that I enjoyed hiking with people — but Peanut would become my gateway to the wider community of hikers. Everyone loved Peanut. Where I would walk past people on the trail and maybe mutter a greeting of some kind, she would stop and talk, extracting information about the trail ahead or some other bit of information she wanted. "You have a resting bitch face," she'd tell me, and "that's why no one wants to talk to you."
Peanut, on the other hand, was a giggler. She'd laugh or giggle at nearly anything — even the suffering of people she considered friends.
Peanut (right) laughs uncontrollably at Joe Dirt (left), who is about to experience the indescribable pain of too much Ghost Pepper sauce
I met Peanut at Tule Spring at mile 137, the same time I met the Canadians, Katie and Connor. She was just standing there watching Allen and Katie go back and forth about the metric system and other topics that sprung from Allen's mind. Honestly, I was so intently listening to Katie and Allen, I hardly noticed her. Later that evening, Allen and I sped past her on the trail, stopping only to chat for a second about what she was listening to, and then we zoomed off down the trail again. She would catch up with us later that night. I remember seeing a headlamp coming down the trail, occasionally whipping around to illuminate the path behind. When she heard Allen and I setting up camp for the night, she quickly made her way toward us and said something like "Is this a campsite?"
"Yep." I said.
"Oh, Thank God!" she blurted.
Allen (left) and Peanut (right), the morning after we met at Tule Spring
At that point, Peanut was another person I met on trail. I had no idea that I would end up walking over 2000 miles of the trail with her, all the way to end. I had no idea that Peanut would become one of my best friends — someone who's abilities I would come to respect and look up to. She had a quiet confidence. She was independent, self-sufficient, and trustworthy. On one particulary hard day for me, she told me that each moment was perfect the way it was and not to fight against it. Smart too.
Everytime I would cross paths with the Canadians, Peanut was there. Tule Spring: Peanut. Paradise Valley Cafe: Peanut. Arrastre Trail Camp: Peanut. Big Bear: Peanut. Deep Creek Hot Springs: Peanut. Agua Dulce: Peanut. Hiker Town: Peanut. I kept running into her. She told me later that she didn't like hiking or camping alone, so she stuck with the Canadians pretty early on.
She had dialed into a cruising speed that even I couldn't match.
The first time I recognized Peanut's quiet, but iron determination was walking out of Hiker Town along the LA aquaduct. She had dialed into a cruising speed that even I couldn't match. We did 17 miles that night, and even though I was more than a mile behind everyone at the end, she waited for me at the turn off. "Matthew. This way."
"Is this it?" I blurted, my mind and body in a stupor. The rest is a blur. I don't even remember setting up camp that night.
Orange (left), Gringo (middle), and Peanut (right) on the LA aquaduct
I often remarked that she was stronger, faster, and more capable than she let on. Compared to me, she rarely complained about the trail, or aches and pains, or anything else for that matter. I think there were only two times where she let her frustration with the trail show. The first time was when she threatened to quit the trail because of sun cups in the Sierra. To be fair, I was only moments away from losing my mind over those things. I guess you had to be there. The second time was when she threatened to quit the trail over mosquitoes in Oregon. Those little devils were at "massacre movie levels" according to one hiker (it was worse than that, in my opinion). But, that was it. Just a couple of empty threats, and she kept walking.
Sun cups and snow bridges in the Sierra
Seconds after taking this photo, Peanut was swarmed by hundreds of mosquitoes. I screamed and ran, leaving my friend to fend for herself.
Peanut navigates blow down while crossing Bear Creek like a professional hiker
At the Denny's in Bishop, our group decided to flip up to Truckee, and eventually, split up. I remember Katie and Connor saying that they didn't intend to go back to finish up the Sierra after hitting the border. Lt. Dan and I planned on finishing together, no matter what. Peanut said that come Oregon, she kind of wanted to do her own thing and hike by herself until the end. My heart dropped a few stories in my chest. That was it. The Band of Idiots, as I called us, was breaking up. Done. Finito.
That day in Bishop really sucked. I was pretty down about it for the next several days, but I tried hard to not show my disappointment. However, more than a thousand miles after Bishop, I was still hiking with her. She never went off on her own. It turns out that she likes hiking with people a lot more than she thought. Solo NoBo just isn't as fun as it sounds, I guess.
Unknown to me at the time, I had somehow hitched my wagon to hers.
For a long time, I felt like a tag-along with the group. It felt like I had hitched my wagon to the Canadians and wherever they'd go, I'd go too. One evening, Lt. Dan, Peanut, and I decided to do a few more miles before sun down, leaving the Canadians behind. Before I set up camp for the night, I turned on my phone to see if I had a signal. I did, but only two text messages came in. One from T-Mobile and the other from my brother Tim telling me that my father was in the hospital and that he was OK and stable. There I was, at the top of a mountain, my father in the hospital, and there was nothing I could do about it. I remember walking a little way from camp, and then I crumpled onto a rock and cried. Just having Peanut and Lt. Dan with me that night was enough. It took me hundreds of miles to figure it out, but I finally realized that I had friends on trail who cared about me, and that I cared about them. We weren't just hiking partners anymore.
There are some foods that even a thru-hiker won't touch.
Peanut would end up becoming one of my best friends. On top of that mountain, I came to the sudden realization that I had actually hitched my wagon to hers, so to speak, and not the Canadians. I would meet the rest of my people through her, including the infamous Joe Dirt (but that's a story for another time). As more and more of the trail went by, and more and more people came and went, Peanut and I just seemed to stick together. At some point in Washington, even Lt. Dan took off ahead of us. I never thought that would happen, but it did. Peanut and I were all that was left of the original Band of Idiots.
Peanut dominates the Chute at Forester
On September 30, the end of the trail finally came. She and I had hiked thousands of miles together. I never tired of her company, though I'm sure there were some moments where I was little more than she could take. I know she had her bad days too. She was crabby sometimes, but never without a reason. That said, Peanut was pleasant to hike with. Zero stress. Decisions regarding where to stop, how far to go, where to resupply, were all easy. Maybe it was because we were around the same age, or had a similar pace, or maybe we were both simply too tired to argue. We both seemed to just roll with whatever the trail threw at us, and that made for good hiking partners, I suppose.
A mouse broke into Peanut's resupply box at Crater Lake.
Dude Legs Johnson
She was funny too. One evening at dinner time, I announced that I had decided to rename my nightly ritual of hot apple cider to "Apple Sluiter". Peanut, in an attempt to own the hot chocolate ritual, decided to rename hot chocolate to "Hot Johnson". There was an awkward pause until Roi, hidden inside his tent, yelled "I'll take two!". I later spoke with Roi about yelling "I want a Hot Johnson!" in public.
"Just don't" I said.
Peanut ruins another one of my videos
Now, I can't talk about Peanut without mentioning her boyfriend Tim. Don't get me wrong: hiking with Peanut was great on it's own, but Tim was the proverbial icing on the cake.
Tim tests pack weight with Peanut in-tow. "Not too bad!" he says.
Over the course of the trail, Tim would drive down from Washington — more than once — to find Peanut. What he found was his girlfriend hanging out with a gang of hiker trash who had nearly perfected Yogi-ing by this point. The rest of us, including me, were just riff-raff that would swarm his truck and his bottomless hospitality.
Oh, hey Tim! What a surprise to see you! Peanut talks about you all the time. You're such a great guy! Oh wow, is that beer? You going my way?
I would end up staying at Tim and Peanut's house in Washington for a few days after finishing the trail. When they got sick of me, they drove me to the Portland airport and chucked me onto a plane headed for home. Like I said, Peanut was my window to meeting other great people. Tim was one of those people.
...even if I had the chance, I wouldn't roll the dice again.
When I think back to when I met Peanut and that we ended up finishing the Pacific Crest Trail together, I'm still a little bit confused about it. When we first met, I thought I'd hike past her and that would be it (that was my thing: I'd see people ahead of me and have the uncontrollable urge to pass them). Now that my time on the trail is over and my ego has been thoroughly checked, I can hardly believe she stuck around me — but I'm glad she did. I could not have walked the trail every day without her quietly pushing me onward, challenging me to do those last few, weary miles on a miserable day.
Staying positive on one of the harder days
I even relied on her as my alarm clock. Every morning, I'd wait for the ssssshhhhhhhh of her air mattress deflating. I'd wake in a panic, sure that this was the day she'd ditch me. There was a least one morning where I know she messed with me, letting out a little bit of air from her mattress and stopping to listen for the sounds of me waking in a frenzy in the tent next door. I chalk this level of paranoia up to the fact that I was consuming fourteen times the FDA recommended amount of mercury-laden tuna fish. Seriously, don't eat that stuff more than once a week.
Peanut awkwardingly mounts the monument at the Northern Terminus
Honestly, if I hadn't bumped into Allen, and subsequently, the Canadians and Peanut, I'm sure I would have found other people to hike with. I'd probably have great experiences along the way — but even if I had the chance, I wouldn't roll that dice again. I'm honored to have hiked the trail with someone like Peanut. I could not have asked for a better person to walk thousands of miles with, and I couldn't have asked for a better friend.