Guest Blog Entry by: Michael Gosselin (Astro’s Stepdad)
When I dropped Astro (he wasn’t Astro yet) off on April 7th this spring at the PCT monument that sits at the California – Mexico border, honestly, I have to admit, I thought would be an impossible journey for him to finish.
Set aside the somewhat tenuous condition of his health, walking 2,660 miles over some very tough terrain seems like a long shot for even the fittest of any individual to complete. I feel very fortunate to have caught up with him along the trek and walked parts of the trail in Big Bear Lake and Mammoth Lakes in California and then again in the Cascade Lakes area in southern Washington.
Each time I saw him he looked a little thinner and a little more “beaten up.” But one thing was for certain, his resolve and determination never waivered. I saw before me a brave young man that was certain he would finish this epic trek. I think it surprised most of us, when a tumor on his spine forced him into the ER in a hospital in Yakima, WA he did not even consider it an “excuse” to get off the trail.
Instead, he got a chemotherapy infusion on a Wednesday morning and was back on the trail on the very next day. Several days after that he got caught in a nasty rain/sleet storm without adequate clothing or protection from the weather and had to walk 10+ miles in freezing rain to seek temporary refuge in a Lutheran camp, only accessible by boat or foot. Imagine the look on these folks faces when a very wet, shivering, grungy looking hiker shows up in the middle of a pitch-black rainy night. They took him in easily, offering food, refuge and a warm bed for the night. Trail angels seen and unseen seemed to have watched over him each step of the way.
When he discussed this incident later with me, he told me “it was the closest he had ever come to death.” Given his history with cancer, I thought this was an extremely strong statement to make. And then once again, amazingly, when the weather cleared a bit he was back on the trail.
I had promised Astro long ago I would walk the last section of the trail with him as I thought it more than fitting that I share the final leg of the journey. I had started this with him six and a half months ago back in April and now he was close to the finish. So, I met him in Hart’s Pass in Washington where we would hike the last 40 miles of the trail together. Until the last two weeks of the journey, Astro had had near perfect weather for most of the hike, which is almost unheard of. The weather was continuing to change which was going to make it more challenging. It had started to rain the Cascade Mountain range. The Rrain was turning into sleet and then into snow, this is definitely not fun on the trail. Neither of us really had adequate weather gear to deal with these elements. Not once did Astro complain. He just trudged on fearless with determination knowing the northern terminus of the PCT was near.
Just after 4:30 p.m. on October 19th he reached the monument marking the end of the trail and the Canadian border. We hugged and we cried as we celebrated his completion of his through-hike of the 2,660 mile long Pacific Crest Trail. I have never been prouder of one person’s accomplishment. As I said above, hiking the Pacific Crest trail is in and of itself an amazing feat. Less people complete that Pacific Crest Trail than have climbed Mt. Everest.
When you factor the fact that Andy has cancer and is coping with a certain amount of pain, into the equation, it seems almost impossible that he made it to the end of the trail. I want you to know that Astro is my hero and I shout a HUGE congratulations on a job especially well done!!!