My Hero!

Guest Blog Entry by:  Michael Gosselin (Astro’s Stepdad)

He did it!!!

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.

Astro and Michael at the finish.

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.

Gourmet, on the left, is Astro’s friend he met at the beginning of the trail who came back to finish with him again! Astro, Michael in Manning Park.

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.

Team Astro — Dave, Astro, Michael, Deon, Betsy (mom) (top). Gourmet (Marc) and Karen. This was the crew that worked to get Andy to the finish!

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!!!

Andy’s story is filled with so many amazing people that helped him along the way. In an interesting twist, these three beautiful women who live in Seattle had been following this blog for awhile and were inspired by Astro’s story. They made some calculations and determined when he would be getting off the trail. They drove to Manning Park and started walking towards him, determined to welcome him to the finish, and they did! These photos and more are credited to these beautiful angels!

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21 Responses to My Hero!

  1. Andrew Krongold says:

    CONGRATS ANDY!

  2. Debbie says:

    is Astro back home now? I’m very anxious to know how he is doing after completing his exhausting and exhilirating journey. God Bless Astro, and once again CONGRATULATIONS !!!!!!!!

  3. Candace Hurley says:

    A testament to a determined heart and those who love him. A stunning accomplishment on every level. In awe…

  4. Donald Doran says:

    What more can be said, than it is amazing what one can overcome and accomplish. You ASTRO are a great example for so many, who give up too soon. God Bless you. Always keep Him in all that you do. Love you, Loyola

  5. Bill says:

    Astro, as I have said many times over the last four years, your friendship, courage and determination are a huge inspiration for me. The news of your arrival at the end of the PCT was the best thing I’ve heard in the news in a long time. I can’t wait to see you and hear of your adventures in person! Astro – TU ROCAS!!!!!!!

  6. Dambara says:

    Way to go, Andy! What an inspiring example you set. :) Many blessings in whatever life direction you choose from here.

  7. annamce says:

    My heart is full reading this. So beautiful!

  8. Pat Pulaski says:

    I am so happy for you and your Family. love and smiles are on their way to you . and hope and good thoughts will be in my heart for you allways.

  9. Margo Hayes says:

    Congratulations, Andy! I saw your story in Lady on a Rock’s blog and thought I’d read about your journey. Truly inspiring! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Bob says:

    absolutley amazing…what a journey. Life is certainly not a guided tour and to think Astro Andy went a hiking on one’s summers day and ended up north of the border 6 months later is unimaginable. The english language has no words to describe what Andy has endured. His will and perseverance combined with his toughness and determination are the ingredients for one incredible individual…much peace and many blessings …always remember all we have is this moment right now and you are the master of it!! B

  11. Kristen says:

    Congratulations, Andy! Way to go!

  12. Brad Stone says:

    Congratulations Andy. Although it sounds like the trail has taken a toll, you look much healthier than when Amanda and I had lunch with you on the sweltering day at Paradise Cafe.

    You’re an inspiration, I hope you found the answers you were looking for in your journey.

  13. With love and joy! May they continue to be with you Andy on your life’s path! Aum Aum Aum

  14. We prayed very hard for Andy! and we are so very proud. We love you. May God bless you in next adventure and forever!! Love Aunt Bridget and the Thomas Family….

  15. demuzeekmon says:

    You are amazing Astro, thanks to you, your mom & Michael for sharing your journey in this public way. I would love to meet you someday, and am inspired to take on my own journey. Peace to you.

  16. Jamie Taylor says:

    Congratulations to all of you. Michael, you have given Andy a wonderful gift by sharing your love of nature and hiking with him. Betsy has added her spiritual guidance and lots of good trail food. I am looking forward to hearing more about the next adventure. May the force be with you all.

    Jamie Taylor

  17. Darcy says:

    Congratulations for completing such an awesome feat! What an inspiration you are, Andy! May God bless you and keep you in your next adventure.

  18. mike hilburn says:

    Andy,
    Not sure if you remember me, I’m Max Hilburn’s Dad. I’m blown away by your accomplishment! Walking that trail is something I’ve wanted to do or try. I had wanted to do the Trail since I was 15 or 16. Having spent my youth in LB and DP,( Since I was 4 years old ) I could not wait to get out of here and go to the Mountains.

    I ended up graduating a semester early, this would have January 1976.and was in Northern Idaho 3 days later. Next stop was Sun Valley. I finally came back here in 1984, met Pam ( Max’s Mom )

    Sorry to make a long story too long, but your story really resonated with me.
    I’m so stoked that you did it.

    I’m 54 now and not getting any younger.
    I had major back surgery on 10-10-12. I have said to myself that my goal is to do the TRAIL once I have gained the strength. Andy…you are a true inspiration to me! With all you’ve gone though, especially the Pain aspect, I can totally relate to.
    Cancer, thank God is something I have not had to deal with. You look great in Pics that are posted! I think the Trail helped you in more ways than most people would understand.

    May God bless you Andy and all those that surround you,
    Mike Hilburn

  19. Hi Astro!

    Congratulation!!! Doesn’t it sound good… Thru-Hiker!!!
    I finished on 9/13… so welcome to the club :-)

    When I searched for blogs of this years hikers and friends I was totally speechless when I found out about your “real” challenge.
    We didn’t share many miles together but I enjoyed every moment…
    First the great victory passing Forester Pass and later on when you and your family-friends gave me a ride to Bishop!
    Seeing the photo of you standing at the monument is amazing… so much snow!
    I was really lucky. I only had rain for two hours out of Stehekin… that’s all… unbelievable, isn’t it?

    I wish you all the best for you future!
    How about we see each other again in New Zealand… another great trail to conquer!!!

    All the best,
    Greetings from Austria… Banana Pants :)

  20. Have been holding you every step of the way on your journey… before and after this leg of it. Looking forward to seeing you again when you are next in Laguna. You are the light Andy. Thank you for shining so brilliantly.

  21. Nancy Hirsch says:

    Andy – you have filled my days with your amazing strength, commitment and courage. Congratulations on this major achievement. You have inspired many. The best to you on whatever you choose next.

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