Since my first Pct adventure in 2016, I have shed my perceived exterior a multitude of times. I consider myself an onion, gradually peeling back one layer at a time, on the ultimate quest to discover myself and embrace the authentic being residing in my inner core. The loss of some of those layers makes me cry, some cause me to scream, some to laugh. All are pre-conceived notions placed on me by society, other people projecting onto me, or false identities I have adopted. The process is brutal, but one I am committed to. Who am I? I am a warrior. I am a survivor. I am stubborn as hell. I am a high school dropout. I am sometimes a mess. I am weird. I am gay. I am an advocate for all those hikers that don’t fit between the lines. I am proud of the person I am finally letting myself be. I am Matador. I am a thru-hiker.
I open my eyes to darkness enveloping my surroundings like inky satin. The shadow of a dream tickles my consciousness, in a vulnerable place behind
Small pebbles of milky quartz and granite studded with shimmering mica crunch satisfyingly below my brand-new trail runners. Beneath them is a
I round a corner on trail; vivid, violet wildflowers grope my sweaty shirt as I pass. Lazy, looping vines wearing a shade of forest green dangle
The slow-moving fog encompasses me in an eerie embrace, as the world is lost in a sea of gray. It presses against my chest, questioning my presence,
“Hey Matador,” Lapsang mutters to me from the darkness, “is your sleeping bag all wet?” “Yup, pretty damn soaked,” I mumble back from my state of
“Hola! Hola! Hola gringos,” parrots a group of dirt-smeared Peruvian kids. The mud appears almost regal on the youths, complementing their beautiful
The purest, most enchanting note emanates through the air. Its vibrations course down my body, pooling in the delicate space in the center of my