By Toby Gallier
As many of us know all too well, it’s extremely difficult and heartbreaking to slowly lose someone to Alzheimer’s. You are continuously bounced between trying to make the most of the time you have left and grieving the loss of a loved one. For those of us who want to provide support, you often find yourself feeling helpless and not knowing what to do. This is my experience with Alzheimer’s.
When my mom’s partner, Lori, first started showing symptoms, he just seemed a little more forgetful than normal, and then a lot more forgetful. In the years following his diagnosis he has continued to progress despite taking various medications and treatments. He has recently began occasionally forgetting who loved ones are and even had to ask what his name was. Luckily throughout all this he has maintained an upbeat, go with the flow attitude. He still likes to be a helper, although recently his idea of “helping” isn’t always helpful. It can be a constant treasure hunt to find things he’s put away. Besides witnessing Lori’s progression I have also seen the impact that it’s had on my Mom, who is now his full time caregiver. While she does a fantastic job taking care of Lori, it’s a lot for one person to take on. Not only being a caregiver but slowly losing a loved one at the same time.
Up until recently I’ve struggled to figure out what I can do to help beyond being present and offering my support. I then realized that I could leverage something I love, hiking, to support the ones that I love. So on April 3, I will set out to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail, all 2,664 miles of it, to raise awareness and funds for the Alzheimer’s Association by participating in The Longest Day. While I’m sure there will be many days during my time on the trail that will feel like “the longest day”, it’s nothing compared to the impact Alzheimer’s has on so many lives. I will begin my journey in the small town of Campo, California, just feet away from the Mexican border. I will then hike through California, Oregon and Washington before reaching the end of the trail at Manning Park in British Columbia, Canada.
The trail itself is closely aligned with the highest parts of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges and crosses through 25 national forests and 7 national parks. I will experience 420,880 feet, or approximately 80 miles, of elevation change, with the highest point of trail reaching 13,153 ft. at Forrester Pass in California. Although, I will also be making a short side trip to summit Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 which stands at 14,505 feet.
Not only will this journey be physically challenging but extremely mentally challenging as well. However, knowing that I have the opportunity to help so many others completing this hike will help me push through the difficult times. If you are interested in learning more about my journey visit my blog at http://further.blog. I will be making updates from the trail with photos and videos along with a live map showing my current location.
Toby is hiking the PCT for The Longest Day again in 2019! Learn more at his fundraising page.