September 20, 2021 will be a day I will always remember. With tears flowing through my eyes, and my dad joining me for the last mile of my trip, we both walked up to the California sign on the Oregon border, where my month-long walk of the Oregon Coast Trail ended. Before I even touched that sign, and throughout my entire trip, I thought I would never make it to California and become the first person with cystic fibrosis to hike the length of an entire state.
The Oregon Coast Trail isn't all that well known and I only stumbled upon it after reaching The Pacific Crest Trail -- a trail I knew I would have a connection with and wanted to complete someday. I'd attempted many thru-hikes and most ended with me being disappointed in myself due to being found by a search and rescue team or deciding to end the hike because of serve weather changes. Even after all those attempts, I was still determined to complete a long-distance hike successfully.
In August 2021, after a scheduled port removal surgery was postponed, I decided to attempt hiking the Oregon Coast Trail. With a very loose outline of how I wanted to achieve it, I packed my gear, a month’s worth of meds, and set off for the Oregon Coast Trail by bus. I was nervous and excited, but overall I couldn't believe I was there, about to begin a journey that I had dreamed of going on.
As I began my hike on August 18, the thought that I was actually hiking the Oregon Coast Trail -- and that no matter what I would make it to California -- competed with memories of my past experiences: the two thru-hikes I’d attempted -- one when I was found by search and rescue three and a half days into my trip, and the other when a portable nebulizer I bought from India decided to call it quits at the beginning of the trailhead. I went all "Hulk" on the nebulizer because I had gotten tired of letting my CF define who I was.
I did my best to put those negative thoughts to rest as I kept walking, witnessing the beauty of the state I've called home for so long. As the miles and miles passed, the cities, the famous coastal landmarks, and the many kind and encouraging people I met along the way, reassured me that I was meant to be there, that I was meant to continue all the way to California and complete this impossible dream.
The most difficult challenges I faced were uphill climbs on the mountains and the road walks. When climbing up small hills and mountains, even along some of the road walking, I would cough up some mucus, clear my lungs out, combine that with the salty air from the sea, it makes for one healthy trip.
In the end with my experience hiking the Oregon Coast Trail with cystic fibrosis is that I realized I am more capable than I thought. Yes, there were good days and bad days, but overall, I was out there to experience the trail and to achieve something not many with my condition has.
We are all capable of achieving what we think is impossible, and that is what I did. The lesson I took away from the trail is to be more confident of myself. Even though I've had experiences that didn’t go according to plan, that is the past. I make my own future, learn from my past mistakes, take lessons from them, and improve upon what I’ve learned.
And on the same day I finished my hike of more than 400 miles, a woman at the Crissy Fields visitor center contacted Diana Bosetti, a reporter who took an interest in my story. In addition to interviewing my dad and me for two hours about the hike, she also contacted Nick Talbott, an adult with CF who climbed Mount Everest and got a quote from him. She read what he had to say to me and man, did it make my day:
First of all, a big congratulations to Colton. 402 miles is impressive for anyone to do, let alone someone with CF. He must have overcome so much to achieve this. I'm happy that my Everest challenge has encouraged Colton to push impressive new boundaries, and I hope all CFers get to live their best life and push their own personal boundaries whatever they may be.
I hope from those who are reading this are inspired to chase, achieve, and conquer their very own dreams. Nothing is ever impossible to achieve.
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