2011 Pacific Crest Trail Hike Fundraiser

Dear all folks who pledged money for the Mission Manna fund raiser hike,

     Well, somehow I finished the Pacific Crest Trail. On September 17th, 2011, I touched the northern terminus monument at the Canadian border, having hiked a total of 2655 miles from the Mexican border. I am writing this as I camp 1/4 mile into Canada. I am trying to soak everything in, yet there is not enough ink in the world to pen all the intricate details about what just happened. And I wouldn't make you suffer through that. But I would like to share one of the things I have thought a lot about during this trip.

     I know from the last long distance hike I did that it is difficult at first to adjust to the silliness and seriousness of society after being in the woods for 5 months.  But this time I feel I have a little more ammunition to combat this mental nightmare. Throughout the journey, I thought a lot about the differences in Trail Life, American Society, and Current Haitian Life. This has allowed me to put in perspective the accessibility of basic life necessities.  It also makes me want to become less materialistic and more helpful to those in need as a permanent, personal quest from now on.
     As I give the following examples of what I'm talking about, I want to stress that I am not sugar coating American Society. Obviously, we have homelessness too, and our system and way of life has serious problems we need to vigilantly keep in check. I also know we all have our own unique, personal problems we are dealing with.  However, I now feel that sometimes we, generally speaking, move too fast to realize how fortunate we are to simply have bare necessities readily available. The examples that come to mind are water, housing, food, emergency health care, and the ability to handle natural disasters.

Trail life - It is often hard to find water, which one needs very badly. However, if you are smart about it, and willing to carry weight over long distances, clean water can be had. Or you could simply quit the trail and go live in American Society.
American Society - We can basically go to any number of rooms in our homes and businesses and proceed to turn little handles. These handles cause endless clean water to flow. We can drink, clean, and even pour it all over our bodies in large basins we call tubs.
For the most part, we think nothing of it.
Haitian Life - Presently over 1/2 the population (4.5 million) of Haiti lack access to clean water and sewer because the infrastructure was so badly damaged by the earthquake. Existing systems have fallen into disrepair. Water is intermittent for those lucky enough to even have water.
Trail life - On the trail you stay in a tent and sleep on a ground pad.  If one of these gets lost or broken, you just have to make it to the next resupply point and figure out how to get a replacement. Or you could simply quit the trail and go live in American Society.
American Society - Generaly speaking, most of us stay in structural boxes that provide us shelter from the elements. Inside these boxes are big, fluffy, square things that we lay on when we sleep in order to make us comfortable.
Haitian Life - Over 600,000 Haitians live in makeshift displacement camps or are completely homeless. They are lucky if they even get a cot.
Trail life - On the trail one eats the same exact thing all the time. It has to be lightweight, inexpensive, and high in calories. 5 months of tuna, instant potatoes, and snickers gets really old fast. But at some resupply points you can pig out on ice cream.
Or you could simply quit the trail and go live in American Society.
American Society - We have vast farmlands. Companies and farms actually try to convince consumers that their food is the best through paid advertising. Many people are quite large because of excessive eating.
Haitian Life - Deforestation and overfarming have left the ground barren for the present generation. Over half the people suffer from malnutrition, and many people are helplessly hungry.
Emergency Healthcare
Trail life - If you need medical attention on the trail, as long as a message can be sent, a helicopter will come rescue you.
Then you are in American Society.
American Society - If you need medical attention, you or someone around you can stick a finger outward and press 3 buttons (911) on a readily accessible contraption you talk into. You then can communicate with emergency services, which have the same contraption. These folks will personally drive very fast to your house with state of the art equipment to help you.
Haitian Life - There is basically only one hospital that can handle trauma, and there is no blood bank to speak of. Irrepairable roads make some areas not accessible. Relaying messages that help is needed is extremely difficult.
Ability to Handle Natural Disasters
Trail life - If a natural disaster happens, you probably could use map and compass to get back to American Society.
American Society - The US is so big that usually natural disasters affect only one particular area at a time.  This means all the rest of the country comes running to help. Also, we somehow come up with money to help, and have resources and reserves on standby, for the most part.
Haitian Life - Haiti is small, and is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. In the event of a natural disaster, it is difficult to help themselves because the whole country is usually affected and they have very little money.

In conclusion, I would like to ask three things of you.

1)  If you would like to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, please know that I would be happy to get together with you and help you plan. But initially I would say do not do it on a year that there was 300% average yearly snowfall the previous winter.

2)  If you do not already do so, next time you turn on your water, or take a shower, take a second to realize how special that moment is.

3)  Please realize that the money you donated to Mission Manna will be spent very wisely, helping many people in many different ways.  Please consider adopting Haiti as a cause you support on an ongoing basis.  Not necessarily money. Even keeping up with how serious the situation is, so that you can tell others, can put this issue in the spotlight and motivate the right person at the right time to donate money and resources.  http://www.missionmanna.org is a great place to educate yourself and find out ways you can help.

Take care and thank you so much!

John Kelleher