Disclaimer: The things I share here are solely reflective of my personal hike and the decisions that I made for myself. In no way am I saying you should do it this way or another. :)
Before I started my hike, I wanted to do a full season thru-hike. All I knew was that I wanted to go in one direction in one season with continuous footsteps. I didn't really know closures were a thing. I did my first road walk in Idyllwild and it sucked. Also for some reason, GB and I were the only hikers I knew who did the endangered species detour. Since we were still so new, we never even accounted for the extra food we should've carried when we started that section. It's a whole extra 20 something miles instead of a 6 mile road walk. Luckily, I overcarried all my food in the beginning so I didn't run out. We never saw a single thru-hiker during the entire detour. After that, I decided I would not do road walks anymore. I wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, not the Pacific Crest Highway. Therefore, I no longer had continuous footsteps due to hitches around the closures. I have much respect for those who suffer hardcore and walk all detours/road walks. The pavement hurts and the cars are scary, especially not knowing about water sources/camping.
I also didn't know skipping was a thing. For myself, the whole point of doing this was to push myself through discomfort. I was not looking for an easy way out of anything. Even if I was too hot, too cold, too steep, too tired, too hungry, whatever. I was there to "suffer" and wanted to walk through all my mental and physical challenges. Granted, I would not recommend anyone to ever to try pushing through the Sierra without proper knowledge and skills about snow travel/water crossings during a high season. I do believe the best part about enduring a thru-hike/anything in life is to put yourself in uncomfortable (but safe) situations so that you can build resilience and grit in whatever it is that happens to be thrown at you. It sets your growth mindset and will be things you will remember so vividly for the rest of your life.
MY THOUGHTS DURING HIKE:
When I started hiking and first heard people were skipping, I was a little shocked because I had no idea it was a thing. None of my immediate hiker friends skipped, we all wanted to walk. I do have to admit, in the moment when you hear about the skipping, it is a bit discouraging. So it helped to surround myself with people who were there to walk all of the trail. I remember hearing people who got rides up the hill in Seiad Valley and felt so confused. But I just needed to keep telling myself people can do whatever they want. I'm here to do my own hike. People are jumping around all over the place, WHO CARES.
For me, similar to skipping. I did not want to flip. I wanted to walk in a single direction so that I could experience the trail in one way as the season changed. If it got too hot, then I keep walking. If it got too cold, then I keep walking. Once again, only safely. I would not put myself in a position where I wasn't confident in my skills just to get through a section.
WHY I'M GLAD I GOT INJURED:
I mean, I'm not stoked I was forced off, but it was good for me. We all need to be humbled in life. Basically, every long-term goal I have ever made, I've successfully reached. So for me to not finish ended up being a positive experience that taught me a lot of things. Mainly, we are not in control of our lives. We can do every single little thing perfectly, but anything can happen within just a few seconds. We are risking our bodies every day by just walking. You can slip, fall, roll an ankle, get sick, whatever. A freak accident was the last thing that I ever thought would've happened to me. And you know what? It's okay. Life happens.
Before I knew my injury was actually sending me home, I had thought a lot about where I would get back on trail had my ankle been just a sprain. I contemplated just meeting back up with GB wherever he was or if I should start back at Crater Lake. I really loved hiking with him and having a consistent partner. I had a really tough time soloing in NorCal, so having him again was really motivating. But I dug down on why I was really out there and I told myself I would most definitely just pick back up at Crater Lake and solo it again. For some reason, I could just not let myself jump ahead, even if it was to be with friends. I was out here for myself. I wasn't going to skip just so I could finish. It was more about the journey than finishing for me last year. And I had already accepted the fact that if I didn't make it to Canada on time, it'd be okay.
The other great thing about getting injured was that I got to experience life as a section hiker, what a true luxury it is. You get to choose when you want to go out and where. So obviously, I chose to go back out when the snow was mostly melted and the weather was nice. I also made sure I was out early enough so that I had time to finish with lots of buffer. However, this year was a completely different experience. I really missed the journey of starting something brand new down in the desert with hundreds of others who had also quit their job to do this thing. We were all in it together.
I remember at Elk Lake this year, this one bro guy made this comment to another section hiker gal when he was checking out her gear and said something along the lines of "Wow, that's a light pack for a section hiker." Ya'll, please don't be that guy. There is nothing wrong with being a section hiker, and you're not just a section hiker. Yes, section hiking is a totally different experience but it's also extremely similar as we're all walking towards some end goal. We might have started later or ended earlier, but we're just walking. Walking. WALKING. WALKING. There's nothing more complicated than that.
WHY I REALLY WANTED TO FINISH LAST YEAR:
I was very bummed to not finish last year, we had like zero closures and the snow was perfect. But mainly because I wanted to know what it felt like walking into your last state on your fifth month. It's the most beautiful section but your body is completely broken and tired. What's it like to push through those last 500 miles while racing the clock as the weather starts turning? The cold and wet days where you can't stop to break or you'll get hypothermia up in the north cascades. What does it feel like to be walking up to the northern terminus knowing you've finally reached the end of your 5.5 month goal? I desperately want to know, but now I will never know because I've already experienced a first "thru-hike." I have the utmost highest respect for hikers who are able to finish a thru-hike in one season without skipping. You hold an experience that words and images cannot even describe what it was really like.