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Book cover image

To the Gorge


A riveting narrative of love and loss, grief and joy, as one woman embarks on a quest for a record on the Pacific Crest Trail.

When Emily Halnon lost her beloved mother to a rare uterine cancer at just sixty-six years old, she wanted to do something monumental to honor the person her mother had been: adventurous, courageous, inspiring. Emily’s mom had taken up running in her late forties; she ran her first marathon at fifty. She learned to swim at sixty so she could do triathlons, and she lived through a grim diagnosis with extraordinary joy and strength, still going for long bike rides and walks up until the final weeks before her death. She even went skydiving to celebrate her sixtieth birthday.

It was going to take something special to pay tribute to such a remarkable, lifeloving spirit. Emily, already an accomplished ultrarunner (inspired to initially start running by her mother), decided to try to break the record for the Fastest Known Time by a woman on the Pacific Crest Trail’s 460 miles across Oregon. As she laid out plans for her run, she began to wonder: Could she also break the men’s record?

To the Gorge takes the reader through her 7 days, 19 hours, and 23 minutes on the trail, covering nearly sixty miles a day on foot over rugged terrain, and battling all the issues that could arise during such a monstrous undertaking: hammered muscles, golf ballsized blisters, sleep deprivation, alpine storms, and debilitating self-doubt. All the while, she simultaneously struggles with how to get through the profound grief of losing her mom and grapples with how to move forward after experiencing devastating loss.

Interwoven with Halnon’s eight-day effort are her remembrances from her mother’s life and death, exploring the complicated experience of grief—and what shines through it.

To the Gorge will resonate with anyone whom life has hit with a hardball and has had to dig deep as they wonder how they will pull through. Filled with adventure and heart, To the Gorge invites readers to consider what our greatest losses can teach us about how to live the one life we get.