10 lessons learned in 100 miles
Training is essential
I definitely screwed up not training for the PCT, I did a bunch of snowshoeing but with the rain of the Pacific Northwest I didn’t want to walk in the rain. I spent most of my time moving out, working and saying goodbye to friends and partners. I definitely figured I’d be fine since I did so much hiking in the summer but my feet weren’t ready.
Take care of your feet
With my snowshoeing and snow backpacking all winter my feet were babied by being on snow. I use barefoot shoes and did 7 days, 90 miles, on the wonderland trail plus backpacking every weekend in the summer and never got a blister but I got a rough one on the bottom of my foot. Even if you don’t normally get blisters, plan for them and bring tape and first aid supplies to take care of your feet.
After leaving Julian, CA, there is a 14 mile water carry to a water cache. I felt comfortable with 5.5 liters of water which normally would have been enough for me but in the sweltering heat of the desert I blew through all 5.5 liters with 3 miles left to go. I hugged one of the gallons of water at the cache so hard, I’ve never been so happy to have water. Try to factor heat into your water carry because the water you need in the heat is much more than you need in the morning or night when it’s cooler.
I like to push myself which can sometimes be to my own detriment. You have all day to hike and not much else to do. It’s important to take breaks throughout the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. This will help you rest your body and mind, and it will also give you a chance to enjoy the scenery.
There were a few evenings when I was hanging out with friends on the trail for dinner and then I took off to get a few more miles in after dinner while they went to bed. I’d rock out some miles and then cowboy camp solo. When I woke up early in the morning I wouldn’t see anyone for hours or later in the day. While it was nice to hike more it wasn’t worth not staying with friends. I’d rather go slower to have the wild trail conversations that happen. As much as the trail and nature are healing my mind so are the friendships and conversations.
I brought my Zpacks tarp with me for the desert portion of the PCT and I still haven’t used it. I sleep under the stars every night and it’s the best thing ever. The night I got rained on was a little uncomfortable but I’ll take a little uncomfort over not seeing the stars.
My goal for this hike was to take off and crush miles. However, my feet, ruptured tendon and knees had other plans. I ended up taking a lot more days to get to Warner Springs than I expected. I found it easy to adjust and change my plans, dropping into towns to grab more food or take a zero.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
This one is hard for me because I’m my worst critic. In my head I’m fat, slow and stupid. Constantly telling myself I’m going to slow or I’m letting an injury slow me down too much while I limp down the trail. There’s no reason for me to go fast, I’d love to finish in 4 months but my experience won’t be any less amazing or profound if I take 5 months. This is one of the best experiences of my life and I want to savor it all.
Enjoy your time and the scenery
It’s so easy to focus on the trail and ignore what’s around you because you’re trying to crush miles or ignore pain. Too many times I’ve looked over to see epic views that I didn’t even know were there. Sit down, take a break.
I feel like a complete dork when I ask people to take photos of me, it’s embarrassing. Still, I’m going to ask everyone to take my photo when there’s an epic view. Also take pictures with friends and of friends on the trail. This is one of the coolest experiences I will ever have and I want to remember it all.
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