What Was I Thinking?
The first time I told someone I was hiking the Pacific Crest trail, I wasn’t afraid. It wasn’t real to me yet. In the beginning, I was telling people about it so it seemed like I had something going on when I had no idea where I was at. As more people asked about it, I looked into more information on the trail and slowly began to realize that this was possible for me, this was something I could tackle. As I got closer and closer to the kick off date, I felt my stomach tighten, it got harder to take a deep breath. My mind was swirling with “what ifs” that I would never be able to answer with all the research in the world. I tried to act calm in fear of worrying others. I remember being on a rollercoaster of emotions that ranged from feeling at peace to panicking. What the hell was I thinking?
Thru Hike #1
The night before I left a few friends came over and we had a few glasses of wine, hoping to ease the nerves. As I lay wide awake at three in the morning, I realized I should have drunk more wine. My stomach was in knots so badly I ended up hurling red wine onto my carpet, not my best moment, but I was freaking out! The next day was torture. My flight was in the evening so I waited all day trying to stay busy, even though I was ready. I got in the car with my parents to drive to the airport. They were asking me questions I can’t remember and I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t speak. I rolled down my window and stuck my head outside. the breeze seemed to clear my mind. We got to the airport to find out my flight was delayed. Great. We went to a local bar to grab a beer and wait and the three of us sat in silence. I think I was worrying them. We got back to the airport and I got my things together. As I hugged my parents goodbye, my mom began to bawl, squeezing me tight and repeating “six hours, I can be anywhere you are in six hours.” I turned away from them and walked through security. As I got to the other side, my nerves melted away. I finally felt still. Maybe because I was past the point of no return, maybe because it had finally begun. I was ready. I flew to San Diego and started the next morning, 159 days later I walked across the border into Canada and all the nerves and anxiety had been worth it.
Thru Hike #2
As I decided to thru-hike again, tackling the Appalachian trail, I didn’t have so many nerves. I knew what to expect, I was meeting some friends from the PCT at the beginning, and I felt good about being able to complete it. The night before, I got a little nervous about being on the other side of the country from my home. How would I get home if something happened? if I left would I be able to come back out? Visions of my injury on the PCT, in which I went home for a few days to recover, kept flashing through my mind. I was able to convince myself that this would not be an issue and I was going to take care of myself more and not push it too hard. My ride to the airport is not nearly as vivid in my mind as the first time. I said goodbye to my parents and flew into Atlanta where I met my friends. They had run into another hiker there who was flying home. When we asked why, he said his friend had bailed in the first four miles of the approach trail because it was too hard and went home. He waited a few more days but had also changed his mind because of the difficulty of the trail. Now I felt panicked. How hard was this that people were quitting before even getting to the trail? I was in bad shape and I was surrounded by some hardcore PCT hikers who I knew would want to go fast. I told myself not to push it but I felt a need to stick with my friends for a little while. After a few big, hard mile days, I felt better and able to keep up with the swing of things.
Thru Hike #3/4
Now as I prepare for my third (Te Araroa) and fourth thru hike (CDT), I feel serene. I’m more comfortable thru hiking than the alternatives now. I finally feel like I have the right gear (which I’m sure will change as soon as I get out there). I feel like I know how to take care of myself more than before. That’s what thru hiking has done for me. It has empowered me to feel comfortable in all situations, to know that I can accomplish anything I put my mind and my heart in, and the confidence to take on the world. The true benefits of thru hiking are nothing you’re worried about in the beginning.
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