It’s been over a year since I rounded the last switchback and hobbled through a clearing of trees to hug the tall, wooden monument split between borders.

In the late summer of 2021 when the Canadian Border was still closed to foot traffic, I turned around to walk south for the first time in 5 months.

I retraced my steps from the valley floor, up the ridge line that held views I’d already seen, and noticed the sweet stomach knots you only feel when you have something worth saying goodbye to.

The push was over. The goal, several years in the making, had been achieved. I had successfully completed my thru-hike of the 2,650+ mile, Pacific Crest Trail. The moments following were some of the first times I had allowed myself to feel the magnitude of the journey I was on, the first time I felt the physical & mental soreness seep deep into my bones.

I popped three, sweet vitamin I’s and swore after the 30-mile backtrack to Hart’s pass, I would never hike again. I had walked the length of 3 states, lived outside for almost half a year, yet the idea of taking another step or pitching my tent one more time, exhausted and annoyed me.

I was so ready to be done.


It was late summer, back in my hometown of Southern California, about a 2 hour drive from where I had started my grand journey earlier that year. I was restless with stories, sights and scars all jumbled up into my malnourished vehicle of a body, that I’d spent the past several months hiking into the dirt.

As with any great adventure, you simply do not, nor should not, return from a thru-hike as the same person you were when you left. If you did, what would be the reason for leaving at all? You’ve willingly embarked on a journey that so few have the means to experience and to endure. Your world for 4-6 months was everything, yet nothing at all. The simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other and tending to only the basic necessities are what ground you in your own humanity. It feels natural, raw and real—it feels like living.

My soul was full, my heart was full, and now, even my belly was full. I slowly slipped back into the comforts I longed for so badly over the course of my hike, unknowingly shrinking the part of me that I’d come to know on the trail.

I’d reminisce on stories, photos and once I regained feeling in my toes, began chasing the highs of local peaks to satisfy my newfound craving for movement.

Days turned into months and months turned into birthdays and holidays then suddenly, life on trail became a fond, but distant memory.


The thing about time is it allows you to create space between actively experiencing moments and then reflecting, reveling in the joy of nostalgia.

The highs from the trail followed me around for the better part of a year after I touched that Northern terminus. Every weekend backpacking trip or day hike before work were bittersweet reminders of the adventure I once had. There were an abundance of “I remember whens” and “one time on trails” that would tumble out of my mouth, sparked by something as simple as the smell of sap or a sunrise over an alpine lake.

If you asked me, pre-trail, why I wanted to hike the PCT, I could recite the lengthy list that’s since been burned into my brain after having to convince myself repeatedly, that there was method to all the madness.

However, with my Appalachian Trail start date rapidly approaching, I’m starting to feel like choosing to thru-hike again is a harder decision than last time.

Sure, there is something to be said about having a few thousand miles under your feet that calms the pre-trial jitters, but will my experience end up hurting me in the long run? It’s not lost on me that the highs, I’m so fondly remembering, are only highs because they came after a low. I don’t have naivety in my pack this time around. Which means, I know full well of the suck, pain, discomfort and fatigue that I am about to endure and the mental fortitude that has to be present to make this thing successful…yet I’m still choosing to go.

But that’s why we do it right? Because embracing the lows are what make the highs that much sweeter. It’s more the journey and less the goal. To pursue peace in its most wild form. To befriend our minds and bodies. To get to know our cities, states and country a little better, find greater perspective. To connect with the earth and people and maybe gain a little more faith in humanity along the way. To become more well-rounded and ever-present.

Last week someone asked me, “So you want to hike the length of the country, again…why?” While I’m still figuring out my complete answer to that question, I’m okay if it’s a work in progress and a running list. Maybe it’s just as simple as going where it feels real and where it feels right. Just like in off-trail life, I’ll trust my feet and the places they bring me, one step at a time…

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Comments 3

  • Robert Sartini : Mar 7th

    You’ll have a wonderful time. I’ve done the AT three times and the PCT as well. The AT is much harder hiking than the PCT day to day but the long green tunnel is just as rewarding. You will love it.

  • Paula Jaros : Mar 27th

    Kate, from what I have heard you are amazing. This will be quite the trek , but as you have already done the PCT I’m sure you “kinda” know what to expect. I can’t wait to read about it. You have fans on the east coast.
    Good luck and happy trails.

  • Christina : Mar 29th

    This was beautiful to read! I am so excited for you, but I’m not gonna lie and say I won’t miss you. Can’t wait to hear all about it and see the person this hike transforms you into!


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