Doing the Pacific Northwest Trail as My First Thru-Hike. What Do I Expect?
I’m not a thru-hiker. The longest trip I have ever done is ten days, carrying all the gear I might possibly need, and then some, in my expedition-sized backpack. On my last trip I brought four different sets of wool base layers, a cast iron sandwich toaster that I never used, my trusted five-pound emergency kit which, ensures that I and my dog are prepared for any situation, and my bed pillow that I always bring because I simply can’t sleep without it.
As any good Norwegian, I feel a deep, umbilical connection to nature, and embrace most things outdoors. I spend most weekends hiking in one forest or another, and I have an inherent prepared-for-everything mentality, even when I’m just walking my dog around the neighborhood. But I have never done a thru-hike, and since deciding to hike the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) this summer it has been all I can think of. I check the current snow conditions in Glacier National Park first thing when I wake up in the morning, and keep checking throughout the day. I have read and reread the PNT guidebook countless times, and like any self-respecting, prospective thru-hiker I spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing about how to shave off just one more ounce from my lighterpack. So, in an attempt to be slightly more productive with my time, I have tried to write down what I expect from my journey on the PNT.
What Do I Expect?
Honestly, I expect that once I ditch all the heavy gear, thru-hiking won’t be all that different from backpacking. I expect that it will still be a cycle of getting up, packing camp, walking through the day, and setting up camp again whenever I find a good spot to wake up the next morning. I expect to freeze most nights, despite carrying extra warm (and heavy) gear. I expect that some days mosquitoes and biting flies will make me regret ever leaving home, and that I’ll feel sick just thinking about the food in my backpack. I expect blisters, sore muscles, and aching joints (so much).
I expect to be lonely at times and to develop a new perception of what is acceptable, basic hygiene. I expect to absolutely hate my bear canister, even when it doubles as a chair, and I expect to spend quite a few nights with the bear spray cocked and ready in hand, terrified of all the sounds outside my tent that may or may not be a grizzly. I expect days of mind-boggling road walks and to be frustrated beyond words when I can’t find the path through bushwacks and previous years’ burn areas. I expect feeling that I just can’t do it, and to miss my partner and our dog at home so much it feels unbearable.
I also expect breathtaking landscapes and wonderful people. I expect wildflowers and bilberries and afternoon naps. I expect to be amazed at the things my body can do, and to be blown away by people’s generosity and trust in strangers. I expect wildlife on the trail, jaw-dropping toilet break views, and morning baths in icy mountain lakes. I expect beautiful sunsets and sunrises, starry nights, and new friendships. I expect to be challenged and amazed every single day, and most of all I expect that by the end of summer I will be truly, madly, deeply in love with thru-hiking.
Thank you for reading, and happy hiking.
My name is Marte Conradi. I’m not a thru-hiker yet, but that’s going to change this summer when I hike the Pacific Northwest Trail, which I will be blogging from on The Trek. I’m very excited for this adventure, and being able to share it with all of you guys.
I often take pictures. Come say hi on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of flickr
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