Ten Things I’ve Learned in 1,000 Miles

1,000 miles down! It still hasn’t sunk in that I’ve walked that far, even though I can look on a map and see that I am not just level with San Francisco, but actually a bit north of it now. To sum up these 1,000 miles, I’ve come up with a list of the top ten things that I’ve learned.

1. The Pain Is Temporary

One of my daily goals is to have a good time 75 percent of the time. That number leaves some room for the little bit of pain and suffering that is inevitable when you walk for ten or so hours each day. Every morning I get out of my tent and hobble around camp on my sore and swollen feet. However, I know that the discomfort will start to go away once I begin hiking.

Another beautiful day.

I also know that I’ll eventually get warm again after being cold, that the hill I’m climbing will eventually end, and that I’ll find some shade after cooking in the sun. Knowing that this unavoidable discomfort is only temporary makes it much easier to handle.

The final lake before leaving Yosemite.

2. Treat Yourself

Splurging on a hotel in Tehachapi after the gnarly aquaduct section was heavenly. Staying at the Cinnamon Bear Inn in Mammoth Lakes was quirky and one of my most memorable trail town experiences so far. Complimentary wine and cheese happy hour? Stuffed French toast for breakfast? Yes, please!

Wine and cheese with a Flamingo and a Tuna.

Flamingo and Tuna working hard on their social media game at Mammoth Brewing.

3. Say Yes

So many kind people have been willing to help us hikers. Whether it’s a soda and snacks as trail magic, hitches to and from the trail, or an offer to stay with a family in town, accepting everyone’s generosity has resulted in some great experiences with wonderful people I probably would not have met otherwise.

Who knew I’d end up at a baseball practice with a family in South Lake Tahoe?

It’s also been fun to say yes to side trips that aren’t on the PCT but are neat places to see. While I opted not to go into Yosemite Valley around the 4th of July because it would be a gong show, we checked out Devils Postpile National Monument after leaving Red’s Meadow and that was pretty neat.

Devils Postpile.

I didn’t know that you aren’t allowed on the rocks until after this photo was taken.

4. If in Doubt, Buy New Shoes

It’s hard to be stoked about hiking if your feet aren’t happy. I have learned that a certain amount of soreness is normal, but that destroyed, worn-out shoes exacerbate any issues. I’m on pair four now and will be replacing them about every 400 miles.

New shoes and footbeds.

5. Figure It Out as You Go

Before the trail I didn’t plan out every town stop or make any resupply boxes in advance. So far I have sent two food resupply boxes ahead from other trail towns – one to Warner Springs at the beginning of the trail and another up to Sierra City in Northern California.

Shopping time.

I’ve been able to find everything I’ve needed in towns and not having to go to the post office at every stop has made things easier and less expensive. There are so many variables once you start hiking – so the “figure it out as you go” method has worked great for me so far.

Not sure whether Flamingo is stressed about figuring out her next food resupply or if the mosquitoes are driving her nuts.

6. Be Prepared

It’s a great feeling to be on the trail and feeling like you have your bases covered. Having gear that works for you makes the trail more enjoyable – being warm and cozy at night is wonderful, and getting rain pants in time for glissading and the mosquitoes was great. I’m glad I did enough research about the PCT beforehand to be well prepared, but not so much that I’d know exactly what to expect from each section.

A beautiful evening in Yosemite.

7. There Are Many Types of PCT Hikers

Just like in off-trail life, there are many types of people doing things in many different ways. When I started the trail I expected to be hiking around lots of people with similar interests. I’ve become friends with many hikers that I have a ton in common with. However, I have been surprised by a few things, the biggest being the number of people who smoke. I guess I live most of my life in a little bubble of people where that isn’t that common. It’s cool to see so many people of different ages and nationalities enjoying the PCT.

What a fierce team.

PCT friends.

8. You’ll be Hungry, Tired, and Emotional

While I’m on the trail I usually feel relaxed and calm. However, when we get to town I’m usually hungry and a bit tired. When you’re in this state and have access to the internet and communication with family and friends, it’s easy to get emotional when you start talking with people. Even if everything is going absolutely swimmingly, I have learned that it’s helpful to eat something before making phone calls.

Partway through the bus journey from Red’s Meadow to Mammoth Lakes.

9. Mindful Headphone Use Can be Great

Hiking along listening to the sounds of nature can be awesome. I especially like the first few hours of the day when you can hear the birds the most. However, when it’s the middle of the day, you’re tackling a hard climb, or the hiking is just starting to feel monotonous, listening to music or a podcast can totally turn your mood around. Lately I’ve been enjoying listening to podcasts like Radiolab. However, I have to be mindful and limit my time because it can be easy to tune out and miss what you’re walking through.

Wouldn’t want to miss this.

10. I Can Walk 1,000 Miles

Finally, I’ve learned that I can walk 1,000 miles. Before this trip I had no idea whether I could do such a thing, although I knew I’d give it my best shot. Here’s to the next 1,000 miles.

Goodbye Sierra, hello Northern California.

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