As Thru-Hike Takes Shape, Five Reasons to Go Stand Out
In September 2016, about a year and half ago, I rode my bike over Rainy Pass on a bicycle tour with my friend Johanna. She was beyond stoked that the PCT crossed the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) and that we might see thru-hikers. I knew a bit about the PCT at the time, but I was perfectly happy holding our bikes while Jo ran over to speak to a hiker. Little did I know that after our bike tour I would start to seriously consider doing a long-distance hike and eventually decide to attempt a thru-hike of the PCT in 2018.
So why have I decided to spend five months attempting to walk home from the Mexican border? I have several reasons why I’ve decided to hike the PCT, but here are my top five.
To Connect with People
Almost all of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had, outdoors or otherwise, have involved connecting with others. I enjoy making new friends, hearing their stories, sharing experiences, and finding out what we have in common. I also like seeing how other people choose to live their lives. I am so looking forward to meeting everyone on the PCT.
The Challenge and Struggle
While I am looking forward to meeting people on trail, I am also excited to be starting solo. One of the reasons I decided to hike the PCT was because I could feel comfortable starting on my own – I can’t say the same about how I’d feel solo bicycle touring. I have always done trips with a partner. While I have been blessed to have some incredibly rad friends as trip partners (shout out to Johanna, Sarah, and Emma) I am looking forward to being more independent and 100 percent responsible for my decisions.
I am also interested to see how my body holds up to the physical challenge. In the past I’ve found that I have the fewest issues (like sore knees) when I’m active every day, but hiking so many miles might be a different story. I’m also keen to see how I can maintain my mind-set and handle the emotional and mental struggle of the trail. On my last trip I found that it took close to a month for me to get into the groove of things and be fully present. It will be interesting to see how long the honeymoon phase lasts.
The Experiences, Memories and Stories
I love the feeling of being totally present and content. Not only do you get to enjoy these moments when they’re happening during a trip, but you can reminisce about these experiences long after the trip is over. I enjoy looking at photos and telling stories – it makes me grateful for what I’ve gotten to do and excited for what’s next. There is also a sense of peace knowing that you made your dream happen and that you have no regrets.
To Enjoy What We Still Have
I think it is important to get out and enjoy spending time in the places we value in order to stay hopeful about the future. It can be easy to feel disheartened and overwhelmed by the challenges we are currently facing, including climate change and other environmental problems. I was an ecology major for my undergrad in university and I found it difficult to constantly face so much doom and gloom. The fact that the PCT exists is a huge conservation win. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to spend so much time experiencing the trail and the land it passes through.
At this point, I think I know one thing – that I have no idea what I am getting myself into and what’s going to happen. I’ve already learned many things during my preparation, but that will be negligible compared to what I’ll learn once I get on the PCT. Not only will I have to figure out my food resupplies, how much water to carry, navigation, and dealing with heat in the desert, but I’ll learn a lot about how I can handle the mental, emotional, and physical challenges that are guaranteed.
Also, I’m planning to go to grad school in 2019 to study positive psychology – I’m most interested in how experiences in nature affect our well-being (including long distance, self-powered travel like thru-hiking, bike touring, and bikepacking). I don’t think there’s a better way to learn than by getting out there myself – even it it means throwing myself into the deep end.
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