6 Lessons Learned on the PCT
Earlier this summer, my partner and I set out to thru-hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail. Unfortunately, due to injury early on, we had to make the difficult decision to put a pause on our plans. You can read our story here. Though we didn’t make it as far as anticipated, here are some valuable takeaways I learned in the short time spent out on the trail.
1) Take rest days.
As a thru-hiker, one of the hardest realizations to come to terms with is making time to rest. Your body needs time to rejuvenate from the constant physical activity that is thru-hiking. Not only is resting a solution to most hiking related injuries, but it can also be used as a preventative measure to avoid injury in the first place.
2) Don’t underestimate training.
The amount of planning and preparation before your hike can feel overwhelming. There is figuring out your food, determining your schedule, gathering your gear, packing and mailing resupply boxes, and so much more depending on your situation. Maybe you are also leaving a job or packing up an apartment on top of that. But first and foremost, don’t let your physical health go to the wayside amidst all of the other preparation. Your health is everything on a thru-hike and hiking 2,650 miles is a huge undertaking. Make time to train in the months leading up to your start date.
3) Expect to spend more money on the trail than you anticipate.
Taking five months to hike 2,650 miles can be a huge financial burden. At the time I decided to hike, I was leaving behind a job that allowed me to save enough money for me to feel comfortable supporting myself financially for the entirety of my trek since I was not planning on having any passive income while I was out there. However, that being said, I was reluctant to spend money on seemingly unnecessary items like restaurants or hotels because I wanted to make my savings last for as long as possible. As budget conscious as you can be, there will be unanticipated costs along your hike. Sometimes a hostel or hotel room is more conducive to the proper rest your body needs. And for the love of all things good and delicious, don’t pass up that burger and a beer with your fellow thru-hikers. That is part of the adventure and you will not regret it.
4) Be flexible with your plans.
A huge part of thru-hiking, I’ve learned, is being adaptable to any situation that comes your way. This comes in the form of the natural elements, weathering the storms, bracing the winds, and hunkering down in the heat. But it can also come by way of rearranging your schedule, taking a zero day, or rerouting on a detour. Keep in mind, it wouldn’t be an adventure if nothing went sideways.
5) Take your time.
Everyone’s journey is different. Some will finish in five months, some will finish in five years, some will finish 500 miles and decide that was all they needed. And that’s ok. There is no right or wrong way to thru-hike. It can feel daunting trying to keep up with the ultra-marathoners of thru-hiking but keep in mind that there is no race against the clock or competition to win when you’re out there. Remind yourself why you are hiking the trail in the first place. Is it for serenity? Maybe it’s the scenery. Or maybe this is an attempt to escape the busy, chaotic world of corporate America. Just remember, the trail will always be there, it’s not going anywhere.
6) Don’t be bashful.
This one was a valuable lesson I learned from a kind trail angel. He insisted that, as thru-hikers, you simply cannot afford to be bashful. You have limited resources while you’re out there in these remote towns. You will inevitably have to ask for help at some point – hitch a ride, borrow gear, share a hotel room, etc. Most people are more than happy to help, so long as you are willing to use your voice and ask (nicely). Being a thru-hiker will remind you of the immense kindness that persists in people and it is such a beautiful thing to experience. But remember, kindness doesn’t come free, it must be reciprocated.
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