You asked me ‘Why Hike?’ This is my answer.
Last year at this time I was nearing the end of my SOBO journey on Te Araroa. I had walked three-quarters of the length of New Zealand before my bank account urged me to hop off the trail and find work in the vineyards of Canterbury. I was unprepared financially to complete the hike but even less prepared mentally for the loss I felt finishing 1100km short of my goal.
I cried as I waved goodbye to my trail family from the backseat of a minivan. They continued trekking southbound, leaving me with a strange woman named Pamela Anderson whom later would whisk me off to my new WWOOFING hosts and my next big adventure.
That loss I felt after hopping off TA has fueled my preparation and desire for hiking the PCT. More than that, my actual experience on the TA with all its wild ups and downs is the main cause of that itch to pack my home into carry-able size and get my feet and head back on the trail!
I’ll break it down into bite size pieces. This is what I’ve learned and love about thru-hiking and what I hope to gain on the PCT:
- There is no journey more intimate than one taken on foot. I want to explore my own country as intimately as I have another. I want to know the west coast smells from the desert to the Sierra Nevada’s. I want to identify plant and animal life and watch how it varies from Mexico to Canada. I want to roll in with the weather as it ebbs and flows and learn the curves of the land all over. You get the point, I want to reconnect with the Earth. Walking day after day through varying landscapes with few distractions allows that connection to grow in ways you can’t even imagine if you don’t hike!
- I’m hiking this trail with my love. We’re sharing a tent, we bought these magic sleeping bags that zip together (if you want them to), and we’re committed and excited about this hike. We both have thru-hike experience but this is our first one together. We’ve done a bit of backpacking through NZ and Utah but 5 months of under-stars living is bound to foster a special breed of intimacy.
- I finished my last thru-hike more at peace with myself than I have ever been and I am looking forward to some of that clarity again. I found it unbelievable how much time I was forced to spend with my own thoughts, working through past mistakes, future doubts, what-if’s, etc. Hiking long term allows me time to confront all of the clutter in my head, deal with it appropriately, challenge myself physically, and really learn to practice acceptance and living in the present.
Simplify and Reprioritize
- When I hike, all my essentials fit on my back and the rest I find from either the Earth, from a friend, or from a town along the way. Backpacking is a way for me to pick apart the essentials of my life from the non-essentials. It is about reprioritizing my needs from my wants and my values from my possessions. Values unlike possessions cannot be taken away from me and half the things I want when I’m living in the city I don’t even need. Backpacking allows my perspective about what life should and can look like to shift and bend daily. It lets me be humble again. It forces me to be grateful for the simple things- the only things that really matter.
- Backpacking is hard and I am stupidly accident prone. My trail name on TA was Slips. I think that says enough. It’s hard to hike when you’re tired, wet, angry, hungry, or sick. And thru-hikers hike through sick-tired-hangry moments daily. It is hard and it is worth it. The views to see, the people to meet, the small moments of uncontrollable laughter or real talk, the beautiful moment you make it to town and get to eat an entire large pizza to yourself—those all make it worth it.
Because I Can
- I am lucky. I have the resources, the time, the gear, the support, the ability, and the lack of “real” responsibilities that make this adventure possible. Yes, I worked hard, saved my money, bought the gear, and made this adventure a priority but that doesn’t mean I am not lucky. I am hiking because I want to and because I can. I am also hiking for those who can’t or believe they couldn’t even if they wanted to. So this is for you, too. Follow us on this adventure if you’d like, I promise to keep posting.
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I can’t wait to read of all of your adventures on the PCT!!