After Katahdin: Getting Ready to Get Back Out There
A thru-hike is one of the most exhilarating pursuits a person can partake of. It is taking a step back in time to an old way of life while still having access to modern day comforts on a fairly frequent basis.
It is also difficult, takes a large chunk of time, and is pretty hard on your body.
So, what makes it worth a second time?
An outsider may wonder what makes a hiker want to thru-hike, often multiple times.
You see it fairly often:
a successful thru-hiker finishes his or her first long-distance hike only to announce, immediately after, that they are planning their next thru-hike in the series of the three lengthy American trails which make up the triple crown hikes. I myself am guilty of this. I spent two days on the Appalachian trail and immediately committed to becoming a triple crowner.
I still wake up a few times a month with sore ankles which lead to five minutes of that old, familiar hiker hobble.
I still eat like a hiker. My grocery bill per week tends to average out to what most people spend on a family of four.
On the extreme side of things, I still don’t sleep very well in a bed and sleep on the floor an overwhelming percentage of the time.
What makes all of this worth it?
Thru-hiking is all about endurance. It is physical endurance married both to mental and spiritual endurance. There were times when I was so tired on my thru-hike I thought my body was made of ballistics gel.
You have a lot of time to think on a thru-hike. I often became so exhausted from analyzing that my thoughts just ceased and turned to white noise.
In contrast, the best way I know to offer an answer is this:
On trail I never became soul-tired.
With every mountain, valley, bad storm, trip, slip, fall, summit, false summit, rock scramble, tree climb, bruise, scrape, and step I was filled to the brim with pride and awe, confidence and perspective.
You are never the same again.
I have not been the same since.
The question becomes this: How do you prepare, knowing what you know after the first thru-hike, to saddle up and do it all again?
A Willful Ignorance
The only way I have been able to answer is this: I have willfully resolved not to prepare.
Sure, I’ve looked up any new gear I’ll need to have. I’ve researched the various climates I’ll be traveling through and the temperature range I’ll have to endure.
This is not what I am referring to.
In order to preserve the spirituality, wonder, and sense of adventure for the Pacific Crest Trail the way I had it for the Appalachian Trail, I have made the conscious choice not to look up any specific information not directly necessary to ensure my survival or success.
I intend to begin this trail with everything that I have learned from the Appalachian Trail and a handful of necessary, bare-bones knowledge but with a harsh deficit of all other extraneous insight which would affect my perspective.
Is this the way to go?
I don’t know. I’ll find out.
What I do know it there’s no quit in me.
I’m not attempting a thru-hike;
I’m a thru-hiker.
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