This Is Already My PCT; Journey Before the Start Date
“This already is my PCT.”
The tan hiker smiled blissfully into her camera under her khaki white brim hat as the music on her YouTube vlog amped back up to fill the speakers on my phone. I have, thus far, enjoyed her mini-video series on YouTube. Each video revolving around training hikes, thoughts on her upcoming thru-hike, and practice gear she will bring. Her smile always guaranteed to bring a warm hug on my illuminated screen. I found her on Instagram after stumbling upon the hashtag about the PCT class of 2020. I immediately began to forge a relationship with comments and likes. With hopes that this online friendship will translate to the trail for that golden trail family. But as she sighed and looked upon the creek she was perched by musing, I felt confusion darken my brow.
How was this weird suspension of life before the PCT already the PCT? How was she not in a whirlwind of emotional pre-thru-hike jitters? What did she mean? This already is the PCT?
I found my mind wandering back to the video I watched weeks prior as a wind gust sent a chill across my spine. I was sitting on a slender arch bridge between two Cirque du Soleil talents in the heart of Red Rock Canyon outside Las Vegas. We had met by happenstance yet instantly connected in a way old spirits only can. On a whim outside of my historical normalcy of paralyzing introvert efforts, I had said yes to a friendship with them. I had pushed down my inner screams of no in order to do such an easy task for so many. Now here I was. Wearing a harness and attached to a top rope. I was rock climbing for only the second time outside. Climbing inside had been the safety zone I treaded in before. When you go outside the stakes and difficulty both rise to levels I was terrified of. I was on an adrenaline high. I was facing fears I would like to avoid. And as I added some chalk to my raw hands to prepare to ascend the rock wall it struck me.
This already is my PCT.
Last year destroyed my family. We survived a horrible trauma-producing struggle but sometimes surviving is nearly escaping total imploding. Yes, a miracle happened and my son stayed in our care, extending our legal guardianship over him for two more years. Yes, my husband and I are still in a committed relationship. Yes, I love my adopted daughter more then any biological love could dare to trump. But I walked down the courthouse steps holding both my children’s hands completely and utterly devoid of joy. The nothingness inside my chest beat painfully awareness that my heart no longer seemed capable to feel. Cue depression. Cue daily crying. Cue angry outbursts. Cue escape plans being written. Cue a light that began to burn whispering just go. Just go.
I did not want to leave my husband. I did not want to abandon my children. But staying in this static state of nearly existing barely was no way for any of us to live. What is the point of staying if mentally and emotionally checked out?
The unraveling of what to do started a walk, a literal stroll, in the forests. And as I began to climb mountain after mountain the warmth of feeling came sparse yet true. I knew what I had to do. I had an itch for years and I understood that I needed to do this. I needed to at least try the Pacific Crest Trail. Plans were set into motion as husband and children were sorted out. Permits were applied for. Research began and I started to admit to everyone including myself, that this was really happening. I was really going to hike the PCT.
Then it started happening. Something I expected much later on this journey. I started smiling.
There is a crazy shift of focus when you start declaring this is the year of your class. Opportunities I would have pushed aside for better timing suddenly are exactly what I want to do. At this exact moment. The fears that held me back from daring to say yes have moved onto much larger risks as my words form to yes more and more each day.
I ice climbed frozen waterfalls in Banff.
I started rock climbing outside.
I started doing adventures with strangers I connected with through social media.
I submitted my resume for various writing opportunities.
I took a circus school silk class.
I went to a women’s running retreat.
There is a new bravery of self-assurance growing. As I mentally wrap my mind around the reality that I am facing over 2,600 miles of exploring ahead of me. As I gulp down the truth I will be walking this journey by myself. There is a freeing of daily hesitations. I am shocked by this creature showing hints of color. Who am I? I wrapped my wrists around the purple rolls hanging from the ceiling to kick over upside down and hang. Who am I? I think I kind of like her.
I finally understand exactly what my fellow class of PCT hiker was saying when she sat fully geared up allowing the sun to warm her soul.
This already is my PCT.
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