You Can’t Even Imagine!
With start dates rapidly approaching, tons of 2017 thru hikers are starting to freak out. Lots of second-guessing going on, from start dates, to footwear, to resupply plans, to what the fuck am I even doing?
Chill, y’all. It’s gonna be fine.
You won’t get everything right, and that’s OK. THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER. Thru hiking isn’t a science. You can’t just do all your homework, design a plan, execute it, and then everything goes right. I certainly don’t want it to work like that. On my thru hike of the AT, it was the unpredictable moments, surprise attacks of feelings, and reality-shattering views that made me certain that I was doing the right thing.
I was reminiscing about a particularly good example of such “unpredictables” while reading back through my AT journal. I had been hiking for about three and a half months and I was nearing my resupply in Damascus, VA. My plan for the day was to hike the side trail to Virginia’s highest point, Mt Rogers, then walk about 20 miles and camp five miles outside town. That would give me a nice nero the next day. But, caught up in some train of thought, I walked right past the spring I had planned to camp by. Realizing my mistake when I ran out of water, I decided to just suck it up and walk the last few miles to town. On my way, I looked up to find the source of a loud rustling sound. That’s when I saw 200 pounds of black bear approach terminal velocity coming out of the tree! It stunned me for a moment, but then I just shook my head and walked on. “Dang, some weird shit happens on the AT” I thought to myself.
Weird, unpredictable shit will happen on the PCT too.
I’m sure of it. But, what I’m most excited about, is that I have no idea what it’s gonna be. I don’t want to. I’m looking forward to those surprises!
This year, lots of PCT hikers are understandably concerned about the current snow conditions in California. While that won’t impact me as much on a SOBO hike, let’s not forget that the North Cascades aren’t exactly snow-free. My mid-June start date almost guarantees that I’ll spend a good many miles walking a snow-bound trail. What’s that going to mean as far as daily mileage? Am I going to struggle with stream crossings as the melt accelerates? Will micro-spikes and an ice ax be enough to see me safely through? I don’t know yet, but I’m stoked to find out!
I’m reading so much about some of the well-known magnificent land-marks on the trail: Mt Whitney, Crater Lake, Goat Rocks Wilderness, and more. But I’m willing to bet that my favorite view, my favorite place, will be just another waypoint on a map, known only to other people who have walked past it. Something is gonna happen there that will blow my fucking mind. It makes me giddy just thinking about it.
I’m even excited for the less-pleasant surprises. Like the time in Pennsylvania when my Platypus bladder burst inside my pack as I was setting up camp. At a campsite without a water source. Well, shit.
But, I did the only thing I could: dealt with it. And I laughed about it in the process. Thru hiking forces you to rely on yourself and your equipment. Even when your equipment fails, just remember: you didn’t. You can always rely on yourself to not only adapt to the challenge you find yourself in, but to always find the silver lining in it too. It’s a unique feeling, and one that I’ve missed far too much in my non-hiking world. I’m noticing that I’m more patient, more deliberate, and less complain-y after a few days out amongst the trees. This time around, I am going to do everything I can to carry that patience out of the woods with me and maintain it long after the hike.
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