It is official.
I begin my 2018 PCT hike in exactly 3 months and 29 days (not that I’m counting or anything). In a third of a year I shall be traipsing through the desert, climbing mountains, fording streams, chasing and being chased by wildfire, and basking in nature’s expansive beauty. Not that I’m all that excited or anything. The trail has been my motivation for most things lately. When things get difficult or I really am not feeling up to doing something, I just imagine it is training for the trail. My feet and joints are super sore from working six days in a row? PCT training. I really don’t want to go out and shovel snow? PCT training. I really don’t feel like showering today? It’s okay, might as well get used to it now.
Some hikers will sit and plan every single mile of the trail, while some will follow Mac’s
so-called “fuck it” method. I sit pretty squarely in the middle of these two. I am the kind of person who gets anxious without a game plan. My plan on the the trail is to mostly ‘go with the flow’, and a little ‘reach the post office before it closes’. But I simply don’t think I could handle the next three-and-some months without at least something
to do. Let’s explore what I have been doing thus far to prepare, and what I plan on doing in the months leading up to April 20, 2018.
I’m going to be honest. Our kitchen has been an absolute wreck the past few weeks and it is 100% my fault. Between trying dozens of new recipes, mass producing those I have decided will nourish me out on the trail, and dehydrating the whole lot, there hasn’t been a whole lot of time to clean. At least, this is what I tell myself and my husband. I have been in full “cook ’till I drop” mode, and it’s been pretty fun (besides the cleaning part).
Whenever I have a day off, I spend it making what would usually be enough food for a small army. In the middle of the latest cookstravaganza, I thought to myself that it looked like I was rushing to get Thanksgiving ready last-minute. The subsequent days are spent dehydrating the latest mass production or testing how new recipes dehydrate. And just a little cleaning if I get the chance. I hope to get all my food ready to go by February, so I have time to relax and not worry about the whole mess before I leave. The early deadline will also give me time to switch things around if I decide something isn’t working.
How exactly do you physically prepare for five continuous months of walking a marathon a day? Unless you are a magical being who is able to take weeks off of work and still pay rent, you really can’t. So why even bother with physical preparation if it is essentially a fruitless venture? Well being in good shape never hurts, and it certainly won’t hurt your starting mileage. The more fit you are at the start of your hike, the easier it is for your body to adjust, and the more miles you can start packing in.
My workout schedule has been that of a crazy person. I have been waking up early and getting in at least 10 minutes of morning yoga. After that I will usually go to work for seven or eight hours a day, then head to the gym to either lift weights or run a crazy amount. After that is more yoga. It is six days of non-stop physical effort. The reason I have resigned myself to requiring a minimum of 3000 calories a day is for several reasons. Cardio is probably the most important aspect of fitness for the trail. The better your cardiovascular system functions, the better it can keep you hiking up mountains and and repair your body at day’s end. Truthfully, though, I hate cardio. If I was Superman, cardio is my Kryptonite. I do, however love yoga and weightlifting. To offset my cardio Hell, I am also lifting a lot so I can at least have some fun. And stay a small amount of sane in the membrane.
As to why I have decided to work out more than anyone probably should? It is mostly so I can get physically and mentally ready for the daily onslaught of miles. Knowing I have the ability to push myself through complaining muscles is a skill I need to work on. Also being able to differentiate between good muscle-building pain and pushing-too-far pain is a great skill to have, It is also one I am quickly developing.
The real icing on the cake here is that I put muscle on very easily. In only a month I am already starting to get a baby six pack and some major definition in my quads. At least I’ll look good when I start the trail.
My mental preparation has been much more amorphous than my food and physical prep. In reading Pacific Crest Trials,
I know that the majority of the trail, any trail, is a mental battle. In all reality, I really need to spend more time on the brain front of the PCT. I have been trying to meditate at least once a day using the Headspace
app. So far, it has been going great. In only a few weeks I have already noticed a difference in the way I think. It is easier to relax, and easier to be present in the moment.
Besides meditation, I have been thinking at length about the trail. Not just an overview, but I try to get really specific. I try to imagine days where it’s Satan’s bunghole hot, and the whole day is one big PUD (Pointless Up and Down). Or a day when there are three river crossings and not one of them has been able too be forded where it meets the trail, so I’ve had to hike a lot of extra miles in wet shoes just to find a decent spot to not die. When I am thinking about these not-so-great times, I try and imagine myself laughing, happy, and still having a ball. I always repeat to myself, “A bad day on trail is still better than a great day at work.” Sometimes I will simply re-watch (again) Homemade Wanderlust’s
2017 PCT thru-hike episodes and try really hard to put myself where she is.
Beyond that, I have done a few stints with no social media (a fantastic thing to do, by the way). I’ve sworn off TV, Netflix, or YouTube for a week, too. The hardest has been a week of my husband and I not texting or calling. I am trying to make the things that will be a reality on the trail easier by already experiencing them, at least in a small part.
This one has been fun because it requires me to do almost nothing! At home, I am the one that does the things. I make the food, take care of the (copious amounts of) pets, decide what to do on weekends, and drag, er, encourage my husband to go to the gym. As I said, I like a game plan. To prepare my husband a little bit better, I have taken a step back. He is slowly working on getting himself used to doing the things that need to get done.
Luckily, my husband won’t be alone with the dog and the various reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, terrariums, aquariums, and paludariums we have accrued (copious amounts of pets). Our roommate of several years is moving back in with us and we couldn’t be happier. This guy is like family to us, he even married us! He is a fantastic friend. I am unendingly grateful that he is moving up to Michigan with us. It will give me probably the best thing someone could ask for: peace of mind.
My husband is one of those who won’t willingly talk about his feelings, and will stonewall you from time to time if you ask. Before our roommate moved in with us again, I was constantly worried about leaving my husband alone for five months. About him coming home from work time and again to a big, dark house, and becoming miserable, all the while not telling me. With our friend living with us though, those worries have all but disappeared, and I could not be more thankful.
Misc. Preparation (AKA Being an Adult ‘n’ Stuff)
What really peeves me is that no one told me as a kid that being an adult wasn’t fun. Sure, being able to drive and legally drink is great. Though, at some point it just becomes an end to a means and the excitement fades. Welcome to Adulting. There are lots of things I need to get in order before I leave, and it hasn’t been fun. The only upside is that my “real world” life will become pretty much automated. I have been busy figuring out phone data plans with my parents (there isn’t great WiFi in the desert). I have also been looking at getting a new iPhone to take better quality video.
Not to mention that I have an optometrist appointment to figure out my contact lens situation. I have decided to absolutely never go back to glasses ever, so I am looking at extended wear contacts. More expensive? Yes. Better than lugging saline around and touching your eyeballs with gross hiker hands? Yes. I am also getting in a doctors visit out of the way to make sure that things are looking hunky-dory before setting out.
Getting my Michigan ID and license plates before they expire is on my list. Also renewing the title on my car. Not to mention I should probably also work on getting my passport, so I can get back into the U.S. after I finish the trail.
There are a bunch of other things that are on the laundry-list to get done: taxes, credit cards, flight numbers, Scout and Frodo’s, rent agreements, where I’ll keep my car, dog training, and probably even more things that I haven’t even thought of yet.
Kids out there, buckle up, adulting comes at you hard.
As you can see there’s a myriad of things I have been doing in order to prepare for hiking from Mexico to Canada. I am discovering over time, there’s always more ways to prepare popping up like a game of never ending whack-a-mole. Slowly, I am getting to the point of “I feel ready”.