Dear Future PCT Hiker…
Dear Future PCT Hiker,
So, you’re thinking of embarking on a hike. A 2,650+ mile hike spanning deserts, plains, and high mountain ranges. To attempt this hike you have to be pretty persistent, not mind getting dirty, but mostly you just have to be crazy. Crazy enough to give up your current life of comforts in favor of living in the backcountry, pooping in a hole every day, and having seldom material comforts. I was one of the crazy ones. I started this journey alone, had a pack that was a bit to heavy, and my feet were uncalloused. With loads of good luck, the help of unlikely friends, and heaps of stubbornness I completed the PCT. Starting this hike was the best decision I’ve ever made. A crazy decision, but the best decision. I want to convey the spirit of the PCT to you, but my true desire is to convince you to do something crazy as well.
I think every person hits a point in their life where they look around at their accomplishments and think to themselves, is this what I want? For me, the question came in my mid-20s. Working in healthcare during COVID and caring deeply for the changing climate threw me into a bit of an existential crisis. I didn’t have an answer to any of my big questions anymore, in fact, I didn’t even know myself well at all. I decided to go on a walk, a walk on the PCT, to ponder the mounting questions in my head. Early into this walk, I stumbled upon some of the goofiest, inquisitive, and kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. I ate, walked, laughed, and cried with these folks and what started as an unlikely friendship grew into a bonded tramily. For me, embarking on this journey put me in a state of vulnerability by default. I was figuring out my worldview, who I was, and how to walk from one side of a country to the other side. I needed a community to walk by my side and support me in this vulnerability. I found my community in these goofy fellow hikers.
Community is put to the test in extreme situations. Long stretches with limited water sources, volatile weather, and the general breakdown of our bodies took an emotional toll. After a long day of hiking, we would talk about the highs and lows of our day. Without fail, one of us was always having a difficult day. Ankles would swell to the size of softballs, there was a persistent fear of foot fractures or shin splints, and someone always had a new red gash on their body. Sustained pain and exhaustion can drive you insane. Luckily, we had each other to lighten the mood. For months, whenever I would get up to walk the first few miles I would balance on my trekking poles and slowly shuffle across the trail due to the pain in my feet. After a while, I learned to laugh at it, calling it my ‘old lady’ walk and attempting to make it a comedy bit for my friends. We didn’t just learn to live with pain, we learned to thrive in pain. Our group became stronger because of pain and we individually became stronger because of pain’s consistency.
I found, that where there is steady pain, lasting hope is around the corner. The most symbolic example of this was the large swatches of burn zone. In burn zones the few standing trees would be dark and eerie, the sun would beat down without relent, and even the soil seemed to wither beneath my feet into a fine black dust. It’s hard to live in these areas for days on end and not be affected by their power. However, each burn scar carried glimpses of hope. There would be patches where the soil would stiffen again and give way to flowers. A small stream would run through these sections, painting the landscape green wherever it went. Pain is powerful, but not final.
The most beautiful feelings of hope I experienced was always interacting with ‘trail angels’. I have never been so well cared for by strangers when I had nothing to offer in return. One particular time I met a man who was asking me about the trail conditions. I soon learned he had single-handedly cleared about two miles of downed trees so PCT hikers could have an easier time walking through. My legs are riddled with scars from severely overgrown sections of trail. The pain I had sustained from the overgrown trail made this man’s act of selflessness even more powerful to me. He had put sweat and time into clearing the trail, so I wouldn’t have to be in as much pain. I beamed with hope for humanity every time I interacted with a trail angel. There are countless caring, selfless, and compassionate people in this world and I was able to meet more than my fair share while walking.
I wanted to answer some of my big questions and figure out what I enjoyed in life. For me, it started with quitting my job, selling most of my things, and moving across the country. What I found on my walk was a community stronger than I have ever known, an appreciation of life’s pain, and a renewed hope in humanity. I have received more from this trip than I ever thought possible. Not everyone has to go on a long walk to find these things, but I think everyone should try doing something out of their comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be grand, just different enough to shake things up, and maybe shake you up a little as well. Who knows, maybe doing something just a little crazy may result in life-long friends, a new world perspective, and knowing yourself a little bit more.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.