Dear Mom & Dad (7 Reasons I’m Sorry)
We may be undertaking a physical and psychological feat of enormous measure, but let’s not forget about those behind the scenes. Those back home who will be cheering us on, mailing our packages, and supporting us in every triumph and tribulation from one state to the next. They are our parents, siblings, partners, friends, and loved ones. So here’s to them! Our biggest supporters. Our #1 fans.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Here’s to you! I couldn’t do this without you. Despite my (fleeting) moments of teenage angst and utter stubbornness, you know I’ve always been a pretty obedient kid. So, hey, congrats. You’ve raised an angel for a child. Also, I’m sorry. You know that rebellious phase I never fully went through? Well, I may be an adult now, but I’m still long overdue. And on my upcoming Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike attempt, I’m about to do a few things you’ve always warned me against. For that, I believe a thorough apology and everlasting gratitude is in order.
1. I’m sorry I’m about to accept rides from strangers.
In fact, I’ll be the one soliciting them. But it would be markedly more difficult to bulk up on Snickers and tortillas and maintain an endless supply of Sour Patch Watermelon if I can’t access a grocery store or post office. Sometimes that’s going to require me to confidently outstretch an arm and hyperextend a thumb and maybe wave around a hand-scribbled sign to flag down passing cars. But I promise I’ll use the good sense, intuition, and wisdom I obviously inherited from you to choose my hitchhikes.
2. I’m sorry I’m about to accept food from strangers.
To be honest, I’m not sure I have the self-control to turn down a free meal or piece of fresh fruit whether I’m celebrating a successful marathon-length hiking day crawling over a snowy Forester Pass, or an accomplished day of napping in my pillow-topped bed (goodbye, bed). If it’s any consolation, I hear these strangers who so generously hand out free food and drinks along the trail are comparable to angels—they’re called “trail angels,” to be exact—so you have nothing to worry about.
3. Speaking of food, I’ll probably be eating offensively large amounts of junk food.
I’m not actually sorry about this one, though. “Hiker hunger” is a real thing, and I fully intend to do everything in my power to satiate it. I will acknowledge, however, that you raised me on the principle of moderation to satisfy that sweet tooth and those snacking cravings. Although my 7-year-old self still does not forgive you for the “there’s no way in hell will I ever buy you a Lunchable” principle.
4. I’m sorry for my altercations with Mother Nature.
My track record of weather patterns while on backpacking adventures? Less than optimal. I braved the wrath of Zeus while descending into the depths of the Grand Canyon, contended against 60 mph winds in a whiteout on Mount Hood, and raced some eerily stormy weather up and over Kearsarge Pass in the Sierras. The good news? 100% survival rate. And I intend to keep it that way. Mother Nature’s lack of mercy taught me where to draw the line between innocent risk-taking and jeopardized safety.
5. I’m sorry I’m about to subject myself to maybe more than a few bear encounters.
And before I cautiously surrender my ground to my furry friend, I’ll probably do what Dad would do. I’ll take a few steps closer to better admire Mother Nature at her rawest and probably snap a few quick pics. I can only imagine the anxiety-producing image you’ve conjured up in your mind right now. However, I do have you to thank for instilling in me your intrinsic altruism toward these creatures, forewarning me to always maintain a respectable distance to let them live wildly and instinctively. After all, they were here first.
6. I’m sorry for a mild loss in manners.
After spending three days backpacking across the Grand Canyon, my celebratory meal concluded with me using my unbathed forearm to wipe mustard and burger crumbs off my face, leaving my cloth napkin untouched. I can only imagine what five months will do. I can’t promise I’ll chew with my mouth closed, and I’ll probably be unable to enter any establishment without trailing dirt or an offensive stench behind me. But I can promise I’ll never forgo my Ps and Qs, and I’ll always honor the Golden Rule.
7. I’m sorry I’m plunging myself into 5 months of no showers, no income, no major plan.
I’m taking “go with the flow” to a whole new level. I know this isn’t what you imagined your favorite child of four would be doing at this point in her life. Instead of progressing to the next milestone along a more standard spectrum of life as a young adult—which, relatively speaking, would be to transition from a freeloader at my parents’ house to an independent home-owning woman—I’m quite literally doing the opposite. I’m forcing myself into intentional homelessness. Or inspired homelessness, as I’d like to call it.
So, hey, thank you.
Thank you for agreeing to send me my packages. For the little surprises I know you are going to hide in the pair of shoes you will send me every 500 miles. For the hours you are going to spend on the phone with me, listening to me fret over my lowest of lows on the trail and hearing me ramble about my highest of highs. For agreeing to watch my favorite PCT documentary in an attempt to comprehend my insanity, and for not falling asleep during it. For letting me hang my 5 foot tall PCT map in the kitchen so that you can follow me along from home, but mostly to obnoxiously guarantee that you guys won’t forget where I am.
Thank you for instilling in me your logical, calculating left-sidedness; your devoted work ethic; your practicality and your voice of reason when it comes to risk versus reward. And thank you for encouraging me to embrace the romantical, daydreaming, risk-taking sliver of my head and its perpetual whisper inspiring me to explore wilder places in unconventional ways (despite the scary stuff I so explicitly listed above for you). I could name a hundred more things I’m thankful for, but I’ll save that for later.
See you soon,
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