Don’t Sweat the Big Stuff: Why I’m Hiking the PCT

I planned to use one of my first posts to share the reasons why I have decided to hike the PCT. It seemed like a sensible thing to do. It’s usually one of the first questions that comes up when I tell people about the hike. Once we have got the initial queries out of the way, of course (The Pacific Coast Trail? The film with Reese Witherspoon? Five months??). It is also the content of the pro and con columns in my notepad where, before Christmas, I scribbled random Hallmark-esq words and phrases in an attempt to clarify my thoughts on the matter.

The Big Reasons

I do have some pretty big reasons why. A desire for adventure. A fear of regret. The stone cold and terrifyingly sure knowledge that I’m going to die one day and it may well be soon if I’m unlucky. Who knows? I know in my heart and from experience that I can’t take any time for granted. Which is pain, honestly, as I’d quite like to sometimes.

But as my colleague (at a medical research funding non-profit) recently reminded me, we are privileged to have this insight and to be reminded on a regular basis that life is not always a given.

Unnecessary weight

This heavy insight is useful in some respects. I’ve no doubt that it is the undercurrent of motivation that has kept me trundling along with my PCT plan, despite my nervousness. It’s also what stops me from feeling down about getting any older. As my dad is fond of saying, “Well, what’s the alternative?”

However, in other ways this insight and these bigger answers to the “why” question are not very helpful. They’re freaking me out a bit. Rather than making me excited, they make me feel a little overwhelmed and add a weight to my adventure that I don’t always want—or need—to be there.

Small but perfectly formed

What does excite me and stops my brow furrowing (gotta watch those wrinkles) is thinking about the little things. All the lovely little reasons why I love being on a trail and want to at least attempt to be out there for upward of five months. I can feel myself smiling at the thought of them.

Here are just some:

  • Packing my bag away and looking at the empty patch of ground where my home stood for the previous night. I’m a tortoise!
  • The first few steps out of camp in the morning.
  • Getting my poles to the right length on first adjustment.
  • The realization that I far prefer how I (and you!) look in grubby hiking gear than when I’m clean.
  • But also, getting in a shower.
  • Falling easily into step with a new companion.
  • Getting to the top of a pass.
  • The first proper lie down in my tent a night. Ahhh.
  • Carrying a tiny bit of whiskey a ridiculously long way and having a sip with a beautiful view.
  • Having a good cry for no particular reason. And feeling much better after.
  • Experiencing a magical moment with someone I will probably never see again.
  • Generally, just feeling like a badass.

From my time on the JMT and other trails closer to home I have a suspicion that, whilst I may need some of those bigger reasons to keep me moving forward and toward Canada, it will be these little things and small moments that keep me going day to day.

Today, at least, they’ve calmed me down. And hopefully they’ve made you smile, too.

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Comments 2

  • Sarah : Jan 25th

    Love this post! It feels so familiar – that strange mixture of big reasons (do I want to have had this experience on my death bed?) and small (hiking and camping just makes me ridiculously happy) is so, so true. I agree, putting your home on your back every morning is so satisfying! I also felt like the trail just got under my skin after years of dreaming about it – it was an itch that I just had to scratch. Great to see you’re a Trek contributor!

    • Cat Morton : Jan 26th

      Hey Sarah, thank you so much for your comment, it’s made my day! I’m glad it resonated with you. Have you done the trail already or will you be out there this year? And thank you, I’m really pleased to be blogging! 🙂


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