Five Things I’m Not Taking On My PCT Thru-Hike
There’s a lot of talk about what we choose to take on a thru-hike. Let’s get real here, it’s a hot-diggity topic among prospective thru-hikers both newbie and polished. I know it’s been big on my mind as I plan for my PCT hike. Questions abound: Do I trade out the tent I took on the AT for something lighter? Should I bother with a pee rag this time to save an ounce? What about the beloved incense that made me happy at the end of a day and may have kept the mosquitoes away? (Oooh, that rhymed!)
Sometimes this talk is super exciting, and sometimes it gets a bit tiring to the brain. I mean, I just want to get out there and walk. I’m kind of a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants gal, so I have a love-hate relationship with planning. I do what I have to do to be informed and stay safe; however, I really love the element of surprise. I’ll admit I didn’t even know about the famed ponies in the Grayson Highlands on the AT until the day before I got there (and that was because another hiker told me about them).
So today as I was swimming laps where I live on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, I started thinking about what I will not be taking with me on my PCT thru-hike. These are five things I will deliberately leave behind when I set out to Canada on April 23.
The bottom line is you can’t be disappointed if you have no expectations. This certainly doesn’t mean I don’t want to dream big about all the wonder I will encounter; however, thru-hiking is a mixed bag of trail mix. I like the M&Ms, but there aren’t always enough of them. You gotta take what you get and love all of it. I think that’s what helps make it easier to finish, and to enjoy the whole journey.
For example, I’d really like my PCT thru-hike to be a continuous walk without having to jump around due to snow in the Sierra, wildfires, etc. I can’t control Mother Nature’s will, though, so I’ve decided to adopt something like a mother-to-be’s birth plan approach. Similar to how a pregnant woman envisions her ideal birth, I have a vision of how I’d like my thru-hike to be. Yet that mama has to be able to adapt her vision at any time for the safety of herself and her baby. If I have to adapt and jump around the trail for safety, so be it. No expectations equals less attachment equals less suffering.
2) Comparisons to Past Thru-Hikes
This builds a bit upon having expectations. On other long-distance hikes I’ve walked, I’ve been blessed with incredible trail family and abundant trail magic in all forms. I’ve gotten in killer shape with my fitness. I’ve walked through awesome trail towns big and small. I’ve had fantastic epiphanies and ah-ha moments. I’ve fallen in love.
Sure, all or some of these experiences are possible (and more) while I’m hiking the PCT. Yet I don’t need to compare. Comparing keeps me out of the present moment and living in the past, so I miss the beauty of what is right in front of me here and now.
Some time ago, I learned how to accept how I hike, my way. It is so easy while on trail to start judging yourself in comparison to others with crushing miles, base weight, and gear choices. Nope, not going to go there.
Physical stress on the body to some degree is inevitable on trail, but mental stress doesn’t have to be part of the story. I remember that whenever I was having a hard moment on the AT, I would remind myself, “No one is making you do this. You chose to be here.” That thought would make all the difference, bringing me back to that blend of determination and lightheartedness. In flow yoga, this is known as balanced effort and it reminds me I need to maintain a degree of ease and focus. This is especially true with my thoughts and what I choose to direct my attention toward. I mean, after all, I’m just hiking, not trying to win the Nobel Peace Prize. I can chill out and relax even while I’m trying to eventually get somewhere. Mindfulness can slip into my pack and stress can stay behind when I get on the PCT.
5) Excessive Screen Time
My recent job as retreat coordinator has come with a lot of computer and smartphone time. I walked all of my other hikes either phoneless or with a flip phone, and I adored this break. I’m one of those who actually just got an iPhone in 2017, and I never understood why my friends were so addicted. Till I got one. It’s just so easy to check and to look things up when it’s at your fingertips; I get it now. It’s definitely been a mixed blessing in my current life and I’m looking forward to being on trail with limited battery, so I can visit my old ways: get offline and get on life.
Oh, and the incense and pee rag? I guess I’ll ditch those, too.
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