How to Get Ready for the PCT: Just Keep Moving
Why I Hike
Roughly twice a year, I take multiday backpacking trips into the Grand Canyon. Living in Arizona, you’re dumb not to take advantage of this ridiculous wonder. I’ve done these hikes for the last 3threeyears. The first hike, in late summer of 2016, was probably a typical starter backpacking trip for most—down South Kaibab Trail; night at Bright Angel Campground; up Bright Angel Trail; night at Indian Garden and out.
While the location and scenery would have already made that initial trip memorable, it was the circumstances surrounding it that continue to influence me. After getting my permit, but prior to the hike, my mom suffered several strokes and passed away. The thought of continuing with my hike seemed unthinkable and inappropriate. But, with the encouragement of my family, I decided to go ahead with it. The trail, the scenery, the people I met, even the weather, all combined to help heal and help me remember her. Every succeeding backpacking trip makes me think of my mom. And this is all rather ironic, as she was not a hiker. But she was fascinated by my interest in hiking and seemed to live vicariously through me.
The Quest for New Challenges
The challenge of a new route with every trip to the Grand Canyon excites me. The one I just completed was no exception, taking me down Bright Angel to the Tonto Trail, then east to the Grandview Trail and out. Planned to be a four-day, three-night trip, I got ahead of schedule and finished it in three days. Those aspects of this excursion, and any of my trips, that most interest me are the challenges and the unpredictability. There were two whole days where I did not see another soul, despite being in one of the heaviest visited national parks. I regularly had to haul five liters of water and filter from dodgy sources. And the Tonto Trail is more of a suggestion than an actual “trail.”
These weren’t deterrents, but made the trip interesting. I believe an important part of being able to deal with the mental side of hiking is embracing not just the goal, but the process.
Hiking the PCT has been a long-gestating goal. These shorter shakedown trips serve the purpose of increasing my self-sufficiency, exposing me to challenges, and allowing me to test my gear. Enjoying the Grand Canyon is an added bonus.
I’m not getting any younger, having just turned 50. My mom was 70 when she passed and I wonder if she felt that she had done all the things she wanted to. I don’t want to leave anything undone. I’m excited that my dad is around to witness this.
Just Keep Moving
Most people are nostalgic about the place they grew up. I have lived in many places in my life (maybe or maybe not coincidentally, in Oregon and Washington), and do not feel an overwhelming nostalgia for any of them. Life has forced me to find the charm and beauty of various locales and to enjoy the simple act of moving. It’s change and newness that I crave. One of my favorite adventure writers, Colin Fletcher, wrote,
“… I had been hankering for a broader look … It isn’t easy to explain to a stranger (or to anyone else for that matter) a network of half-understood desire’s for change, open spaces, simplicity, physical challenge … and the opportunity to stand aside from the turmoil and see where you are going.”
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