How Did I End Up About to Begin a Thru-Hike?
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” — Joseph Campbell.
Two days left to go until I land in Seattle with my friend. From there we’ll fly to Twisp, WA, and then make our way to the Northern Terminus of the PCT to begin the 2,650-mile journey south to the US-Mexican border. So much has already changed and I haven’t even stepped foot on the trail. Even after quitting a secure job with a great company, overnight training hikes, a couple thousand dollars spent on gear, planning, and months of physical preparation, it still feels surreal. I read an article several months ago that included tips for thru-hikers. It suggested knowing why you are doing what you’re doing – having a reason for thru-hiking. As I ask myself that question today the reason isn’t so clear. Am I running from some disappointing, dissatisfying, and mundane aspect of my current life? Quite possibly. Is it to experience some of the most beautiful places in the country and take hundreds of photos? Yes, that’s part of it. Is it the spirit of adventure, the danger, the physical challenge, the endurance and grind of it? Sure, why not. But I can’t help feeling that there’s something deeper than those things. That all of those reasons are secondary to some other driving force. Over the last 18 months (at least) it seems that dozens of little events have all been pushing me in this direction. Several doors that I’ve knocked on, that I truly wanted to open and that would have kept me from the trail, have closed. At the same time new paths I never expected have appeared in front of me. The hallway of life I’m in seems to be leading me in one direction – south through the Cascades, the Sierra, and the Mojave. It feels like the only way forward in my life from this point is through the PCT. There’s something out there, or in me, that needs to be faced, something to be found, overcome, or left behind. Some change or transformation to undergo before I can continue on. The trail today, at least from the comfort of my living room as I write this, seems like only a metaphor. Like it’s only a vehicle or a mechanism for bringing about not only a physical, mental and emotional change – but a spiritual one. Maybe there is something like this in each of us at some point, in some way. I’ve read that a thru-hike will change you and I’m confident the PCT will not disappoint. I’ve no expectations on what will change, how, when, or why. I don’t think that’s up to me. I think my job is to put myself out there and be open to whatever happens. So perhaps the best reason for me to hike the PCT is transformation – to get rid of the old and make room for the new.
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