Hot Laps at Midnight
What a year, huh?
It wasn’t too long ago that I was sitting in front of this laptop writing about the heartbreak accompanied by the decision to cancel my trek of the PCT last season. Filled with much uncertainty and doubt, I felt that my window might’ve passed. Since then it’s been a wild ride consisting of all types of emotions. This pandemic experience has presented lessons relating back to the trail.
I was fortunate to maintain most of my pre-pandemic lifestyle over the past year, but the mental struggle of not being on the PCT was rough. It took me three months to be okay with the decision. Each day I would look at maps and predict where I’d be on the trail. Deep down I knew it wasn’t helping, but I couldn’t stop. The PCT consumed my life for months in the build-up to my departure. Calling it off days before would flip my world upside-down. I was immediately tasked with a rebuilding project towards an alternative purpose when, in my mind, I was already on the PCT. Factor in the chaos that ensued with the pandemic, and it was nothing short of a dumpster fire for a little while there.
As the months went by, I began to pick myself up. There were far larger issues in the world that made missing out on the trail feel minuscule. And in reality, it was. The PCT became a lingering image in the back of my mind as I focused on other hobbies and mini-adventures. Life was feeling better up until October. This is when the PCTA announced that they’d postpone the decision to release permits until January 2021. Based on how the numbers were trending, I started preparing myself mentally for the door to be slammed shut.
Hot Laps at Midnight
Understanding that 2021 represents my last shot at a thru-hike for a while, I began pondering alternative trails to pursue. I would land on the Appalachian Trail and started studying it every day. Excitement grew as I learned about the different sections, but it didn’t have the years of anticipation behind it to add that extra magic. No knock on the AT, but the PCT has always been at the top. Regardless, I was still excited to potentially experience a part of the USA that I’ve barely seen and hike a trail that’s still high on my list. I was raring to go but still had one eye on the new year.
On the night of January 5th, I was about to go to bed after I checked my Instagram for last-minute messages. As the app opened, I would see a picture of the southern terminus of the PCT with the message, “…long-distance permits for travel on the PCT will be issued for the 2021 season”. I initially froze, then jumped out of bed and ran hot laps around the casa. I felt as if I won the million-dollar case on Deal or No Deal. My heart was beating out of my chest and I was over the moon. After coming off of the initial adrenaline rush, I sat there in silence with the utmost gratitude.
Last season everything came at me so quickly. I made a late decision to send it on the PCT and didn’t have a lot of time to think beyond the essentials. During the entire process, I took the trail for granted. My headspace wasn’t right and I would’ve squandered the experience because of it. Upon reflection, I recognized that I had to work some things out within myself to maximize what this journey could provide. Simply put, I wasn’t in it for all the right reasons.
I’m going into this season with some old motives, but fresh ones too. If I make my way to the southern terminus this season (depends on how the situation evolves), it’ll be the beginning of a long walk with gratitude. I’ll always stand by the decision I made in 2020, but I’ll never forget the hourly mental battles due to missing the trail. But without this process, I don’t think this experience would mean as much as it may this year. A new year means a new take, and I’m stoked for the opportunity.
One Last Thing
I understand that there are people that oppose my intention to thru-hike this season. If I go, it’s after much consideration and communication with the people I trust. I pride myself on making decisions with the consideration of how they’ll impact others. Last season is an example of that. My heart hurts for everyone because none of us have won this year. It has been far sadder than we imagined and will forever be a part of us moving forward.
With that being said, I see the world operating in ways deemed acceptable that weren’t months ago. Considering the current climate and trends, a thru-hike feels more reasonable with each day. It seems that it can be done responsibly while maintaining the well-being of others in mind. It’s okay to disagree, but let us be sensible in the midst of such moments. Life is lived in many ways, but the commonalities among our motives are far more alike than we allow ourselves to perceive.
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