I finally feel like a thru hiker

I wake to the muffled sound of a train horn blaring behind the park hedge and roll to the center of my tent, where the walls won’t hit my face in the wind. I sigh contentedly and wrap my quilt around me, falling back into a dream. 

Eventually the trains start to come by so frequently that I can’t pretend my earplugs are buying me more sleep. Besides, I can’t sleep past sunrise these days, so I sit up, appreciating the soft grass beneath me. It’s the deepest sleep I’ve had in days. I’m in the Tehachapi Municipal Airport’s park. The hotels were all booked up, so we found our way to the airport pedestrian entrance, paid five dollars, and pitched our tents on the greenest grass on the PCT. I watch an airplane take off through the mesh of my tent and laugh at the absurdity of it all. Sitting here, comfortable in the most ridiculous situation, I finally feel like a true thru hiker. 


We crossed the 500 mile mark earlier this week,

and after all of the obligatory singing and dancing, I finally felt pride in how far I’ve come. I’d long told myself that once I hit 500 miles, I could accept anything that mightt take me off trail. I’d have done enough to feel it was worth all the preparation, stress, and disruption. It was thismile when I knew I had it in me to finish the trail, this year, and another. In the airport park, I watch Tip Tap’s last video on the Te Araroa trail, and I cry watching hikers reach their terminus. For the first time, I think I’ll get that moment too. 


These moments have felt profound this week, but there are a number of things that have fallen into place that make me feel like a proper thru hiker:


  • I no longer follow a routine sleeping/hiking schedule. Everything is determined by water, heat, and proximity to a cold beverage and shade. 
  • I’m both sick of hiker fees and too hungry to care. I just assess whether I want salty, sweet, or water. 
  • I care a lot more about a bed than a shower in town. The dirt and I are one
  • Everything can hurt, but I can keep walking. Or rather, everything that isn’t injured feels amazing. 
  • I don’t know how to walk without trekking poles in town. Don’t even get me started on stairs. Mountains? Sure. A curb? Nope. 


All that being said, as the desert draws to a close, imposter syndrome creeps back in. The Sierras will bring new terrain, new challenges. And new fears. I’m sure I’ll be humbled by the extra gear and higher elevations. But I’ve walked 500 miles and I’ll walk 2,159 more, sure of myself or otherwise. 

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