I Have a Start Date; It’s Time to Panic (More)
Another Step Toward the Trail
I’m a compulsive planner. I have spreadsheets; like, a lot of spreadsheets with information related to almost everything in my life, including my upcoming thru-hike. I’ve built multiple formulas for my PCT tab (it’s a spreadsheet thing) so I can enter any piece of data—start date, end date, miles per day, zero days, Snickers per week, and the math is automagical. I have graphs.
The thing about my planning is this: I never use the data. The numbers are just a distraction to keep my mind off the creeping panic settling on my shoulders. However, I have spent literally days in consideration of my hypothetical calculations, so I should be at least passingly familiar with their existence just in case I need them for, let’s say something like a permit application.
10/29/2019, 12:30 p.m. CDT, the PCT permit lobby opens. I’m number 1,948 in the queue, so I know that there is no way I’m going to get a good start date. I resign myself to snowshoes and mountaineering and Antarctic levels of insulation with my (probably) January start.
Ninety minutes later I enter the portal and I’m presented with a question to start the process: When do you want to start your PCT thru-hike? Well, I think, best case would be April, I guess, let’s see how bad it is and how far I have to back off. Click. Click.
April is wide open. Only two days have the maximum of 35 permits filled, otherwise I have my pick. OK, which date do I want?
And all of the little screens in my head go bananas.
Wait, how long does it take? I don’t want to start on a weekend. When do I want to finish? How many days is that? Is the daily mileage too high? How many zeroes did I think I would need? I should check the Farmer’s Almanac for snow predictions. What am I going to eat? I haven’t found shoes I like yet. Who’s going to watch my cats? What if I don’t like the color of my underwear? Am I really going to do this?
What kind of a pudgy, middle-aged maniac quits his job to drain his life savings to go for a walk in the mountains that will probably kill him and if not it will at least alienate all of the sane people in his life, both of them, and simply leave him destitute, physically destroyed, filthy, bearded, homeless, jobless, and quite likely unemployable forever?!
Welcome to the chaos in my head, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a thing. I can turn a grocery run into a half-day panic attack.
Bottom line: Permit date is April 8, 2020!
I collapsed in a sweaty ball on the couch. It’s too early! It’s too late! There will be hundreds of feet of snow in the Sierra and everything else will be on fire!
Is my tent too small? Is my pack too big? Why am I taking so many clothes?
You get the picture.
The Final Countdown
One hundred days of work (with perfect attendance, because that’s totally going to happen).
Forty weekend days off (Can we talk about the inequity of the American work/life balance? Probably not the time.).
What. The Heck. Do I do. Now?
I published my gear list, so be sure to check that ridiculous thing out.
Also, I may have shaved my beard.
Time to start exercising, I guess.
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