It’s Finally SOBO Season on the PCT
Most PCT hikers have had their momentous send-offs at the southern terminus and are almost through the Sierras by now. Meanwhile, a different breed of hiker trash has been waiting in the wings, preparing to walk the opposite way. I’m one of them.
Here’s a Bit About Me
The idea of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail has lived somewhere in the back of my mind for years. I give off a she-will-probably-disappear-into-the-woods-for-a-while kind of vibe. And I often do, but only for a couple of weeks at a time.
I’ve always loved the mountains, which is hard for a kid growing up in Dallas, Texas, elevation 430 ft. My dad took me on my first backpacking trip in Colorado when I was 13 years old. I was hooked. We conquered 14,000-ft peaks most summers until I graduated. There’s something special about soaking up stellar views that can only be reached on foot.
Then came college, work, and burnout. My careers in journalism and education have been meaningful and worthwhile. But I often found myself needing a break — a reset. That’s when I discovered long trails; the idea that you could backpack for weeks or months at a time thrilled me.
The thru-hikes I’ve completed in recent years include the Torres del Paine W Trek in Patagonia (46 miles), the John Muir Trail (211 miles, plus a few extra days hiking in from Horseshoe Meadow), the Wonderland Trail (95 miles), and the Collegiate Peaks Loop (160 miles). I’m not a novice backpacker, but the PCT will challenge me in new ways, especially the grueling high-mileage days that are required of southbound hikers right out of the gate.
So, why go southbound?
Why do this the hard way? For me, there’s only one real reason: I’m a public middle school teacher, and the July start date aligns better with my priorities. Northbound season begins too early. Leaving my kids in April to go walk across the country just wasn’t an option. This pandemic school year has been hard enough; my seventh-graders deserve a teacher who will see them through to the end. They all think I’m insane, but I hope my hike inspires at least a few of them.
Now, I can only hope that all my training in the hot and humid hills of Texas and Arkansas have prepared me for the extreme terrain of Washington’s Northern Cascades (sounds promising, doesn’t it?).
Why hike this thing at all?
Two years ago, I read a book called Pacific Crest Trials, which happens to be written by the creator of this here website. That’s when I began mentally preparing to hike 2,650 miles. The book recommends making three lists to solidify your commitment. I’ve been avoiding this. I wanted to tell just a few people about my plans and go give it a try with a lets-see-what-happens kind of attitude. That way, if I fail, I can be like, “Oh, well, no big deal.”
But I know that is not true. So, here are my “why I’m hiking” lists:
I am thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail because …
- I can.
- I love backpacking in all its joy and misery. Even though it’s hard as hell, and you often feel like you’re going to die, it’s somehow less demanding than “real life.”
- I am the best version of myself when I’m thru-hiking.
When I successfully thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I will …
- be able to keep this version of myself alive off-trail.
- have a clearer sense of what makes me happy.
- learn to truly take care of myself, especially as I approach my mid-thirties.
- shake off my imposter syndrome.
If I give up on the Pacific Crest Trail, I will …
- regret it.
- have wasted time and effort and my financial savings.
- have derailed my career for nothing.
Now, let me contradict myself and say: whether I complete the PCT or not, none of this will have been a waste. My biggest regret will be never having attempted it at all.
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