It’s Not Easy
Going through my photos of our hike thus far, I’m worried that I’m giving the wrong impression. My Instagram feed is all snow-capped mountains, sun-drenched deserts, and smiling hikers; it almost looks easy. The first 700 miles (Campo to Kennedy Meadows) have been many things: intensely engrossing, rhythmic and ritualistic, quietly beautiful in a way that catches the breath in the back of your throat, but not easy.
The PCTA doesn’t keep any sort of statistics on the number of attempted or completed thru-hikes, but it is estimated that of the hundreds of attempts made each year only 30 to 40% are successful. Like legions of hikers before us, we stayed with San Diego hiker hosts, Scout and Frodo, before starting the trail. One evening Frodo talked about her and Scout’s PCT thru-hike and the tenacity it required. She spoke of a “fist of iron” that all hikers needed to have within themselves in order to complete the trail. Personally, we’ve had more then a few moments in the first 700 miles where we had to call on this “fist of iron.”
- We’ve experienced heat so extreme that the sand glimmers in the sun, and I was certain that I was going to melt into it, reflective umbrella non-withstanding. I did actually kind of melt into it one day, but that’s a story unto itself (I promise I’m fine.)
- We’ve experienced temperatures so cold that my fingers were too stiff to undo the zipper on my jacket, gloves non-withstanding.
- From around mile 30 to 120 I had blisters so bad that I swore worse then any sailor, everytime I took my shoes on or off, and gritted my teeth with every step. New shoes with a much wider toe box took care of that problem.
- We’re all hungry, all the time. In camp after a particularly long day, our entire hiking family was starving despite having just eaten supper. We had a 30 minute long conversation about the type of pizza we would order if we could, which only made matters worse, but we found ourselves unable to change the topic. We ended up having a dance party to distract ourselves.
- At least one member of our hiking family is dealing with some sort of minor injury or illness at all times. Nothing serious, but rolled ankles, strained calves and knees, and upset stomachs are the most common. After the last couple town visits we’ve come to the unhappy conclusion that none of our stomachs can digest real food anymore.
- I’ve had days where my legs simply decide they are quite done with this hiking nonsense and refuse to move. One morning we had an easy 8 miles into Techachapi, where food and a break awaited us, and my legs would not cooperate. I hiked the first 5 miles at a ridiculously slow pace, with Dan waiting for me at the top of each hill crest, trying very hard not to look impatient, with his words of encouragement alternating between “you’re doing great, just keep moving,” and “I just checked our time and we are doing less then 2 miles an hour. MOVE IT.” With 3 miles to go, I finally got frustrated enough that I ran the final stretch to the highway, pack and all.
Despite all this, there is nowhere we’d rather be right now. We experience our surrounding in a way that can only be appreciated when you move at foot speed, we’re surrounded by an amazing group of people (whose toilet habits I am far too intimate with,) and we get to be outside every day. It’s amazing, but it’s not easy. If you’re hiking the PCT this year, and you happen to pass me going up a steep incline, you might even catch me muttering “fist of f**king iron” under my breath.
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The two of you amaze Ron and I ! We wish u well on this rather large accomplishment! God speed one foot in front of the other!!?
Beautifully said, Lisa. Wonderful update.
“Despite all this, there is nowhere we’d rather be right now.”
Super awesome statement. Love it. 🙂
I love the “reality!” It’s not all a scenic stroll on a soft shady trail during a warm summer afternoon….