What I’ve Learned so Far on My PCT Thru-Hike
I like to think I’m a sponge out here on trail: all of the moments I’m hiking give me an opportunity to learn something new about myself, my capabilities, and the environment around me. Here are some things I’ve absorbed in over 1,000 miles of walking the PCT.
I Value Alone Time
I really enjoy hiking by myself. For the first 650 miles or so through the desert section, I was mostly walking solo. Sure, I’d see familiar faces at camping areas or trail friends would pass me by with a smile and a hello. Yet most of the time I was doing my own thing, with my pace, my schedule, and my use of time. I see other people hiking solo and sometimes wonder if they are happy to be by themselves, like I am. There is something really special about alone time, especially in the wilderness. I hear more of the sounds, I notice the scenery. I stop when I want to and don’t push to keep up. I actually find it’s really nice to not talk all the time. Maybe it’s because my last job was very social, and this is why I appreciate the solitude and quiet.
So there’s no need to feel bad for those of us hiking alone; we kinda like it.
I Love Community
On the other side is the coin, I have been reminded how much I love sharing experiences with people. Around Walker Pass, I started spending more time with a few rock star hikers. I began to open up more, and became interested in hearing others’ stories. I found myself laughing a lot, joking around, and scheming zany town adventures. I also started picking up new skills in attentive listening and communication. In some ways, my hike became more fun. In spending so much time alone, I had forgotten how much I love trail family, the support we give each other, and the learning that comes through connection.
Hiking with others also makes me go faster, which sometimes I need. I can dillydally sometimes when I walk alone, and hiking with someone else who is more speedy can encourage me to quicken my pace. At this stage of the hike, I need to be going faster to meet my goal to finish ideally by October, so chasing my friends up mountains can be good for me.
Everything Works Out
One late afternoon I was hiking with Potatoes and HeathBar up a cloudy, overcast section close to Red Pass and before Stevens Pass. We decided to stop early, mainly because we were just lazy that day and kinda blah because of the weather. We had wanted to get more miles in, yet sometimes you just don’t feel like it, so we stopped.
The next morning we woke to a glorious, clear, bluebird sky. We hiked the two more miles up to Red Pass in utter awe of the mountains surrounding us. Then there was the best part of reaching the pass and getting our first glimpse of Mount Rainier!
HeathBar said in his sultry Southern accent, “If we had gone up yesterday, we would have missed all of these views. Everything always works out.”
Back in the day I used to push things a bit more. I would fight to make things work out, rather than just let them unfold. I would stress if something wasn’t going according to “my plan.” I eventually came to learn there are no set plans, just loose frameworks of ideas. We need to be adaptable and flexible on a thru-hike to allow for the magic to flow.
Thru-Hiking Is Largely Luck
I was crossing a creek and the next thing I knew I witnessed myself coming up close and personal with a huge rock. It was my forehead that smashed into this rock as I slipped and fell, completely face planted in the water.
I crawled to the ground and Potatoes asked before he saw me, “Daya, did you hit your head?” Then he turned to face me and exclaimed in shock, “Holy shit!”
This was not the most soothing reaction he could have had.
“What, is my skull cracked open?! Do I have a gash?” I asked rather calmly. I couldn’t see myself so I had no idea what I was dealing with.
”You have a bump the size of a goose egg! And you are bleeding,” he informed me.
I sat there on the ground with with my head throbbing. All the while, I just kept saying how grateful I was that I didn’t lose any teeth, or break my nose. Sure, I smashed my head, yet my other parts were intact. I was so lucky.
Random accidents can happen at any moment while on trail, incidents that can end a hike completely. I truly believe a large part of thru-hiking is luck: luck regarding injury, weather, and timing. I have learned to have so much gratitude each day I am healthy and safe, so I can continue walking.
Every day on trail is such a gift. I’m excited to see what else I learn the rest of the way.
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