What I Learned from Leaving the PCT with 300 Miles Left
After 2,350 miles, I ended my 2018 Pacific Crest Trail flip-flop this week at Crater Lake. It wasn’t where I was planning on finishing, but excruciating tendinitis in my right foot forced me to call it a hike. I only had 300 miles left. I was so close.
For my first couple of days on the trail in Oregon, I was in denial about the severity of my injury. I popped ibuprofen like it was candy and swore to myself that I was going to make it to Cascade Locks to finish the trail no matter what.
When I finally came to terms with what my body was telling me, I was flooded with grief and self-blame. My inner critic got pretty harsh. “Did you really think you could thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, raise $10,000 for girl empowerment nonprofits and do four career trainings this year?” it said. “You tried to accomplish too much and now you’re paying for it.”
Devastated, I sat down in a field of lava rocks and cried. I thought about the girls I’ve been fundraising for, and what I would say to them if they were in my shoes. Girls and women sometimes feel like we have to go the extra mile to prove that we are competent, strong, and brave. But I would tell them that it’s not worth it to hurt yourself just to prove something. Suddenly, it was as if my higher self took my inner child in her arms and whispered how proud she was of me. I gave myself permission to be excited about what I did accomplish this year instead of feeling inadequate for what I didn’t.
At that moment of acceptance, I also felt relief. Not just because I’m going back to the world of fresh vegetables and hot, running water (though that’s real), but because this means that my time on the PCT isn’t over yet. I get to come back and do Oregon in the summer when I’m fresh instead of feeling like I have to do it now, in the cold and rain with a broken body. It’s the perfect incentive to prioritize weekly training hikes in this next chapter of my life.
Truth be told, I’ve been feeling grief for the past couple of months about going back to a life indoors. I realized something kinda crazy the other day: I’ve lived outside for 12 of the past 36 months, first on the Appalachian Trail and then on the PCT. That changes a person. I have serenaded sunsets, danced in the desert, burst into tears at the sight of a beautiful juniper tree, and eye-gazed with a marmot for three whole minutes. How will I ever feel this connected to source and self while living amidst the stress and distractions of modern civilization?
But I think what this injury is telling me is that I need balance. I know with 100 percent certainty now that spending time outdoors is nonnegotiable for me. However, I don’t need to hike a 2,000+ mile trail to get that. Hiking a couple of times a week, biking around town, and drinking my morning coffee under a tree in the front yard might be enough to bring me back to the moments of joy and connection I found on the trail. I won’t be walking for 12 hours a day through nature anymore, but I’ll have time to do yoga, cuddle friends, work on my business, cook healthy meals, make music, and enjoy a more well-rounded life.
And what I would say to my inner critic is this: yes, I tried to accomplish a lot this year. But I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I showed myself what I’m made of. I’m no longer afraid to try to make my dreams come true. Even if things don’t go according to plan, I learned that trying my best is never a failure.
I shot for the moon—and I didn’t quite make it. But for sure I landed among the stars. We can’t always have the moon. In fact, most of the time we can’t. But, dammit, we have to try.
I love you, Pacific Crest Trail. I’ll be back.
I’ve raised over $10,000 for three inspiring girl-empowerment nonprofits since I started the PCT on March 26th. These organizations bring young women into nature to build confidence, creativity, and community. If you’d like to join me in supporting underprivileged girls to get outside, there’s still time:
This map shows my 2018 PCT hike, which ended up being a series of big section hikes. I hiked the CA desert, OR and WA northbound, and the rest of CA southbound. I’ll be back next summer to tackle the rest of OR (denoted by the white slashes).
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.