My Mental State Before the PCT
Hello everyone, my name is Ben Peters and my trail name is Unfiltered. Yes, it means both things, in case you’re wondering, as I drink unfiltered water and my unfiltered mouth. I’m thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Tail in 2022. In 2021 I successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and loved it so much that I invited my wife to join me on the PCT. Even as an experienced thru-hiker, I find myself more nervous about the PCT than I was on the AT.
When I reflect on my Appalachian Trail hike, I feel that I had such an incredible experience and created memories that will last a lifetime. One of the biggest trepidations I have about hiking the PCT is my new hike not meeting those expectations from my past hike. In my mind, I’m putting so much pressure on myself to exceed those past experiences. From the amazing people I met along the trail to watching a huge black bear give itself a bath 20 yards away from me, it’s hard to believe another thru-hike will be as memorable. The best thing for me is to remember that those moments are from 2021, and it’s a new year and there is a new trail to enjoy.
As humans, we can choose to either learn from our past experiences or ignore them. Reflecting on my AT hike, I realize there are other ways I’m going to grow and change on trail. The big thing for me is to be more spontaneous and go with the flow. For people that know me, I love to plan. When I set out on the AT, I had my first 300 miles planned out from what day I would arrive to where I was going to stay. But the best stories/memories came from the days that didn’t go as planned or changes were made in the spur of the moment. Also, being spontaneous allows you to spend time building relationships with other people on trail.
The biggest lesson I was taught before hiking the AT was the trail doesn’t change, you must change. I used that to strengthen my mindset and get through the tough days. From crapping my shorts in Virginia to hiking through a tropical storm, I have proven I can do tough things. When I step foot on the PCT, I know I have the mental strength to push through anything the trail throws at me.
Different Landscapes and Terrain
As someone who grew up in Wisconsin, moved to South Carolina, and then to Michigan, I’m starting my hike in unfamiliar territory. My only true experience in the western U.S. is limited to hiking Mt. Whitney twice in August. The desert, Sierra, and dealing with forest fires are all the things I spend too much energy worrying about.
When you’re comfortable with the terrain and environment, you don’t worry about those factors. Prior to my AT hike, I spent a lot of time hiking in the Southern Appalachians. I was familiar with the terrain, understood the weather, and knew all the best towns to stop along the trail. With the PCT, it’s a whole new learning curve that I can be consumed by or learn as I go. There are so many things I find myself questioning, such as clothing choices when I start to how much snow the Sierra is going to have or how am I going to get around fire closures.
“Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable”
That quote is one of my favorites and as I get closer and closer to my start date at the end of April, I need to repeat it more. I believe we can only grow if we push ourselves. The trail will be tough and throw unexpected things at me, but I’m not going to let these concerns stop me from completing my goal of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
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