My 25 Goals for the PCT That Aren’t About Reaching Canada

I can be a little single-minded. It’s a trait that has served me well in much of my life, but also has some major downsides. When I’m focused on some endpoint, I often miss the journey to get there.

The whole point of the PCT is the journey. There’s nothing all that special about the monument at the northern terminus; all the magic happens on the 150 days before Manning Park.

So I’ve been building a set of intentions about what I’d like to experience that are all about the journey, not the destination. I want to appreciate even the most difficult moments, and I’ll try not to actually worry about whether I reach the Canadian border.

Below is the list of goals I’ve put together to try to cultivate appreciation and awareness.

  1. Get comfortable with extended, undistracted solitude
  2. Eat dinner with my feet dangling in a freezing cold stream
  3. Walk through a meadow during a full moon
  4. Cook dinner on a very windy evening, with some ridiculous windbreak set up to protect my small stove flame
  5. Sleep listening to rain against my tent walls
  6. Hike two miles before dawn
  7. Set up a tent in the dark
  8. Cross a freezing cold Sierra stream
  9. Eat wild blackberries straight from the bush
  10. Correctly identify at least five types of trees that I don’t already know
  11. Hike at least a marathon distance in a single day
  12. Help someone having a difficult time
  13. Go ten days straight without email or cell signal
  14. Sleep solo at least ten times (no other tents in my campsite)
  15. Survive a terrible day in each of the major sections without quitting (Desert, Sierra, NorCal, Oregon, and Washington)
  16. Eat apple pie in Julian
  17. Eat at Paradise Valley Cafe
  18. Summit Mt Whitney
  19. Soak at Deep Creek Hot Springs
  20. Touch Crater Lake
  21. See a Monarch butterfly
  22. Cross the Bridge of the Gods
  23. Walk all day through a steady rain without complaining
  24. Maintain some type of daily mindfulness or meditation practice
  25. Find at least one thing to be grateful for every single day

If you’ve got ideas or suggestions on things I should do while I’m on the trail, please share in the comments or on Instagram.

Follow along: I’ll be hiking the PCT this year starting April 9. Follow my updates on The Trek or find me on Instagram at big_rain_little_thunder.

woman standing in snow in front of a pct sign

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Comments 8

  • Jeff W 2015 : Apr 4th

    Thanks for waking up old neurons. I recall Deep Creek Hot Springs, arriving about 7 am after breaking camp an hour before. For me, a good time to get there, before too many party animals could show their colors. After a soothing 30-45’ soak, I answered the call of the trail.
    My successful strategy for maintaining foot skin integrity: if I felt the slightest hotspot, I’d change my gait or foot placement enough to eliminate that for a few miles. Same strategy with knee or ankle soreness.
    I never made camp after sunset. I’d tried to keep up with a far younger cohort, but often found myself alone on the daylight side of sundown, so I just camped. So much more comfortable hiking my own hike. I very often broke camp before sunrise, so I’d walk past the “kids” as they were waking up.

    • Rain : Apr 4th

      Thanks Jeff. I’ll definitely try to hit Deep Creek early in the morning. I’m not really into big party scenes. 😀

  • GroundHog : Apr 5th

    I highly recommend that you sleep on top of Mt Whitney if the weather cooperates- you will that sunrise for the rest of your life

    • Rain : Apr 6th

      <3 I was thinking to start hiking up at like 2 AM and try to catch the sunrise.

      • Jeff Walden : Apr 22nd

        A possibly better way to do it than staying on the summit: hike up to Trail Junction a couple miles south of the summit and camp there. There are a few spots with wind blocks just northwest of the junction, and you’ll get a solid sunset the night before. Wake up 2, 3am or so for a leisurely hike to the top. (If the moon is close to full, as it was when it was 89% full and I was finishing up a JMT thru-hike there, you’ll also get a moonrise, *and* you won’t need a headlight for the hike to the top. I turned mine on for the first few hundred feet, then realized I didn’t need it and it was more fun without.)

  • Songbird : Apr 7th

    Love this idea! Thanks for sharing. This inspired me to create my own set of intentions for my thru hike this year. One of which is cowboy camping at least one night! I’ve always been too scared to do it. Hopefully I like it so much I do it more too!

  • Ed : Apr 10th

    I enjoy the articles, and this one was very uplifting, the right perspective and attitude. Good luck with your journey and meeting your goals


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