One Week til Go
It’s official. I have one week before standing at the trailhead at Hart’s Pass. In a week I’ll start walking 30 miles north to tag the Canadian border before turning around and heading south for Mexico.
Four days ago I crushed my first ultra-marathon trail race, three days ago I packed up my entire apartment in Vermont and moved out, saying goodbye to so many people and places that I love, two days ago I woke up in my childhood room in Massachusetts (which felt WEIRD), one day ago I packed up my resupply boxes for the state of Washington, which I will be sending to myself from home, and today I feel ready to hike.
The past month has been a blur. I left behind Burlington, where I truly felt at home. My job at the gear shop gave me a sense of community that was unmatched by anything I had experienced before. My coworkers – who from here on out I will call my friends – introduced me to things I had never tried before, but fell in love with fast. In the winter we ski toured, in the spring we gravel biked, in the summer we formed paddle-regattas and had dance parties in our campground lean-tos. I met a boy from Michigan who was a snowboarder and a mountain biker and I tried to play it cool, but failed miserably because he loves my dog and makes me laugh and we go on crazy weekend adventures and things are so easy, and he is *almost* as excited for me to hike the PCT as I am, and that is really special to me.
Meanwhile, I had my ear to the ground because there’s a trail I’m preparing for. The SOBO Facebook page replaced Instagram as the thing I would scroll through on my pee breaks at work. One update is that there’s a record amount of snow in Washington, and so I’d better 1. get an ice axe and 2. learn how to use it or else things could get dicey. Another update is that there’s a bridge that’s out in North Fork, in addition to countless blowdowns, so I’d better start planning on how to get off trail to get around those things before I even get on it. Suddenly, instead of lots of snow in the Cascades, there’s lots of heat and snowmelt. How do I plan to hike in both extremes, while navigating blowdowns, insane thunderstorms, and fallen bridges? Do I carry 9 days worth of food from the start because the bear boxes at Hart’s Pass may or may not be there? Then, apparently they’re there, according to the page, but they might be full (?!?!), so good luck!
I continued to go to work, to train for the ultramarathon (which really was just training for the trail), and to take care of my dog, but all I could think about was the PCT. How many boxes, if any, do I send from home? Should I swap my sleeping bag out for a quilt because its just so much LIGHTER, when really I should be saving my money for other things? (I swapped it.) One night I woke up literally in a cold sweat wondering how people cut their toenails because I couldn’t fathom bringing something as anti-utilitarian as nail clippers, because what else can you even use them for? Surely there’s something more versatile than that. (I ran into work and asked my professional thru-hiker friend this question and he calmly showed me a small Victorinox multitool with scissors teeny enough to cut nails. I bought it that day.)
Every day has been an inundation of new worries, but then that’s what the past couple months of planning this thru-hike have been for me and everyone else, right? Along with jitters and eagerness and trepidation and all of the other things. I have read all of the posts and all of the blogs and refreshed and researched and planned, but today was different from yesterday and two, and three, and four days ago because the post that I woke up to which someone had written on the page said, “We made it to the border and back on the PCT. It is doable now.”
Something about it just made me feel ready. People are out there, and they’re doing it, and in one week I’ll be doing it too. And problems will arise as they always do and it won’t be easy and I will be challenged in the best way, but I’m going to hike from Canada to Mexico, and I’m going to do it well.
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