PCT 2020: A Class Divided
This year started out much like any other year for the Pacific Crest Trail class of 2020 hopefuls. People started popping up on social media, on vlogs, on chat forms with grand aspirations of being one of the few to dare to tackle such an adventure. The first release of permits came with a mix of celebratory congratulations and remorseful acceptance of dates snagged in the lottery frenzy. Jobs were furloughed, homes were relinquished; in the sweet and humbly ignorant beginning, it was only the usual struggle of which base weight is the best base weight that flooded the PCT chatter.
It was such a innocent time. A time of blog after blog of gear review. We had no idea what was already seeping into our culture’s soil. We had no idea.
She posted a picture explaining how she had lost ten pounds after just one month on the trail. Bathroom selfie. Hiker trash high. She was an image of incredibly happy beauty in the smudged restroom mirror.
“You lost more then ten pounds. You lost the respect of the community.”
His reply was brazen in its blunt honesty. Not long worded, no need for explanation further. The hashtag #getoffthetrail the final send-off to shame. The remaining comments all circled around the rebellious support of her still thru-hiking the PCT. As well as shock that she would not adhere to the requests from both the PCTA, the governors of California, Washington, and Oregon, and the US Forest Service to please cancel any intended long-distance journey away from home.
I stumbled upon this familiar drama unfolding because I had chosen, back in the good old days of PCT prepping, to follow the hashtag #pct2020. After I reluctantly relinquished my own starting date permit I felt my thumb perched over the unfollow button many times. In my own inability to accept the new normal, letting go of this last tie to the PCT class of 2020 I still can not commit to. Her post, along with a handful of others determined to complete their journeys, periodically show themselves with the more familiar narrative of woeful goodbyes and postpones of other classmates.
I am fully aware of the one-eyed, green, spiteful head of jealousy that rages when I see posts of hikers still on the Pacific Crest Trail. I can not control the anger I feel because I too would want nothing more than to be taking step by step on up to Canada. This was my dream. Months spent planning and dreaming and working through those frenzy jitters that creep up your spine when your heart grabs your gut because you just have a deep understanding that this will completely alter your life.
A craving I can not feed. A scratch I can not itch. I pace the floors wearing down a path of grief. Because I too want to be there. Dirty, bug bite ridden, happy.
I watch in amazement as this class of 2020 slowly and in the all-or-nothing, black and white, us vs them mindset; stands on pro thru-hiking or pro #staythefuckhome. How will we look back on this year without certificates, trail angels, and ranger support? Will those who complete it against all requests stand proudly that being alone in the woods was the best COVID decision they could have made or will they have this dirty, little secret that only friends and family they trust can comment on?
In many ways this great divide is a microscope focus on the even more tragic division the world itself is facing. Those who believe we all must do even more sheltering, closures and face masks and those who believe this is all a overreaction to a new flu strand.
Time will only tell. Not one of us can confidently say how this new reality will be in a year. Yet I pray no matter what side of the PCT class you are on that we still be kind.
PCT class of 2020; the class of remarkable kindness.
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Thank you for this. Derision, doxxing, and a flagrant disregard for personal and community safety…I’ve seen a lot over the last few weeks in the PCT related hashtags and subreddit and I’m sad to say I’ve been seriously let down by this community. I don’t just mean the folks who are plugging their ears, digging in their heels and #stillhiking. They’ve made up their minds and it would be a fool’s errand to continue leaving disparaging comments on their social media posts or videos. If we want to do good, if we want to play the hero – then why not be excellent to one another? Reach out directly to businesses in trail communities and ask them how you can help, donate to the PCTA, post dope, aspirational photos of the trail…It’s time to put down the pitchforks, use our time and energy with intention, and let cooler heads prevail.
Very good unbiased post looking at both sides. I provide Trail Magic in Northern California in The Hat Creek Rim area. I will miss meeting and hearing the hikers stories and seeing their surprised smiling faces when they see me with cold drinks as they come off that really hot section this year. I will probably still go out and see if anyone comes through. Hope you get the opportunity another year.