PCT 2020: My Biggest ‘Venture Yet
The first response I often receive when discussing my hike is why? This is usually followed with a slew of logistical questions, but why is the most pressing question. For the longest time I didn’t even know how to explain why I wanted to do this. I like hiking? I enjoy being outside? I read Wild like every other millennial?
I don’t have one large, defining moment that inspired me to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I think what has pushed me toward this comes from a deep curiosity. When I was small, I was constantly going out for a ‘venture (younger Alex didn’t have time for all those syllables). It instilled in me a strong sense of wonder for the natural world, something I just can’t seem to shake. My sense of adventure began in my backyard, and as I’ve grown up it’s crept into different corners of the world.
When I started to begin seriously planning this hike, the more I quickly realized how important it is to have a clear response to this question. When I’m hundreds of miles into this hike—when I am cold, miserable, wet, and exhausted—I’m really going to need to know why. It’s much easier to talk yourself out of something when you don’t have a clearly defined reason for why you’re doing it.
I can’t narrow it down to a simple explanation. Over time, my reasons have changed. I imagine that once I start, they will change again. Over the past six months, my plans for my hike have changed numerous times.
My initial plan was to do a true, northbound (NOBO) thru-hike. I would start in Campo, California, with Mexico behind me and Canada to the north. Around 2,650 miles between me and home. I would take six months off from work, allowing myself enough time to hike every single mile. This is what I wanted; straying from anything but my steadfast plan seemed like I was cheating myself.
If I can’t do it all, why even try?
Then my plans changed. I could only take three months off work. I was upset and disappointed. I wasn’t sure if it was even worth it. But my reasons for why I am doing this go beyond a six-month or three-month trip.
A few days before my 25th birthday I sat at the doctor’s office facing a potentially scary prognosis. The first thing that went through my mind was “How will I do all of these things I have dreamed of doing? How will I be able to hike next year?” I have been incredibly lucky that things have turned out OK, but the feeling of urgency remained, reinforcing what I already knew. The time is now.
The most pressing reason of why I am doing this is time. I might not get another time in my life when I will have the freedom or opportunity to take three months and just walk. There is never a perfect time to do anything, but this is pretty close. I do not own a home. I am not in a relationship, I have no children or pets. I have an awesome job that will allow me to go. In addition to all of this, I have an incredible support system. I am aware of how lucky and privileged I am to be in this position. I don’t doubt for a second that this will be the hardest thing I have done, but I am aware it is a privilege to do so.
There is absolutely no guarantee that I will have the chance to do this in the future. I can’t take my health for granted. I am in a position of minimal responsibility and plenty of opportunity.
When will I have the chance to push myself like this? This time is going to pass either way, I might as well try.
To Test Myself
To quote Emily Dickson (and Cheryl Strayed) (ugh, I know), “If your Nerve, deny you—Go above your Nerve.”
Simply, I want to see if I can. I want to know what I am capable of. I’ve been thrown some tough things in the past couple of years and I’ve put in the work to move ahead. But this is a completely different situation than anything I have ever encountered.
I am invested in this goal and determined to complete it, but there is a possibility that I won’t. As much as I plan and prepare, a huge component of this trip is situational. I have already had to adapt to a major change in my plans by switching from a thru-hike to a section hike, and I am sure it won’t be the last.
I am annoyingly persistent; ask anyone in my life. But I will limit and censor myself if there is a good chance that I will fail. I’m tired of it.
I hope this experience will leave me feeling very comfortable with the feeling of failure, something I have never felt OK with. But I want to be OK with failing. Once you’re really OK with failing, what else can hold you back? If I go and it doesn’t work out? Well fuck, at least I tried.
I want to grow, and to grow you need to be uncomfortable.
I have always found so much comfort in others’ stories and experiences and admired their vulnerability. I wanted to put myself out there before I even step foot on trail, so I thought I’d give blogging a shot. Writing a blog about this hike honestly scares me more than the hike itself. If I can come home with a little more experience, tolerance, and patience, then it was absolutely worth it.
This is probably the most dramatic I’m going to get on here but I won’t apologize for it. This is something I’m pretty passionate about. It inspires confidence in my abilities to have firm reasons as to why I am doing this. I’m interested to see how my why changes as my hike begins, but there is one reason I will never waiver on.
Who wouldn’t want Reese Witherspoon to be proud of them?
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