Being a Pacific Crest Trail Commitment-Phobe
I have been moving toward hiking the PCT for over a year. I took a contract that would finish around the right time; applied for the permit during a nerve-racking evening in front of my laptop; turned down a job offer for the spring; attended the visa interview in an outfit I hoped signaled that I am a responsible human (despite evidence to the contrary); told friends, family and colleagues that “yes” I would be doing it. I even applied to be a blogger for The Trek. Which I am thrilled to be!
So why was I having doubts?
Getting Cold Feet
It’s been hard to understand my fear of committing to the trail. Especially when I know how lucky I am to be in a position to do it this year. The PCT is something that I’ve wanted to do for about five years and I have thought and spoken about it a lot in this time. I’ve daydreamed about it, read the books. It’s even been my answer to the “my bucket list” prompt on a dating app.
But in spite of all this, I couldn’t stop the doubts coming into my mind.
“It’s just too big. It’s dangerous. I’m comfortable in my life right now. I don’t feel any need to run away.”
Where were they coming from?
Needing Some Space
I decided to take the Christmas break to reflect in the hope that it would all become clear in January. I felt reassured in my plan by a horoscope that said that I should wait until the new moon on January 10 before making any big decisions.
Aside from being a little nuts, this was a funny coincidence since it was the date I was given to attend the U.S. Embassy visa interview.
It was also the date that I had a follow up appointment after a health scare last year. Knowing that all was well gave me peace of mind and lifted a weight I hadn’t quite realized was there. Part of me couldn’t believe that I could be so lucky to be undertaking such a huge adventure. Something had to go wrong, surely?
Opening Up about My Fears
Being more open about how I feel has helped to reduce my doubts. Friends and family have been supportive and have also reassured me that actually it’s probably not that weird to be worried about trying to walk from Mexico to Canada.
By opening up I also realized that I had been reluctant to admit that this new adventure felt daunting. I’ve developed greater competence in the outdoors in recent years (even though I still go down scrambles on my backside) and am proud of it. However, admitting that I’m actually a bit scared and not entirely confident in my ability has taken the pressure off and allowed me to feel more excited.
It has also prompted me to take practical steps to build my ability and experience, such as signing up to winter skills and wilderness first aid courses.
Ignorance Is (Wedded) Bliss?
Completing the John Muir Trail (JMT) and The Collegiate Loop hopefully means that I’ll be better prepared for what is coming my way on the PCT. My bag will be a good 15 pounds lighter for a start.
But I do wonder if I know a little too much this time. I would probably never have done the JMT if I had any real idea of what I was getting myself into. So I’m trying to walk the line between sensible and appropriate preparedness and blissful ignorance. Reading a little less and not scrolling through PCT social media posts has helped reduce my worries.
However, I do also feel reassured by my experience. I know that for every sad or scary day there will be many wonderful moments big and small.
I also know that I’m going to meet some incredible and like-minded people who will have the knack of turning up just at the right moment. Whether that’s for a laugh, for commiseration, or to swap their snack with me.
Being Compatible with Adventure
A little space has also enabled me to see that being settled and happy and having the desire for a big adventure aren’t incompatible. I am fortunate to be leaving things behind, whether that’s friends, family, or the plants on my balcony (hey, guys!). And I know I can return to them when the PCT is done.
Setting the Date
So here I am. I’m am still nervous but I’m flying out to San Diego at the end of March. I’m doing it, I’m excited, and yes, I am finally ready to commit.
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