PCT Prep: Why am I Doing This??!?
The Pacific Crest Trail. Many know it as “that thing that one girl did in the book and the movie”. Yes Cheryl Strayed is one person out of hundreds of thousands who have hiked a portion of the PCT, but not all of it. However, her experience was tumultuous and honestly pretty wild. Hence the name of the book lolz.
This is her (and I guess the movie representation):
She looks all inspired and like some real poopy stuff has gone on in her life.
This is me while hiking:
Looking particularly dorky giving a “vlog” sarcastically teaching how to eat cheese with crackers. Safe to say I think we will have some pretty different experiences.
Anyway, the PCT is so much more than a trail hiked by one person that greatly popularized it. Originally, the PCT was created by linking many existing trails along the western side of the United States. It was officially completed as one continuous trail in the ’60s. Objectively, it’s just a skinny walking path from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. Subjectively, however, it is so much more. The trail brings together people from all walks of life for vastly different reasons. Adventure, hardship, escaping a toxic life, mid-life crisis, yearning for change, and so, SO much more. There are so many different experiences and reasons for hiking and I can’t wait to learn some of those special stories.
Though I have done a few backcountry trips, I’ve never done something as large as this. And maybe that’s why it’s such a draw. I want to challenge myself in a new way. I can’t say I know ANYTHING but I can make some generalizations based on countless recollections from past thru-hikers. The trail is hard. It’s not all beautiful sunsets and trail magic and friends and comradery. It is those things, but there are also injuries from overuse, mental burnout, annoying people on the trail, drama, crazy weather, dangerous conditions, rain, cold, raging river crossings, blisters, pain, huge foot ow, just overall body ow, and mental ow.
I’ve never really experienced true hardship and it would be foolish of me not to know that at some point on the trail, shit will hit the fan. Something bad will happen and it’ll be up to me to keep myself going. I’m excited to meet my dedication and perseverance. I’ve met my perseverance in other parts of life, school, and relationships, but nothing so raw and immediate as this.
I know that there will be really sucky days, but yet I can’t get over how excited I am to feel so free. To feel like I have no responsibilities other than keeping myself alive and moving toward my goal. To push myself past hardship and keep on chugging. As I’ve heard other hikers say: “to embrace the suck”.
I think I can do this. Plus, there is a quote that struck me and has stayed with me for over a year now from Pacific Crest Trials by Zach Davis and Carly Moree: “If you bail out each time a honeymoon phase ends, you won’t ever follow through with any worthwhile challenge in life.”
I’ve become more comfortable with failure lately, something that is helpful in the gym because it helps you to be stronger, but failure in large aspects of life is devastating and I become very lost. I can’t be comfortable with failing this goal. I have to finish this so that I can find myself. Meet the person I wish I’ve always known.
Though I have NO idea how this will go, I am hopeful! I have a few goals, or I guess more so outcomes that I hope to observe in myself. I’m excited to read this back and see how this will all possibly change after five months to just me and my thoughts. It’s extensive and I am aware that most of it probably won’t happen to how I envision, but that’s half of the fun…isn’t it?
What I Hope Will Happen
To not be so connected to my phone.
Something I’m sure quite a few people are very aware of lately is their screen time. Especially with being home and trying to feel connected to our friends, we must turn to our screens even more. Yet, it’s a void that sucks you into relentless scrolling. A terrible thing. There are definitely wonderful improvements that phones have given civilization, but I think that the negative effects have been vastly more impactful.
I haven’t done all that much research but I have learned enough to know that cyberbullying, self-esteem issues, false information, and depression are caused by these little phones we all carry around with us. I have personally experienced dependence on my phone and feel depressed when using it too much. I therefore am very excited to shed my little electronic device and only rely on it for guidance. I am excited to leave the technology world for the majority of my day and just walk.
I’d like to foster a better relationship with social media and use it only when I feel like posting a picture (which I think I’m relatively good at) but also I need to limit my mindless scrolling. I guess what I’m trying to say is I hope to become more intentional in my phone usage.
Become more confident on my own.
I think that I have relatively good confidence, which has taken a long time to create. However, embarking on a trip this big all by myself is pretty wild my dudes! I am super-duper excited but I do get nervous. Mountain lions??? Like dang noooo thx. So I hope to become more comfortable alone. ( I also pray I don’t have a bear walking around my tent in the middle of the night!!!)
Become more confident in the dark.
Similar to the above outcome, the dark is sometimes a bit spooky. I hope I can overcome this. I used to be extremely comfortable in the dark in the middle of nowhere, almost to a fault, but then a bear came around my tent at 1 AM in the middle of nowhere this past summer and I am a changed woman. I hope to change myself back, BUT with a healthy dose of caution.
Figure out my next steps.
The PCT is one foot in front of the other, your steps are kind of the only constant. However, the next step after is pretty daunting. I’ve been a student my entire life since I was 4 years old. I don’t know what it’s like to not know what’s next. It’s both an exhilarating and deeply unsettling feeling. I push the unsettled feeling deep down, but I hope to revisit that feeling and try to think of a sort of game plan for after the PCT. Even if that game plan is to push myself to feel uncomfortable for a while and have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do. In addition to this, I want to become ok with the fact that I can also be happy even when I don’t have something to look forward to. I want to learn that there aren’t always natural “steps” in life. I don’t have to get a job, get married, have kids, live in the suburbs, work until a late retirement (if pensions even exist when I get there), and then die. It’s a kind of scary thought and there must be more. Or maybe I’ll realize that that is exactly what I want in the future. But currently? Holy smokes. That is very scary.
Use some time to be creative.
Being in school for so long in an extremely low-creativity discipline, I feel like I have lost some of my creative mind. I brought a journal for the trail. Not to write in (or maybe a little because I can’t help myself) but to force myself to create some sort of art each day on my little page of paper. I’d like to see how my tired mind functions when I push it to access that creative side.
Learn from others.
As before mentioned, everyone comes from a different place, a different life. I’ve been around the same few people I know well for the past year. Being an extrovert I am craving meeting strangers more than anything. With keeping safe distancing and proper COVID precautions of course. I can’t wait to listen. There’s a lot more you can learn about yourself from listening than from talking.
Detach from the “content” pull and to be Instagram famous.
This sounds so stupid even saying it, but it’s real and valid. I think a lot more people have this problem than we like to admit. I truly do not want to be an influencer or content creator or sponsored or whatever. But there’s always that little voice in my head that’s like “but I mean, free stuff Sabrina” or “I mean, a little recognition never hurt nobody”. But this is what I want to detach from. I don’t want to post a picture on Instagram and be thinking about how “successful” the picture is based on the likes, or how well my account is doing based on followers. I really think that it’s a toxic mentality that takes up precious mental space from more important thoughts. Because Instagram is SO stupid really.
Learn what REALLY matters.
I deep down hope that I learn what really matters to me. Who really matters to me. They say you lose people when you grow. I don’t want to lose anyone, but maybe that’s something that will happen. I’ll have to accept that. I want to never quit on a bad day, to remember to hike my own hike and not be convinced to do something I don’t want to do because my friends want to do something. I want to be confident enough to go my own way, I’ll see my friends again.
I want to also inspire some people to take a big step and to try and achieve that big goal they have been thinking about for ages. And then one physical goal that is just something that I want to do to see how badass I can be: I want to hike a 50-mile day. No matter how long it takes or how wrecked I am the next day.
So basically I’m hoping for a lot…whoops. But dream big right? I think it’s ok to let your ambitions be big. Having big goals has always scared me because I’ve never believed I could achieve something so big, because I always told myself someone could probably do better. But in this instance, it’s all about me. It’s me finishing something I set out to do by myself. Only I can get to the Canadian border and it’ll be ME that takes me there. No one else!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.