Pondering the Parallels
For this article, I will avoid any comparisons with the intent to declare a “better” trail. Those grow tiresome to me. Instead, I’d like to share some parallel thought processes I’ve experienced at mile two-hundred on the Pacific Crest Trail versus mile two-hundred on the Appalachian Trail.
Mile 1-200 (AT):
By this point last year, I had almost no idea how I identified myself as a hiker. I hadn’t quite escaped the honeymoon phase, and the trail still felt like a new world to me. Things were always exciting. Towns offered more than resupply options- they were havens for me to charge my phone, and gorge on obscene amounts of food. That hasn’t really changed to be honest- I have always had a hard time getting out of the town vortex.
I also felt the gradual evolution happening on a mental and physical level. My legs were strengthening, I had bonded with other hikers, and sleeping on a Neoair mattress finally felt normal. By this time, I had almost reached Hot Springs, NC as well; a major mental milestone.
Finally, I had begun to accept the bad things, like constant rain, or smelling like an animal. I can say the same about the PCT- I will not fight the trail. Everything that happens is part of the hike, and deserves to be embraced and acknowledged.
Mile 1-200 (PCT):
The last 10 days have been amazing, although in many ways, have mirrored my experience on the AT. Town is still great, hiker friends are everywhere, and so is dirt and grime. By this time on the AT, I had taken around 6 zero days, thanks to problematic knees. In contrast, I have taken one zero on the PCT. My body already feels much more prepared than at my equivalent mileage on the AT.
My identity as a hiker has also evolved. Friends and family view me much differently than a year ago, although some confusion arose when I shared my plans for the PCT (“you’re doing this hiking thing again?”). It’s far too late now: Hiking is part of who I am, just as much as my feet that propel me along the trail.
The challenges still exist. Early stage trials on the AT, such as persistent rain, the green tunnel, and humidity have simply morphed into different obstacles- dry heat, long water carries, and abrasive dirt that acts likesandpaper on your feet. Accepting the challenge and learning to adapt quickly is key.
As I continue the trail, I plan to further ponder on the parallels and evolving circumstances on the PCT. I have no interest in declaring a “better” trail. They’re simply different challenges that require adaptation.
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