Pre-Trail Depression: A Victim of the New PCT Permitting System

Every morning begins with a sudden shock; a quick snap to a nonstop rapid fire cycle of thoughts surrounding the actualization of my longtime dream of thru-hiking of the Pacific Crest Trail. I am transported to a high desert landscape where I weigh the best sleeping systems and consider the advantages and shortcomings of sun shirts and trail runners, my mind floats to the top of the unforgiving, yet gentle Sierra where I am again shocked, but by harsh and pervasive cold as I brave Kearsarge Pass armed with crampons and an ice axe… or will spikes and a trekking pole suffice? I begin to feel dizzy as I consider the economic implications of various, and increasingly convoluted, resupply strategies. But I soon return from my mental excursions, left standing on a carpeted flooring and my PCT plans still lie in a pile on that floor, along with my dirty hiking clothes. I deflate into my own personal pile; back into my bed sheets for a few moments, “Just a few more weeks.”

 I struggle with anxiety and depression, and while I intend my PCT excursion to be not only an escape from my afflictions and a healing journey both inward and outward, the logistics surrounding such a journey come with their own mental costs. I am referring in large part to the enthusiasm and joyful obsessions associated with planning a thru-hike in juxtaposition to the shocking and very threatening anxieties accompanying the realization that something as arbitrary and unforgiving as a permit lottery threatens my precious dream. The thought of waiting yet another year to tackle my dream seems to intensify my already exhausting mental load. I am one of the unfortunate aspiring thru-hikers unfortunate enough to miss out on a PCT thru-hike permit during the October 24 window. While my disappointment is immeasurable, I can’t help but feel a sense of appreciation for the recent change in permitting; the thought of having to start off my PCT thru-hike with 150 other individuals who may not be ideal additions to my (soon to exist) trail family makes me cringe. After considering the other merits—trail integrity, increased observation of Leave No Trace, safety, and overall preservation of the experience—I accept the reality that is the current state of the PCT. Yet I find myself struggling still with feelings bordering on anger when I think of losing my permit to someone with the sole intention of using the PCT as a tool for boosting social media popularity or who decides to end their hike within 24 hours. I then begin to toy with the implications of a permitting application process that entails a motivational questionnaire or essay as a more “just” method for allocating permits. However, the shortcomings of this method are also rather obvious and the system would be easily punctured, thus I am forced to accept the cold and unbiased hand of chance that guides the PCT lottery system.

Despite my unsettling oscillation between anguish and excitement I rise back to my feet and continue to train, exercise, learn, and to work tirelessly to afford my journey. My relentless tenacity and dedication to this trail and mental health grow daily and I am proud to now announce in this posting for the first time publicly that I am determined to hike the PCT in 2020 in support of my mental and spiritual health and the health of those around me. In this spirit I am dedicating my hike to a rarely discussed issue plaguing the many sports I partake in, eating disorders. I am using Hike for Mental Health as a platform for donation support, the link below will lead you to my page.

In sincerity,

Logan Nigh

Logan Nigh’s hike for mental health

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure

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.

Comments 6

  • Prometheus : Jan 7th

    Realistically, how is California going to enforce the new system? If you show up and hike, are they going to stop you at the trailhead on the US/Mexico border? As with any licensing or permitting legislation, I’m curious what the enforcement process looks like. I can’t imagine cops caring about this. The state parks services are chemically staffed and funded and certainly don’t have the resources to chase down every PCT hiker to stamp their permit. The National Park Service doesn’t care about state policies. I just don’t see a practical mechanism for effective enforcement.

    Reply
    • Stupdendous Bob : Jan 8th

      They will be quite vigilant against white people with driver’s licenses, but illegal Mexicans coming across the border will be ignored.

      Reply
  • Prometheus : Jan 7th

    Realistically, how is California going to enforce the new system? If you show up and hike, are they going to stop you at the trailhead on the US/Mexico border? As with any licensing or permitting legislation, I’m curious what the enforcement process looks like. I can’t imagine cops caring about this. The state parks services are anemically staffed and funded and certainly don’t have the resources to chase down every PCT hiker to stamp their permit. The National Park Service doesn’t care about state policies. I just don’t see a practical mechanism for effective enforcement.

    Reply
    • Christy : Jan 13th

      We have been asking ourselves similar questions. Is someone at the trailhead every day, asking to see your papers? What kind of authority does the PCTA hold to enforce non-permitted hikers? Whose to say a hiker isn’t a through hiker and just a section hiker? I know it’s less common but do SoBo hikers have to get a permit?

      Reply
      • Tiffany : Jan 13th

        Yes. Every year, SOBOs have to get a permit. This year, there is a quota, whereas in previous years, there has been no daily quota system in place. When I hiked last year, I got my permit checked at least 3 times I can think of off the top of my head. From stories I’ve heard (but not people I know personally), you can be escorted off the trail by a ranger if caught without one.

        Reply
  • Effie Drew : Jan 12th

    Just wait until spring rolls around and keep an eye on the facebook PCT 2020 group… people who got permits but end up not being able to hike will often offer up their permits as the day gets closer.

    Permit only means you can’t start at the Mexican Border… you can still do a mostly nobo hike by flip flopping starting at Warner Springs or Idyllwild. Permits for flip flop are available beginning Jan. 14th. Thats an easy fix!

    Reply

What Do You Think?