Pre-Trail Jitters Are Real

Countdown: 18 days until go time. May 5 is fast approaching, my friends.

The pre-trail jitters have gotten pretty intense lately as I wait out these final days of normalcy. The impending PCT journey is becoming more real by the hour. I’m really leaving everything behind and going.

So what’s it like, knowing that I’m about to embark on a giant five- to six-month adventure quest? Well, it’s an emotional roller coaster if we wanna talk cliches.

Anxiety comes in waves. Some days it’s hellish, and I feel like puking all the time, while other days I feel very zen about it, very “Whatever comes will come.” I’ve adopted a fairly  extreme carefree attitude about pretty much everything, and I’m thinking about adopting it full time for life post-trail.

Mostly, I feel like I’m in a funnel. You know those coin funnels at museums and the mall? Where you drop in a coin and watch it go round and round, and every revolution gets faster and faster as it spins closer to the bottom where it eventually gets spat out into who-knows-what?

I feel like the coin.  

The days are going faster and faster and I feel more than a little out of control and less than capable of stopping the momentum of events. But it’s like I said before—I also feel resigned to my fate. Whatever comes will come.

Mentally I’m out there on the trail. I’m preparing, doing the logistics of mail drops, procrastinating putting final boxes together, I’ve got the money saved up, I’m reading trail reports, snow reports, water reports, watching videos. I’ve reserved a rental car, got my last day of work on the books, and am finally getting a storage unit to stash all my things. I’ve gone to visit my mom, and I’ve warned all my friends and coworkers that I’m gonna be really really weird when I get back. ?

I think I’m emotionally ready for the trail and all the suffering it’ll bring. At least today I am. Tomorrow night be another story. I’m a little afraid, but mostly there isn’t room for that, because I’m definitely ready and I’m definitely going! I’m trying my darndest not to look at too much social media, because seeing other hikers already on trail gives me the nastiest butterflies.

There is a constantly turning wheel of pre-trail jittery thoughts: there’s the restless urge to go, the sadness of leaving my friends, the hesitation of doubt, the nervousness of what will have changed in me by the time I get back, what will have changed here at home, the questioning of my sanity for wanting this particular adventure for so many years. It’s really a bit much. It makes me wanna leave right now—just start walking, walking, walking. Working hard, breathing hard, feeling everything, uninsulated.

Lately as I fall asleep, I’ve been imagining sleeping outside on the ground, feeling the cold air whipping around me, hearing the rustling of leaves and the sounds of birds in the mornings, seeing zillions of stars above me, having a sore body and sore legs and sore feet covered in dust and dirt from the beautiful places surrounding me. I can’t wait to live like that again. Life will be full of the beautiful unexpected.

The anticipation of leaving Salt Lake is so much more painful than I imagined it would be. When I moved here, I assumed I’d stay here a year or two and then leave for the PCT and continue onward. I had no idea that this place would snatch up my heart and soul the way that it has. The pain of not wanting to leave this place was totally unexpected and has taken me by surprise. It hurts, saying goodbye. One can only hope that the PCT will do the exact same thing. I have a strong feeling it will. 

I had this realization the other day that although I’m not actually on trail yet, my PCT experience has already begun. What I’m going through now is likely something every 2019 PCT hiker is experiencing, and likely what every previous PCT hiker has felt. It’s all a part of it, and soon we’ll all be out there together, and that’s a comforting thought.

Until next time…

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