Ready or Not, Here I Come!
It is a beautiful thing to be on the edge of a journey that has the potential to change my outlook on life. I am not certain of many things that life on the Pacific Crest Trail will bring, but I am certain that I will experience a wide range of raw emotions. There will be moments of awe and clarity, moments of doubt and frustration, and moments of perseverance and growth.
The pre-PCT journey has already been a rollercoaster of emotions from permit day to managing small injuries to saying goodbye to friends and family for a little while. Over the last year, I’ve created spreadsheets, read books, and trained physically and mentally for one moment – taking that first step on the PCT. However, in the last year, the Type A side of me also came to understand that thru hiking the PCT is not the most logical of pursuits…
I will enter the desert when it’s getting a little too hot. I will enter the Sierra when it’s a little (or a lot) too snowy. I will be racing against time to finish the trail before the first snow fall of next season.
…and maybe, while my preparations that I have written about below will be helpful, adopting a curious and flexible mindset will be more helpful. Over the last few weeks, I have watched other class of 2023 PCT hikers (via their blogs and social media) creatively adapt traditional NOBO thru hikes to fit current circumstances (think: snow, injuries, fires). I am getting excited to begin writing my unique story – whatever that may look like this year. It is time to trust in my preparation, rely on my instincts and the PCT community, and let go of control.
So How Did I Prepare for My First Thru Hike?
The moment I decided that I wanted to hike the PCT, I started to plan. Planning has always been a way that I can quiet the anxiety that surrounds the unknown. As my start date gets closer and closer, I have had to remind myself to trust the process to prevent doubts. I tackled planning in a few different ways: the logistics, physical training, safety, and emotional preparation.
The Logistics: Most of the questions that I get from family and friends are about the logistics (translation: how the heck are you dropping everything and hiking for 5 months..?). The questions are valid. Here are some of the logistics I sorted out before day 1 on the trail:
- Obtained a Pacific Crest Trail Long Distance Permit (and later exchanged my permit for my ideal start date).
- Cancelled the lease on my apartment and moved all my belongings into storage.
- Created a resupply strategy and left boxes of gear and food for friends to send to me on the trail (THANK YOU).
- Researched and purchased gear that should be optimal for PCT conditions (light enough, warm enough, etc).
Safety: I’ve received a lot of raised eyebrows from people that realize I am pursuing this hike alone. I have take many precautions to stay as safe as possible on the trail this year including:
- Becoming Wilderness First Aid certified with NOLS to learn how to assess a situation and treat injuries or illnesses prior to an potential evacuation.
- Creating a Safety Communication Plan with family and friends (using my Satellite phone and tracking).
- Learning about snow safety and selecting the correct gear for desert and snow conditions.
Physical Training: The most comforting thru hiking phrase I’ve ever heard is that “training for a thru hike begins on day 1 of your thru hike”. My approach to training was injury prevention and to have fun with it (I am leaving Colorado behind for a while, may as well enjoy it before I leave!). In the months leading up to my hike, I trained by:
- Embracing the Snow and Learning to Uphill Ski and Snowshoe throughout the winter.
- Hiking, hiking, hiking through mud, snow, and ice (Colorado spring’s finest!).
- Joining Peloton and focusing on strength training and cycling for low impact endurance.
- Learning the importance of stretching (!!!!!!).
Emotional Preparation: I am a big believer that “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right”. I have used different strategies to set intentions and mentally prepare for this hike including:
- Defining my “why” and Setting intentions for my hike
- Opening up to others about our continuous mental health journeys and not being afraid to feel emotions!
- Expecting there to be obstacles and challenges instead of fearing them.
The Storm Before the Calm?
Life has felt so full lately as I prepare to leave Denver, press pause on my “normal” life, and begin the PCT. As the planning and packing and prepping comes to an end, the idea of the quiet trail and the miles ahead seems a little daunting.
While I don’t know for sure where the trail may lead me (well, hopefully to Canada), there is FINALLY only one thing left to do – take the first step.
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