Reflections on an Unexpected Journey
Expect to be surprised
What the first week and a half on the PCT teaches you is that coming in with any kind of expectation can be pointless.
You’ll expect the scenery to be beautiful, and it will be, but not just in the way you thought. The vistas and mountain top views are there, but so are the quiet springs when you really need water.
You’ll expect to meet some cool people with a common purpose. And you certainly will. But, you’ll also learn the varied paths that brought them to this point. Despite the differences, though, they are universally kind, helpful and enthusiastic about what they are doing.
Not everything is sunshine and roses, however. If you expect any easy Sunday stroll, you’ll be disappointed. When your physical reserves are gone, the mental reserves have to take over.
Hiking is sexy
If you don’t like, or at least tolerate being dirty, you’re in the wrong place. I didn’t get my first shower and clean clothes until my 11th day on trail.
Pain is a constant, and you learn to deal with it. Ibuprofen can only help do much, so you get used to the constant throbbing if your feet. It’s just another environmental condition they you take note of, and largely try to ignore.
You’ll learn the power of being in the moment. With no TV, no telephone, no internet, it’s much easier to lock in and really notice your surroundings. Or truly listen to your camp mate. Each of you are sharing something that while your friends and family admire it, they can’t completely understand it.
Be in the moment
The simple pleasures that we take for granted in normal life (running clean water, a flushing toilet, a shower, a bed, a burger) take on mythic proportions out here. On town days, it can be a frenzy. The free pie in Julian, a burger at Paradise Valley Cafe.
But then you remember while you are out here, and you can’t wait to get back on trail. While the accoutrements of modern society are nice, we are out here to return to a kind of simplicity. There is a stark beauty I having everything you need on your back.
The end of the trail doesn’t matter. A few weeks from now doesn’t matter. All that matters is what you are going to eat, where will you sleep, do you have enough water. There is a clarity to that. Embrace the process, not just the destination.
Ultimately, hiking a long trail may not be what you expected, but it’s probably what you needed.
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