Shakedown Showdown: In the Shadow of a Pandemic
There are some things you just can’t plan for. After weeks of shakedown, daily road hikes, nights spent freezing in a tent in the backyard, and other challenges large and small, out of nowhere Covid-19 came roaring to the forefront of all of our day-to-day lives.
Pandemics are about spread, not lethality, and you can see its effects everywhere in my hometown. People have panicked and bought all the toilet paper and pasta, not to mention the bread. My husband had to go to two stores to get milk for his cereal, and has recently been told to stay at home from work as a precaution.
I’ve also watched it hit the hiking community, as big names on The Trek, and those I follow on social media have been making major announcements to cancel their thru-hikes for the coming year.
The biggest wave of these occurred yesterday, when a heavily weighted email from the PCTA and the US Forest Service encouraged thru-hikers to re-evaluate their plans; as hostels, shuttles, and other community staples of support close for the season.
It’s clear it’s going to be a tough year out there on the trail, but in the midst of it all, I’m actually more excited than ever to get out there. In fact, I think it’s important that I do.
My entire life, I have struggled with an anxiety condition. It manifests in all sorts of ways. I have a plethora of irrational fears, and consistent nightmares, not to mention frequent, some would say obsessive, hand washing. One of my biggest worries is a type of germaphobia.
Long before the name “Covid-19” was ever whispered, I was the chick obsessively applying hand sanitizer, and wiping down her airline seat with an antibacterial wipe. Fastidiously doing what I could to manage my risks, to calm the screeching fears within my own brain that I was only one misstep away from disaster.
To be honest, it can be a living hell, especially before I found a medication that helped me function better. For the better part of three years I lived as a recluse, was too scared to drive, or grocery shop. All I did was write, and watch YouTube videos, mainly about thru-hiking, always hoping but never believing that one day it would be my turn.
Ironic, then, that one of the worst pandemics to hit this world in 100 years would occur just a scant few weeks before my start date. The growing situation, along with the worries and fears have weighed heavily on my mind, as I’ve watched businesses like REI close, and store shelves grow progressively more barren.
Which is why I’ve decided to press on.
Now, this is not to call down anyone who has decided to cancel this year. The trail isn’t going to be the same. The sense of community is going to be heavily diminished, and the regular features and attractions many of my fellow thru-hikers were looking forward to will not be present.
There is no shame, ever, in deciding not to hike or to do something differently; to wait a year, for any reason. Covid-19 is scary as hell. I have family members that, if they catch it, will likely die. Amid all the news, the daily reports of things growing worse, it’s well within reason that someone would conclude that it isn’t their year, so to all my fellow thru-hikers who have decided to postpone or cancel, you’ve got my full support, full stop.
Hike your own hike, as the saying goes, but as for me, it’s as important that I continue, as it is for others to stay home.
The Pacific Crest Trail has always been about me facing my fears, and overcoming them to achieve a dream that I, at many times in my life, felt was impossible. In that regard, it almost feels like fate that this new concern has come along in the shadow of my start date.
I am worried about Covid-19, and will do everything I can to mitigate my risks, but one thing I have learned on my path from being a recluse, living in terror, to where I am now, is that I cannot stop living. I cannot let my fears and concerns make my choices for me. Therefore, I will press on to Campo, come what may.
The trail, at this point, is my destiny. It is my trial, my test, and my dream, and I cannot leave it, no matter what challenges lay between me and the Northern Terminus.
Onward, toward the farthest star!
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