My Social Struggle on the PCT
The social struggle is real.
My friends and family seemed somewhat surprised when I announced that I was attempting a six-month thru-hike on my own.
They thought it would be a task much easier to perform with a friend or likeminded hiker, at least.
I guess it may have sounded a little anti-social and like it may be a somewhat lonely experience.
Considering the PCT is open to the public and 50 permits are issued per day throughout the months of March April and May, I assured them that there would be a plethora of potential people I could socialize with.
Those that know me, know that I am somewhat reserved and not terribly outgoing, so it may take me a little longer to become friends with strangers. But knowing that we would all have a common goal, I figured, how hard could it be?
I am an easy-going person and enjoy socializing but also like a bit of solitude. I certainly looked forward to meeting some likeminded people on trail.
Feeling out the crowd.
The first few days were filled with excitement and a little trepidation. I was anxious to meet people and see which “group” I would fit in with.
Some hikers had already made friends to hike with or had come with loved ones (spouses) so in a sense they already had their trail family.
Before the start of my hike, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with Scout and Frodo. A couple in San Diego who host hikers at their home.
They have a wealth of knowledge about the trail and give hopeful PCT hikers a “home base” to stay when they arrive in California before hitting the trail.
I spent two nights with them and met many hikers that started on the same day as me. So logically, on day one, I sought out the recognizable faces and tried to stick with them.
It didn’t take long to strike up some conversations with others about our fears and anxieties. I even recognized a guy I had had conversations with on Facebook, months before!
We chatted easily and after eight miles on trail I felt like a bond was forming. But at mile 11.4 we said our goodbyes, as I wanted to camp and he and the others wanted to hike on further. It was a little sad to see them go, but I figured I would easily meet more folks down the trail.
An easy connection.
On day two, I met “Snow Angel.” A lovely woman who I instantly bonded with. We already had so much in common and we had a similar pace and daily mileage expectation.
We enjoyed one another’s company and had lots to talk about. We swapped stories and had many deep conversations.
We would go on to hike the next 131 miles together. Sadly, my time with her ended in Idyllwild when she ended her section hike and went home.
I had met “Rock Pocket” earlier on with another group and when her group had different plans, her and I decided to hike together.
We were of similar age and had some things in common which made conversations easy. We matched our hiking pace and mileage and that made planning easy. However, she decided to get off trail in Tehachapi which left me wondering who to stick with from there.
A little Solitude.
The following 140 miles I hiked mostly on my own. At first, I enjoyed the solitude. I had nobody to plan things with, I could just be spontaneous, take breaks whenever I wanted to, camp at whichever spot I chose, and do as many or as little miles as I liked. But throughout the day as hikers passed by me, I started to feel incredibly lonely.
I missed having the company and someone to just bounce ideas off of. At the end of the day I came into camp, recognized a few faces and sort of inserted myself into the conversation, but it all felt very forced.
I was getting worried that I may not find another friend or group to hike with. I tried to push those thoughts from my mind and reassure myself that the next day would be easier.
The next day was harder and as other hikers came and went, I started to see more and more trail families and partners already established with little room for an extra ‘guest’.
After a while, I was miserable and had talked myself into a downward spiral of loathing, for the trail and myself!
This unrealistic expectation existed for me that if people liked me, they would invite me into their group to hike with them.
A long, scorching day in the desert and a terrifying thunderstorm later caused me to come to the conclusion that hiking this trail was not for me and I should quit before I die out in the desert, all alone!
The next day had me doing a bit of soul searching and I dug deep into myself to find the strength and the courage to carry on. A phone call home, connecting with family and their support for me, reminded me that I can do this, I am doing this, and I had already hiked 600 miles by the strength of my own legs and fortitude! Of course I can go on. Even on my own.
A New Beginning.
The following day, I met a group of hikers who were in a little family of their own. The six of them had hiked separately but all met up at camp together, and when they discussed plans to go into Ridgecrest for a zero, I asked to join them.
They were incredibly welcoming and we all hung out together for a couple of days. I felt instantly welcomed and got to know a little more about each of them.
We continued on together and finished at Kennedy Meadows together. I felt truly blessed to have a little family to celebrate the end of the desert section with, a momentous occasion.
It was bittersweet, arriving in Kennedy Meadows as we had all reached this goal together but had made different plans after that.
Many of us would not continue into the High Sierras but take some time off trail while we decided where to skip up to.
An Instant Connection.
I left the trail for three weeks and returned to Chester near mile 1,331. I had been speaking to Pivot for a few days about my plans to return to trail and asked her if she might do the same. She had the same plan as me but not the same start date.
Pivot and I had met up in San Diego before we started the trail. Both being from Canada, we had connected via Facebook along with a few others and had similar ideas, but never hiked together since we had different start dates.
I started out in Chester on my own and quickly befriended a group of ladies who were section hiking. This is when I met Flowers. We spent a few nights at the same camp spots and hiked a few miles together.
One of the ladies in her group was injured and two of them would be getting off trail so we agreed to continue on together to Burney Falls.
I had a very easy time fitting in with this group of ladies. Thunk was full of interesting facts and had lots of quick quips and good stories.
Kirsten was kind and quiet and asked many thought-provoking questions.
Flowers was easy to talk to and we got along well. She was great to hike with and we both enjoyed an easy pace and early starts.
I treasured my time with her and when her husband met us in Burney Falls, I was sad to see her go!
The timing had somehow magically worked out for me to meet up with Pivot and since our meeting way back in San Diego in early April, we were finally going to hike together.
July 4th, we started out together and it has been an amazing partnership so far.
We are having a great time together and have a mutual understanding of “how to hike this trail.”
I have enjoyed sharing this experience with her. We have had a ton of laughs and had some great conversations.
I now know that it is true what everyone says, that it really is all about the people we meet on this journey!
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