T-73 Days: How I’m Mentally Prepping
T-73 days. Physical prep is basically nonexistent, but mental preparation is coming great. Junk food is just so much more delicious and easy than getting salads. Sure, I’ve gained some weight this year in college, but as Halfway Anywhere puts it, it’s insurance. I’m 100 percent not leaving the trail until I’ve lost the weight I’ve gained this year. See? I am thinking ahead and preparing.
Last semester, I took a wilderness survival class just in case something happens when I’m on the PCT. One aspect of our final was a four-day field trip that we basically spent in isolation. I rigged four different types of traps, made an arrowhead out of glass, built a shelter (pictured below), tied rope, sewed a basket, carved a spoon, and tried uselessly to start a fire; drank no water for two days and had no food for 2.5 days because I couldn’t start my fire; killed, helped to skin, and ate a rabbit. I’d lay awake in my soaked sleeping bag as the temperatures dipped into teens, and watch snowflakes drift past my lame shelter. I’d get up in the morning and work on the skills I had to pass off. I lost track of time, heard ATVs everywhere, and my lips were so dry that they dripped blood.
During the final reflection, most of the individuals in my class shared that the hardest part of the experience was being alone in the wilderness. I had absolutely no problem being alone, and the wilderness gave me a peace and energy that I didn’t feel while at school. I absolutely loved that class, and it convinced me that my wild dream of hiking the PCT alone was the correct decision. That class showed me that I’m more mentally tough than I thought. It was the catalyst for my mental preparation for the Pacific Crest Trail.
I have read through every single one of Halfway Anywhere’s blog posts. I’ve watched all of Homemade Wanderlust’s vlogs. I’ve probably spent hundreds of hours researching the best gear (most durable, lightweight, recommended, budget-friendly), best places to resupply and go out for meals, tips and tricks to keep your body and mind healthy and motivated while crushing 100-plus miles a week, and blogs of those who have successfully completed the hike. As I continue to research for at least an hour day, I feel more excited and more ready to tackle this momentous challenge.
The first month of the trail will be absolutely horrible, both physically and mentally, and I’m ready for that. I’ve got all the Harry Potter books downloaded, two 21-hour long Spotify playlists, 10-plus motivational videos, and 30-plus hours of podcasts ready to go. It’s not like I’ll be ignoring my body for the first 700 miles, it’s just that while I’m getting my body stronger and my legs trail ready I’ll need to focus on something other than my aching legs, never-ending blisters, and frustrating chafing. I’m also planning on hiking the Mojave 100 percent at night (because it’s hot during the day and I don’t do well in hot weather), so I’ll need a little company while I’m trekking for hours on end in the darkness.
Cultivating a Spirit of Adventure …
I love adventure and challenging myself more than anything. For the past two years I’ve volunteered at Kuskokwim 300, which is an Iditarod-qualifying dogsled race in Bethel, Alaska. The temperature got down to -53 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill, but that didn’t stop me from loving absolutely every second I’ve spent up there (my frozen face and hood are pictured). I’m hungry for more time in that frigid tundra! After I graduate college, I think I might live and work there. By keeping my mind open and passionate about all the aspects of new adventures (like helping mushers with the K300, or hiking the PCT), I’ve become better able to adapt to the challenges that those adventures bring (like freezing temps or never-ending blisters).
… With Movies!
I absolutely love the movie “Into the Wild” and the documentary “The Great Alone.” In each, the main character defies expectations and follows their passion, even though the odds are stacked against them. I know that the odds are stacked against me as I begin the PCT. A majority of potential thru-hikers leave the trail early, and I’m incredibly out of shape, have only three nights of backpacking experience, have untested gear, not enough money for food, and no hiking partners.
But just like the protagonists in those two films, I’m ready to roll with the punches and take every mishap and failure in stride. I’m passionate about challenging myself and testing my limits in the pursuit of adventure. I hope to be one of the victorious thru-hikers in Manning Park (mile 2, 669). But even if I’m not, I hope I can at least persevere and learn face challenges head-on with little fear.
On Trail Motivation
I think one of the best things I can do to mentally prepare is to have something to look forward to. Of course, I’m looking forward to my victorious finish, rock-hard abs and legs, and sleeping when I get home, but I’ve got to have intermediate rewards to motivate myself. These will come in the form of frequent burgers, ice cream, and pancakes when I’m in town. Even though I’m pretty strapped for cash, I’m gonna try to get at least one yummy thing in each town. That way, when I’m in utter pain and boredom while hiking, I’ll at least have a delicious bacon cheeseburger to look forward to in a few days!
I am also 100% looking forward to some movies that are coming on while I’m on the trail. My list of must-sees include “Avengers: Infinity War” (out in theaters May 4, I’ll try to see that sometime around Kennedy Meadows at mile 700), “Incredibles 2” (coming out June 15, I’ll try to see it wherever can find a movie theater), and “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (coming out July 27, I’ll also try to see it wherever I can find a theater). Sitting in a dark and air-conditioned room seeing a movie that I’ve been looking forward to will be a welcome break from the sweaty heat of summer hiking.
My family lives in Portland, and I’m planning on staying at least a day with them once I reach Cascade Locks (mile 2,155). I’ll make waffles, take a real shower, sleep for as long as I want, and do all my laundry. I’m already looking forward to it.
I’m also really looking forward to meeting and hiking with a trail family. Sure, I’m starting alone, but I’m positive I can find people who are going my same speed and are just as quirky as I am. Maybe some of the friends from home will even join me.
I think what’s most important in my mental preparation for the PCT is to not get overwhelmed. Sure, I’m gonna have to hike more than 21 miles a day to make it back in time for school, I’ll be alone, I’m out of shape, strapped for cash… the odds are against me. But I’m not thinking about that. I’m thinking about taking this whole adventure one step at a time, literally. I’m going to savor the pain and the beauty and the self-growth and everything that the trail gives me.
I am absolutely positive that I will think about quitting more than once a day. But when it all comes down to it, you just have to walk one step at a time. It’s not how strong you are that really matters, it’s how strong you feel. And right now, 73 days until the inception of this journey, I feel strong. I feel ready. Bring it on.
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