I Tabled My 2020 PCT Thru-Hike Because of Coronavirus
Time flies when you’re (not really) having fun. Three days ago I posted the rest of my gear for the PCT. Two days ago I made a plan to send extra mail drops in case of on-trail resupply closures. Yesterday I considered the reality of canceling travel to Tennessee for a race, and New Hampshire for my brother’s wedding. This afternoon I wrote about whether or not hikers have a moral obligation to put off their hikes. An hour after I published that piece, I got on a call with the boss, cried on the video chat while shoving cheese into my mouth, and told him I was tabling my NOBO PCT hike, set to start on April 29.
It just doesn’t make sense for me to thru-hike the PCT.
Hiking 2,600 miles from Mexico to Canada through dozens of small communities and towns isn’t right. Forget dealing with closures and uncertainty; potentially spreading this virus to vulnerable populations made the decision obvious, if not easy.
Financially, I was set to hike. Logistically, everything was ready to go. It really does seem surreal, but we’re living in unprecedented times and that means making choices before you’re forced into a decision.
I encourage everyone on the fence about their hike to think about putting other people before themselves. I’m young and healthy and not worried about getting sick. If I do get sick, the chance of it being more than a bad cold are slim to none. But that doesn’t give me the right to travel to places as a potential asymptomatic carrier, putting otherwise isolated communities at risk as part of a crowd of hikers. The small towns along the PCT don’t have the same resources and health care as larger communities. Many of these communities would be able to successfully self-quarantine were it not for thru-hikers moving between the towns. The same goes for the CDT, the AT, and other communities impacted by incoming travelers. The choice to continue with your thru-hike is an individual one, but it doesn’t feel right for me.
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For this reason, beyond any logistical concerns, it doesn’t feel right for me to take a trip that cannot in any way be deemed necessary, and has the potential to do harm to other people. The ability to thru-hike is a luxury that I’ve been afforded, and will be able to at some point in the future. A few hours after I made my choice, the PCTA sent a notice to permit holders stating, “Please think of the impact your choices have on others, and consider whether traveling during an unprecedented global health pandemic is the right choice.”
I’m not going to ignore that I’m one of the lucky people who can change plans at the last minute with relatively few consequences. I can keep my income source, I own my house, I didn’t have to end a lease. I live in a beautiful place with plenty of opportunities for local outings and adventures this summer. I’ll get to climb, bike, hike, and plan for other adventures. Maybe I’ll finally finish that wolf cross stitch and learn to play chess. If things have calmed down by fall, the Arizona Trail isn’t out of the question. The PCT will always be there, and as a member of the thru-hiking class of 2020, I think I’ll be able to look back at this difficult choice and know I made the right decision.
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