Take Two: Getting Ready for My Second Thru-Hike
I’m thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this year, and it isn’t my first rodeo. Thank god for that, because I have no idea how I would pull off my hike this year without having already thru-hiked. More on that to come, but first let me give you some background.
What Got Me into Thru-Hiking?
I grew up in Massachusetts, just a few hours from the White Mountains in New Hampshire. My mom carried me up mountains before I could walk. Hiking was our mother-daughter bonding activity. I always loved it, except for those couple of chubby preteen years when I made a lot of our trips miserable (Sorry, Mom.)
Being able to visit one of the most beautiful sections of the Appalachian Trail often put the idea of thru-hiking into my mind. I always had the idea to hike the trail after I graduated college. I never knew if I would actually do it, or if it would just become a pipe dream. In 2017, it made sense for me to take a semester off. This was the perfect chance for me to hike the trail, so I did.
Why Do It Again?
The AT was an amazing experience and my proudest accomplishment, until next Saturday, that is. What’s next Saturday, you ask? I graduate from the University of South Florida with my degree in chemical engineering!
As I previously said, I always wanted to hike the AT after I graduated. I’m graduating and I’ve already hiked the AT, so what now? Hike the PCT, of course! I set my sights on the PCT for this year before I even left for the AT. When I was planning my first thru-hike, I considered both trails. I felt like I had to experience the AT first since I grew up dreaming about it. The timing made sense since I had to take a break mid-trail as well. The PCT was always in the back of my mind, though. I can’t wait to get out there at the Mexican border on May 9.
This hike will give me an opportunity to destress and take a break after a challenging last year of college. I’m happy to be taking advantage of this time in my life when I don’t have any real commitments or responsibilities. Not having a job lined up is scary sometimes, but I know everything will fall into place when I’m ready. The trail will give me time to think and reflect on what I want my next step in life to be too.
Planning: What’s Different This Time Around?
Planning? What planning? After your first thru-hike, a big takeaway is how little planning is necessary. In fact, it’s a hindrance oftentimes. However, I could have used some more time for planning than I actually have.
For my thru-hike of the AT, I obsessed over getting the right gear and reading as much as I could about the towns I would stop at and what others’ experiences were like. I packed and repacked my bag so many times, reweighing it each time. I made an effort to climb stairs in my local parking garage with my pack on.
This time, my planning has been pretty minimal. I’m still gear obsessed and have lightened up a bit, and I made sure I got my permit, of course. I have barely had any free time this semester to get myself ready for my hike. Want to know how many times I’ve packed my gear? Zero. Weighed it? Also zero. Climbed stairs? Zero. Gone for a walk? Maybe two. My senior semester made preparing for my hike almost impossible.
That being said, I’m not really worried about it. It may be harder at the beginning physically. I may have to figure out some details on the trail. That’s how the trail normally is anyway. I know I can figure it out as I go.
The Countdown Begins
As of today I have eight days until graduation and 12 days until I fly out to San Diego. I’m so excited and completely stressed. I still have a report to finish and two exams. My whole apartment needs to be packed. My gear needs to be tested out at least once. Then there’s graduation. Oh yeah, and I have two more blog posts I want to write before I leave too. Look out for my stereotypical gear post to come, and another post with a surprise topic!
It’s also bittersweet leaving my friends and family, of course. This time seems different than my AT hike because I have built a great group of friends in the past year, and we’re all graduating and moving on to bigger and better things. None of my friends will be around when I come back, and I’m the first to leave. This semester has been a whirlwind of classes and trying to fit in as much fun as possible. I know I’ll miss my friends, but I’ll be happy to be back on the trail.
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