The Inevitable Pre-Hike Jitters
I’d be lying if I said the thought of walking from Mexico to Canada with only what I can carry on my back didn’t scare the poop emoji out of me. In fact, there are days where I wake up fearing I’m getting myself into something I can’t do. But, there are also days that I can’t wipe the smile off of my face thinking about how incredibly amazing and rewarding this adventure will be (painful feet and all)!
I decided that I wanted to attempt to thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago. I wasn’t sure at the time when I would take on this thru hike, but in that moment I knew that I would. Before that, it just seemed like a grand adventure other people took on but not necessarily one that I could or would do. The things that really pushed me to change that mindset and made me decide to attempt this hike are outlined in my first post here.
I knew when I decided I wanted to thru hike the PCT, I didn’t want to start right away. I wanted to wait to hike it for at least a couple of years. This decision was initially for the purpose of planning and saving money. However, I later realized the timing of that decision was all too accurate since the 2020 pandemic hit and ended many peoples thru hike attempts that year. This also added to my decision to not take on my thru hike in 2021 for fear that the trail would be overcrowded. I also assumed that permits would be nearly impossible to obtain that year since so many people had to postpone their thru hikes the year before. Fast-forward a little, the stars aligned and my eagerness to make some life changes made attempting my thru hike possible. So, with all this in mind, I had my eyes set on 2022.
When you decide so far in advance that you want to take on something like this, you have seemingly all the time in the world to collect gear, plan, fantasize, and put off the hard stuff for later (like thinking about how you’re going to put your “real world” life on hold for six months). Finally deciding to thru hike the PCT made me hopeful and excited even though it was still a long way off.
Once I’d made the decision, I started going through the gear I had and made a wish list of things I still needed. One of the positives to having so much time on my side was that I could wait for big seasonal sales and use Birthdays and Christmases as ways to get help with costly gear items. I will say, the downside to this though is when you buy your gear so far in advance you might not be able to then take advantage of the warranties that some companies offer. For example, I will be babying my inflatable sleeping pad from getting popped by a cactus with a vendetta since it is no longer under the 1-year warranty from REI. All that being said, over time, I got all of the gear I wanted and needed for the PCT. If you’d like to see what gear I ended up choosing you can find it here or read about it in my previous gear post here.
I also took this time to follow people’s hikes on social media and learn from the advice they offered. I think this helped raise my awareness to the beauty and magic that thru hiking can provide as well as the challenges and the physical and mental struggles that come with it. This also helped me see what worked for people and what didn’t.
Having an exciting adventure on the horizon was always a good pick-me-up. When life got hard or overwhelming I would remind myself, one day I’ll be able to be out there living my adventure too. That always helped. However, now that I’m less than a month out, all that time in the world feels like it’s rushed away. All of a sudden I went from feeling overprepared to vastly underprepared. I think this mostly stems from there being so much to prepare that I am worried I overlooked a crucial step.
To help with this, when I start to feel overwhelmed with tasks, I like to make lists of what I need to accomplish to make the tasks more digestible. Thankfully, there’s a wealth of resources out there and Kelly Floro already wrote a PCT checklist for The Trek (The PCT Thru-Hike Checklist: 29 Things to Do Before You Start). I took this list, added some items specific to me, and have been checking away at it one day at a time.
I still have moments where I get overwhelmed and scared for the task I’m about to take on, but those pre-hike jitters are to be expected. Most of the time, instead, I am excited for the journey to come. I also try to remind myself of the quote by Bryant McGill “Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth”. I am so ready to see what lessons this endeavor will teach me and the person it will help me to become!
Lesson I’ve learned while prepping for the hike:
It’s okay to admit that I’m scared and to acknowledge that it means I’m dreaming big.
Weird food craving I got:
Good coffee (not the instant kind) with steamed milk and some latte art on top! (Go ahead, call me basic)
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