The Why – Week 2
Leaving Warner Springs, the site of my first resupply, was a strange experience for me.
I had survived my first week, picked up my first package, and in an afternoon had come and gone like a vaporous ghost.
The town felt in many ways more like a mirage, more ephemeral than real, but the counterpoint was the other thru-hikers. I have found that it’s rare that you ever meet a stranger on the trail.
In a way, we are our own kind of family, united by divergent common interests. No matter our why, we are all out there for some reason, we all felt called to the challenge and the journey, and that one fact lays a foundation for instant connection.
There was no fuel to be found, but one hiker overheard and tossed me an extra can he had on board. Out here, that’s called trail magic. I wrote in my last post how the PCT can break you down, take you down to your most basic elements, your base foundations, but there are also moments of serendipity, connection, and genuine charity that can renew one’s faith in humanity.
Out here, as we suffer, as we struggle, sometimes together and sometimes alone, it unites us.
Slowly, we’re all discovering what our lives are about, stripped of the excesses, comforts, and conveniences of modern life.
In truth, there have always been people like us, people that looked towards the horizons and wondered what lay beyond, and could not let the question rest unresolved; people that felt called to a life forever in motion, forever chasing the frontiers.
To be certain, there is very little left to discover on this earth. Its most remote places and hidden treasures have been chartered, documented and explored, but that still leaves personal discovery, personal experience, and while few us will ever go into a history book for our hike, what we discover about ourselves as we chase those personal frontiers, those far horizons will shape our lives until their end.
My life has fallen into a routine, rote rhythm, in a way ascetic by virtue of simplicity alone and it’s begun to shape my life. Get up, wash face, eat, pack, hike, eat, clean up, prep, sleep, repeat, and every day or so, I meet others on the same journey, the same path, though slightly out of phase from my own.
To be certain, there are hard days, brutal hours of pushing myself uphill when all I want to do is stop, but to stop then means going without water, or missing a critical deadline and not catching my resupply.
No matter your day, good or bad, you simply have to press on or face a crisis. You have to look beyond yourself, your exhaustion and your tiredness. That is often where those momentary connections and conversations, those instant friendships from other hikers, matter the most.
A kind word in a low moment can make all the difference in an afternoon of struggle as the hot sun beats down and my water slowly dwindles.
The only good thing about being thirsty, I’ve found, is that less water means less weight to carry.
Every hike is personal, every journey unique to the hiker. But regardless of our divergent common interests, we are all out there to chase the horizons of our own endurance, our love of the outdoors, and our love of a life lived deliberately.
In short, I feel, the trail is as much about personal discovery as much as it is about the discovery and enjoyment of nature. It is the pursuit of a life lived in fullness, on the edge of some of our last frontiers.
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