So, I think I’m going to hike the PCT in 2017!

It’s never really over.  The “last step” to me has always felt like the first step towards my next hike.  On October 19th, 2013, I took my last step in a journey from Mt Katahdin in Maine’s North Woods to Springer Mountain in Georgia along the famed Appalachian Trail.  I can see now that it was also the first step on my upcoming thru attempt on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Thru-Hiking the AT

Y’all, I had a kick-ass time on my SOBO thru hike in 2013.  Like, it was absolutely the coolest thing I’ve ever done.  In a way, the start and end points of the hike were insignificant under the weight of all of the amazing shit that I did, felt, saw, and ate along the way.  That was what made the trip what it was.  And that was what made me Hiker Trash forever.

Returning from a recent hike, I was having a conversation with my dad about long-distance hiking.  He asked when I knew for certain that I would complete the 2,186 mile AT.  I struggled to answer the question.  Before I even started, I knew that I could do it.  But there are a lot of steps between can and did.  A lot of steps, a lot of pizzas, a lot of beers, and even a few showers!  To me, waking up each morning and knowing that I wanted to hike another day in a generally southern direction was good enough.  Every day of my thru hike felt like the next best day of my life.  I’m not even kidding.

When I did complete my thru hike, I was left with a bittersweet void that I think only other thru hikers can understand.  After a few more pizzas, I realized that void wasn’t just my stomach.  Thoughts quickly turned from the “three F’s” (Food, Feet, Feces) to what I would do to fill that void.  Enter Pacific Crest Trail, stage right.

“You Really Are Nuts, Huh?”

You’re goddamn RIGHT I am!  People ask what I’m doing about my job, my apartment, my bikes, and the rest of my stuff.  “Leave it, leave it, leave them, get rid of (most of) it!”  It just makes sense to me.  I could second guess myself forever about if this is the “right” year to hike again.  It’s like Crush says about knowing the “right” time for the next step: “Well, you never really know, but when they know, you’ll know, you know?” I’ve thought about the PCT since back when I was hiking the AT, and then last winter I just decided that it was time to do it.  I’m fucking stoked to hit the trail this summer.

But I gotta say, the PCT kinda scares me too.  Which is probably healthy.  I’m going to encounter longer stretches of wilderness, higher peaks (like, a TON higher), longer sections without water, and probably scarier animals.  But, all of that sounds really exciting to me!  These elements are essential to the experience of a thru hike.  It’s supposed to be a challenge!  Plus, I’ll have a lot more crazy wildlife stories to tell.

Why I’m Hiking SOBO– AGAIN!

There are so many aspects of a Southbound thru hike that make it seem like the only option for me.  I seek out solitude when I hike, which should be more readily found hiking against the main current.  I can deal with passing through a bubble for a day or two, but I personally wouldn’t want to travel with one.  Southbound hikes help spread out the use on a now very popular trail, by giving the trail, campsites, water sources, and other resources time to recover in between waves of hikers.  Protecting the beauty and integrity of the trail and its environs by minimizing our impact should always be our first priority as long-distance hikers, so future hikers can enjoy it as we have.

I expect the PCT will be similar to the AT in that SOBO hikers will encounter generally fewer hiker services (hostels, shuttles, trail magic) due to seasonal industries and the relatively smaller number of hikers going SOBO.  Maybe the fact that I think that is a good thing makes me a masochist.  So what?  I don’t know any thru hikers who don’t show at least a streak of masochism.

And besides, I just want to!  The hike isn’t tracing a line from one border monument to another.  I’m going to walk, step after step, and South is as good a direction to point as any other.

A note on why I’m blogging

I did a poor job of documenting my AT thru hike.  I sent friends and family emails periodically, took some pictures, wrote some notes.  But I’ve found myself telling trail stories over and over to friends and strangers in the last few years.  After one such recounting, a coworker talked about reinvigorating her love of hiking, and striving to visit all of our State Parks (58 of them!) over the next two years.  A friend of mine, who two years ago had never been camping, just set off to ride the 1,700 mile Baja Divide bikepacking route.  These stories inspire me in turn.  Adventures and the memories they leave encourage more adventures, and I think it is adventure that shapes who we are.  Maybe you’ll find my stories boring as hell, but I want to get them out there.  I want more people challenging themselves, learning new things, and making connections with new types of people.

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Comments 2

  • Engine & Caboose : Jan 3rd

    Your comment on trying to answer when you knew you would finish the 2013 AT thru-hike is interesting. I remember asking you less than 100 miles from Springer when you knew you would finish and you answered “It still isn’t in the bag”. The answer surprised me at the time, but in reflection I think being able to hike over 2,100 miles and still not taking the end result for granted is symbolic of an important attitude required for success. The minute you think you own the result you might get careless, and the next instant you are sitting next to the trail with a fractured ankle. By maintaining your respect for the trail until the last step, the trail repays you in ways I cannot wait to discover.

    You’re going to have a fantastic experience on the PCT and we are looking forward to following along!

    Reply
  • Dean Slocum : Jan 3rd

    Great post and looking forward to following along. Enjoyed the “post-holing practice” in NH last week and hope you dont have too many of miles of that this summer!

    Reply

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