This PCT Poem Perfectly Captures the Thru-Hiking Experience

The poem below is a guest submission by Noah “Juice Boxx” Bernays. Bernays wrote it during his PCT thru-hike in 2022, and it still evokes powerful thoughts and memories of the trail one year later. If you’ve hiked/are hiking the PCT, you might find something to relate to in these verses.

Sunrise from three-quarters of the way up Mt. Whitney. Photo courtesy Noah Bernays.

Bent over, I’m thru-hiking.
Mentally, I’m through hiking.
Meant to leave at two,
From this sliver of shade, too enticing.
Horseflies looming, zooming, bite me.
Asleep on my feet, desert heat has me beat.
Spice-less rice and beans, nightly.

But the people, the town food,
The cold streams, the bright moon,
Nutella on a spoon, cacti in bloom,
Sierras in June, siestas at noon,
All help to change my tune.

Tuna, Werther’s, cookies by Larry,
Asked my girlfriend to marry.
Single-mile water carries,
Sleeping bags in tents make the world less scary.
Vermilion Valley ferries,
Promise of Washington’s wild blueberries.

In freezing lakes, a skinny dip,
Cold drinks in heat to gulp, hot drinks in cold to sip.
Black bears and bumblebees,
Newly back-flushed Sawyer Squeeze filters with ease.
Sunrise on Whitney lets me be a more carefree “me.”

Is the nearest exit close?
Cottonwood Pass—I’d rather pass.
To this trail an epic toast!

—Juice Boxx ’22

About the Author

Drinking root beer floats with QuickStart in Snoqualmie Pass. Photo courtesy Noah Bernays.

I wrote this poem over the course of a few weeks during my 2022 thru hike with my fiancée, “QuickStart,” as we neared the Sierras. Sure, there were tough moments, but it is no accident that only a single stanza highlights the negatives, while the remaining four extol the small pleasures of a long-trail experience. I proposed to my partner on trail three miles before Paradise Valley Café near Idyllwild, CA, about two weeks into our hike—nothing compares to that “haven’t had food from an oven in six days and we’re only an hour away” feeling!

We live in Seattle, where QuickStart is going to nursing school, and I work in an atmospheric chemistry lab while volunteering with King County Search and Rescue. I daydream regularly about completing my Triple Crown with a Continental Divide Trail thru-hike.

Left: An inquisitive pika at Muir Hut in the Sierra. Right: Two marmots conducting thorough inspections of passing hikers in Tuolumne Meadows. Photo courtesy Noah Bernays.


Rerouted by the McKinney Fire, the author and fellow hikers improvise their own California/Oregon border crossing. Photo courtesy Noah Bernays.

Featured image: QuickStart and the author casually being the tallest humans in the continental US for a minute. Photo courtesy Noah Bernays.

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