The Trail is in Me Now – Thoughts From a Thru-Hiker
I am home.
The hike is over. Readjusting is hard. I am like an empty shell. I am not here. My mind is still out there. Out there on the trail. The PCT.
Pacific Crest Trail.
Two years ago I read about it. A wilderness trail that runs the entire length of California, Oregon and Washington, along the spine of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. Imagine that.
Once I learned of the PCT ‘s existence I simply could not stop imagining it. I felt compelled to take a long walk on the trail by what can only be described as a calling. The truest voice that speaks to each of us on occasion told me I had to go. I understood about it, maybe the most important thing; that the PCT was something magnificent and grand and I, in all of my ordinary smallness, had only to set foot on it to be a part of it.
And now I have walked it. Step by step. One foot in front of the other.
The PCT passes through some of the most astounding landscapes in the world, from unspoiled deserts to snowy mountains, from pristine lakes to towering rocky crags, from river valleys to lush rainforests. The only way you can access all those landscapes is at foot and the trail demands that you know it step by step, breath by breath, sunset by sunrise by sunset by sunrise again. You go out there and lose yourself, and as soon as you do, you find yourself – in that perfect moment – when time seems to pause and you just breathe. You smile. You cry. You laugh. You suffer. You connect. You live. I have never felt more alive.
There is something truly liberating about carrying everything you need to survive in a backpack. Living like this strips life down to the basics. Simplicity. Sweat and dust cling to your legs and clothes and yet you feel cleansed. I loved it.
You wander. You meander. Minutes are meaningless. You marvel at the small things, a tiny flower, a flowing river, the stars in the night sky. And you feel small, insignificant, while at the same time, perfectly at peace. Complete.
I have finished my long hike; I have lost 5 toenails and gained everything that matters. I have discovered the immense power within myself. I feel the force of all the sunsets and wildflowers in me. John Muir wrote; “We are now in the mountains and the mountains are in us.” I know now that he was right. The mountains will not leave us if we enter them. The PCT has become and will always be a kind of home to me.
Nature is a perspective-shifter, a soul-rebalancer, a mind calmer, a healer, a place that reminds us that we are only one species among others. There could be days without seeing another person, but I have never felt more connected to other people than I did out there on the trail. Lifelong friendships has been formed through sharing life in it’s purest form. My love for my trailfamily that I hiked almost a thousand miles with are strong and infinite.
I think the magic of the trail is that the longer you stay out there, the more at home you feel, the more yourself you become. Maybe because you know it is temporary, the more precious each moment becomes.
I know I lived every moment of every day out there on the PCT. I know I felt thankful every second. Still I want to relive it. Replay it. Just live each second one more time. Because I know now. I have experienced true happiness, true bliss. I have felt complete. And I will treasure that always.
It is in me now. And it is still there. The PCT is wild. Like us. I will never be the same. Thank you trail. I am forever grateful.
Soon again the mountains will call me and I will go..
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