Waiting is the Hard Part
Preparation, or obsession? When it comes to thru hiking, it’s a pretty thin line for most of us. Especially if the upcoming thru hike isn’t your first. Good thing I don’t care much about lines.
So go ahead, call me obsessed!
As I’ve mentioned before, the PCT has been boring a hole in my brain ever since Springer Mountain. I never got over the “end” of the hike. I needed hiking in my life. I held onto everything that brought back memories of hiking. Those shoes in the picture at the top of this post? I wore those from Hot Springs, NC to Springer, and kept on going. That picture was taken on the Superior Hiking Trail, a 310 mile trail along the beautiful bluffs above Lake Superior in Minnesota, about two years after I started my AT thru. I still have every page of my AWOL guide, and regularly look through my notes.
All this is to say, you really shouldn’t be surprised that I’m doing as much “preparation” as I am. Really, I’ve just stopped trying to repress the thru hiker within.
Yeah, ok, but what have I actually been doing to prepare myself to hike the PCT this year?
LET’S FIND OUT
It’s winter here in Minnesota (don’cha know?), but that doesn’t stop me from riding a bike everywhere. As you might have guessed from the picture, it’s a rather exhausting practice most of the time. But I’ve already talked enough about bikes, and besides, that doesn’t really have anything to do with my preparation. I’m just using the snowy picture as a hook! Gotcha!
OK, but seriously…
This past Labor Day weekend I had the privilege to take a trip to Oregon, where I got my first taste of Trail 2000, aka the Pacific Crest Trail. After a short stay with my cousin in Portland, I headed up to Santiam Pass. I was joined by my friend Squints, who I met in the 100 Mile Wilderness just a few days into our respective SOBO hikes.
We hiked a 2-night loop around Three Fingered Jack, and I recorded my first 4 PCT miles! It was so different from the types of trails I’ve ever hiked. I got to experience the dusty sand that PCT hikers talk about. I experienced the joys of moderately graded switchbacks, which are unknown on the AT. The views were devastatingly gorgeous. Though it wasn’t my expressed intention, I look back and realize this was my first real act of preparation for another thru hike.
It was the time when everything “clicked,” and I fully accepted the PCT into my heart.
Everything else went out the fucking window. Seriously, ask my friends and family, I’m sure they’re sick of me babbling on and on about the PCT by now. As the leaves started to fall here, I was already getting gear together. I bought Yogi’s handbook. Then I binged and bought $850 worth of gear. And, yes, I’ve already done a practice pack. Ok, I’ve actually packed all of my things TWICE.
“The Jig,” as they say, “is up.”
The PCT has started to consume my entire existence. I’m counting calories at the grocery store. Two nights ago, I blew up my sleeping pad, pulled out my sleeping bag, and “camped out” in my bedroom. I called Osprey today to get a replacement for a busted buckle on my pack. One less thing to worry about. While it may seem extreme that I’m spending a lot of time preparing for and thinking (and dreaming, and day-dreaming) about a trip that is still five months away, it’s actually really calming for me.
I’m not doing all of this so far in advance because I’m nervous about being under-prepared. I’m doing it because the more prepared I am, the more fun I can have. I’m basically shacked up all winter anyways, so why not obsess over some details now? Then, when I’m hiking, I can ignore the nitty gritty stuff and just drown in the awesomeness of every moment of a thru hike.
Now I just have to try and be patient. Which I suck at. Shit. Guess I’ll go back to the snow charts now!
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