Walking the Preparation Tightrope
Four months to the day till my PCT start date. The realness of the impending hike has been present for a while. But the close proximity, combined with a daily battle between anticipation and decision paralysis, amplifies it.
I’m walking a preparation tightrope, with merits and pitfalls on both sides.
I train hard:
- I hike/walk 9+ miles every day.
- I often hike at elevation (Humphreys Peak: 12,635 feet).
- I do hikes with large elevation gains/losses in short distances (Flatiron, Superstition Mountains).
- I train, carrying weight.
But I don’t want to train so hard that I injure myself. If I’m going to get overuse injuries, at least let them be on the trail.
I want to eat healthy but not be so precious that I start the trail too lean. For middle age men especially, the danger of losing too much weight early on the trail and sacrificing valuable muscle mass is a real danger. I’d much rather start the trail physically ready but carrying an extra pound or two than being thin and not able to handle the exertion.
Declaration of Intent to Hike
I want to shout from the rooftops about the PCT with everyone I meet because I’m genuinely enthusiastic and also to hold myself accountable. But I’m also constantly checking myself. There’s a fine line between being proud and excited to talk about the hike and being embarrassed by my narcissism. Especially in this social networking age, when is it all too much? (fellow Trek blogger Shannon has a nice post on this: Thru-Hikers: Are We Selfish?)
Maps, Apps, Gaps
I’ve downloaded and bought THE app, Guthook.
Filling the gaps:
All the big items have been bought and have been tested in real world situations (several Grand Canyon multiday backpacking trips).
But, I’m probably going to upgrade my old dented aluminum cookpot to a titanium one.
I still need to get my passport.
And, in the interest of easing the minds of those at home, I’m probably getting a Garmin inReach Mini.
I make spreadsheets, I weigh everything. I read books, blogs, watch videos. I plan in my sleep. And in the end, none of this really matters. If you are not ready mentally and physically, all the prep in the world won’t mean anything.
And, in overplanning, am I risking losing the joy of discovery? I want to be surprised by things and to have to think in the moment when something unexpected comes up.
Hiking Alone, But Not Alone
Christmas was great and a culmination of my family jumping on board with my hike. I never imagined myself getting weepy over getting a head net and bug spray as gifts. They are small items but symbolic of my family buying into my dream. My son, a college sophomore and aspiring writer, also got me a waterproof daily journal. He wrote messages on many of the days, asking me questions about that day or giving a motivational quote. I haven’t even left yet and I can already see how much I will miss him and how those little bits of him will just leave me in a puddle of my own tears daily on the trail.
I’m spending time with him now as he is home for winter break, but there is a good chance that I will not see him again until the winter break of his junior year. My trip begins a week before he gets out for summer and I won’t get back until well after he goes back to school. I’m hopeful that they can make a trip out to visit me on the trail this summer, but it’s not a definite.
While no one can walk the trail for us, the weight of each of those steps can be lightened by people who love and care about our dreams.
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