What if the Most Beautiful Thing Were to Happen?
With still over 2 months until the start of my thru-hike, my emotions can be found anywhere ranging from “scared out of my mind” to “so excited I’m smiling at strangers.” The California snowpack is not helping with the nerves. I’m sure many can relate.
In the weeks after I got my permit, I was giddy. Nothing could phase me, I was hiking the PCT! Since then, I have fully engrossed myself in getting ready. Training, finalizing my gear, getting resupply boxes ready, and ingesting as much information as my free time will allow. Recently, I find that my attention has drifted more into the realm of nervous energy. There have been many nights where I dream of the “what-ifs” that racked my brain and days where the thought of hiking made me more nervous than excited.
This is a common issue for me. When excitement turns into nerves and stress, add 2,650 miles onto those day-to-day situations and I can find myself deep in a rabbit hole.
So recently I’ve been focusing on doing what I usually do when this happens. I take a step back, and instead of focusing on the worst-case scenario I think “What if the most beautiful thing were to happen?” This one statement immediately disarms my train of thought, a mental deep breath. This brings me back to my “why” lists and allows me to focus on the fact that I am preparing for the Pacific Crest Trail. Something I have waited for so long to do.
Stepping back like this lets that original excitement back in. This thinking is not to ignore the risks, but to put me in the moment and realize that these things are not happening to me right now. It allows me to calmly prepare for the dangers I might encounter on trail instead of anxiously hoping that reading article after article will make them go away.
So with all that being said, what am I doing these next few months to prepare?
- Continuously revisiting my “why” lists
- Developing coping mechanisms for when things get hard
- Reading “Pacific Crest Trials” by Zach Davis
- Journaling frequently to continuously check into my mental state and disperse nervous energy
- Meditation and yoga
I’ve always been an active person, and being a college student already has me on my feet quite a bit. Climbing has been my focus for the past year with some running and lifting on the side, but now I’m shifting gears towards other matters such as walking from Mexico to Canada. So here’s what I’ll be adding to my weeks:
- I’m still going to climb 2-3 times a week. Climbing is great low impact cross training that works your whole body as well as builds coordination and trust in your movements. It’s also a great mental workout for me because sport climbing still scares the shit out of me.
- On top of that, I will do one long hike with a weighted backpack at least once a week. If not that, a long run for time on feet.
- I’ll be using the stair climber 1-2 times a week adding weight as I go and lifting 1-2 times a week focusing on movements that’ll help me carry heavy things up mountains.
- Overall, I’m going to try to increase my cardio workouts as well, tagging them onto the end of my strength workouts.
A few things I’m doing logistically include the following…
- Determine which towns I want to send resupply boxes to
- Buying and labeling food for my lovely parents to send to me in towns I’m choosing to send a box to
- Upgrading my Garmin subscription so I can communicate with my family as much as possible
- Lots and lots of doctors appointments to ensure a clean bill of health before I get on trail
- Tying up loose ends closer to the hike (calling my credit card company, setting my email on auto reply, etc)
- Printing permits!
- Downloading/obtaining necessary maps
I’ve been accumulating the gear I want to use on this hike for over a year now. Prior to getting that gear, I spent many hours watching youtube videos and reading review after review to figure out what I wanted to use on trail. Here are some more things I’m doing involving gear:
- Giving my used gear some TLC (seam sealing, checking for holes, washing)
- Making a list of all of my stuff with weights
- Analyzing where I can go lighter
- Shakedown hikes!
- Packing and unpacking my bag more than necessary
I’m keeping a list of things that scare me about this trail, and what I can do to address them. This mini-list comes from that.
- Learning how to use my ice ax
- Learning how to identify poisonous plants on the trail (poodle dog bush)
- Brushing up on my wilderness first aid knowledge
- Developing a communication plan with my family
- Researching what to do in the case of wildfires, how to ford a stream properly, animal encounters, and anything else I’m scared of encountering on trail
On top of all of this, I’m trying to stay present. My life tends to feel like the entire ground is shifting under my feet as I prepare to move out of the city I’ve existed in for the past four years and embark on this adventure. So I’ve been trying to soak in the moments with my friends and family, as well as with myself as I enjoy my last few months living in the Midwest.
All the items I have listed above might not be necessary for everyone, and I am definitely missing things, but doing all of this is helping me feel more prepared for the “what ifs” coursing through my head. I’m reminding myself that the only thing I can control is the moment I am currently living in and enjoying every second as it comes. The trail will come in due time, until then happy trails!
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