What I’m Giving Up to Hike the PCT

I’m thru-hiking the PCT this year (going northbound starting March 25), and I’m still not entirely sure how to prepare my body and spirit for a six-month-long journey by foot across the continent though I’ve done it once already. I think because I’ve done it before (AT 2016), I understand the gravity of the discomfort I am signing up for.

Make Peace with What You Are Losing

With six and a half weeks now until I start the Pacific Crest Trail, the awareness that my life is about to dramatically change is affecting my behavior and thought patterns. I’m noticing myself eating more junk food as if preparing for increased amounts of processed wheat and sugar in my diet. At the same time, I have been ceremoniously eating arugula and spinach salads every day, savoring each bite knowing that fresh, vitamin-rich foods are about to become a rarity in my diet. Anyone know about edible plants along the PCT?

When I get up out of my comfy bed in the morning and walk without any stiffness, the realization that I’m about to hobble every morning after a night of less-than-ideal sleep for the next half a year hits me. Suddenly, pain-free walking seems like a miracle – one that I am acutely aware I’m about to lose.

Perhaps most bittersweet is the imminent loss of affection and connection to my close friends that I have enjoyed these past few months. After returning home from thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, where I had gotten used to being alone all the time, I went through an introverted phase for almost a year. Only in the past few months has the extroverted, people-loving me come back in full force. This past weekend, when visiting college friends in Los Angeles, five of us were smooshed together in a cuddle puddle on the floor of my friend’s house. In that moment, I felt comfort and a relaxed joy coupled with the uneasy feeling that I’m about to forgo experiences like this for half a year because I’ll be so preoccupied with hiking, eating, and sleeping.

Janel Healy

I could choose to let this transition time scare me by fixating on the “loss” of certain aspects of my “civilized” life. But like everything in life, understanding that good things come and go makes every moment sweeter; it helps you realize that every simple pleasure is a huge blessing.

Understanding that good things come and go makes every moment sweeter.

And I know that something that looks like my current reality is waiting for me on the other side of what will be one of the greatest experiences of my life – walking from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. I don’t know who I will be afterward, but I know she will be better because of the journey.

Choose How You Are Willing to Struggle

When choosing any path in life, what you are actually choosing is how you are willing to struggle. Without struggle, you couldn’t fully appreciate the beauty of every little victory you experience along the way. So here’s to ritualizing our reverence for the good things we are about to give up for the great things we are about to gain.


Visit my website at janelhealy.com and join my PCT 2018 mailing list to get updates throughout my journey.

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Comments 8

  • Pony : Feb 8th

    Did you have a trail name on the AT? I hiked the trail in 2016, also.

    • Janel Healy : Feb 8th

      Yes! Ninja Hoops. I flip-flopped from Shenandoah National Park. But my friend re-named me Gazelle on Katahdin, so I am sticking with that for the PCT. 🙂 Yours was Pony?

  • Chris Guynn : Feb 8th

    I am also going NOBO March 25th ….. what a small trek.co world.

    • Janel Healy : Feb 8th

      Nice! My trail name is Gazelle. See you on the 25th!

  • Rob : Feb 9th

    I met you at a hostel in Stratton, Maine then again in Virginia. I’m also hiking north starting May 6th. Maybe I’ll catch up to you.

    • Janel Healy : Feb 12th

      Nice! I hope to see you out there!

  • Mikala : Feb 26th

    I am also starting the 25th! See you there!

    • Janel : Feb 26th

      Nice! I hope you’re staying calm. Personally I am freaking out but I love it–I feel so alive! See you soon!


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