“What is Preventing You from Doing It?“

This was the question posed to me by a thru-hiker from Germany I had just met. It was my first time on the PCT. I had a couple of free days after having moved our oldest child out to western Oregon and before I needed to start my journey back to the midwest. A quick overnight in the Mt Thielsen Wilderness just to say that I was on the trail sounded fantastic! Of course I had been dreaming about hiking the PCT in its entirety for years, but like most middle-aged people with families and careers and mortgages and all of the other trappings of our modern life, I had resigned myself to waiting until retirement. When the unnamed hiker asked me the question, I mumbled something about work and family…He smiled and nodded knowingly, as each person who hikes the trail sacrifices something in order to be there. We finished getting water, I wished him well on his journey and he offered me hope for getting back to the trail someday.

It’s me

That realization hit me like a slap in the face. I had mentioned to my wife a few years before meeting my German friend that I would love to hike the PCT. She had asked at the time if it was possible to hike in sections. I replied in the affirmative. To which she replied, “Go do it.” Holy $h!t!! My wife just gave me the green light to fulfill a dream! You’d think I’d have started planning the first segment immediately! Nope. Granted, We were in the midst of planning a move from our longtime home in Wisconsin to Kalamazoo, Michigan, we had two kids in college, blah blah blah fricken blah. I don’t remember when it was, maybe a bike ride, maybe a hike, maybe sitting and drinking my morning coffee, but I do remember that I suddenly realized that I was the reason that I wasn’t or hadn’t been on the trail. I was using the usual reasons as excuses, but ultimately I was preventing myself from doing it. Damn.

Nothing is guaranteed

The real catalyst was about two years ago. One of the more common phrases spoken by adventurers, life coaches and other positive people is to ‘live each day to the fullest’ or ‘follow your dreams’ because ‘tomorrow’s not a guarantee’. These sound great and make for great motivational posters and daily calendar quotes, but when you have bills and commitments it’s difficult to justify. But death waits for noone. It doesn’t give a rat’s ass what your calendar looks like. It doesn’t care if your house is paid off. ‘Oh I’m sorry Mr. Reaper, now is really not a good time. Can we get you on the schedule for say, 2071? Thanks, see you then!’ Bill was 53. Jason 42. They had families. Responsibilities. Dreams. “What is preventing you from doing it?” “I am.” ‘What the hell am I waiting for…?’ “This is why I need to hike the PCT now.” I said to my wife after finding out about the most recent acquaintance who had just experienced a debilitating stroke. Maybe it was the onset of age and seeing my peers who should have had many more years ahead of them suddenly have all of their dreams taken from them in a blink of an eye. Whatever the reason, it felt different. I needed to do this. It could wait no longer. “Then go do it”, she said. “You have supported me through all of our craziness, I support you in this. Go live your dream!”

The stream just north of Mt Thielsen where my German Friend asked me that life-changing question.

…and here we are!

As I type this, my start date is just over two months away. My gear is set. My plane ticket bought. My job is cool with me going (I consider myself extremely fortunate!) I have a good handle on a resupply strategy and a desired pace for the first section. There are of course a ton of things to do before I leave and even more unknowns when I get there but the important thing is: I’M DOING IT!! Yes my German Friend, I really am.

See you on the trail.

The very first PCT blaze I ever laid eyes on. It won’t be the last!

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