When Life F*cks with Your Thru-Hiking Plans
In what now seems like a lifetime ago but actually was just several weeks ago, I gleefully wrote about my bicoastal backpacking plans for 2021. Five weeks on the AT starting on March 7th (lucky 7), a trip back home, and then off to start a thru-hike attempt on the PCT in April. Life was beautiful. I was ready to go. My gear list was reworked and reworked until I was decidedly an UL backpacker rather than a lightweight one. I was totally stoked. All systems go!
Then I developed pain, and I mean bending over and pacing in circles levels of pain while on a trip far out in Tonto National Forest. I wrote about this in a former post. My pain was so bad that I went to the emergency room convinced that I had either a kidney store or there was something wrong with my gallbladder. The CT done in the ER showed a pancreatic cyst. A few days later, the pancreatic specialist was not entirely convinced that it was just a cyst.
Now I am scheduled for all kinds of scopes, ultrasounds, and an MRI to determine if this cyst is early pancreatic cancer or if my pain, which continues, is from some unknown and to be determined source. Waiting sucks.
So why share this on a backpacking site? Year One of COVID, 2020, ruined my AT flip-flop plans. Having received both COVID immunizations earlier this year (I am a nurse practitioner) and being a person who faithfully follows masking and social distancing, I decided that I could safely return to backpacking in Year Two of COVID. I know there are people who have opinions all over the board on this, but this was my decision. The point of this is not about backpacking in COVID. Zach Davis recently posted a great article on this topic. The point is about seizing the moment.
So getting back to the question of why write about the for The Trek from the last paragraph, I feel very moved to share the following. Actually, there is a very easy answer. If you have the opportunity to attempt a thru-hike and can get away from daily life for 4 to 6 months, do it when you can. It is a luxury that is rare in life. Few people can just up and check out of “normal life” for a trip on the PCT or AT or CDT or any of the many other hiking trails. Most people ware tied down with credit card debt, student loads, careers, spouses who are hostile to having an missing spouse, etc. Even when we find the freedom, life has the ability to stomp on our best plans, so do not second guess things. Do not hesitate. Do not try to make everyone happy as it is impossible. Step out and step onto the trail.
JUST SAY YES! It is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Here is to hoping that I can be on the PCT in April.
Photo: Sunrise from the top of Blood Mountain, Georgia on February 28, 2016, after a night of hiking in very cold weather – a night when I said yes to what, at that time, seemed like a crazy plan to hike over Blood Mountain at night, temperatures well below freezing, and arrive at Neel Gap early in the day.
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