The End of my PCT Journey
It was near the end of my time in the apartment. I had no job.
I had been paying my rent through hosting poker games with my roommate – all the profit would go towards our rent. Unfortunately for me my roommate stopped paying the rent and unbeknownst to me I was losing the apartment. My roommate also disappeared.
I had no money for food and I was eating through everything I had left. The only thing I had left was a can of tuna fish.
I was hungry.
I tore through all the drawers and cabinets and there was no can opener to be found. I tried using my pocket knife, stabbing through the metal can. Sometimes cutting the can and sometimes cutting myself.
Finally I got the top off and was able to eat the tuna which was now covered in my blood.
I needed a way out because if I didn’t find one my life would remain to be this chaotic process of ups and downs never amounting to anything.
It has taken me a long time to write this post – how do I feel about being done with the Pacific Crest Trail?
Not sure if I know how I feel.
I went on this trip – first and foremost – for my mental health. Through hiking is absolutely not a panacea but it was life changing for me. I felt the pressure and burnout from the past decade and needed a break.
It was interesting talking to international folks on the trail, it seems like most countries understand that people need breaks for mental health. It was nice to hear the different perspectives and norms.
We are animals at our core, no matter how far we progress with technology. We aren’t made to stare at computer screens and run on the hamster wheel. Through hiking was the most freedom I have ever experienced. It also made me reflect on what is freedom – we talk about freedom a lot in society but what is it really? The most freedom I have experienced is sleeping where I want every day, deciding how far to hike every day.
While I am lucky and privileged to have the life I do, working is not a choice, bills are not a choice. So much of life is decided for us or trying to survive.
Our society also leads to the issues of anxiety and depression that plague so many of us if not all of us. However, on the trail I didn’t deal with anxiety or depression. My concerns were simple, my problems were simple. My problems – like water and food – were a different kind of threat, not existential or subjective but completely objective.
Each day my focus was water, miles and food. How long till the next water source and how much water do I need. How many miles do I need to hike so that I reach the next town without running out of food. How much food do I have and will it last until the next town?
The discomfort was constant, pain, hunger, thirst, cold, heat, exhaustion, etc.… but the discomfort kept me from falling into the anxiety that we feel when we have a fridge full of food and water on tap.
Am I fixed now? Of course not, but I feel the most at peace I have felt. I spent a lot of time with myself – sometimes days alone in the woods. Something about being alone on trail helps you work through so much – process so much – and reflect.
We all know we can’t change the past, but it is still there, always following us. Luckily, I got to spend a lot of time working on that.
The downside of the PCT – for me – is that it has to end. I could, quite contently, live on trail forever. However, bills must be paid and the real word needs to be addressed, so I am back in polite society.
While I can’t live on trail or do a trail every year like many people I envy, I have decided not to get an apartment or place to live. While there is comfort in having a home, I just don’t want one at this point. Being a nomad on trail brought me peace and happiness so I will continue to be a nomad as long as I can. Thinking about buying furniture just brings me anxiety while having freedom makes me feel calm. The PCT also showed me that I can do this, things will work out. Of course if they don’t I will get an apartment but I will hold that off as long as possible.
I think my biggest fear with this trip, besides getting injured right at the beginning and not being able to do it, was being disappointed in the experience. Not only was it expensive to do and not earning money for 5 months I turned my life upside down for this trip. I believed it would help my mental health, not cure or fix anything but relieve some pressure from the past decades. Thankfully, it absolutely did. I was careful not to expect too much, not to expect anything life changing but it is absolutely a nexus point in my life. Before this I had my time before the Marine Corps and my time after, now I also have my time before the PCT and time after.
This is truly a new chapter in my life.
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my posts, they have been deeply personal and more about me than the gear, trail or how to hike the PCT. I applied to be a regular writer on the Trek and if I get approved I will be writing more gear reviews and tips for backpacking.
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