Walking all day, every day, for months on end. Living in a tent, sleeping on the ground. Waterless miles through the desert, sinking into snow fields in the Sierras. Listening to critters creeping through the dark night. Being exposed to thunderstorms, blizzards, the blazing sun, and everything in between. Spending days dreaming of eating real food (ie. anything other than bars and instant mashed potatoes). Countless blisters and bug bites. If this sounds like a nice way to spend a summer, thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail might just be for you!
Photo from the PCTA website
As a master’s student with graduation approaching in a couple of months, the future is a hot topic of conversation with pretty much everyone I run into. Because of this, I’ve found myself explaining to a lot of people that my post-graduation plan isn’t to settle into a nice, full-time career, but to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. This is usually met with a pretty predictable set of questions: “How far is that?”, “How long will it take?”, and “Who are you going with?”. I’ve already covered the topic of solo hiking in another post, but the answers “from Mexico to Canada” and “five months” usually elicit a reaction that falls somewhere between shock, awe, and sometimes horror. Given the description above, many people probably wonder why on earth someone would ever willingly subject themselves to this seemingly tortuous endeavour. I thought I would use this post to explain why I want to thru-hike the PCT, or at least try my best.
Everyone has their own reasons for starting a thru-hike. I can’t say that I have any deep reason for wanting to hike the trail. There was no major life event that sparked my desire. The most basic explanation I can give is simply this: I want to. When I discovered that thru-hiking was a thing that existed, I just felt somewhere inside me that this was something I wanted to do. Through time, this want has become almost more of a need. The trail is almost always on my mind, calling to me.
Hiking ‘The Crack’ with my dad in 2006, Killarney Provincial Park
I’ve been a nature lover all my life. My parents instilled this in me from a young age, taking me on hikes and camping trips almost from birth. The first time I ever successfully rolled over by myself, at the age of 6 months, happened in a tent. I’ve gone on at least one camping trip each summer for as long as I can remember. I started going on backcountry canoe camping trips at the age of 11. Spending time in nature has shaped who I am. This is one of the big reasons I want to thru-hike the PCT. To me, spending 4-5 months immersed in nature sounds like a dream come true.
A fun activity for the whole family? Filtering water. (Cinder Lake, 2004)
I am also the type of person who loves to challenge myself. When I hear about something crazy that not many people manage to accomplish, I have this natural desire to try it. Running a half marathon? I’ll be there! Travelling to Kenya to volunteer for 3 weeks with a group of total strangers? Sounds like fun! Mastering crazy yoga poses? I’m on it. Hiking 2,600 miles? Sign me up! This does lead me to get in over my head at times, such as every January when I convince myself I’ll have enough free time to dedicate to 10 different New Year’s resolutions. However, when I really dedicate myself to something, it almost always ends up being accomplished. The challenge of the Pacific Crest Trail sounds right up my alley, and I’ve already fully dedicated myself to it mentally and emotionally.
Attempting to save some money the old fashioned way
I’ve also always yearned to be one of those people who does crazy things and doesn’t follow the mold society has laid out for us. I’ve seen people my age who aren’t in school or settled down in a career, but are instead travelling the world, experiencing so many incredible things, and longed to have their lives. I hate the idea of going to school, getting a job, and working for the rest of my life. It just doesn’t appeal to me, yet that’s the path I’ve been on my whole life. I’ve always been successful academically, and headed into a science degree immediately after finishing high school. Through my four years at university, I made grand plans of travelling the world after graduation. However, when graduation actually approached, I enrolled into a professional master’s program right away. For years, I’ve longed to throw the traditional path aside and take my own route, but I’ve been too scared to do so. My hope for the PCT is that it will be just the beginning of the path I want to take through life. I want to try everything and anything. Maybe, upon my return, I’ll try my hand at a few positions in the environmental field. Maybe I’ll take up a job as a yoga instructor on a tropical island for a bit. Backpack around the world doing odd jobs to keep myself afloat. Start planning my next thru-hike. I want to go wherever the wind takes me, and I think there lies my true reason for wanting to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Taking this leap of faith into the unknown is terrifying, but I just know it’s the right thing for me at this point in my life. And as they say: the trail will provide.
Photo from the PCTA website