At the time of the publication of this post, I should be several miles into my hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. There is no doubt that my pathway of getting here might have similarities to countless others undertaking a similar journey at some point this year. Each person, though, has a different reason for being out here.
Long distance hiking has been in my thoughts for nearly two decades. When I began visiting our National Parks on a regular basis in the early 2000’s, hiking became one of my favorite activities. The immersion in the natural world with minimal connections to the modern world has been most rewarding.
When I was on my cross-continent road trip back in 2014, I found myself hiking in Crater Lake National Park. During this visit, I became aware of the PCT for the first time. At no point during that visit did I think that one day I would be attempting a thru-hike of its entire length. It was a few years later while reading Wild, the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, that a momentary spark occurred to me on one of its pages that perhaps one day I might find myself hiking the path of the PCT.
My decision to step back from teaching for one year has offered me the gift of time that a thru-hike demands. Although it had been in my realm of possibility, the final decision to apply for a permit to hike the PCT did not occur until I was camping in some of the National Parks this fall.
Since then, the level of preparation has continued to increase at a frenetic pace. The amount of researching, planning, reading, organizing, purchasing, training, and thinking has been greater than I could have even imagined. Even now, as I am writing this draft on an airplane headed towards San Diego, I somehow feel comically unprepared. Perhaps that is true for anyone attempting something for the first time.
I keep reminding myself that I have accomplished so much already. My starting gear is on this plane, boxes containing food & gear have already arrived to California over a week ago, other boxes are sealed and ready to ship in the next few months, charts and researched information is carefully organized in photo albums on my phone, communication systems have been established and practiced, and workouts/practice hikes have occurred over the past two months. The list of other tasks that have also been completed, from the boring to the fascinating, is simply too long to share. I am certain that there are additional tasks that could have been completed, but there will be time to fill in those gaps along the way.
Other than picking up a fuel canister, giving myself a clean shave for the first time in years, repacking my bag, checking on weather/trail conditions, and publishing this post, my main goal on the night before the start of the hike is to focus on the last part of my preparation. Tonight is about the final steps of pre-trail mental preparation.
We all have reasons for any of our big decisions. I have my own for attempting this thru-hike. Many of the thoughts about why I am here and what I am hoping to gain from this experience have swarmed my mind for many months. Very few have been captured in writing, however. My intention is record these tonight, and to continue to do so over the course of the first few days of the hike. As with any endeavor, what actually occurs will undoubtedly be different from what is initially imagined. I am prepared to allow these goals and hopes to evolve along the way.
As I am out on this journey, I invite you to check back every so often. Whether we’ve known each other for years, minutes, or perhaps have never met, the sharing of these experiences is something that I have been looking forward to doing. There is no set timetable for these upcoming posts, but my intention is to share and update once or twice a week. Some posts may be detailed, some may be thematic, some may be purely photographic. Only time will tell what will appear. If you are not officially following this blog, I invite you to do that, too.
Safe travels to all. Keep washing those hands!