People keep asking me why on earth would I want to do this, and my typical snarky response is either “why not?” or “because I can”, but although these answers apply, they aren’t enough to make me quit my job and trudge across the country with 30+lbs on my back.
Morale can be a huge issue on the trail, and there will be many days that I will ask myself the same question: “Why am I doing this?”. Veteran thru-hikers suggest actually writing down your reasons for hiking the trail and having those reasons be accessible to you while you’re out there. Then when you’re having one of those moments (or days, or weeks), you can look back at your reasons and find the motivation to keep going.
So, in no particular order, here are the reasons why I want to thru-hike the PCT:
- To be away from society long enough to figure out what I want to do with what’s left of my life
I have never really felt like I knew what I wanted to do for myself. I’ve found lots of things I enjoy, and things that others have pushed or influenced, but I’m hoping this adventure will give me some direction and clarity of my own.
- To learn how to let go of control, anxiety, stress
I have been a control freak for as long as I can remember. It stresses me out, but I can’t control it (haha, can’t control my need to control). On the trail, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature and all you can do is prepare. Hopefully this will teach me to let go.
- To accomplish something incredible (and put it on my resume)
I mean really, how many people do something big and crazy like this? And it might sound silly, but completing this kind of a feat is great on a resume! I have friends who can attest to this!
- To meet like-minded people and make lasting friendships
I have always felt like I don’t fit in with most people, that I’m interested in activities and a lifestyle that they think is crazy, that I am passionate about issues they don’t give half a thought to. I feel like to want to hike this trail, you have to be a bit different from “normal” society, and that those differences could be similar to mine. I want to find my tribe.
- To renew my faith in people and the kindness of strangers
There is so much darkness in the world and so much fear-mongering around “hiking alone”- there is so much more than all that. “Trail magic” is a term referring to the little things that brighten a hiker’s day, generally coming from other individuals. Things like a water cache in the desert, a free snack or treat, a ride to town or a hose to wash up are all considered trail magic. The people who provide these things are called “trail angels” and their generosity always amazes me. They say “the trail provides”, but usually it is the kindness of strangers that really gets you through.
- To connect with nature and take in its beauty (aka THE VIEWS!)
I would be lying if I didn’t say that the incredible views and scenery are a driving force here. Being out in nature for months on end gives you a totally different level of appreciation and respect than you can get from short trips, and I want to experience that.
- To test my meals, build a customer base, do the research and become legit
I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a backpacking food business, but I really need to get out there and try out my meals and see what the market is like before I can do that. I’ll likely be taking lots of notes along the way and eating everything I can get my hands on.
- To reset from society, from technology, from expectations and “the grind”
I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory. I also feel like I won’t want to come back, which is actually a very common problem amongst thru-hikers.
- To push my body and mind to their limits, because if I can do this, I can do anything.
Seriously. I love a good challenge, especially when my only opponent is myself. My body and my mind will likely fight me every single mile of this trek, but when I set foot in Canada, I will do so knowing that I now have the strength to overcome whatever life may have in store for me.
With these reasons in mind, bring on the hard days. Bring on the blisters, the extreme weather, the hunger, the pain, the fatigue. Rattle my mind with loneliness, let me get lost in memories, cloud my thoughts with anxiety, fear, boredom, frustration, and longing. Show me your worst, trail. I guarantee it will bring out my best.