Oh, the pressures we put on ourselves!

Ok, ok, I admit I’m skipping ANOTHER 8 miles!  It’s shocking, I know.  Not surprisingly, I’ve been agonizing over this choice and whether or not I should do it and, more importantly, should I be feeling guilty about this choice.  Am I less of a thru-hiker?  Am I EVEN a thru-hiker?  Is it cheating? All of these thoughts keep running through my head.

So here’s the thing:  I’m fully comfortable with this decision and I don’t feel like I NEED to actually explain or defend my decision but…I’m going to.  Maybe my musings will help other current or future hikers when they’re feeling lost or overwhelmed and, perhaps, you, reader, will also find some comfort in letting go of some of the pressures and ideals we tend to put on ourselves.

Going into this hike, I had never considered myself a purist (a purist is someone who will hike all miles, never skip trail or accept a ride, and do the trail in order) but I hadn’t really thought I’d have any reason or desire to skip sections.  I just kind of figured I’d hike the whole trail but hadn’t really given it too much thought.

During the hike down to access to Tehachapi, I looked up and, across the road where the trail continues, realized I would likely be hiking through more of the wind turbine farms that I have been in for quite awhile now.  I was leaving the trail and meeting Mom at Milepoint 558, which is the most common spot for people to get a hitch into either Tehachapi or Mojave.  The trail then continues across the road for another 8 miles to Highway 58 (a more difficult place to hitch into town from).  To remain pure to the trail, I should have Mom drop me back of at the original milepoint but I’m opting to bypass this 8 miles (and, as a bonus, cutting down a 20-mile waterless stretch to 11 miles!).  I had been flip-flopping on this choice for some time and it was while I was chatting with Moo Moo that I realized how difficult I can be on myself.

Why the heck do I feel the need to hike Every. Single. Mile?  Why do I think, even for a second, that skipping 30 miles of trail equates to not hiking the trail?  Why have I put these expectations on myself:  I know my close friends and family don’t have these expectations of me.  Adam only wants me to hike if I’m happy.  I’m not hiking “for” anyone.  This isn’t a professional gig and nobody is paying me to do this so whose expectations am I trying to live up to?  Mine.  And why do I feel, as noted above, that I may be “cheating”.  Cheating on what?  Where does that concept come from?  Me.  I set those expectations.  So here’s the question, friends:  

Does it really matter if I hike 2,620 miles versus 2,650 miles?

I’ll tell you the answer:  No, no it doesn’t.  As much as I appreciate your interest in this adventure, at the end of the trail, I am the one hiking this and I have to have fun.  I have to have to be happy.  And I am…and 8 miles of wind turbines is not fun.  (I know because I’ve already hiked through 15-18 miles of them).

The weird thing about this thinking is how different it is than when I cycled Canada.  I’ve never considered the fact that I may not have cycled across the country.  I’ve never said we cycled less than 7,000 km since, in my mind, we did.   And we did accept rides, such as when my wheel was about to taco and we needed to get to the nearest bike shop or when Adam & Shasta were pushed off the road in a storm.  Why am I so concerned about what I do or do not hike on this trip?  It’s some preconceived notion I have that my hike may be “less” if I miss a piece and I need to shake it!  I now realize that I won’t be a worse hiker if I miss this piece and that my experience on the PCT won’t really be less because of this choice!  Mind blowing, I know.  But it’s been tough to get my head wrapped around and let go of these ideals.

What kind of pressures or expectations do you put on yourself?  Do you tend to measure yourself against unrealistic expectations?  Shaking off these false expectations has been freeing for me and I urge you to take a look at your own and ask yourself if they are helping push yourself to be better and acquire a new skill or are they acting as a way to hold you back from enjoying something incredible?

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There are 4 comments

  1. Helen

    That’s really interesting as I always think of myself as having cycled all the way across Canada but forget that I got the bus across Newfoundland because the ferry wasn’t running and jumped on the bus/train for the last 10 miles or so into Vancouver as I didn’t feel safe on the highway in the rain. By the end the journey and the people I met became more important than reaching the end point so I really didn’t feel bad about skipping those last few miles.

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  2. Norma Neudoerffer

    Tara I sure understand why you ask yourself the questions. Being ONLY a pleasure rider for most of my life and than taking up dressage, I find I love the challenge of dressage and showing but I find myself questioning why show when I am the happiest riding the trails, In the end, we should be doing what makes us happy and missing a few miles here or there doses not matter. Missing the noise of wind turbines would be a must for me. You still did the PCT from start to finish.

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  3. Karen Switzer-Howse

    Great reflections Tara. You’re so right – we all too often create unrealistic expectations (without ever thinking about why we have them) and then beat ourselves up when we don’t meet them! I know I’ve certainly done it, and as a recovering perfectionist I can tell you it sure made life less pleasant – to put it mildly! Now I try to always ask myself “why does it have to be that way?” and unless there’s an awful good reason, I set it aside because if it’s not fun, why do it at all. I had several reasons I left the government but one of the main ones was – it wasn’t fun anymore! So Adam’s right – it should be fun, or why bother! And as a ‘sensitive’ I’d do anything to avoid an industrial wind turbine complex that covered 8 miles – even driving through the Shelburne one gave me a migraine after a couple of minutes and had me throwing up before i made it through! So glad you’re not sensitive to infrasound! You are most definitely a PCT thru-hiker – you go girl!

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