It’s been a year since Adam dropped me off at the Southern Terminus.
A year ago, where I had full intentions of walking home.
With many people starting out or already started, I felt it fitting to do a little reflection since that time.
For those unfamiliar, a little background may be necessary:
In 2015, I set out to hike the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail. Starting at the US-Mexico border, it ends in Manning Park, BC and runs through California (1700 miles), Oregon (450 miles), and Washington (500 miles). You go through desert and high mountain passes, experience long water carries and hail, and meet some of the most incredible people you can ever imagine. All with whatever you can carry on your back. You average around 20 miles per day, typically taking between 4.5 – 5 months to complete, and utilize every single calorie you can consume (on average, 6,000 – 8,000 calories per day).
Alas, I got sick. Like, really sick. But I kept hiking – hoping it was just a tummy bug – for a month. I could barely eat and, when I could, I’d be running off trail shortly thereafter to empty myself. Everyone had these super sweet hiker calves and incredible appetites: I had zero muscle and couldn’t finish my meals. I remember how I’d be stumbling on trail, getting dizzy, and seeing spots floating around my eyes but knew I had to at least get through California. And so I kept hiking.
Rolling into Ashland – Callahan’s Lodge – I felt both relief and horror. It had been a bit since I saw my body and as I stared in the mirror, I knew I had to accept that I was done. It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, a decision I had to make by myself, about myself. The only way I could make it was by pretending I was someone else asking for advice. What would I tell another friend if they were in this condition? What would Adam say to me if he saw me this way? Crying, I knew the answers.
I don’t know if I had giardia as the tests came back negative, twice. I say I had giardia since it’s just easier and, quite frankly, very likely. It took me a round of antibiotics and a couple of weeks before I could eat properly. Another week or so before I could walk around town without dizziness…but I recovered, physically.
Emotionally…that was a bit harder! And as the latest crop of hikers are starting, it’s making me nostalgic and, I can’t help it, I find my thoughts turning towards re-attempting. I do hope to complete the PCT over the next few years; ideally in 2 chunks (Oregon and Washington) but we’ll see.
As for attempting a full thru again…I don’t know. I love reading the blogs and seeing the photos and it does stir a little something in me. If the stars aligned, I can say I would try the whole hike but I’m also not feeling I “need” to start down in Campo. Completing the trail as a Sectioner seems to suit me fine.
However, the desire not to thru is probably not for the reasons most people give. The reason I don’t really wish to reattempt the full PCT is due to crowds! I see the photos this year and it reminds me how many people are out there! It’s just not my scene. I love the pure wilderness. I love the feeling of isolation and being dependent on my own abilities and independence. I truly believe that, if the above stated stars aligned to give me the funds and time to hike the PCT, I would ask if *pretty please* could I hike the Continental Divide Trail instead. I think it’s just more “me”.
Now, please don’t misinterpret what I’ve stated as a disappointment in the number of people out there. I mean, this website is intending to get you up and outside! And I truly love, love, LOVE the increase in women getting active outdoors. The PCT is a beautiful trail: if you’re just getting into hiking, what a trail to start out on! It ticks all the right boxes as far as what many women have as concerns (safe, well signed, excellent cell coverage). I’m just a wee bit more of a loner than many people so I found the crowds overwhelming and going into towns a chore, not a reward.
But should you attempt a thru hike of the PCT? Absolutely! 100%! It was empowering for me to do what I did. I pushed myself beyond emotional turmoil for missing my husband and discovered how far I could truly force my body to go (perhaps not entirely recommended but incredible to know my limits!). I know that had I been healthy, I would have finished the trail. I can honestly say I’m so happy and proud of those who completed. I can honestly state that I was not jealous for not being there but took great joy in their accomplishments. I feel confident that I did everything I could to go on as long as I could and so have no lingering regrets about leaving – although readily admit I questioned and agonized over my decision for months.
I also know that last summer wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. Turns out, it’s just a part of my life. We’ve created a lifestyle that allows us prioritize outdoor fun and I have many more adventures to plan.
Cycling the Silk Road, anyone?!