Now we know what the PCT is, let’s talk about what it is to me.
I’m still trying to figure out the answer to this question. I really don’t know. I was only introduced to the idea of backpacking two years ago when Evan told me about one of his customers who climbed Mt. Hood. Believe it or not, this all started with us wanting to climb mountains.
At this point we had never even been within a few miles of one, let alone walked on it. We scaled back a bit and entertained the idea of simply walking around a mountain. We pulled out maps and studied the trails that circled Mt. Hood, and on the west ridges, we saw a little trail winding north to south called the Pacific Crest Trail. We followed it with our fingers and found that it went right off the edges of the map. Further research revealed that it was longer than heck. There are trails this long?? we asked, bewildered.
Combined with the dissatisfaction of our nine-to-five existences, we grew hungry for change. Hungry for adventure. YouTube videos and blogs inspired us more, and before we knew it were strapping cheap packs to our backs, with little more than a fleece blanket and a jar of peanut butter, and heading into the wilderness.
That ended in moderate disaster. We swallowed a heavy dose of humility, but it didn’t snuff out our motivation.
How can doing this be enjoyable? Walking for miles and miles while carrying the equivalent of a 4-year old child on your back, then sleeping in the dirt just to get up and do it again tomorrow. From point A to point B. Do I do it for fun? No. Often there is very little fun involved. There is more pain, discomfort, and frustration in long-distance hiking than there is fun. I do it for adventure.
Adventure is hard for me to explain. Dictionaries define it as ‘an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity,’ and that’s… fairly accurate. Thru-hiking is pretty unusual and damned exciting. It’s also hazardous as heck. People die doing the PCT. There are two folks that were walking it (thru-hiking and section hiking, separately) last summer that disappeared and they haven’t been found.
But what is adventure to me? Adventure is bittersweet.
It’s the dread I feel as I turn a bend to find a 2-mile uphill climb.
It’s a delicious breeze as salty sweat drips from my temples.
It’s the broken-glass feeling under my feet after they carried me for 20 miles.
It’s the butterflies in my stomach as a scenic vista shifts into view between the trees.
It’s the bees buzzing in my head as rocks shift under my feet, and for a second I see myself careening towards the crags below.
It’s wearing the same clothes every day, gritty with last week’s sweat.
It’s the satisfaction of sitting down to a hot meal at the end of the day that I more than earned.
It’s pushing my body to the extreme and surviving, proving to myself that I am much more capable than I think I am.
As for why I want to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail… I guess it’s taking all of the above and pushing the envelope even farther.
And it’ll make for a great story in the end.