THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE TREK, WHICH YOU CAN READ HERE.
When I tell someone that I’m thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, their first reaction is to ask, “Oh! Have you read Wild?”
When I told people in 2012 that I was hiking the Appalachian Trail, their first reaction was to ask, “Oh! Have you read A Walk in the Woods?”
Both of these books are a common conversation starter on thru-hiking that I’m sure many of you other hikers out there have experienced as well.
But, in contemplating these conversations about thru-hiking with friends and strangers alike, no one has ever asked the question, “why?”
Well, there are 8 reasons why I’m thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail:
1. I need a change. The ‘walk every day and live out of a backpack’ kind of change.
This is more often than not the obvious reason why anyone takes on a thru-hike. It’s a time to switch things up from the daily routine of everyday life. But really, you are switching out one routine for another. So, while us thru-hikers still have a morning routine, a night routine, a zero day routine, it’s refreshing to step away from an 8+ hour day desk routine and spend your time hiking (and sometimes hobbling) along a trail.
As I explained in my first post, I really can’t complain about what I have going for me at the moment. I have my own business, I love living in Maine, and enjoy being close to my family.
And now I’ve decided to completely rearrange my life. I will be putting my business on hold, living across the country out of a backpack, and will be thousands of miles away from my family. But I’m doing it because when I feel too comfortable, too much at ease in the day-to-day, I see that as a signal that I need to introduce a new challenge into my life. Comfort and ease for too long alert me that I have new things to learn both about myself and somewhere else out in the world.
Growth and education are two things that I never want to cease knowing.
Therefore, I must hike.
2. I need to scratch an itch.
Not a physical itch. Although, thru-hiking does produce several types of irritations.
I simply love to be outdoors. I do try to spend as much time as I can outside whether it’s biking to and from work, making the 2+ hour drive to the mountains for weekend hikes, or taking my cat outside for walks. Yes, that’s a thing and yes, it’s awesome.
I didn’t reacquire the thru-hiking itch until very recently. And now, it consumes my thoughts each and every day. I’m constantly checking gear websites for sales, reading current thru-hikers’ blogs, and learning as much as possible prior to next spring.
I guess you’re not really supposed to scratch itches because it can lead to infection and all; but, I’m just going to keep on scratching this one.
3. I do not have access to the fountain of youth.
I so wish I could discover a secret elixir to eternal youth. Instead, I am closer to imminent death as every second passes.
Absolutely and 100% accurate? Also, yes.
I have slowly come to realize that there’s no sense in waiting to do what you’re passionate about if you have the time and means to do it. While I am only 28 years old, I plan to pack in as much adventure and travel into my life as possible. And maybe that’s the true ‘fountain of youth.’
4. I stare at screens way too much.
I think a lot of us are guilty of this one. On an average day, I wake up and eat breakfast while simultaneously checking Facebook, Instagram, and the weather. I go to work and stare at not one, but two computer screens for at least 8 hours per day. Then, I go home and usually have emails to respond to or photos to cull for my photography business, so I sit on my computer for another hour or two. I make dinner using a recipe that I found on Pinterest and follow the directions on my phone while cooking. Maybe I do a core workout via YouTube on my TV, and then watch a few too many cat videos before hitting the hay.
And granted, I do not plan on turning off from technology completely while on the PCT; however, my computer usage will be almost completely cut off (save for possible access in town) and most time spent on my phone will be to document our hike by word and photography.
So yes, I will not be technology-free on trail and that isn’t a goal for me. However, I do hope to cut out the mindless scrolling and swiping that is such an easy cure to boredom.
5. I need an excuse to write every single day.
When I was a kid, I used to fill up notebooks with my stories, drawings, and games. As I grew older, other interests commandeered my time and writing for personal enjoyment fell to the wayside.
But, on my 2013 AT thru-hike I found hiking to be a driving force behind my reintroduction to writing and documenting my life. Maybe because life just seemed way more interesting on the daily.
I will go more in-depth about my writing process in a separate post, but basically, I found the time to write again and wrote every single day for five months in my small, Moleskine journal. It was a meditative practice and one I plan to pick back up again when we hit the PCT next spring.
6. I crave endless amounts of crappy junk food. Sort of.
Who doesn’t want to live off of Kit Kat bars, Gummy bears, massive blocks of cheddar cheese, and chocolate chip cookies every day?!
I’m going to be honest. We were not health conscious AT ALL while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. In fact, it was quite liberating to not worry about our daily food choices. So, yes I am pretty psyched to satiate my daily chocolate cravings once again, but as I will be five years older, I probably should monitor my food choices a bit more this time around.
Okay, fine. I’ll replace one of my daily Little Debbie’s with a piece of fruit.
7. Sitting sucks.
In the past year, I have begun meditation practice for two reasons. To become more focused and relaxed, but also as an aid in relieving tension and stress in my neck and shoulders. What began as a bit of tightness in my neck almost three years ago, has only become worse over time. It began at work, sitting at a terribly bad ergonomic desk setup. After a year of developing tension, I began steps to alleviate the pain. While I do see some difference, I’m not sure if things will ever go away completely. I often wonder if I really just need to stop using a computer and phone altogether if I want to rid myself of the problem.
Perfect. I’ll go on a hike.
I have found meditation to help with the stress, tension, and headaches and I hope to continue this practice every morning on the PCT. Like my daily writing, staying committed to meditation in this new environment will take discipline and mental strength; but, I am hopeful that I can stick with it and improve my mental fortitude.
Bring it, PCT.
8. I want to meet a bunch of smelly hikers.
Purge yourselves of scented shampoos and body odor-killing deodorants – I want to find those smelly, scraggly, Snicker-eating hikers who revel in the simple pleasure of a trash can on the side of a road.
While thru-hikers may all smell the same smelly smell, despite the general assumption, we are NOT all like-minded hiking machines. We may have one common goal that forms a camaraderie amongst us, but the very best thing about thru-hiking is the people from all over the world that you meet along the way. You become friends with a retired gym teacher from Pennsylvania, a middle-aged German section hiker, and a twenty year-old college student from Virginia. You meet trail angels in the form of Boy Scouts, church group members, and siblings of thru-hikers.
It’s the people that bring a life, a culture, and a tradition to the trail.
And that’s the best damn part about it all.