Why me? Why the Pacific Crest Trail?
The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the three (AT, CDT, PCT) best-known and most iconic long distance thru-hikes in the United States. I long pondered the idea of thru-hiking, mostly whilst thinking of the romance of conceptually casting off all shackles and taking a walk in the woods. These ideas mostly stirred when I saw thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire. The romantic notions of thru-hiking usually subsided quickly however, when the moment passed and/or the body odor of the rugged unwashed thru-hiker hit my nostrils!
Each of the three major trails evoke wonder and awe for many. They connect beautiful lands, iconic views and towering peaks and symbolize the omnipresent desire of many humans to surround themselves entirely with nature.The trails have enjoyed steadily growing popularity, support and maintenance since their slow and thoughtful evolution in the early 20th century to the agency-supported and volunteer maintained structures of today. Each has received much renewed interest recently thanks to movies and books that received much media attention such as ‘A Walk in the Woods’ and ‘Wild’. Looking at each of the trails, its obvious that each offers its own set of challenges, from the Appalachian Trail’s (AT) grueling rocky terrain and endless ridges of wooded mid-Atlantic hills, through to the Continental Divide Trail’s (CDT) remote and hostile climatic-zones and Rocky Mountain elevations.
The Pacific Crest Trail for me, held a particular magic. Not only does it connect three of the most beautiful states in the United States, but it also threads together incredible geographic diversity and prominence in its 2650 mile length; from the high and dry San Jacinto Mountains, the arid Mojave desert, through to the sheer rock-faces of the mighty Sierra Nevada mountain range, the iconic Yosemite Valley and Lake Tahoe, right up to Crater Lake and Mount Hood, crossing the Columbia River through to majestic Washington State, under the shadow of mighty Mount Rainier and the numerous other volcanic peaks of the Cascades piercing the skyline to Canada. For me, there was no other trail with an allure so strong as the PCT. What was initially a curiosity, after summiting Mt.Whitney in 2012, evolved to being an itch, and then a burning ambition, one that would not go away.
I followed the mantra of ‘hike your own hike’ on the trail. I started the hike with no pre-expectations or pre-conceptions. I was not hiking to ‘find’ myself, nor any other cliched reason to do it. I was hiking due to my love of the outdoors, a curiosity about the world, a desire for physical challenge (what other reason does one walk 20-30 miles a day for 5 months) and maybe just a little pent-up wanderlust. It was a summer to remember. A uniquely satisfying personal endeavor. I do not use that word ‘personal’ lightly, as a solo hiker does enjoy a special experience between themselves and nature. It was an adventure, and a learning experience. A moment to savor, out of time, out of life. One that I will never forget. If you’d like to read more, do take a look at my daily journal here.
Written prior to hiking the PCT, edited slightly after completion.