I have decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) again! I cannot believe I am throwing myself into this journey for a second time! It is going to be challenging and painful but something deep within me says I have to do this. The trail is calling and I must go.
It was easy to make a commitment to the trail last year because I was 100% naive as to what I was walking into. I had no idea how many challenges I would face, how many mountains I would climb, how much my body would ache, how difficult it would be to remain motivated and mentally sound, how hungry I would become, or how dirty and miserable I could get. I was clueless. This year, I know fair and square what exactly I am walking into... I've been having nightmares. What if the inclines never stop? What if I can't tolerate my back pain? What if I suffer a mental breakdown? What if I am too homesick? What if it's too hot? What if it gets too cold? What if I don't make any friends? What if I feel lonely? What if my asthma isn't helped by my inhaler? What if I run out of money? What if I'm not cut out for this? What if, what if, WHAT IF?!?!?!?!? Who in their right mind would willingly do this? Well, I guess... I would. Why, you ask? As stated above, I understand what I am about to do... but it's not all bad. The positives outweigh the so called 'negatives' for me:
The empowerment I gain from walking 2,665 miles is overwhelming. I remind myself how hard the simple act of walking downstairs was for me in the past. I once could not lift even a gallon of milk. I remind myself that I am no longer defined by spinal surgeries, pain medication, chronic pain, doctors appointments, and pity. I can do it... I WILL DO THIS! I will not go down without a fight. I am going to be healthy. I am walking this trail as if my life depends on it.
Another benefit is getting to see things that most people never get a chance to see. The payoff is incredible and the sheer beauty of nature is more than anyone could ever imagine. When I hike into the wilderness and I reach a mountain pass, I often think about all the people I wish I could share the view with. I then think of all the reasons why those people cannot or will not be there with me, and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to see certain remote sights with my very own two eyes. It's the most amazing feeling knowing that only a handful of people have seen what I've seen.
I also enjoy feeling small and knowing that the world does not revolve around me. The stars are bigger, more abundant, and they shine brighter. The animals are bigger and they could easily overtake me. I could suffer heat stroke or be bit by a rattlesnake in the desert. I could face dehydration. The San Andreas Fault is often below my feet and it could open up and swallow me whole. The mountains could crumble, a flash flood could sweep me away, I could be engulfed and buried in a mudslide. I could be hit by lightening or caught in a forest fire. The forests are dark, mysterious, and full of foreign sounds from creatures hidden from sight. When I am hiking, I am facing the reality of the world I live in, and I am humbled. Mankind always thinks we are número uno, the top of the food chain, the end-all-be-all, the kings of the earth. This is a lie, at least in my opinion. Try sleeping alone in the forest and hiking a few days without seeing a soul or any remnants of a human being, and you will quickly learn how powerless and vulnerable you really are. I admit, feeling small is scary. But after working through that fear and seeing myself for what I really am, I am able to peacefully surrender myself to God and the Universe. Everything is out of my control, and that is okay. I don't need to control, I have no need to be "right." All I need to do in this world is to take good care of myself the best I can, be kind to others, work hard, persevere, and have love and peace in my heart.
Another positive from walking the PCT is that I am forced to step away from materialism and inauthenticity. I can carry everything I truly need on my back and survive for 6 months. In every day life we are bombarded by advertising and marketing schemes to the point that we don't even notice them. On the trail, I feel beautiful even when I haven't showered and am covered in dirt. In normal life, I feel so much pressure to be a certain way and to fit a specific image. When I am hiking, nothing matters other than my health and well-being. It is truly freeing to realize that my appearance and material possessions are absolutely worthless. The need for me to chase after some crazy and often unattainable American dream filled with luxurious items and being able to impress everyone has long escaped me and I do not want to pursue it. I already am living the dream. I have accepted myself and I am happy with who I am.
I value the Human Experience found on the trail. Thru-hikers are all similar in a few ways... we value nature, hard work, peace, laughter, water, good food, music, determination, and hiking. We are all free spirits drawn onto the trail. We are looking for something bigger than ourselves. Many of us are fed up with society and the idea that one ought to live a certain way. We are adventurers. We are seekers. We are wanderers. We are challenging our bodies and our minds. We are seeking a certain kind of freedom. We all find this freedom, belonging, and sense of community on the trail and with one another. We are thru-hikers. Koo-wii!
So... as I sit on Delta Flight 1967 en route to San Diego... I think about all the good experiences I am about to encounter and become a part of. I tell myself this is worth it. I tell myself I must do this in order to break through to a different side of my soul's existence. I tell myself that the 'negatives' are the things that will build character, that the 'negatives' are what make the positives seem so positive, that the 'negatives' are the things I will overcome that will make me feel proud. No more nightmares; the time has come. I am ready to take on the trail.