A Long Walk: PCT Aspirations
Here we go, I'm publicly stating what I've been planning for almost two years. I'm going to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Starting in Campo, California to Manning Park, British Columbia, I will be included in the NOBO (North Bound) 2016 class. My starting date is May 9th, less than 72 hours after I will be able to call myself an Alumnus of The Pennsylvania State University. But, before I get too excited about the planning of taking on the PCT lets rewind and figure out how I got to this point. Some years ago I remember hiking a small section of the Appalachian Trail and posting a picture. This prompted one friend to ask the enormous question, "Are you planning to hike the whole trail one day?" Of course my immediate response was
"No, how could a normal guy like me ever find the time or even have what it takes to hike 2,000+ miles."
It got me thinking though, and for some reason stuck in my brain. I had so many questions. Sure, I've gone hiking plenty of times, I like to consider myself "tough" but a 2,000+ mile journey through one of the major spines of the United States? How could I ever find the time to hike a long distance trail? I need to pursue career options after college, right? I don't have time to play around in the woods.
Then, I read Bill Bryson's book "A Walk In The Woods." It was hilarious and inspiring. A 50 year old man up and started the trail. Why couldn't I do that? The words floated off the page and really got me thinking. This was the summer of 2014.
An idea was started. I still had tons of questions but that spark, it was alive.
As an avid reader of Outside Magazine, I noticed the word ultralight and long distance trails being talked about more and more now that I knew what these words meant. I researched the Appalachian Trail. This caught my eye to other long distance trails, the Continental Divide Trail, the Long Trail, the Colorado Trail, the Pacific-Northwest Trail, and this one trail that felt oddly comforting and inspiring, the Pacific Crest Trail.
I dove into google with all my worth. I saw pictures and stories of this magical Pacific Crest Trail. That was it. Those videos, the landscapes, I needed to be there, and explore like so many people have done before me. I decided some night in July 2014 I was going to delay my first professional full-time job until after my brother's wedding to hike the trail.
I waited a couple weeks to tell my parents. I had to get the questions solidified for myself first. How much would this cost? Is this feasible? Can I actually hike this much? Will anyone hire me? I devised a plan and broke the news to my parents after unrelenting research about the trail and (somewhat) answering all my questions. I think it took them a little while to warm up to the idea of me hiking from the Mexican boarder into Canada, solo. Heck, it took me long time to wrap my head around the idea.
Therefore, two years out, I started planning.
I made spreadsheet after spreadsheet of equipment, food, resupply strategies. Reading all I could about the Pacific Crest Trail, but, it wasn't enough. I wanted more. I wanted to be on the trail in that moment.
In January of 2015, I came up with the idea of adventuring west for a long 150+ mile hike on the Colorado Trail the summer of 2015 to prepare and use as a shakedown for the PCT in the summer of 2016. This hike would prepare me for life on the trail, altitude, lack of humidity and overall dirt bagginess.
It was a phenomenal trip. I went with some friends and ended up hiking the Collegiate Loop on the Colorado Trail from Twin Lakes to Salida and back to Twin Lakes on the Continental Divide Trail. (Possible Trip Report to come later)
I was ready.
Following our expedition west, I only needed to make a few tweaks to my gear and I knew I could belong and hike with the best on the PCT. In the other part of my life though, I was entering my last Fall semester of college. I needed to find a job where they would allow me the time to hike, I was nervous. How would companies react when I told them I wouldn't be able to start until October at the latest? It turns out, in my situation at least, quite well. I think the primal aspect of people want to reach out of their society driven world, shed the layers and re-find their true self.
I ended up signing with a fantastic company who is allowing me to do the trail and is inspired for my drive to push my limits. I am very, very fortunate. I was given green flags from my future employer, my parents, and, most importantly myself.
Dreams can become a reality.
I am now 83 days away from arriving at the Mexico-United States Boarder and starting my journey to Boundary Marker 78. Money has been saved up, gear has been checked again and again. Changes to the itinerary are ever present and with a new restriction on my timeline, I'll need to average 26 miles per day. As a mental boost, I'll be heading south for spring break to do 160+ miles on the Appalachian Trail, averaging 26 miles per day, letting myself know I can do it.
So, why am I hiking the PCT?
I think the easiest answer I can give is because it's there. I'm not looking to hike the trail for a "Transformative Journey" or because I'm trying to "run away from my life." In fact, I love my life. I'm eternally grateful for the friends and family that have been brought into my life and have shaped me to be who I am.
I want to cross the country to really see the heart and culture of America, and what better way than to go by foot? I am excited for all of the relationships to be formed on the trail. All of the views, hardships, and uncomfortable situations will be worth it. I've never been more sure of something I've wanted to do and I can't wait to share the journey and stories with all who will listen.
The biggest question I have now is; what is holding you back?