When I look back at my (17695) photos from the PCT, I have a hard time understanding that I was there.
When on the PCT, living intensely in every moment, the trail life started to feel normal. But now, with some distance in time and space, I look at these moments with wonder. I see snap shots of desert landscapes, steep snowy mountain climbs, deep forests, dirty hikers and my ever smiling face. It is easy to forget how tough it was. It was tougher then I had ever expected, and in completely different ways from what I had thought. But the simplicity of the thru hiker life brings out so much happiness, so much serenity, such a completely relaxed and non worried mind. And I miss it incredibly much.
I had planned to update my blog regularly during the hike, but found myself more and more just wanting to enjoy every single second of the trail life. I can’t remember ever living so much in the now as on the PCT.
And after coming home, I have not been able to put this journey into words until now.
Standing at the monument in Campo at the Mexican border, it was hard to understand, really hard to grasp, what it means to walk 2650 miles to Canada. I just had a feeling in my whole body and mind that I was in the exact right place in moment and time. I was excited, a little bit scared and oh so eager to start walking.
The first few weeks, everything felt new. I had not found my hiking flow yet and all the people I met were new to me. I had no idea how to properly set up my tent or cook food on my stove. Of course I had tried it at home, but out here, in the wilderness, it felt different. All the people I met were super nice and we explored trail life together. We celebrated small victories like the first mile marker, getting to our first camp site and doing our first resupply.
The desert heat and sun was burning hot, but we had more water than usual years. The desert was nothing like I expected. I thought desert meant flat endless sandy landscapes. Yes there was sand, but also flower covered mountains, cactuses, rivers and so much beauty. I had never seen anything like it.
On the PCT I pushed my body to the limit. I hiked endless hours up and down steep mountains, I walked and walked and walked even though my heels were open sores. I climbed up the highest point at Forester Pass and glissaded down the other side. I faced my fears and sang Backstreet Boys’ songs on the way up Glen pass to distract me from what would happen if I fell. I learned to master an ice axe, crampons and a bear cannister. I slept on my own on the mountain San Jacinto. I swore over sun cups, swollen rivers and endless snow fields. I am sure I complained a lot. But I was also euphoric. I loved my life like never before. I never wanted it to end.
As time went by though, and as I had to leave the Sierra because of dangerous snow and water conditions, I started questioning my being on the PCT. After an insane amount of snow hiking, not getting anywhere, and slowly realizing it would be hard to finish the whole trail in time, I lost motivation. I felt other forces pulling my mind away. I started feeling ready to leave. Oregon was for me the toughest section, not for my body, but for my mind.
It was a long process. The process of accepting to not finish the whole distance. The process of leaving my beloved trail. The process of letting go of the dream. I left the trail a few times, took a day or two off, but then I felt my whole body and mind scream at me to go back. So I went back and hiked until my body and mind stopped screaming.
I decided that the most important thing wasn’t to get to Canada. It was to enjoy the journey, the adventure. To explore, to meet people, to share an evening by the fire, to take a two hour break swimming in a lake, to take an hour long nap under a tree or splash my face at a water source. It was respecting my energy levels and setting up camp early. It was listening to a hiking friend sing a song while hiking in the dark. It was eating black berries along the trail, taking photos of sunsets or eating a bar sitting on a log. It was word nerding with Hamlet, buying a frying pan and carrying fresh vegetables for a day. It was meeting amazing trail angels, seeing new parts of the world and getting a new perspective on life. It was so much more then just a hike.
Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love hiking. It is my love for hiking that got me there. But pushing miles was not the most important for me. Enjoying my day, my friends, the nature, the views, the lakes and the moments was.
At Crater Lake my PCT journey ended. I was ready to leave the trail, for this time. In the end, I am proud of every single mile of the 1318 miles I walked. The PCT will always have a huge place in my heart as well as all the people I met. I am sure I will be back one way or another.
So would I do it again?
– Yes, yes, yes!
And if you are thinking about following a dream, don’t hesitate! It might be hard, but life begins at the end of the comfort zone. I am sure you will be rewarded.