A Little Background on the PCT

Ok, back to PCT news. After my declaration Monday, I'm sure those of you unfamiliar with the Pacific Crest Trail want to know more. For those of you who have never heard of the PCT (although Cheryl Strayed's latest book Wild highlights the trail much like Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods highlighted the Appalachian Trail, so it may be more main-stream knowledge, now) it is a 2,650 mile trail that runs from the border of Mexico to Canada, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington along the way. Many hikers attempt to finish the entire route in one summer season, effectively calling themselves "thru-hikers" and manage to hike it within five months or so. (Generally May to September, since that's when snow levels are least likely to affect the trip.)

Obviously the choice to thru-hike a trail like the PCT or the AT is quite an undertaking, and not only does it require some courage, dedication, and a serious amount of free-time, but it tends to be an activity which can be rather life-changing for those who undertake it. Often the thru-hikers are those wide-eyed early 20-somethings with their whole lives ahead of them, or retired men and women who have been dreaming of the trail since they were 20, or just people like me who are somewhere in between college and retirement, and just need a reason to find themselves again.

I have been planning for almost a decade to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Being from North Carolina, I've spent a lot of time on the AT itself, trekking from shelter to shelter along its green path and learning to love the trail culture that the AT creates. I feel I know every twist and turn and every trail town that the AT crosses. I've been dreaming of a day when I would have six months free to hike it - but never did I dream that when that day came, I would be 3,000 miles away.

The PCT, though known to me for some time, never did it cross my mind that I would get the chance to hike it first. But fortuitously, this year a friend of mine will be thru-hiking the PCT, and when she heard I had suddenly come into some free time, she invited me along.

At first I discarded the idea, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this may be the perfect chance to fulfill a dream I have had for ten years. More and more things about the trip fell into place, and fewer and fewer objections came to light. After careful thought, financial planning, and some seriously long talks with Tanner, I threw myself forward with the plan and bought a one-way ticket to San Diego in April.

After all, how many people get the chance to do something like this? I knew if I passed up the opportunity, it may not come again, and I would spend my whole life regretting it.

I have to admit, now that I'm committed, I'm pretty scared shitless pumped about it. I'm going to ignore the possible snowstorms and bears and rattlesnakes and hiker hunger and sunburns and focus on the 500 new trail friends I'm going to make, and the stories I'll have to tell.

And I keep telling myself that if all goes wrong, there's nothing that says I can't come home. If I think of the trail in its entirety, a five month hiking trek across desert and mountain tops and valleys, it sounds incredibly unachievable and frightening. But if I tell myself it's simply a string of week-long backpacking trips, over and over and over... it sounds more do-able. I can hike for a week. Or two weeks. Or three. If I hate it after two weeks, or two months, I can just come home again.

But I have a feeling that the trail changes you in indescribable ways, and I won't want to come home again. At least not until I reach Canada. But there's much to be discovered between now and then, and with only a month left before my start date, I have a lot to do. I plan to blog as best I can from the trail, but obviously signal may be patchy and I can't promise anything. But I will do my best to keep you updated on my adventures as they come.

If you're interested in reading more about the PCT, check out Cheryl Strayed's book Wild or visit the PCT website here. I'll also be adding a link to the top of my blog soon that helps corral PCT-related posts. And if you're just uninterested in long-distance hiking posts, feel free to tune me out for a few months. I'll forgive you. ;)