The main Pacific Crest Trail (2015) page is now updated. A mere six weeks out, I can barely contain my excitement as I reflect on the fact that my entire summer will be spent outdoors! For a world caught up in measuring success on how much time a person spends working to have more money, hiking 2,700 miles can appear to serve no tangible purpose. Why is it then that so many people continue to seek out creative and interesting ways to get away from the rat race? As I sit in my comfortable dining room, sipping hot tea, wearing clean clothes, staring out the window at vehicles breezing by, my mind cannot help but wander to images of dirt covered everything, bug bites and critters after my food, sunburns and blisters, and all the other struggles to survive that could be encountered on the PCT. My heart still flutters for the latter, no matter how safe and predictable “civilization” might be.
The people in my life have thoroughly questioned what motivations could possess me to undertake this upcoming adventure. The truth is that after hiking the Colorado Trail in 2013, I knew I needed a bigger challenge, something that would test the very core of my physical and emotional reality. The timing of this summer is an amalgamation of being laid off from work/already planning to quit, starting a geology PhD program to study paleoclimatology in the fall, and knowing the now is always better than “someday.” Adventuring and traveling have always been important motivators to my life, and this upcoming journey along the PCT is just one of many I will pursue. The most bewildering position I find people in is that they have always wanted to do something but think they will never have the time. The secret is that time is a concept that only humans chain themselves to. I choose to spend my time doing things where I am happy. Sometimes that does mean working really hard, saving money, and focusing intently on less savory activities so I have more freedom while pursuing what makes me happy. The tricky balance is making sure the choices I make along the way continue to be in my best interests and not in the interests of a society where I am supposed to give up my identity to become selfless, more productive, and busier. There is no difference in the life I am living and the life I think I am supposed to live. Not that I am immune to the constant struggle of knowing what life I want to live, but I am at least making a daily effort to know that right now is the best time I have to do the things I want to do. Many years ago there was a chain email spreading around that told the story of a a husband looking through the possessions of his wife, who had recently died of cancer. She had a neatly wrapped package in a drawer that contained an unknown piece of lingerie and a note that read something along the lines of, “For a special occasion.” The moral was that she never had her special occasion. Her life ended like the blowing out of a candle and all plans and goals ceased to matter at the ceasing of her existence. I never wanted that to be my life. If any day could be my last, then every day is pretty special.
Anyways, this entry is quickly digressing. For better or worse, my writing style has a tendency to flourish and rant. The point is that I am now in PCT mode. Reading through the deluge of books, blogs, and group discussion forums, I am busily working away at organizing and weighing gear, digesting information and lessons learned from others’ experiences, scouring through food ideas and recipes, checking weather reports and progress of hikers already on the trail, thinking about water carrying capacity and how many Snicker bars to pack, and all the other details and logistics. In the next week my immediate goal it to post my gear list with weights, food list with quantities, and tentative traveling agenda. I am also gathering mailing lists for my resupply packages, making sure all my permits are acquired and signed, everything is bagged and labeled, and finding all the other details that need to be figured out. My philosophy pre-hike is to prepare as best I can so that the hike can be about the hike. There are many inevitable scenarios that may come up as I am out hiking, and I hope to have as much settled before leaving as possible. Life on the trail slows down. My daily concerns extend as far as when I should eat next, if my camp spot is soft enough or hidden away enough, and what the name of that person was that I met at lunch while recounting my day in a journal entry. For me, life on the trail is about calmness and stillness, making genuine connection with my surroundings and the people I cross paths with, and letting go of the constant buzz in my head that tells me what I should do next. Life in motion does not have to mean an unrelenting, chaotic, and stressful fervor of motion. 🙂