Only on a long distance trail can having about 650 miles left to hike be "almost done". But I digress. When I am asked this question, I'm really torn.
I never expected to complete the entire Pacific Crest Trail. When I hiked the John Muir Trail in 2011, I didn't realize how much I would come to love long distance hiking. There is something about the simplicity of being in the woods for multiple days, of being truly disconnected from anything but the ribbon of trail under my feet, the only questions being where the next water source is, where to find a campsite, what to eat. At the risk of sounding old, it reminds me of when the world was a more innocent place, before school shootings, before people were fastened to their phones, when kids could be free range in the neighborhood. On the trail, it doesn't matter what you do for work, how old you are, what you regret.
|Yikes! I bring a lot less stuff now.|
I was hooked. Over the last six years, I've tramped through much of California, all of Washington, and most of the Oregon section of the PCT. Most days, I don't want it to end. Others, I do: I am ready to get this monkey off my back and do something else. Another long trail? Probably not until I retire. This section hiking is challenging. You have to be able to jump from your hourly workout (all I really have time for right now) into 20 mile days, sometimes more. Logistics are a killer. You can spend hours combing the internet for shuttles, for road locations, reading the water report. I am almost at the end of sections that can be hiked in summer heat. Soon all that will remain are the ones that require cooler temperatures. Fires can close your route, and unlike thru-hikers, who can skip ahead, you may have plane tickets for that section only. Once you're there, you can't just hunker down and wait out that rainstorm.
Not that I'm complaining. My PCT hike so far has given me a reason to dream. In the middle of a terrible winter (not enough snow and widespread ice) it gives me hope. While I sit at my computer for work, I can think about the section that is coming up. And when I am done, I can say I walked from Mexico to Canada in entirety.
So what's coming up? In three weeks, Triscuit and I are going to take on one of the more hated sections--Section E, the dreaded LA aqueduct section. In this section, there's a long stretch of flat, enclosed pipe, the channel that sends water to Los Angeles. It is reportedly monotonous and sometimes blazing hot. But I'm not a skipper--I am all in with this PCT thing.
|Love. Washington in August 2012.|
The fall signals the possible return of Flash, my erstwhile PCT companion. I think Triscuit and I have her talked into California Section D, home to some intense elevation change and Mount Baden Powell. If all of these hikes go as I hope, I will have only about 250 miles left. We could be looking at a 2019 finish.
As with all monkeys, I am sure I will feel a sense of relief and regret. The PCT has consumed my life for so long that I will feel off balance without it to plan around. I'm not sure that weekend backpacking trips can fill the canyon I am sure I will feel. Luckily, I have 650 miles before I need to find out.
Plenty of people have monkeys on their backs--goals they both crave yet sometimes seem like too much work. Whether it's a sub 3 marathon or 50 hikes in a year, they have some similarities. If you have a monkey on your back, what is it? What do you plan to do when you finally lose that monkey?
|the path feels endless, until you come close to the end|