I’ve been asked many questions upon returning from my adventure. It’s been months, and there are questions that are still frequently asked.
Question: How was the trail?
Answer I give: It was good.
Answer I want to give: Clearly, if it wasn’t enjoyable, I wouldn’t have pressed on after my zero day despite my foot injury, let alone be gearing up for a 3-4 week trek next summer.
The question is so vague, but I don’t blame people for asking. I ask my friends similar questions about their vacations and adventures. I have found, if the person actually cares to know about your trip, they will continue with more questions like the following….
Question: Did you see any bears?
Answer I give: Yes, but they were far away.
Answer I want to give: Yes, I got attacked a couple of times, but I was able to defend myself; eventually calling a truce by sharing my oatmeal.
Yes, there are bears on the PCT (along with many other types of animals, which you see much more regularly than bears). Some people see lots of bears, some see none at all. Bears are nothing more than big forest dogs who are terrified of humans. Play smart, and you’ll (probably) survive.
Question: Did you carry a weapon?
Answer I give: No.
Answer I want to give: Yes, a bazooka. It’s the only reason I survived the multiple bear attacks and that time a murderous rapist ambushed my camp.
People in this world live in constant fear. I’m guilty of this to a certain degree. Sure, there are crazy people on the trail (steer clear of anyone wearing a white tuxedo. True story), but I never felt as though I was in a position where I needed to defend myself. Plus, a gun (or bazooka) would double my pack weight.
Question: Where did you go to the bathroom?
Answer I give: In the woods.
Answer I want to give: In the woods, on top of mountains, on every cliff, in a Ziploc bag in my tent in the middle of the night during a torrential rainstorm, and next to a maintenance worker footpath at a resort (it was an emergency, sorry not sorry).
The world was my bathroom; I miss pooping wherever I wanted to.
Question: How did you find food?
Answer I give: I packed rations for the first part of my trip, and had mailed food to a resupply for the second half before I had even left Canada.
Answer I want to give: I hunted bears with my bazooka and ate them daily, and then picked wild berries for dessert.
It’s a wilderness trail, and it takes a fair amount of planning, but hunting is most definitely not required. There are trail towns along the way where you can either mail yourself re-supply packages, or shop in grocery stores for resupplies. Not to mention hiker boxes, trail magic, and fellow hikers who have grossly over packed food rations and are grateful for anything they can give away because it reduces their pack weight.
Question: Where you alone the whole time?
Answer I give: No. I was around people on and off.
Answer I want to give: Yes. I didn’t see a human for 2 weeks.
It’s hard to put a number on it, because each day was different; there was one day I saw about a dozen hikers, but there was also a stretch where I didn’t see anyone for almost 2 full days. It’s easy to feel completely alone out there, and that feeling is heightened with each hour that passes without coming into contact with somebody (I have never felt more relief than the moment, after a full day of not seeing anything to reflect a human being was in the area, than when I finally saw a footprint. It was several hours after that when I finally caught up to the human that belonged to the footprint). Saying that, it’s important to note that it is so easy to meet people on trail. While I absolutely loved being alone, there is a lot to say about rolling up to camp with people already there, cheering you on until you off load your pack and yell the customary “F#@K YEAH!” as it thuds to the ground. Bonus points if those people are your familiar trail friends.