Three words: It Owns You
Nobody has it easy on the PCT. It has hurdles, and they’re hardly few and far between. But, for every hurdle it throws at you, it also provides you with sights you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams. Upon my return, a friend told me, “It required a special kind of crazy to mentally prepare for, and execute an operation of that magnitude.”. No truer words have ever been spoke. Why? Because even though the PCT chewed me up, and spit me out, it was the most incredible experience I have ever had.
The trail forced me to use every ounce of strength and energy I could muster for hours on end, day after day, it made me cry, it made me scream, and it made me wish I was dead a few times; but it also made me smile my biggest smiles, it made me laugh, and it made my heart happy. Sure, the PCT made me feel weaker and more insignificant than I have ever felt in my life (just as I had predicated), but it also made feel like I’ve conquered the world (also just as I had predicted). All of the positive things I encountered out there instantly wiped away all negative things I had been battling.
Before reaching my goal of Manning Park, British Columbia, I had to make the extremely difficult decision to bail on this year’s trek. Approximately 30 miles into my adventure I started to develop severe foot pain, which I brushed off as being pain associated with a badly infected blister and the general pain you feel while long distance backpacking. After completing 103 miles on trail, 19,000 feet in elevation gains, and 17,000 feet in elevation loss, I used my inReach PLB to send a message to my cousin to pick me up. I was done…. Correction, my FOOT was done. It took me 2 and a half days to get to a location where I could exit the trail and meet for the pickup. After 3 days off trail, I finally broke down and went to a doctor, who immediately sent me for tests. Diagnosis: a partially torn Achilles Tendon. Although I wish for nothing more to say I completed my trek despite all odds, I know I made the right choice in bailing when I did.
In those 103 miles I gained so much experience, which will be infinitely useful when I go back next year to finish what I started. I have a better idea of what’s actually in store for me; I know how dangerous crossing snow fields are without Microspikes, I know how forceful (and cold) river and waterfall fords are in the Alpine Wilderness (especially if you attempt them in the later part of the day). I know to force myself to eat even after vomiting up the meal consumed just minutes before, and how important it is to drastically increase your sodium intake (Hyponatremia sucks… A LOT). I also know to remember to save a little bit of water to brush your teeth with in the morning so you don’t have to use orange flavoured Gatorade. I’ll also be ready for those sleepless nights because your guts are on fire and feel as though they are being turned inside out and every inch of your body is throbbing with pain forcing you to lay awake and listen to all the different sounds each animals’ feet/ hoofs make as they walk past your tent. I’m ready for endless and complete solitude that forces you to think of every bad decision you’ve made during your life. I’m ready for that downed tree in which the circumference is taller than you, and that you have absolutely no choice but to pull yourself up and over while wearing your fully loaded backpack (because you don’t know what’s on the other side of the log… it could be solid trail tread, or it could be loose rocks that will give away pushing your pack off the side of the mountain.). I’m also ready for conversations with interesting and different people who aren’t distracted by cell phones or who are waiting for someone ‘better’ to come along and talk to (you never know when the next time you’ll see another human… it could be days.). I’m ready for clouds to dance above you while the sunrises, and sunsets paint the sky in brilliant colors, and the feeling of hiking so high you’re getting wet from the clouds (not rain). Most of all, I’m ready for the most rewarding moment of all… When you reach the summit and realize every other mountain peak in sight is equal or lower than the one you’re standing on. The feeling that you’re, almost quite literally, on top of the world; and you have no one to be proud of but yourself. You did it. Alone.