Want to document and share your hike with friends and family?
A few weeks before leaving to start our thru hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail, I was invited to go spelunking with Squeegie at this phenomenal place called Worleys cave in East Tennessee. Her cousins know the cave incredibly well, and at one point showed us a crack in the wall through which you could see a large chamber on the other side. They had been trying for years to get into that chamber, but never found a way. Someone joked that the lizard people could live on the other side of that and we could be the first folks to make contact. What would you say to them? I looked at Squeegie, looked through the crack, and stage whispered “I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail.”
At my last job as a bartender, every time the owner and I were in the building together he found a way to tell every customer that I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail. The man has never been hiking a day in his life, he just wanted to share in the glory. It is pretty cool after all.
My mom has friends at work who want more details about my current hike than she can give because I can not post pictures fast enough. My Nana has read so many trail related books she can sit down and speak hiker with the best of us, talking about NOBOs and SoBOs and slack packing and re-supply. So many people saw how bad my shoes were and pitched in to buy me new ones. Friends from all over reconnect to systematically destroy our feet together one more time. (One more? Who am I kidding?)
My point being here that I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail, and I like to talk about it. It was the most fun, transformative, and positive experience of my entire life. Now, I’m a little over 900 miles into my second thru hike and guess what, I damn well like to talk about it too. The crazy part is not how excited I am though, but how everyone around me shares in this undertaking whether they’re hiking or not. Everyone in their own individual way that becomes connected to one of these long trails gets to share in the glory.
Folks will talk about a 30 mile drive being far away and I laugh and say oh that’s nothing I could walk that. And everybody laughs, I get a little boost of pride, and then I inevitably bring it up again later that day. After making so many comments like this around certain people, whether they are in jest or no, it starts to take a toll. Folks around me will start tagging disclaimers at the end of their hiking stories. Oh, I know it’s nothing like what you do but…..
There is a line somewhere between glory and ego, and it is incredibly thin. There is a ton of ego and ambition tied up in my backpacking experience. I often find myself musing on the differences between hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking, and thru hiking. They all seem very similar but they are not. In my quest to earn my triple crown, I am a thru hiker who is hiking the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. I want it to be recognized by the Pacific Crest Trail Association and eventually the American long-distance hiking Association, along with the recognition I have already achieved for the Appalachian Trail, and recognition for the continental divide trail that I hope lies in my future. Along that line, there is a sense of working towards a specific goal I will later consider to be an achievement. However, I teeter between working towards this and trying to not let this hike feel like a job. Of course, sometimes you just have to wake up, put your dirty feet into your dirty socks into your dirty shoes, and trudge through the woods for umpteen miles with a few crazy blisters and a hurt shoulder. That feels like work. But not to the point that I would rather actually be at home at work.
Today, I will arrive in Ashland and take the rest of the day to relax. I have to make some big decisions, because unfortunately I can no longer hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail this year due to the ongoing wildfires. Washington and Oregon have been breathtakingly beautiful and I feel so grateful. Now, as we look south at Northern California there is an evolving situation that we have absolutely no control over. There appear to be several options of what we could do from here to piece together a few sections between the fires. However, the logistics involved with that, including cost, make it a poor choice. Especially considering the increasing levels of smoke on the trail. At this point, my friends and I are leaning towards making our way down to somewhere around Lake Tahoe.
The Sierra’s. The crown jewel of the PCT, and arguably the entire triple crown. On a traditional Sobo PCT thru hike it is practically a race to get to the Sierras before the first winter storm. Now, since the majority of Northern California is unhikeable, we get to jump straight there. There are many highlights to this, specifically the fact that the sense of urgency following us since Canada Is now gone completely. It is going to be warmer than it will be a month from now when we most likely would’ve been entering them, sans fires. I am so excited to swim in as many lakes as possible.
Please don’t mistake me, I would have much preferred to walk an unbroken path from Canada to Mexico this year, but this brings me back to my original point. Where do I separate my sense of accomplishment from my ego? Having to skip Northern California is definitely a setback to both. The last week or so we have ran smack in to the NoBo bubble, except worse. The fire bubble. We pass hundreds per day. Pretty much every northbound hiker within 400 miles skipped up to the same place at the same time and started walking towards us. It is entirely evident that I am not the only one processing emotions on skipping because of fire. It is so easy when discussing these fires and sharing our experiences to make our decisions seem more valid. We are craving justification. It almost feels like everyone is terrified that another hiker is going to get to hike a section that they had to skip because of fire. As if this was something competitive. The difference in perspective between north bounders and south bounders combined with the high tension and crowded trails have sent me down a negative spiral more than once now.
It is funny how now, I have hiked through this and pushed the miles and felt the feelings, and now just a couple miles from town those problems start to fade away. I leave those problems in the past, and resolve to learn from them going towards the future, to better stay grounded in right now.
Now that everything has changed, it is a chance to set a new goals and re-examine my priorities. I strive to discover how to best walk this line in order to strip away my hurtful ego.
So for now, I’ll just keep heading south.
PS. Here is a link to all my photos and videos!
If you enjoy them and want to buy me a meal or contribute to the new sock fund, my Venmo is @LoganRoark