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[pct-l] The PCT Experience

The PCT is done; it is over. It is an odd sensation. It was a long time =
in coming, it took so much effort, cost so much money, but the rewards =
were so great.=20
I'm just now beginning to realize how much I would have missed, how much =
I would have cheated myself out of, if I hadn't hiked it. Words cannot =
describe the adventure, the spiritual enlightenment, the scenery, the =
friendships made, the hardships endured, the joy, the pain, the =
frustration, the happiness or the overall experience any more than a =
small camera can capture the complete image of the Grand Canyon.=20

I am so fortunate that Brawny and I had the opportunity to hike over =
half of the trail together. It was such a joy to share the experience =
with someone who is cared about deeply, and who deeply cares about me. =
This hike was a new experience for her, and it was so special seeing the =
trail through her eyes, and watching her gain new skills and confidence. =
I hope that everyone can someday have the experience of placing it all =
on the line, bucking the odds and completing a seemingly insurmountable =
task with someone they care about. There is a bond between us now, a =
feeling of mutual trust and accomplishment, that will be with us always. =
We depended on each other out there, and when the need arose, we came =
through for each other on numerous occasions.

I've thought a lot about the PCT experience, of hiking from Mexico to =
Canada. The highs were higher than I expected, and the lows were lower. =
However, the trail repaid the effort and sacrifice that was required to =
hike it. One can't reach out and grab the PCT experience like an ice =
cream cone. Let it come to you and wash over you like a fog or a gentle =
rain; open the pores of the mind and let it permeate the soul. I think =
that the PCT is the most adventure that a person of average means and =
abilities can experience and reasonably expect to survive.

Many people have asked me to compare the Appalachian Trail with the =
Pacific Crest Trail. Someone asked me about this while I was on the PCT. =
Off the top of my head I said, "Well, the AT is like sipping fine wine; =
the PCT is like a straight shot of bourbon whiskey". I've thought a lot =
about it since then, and I haven't been able to come up with anything =

I've noticed three things about my PCT hike. First, it has reinforced =
what I already knew; that we humans are spiritually grounded in the =
natural world. The natural world is where we have lived for the last =
million or so years. It is only in the last few hundred years that we've =
moved away. We are genetically programmed to be there, and we lose =
something very basic and important to our existence if we sever the tie.

Secondly, it has reminded me how few actual possessions we need in order =
not only to survive, but to achieve a level of happiness not commonly =
found in the "Real World" (as we hikers like to call civilization). Most =
of our possessions own us more than we own them, and they can be a =
direct hindrance to happiness. I just had a grand experience and a life =
changing adventure, carrying only 20 or so pounds of nearly worn out =
backpacking gear that has very little monetary value. However, if I'd =
been in a $60,000 BMW, I'd have missed the whole thing.=20

Third, I have realized that my life should be lived the same way the =
trail is hiked; one day at a time.=20

I have also been reminded that there are still many decent people in the =
world. And no matter how independent a person is, they have to ask for =
and accept help on a long hike. The kindness of friends and strangers =
alike has been awesome to experience and behold. I can never repay all =
the kindness that I was shown during the 3 summers I spent on the PCT, =
but I will try.=20

This may have been my last long hike. I made a commitment to hike the =
PCT or die trying. It is the only way I can do a border-to-border hike, =
but I'm not sure I want to make that commitment again. However, if I =
stay healthy, the Continental Divide Trail is a possibility in a few =
years, but the Long Trail and Colorado Trail are more appealing right =

Brawny and I did what we set out to do, and I feel a tremendous sense of =
accomplishment. I remember being at Sonora Pass in July 1999, barely =
able to walk. Even though it was the emotional low point of my hike, I =
made a vow to return the next year and continue my journey north. I got =
to kiss that sign in Canada after all, and it is an experience that will =
be with me the rest of my life. Hang on to your dreams, and don't ever =
give up. You aren't defeated until you quit trying.=20

Mexico To Canada, 1999 - 2001

To Walk In The Wilderness Is Freedom

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