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[pct-l] Non linear hiking the PCT.
Hello to all out there. I have been reading the posts for quite a while
and decided that it was time for me to pitch in my 2-cents. First let me
introduce myself. I hiked the PCT from Mexico to Oregon last year. I am
currently going to Humboldt State University to study Environmental
Science. My life will never be the same after my PCT experience last year.
Let me attempt to tell my PCT story. Now really it would take an entire
book to give my PCT experience justice, the following story is like mearly
skipping a pebble on the surface of the ocean in comparison the depth of
experience that lays beneath.
It seems that most of the posts on this list have mainly focused on
equipment questions and other logistics--- while that is important, it is
only a means to the end. Last year at this time I was completely involved
with getting my food and equipment together. I was planning on thru hiking
the entire trail. My schedule was laid out, my mind set. I started at the
Mexican border at April 28th with another hiker I met through the
communicator. We got along great!! We COULD have hiked the whole trail
together, but after a week of being out there we realized that what we
really wanted to do was be solo. Looking back I realize that I just needed
to be self confident enough to hike the trail alone. I love the freedom and
solitude solo hiking gives.
I had HUGE expectations of what the trail was going to be like and how it
would change me, but is paled in comparison to the beauty of the PCT
experience I actually had. Day after day, sunrise, sunset, full moon, half
moon, new moon. I saw the cycles of the earth turn around and around. I
felt a part of it. Every day I loved to spiritually feel the land I walked
through. There where hot, difficult days in So. Cal. but I still loved it.
My god-- thinking about it now gets me all wound up! The PCT is simply
I kept up with my schedule so that I could get to Canada on time up until
I got to Kennedy Meadows. There at the beginning of the High Sierras I was
overwhelmed in its beauty. I would literally cry and smile in tears. After
being out in the wilderness so long you emotions and senses develop and
sharpen. There I realized that my true goals have changed, I wanted to
enjoy every moment, every day on the trail. I wanted to saunter through
these mountains, not breeze through. Often I would sit next to the trail
for a break and would see other tru hikers breeze by me completely unaware
that I was sitting right next to them. I wanted to open up my senses, I
wanted to enjoy the present moment--- JUST BE. My ego goals of reaching
Canada was closing me up to experiences I would have never had.
It was hard to accept this change in plans, all Ray Jardine, and some
other hikers talk about is making it. To Ray Jardine everything is very
linear, very dualistic. An example would be his belief in the hapless hiker
vs. the thru hiker practicing his ideas--- that is highly dualistic. The
truth is that we are all individuals and do not fit into a neat little
categories. I heard a saying from another hiker-- "There is only one path
that goes to Mexico to Canada, yet there are many ways to walk it." The
truth of that saying rang through my ears as I met more and more hikers.
Some followed Ray Jardine to the letter, others did what ever they wanted.
The true test of your experience is it at the end of the day you are
After I decided that I was going to hike the trail any way I wanted I
experienced freedom in a way I have never experienced before. I was free to
sit at exquisite alpine meadows and meditate, I was free to look at streams
for hours, I was free to camp where I wanted, I was free to meet people and
learn from their experience. I was free to sit at a remote meadow off the
trail and look at the entire day pass by- I did not get bored for a moment.
I was free to lay in a circle of trees in an Old Growth forest and watch
the shadows of a full moon as it shone through the branches change shape on
the trucks of ancient trees. I did all this and 10,000 things more. It was
the ultimate experience of my life. I left the trail Sep. 23 to start a job
I found while hiking the trail as an Outdoor Science Instructor. It was the
perfect job to have before I started the spring semester at Humboldt State
As the trail went on I also experienced a spirituality that I had never
imagined. "trail magic" was happening all around me and in me. I trusted my
intuition and followed it. Whenever I needed a ride to town, back to the
trail, or needed anything something would happen. I knew it would. I
experience beautiful coincidences. One experience I can share was when I
was buying Orange Juice at Burney Falls. Before I went in to buy it I
reached into my pack and pulled out a handful of change without counting
it. I bought it and discovered that it was something like $2.14---- that
was EXACTLY how much I had pulled out of my bag--- I used no cash- just
change. Even the clerk was amazed. In honesty I can say that is minor
experience in the group of many other such experience. To all who are
hiking the trail this year--- trail magic is real---- trust it.
I am not trying to say that my way is hiking is the best way to do the
trail--- because there is no best way to do the trail exept for YOUR way,
your path. What I am saying is to feel free to be yourself hike the trail
anyway you want. It is my belief that "The Pacific Crest Trail Hikers
Handbook" has done allot of good and damage to the PCT hiking experience.
There is no right or wrong way to hike the trail!!! Now if you plans are to
reach Canada in one year your range of options are smaller than Non linear
hiking the trail. Also know that if you get out on the trail and you decide
that reaching Canada in one year is your goal then there is NO disgrace for
doing that. Anyone who looks down on you for not thru hiking has their own
set of ego problems, and unfortunately I met several of those. It seems
that one of the first questions someone asks you on the trail when you meet
them is -"where did you start, how far are you going, when did you start"
Let me say there is whole hell of allot more to hiking the PCT than facts
Last year on the trail there was definalty a feeling on the trail that the
faster you hiked the better you where and the slower you hiked the less
some people thought of you. I believe from talking to hikers who have hiked
the PCT before "The Handbook" came out that this is a relatively new
feeling. The handbook has done allot of harm to the trail hiking experience
by creating a us/them, slow/fast, hapless/thru hiker, ray way/other way
paradigm. Again there is no right way to hike the trail-- only your way.
For some, including myself, faster does not mean better.
The experience I had on the PCT is absolutely the best experience I have
ever had in my 23 years of living on this beautiful planet. I am looking
forward to hiking Oregon- Canada. There is a whole hell of allot more to my
PCT story than this, but I have to go study for a biology exam. If anyone
has questions please post it on the list or email me directly.
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