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RE: [pct-l] Downsides of a distance hike
- Subject: RE: [pct-l] Downsides of a distance hike
- From: "Robinson, Brian A" <brian.robinson@TANDEM.com>
- Date: Fri, 31 Jul 1998 16:22:44 -0700
Before my PCT hike in '97 I heard the statistics. It varies year to year,
but only 10% and 50% of attempts at completing the PCT in one year are
successful! That frightened me. I estimated my personal chances at 50-50.
So who makes it? The determined and the prepared. Many people could make
it if their lives depended upon it, but choose not to. Does this mean they
"failed?" Not in my opinion. Anyone with the gumption to make the personal
sacrifices necessary to make an attempt is way above average. These people
define their own successes and failures.
A useful discussion is who doesn't make it and why not. Here's my
1. Those whose bodies and packs are overweight and out of shape.
Preparation is best here, but the determined can send stuff home and lose
weight on the trail.
2. Those who get injured. There's a strong correlation to #1 here. Those
determined to get in shape on the trail often get injured during the
process. Those who think running shoes are a good idea, but have weak
ankles and a 50+lb pack get injured.
3. Those who get ill. Giardiasis is only one possibility. The determined
get treatment, get rest and get back on the trail.
4. Those who can't deal with the elements. This year it's the deep snows.
Other years it's cold rain or lack of water and heat exhaustion. Everyone
complains about mosquitos and biting flies. Experience and the right
equipment help a lot.
5. Those who suffer from equipment failure. If your boots give you
persistent bad blisters, or your pack doesn't fit, or your down sleeping bag
gets wet, you'll soon find your will to continue eroding. Find the problem
and fix it quickly.
6. Those who have food problems. If you get tired of your corn pasta, or
you're not eating enough, your hike will suffer. Very few strict
vegetarians stay that way on the trail. Plan well, or adjust your menus as
7. Those who like the comforts of home more than the wilderness. A one
week trip is a visit. A 4-6 month trip is more. The wilderness must become
your home, or you'll go home early.
8. Those who don't have adequate social support. This one surprises some
people. I've heard of hikers given ultimata by loved ones to come home now
or don't come home at all. I've seen incompatible couples drive each other
off the trail. I've seen solo hikers who can't stand the isolation. Give
this one some thought.
9. Those who don't have the time and money. Being able to afford a trip
to the podiatrist, or buy some new equipment, or hole up in a motel to wait
out a bad storm can make all the difference. Those who try to eat out of
the hiker boxes the whole way have fewer options.
10. Those who live for today on the trail. The PCT visits some of the most
wonderful, beautiful places in the world. Those who spend too much time in
one place will not see all the others in the same year. (But these people
come back next year!)
11. Those who don't guard their idea of a "pure" trip. Most people take
alternate routes at times. Some choose to slackpack. Some even hitch rides
for mileage. But whatever your standards are, stand by them. It's the
proverbial "slippery slope." The more you compromise, the more
satisfaction you lose. One day you realize you've already quit.
12. Those who don't have a good attitude. This is the most important and
most mysterious element of all. Every thru-hiker faces many of the problems
listed above. Some find a way to keep going and others decide to go home.
For me, this voyage of self-discovery is the most deeply meaningful
experience of the trip.
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