This was one I’ve mulled over writing a couple of dozen times. Only now it felt like the right time because it’s in line with one of my upcoming posts, which will be a Q&A to answer all of the standard responses people get when they reveal their intent to thru-hike the PCT.
So, why did we choose to do this?
99% of thru-hikers’ answers will differ, albeit with significant similarities.
99% probably won’t give you the whole truth behind why we’ve chosen to do this. Even to those closest to us…
99% of us are in fact bricking it (very nervous for non-brits), yet our curiosity marginally outweighs that feeling.
99% of us want to be part of that 1% who are being themselves.
What I say vs. the truth
The question of ‘why?‘ is one I get on an almost daily basis. I don’t lie to anyone about my reasons. However, I don’t necessarily divulge my deepest darkest secrets to everyone either. Here are some of the scripted answers I’ve given:-
1. When I’m 90, I don’t want to look back at my life and regret not doing this.
2. Because I’ve always wanted to do something big for charity and this jumped out at me.
3. Well, would you rather be stuck in an office?
4. Because I love the outdoors.
Please don’t be disheartened if any of the above are answers I’ve given you. They’re all true in their own capacity.
My real reason
Although I believe that I’ll never quit something, being described as a “non-starter” would definitely be apt. Since I can remember, creativity has been part of my makeup and various business, political and artistic ideas have been at the forefront of my mind. However, for years it has become a burden. There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you want to do something and not following through. Sometimes it’s because I don’t know how to progress with it, other times it’s down to fear of failure.
All of the above gradually tore away at my self-esteem and led to years of quiet depression. This held me back from pursing other dreams of mine or going through with any concepts that came to me. If we’ve ever met in the past five years, the impression you’ll get is of someone who’s allegedly succeeding and is happy with life. This couldn’t have been any further from the truth. Telling people that “everything’s fine” was just easier.
I’m a self-confessed adrenaline junkie, despite having spent the past five years of my life in an office environment, with minimal contact to the addiction that truly fuels my happiness. Back when fifteen years old, I had a fairly insignificant cartilage operation on my right knee. Sadly this didn’t go as expected and consequently led to a further six operations over the course of the next six years (including a cartilage transplant), fracturing my ability to take a full part in several activities. Coupling both this and my lack of self-esteem put me in some seriously dark places.
This is where the PCT came in!
In 2014 a friend suddenly and tragically passed away. Although taken too soon, you can see the legacy that he left behind with those closest to him. I’ve been inspired by the attitude of his family. Quite rightfully they still grieve the loss of Matt, but the way they go on with their lives will be exactly what he would have wanted. It has certainly motivated me.
I’d always scour the internet for ideas of how to get away. The Pacific Crest Trail was just one of many, but none were quite as big or as unrealistic. It’s an opportunity to prove to myself that I’m capable of following something through. Yes… I appreciate that it’s a drastic way to do so.
The biggest motivators I have moving forward are to help others, do what I enjoy and have more faith in myself. In such a short space of time I’ve already learnt so many skills that I can carry forward with me. More valuable than any university degree in my eyes. I’ve found an amazing adventure, which is worth every penny of the donations towards my fundraising for Cardiac Risk in the Young.
So here I go: broke, depressed and unprepared. Still.. it could be worse!
The Ugly Side
For five months we will be hiking with our lives on our back for about 20 miles a day. In this time we’ll scale multiple mountains and cross glacially cold rivers (sometimes several times a day), whilst simultaneously being eaten alive by mosquitos. All the while our feet will be falling apart, but we won’t care because we just want to resupply to prevent ourselves from starving. The worst part will be not having any of our nearest and dearest to give us sympathy, as there’s minimal contact on trail. Especially if I’m going ‘Hans Solo’, which is increasingly the most likely outcome.
Luckily, we get to recuperate each night in our one kilogram home (i.e tent). Yay.
With the above in mind, don’t believe anyone who says they’re doing this purely for the enjoyment that it will inevitably give (in spells). I’m wholly understanding of the fact that this will be a physically gruelling test, as well both mentally and emotionally.
1. We all do this to either prove something to ourselves and/or to escape normality.
2. You can also eat whatever you want for five months. Bring on the Nutella!
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Stories from the class of 2017
(wanted name to remain anonymous)
As a result of an injury (which caused chronic back pains), Stone became addicted to painkillers, which led onto more harmful substances such as heroin. Having been a semi-pro boxer, he kept very active to keep his 6’7″ frame in shape. Sadly, his back couldn’t quite take the abuse. It took a year before he was operated on to resolve the back issue.
The length of time that Stone was hooked on the more dangerous substances was enough to turn his life upside down when he was put in prison for a short period. He knew that his best bet would be to get away from ‘normal’ life for an extended period of time “doing something people dream of doing”.
Another interesting read is that of Brien’s. Take a look at how he’s using the PCT to change his life – http://simplealpine.com/2017/02/07/a-catch-up-on-my-life/