Five years ago today, I stood at the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail, trying to choke down tears. Getting to a place in your life where you can thru-hike can be as much work as actually completing the trail, and this hike had involved years of dreaming. It didn’t hit me until I was actually at the monument that my dream was about to become a reality. Now all I had to do was walk to Canada. Hiking seemed easy in comparison to putting my life on hold for five months.
The day before, I’d wandered aimlessly around Scout and Frodo’s house, jittery with nerves and unable to sit still. I’d helped Scout chop vegetables for dinner, and while we cooked, I’d asked him if he could tell which hikers would complete the trail. He’d said he could. I’d been too scared to ask if he thought I’d finish.
If you’ve read pretty much anything else I’ve ever written, you know how much the PCT changed my life. From hiking other trails, to meeting the love of my life, the PCT has altered everything about me. I’d be a completely different, and much sadder person without it. I owe absolutely everything to having the courage to make my way to the monument on the Mexican border.
Of course, while getting to the start is the hardest part, there were plenty of challenging days after. My feet hurt, and I developed blisters the size of quarters that I’d hike on for 600 miles. I was too cold, too hot, hungry, tired and sore. But there were some of the best days of my life too. Lying in my sleeping bag on the ridge before Sonora Pass, watching the stars pop out, when an owl swooped so close overhead we could feel the draft from its wings. The larches turning gold against the dark spruce in Washington, as snow dusted distant peaks. Finding a perfect, massive berry bush by Mount Jefferson, with more blueberries than leaves, and coming back from filtering water to find Shake’nBake had devoured the entire lot, like a bear. The instant connection with other thru-hikers, and the lifelong friendships from hiking together for just a few short weeks. And the perfect happiness from falling asleep every night with my head on Shake’nBake’s shoulder, snuggled as close together as we could get in our bulky sleeping bags.
So, thank you Pacific Crest Trail. Thank you for one perfect summer, walking along the spine of the country in rain and sun and snow. And thank you for changing my life.