When my life crashed upside down in 2018 and I found myself unable to function, I decided to take a leap of faith by applying to thru hike in 2019. Never having been backpacking before nor traveled much on my own, I was very much out of my element. I watched YouTube videos about backpacking, what gear I should get, and all that jazz to try and prepare for the months ahead.
When I was growing up, I used to wander around the neighborhood listening to music whenever I could. I didn’t live near anyone I knew and I longed for adventure, so I walked. Walking when I was having good days, and even more during tumultuous times of my childhood, it became almost like meditation. There weren't any woods around that I could get to, but that didn’t stop me from finding the beauty wherever I could.
I found myself unable to cope; I figured I had nothing else to lose by taking the time to take care of my mental health. There is no better time to chase your dreams than when you don’t have any direction! Pick something and jump into it, see where it takes you. There hasn’t been anything seemingly more true to that than hiking long distance for me, personally. There are times where you do have to choose which path to take, even if the destination is the same. You end up appreciating whatever experience you acquire.
So with little experience and a few months to prepare for my hike, I bought all the equipment, plus some, and tried my best to research food. I have trouble eating, always have, so that was always my biggest concern. I ended up dehydrating some peas and refried beans on my own to add to resupply boxes (boxes of supplies to send yourself in towns along the way) at home. I still need to do more research, even now, about the best meals and calories for trail. I didn’t do much training hikes or anything physically in particular, I just tried to bulk up a bit so I had calories to burn.
I had a few places I struggled on trail, food, carrying too much useless weight, and mental health. The more I hiked, the better I got in all these fields. The harder I pushed myself, the more my confidence grew and so did my legs! Every obstacle became a test of my spirit. I had to shift my mindset from unmet expectations and discontent to viewing everything as opportunities for a good story and chance to learn something.
It has taken a long time and I am still working on keeping that mindset, but even just being aware of my own desire to do so has changed my life. It’s so easy to be inspired by the views at the top, but the inspiration doesn’t start there, nor does it end there. There is so much to life that peaks, the valleys and slopes have so much to teach us. Learning how to fall and get back up; there is nothing to be more grateful for.
The views, the adventure of constantly moving and seeing new things, plus meeting a beautiful mix of different people on trail have made 2019 my best decision to date. I fell in love with myself because I proved how hard work rewards me and created a huge amount of awareness and appreciation for simple luxuries, such as a hot shower! The picture below is 0.7 miles from the top of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT. 10 days in the snow, whited out at 11am on day 9, and the snow on the tent is mostly dug out in the photo. A hot shower brought me to tears, more about that later.
It’s hard to put everything nice and neatly into a blog post about my much I value my time long distance hiking and all the benefits I’ve received during my time on the Pacific Crest Trail. I absolutely plan to finish the miles I have left on this incredible scenic trail and always encourage people to go spend some time backpacking and seeing what they gain. Hiking can teach you a lot, if you are willing to listen.