I'm never thru-hiking again.
What the actual fuck am I doing out here?
I have to wake up early; I hate waking up early. I have to hike all day long; I hate hiking. I have to camp alone; I hate camping alone.
I hate the rain. I hate the bugs. I hate the fact that I've had to abandon the “sit and enjoy” bathroom attitude I've held so dearly to my heart.
I hate this trail.
Miserable – that's what I am.
And the worst part? I'm doing this voluntarily.
I'm an idiot.
An idiot who will never thru-hike again.
The Appalachian Trail? Who would want to hike that? A crowded green tunnel that doesn't even cross the entire US?
The Continental Divide Trail? A masochist's dream, complete with probable snow, few hikers, a lack of a trail, and grizzly bears.
This was what passed through my mind for a solid three weeks of Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hiking (mostly in Oregon).
But that was three years ago.
For some reason, with the horrible memories of hate and suffering fading into the past, I've decided to do something I literally swore to myself I would never do again.
I'm planning another thru-hike.
I'm going to hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).
I was told on my first bout of extended walking through the wilderness that hikers often find themselves hooked on thru-hiking, and I can remember thinking, multiple times, that I was and would not be one of those people.
When I started the PCT I had never before overnight backpacked, never camped alone, never hiked more than ten miles (16 km) in a single day. I had never had to ration my food, to find and filter water, or to poop in a hole of my own making. I wasn't even someone who you would say “loved (or even enjoyed) the outdoors)”.
Now, after having done all of this and more, after having decided based on empirical evidence of my own making that I would never again embark on a journey akin to the PCT, all I can think about is doing it all over again.
It's not the hiking, the outdoors, or some deeply-seated emotional trauma that I need to resolve (at least not that I'm aware of).
It's the freedom.
The freedom to say, “I'm spending today swimming at this lake – or climbing that peak over there.”
The freedom of owning and, more importantly, having to own every decision I make.
The freedom to decide, “Today I'm breaking out clean socks,” and having that be the day's highlight.
The freedom to spend each day exploring and navigating a new landscape.
The freedom to do whatever I damn well please (within LNT principles).
Over the past couple of years, some of my PCT brethren have experimented with spending time on the CDT, and they've assured me that the trail is every bit as horrible (and magnificent) as I imagine it to be.
Honestly, I know – I really know – that things on the CDT are not going to be easy. I'm going to have to drink from awful water sources, I'm going to get lost, I'm going to get caught in lightning storms, and I'm going to look back on this post and think, “Holy shit, for once I was right.”
It's time to embrace the brutality.