So after everything you've read you still want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail? Well, I have some news for you: you're probably going to die out there (and nobody will miss you).
I've already warned about the bears, the things scarier than bears, and even the more things scarier than bears, but for some reason you have chosen not to listen. You are pushing ahead with your useless PCT plans anyway? Idiot.
Perhaps inspired by tales of past thru-hikes or motivated by some emotionally shocking event in your life, you think that conquering the Pacific Crest Trail will bring you some sort of existential satisfaction. It won't.
Or maybe you've got yourself an alternative lifestyle. Maybe you drink kale smoothies and say things like “you know that's bad for you, right?” Maybe you're in your late fifties and are wanting to conquer that dream you had thirty-something years ago. Maybe you've never been overnight backpacking before, or maybe you've already completed another long-distance hike of some equally perilous footpath (this does not improve your odds of survival). It doesn't matter who you are or what your intentions are – you're going to die.
Chances are that if you intend to thru-hike the PCT in the first place, you don't have anyone in your life who cares about you (if you did, they would most certainly prevent you from going). At least when you do meet your end at the bottom of a ravine or the jaws of a starving mountain lion, nobody will miss you.
WHAT'S GOING TO KILL YOU
Before we get into the specifics as to why you'll die, let's take a look at the things that have the ability to kill you whilst hiking the PCT:
- ANIMALS | Bears, mountain lions (cougars), feral dogs, domesticated dogs, coyotes, bobcats, wolves, cows (they'll trample you in the night), wild boar, deer, moose, crotalus scutulatus, rattlesnakes, trouser snakes, black widow spiders, bark scorpions, africanized honey bees, fire ants.
- MICROSCOPIC THINGS | Cryptosporidium, giardia, rabies, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, coccidioidomycosis (valley fever), foodborne disease, legionella, lyme disease, coxiella burnetii, e. coli, shigella, francisella tularensis, West Nile virus.
- NATURE | Lightning, ball lightning, megacryometeors, flash floods, rock slides, forest fires, regular fires, earthquakes, sinkholes, lava-filled fissures, falling tree limbs, falling pine cones, solar flares.
- PEOPLE | Reckless hunters, serial murderers, accidental murderers, suicides, section hikers, drunk drivers, sleepy drivers, incompetent drivers, cattle drivers.
- ACCIDENTS | Falling, getting swept away by a river, going over a waterfall, impaling yourself with a trekking pole, eating something poisonous, falling from something else, breaking a leg and not being able to get help and just sitting there for days waiting to die one way or another.
- YOUR BODY | Heat stroke, hypothermia, dehydration, starvation, heart attack.
And I'm confident that's not even close to everything capable of ending your fragile and meaningless existence (let's be honest, when the sun explodes and wipes humanity out from the known universe, nothing you did will make a difference).
THE SPECIFICS AS TO WHY YOU'LL DIE
So now we know what can kill you, let's take a closer look at why you specifically are going to be helicoptered out of the wilderness in a body bag.
- YOU'VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE | This shouldn't really require much of an explanation. You've never been out alone in the wilderness for an extended amount of time, and now you just, all of a sudden like, expect to be able to fend for yourself and cope with all the dangers of the Pacific Crest Trail. That's the equivalent of thinking it will be a good idea to have sex with a bear just because you thoroughly researched mating practices and bear anatomy. What? That doesn't even make sense. I know, neither does trying to survive the PCT.
- YOU'VE DONE THIS BEFORE | So the PCT won't be anything new for you because you have already completed it (or another long distance trail)? Wrong. Another flawed rationale. Thinking that just because you have done something means you can make the leap to do something that's “kind of the same thing, right?” makes no sense at all. Let's say you manage to fuck that bear. Does that mean you can just go out and fornicate with a lion? It's basically the same thing right? No, exactly, it's not. Don't think that just because you've been on a long hike somewhere else in the world it means that you are going to survive hiking the PCT.
- YOU ARE GOING TO BE REALLY CAREFUL | Do you think everyone who ever died in some tragic accident was thinking to themselves, “I'm just not going to be at all careful right now because I really don't care if I die.” No, of course not. People are careful all the time, and people die all the time. We kill ourselves doing everything from driving to the store for groceries to trying to get that extra chocolate bar to fall from the vending machine. That's why these things are called accidents. It doesn't matter how careful you are, because all it takes is one accident to finish you forever.
- YOU THINK YOU'RE SPECIAL | So maybe you've read some books, watched some movies, and talked with some former trail survivors to get you pumped for your adventure. Maybe you think that everything you've read on the internets and everything your gut is telling you can be discounted because you are for some reason different. You think that you're the exception – that you're the special. Your misleading vividness and refusal to accept that we are all equally fragile sacks of meat will be the end of you.
Should you by some incredibly improbable miracle manage to complete the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail, well good luck readjusting to society and working through your crippling depression and suicidal thoughts.
WHAT THEY'LL TRY TO TELL YOU
Unfortunately for you, the world is filled with people who encourage this sort of behavior. These people are only trying to get you out of the way to advance their personal agendas.
In your moments of doubt, when you don't know whether the PCT is something you should really commit yourself to (it isn't), these people will show up and try to “encourage” you. However, what they are actually doing is hastening you along the path to an inevitably painful death.
These people are not your friends, your peers, your “trail buddies”, or even (depending on how far you're willing to take this) your fellow human beings. Here are some of the things you may hear accompanied by the translations to what these things actually mean:
- “I'm so happy you're doing this!” = It's about time you took the hint and left.
- “I wish I could do something like that.” = My life is infinitely better than yours.
- “I'm so jealous of you!” = You're probably the dumbest person I know.
- “If you need anything, let me know!” = I'll be sleeping with your partner while you're gone.
- “I'm so excited for you!” = I'm so excited for you to die.
- “Good luck!” = Nice knowing you.
- “Keep me updated!” = I can't wait to never hear from you again.
But wouldn't you rather blissfully march to your doom thinking that these people meant for you to return safely? Better to just not confront anyone and feign ignorance until your time it up.
Have a good hike!