Dear Next Year's PCT Class,
Your lives are about to change.
Chances are that you're peeing in your pants with anticipation (if you're peeing in your pants for another reason it may be wise to consult a physician prior to beginning your hike). With only days remaining before kickoff, the dream (or nightmare) of hiking the PCT is about to become a reality.
I understand that many of this year's class have already departed Campo on their excruciatingly long walks to Canada. Your early start dates have me flush with jealousy (better to avoid me until the rage wears off).
Allow me to submit a disclaimer before we get underway: what you are about to read is a work of fiction (as with most everything you have read about the Pacific Crest Trail). Nobody can tell you what awaits you out on the PCT, and nobody can prepare you for the experience of hiking the trail.
That being said, let me prepare you for the experience of hiking the trail by telling you what awaits you out on the PCT.
You are going to see snakes, you are going to see spiders, you are going to see lizards, and you are going to see some large predatory mammals (if you're lucky).
You are going to take candy from and get into cars with strangers, you are going to be invited into someone's home for no other reason than them wanting to help you, and you are going to make friends whose stories are much different than your own.
You are going to trip, you are going to fall, you are going to bleed, and you are going to cry (and no, not because you tripped, fell, and are now bleeding).
You are going to doubt your resolve, you are going to hate the trail, and you are going to question your motivations for having started the trail in the first place (god damn this endless small talk).
You are going to see unspeakable beauty to which neither words nor pictures will ever do justice (but take pictures anyways! And take pictures of your fellow hikers!).
You are going to realize that most of your “planning” was a waste of time, you are going to replace and send home gear that you thought “you would definitely need”, and you are going to come to hate every person whose advice you took before starting the trail (sorry in advance).
You are going to voluntarily put yourself into some of the most awkward positions of your life (e.g. squatting and pooping into hole dug on a hill that you thought was hidden, but that is actually in full view of approaching hikers for at least 100 yards in either direction), you are going to become obsessed with the idea that there may be a vending machine over the next crest, and you are going to bow down and kiss the feet of the trail angel who gives you an ice-cold soda mid-trail (and you don't even like soda!).
You are going to go days without seeing a car or a road, you are going to be alone for perhaps longer than you have ever been in your entire life, and you are going to know what it is to be a part of a community (and no, not just an online community of fellow My Little Pony enthusiasts).
You are going to stop caring about how many calories are in that triple cheeseburger, you are going to stop thinking that you need to bathe yourself on a regular basis, and you are going to stop pretending that where everyone is going after work on Friday is in the least bit important.
You are going to walk faster and farther than you ever thought possible, you are going to embrace the trail (never french fry when you should pizza), and you are going to remember these three things to make your hike a successful one:
- You have never gone as far as you think you have.
- HYOH – hike your own hike
- If you weren't on the trail, you would still have some bad days over the course of five months.
What awaits you is the unknown (and we all know what the unknown means).
The unknown and bears.
Many of you will not make it to the Canada (or the Mexico). Many of you will not even make it halfway through the trail (statistics, people). Many of you will make it halfway through the desert, say “what the fuck am I doing?” and return to your life of not worrying about running out of water.
Just remember to have fun (and not die).