It has officially been a year since I gave into the masochistic demands of
a the voice inside my head and started walking north from the US-Mexico border in search of my spirit animal.
So now the question is: were those four and a half months spent dragging myself through 2,600 miles of wilderness simply an exercise in stubbornness or did it have some profound effect on my life?
Does my comprehensive understanding of backcountry toilet use and unique insight into the life of the homeless drive me to now champion a socialist inspired, tree-hugging, lifestyle of peace and love focused on self-improvement and world peace?
I don't even know what the means so, unfortunately, I cannot say.
What I can say is that me today and that me one year ago can accurately be described as two (very?) different people, and that the Pacific Crest Trail can be credited as the catalyst for said changes.
I went from having never overnight backpacked in my life to my life becoming overnight backpacking for nearly five months. Needless to say, I emerged from the experience a seasoned veteran (aka I lost all self-respect/decency/consciousness and embraced the hiker trash lifestyle).
But how has the PCT affected my daily life back in the confines of society? Do I walk faster? Eat more? So how has the PCT changed my daily life? The following are things that distinguish me now from me prior to the trail:
- I opt to walk places instead of taking public transportation (because maybe trail magic).
- I am always aware of which direction I am going (it's always the right direction).
- I ask people the elevation of places (sadly, people rarely know the answer to this – and most look at me with a face that says, “who the hell cares?”).
- I have a completely different standard for public toilets (now practically anywhere is fair game – despite being spoiled in Japan).
- I look for trails when visiting new places (trails and breweries).
- I have no problem operating with minimal clothing whilst traveling (max two of one item).
- I have yet to become bored with speaking to people about the trail (although I avoid bringing it up).
- My battle with foot odor has extended well beyond the scope of the trail (however, this may be due to my refusal to travel with more than two pairs of socks).
- I have officially regained feeling in my toes after nearly falling off completely.
- I still love wrapping cheese in Sriracha smothered tortillas.
- I have no problem sitting on the ground in public spaces (although I still get looks in elevators).
For some perspective, here is what I wrote immediately leading up to the trail:
- The Pacific Crest Trail: Two Months Out
- The Pacific Crest Trail: T-Minus One Month
- The Night Before The Morning Of
People ask me how hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was and I always tell them, “it was the best thing ever, but it was also the worst thing ever.” Neither statement is a lie.
I am incredibly jealous of everyone embarking upon the trail this year (although I do not envy their lack of water, increase in hiker numbers, or Southern California fires), and despite my repeated thoughts of “this is going to be the last hike I ever do” whilst on the PCT, I am eager to devote yet another extended period to yet another meaningless walk through the wilds.
I don't know when I will be able to get back out on the trail (2015?), but I know that another thru-hike will have to be added to (and stricken from) the bucket list.