Finding out about the Pacific Crest Trail was like a light going off in my brain, just a quick and calm realisation of ‘ohhh, this is what I need to do’. A thousand hikers have said this before me but I hope that says more about the trail than it does about how cliched my thought patterns are.
In spring 2016 I’m about to finish my degree. I have a place on a masters course starting a few months later that I don’t truly want to accept, but I have. I’m doing well in school about to graduate, but I’ve lived in London for three years and I’m exhausted, all the time, my mental health feels like sheet glass.
I keep seeing this book Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis in Foyles and thinking I need to pick up that book sometime (despite the Lena Dunham quote on the front) but it’s a hardback and expensive, full price. I read the blurb and it feels significant. I pick it up and start reading it on the tube, I continue reading it at home. I reach the part where Matis finds out about the Pacific Crest Trail and decides to hike it, and the aforementioned, cliched moment hits. I’d never heard of the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2650 mile hiking trail stretching border to border, Mexico to Canada. I’d never even heard of long distance hiking, not on this scale but it makes a lot of sense to me.
When I made the decision to hike the PCT I had a limited experience hiking, I’m not an outdoorsy or athletic person. I used to do multi-day hikes with school, wild camping in the Brecon Beacons and Dartmoor, but never more than 40 miles or so. I’d day hiked in the USA, in Arizona and Yosemite, and a tiny section of the John Muir Trail earlier this spring.
I don’t know where the urge to hike comes from, it feels instinctual, something deep and ancient. I read somewhere, I don’t remember where, that thru hikers don’t want to hike a long distance trail, they need to. Which succinctly summarises how I feel about the PCT. Foremost I have to hike it, it feels like my body made the decision and my mind just followed. Secondly I do want to hike it, more than anything.