Back in January, while contemplating the end of my teaching contract in South Korea and my upcoming year of adventure, I decided that this would be the year when I finally hiked the PCT. Why not? I’ve got the time, the money, I like long journeys, camping, and I’m a strong… cyclist. Hiker? Probably, I’m pretty good at carrying a pack and walking for a long time. I mean… it’s just walking, right?
Since I was living in South Korea, I ordered all my gear online and had it delivered to my folks’ place in California. I used Amazon, REI, something called Massdrop, and a couple brand specific websites. I upgraded most of my gear to the ultralight weight (therefore crazy expensive) versions. I made gear lists based on the blogs of former PCT hikers, women who I thought had exceptional blogs and stories to tell.
Rather than starting my hike at the traditional March, I decided to ride my bike in Japan for two months. (Sadly, there is only one blog post from this adventure. I was really busy having a wonderful time and someday I’ll go back and write some stuff about Japan.) In May, I came back to California to find all my PCT gear waiting in a large pile of boxes.
“What’s this pile of stuff still doing here? I can’t get to the bookshelf! Gretchen, you’re going to clean up this pile before you leave again, right? Including the bike, right?”
Apparently, my family is on to my trick of turning up once every few years, throwing all my stuff around, and expecting automatic storage and postal support. My mom resisted all my attempts to get here excited about assembling and sending my re-supply boxes. I tried showing her pictures on Instagram of much more organized hikers, their boxes tabulated down to the last powedered vegan calorie, lovingly ziploked and labeled. In the end, I came up with four haphazard boxes. Many websites give the advice that too much planning will give you anxiety, and you should just let some things happen on the way. I’m taking that advice and hiking with it.
Most of my preparation was stacking all my gear on the floor and then staring at it with a furrowed brow. The short tiny list of “a few last minute things” somehow cost hundreds of dollars and weighed a dozen pounds.
I took a shakedown hike to Mt. Madonna. Despite taking all day to prepare, I managed to forget to bring stove fuel. Around midnight, a huge skunk showed up in my campsite. In the scant three trail miles back to the parking lot, I managed to get lost. My dad had to wait an hour for me.
On Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, some family came over. We ate sushi and cookies and everyone tried on the backpack. “Well, this isn’t so bad,” most of them said. “I thought it’d be one of those huge packs that you can barely lift.” Then I’d tell them about the 700 miles of desert before the trail reaches the Sierras. “Shit, 700 miles!” They’d sadly shake their heads, already mourning my tragic death by dehydration in the Mojave.
I spent Sunday being anxious and making gear piles and eating Mexican food. Impossible as that 700 miles of desert sounds, I can probably make it the first 20 miles. And since I already bought all this stuff, I guess I have to try.