Edits by PSQ
On the west coast of the United States, there is a hiking trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada. It snakes its way through California, Oregon and Washington, showcasing the beauty of America’s dynamic landscape. It’s called the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and it is a testament to the continued efforts of humanity to preserve and harness our wild places.
I flew to San Diego alone and had done very little planning. I started the trail at the Mexican border, close to a tiny settlement called Campo, on the 23rd of April. There was a group of eager hikers getting their photos taken at the monument that marked the beginning. I stood off to the side and looked north. There was a young dude from Oklahoma next to me, called Preston, doing the same.
“So, ah…do we…should we…start walking?” I asked him, sort of laughing, sort of not.
After three days I had gone the farthest I had ever continuously hiked.
We walked 700 miles through the Southern Californian desert, and a month through the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountain range. The trail flattened out as we entered the lush forests of Oregon and settled into a rhythm. We were able to hike over 30 miles a day, thriving in our simple existence. The trail ended at the volcanic peaks of the Northern Cascades, as winter loomed and snow started to fall.
I finished the PCT on the 23rd of September; 5 months after I started walking it. As I rounded the final bend in the damp trail and saw the clear-cut that marked the Washington-Canada border, I noticed a young dude from Oklahoma walking in front of me wearing a red Patagonia jacket. Preston and I had hiked the entire trail together. Once strangers, now best mates.
On a long distance hike you become accustomed to the intimacy of existence. You learn how to survive and, along the way, that teaches you how to thrive. When everything’s covered in snow; when you’ve got everything you need on your back; when you’ve got micro-spikes attached to your boots; when you’re edging across an icy cliff face 4,000m up, somewhere in Northern California, and if you slip you’ll almost certainly plummet into the white abyss to your left; when you’re in the heart of the wilderness; you feel alive.
I guess that’s why I do what I do. I want to feel alive.