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Date: Mon, Dec 19th, 2011
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The thing that most often clashes with my pre- and post-thruhike perceptions of the trail are the metaphysical aspects. You'll see almost every first-time hiker deal with this, especially those that extensively journal pre-trail (such as myself in 2008). It's also mentioned in most documentaries about the PCT; which is funny because it's the least realistic yet universal idea that hikers have before their first time.
The idea, of course, is that by hiking you will enter a zen-like state of mind wherein you can solve all of your life problems, or at least think your way through to solutions. That some truth about yourself or your life will occur to you while hiking because hiking is some amazing, life-changing conduit for magic thoughts. Or that somehow, while doing this thing that is such a large departure from modern American life, you'll be privy to insights you would not normally have. And, to some small degree, there's an element of truth in that.
The problem is that the trail is still "real life" though even most post-trail thru-hikers differentiate between trail life and home life. Meaning your ability to make fundamental changes in your life is the same before, after, and during the trail. Yes, it can be used almost as a fulcrum to affect change in your life, but so can any big move. It's no more life altering than making a cross-country move or even a short distance move. It's a lot like changing jobs, really. If you've been unable to snap yourself into some new way of life by moving to another city or changing jobs, you won't on the PCT either.
The PCT is just an experience. Is it incredible? Yes! Is it fun? Very. Will it change you at all? Most likely. But it won't be through magic. You won't do any deep meditation out there simply by hiking. You will spend most of that time you thought you'd be discovering new truths on imaging big meals and hot showers (preferably with attractive members of the opposite sex). If it changes you at all it will be through an orienting on the small things in life, not the big ones. Sandwiches, not truth.
I'm sure some, even past hikers, might disagree. But it's pretty universal after your trip that you will see the purpose of a thru-hike shouldn't be deep thoughts. It should just be fun. Accept that it's just a hike and you'll have twice as much of it.
Another Joker Thru-Hike
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. The PCT traverses 24 national forests, 37 wilderness areas and 7 national parks. The PCT passes through 6 out of 7 of North Americas ecozones. Learn more: www.pcta.org
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