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Now that we've got all that romanticism out of the way, its time for a reality check. What about the not so fun parts? Foot problems once they develop become a painful reminder with each step. Blisters are only the beginning, there's black toenail, shin splints, sprained ankles, plantar fasciitis, and broken foot bones. Many such ailments can't be remedied with a day or two of rest and often end people's hikes. And then there's chafing which rates right up there with foot problems. Oh that's why some people walk like cowboys!
How about being dirty all the time? I go into town and get cleaned up. But the moment I'm back on the trail my fingers start feeling dirty again. On the first uphill, the sweat breaks and the freshly laundered clothes start stinking again. Hands, clothes, everything will be dirty and stinky for days until the next town stop. Can't use soap in the streams and lakes. Without soap its virtually impossible to get the grime off. Can't get cleaned up before going to bed, or hitching a ride.
Then there is being thirsty and hungry. Sure, I try to plan how much water I need, but its easy to make simple miscalculations, or just think that its not that hot, or discover the next water source has no water. Stuff happens and you get thirsty. Same with food, its hard to carry enough and the same old dried foods get a little tiresome. And then there is the occasional miscalculation where I run out of food. Well, no choice but to keep walking until the next resupply.
Southern California had the wind which never seemed to stop. Downright annoying when it blows grit all over you day and night. Oregon and Washington may have extended bouts of rain. A day and night of rain is ok, but at some point its nice to dry out. If the rain continues for days, well, that can be fun. Oh, and it can snow any time of year in the mountains.
Mosquitoes are another favorite. There's a reason they call them bugs. And they are not the only friendly wildlife out there. There are spiders and scorpions and snakes, lots of snakes, and mountain lions and bears and man-eating Tyrannosaurus Rex and... Oh, that was Bryson. Ok, I only saw mosquitoes and snakes.
I still chuckle when I remember a young person who said she was rebelling against real life's daily routine and was sleeping in every morning. You can't get to Canada if you goof around too much. I don't think she made it. A sizeable amount of diligence, discipline and organization is needed to complete a thru hike before the seasons change. In other words it is hard work, only its not 8 to 5, its more like 6 to 9.
And then there is the part about being alone. It's been known to drive people off the trail. Especially in the Northern California section where I'll be resuming my hike.
I believe the successful thru-hiker develops a sort of mental toughness. A state of being where things just don't matter that much. Sore feet, no water, no food, dirty, stinky, alone, wet, cold, hot, whatever. Just doesn't matter that much. After all its just another 20, 30 or 50 miles and you'll reach a town and it will be ok. I mean really, how bad can it be? It only takes 3 or 4 days to go another 100 miles.
Did someone say this is fun? No, its not always fun, but it is a grand adventure.
If this journal is your first exposure to the joys of hiking the PCT, or you just want to catch up on the first half of my hike, click the link below "Pacific Crest Trail - 2013". The Pre-Trip and Post-Trip entries cover a number of topics such as preventing blisters and trail jargon.