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Date: Mon, Apr 25th, 2016
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Why I'm Hiking The PCT - FAQ Edition
The most common question when I tell people I am hiking across America from the Mexican border to the Canadian border is why?! This is then followed up by a million other questions from the obvious to the insane.
Rather than rattling these off like a broken record player I am putting this down on paper (or on a blog at least!), in a hope that people may begin to understand why I am taking on this amazing challenge…
Why are you hiking the PCT?
This is a complex question, with multiple answers, the one I give most often is “Why not?”…
In fact this trip has come at a perfect storm in my life, with a number of pieces of my life coming together to inform my decision to exit my life for 6 months and spend my time walking, getting blisters, being too hot, too cold and seeing the world through new eyes.
I guess when I dig deep down into my internal psyche (a dangerous step!) there are a few different reasons:
Because I Can: When I look around me at the people I know, I am in a unique circumstance of not being tied down with a wife or kids and having a level of financial independence which makes this possible. One of the most popular reactions from people is “I wish I could do that”, I can do this, so I will.
Don’t Sell Your Youth Cheap: As a young whippersnapper of 27, I have my whole life ahead of me. I have an amazing life, with a loving family, awesome friends (even Ben), a great job and all the choices I have in front of me look like good choices. When I look back at my youth so far I can see a number of interventions which have shaped me into the unique person I am today; at school in the Cadet force I learnt hard work, respect and the true meaning of a team, at university I learnt logical thinking through engineering and I learnt a whole variety of lessons through bartending; from how the world really works, what people are like when they are at their best/worst and how a smile and a laugh will give you a friend in any room across the world. More recently at work, I have learnt really hard work, what real responsibility feels like and the only problem you can’t solve is the one you don’t try and solve. This is all great and I’ve collected a range of experiences both good and bad which I would never change, however as I look forward to the path to my 30’s I need something different and new, a true adventure, where I’m not constrained by my life so far and have a totally new experience.
Because I Don’t Appreciate The Things I Have: In the modern world we live in none of us stop to think about water coming out a tap. Recently I have started to reflect on how lucky I am and how much I take for granted. In many ways I hope to come out with a fresh appreciation of life and the luxuries I don’t even stop to think about.
I’m Tired: 6 years working as a consultant has made me tired and I need a break. I will try and eat into my sleep deficit which has been building up over the years…
Are you mad?
“I can’t help but think that life must be so boring for normal people” – Michael Ruiz
How did you choose the PCT?
I would love to say I didn’t see the film Wild and think that would be cool, I want to do that. But to be honest I did. I had being considering a break for a while, probably travelling the world doing the standard backpacker around the world trip, hoping from country to country and hostel to hostel. However the PCT had a more attractive draw, something unique, a challenge rather than a holiday. There was a click in my mind and the decision was made.
Which charity are you doing this for?
A common question and one I feel conflicted about. In general I don’t believe in getting sponsorship for doing something you want to do and I am definitely doing this trip for my own reasons.
If there was going to be a charity I would ask people to donate to it would be Mind. Last year I lost my mother to her life long struggle with mental health. Mental health is an underfunded area and one which will touch every single person’s life in some way. I would ask that everyone reading this takes a minute out of their lives to consider how stress, depression and the whole range of mental health illnesses has affected them and those around them, together with what they could do to help. Please read through the Mind website (http://www.mind.org.uk/) and if you have any money to spare make a donation to help those who can’t help themselves.
Are you going alone? Which company did you book with?
The PCT is a managed and regulated path, maintained by the amazing PCT Association (http://www.pcta.org/). The path is set and around 1000 people start the path each year, with many fewer finishing it. The trail is now permitted with a limit of 50 people a day at the starting point. There is no company that does "PCT Trips", you plan this yourself and if something goes wrong there is only one person to blame. One the most exciting/scary things of this trip is being out there alone, however I will meet many different and amazing people on the trail to share unique experiences.
Are you afraid?
Yes, of course! I don’t know anyone who wouldn't be afraid of this challenge but that is not a reason not to do something. When you cut back the noise, all I’m doing is putting one foot in front of another for 6 months, this is nothing to be scared of.
“Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death” – General Bradley
Do you think you will change? Is this you quarter life crisis?
I try and go into this with no expectations. I don’t know how this trip will change me and I have no overarching aim of “finding myself”. I guess I expect to experience every emotion we have in life to an extreme intensity over the next 6 months; excitement, fear, pain, joy, regret, amazement. How this will change me I do not know but I guess we’ll find out.
What do your family think?
My family have been amazingly supportive, they are a bit scared (my sister stressing if I have enough water) even if some of them try and hide it (Dad). I think they understand that this is a great opportunity and they trust me to be sensible.
Where will you stay?
When I hit a town I will probably get a bed somewhere but the majority of the time I will be in my tent (http://www.zpacks.com/shelter/hexamid_plus.shtml) or cowboy camping under the stars J
What about bears? Have you seen the Revenant? Are you taking a gun?
I’m not that tasty! Bears are not really a risk, encounters are rare and they are after your food not you. In bear areas it is very tightly regulated and I’ll be carrying a bear canister which will be kept away from my tent to ensure they don’t maul me trying to get to my food. But if I do find a bear, I think this guy had the right idea :P http://digg.com/video/bear-encounter
I’m not taking a gun, don’t be stupid.
What about your job?
Back in January, I remember my trepidation going into a meeting to tell work I wanted 6 months off… Work have been amazingly accommodating and are holding a job open for me when I come back, a special shout out to Javid for all his understanding and enabling me to do this adventure!
How will you carry your stuff?
On my back! I am carrying very little, throwing away social norms that we live with (I will smell pretty bad) and I will post stuff forward to myself on the trail for when I need it (I’m not going to carry and ice ax in the desert)
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” - Henry David Thoreau
Only the Essential: Pacific Crest Trail Documentary - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8A0ad_2mPc
Ken W's PCT Advebture
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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