On June 6, 2017, my friend Indigo and I began our journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, a long distance scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. We started from Tehachapi, CA at mile 566 and ended our adventure in Manning Park, BC, logging over 1,800 miles of sandy, rocky, grassy, muddy, snowy trail. This year turned out to be known as the “Year of Fire and Ice” because of a record high Sierra snowpack and numerous heat waves and wildfires – it was certainly a crazy adventure.
The PCT turned out to be more than just a trail. It was our home for 112 days. It gave me a family. It allowed me to grow stronger, more confident, and more appreciative of both the small treasures and vast wonders of life. The trail was a test for myself, an investment in myself, and a gift to myself.
Here are 107 things, big and small, I learned while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail:
1. Most people won’t answer you honestly when you ask them if you smell bad.
2. Soft cotton, showers, and filtered water should never be taken for granted.
3. A liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds.
4. Your nostrils and lips can get sunburned.
5. Patience, like a muscle, must be exercised to get stronger.
6. Always take more pictures of people than of landscapes.
7. ADAPTABILITY — Life on the Pacific Crest Trail is unpredictable at its core. When you go every day unsure of where you’ll sleep that night, you must assume a strong level of adaptability and flexibility for surprises, good and bad. I’m someone who likes to plan out things, and while I feel that characteristic helped me prepare for the trip, it was not particularly useful while hiking. So I learned to be flexible and adapt. Sometimes you find out that there’s a fire closure ahead of you and have to hitch around or do some road walking. Sometimes it’s about physically and mentally adapting to walking over a marathon every single day and learning to walk through the pain. And other times it’s watching everyone come together to help your friend do a video job interview at a small town cafe. It’s not about being ready for everything, it’s about being ready for anything.
8. Women are the more likely than men to break their tailbones. I learned this after flying down a bumpy, icy hill near Forester Pass followed by intensive WebMD research.
9. Your shoes will deteriorate to the point you literally start dreaming for new shoes to aid your aching feet.
10. By waving your trekking pole in front of your face, you can create a temporary force field so that little gnats won’t fly into your nose and eyes.