A lot of people hike the same trail in any given year, but we all have different experiences doing it. We go through the terrain at different times of day or under different weather windows, allowing what we see or experience to be wildly different from one another. One person may be lucky enough to hike a high pass in good weather, while another has a frightening and life endangering experience in a storm. One might walk through a certain landscape in the heat of mid-day, while another is treated to a spectacular array of colors at sunrise. We also have different encounters with other people and animals, depending on our timing. I never saw a mountain lion on the PCT, for example, while several other hikers had frightening encounters with them. Timing determines whether you encounter a kind person who offers you a piece of fruit or is open to giving you a ride into town. We also make different choices along the trail, such as how many miles to hike each day and how much weight we carry, which can greatly alter one person’s experience from another.
I think that many of us learn similar things from hiking long trails, but I also believe that, since we are all unique, have different personality characteristics, and make different choices, that each person will be presented with similar challenges again and again until the person has been shown they they have accepted that particular lesson. My journey on the PCT this year was definitely made a lot smoother from my previous experiences on both the Appalachian Trail and the Colorado Trail. The lessons that I learned on these trails served me well on the PCT. I thought I would share the most significant lessons I learned from each of the trails I have hiked.
On the Appalachian Trail, I learned that human beings are the most dangerous animal on the trail. This lesson was presented to me over and over again, from the very beginning of the trail, to well after it was over. I was a magnet for the most psychotic people on the trail. Although I loved the life of a thru-hiker, these bad people experiences ruined the trail for me. I wondered over and over about why these experiences happened to me and seemingly not to others and finally concluded that it was a lesson I was meant to learn. I had to learn about keeping boundaries and not so easily allowing others into my energy field where they could easily manipulate me.
On the Colorado Trail, I learned to be happy wherever I was and not to look forward to being anywhere else (town while I was on the trail, or the trail while I was in town), because my happiness was not waiting for me in a different place.
On the PCT, I learned that there is no need to worry about anything. I learned that if you stick to your path and your boundaries and not grip and try to control things too much, but allow and open instead, that everything will naturally fall into place. Things will always break and you will never not be in need of something, but help is always out there somewhere. It may not come in the form that you wished for or from a person you hoped would provide, but it will come from somewhere. The trail provides. The universe provides. We are all connected.