I have spent most of my time since I’ve been home glued to the unfolding news on the events on the PCT in Washington. Winter hit early this year, and I am so glad I finished before the snow came. I would not describe my hike as “fun.” It was often stressful and exhausting. But I wanted to get to the Canadian border before winter stopped me, and I am thankful I was able to do that. Many of my friends are still out there, trying to figure out how to get to Canada. There is several feet of snow now on the high passes and many people who have tried to go out have had to turn back. A few hikers have been trapped in storms and had to be airlifted out of the mountains. One 23 year girl has just been rescued after being trapped for over a week in heavy snow near Goat Rocks. It’s a very serious and scary situation. A lot of hikers have abandoned their hopes of making it to the border and have returned home. Others are still trying to complete their journey by walking roads.
There is no big fanfare awaiting us at the border- no pot of gold at the end of this journey, no fireworks, and no epiphanies. We simply just arrive at a little clearing in the woods, in which a wooden monument stands. But getting to the border and seeing the monument is a big deal to us. We have all invested a tremendous amount of ourselves in making it to this specific place: our savings, our time (in both planning and actually hiking), and our energy. This adventure is not like a vacation. It is a five month long mentally and physically exhausting endeavor, and most of the time, we are in some state of discomfort. We walk for hundreds and hundreds of miles in extreme heat, and then extreme cold. We sleep on patches of dirt. We have no shelter in rain, hail, and lightning storms. We fight our way through constant high wind. We are swarmed by massive numbers of mosquitoes in the Sierras that don’t allow you to enjoy the incredible scenery. When we aren’t being eaten by mosquitoes, flies and gnats take over, and then bees. We ford endless rivers. We are constantly covered in dirt. Our gear is always breaking. We carry a lot of weight on our backs up and down mountains all day long. We have very little to no time to relax and take in our surroundings. We have to keep moving no matter what if we want to achieve our goal of walking from Mexico to Canada.
Arriving at the monument signifies that we were able to overcome every obstacle that the PCT threw at us. We have known what it looks like since before we started and we always know how many miles we have left to hike until we reach it. When we actually touch it and take photographs with it, we are given a sense of closure and a feeling of internal peace. We know how much it took of us to get there, and we know we are that much stronger for everything that we went through.
There have been a lot of emotions swirling out in WA along with the snow these past couple of weeks- sadness, fear, frustration, and anger. (Some hikers have even been turned away from the trail due to the National Park closures!). Eventually, the feelings will settle and the achievements will overshadow the frustrations. It takes time to process everything we have experienced. For some, not being able to finish has given them an excuse to hike the trail again next year. I personally need to figure out how to channel the tremendous amount of energy and focus that I put into this hike into the next chapter…