After our first sweaty day of hiking, I spent the night shivering in the valley of Hauser Creek trying to reconcile my preconceived idea of the PCT with my actual experience. I felt awkward and new, like a chunky square puzzle piece – much too clean, too eager, working too hard and inefficiently.
Where was the casual efficiency of packing my pack every morning, that I had pictured? Where was the boisterous and sometimes quiet elation of getting around the next corner, or to camp at night? Where was the vivid noticing of vistas, plants, and rocks? Where was the unreserved personal freedom I had expected to feel upon my first footstep in the sand?
Well it turns out they call it the beginning of the trail for a reason. 7 days later, still at the beginning of the journey, I have experienced some of these things… but I am still learning. More importantly, I have gained a sense of pace.
Eagerness can strangely turn into something close to gluttony – a desire to rush through miles simply to have accomplished it, to skip through time simply to be more competent. Walking is slow. Our longest day so far, a grueling 22 miles, left me defeated at the thought of a car driving my 6:30 AM – 7:30 PM slog in less than half an hour!! But is that why I am hiking a long footpath through the remaining wilds of the American west? The pace of walking allows for it to be defined by far more than transportation! It is, among other things, a platform for exploration, friendship, reflection, singing, and eating peanut butter. Each day can hold a celebration of the warmth of morning sun and the shade of a highway bridge at noon. It is a wondrous feeling to gaze at a mountain range all day only to realize that the next, we will explore its contours and inhabitants at close range.
Putting miles on the old legs still hurts a lot. If I were to give one piece of advice to future hikers it would be TRAIN!! With a full pack on your back, with your shoes on your feet, lots of miles. My feet and knees are the only body parts that still suffer significantly, and especially the first four days I would go so far as to say that walking was at times agony. So much pain. But replacing the pain is competence and confidence (and a nice day of rest). Our bodies and minds are adjusting to the pace of walking, and it is exciting! We often take breaks mid day to escape to heat and drink loads of water if we can stop near a water source, taking off our shoes and ridiculously stylish wide brim hats to sit quietly in the shade. Ahh, siesta. Then back to the dusty trail! More later, here is some footage!