I feel really displaced.
I had dreamed of the PCT for many, many years and it was not what I thought it was going to be. I think my failure was putting my experience in a tiny box of how I thought it should be and not letting it be what it was. I was not it the physical and mental condition I needed to be in to make it to Manning Park but that is something I couldn't have known unless I tried.
I am happy that I tried.
I will go back and finish California next season.
My goal now is to start running. I want to get my physical self into the best possible condition so I am not limited by my limits. Does that even make sense?
I've been pretty down. Trying to find joy in the ocean and engaging in the summer activities of coastal San Diego but everything seems flat.
If I had it to do over again these are the things I would change:
Stay off the fucking internet - Facebook and the PCT-l did nothing to assist my experience. They only highlighted the many assholes that are in the hiking community and uncovered a seedy underbelly amidst the 'trail angel' community. Ignorance is bliss on this one. My experiences with people on the trail weren't always good but I think a lot of that was due to the internet. The internet's idea of what a hiker is, is extraordinarily different than what I encountered most of the time. I never saw thru hikers with "a sense of entitlement". What does that even mean?! Most of what I encountered was shitty advice and judgement from weekend warriors and cyber-hikers, both on trail and online. I admit I am guilty of this too. When I was planning this hike I thought I knew what to expect. I thought my weekend backpacking experience would translate to this hike and I learned very fast that that is not true. This is not anything like a backpacking trip. This is a fucking ultra marathon. Live and Learn I guess.
Let me use an example here: Cheryl Strayed's book Wild. I hated that book. I would go on the internet and talk shit about it prior to my hike like all the other hikers did. Then, I got on the trail and started to understand Cheryl's hike. I still don't like the book, but I get it. I get why she started in Tehachapi and why she skipped the Sierra and why she went to hike in the first place. We all go out there with different goals in mind. I get it now and I'm glad she wrote her book. If you go online you'll get page after page of negativity about the book and about it's inspirees. People talking shit about current hikers for being inspired by Wild and lots of negativity saying they are all unprepared and will all fail and that Wild will be the end of the trail. I urge them all to follow April Noriega who is a Wild hiker and watch as she hikes 30+ miles a day with the "hiking elite" like Carrot Quinn and Dirt Monger and then tell me how Wild hikers will fair on the PCT. I feel like the hiking community excludes or discounts a lot of people that could add a great richness to the trail experience. There is a lot of contempt prior to investigation in the hiking forums. If I hadn't gone online, I wouldn't have had these preconceived notions about what a thru hike should look like and how it should be done. I would have stopped comparing myself to others and just had a good time. Sometimes too much information is bad.
Get really, really fit: For me, just hiking was not sufficient training for this hike. I needed to run. I'm working on C25K now to trying and get into better shape so I can do the hikes I want to do in the future. Don't just walk. Run.
Eat better: Better quality food is important. I would go stoveless and pack more nutritious food that I can re-hydrate by soaking like lentils and snacks that aren't empty junk food. I would have eaten more like I normally ate - higher fat, lower sugar. The things you think you NEED on trail are out the window in a couple days. For example: I am a die hard coffee lover. I stopped making coffee by Idyllwild and took caffeine supplements for most of the trip but then I even stopped taking that. I could not imagine I would go a day without coffee before my hike and by the end I was totally weened of caffeine. Trippy.
Avoid town, but rest: The lure of town is huge and it is REALLY hard to escape when you're there. I would have done less town stops if I knew that and zeroed on the trail more. Rest is super important but sitting in a dark hotel room eating everything that's not nailed down is not a great wilderness experience. Dip into town and collect your supplies and then get out FAST!
No one talks about gear: Try to get your base weight down in the beginning but don't freak out about it. What you start with you won't finish with and no one gives a shit about pack weight on the trail.
Feet suck: I couldn't imagine how bad my feet were going to hurt before I started, and when they did start to hurt I couldn't imagine that they would ever stop hurting. The winning combo for me was brooks trail runners in men's sizes and two pairs of socks that are the thickness of women's nylons that I found at K-Mart in Big Bear. I think they are called trouser socks. Don't give up on your feet, they will adjust assuming nothing is broken. The combo that worked for me may not work for you so don't let anyone tell you their way is the right way. There was a guy who was hiking totally barefoot this year and that worked for him.
So. Those are my thoughts from my 800 miles on the trail. Keep in mind, I don't know, what I don't know, and all of this could go out the window in another 800 miles.
Thank you all for supporting me in my hike and I am very sorry if I've let you down. I will get it together and be back on a trail soon! Probably The Lost Coast Trail next month.
I hope you'll stick with me!