Paraphrasing Shawn ‘Pepper’ Forry, who this past Winter achieved the first ever Winter thru-hike of the PCT with his buddy Justin ‘Trauma’ Lichter, said true adventure is when you are uncertain of the outcome, or the outcome is unknown.
Two months (how is it still that far away?) and I have been going back and forth over whether or not I can pull this whole PCT thing off, in a heavy snow year. Some hikers have decided to go SOBO to ease into it a bit more; I think I will explode if I have to wait that long and anyway, it fits so well with when my contract is over. It’s interesting- I really didn’t have any doubts about whether or not I could finish the AT. Even to do the PCT in a more normal (well, more normal for recent times) year, I feel fine with. Heck, I might even perform better than on the AT – the PCT is full of things I am actually less sucky at. Deserts, dry heat, little water, high altitudes- I’ve never have a problem with these. The PUDs of the AT- no bueno para mi.
I seem to have become an adventurer in recent years. Maybe I always had this yearning, but it’s taken a little while to see it in action. As a child, I spent countless hours exploring the woods, reading cast-off national geographic magazines, fantasy novels, playing the Oregon Trail game on my computer, building a miniature version of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s cabin with popsicle sticks and doll’s accessories. A far cry from the real thing, but in retrospect I’m not sure how many of my contemporaries were really in that head space. And my “adult” life- pshaw, who even knows how to describe what I’m doing. I decided a couple years ago to have a new policy of “doing what’s interesting to me” and basically not wasting any fucking time on the rat race. Well, I can’t say I *really* got sucked into that, not with my life in my 20s as a musician (ok, as mostly a musician playing Romani music of Eastern Europe? Who does that?) but after 3 degrees (debt-free, thank Universe/family savings/me) and thousands of job applications and practically being on the streets, I sorta called bullshit on the whole American Dream, ya know? “Because you have to be asleep to believe it!” Thanks, George, always putting a laugh on the sad obvious.
Getting a degree in acupuncture and Chinese medicine after all of that was as much trying to buy myself some time and learning a useful skill to help people (want to go into the rant-hole? Try talking about the problems with conventional Western medicine in the US) as it was just trying to do something interesting to me. Leaving straight after school for a year of worldwide adventure-time, going to all the places I never really thought I could go to? Same. How about tagging on a thru of the Appalachian Trail? Ditto: things are starting to get interesting. But with all of these things it occurs to me that I never really thought there was something other than money or time preventing me from doing this; other than that, I was pretty durn confident.
Reading this excerpt from Dirtmonger’s site (just go ahead and read his whole blog; some of the best trail writing I’ve come across, and I’ve come across a lot being isolated at sea) shows me what I need to do this summer. Deep down this outcome IS unknown, and I guess that’s why it’s worth pursuing. Other trails will be there still in other years, but 2017 snow conditions will only be here this year.
I’m not gonna lie; there’s a part that feels like it needs to prove something. I missed some miles in Maine. I aquablazed for a day in Virginia, which I don’t regret, and I hiked the Virginia Creeper Trail which I also don’t regret. I am certainly not a purist; I had a date to be done by, but I wanted to enjoy doing what I was doing while I was out there. I hiked 98% of the trail. I was doing the trail for cultural reasons when it came down to it. But there is a part that inside is saying that I took the easy way out. With the Sierras looking like how they are looking, there’s a chance for redemption nigh.