Tomorrow marks one month since beginning my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. I've walked 369.4 miles on trail and climbed and descended over 120,000 feet of elevation.
I've battled the harsh sun of the desert where we thought we would run out of water and two days later been snowed into our tent at the top of a desert mountain. I've gotten blisters on my feet and learned how to take care of them. A guy named Zen taught me how to stretch my IT band as we drank his Coors Lights in a creek bed. I've fallen asleep before the sun sets, been woken up by the brightness of the full moon, and rose to the tempo of a pink sun. I've carried too much food and too much water. I've carried not enough food and not enough water. I've been sun burned, scratched, and bruised. I've lost a track of the days and wished away the nights.
I've eaten McDonald's while sitting in a ditch shaded by a hiker's tarp, found used shoes in a hiker box, soaked in a hot spring with naked hippies, slept seven people in a hotel room, stopped washing my hair and shaving, and taken countless rides from strangers.
I've laughed and cried, cursed the trail and my body for letting me down, and found myself running with glee. This past month has been the most challenging and thus rewarding month of my life. I've listened more than I've spoken and learned more than I've taught.
One of the best things I've learned on trail is that kindness is gifted to those who give it. The thru-hiking community is the most inclusive, kind, caring, sharing, and wonderful community I have ever been a part of. From other hikers offering me snacks to trail angels allowing me to do my laundry and take a bucket shower, I've been absolutely blown away by the love and kindness I've seen in the past month. I've learned it isn't enough to be nice, we need to take that extra step to be kind. If we all take one thing away from this hike I hope it's the fact that there are so many kind people out there and we're all looking for a way to share it. Kindness is currency.
Before I sign off, here are a few other things my trail family and I have learned in the past month:
- Don't EVER pass up water.
- Always accept candy/food from strangers.
- If you're going off trail for a bathroom break leave your pack or poles on trail so your hiking partners don't think you just disappeared into thin air.
- Artificial shade is not the same as real shade.
- Take your shoes off the second you can. Even if they'll only be off for a minute.
- Never think you're almost to the top of a mountain. You are wrong. There is more climbing to do.
- There's no rush. You're here for the views, enjoy them.
- If you think it's hot, just wait, it can be hotter.
- That's not a tan. That's dirt.
- The five second rule is now the five hour rule. You drop it, you eat it.
"Life is either a great adventure or nothing." -Helen Keller