Me and my partner Sarah did a section hike for the 3rd year in a row on the PCT the end of July 2017. Usually I post about my hikes shortly after returning home, excited to reflect on how great the trip was and share pictures. Yet for this one it took me months to find a little motivation to write about it, to be perfectly honest it was a really tough trip for me.
I questioned myself several times during it, especially whether I even enjoyed backpacking any more…GASP! This was particularly terrifying since backpacking has been an obsession for me the last few years. One that has shaped who I am in so many positive ways. Helping me to feel braver in my own skin, reset myself, and take some real deep breathes. I use my vacation hours to backpack and look forward to every trip for my sanity and rejuvenation. So you can imagine how I might have been feeling questioning if this was something I still loved doing! 😱
I had previously always had a blast while backpacking. I’m pretty stoked to be out in the wilderness, moving my body, overcoming obstacles, challenging myself, seeing amazing, and beautiful things everyday. Even when things got hard or were not all that beautiful, I was still happy to be outside and could appreciate my privilege to be where I was. This trip did not feel that way though and I felt weird about it, almost ashamed of myself that it was not very enjoyable a lot of the time. And it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why.
Sarah and I got along great, especially on our longest trip by ourselves. I am super appreciative of her support through my complicated feelings as we went along too. Part of my issues were likely stemming from getting off to a rocky start (I’ll go into this in the first trip post to follow), having the worst knee pain I’ve ever experienced, going through a lot of buggy, viewless forest, and having to miss out on the waterfall filled gorge due to fires. But there was also just something else looming over me that I couldn’t and still can’t explain. That’s just the reality and I wanted to be honest and share it. This shit is not amazing all of the time and sometimes I get grumpy and depressed, real talk.
I also think that social media contributes to having these unreal expectations about adventure and backpacking. It is f-ing hard a lot of the time, not cute, and can just plain suck, otherwise why would we challenge ourselves to do it? That’s part of the excitement, thrill, and scary shit that comes with being a backpacker. You have no idea what the next day holds. Maybe your body or your heart hurts, maybe you are not eating enough calories or drinking enough water, and that makes everything just a little more tough. No matter what there is just one thing you will have to do over and over again and that is get up and hike it out.
Also the hiking community can be dicks sometimes. I have seen a lot of people of color, female identified, and queer hikers I admire talking about this in their writing. It’s really amazing to see because it needs to be discussed even if a lot of white cis-gendered people (let’s be honest, dudes mostly) are gonna deny or crap on it, it doesn’t make it less real for those who experience it. It’s easy to feel less than when others are judging your hike, acting like macho I own the forest turds, and/or playing the one up game. I can also own that sometimes I am just hard on myself or make my own crappy expectations that don’t live up to the real world experience. The trail and the wilderness is a magical place. And sometimes it is not and that’s okay too.