We’re now about 25 days out from starting our 4/4/20 Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hike, and the fun is on! My partner and I are sampling freeze dried meals, weighing items, discarding, adding, ordering and angsting over all the details of preparation for our FIRST EVER upcoming thru hike.
We decided to start thru hiking with my long-time dream hike, but in our defense, we have been hiking for a very long time in many wonderful and challenging places in the world, not the least of which are the White Mountains of New Hampshire where we live and hike often. Why the PCT now, without trying something less ambitious first, you ask?
Time is passing, and some unpredictable day, so will we. We both retired mid 2018, and Raggle, my partner, wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago as a rite of passage into this new phase of our lives. So we set off in the fall of 2018, and walked 650 glorious miles across Northern Spain. We ended our hike a few days past Santiago in Finisterre, which translates to “land’s end” at the place which was once thought to be the end of the world. A fitting end for our first long distance hike although it was supported, and we slept and ate at albergues (hostels) along the way.
We spent 2019 hiking in the California desert (including day 1 of the PCT,) had a great and long hiking trip in Ireland and the Azores, and meeting family needs (I’m the grandmother of 5 little ones, and an extra hand is always very helpful, and sometimes really needed.) I also needed 3 months to recover from a knee injury. We ended the year spending 2 months in Southeast Asia.
So here we are, home from SE Asia for 7 weeks, winter hiking to get in shape in our own White Mountains, and trying granola recipes as I try to plan a healthy diet for our PCT mega adventure. While in Asia (and to be honest, for the last 8 years or so) I’ve read as much as possible about long-distance hiking. Sadly for me, there have been only a few things written about old (er) hikers like us. Age does have it’s challenges.
I’m in my 70th year. Now’s the time, and I recognize, if I don’t go now, there may never be another opportunity. I’m trying to balance the inevitable, non-stoppable physical decline of aging with my desire and need to continue to grow and have new experiences. Now that we are post career, we have the time and financial freedom to do it.
My way of thinking about the PCT is:
1. All ages have their challenges. Many of these challenges overlap into different stages of life. Find a way to work with the challenges you have.
2. Find companionship and good company. We all need people to watch our backs. (I met Raggle on a hike in Morocco. But that’s another story–ask me if we meet on the PCT.)
3. Set goals, and stay organized.
4. Be flexible, as there is NEVER only one way to meet a goal. Go with the flow.
5. Be relentless about pursuing your goals. But…
6. Sidetracks are often so alluring, and also OK to take at times. The sidetracks may lead you to new goals or may just be an alternate route and a new opportunity to get where you want to be.
7. You create who you are over a lifetime, and will never be truly finished. The PCT will add one more chapter.
8. Errors, mistakes, and pain are inevitable and OK. “Pushing through is courage. Pulling back is regret.”
9. Great granola will be just one more reason to get out of that sleeping bag in the morning.