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Long Trails

Before the PCT: The Huge Questions

What everyone asks about the Pacific Crest Trail, and what I want to know.

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Did you read that book?

Like thousands upon thousands of people, I did read that book. And, also like them, it was my first introduction to the Pacific Crest Trail—only three years ago. I read it because my mom sent it to me (much to her chagrin now) right before I embarked on an ill-prepared journey of my own: cycling across the country with not enough training or experience under my belt.

Unlike the thousands upon thousands of other readers, however, Wild wiggled its way under my skin until a time arose when I could gather the know-how, save the money, and spend the time to hike it myself—and that time is now. Yeehaw!

The next question I nearly always get asked is: Will you have a gun?

If you are surprised by this one, please note I am a shorter-than-average, snappable-looking (don’t get any ideas, Internet) young lady. Despite the fact that I have never touched, let alone shot, a gun (and am pretty sure it would be wrestled out of my hands immediately), I am not taking a gun for one reason: It is far too heavy.

In a few short months, I have transitioned from a comfort mountaineer and backpacker to an obsessive ounce-counter. A gun, I fear, does not help me into the 12-pound range I am shooting for here (forgive the pun).

And the last common denominator is: Are you carrying all of your food at once?

I staggered back at this query the first time, but then I read the infamous High Adventure of Eric Ryback, and found that he did indeed carry months’ worth of food. Alas, I am not such a tough nut, and I will be resupplying via towns regularly.

While I can easily assuage my friends’, acquaintances’, and (in some tiny way) my parents’ fears, there is still so much I wonder about as the countdown speeds past me.

I have biked across the country, summited glaciated peaks, walked half way across Spain, and gotten myself out of (and into) plenty of tricky spots, but this is an entirely new experience. This, for the first time ever, is when I’ll be just wandering through wilderness. And it is, for the first time, when I’ll be traveling for five and a half months straight.

My own questions are slightly more hysterical: Will I become so hangry I throw a massive tantrum in the sands of the desert? Will my toenails become disgusting black dead things until they ungracefully pop off? Will I become so dirty I cannot recognize my own features in windows as I pass by, looking longingly into shops during town stops?

But, even with all the little insecurities and unaccountables, I look forward to the journey and even to all the unknowns.

I hope I can make like Rilke and, “try to love the questions themselves…”

… Except for: are you taking a computer? Because, really?!?

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