Lessons Learned from hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Hi everyone! It’s Kaitlin here, back with a very exciting update on my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike! I have reached the Canadian Border, which means I’ve now walked 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada! Overall the journey took me 135 days, from April 7th to August 19th. The whole adventure was incredible beyond what I could have ever imagined, and it was definitely a life-changing experience for me. Since completing the hike, I’ve had some time to think about some of the major lessons or takeaways that I’ll bring with me to post-trail life, and I’d like to share a few of them with you all here!
Embrace the unexpected and learn to be adaptable
I am very much someone who loves to plan and prepare (this is probably why I ended up planning education programs as my job). While there is some pre-planning involved in a Pacific Crest Trail hike, it’s simply too large an endeavor to plan every step in advance, and you definitely have to do most of the planning on your feet as you go along. I would often start a section of trail not knowing where I would camp each night, and once I completed a section, I would show up at a trailhead not knowing how I was going to get to town or where I would be staying the night once I got there. The idea of this would have sent my past self into a panic, but I quickly learned that if you problem solve on the go things really did work themselves out, and it allowed for much more flexibility to embrace the unexpected than if all things were planned in advance. I could camp at a beautiful spot that was a few miles short of my goal for the day, or adjust my plans as I meet new people. I think there’s a lot of opportunities to let go a bit in my regular life and work as well and appreciate the things you can’t plan for rather than panicking about them. I still love to be prepared, but I’d like to think I’m a little better equipped to embrace when plans inevitably fall apart.
A little extra help from friends and strangers can go a long way
One of the things I like about backpacking and hiking is feeling self-sufficient. I’m carrying everything I need on my back, I’ve planned and prepared to keep myself safe, and it’s satisfying to feel like you can live on your own in the wild! The PCT however definitely taught me that the help you get from others can bring so much to the experience. It’s incredible how much it can make your day when a kind stranger gives you a cold soda on a hot day, a ride to town, or even just gives you words of encouragement as you trudge along another long day of hiking. Not to mention the help from family and friends, both back home and friends made on trail. I always envisioned my hike to be a solo adventure, but it was anything but that in the best way. The support from others in the form of messages, visits on trail, and great company through many many miles, was probably the biggest key to success on this huge journey. I think this is definitely true in off-trail endeavors as well, and aim to both embrace the help others provide and be the person who provides that help to others.
Don’t underestimate yourself
Another one of the most valuable lessons learned that I hope to remember in the future is that I shouldn’t underestimate myself. Hiking from Mexico to Canada is a huge feat, and can involve a lot of challenging days of hiking long miles that would seem unfathomable to my pre-PCT self. It would have been really easy for me to look at that daunting task and write it off as too difficult simply because I never had before, and never even attempt it. But when I gave myself the chance to succeed and just tried it, I was amazed by what I was able to accomplish and the miles I was able to hike. I hope I can keep that drive with me coming home and continue to push myself to try things even when they seem impossible.
Thank you to all of you who have been following along with this adventure all summer! I feel so lucky to have had this experience, and I look forward to seeing you all back at The Cove!