This morning, I found out two more of my trail friends are heading home. It seems like the farther north I hike on the PCT, the lonelier the trail gets.
In the desert, there seemed to be countless hikers both on the trail and in town. I could easily see 15 to 30 hikers on the trail each day.
In the High Sierra, the number of hikers I saw on a regular basis seemed to be reduced significantly. I saw more JMT (John Muir Trail) hikers than I did PCT thru-hikers. Where did everyone from the desert go? Did they skip the section? Did they go home?
I know within my own trail family, everyone went home. Everyone except for Grit and I. Bleeder left from Lone Pine, after we hiked up Mount Whitney. KitKat and Amish said goodbye to me in Independence, right before I took my first solo hitch to the High Sierra via Kearsarge Pass. Punchline and Mooch skipped around a bit, but I got to say my final goodbyes to them in Mammoth. Now Lightweight and Mr Ed, the lovely couple from New Zealand who gave me my trail name on Day One on the PCT were leaving the trail from South Lake Tahoe and heading up to Seattle for a couple days before flying home. Now it’s just Grit and I hiking our way up to Canada.
With less people out here on the trail, it’s been super lonely. The summer camp party vibe of the desert is long gone. There’s less hellos to exchange, less laughs and less stories to share. Everyone keeps saying I’ll meet new friends out here, but how can I if there’s so few people left on the trail?
Last night, on Day 78 of hiking on the PCT, I had a good cry session in my tent. It all started when I went back through all of my pictures and videos I’d taken so far on the trail. In each photo, I could see the progression of my trail family grow closer together each day we were together on trail. So many memories. So many adventures. So many jokes. So much laughter.
At the time, I knew our time together was limited. We all knew Bleeder and Punchline wouldn’t be hiking all the way to Canada. With this in mind, I knowingly savored every single moment I got to spend with them. I’m so thankful I documented our time together in the desert so thoroughly.
The time I got to spend with with my trail family was only the first 750 miles of the PCT. Once they left, I’d still have another 1,900 miles to go. That’s more than half of the PCT! Even though I still have a huge chunk of the trail left to hike, I can’t help but feel completely heartbroken and sad. I miss them so much every single day.
This morning as I hiked out of our tentsite and put on my headphones, I had a revelation about the music I was listening to. A few hundred miles back, I had downloaded a couple of albums I hadn’t heard in awhile and all of a sudden had an urge to listen to: Janes Addiction, “Nothings Shocking” and “Ritual de Habitual” and Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Blood Sugar Sex Magic.” These were three albums I had listened to consistently in high school while I was battling a serious case of depression.
As I listened to all three albums back-to-back this morning while I climbed up and over hills and through forested areas and around lakes, I thought a lot about that depressed girl I was in high school. I remember sitting in my room and listening to these albums on repeat by myself for hours.
Now here I was, the woman that sad girl in high school dreamed of becoming someday. This morning was someday! I was now a strong, independent woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, all on her own. These days, I still have my bouts with depression, but I have a much more effective way of dealing with it – I go hiking. And even though I was feeling pretty sad about missing my trail family, instead of crying in my tent all day, I went hiking, enjoyed the scenery around me and allowed my emotions to get sorted out on the trail.
As I listened to each of the songs on these albums, something inside me clicked, causing my hiking pace to quicken. I was out here hiking the PCT. Instead of being stuck in a cubicle or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic or sitting in my high school room looking at the ceiling, I was looking at trees, mountain ranges and lakes. I was breathing fresh air and drinking (filtered) water from rivers and creeks. I was brought into the moment instantly and was able to truly appreciate all the beauty around me on trail.
It bums me out that I see fewer and fewer PCT thru-hikers on trail these days. It makes me even sadder when someone I know out here tells me they’re going home. I’m not going home, no matter how lonely it may get out here and how much I miss my trail family. I’m sticking it out. I’m going to continue hiking this trail, no matter how lonely it gets, all the way to Canada.
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