As I planned my PCT thru-hike over the last year, I had this image of hiking the perfect hike. I wanted to start and finish on the right date to avoid extreme heat, possible wildfires, potential trail closures and early snowfall in the Cascades. I wanted the right gear – gear I felt comfortable using and light enough to comfortably carry on my back for five months. I wanted to have a solid resupply plan in place for my food and supplies while on trail. I wanted to make sure I had enough money saved so I could afford to complete my five month thru-hike.
No matter how much time and energy I put into my planning, researching and saving for my hike, one of the lessons I’ve learned while hiking the last 500+ miles of this trail is that there is no such thing as a perfect PCT thru-hike. No matter how much I tried planning for it.
I started my journey with the intention of hiking as much of this trail, in chronological order, as fast as my feet would carry me. I quickly learned that the trail doesn’t care about the intentions I had set for my hike. Things happen. Friends are made. Trail families are formed. And Mother Nature always has the final say of how your hike will actually go.
I started letting go of the idea of a hiking a perfect thru-hike on my first day on the PCT. On Day One, I didn’t hike a 20 mile day out of the gate. Instead of going the full 20 miles to Lake Morena, I stopped to camp for the night at Mile 15, Hauser Creek. This turned out to be a great decision because I saved myself from injury, heat exhaustion and I met my beloved trail family.
Then there was the section of the trail coming into Idyllwild that was closed due to a previous year’s wildfire. Most hikers hitched their way into town from Paradise Cafe. Still wanting to hike my perfect hike and as much of the trail as I could, I opted to hike one of the Mountain Fire Alternates into town instead of hitching. This wasn’t the prettiest or one of the most memorable parts of the trail. This section was quite boring until Bleeder and I ran out of water as we were halfway through walking down one of the longest forest service roads ever.
Coming into Wrightwood, I made the decision to skip 14 miles of the trail and take the two-mile direct route along the Acorn Trail into town instead. This was after having to hike the last 100 miles in one pair of socks that were literally falling apart on the bottom of my feet. I was also tired, dirty and desperate for a shower.
Then there was the wildlife trail closure outside of Wrightwood where we had to get off trail, walk along the road for two miles and then cut through a campground before getting back on trail again.
Another time we had to maneuver around the trail’s original course was coming out of Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce. Just hours before we were scheduled to hike out, a wildfire broke out on trail only three miles from Hiker Heaven. We ended up getting shuttled around the burning section by an amazing trail angel.
Then there was the last 150 miles of the desert Bleeder and I decided to skip all together. This was a hard decision to make. Three members of our trail family would be getting off trail entirely and heading home soon, with Bleeder being the first to leave during the third week of June and the other two the week after. We decided with limited time together upon us, we’d rather skip ahead from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows and spend our last week of us all together trying to walk through as much of the Sierra as possible.
From Tehachapi, Bleeder and I hopped on two buses and went ahead to Kennedy Meadows, Mile 702 to meet up with the rest of our trail family. We got as far as summiting Mount Whitney before Bleeder had to leave the trail and go home. It’s still up in the air on how much of the Sierra the remaining members of Team Lagger will get to cover together before our family fully dissolves.
With all of the detours, closures, wildfires, skips and trail family members going home, I had also fallen behind on my original itinerary by a week and a half. Everyday, I’d tell myself I needed to pick up the pace and hike a 20-mile day. There would be days where we’d hike 15, 18, 20 or 23 miles. Then there’d also be days where we’d only hike 8 or 10 miles. Once you start getting behind, it’s really hard to get caught up again.
The thing about thru-hiking the PCT is theres no such thing as a perfect hike. No one ever gets to hike the entire 2,650 miles on the trail in one season. It’s impossible. The trail is constantly changing and there’s always going to be parts of it that will be inevitably closed for one reason or another.
Mileage aside, there’s also this concept out here that everyone hikes their own hike, even if you’re in a trail family. Everyone has their own itinerary. Everyone has their own comfortable hiking pace. Everyone has an idea of how many miles they want to hike each day or how many Zero Days they want to spend in town. Some have jobs to go back to, jobs to look for or family business to take care of.
I remember a trail angel telling me a few weeks back that no matter how amazing a trail family may be, never lose sight on why I came out here in the first place. I spent a year of my life planning this hike. I quit both of my jobs and made a lot of sacrifices just so I could come out here and hike this trail for five months.
I started my PCT thru-hike with the intention of hiking it by myself. Never in a million years did I ever expect to meet people I’d enjoy hiking with every single day for two months. And I certainly didn’t think I’d ever cry when it was their turn to leave the trail and go home.
These last couple of weeks on trail have been quite the rollercoaster of emotions going from an all-time high of hiking over 600 miles, summiting multiple mountains and making incredible memories to the ultimate low of watching one of our trail family members hop on a bus and wave goodbye as they head home.
My thru-hike is not perfect, but it’s my hike and it shall go on, with or without the members of my beloved Team Lagger trail family. Things are pretty sad now, but my adventure shall continue all the way up to Canada.