At a certain point, the thought of turning back becomes impossible, unsavory. As you amble along on feet that don’t exactly feel as if they can hold you, across shallow streams, through deep pine forests, and fields of unknown flowers, the choice that you make each moment becomes as simple as breathing: walk on.
A newcomer to the world of long-distance hiking, I didn’t truly understand the meaning of sore feet until I chose to join Dan (Soap Box) for a stretch of the PCT, from South Lake Tahoe to Donner Pass. Four days translated into two blackened toenails and several bulbous blisters to be lanced, duct-taped, and patiently ignored. The Pacific Crest Trail is not for the faint of heart…or of foot, for that matter. As I became aware of how well (or not) my body dealt with the mileage, I endured a sample size of challenges posed by the trail: ravenous mosquitos, high winds at altitude, trudging along in the rain with all of your food in what you hope is a waterproofed bag. Alongside the difficulties, there were innumerable moments of absolute joy. Each climb promised the sort of picturesque view that left me stumbling for words and the breath to say them aloud. The fact that I got to share these ridiculous wonderful moments with Dan, well, that itself was pretty amazing.
In the face of such overwhelming beauty and uncertainty that define what it means to live in the woods, you can’t help but find yourself severely humbled. Indeed, the mantras I used in rough patches alternated between “holy fucking shit” and “so cool”. As unthinkingly as these thoughts sprung from my lips, they might still be the best to describe the experience.