PCT: Please, Carlie. Try.
How long is it a viable description of your life?
When is it okay to begin looking into the future again?
When is it that you bring into focus a new endeavor?
When is it that I will attempt a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail?
This last question has been haunting me. Two thousand, six hundred and sixty three miles have been haunting me. The blistering heat of the Mojave Desert and the bone chilling cold of the snowy High Sierras have been haunting me. Dramatic views of our arrestingly beautiful country have been haunting me. Living out the story of humanity in the rawest form, carrying my life on my back again and once again relying on the good hearts of my fellow humans has been haunting me.
When I set out to thru hike the Appalachian Trail I had only been backpacking twice, a collective three nights and four days. One of those times included hiking up and over Blood Mountain in August without enough water, which I can truly say is a mistake you only make once in the muggy dog days of a Georgian summer. Still, this is did not clue me into the tribulations and suffering that a successful thru hike requires. Hiking two thousand, one hundred and eighty five miles seemed doable because I hadn't done it before.
With the thoughts of the PCT slipping in and our of my thoughts, all those AT miles give me reference to the PCT miles that could be in my future if I so chose. (I am claiming nothing at this point in time!) And five hundred MORE miles than Springer to Katahdin feels more than just scary, more than just crazy. It feels IMPOSSIBLE. I was so ragged out and worn down at the end of the AT that I was finishing on pure grit and stubbornness.
Could I do that all again?
Could I convince myself to suffer all over for another beautiful experience of thru hiking?
Could I muster again those character traits that helped me finish the AT?
Would they hold out for an extra five hundred miles and last me through the PCT?
Would I be able to do it?
Would I regret not trying more than failing?
I think the only question out of any of these that I can even being to speculate on was the last. Surely I would regret never trying to thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail. There are so many other life changing journeys in life that I could embark on. I have proven myself in the backpacking world, and yet there is something that draws me back to hiking a long distance trail. That "something" lies somewhere on a scale between the security of having done it once before and the fear that I only finished the first one on a fluke. If I can do it twice, on two different trails, then surely I will have conquered long distance backpacking, right?
The problem is that I think I might be content in my life right now. It is a strange feeling for a restless dreamer. I really love my job. I'm not grinding my way through college anymore. I like where I live. I'm not living in squalor, over taken by boys in their early twenties. Things are going well besides the small fact that I don't have a dream that I am currently working towards. The PCT could be that next dream but I fear that leaving behind a great life at home makes it easier to quit. If there is little to go back to then there is no reason to leave the trail.
Do I wait until I am unhappy in life to hike again?
Do I prepare to leave in 2015 and see if I become unhappy?
Do I choose to hike despite loving my life at home?
Did my lack of connection to home really help me on the AT?
Did I simply not see my happiness before the AT? Or...
Did I walk myself right into a happiness while on the AT that I won't soon want to leave?