How to put the magic of the Pacific Crest Trail into words? It's challenging.
For me, much of the joy was in the simple act of submersing myself in nature and putting one foot in front of the other. It's a simple and enjoyable life, really. You know what you are doing every day: walking along a trail through every changing scenery. Every day is a new adventure: where will the trail take me? what will the scenery be like? what will I see? It was exciting and fun to let each day unfold without really knowing what was around each corner.
Nature is magical! I frequently reminded myself to keep my eyes wide open and look around and just take it all in. Your senses really do awaken in nature. The sound of the world awakening at the crack of dawn is amazing: the bird sounds, a stream flowing, a fish jumping in a lake, a twig snapping (bear! deer! squirrel!). The sound of silence at night was astounding. That such a noisy, busy day could turn into a night so pitch black that you can't see your hand. To experience complete calm, still, absolute silence. My eyes were really wide open! I found myself constantly scanning the trail, observing the nuances and changes of my daily environment and taking it all in.
Nature is always changing. Observing the subtle and not-so-subtle daily changes on the trail was fascinating. This was one of the most enjoyable things about life on the trail. Nature stimulates, delights and entertains. The constantly changing zones and Eco-systems were fascinating to me. Some of it was obvious: I remember things like where and when I saw my first lizard on the trail, the first place I saw an Oak tree, the exact place I heard a new bird noise or better yet saw a new bird. New flowers, new plants, new trees - these things were constantly changing and entertaining as I walked along. Oddly enough, as my memory of my trip is already becoming blurry, it's these little details that I remember. I often wished I could walk in the company of a biologist, a botanist or a geologist so I could ask all of my questions. I wish I had more time to learn and discover more about these things along the way.
People are important. As is a good meal. The other half of life on the trail is the time I enjoyed in "civilization". Re-supplying is the life blood of life on the trail: you need to go to town to get more food so you can continue to walk down that trail. My time off trail was essential to my well being and was also really, really enjoyable. As much as I enjoyed my time on the trail, I couldn't help but get excited when I got near a town: the promise of tasty food, a bed, some extra sleep and some human contact were things I yearned for. Because I was spending so much time on the trail all by my lonesome (read: days and days without seeing another soul) the brief social interactions with people were so important to me. I could do an entire blog entry on the kindness of strangers. I could also do an entire blog entry on the meals that I ate and how much pleasure they gave me! I also discovered that I didn't need to spend a lot of time in town, just a little bit of time to come up for breath, eat and socialize before continuing down the trail. Town was sometimes so enjoyable, that I was afraid I just might stop for good. So, I stuck to the theory that "an object in motion stays in motion". Momentum was my friend. As much as I enjoyed my time in town, I also had the need to get out of town as soon as possible.
It's simple: I also enjoyed living life simply. As well as the simplicity of putting
one foot in front of another, there was a certain amount of pleasure in
having everything you needed on your back. Food, clothing and shelter
all on your back? How liberating! What are you going to wear? No choices! Filthy and dirty? Who cares! I also didn't mind getting dirty, in
fact I rather enjoyed it. Being *filthy is part and parcel of life on
the trail and you need to embrace it.
Spending an extended period of time living and breathing on a trail, was a real natural thing for me. For a person who already spends a great deal of my leisure time outside, who delights in physical challenge, who loves traveling and seeing new and beautiful places and meeting new people this adventure was surprisingly easy and enjoyable. That's not to say it was an easy hike - it was very physically and mentally challenging. That's to say that I was as good match for the trail. While trail life was certainly a different reality from my day to day existence in Banff , it came easily and I enjoyed it. A big part of the reason for that is simple: I am a simple creature and by nature a very happy, content human being. This gets you a long way, on a long trail. If you approach the trail with an open mind, a flexible plan, the ability to laugh and a joyful sense of adventure good things are bound to happen.
The simple act of submersing yourself in nature and putting one foot in front of the other is also surprisingly meditative. What did you think of out there? Was your mind spinning circles? Did you make yourself crazy? Well, yes sometimes. But, most of the time I was just walking along with a big stupid smile on my face. It seems I have something people are searching for: the innate ability to just simply be. When you take away all that stuff that is swirling around your brain, what was leftover was joy and tranquility. At least that's how it was for me.
It's all of these things combined that made my adventure so amazing. When do you ever get to experience life like this? Well, you don't. That's what makes hiking the Pacific Crest Trail so magical.
*With regards to being filthy: big difference between filthy/dirty and unhygienic. Hygiene is important! Dirty salty skin and clothing is not. :)