Why Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hikers So Often Choose to Repeat
It happens so often, it almost qualifies as a phenomenon. There must be a reason for it.
“I’m thru-hiking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) again this year,” I frequently read on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. And remember–we’re not talking about repeating a round of golf or seeing a movie a second time. The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,663 mile hike through the desert and high mountains all the way from the Mexico-California border to the Washington-Canada border. Personally, I lost 43 pounds over the course of the 168 day journey; yet I have recently begun to mull over the possibility of doing it again myself. What gives?
For starters, the PCT is the most gorgeous long-distance footpath in the world (as far as I know). Hikers begin in the saline austerity of the southern California desert, including parts of the infamous Mojave. After 700 miles, you then enter the so-called ‘High Sierra’, which rises to the very highest points on the entire American mainland. The views–which I had always thought were overrated–stay with me to this very day, given their ethereal majesty and yawning vistas. Along the way, hikers pass along the three deepest lakes in the United States (Crater, Tahoe, Chelan). Eventually the trail ends up in the rugged Northern Cascade range, which possesses its own brand of rugged bleakness. In my PCT narrative, Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail, I discuss how it is difficult for an average person the likes of myself to even imagine being able to experience a journey of this depth and diversity.
That feeling of all-out effort, which so many of us find elusive in our adult lives, is a daily feature of the PCT, out in the wide-open West. You live a lot out there, and feel close bonds of kinship for years after the hike is over. And when you return to whatever daily endeavor you choose after the hike is over, it is quite likely you’re not going to feel life thrumming at such a high pitch. For that reason, we mortals–who so often seem so unreasonable–are actually quite rational in aiming ourselves towards this great national scenic trail for a second or third time.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, as well as The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago (2012). Walker, who is nearly 7-feet tall, is currently working on a book on the subject of height.