Wide Open West on the Pacific Crest Trail
Many long-distance hikers have commented–and it is true–that the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is very different from the Appalachian Trail (AT). The overwhelming feeling on the PCT is of unbounded expansiveness. Hour after hour, day after day, hikers are greeted with wide open vistas and sweeping expanses. This is very different from the Appalachian Trail, which runs through the so-called ‘green tunnel’.
People often ask me, “Which trail do you prefer?” My answer is always the same–“Choosing between the two would be like having to choose between two children. It would be impossible.” It’s an honest answer.
But the PCT proved to be especially educational for me, because I had spent so little time out West. It almost seemed like the wide-open topography was inculcated in the people, who are palpably more optimistic and sunny. That brings up another point. America’s hiking trails are good places to erase ‘geographical deficits’. I had only been to California once for a weekend, and never to Washington or Oregon. But in this one journey, in which I got to have prolonged contact with the western people in authentic situations, I was able to erase these ‘geographical deficits’.
That’s a pretty fair argument for long-distance hiking, right there.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail (2010). he is also the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail (2008), as well as ‘The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago’ (2012).