My mother asked me weeks ago if we were getting what we needed out of this adventure, and ever since then I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out the appeal of hiking the PCT.
While people’s reasons are as diverse as they are, many want to find themselves. That’s the Cheryl Strayed (or Reese Witherspoon depending on your preferred medium) message right? Go hike a couple thousand miles, find yourself, or more specifically a better, more at peace version of yourself?
But are we looking for ourselves? Or looking for a place? A journey? Somewhere we can “find ourselves?”
I’ve written about goals before, and how striving towards them is often more rewarding than finally achieving them. And the trail feels like that. No matter how frustrating, maddening, monotonous, raw and/or painful each day can be, it feels like progress.
Each morning we wake up and break camp, and march south. Sometimes resolutely with determination in each step, sometimes with gratitude in our hearts. And sometimes begrudgingly, the tears just one stubbed toe away from cresting their delicate dam.
But it’s progress. We break in times of struggle or overwhelming beauty, but then we move on. We make progress. It feels like, no matter what, we are making progress.
Wouldn’t it be great if life always felt like that? If we didn’t feel like we were taking one step forward, then one to the side and three backwards? Wouldn’t it be great if our life paths were so clearly defined as the trail? With apps and maps to help guide us back if we stray? We look to the trail for guidance, for clear progress.
But the trail isn’t like that. Not really. We’re not always moving south. Sometimes we’re going west, or east, or even north. The trail winds around the long way, adds extra miles. Our bodies feel stronger and stronger each day until they feel absolutely broken, weak and fatigued. We hop off the defined path, take an alternate route for either its beauty or its efficiency. We know where we’re going, but how we get there is still a bit of a mystery.
Don’t worry I’m not going to tell you that it’s not the destination, it’s the journey because without the destination, there is no journey.
So maybe that’s what I’ll take from this. When you have a goal, a destination, an end point, everything leading up to that IS progress. Even the side trails and winding paths. Even the rest days. Everything is moving you forward. Maybe not literally, but literal progress is too easy.
I mean who wants to write or read about that?