Pacific Crest Trail
May 30, 2019
In 2016 my depression was intensifying, I was really struggling with mental health for several years leading up to my hike. Just anxiety and frustration around growing up in a complicated world. In the middle of my twenties my dad began showing signs of memory loss, and progressively was becoming much worse. Trying to sort through my feelings about my dad losing his memory did not feel easy. I felt trapped, I felt there was no way out. Sometimes life can be like that, you are not guaranteed anything when you inhabit a human body. What you find when you start walking is everyone has a really specific reason for being there. Many people hike because of a battle with depression, many people walk because they have lost someone important, some have been through a traumatic event, maybe one where their life was threatened. Being in nature has a lot of healing potential, building the strength of your body up to be able to handle really long miles everyday produces an almost spiritual euphoria. It feels good to be strong and confident in your ability to do something hard. What I learned is life doesn’t get any easier, you have to pay attention and aim upward (not down). Try to be honest about that.
The night before I started walking I was seriously terrified and not confident at all, my anxiety was off the chart. So much so that I passed out in my friends kitchen from what I will call extreme mental stress. I was really scared. I felt there was real potential for me to make a mistake, or not have planned properly. There is the idea of chaos and order, and the way you balance your mind is to be with one foot in chaos and the other in order. You could say the trail almost perfectly fits that idea. You need to plan properly, especially with water and time of day you hike when you first start. I guess what you begin to realize is that the trail is hard, but because your main job is staying alive, you do a really good job at it just naturally. Your not going to let yourself make a mistake, you are going to double check if there is water up ahead, you are going to double check you have enough food between towns. Sometimes your guess on how much water or food you need is wrong, and you are uncomfortable, but your body for the most part has your back. One day while walking in the desert I noticed my water was running low, it was 105-110F, so I stopped and waited for the sun to go down. One day in the Sierras I realized I did not have enough food to last all of the days, so you run out of food and you walk faster because your pack is light. You feel pissed off and hungry, but again your body can handle that for short durations. I became accustomed to discomfort. Your hot, your covered in dirt, your cold, your wet, you have bites all over, you get stung by wasps, and you feel really scared some days. Your attitude towards hiking gradually improves, you tell yourself I am not going to give up, I am not going to stop, so I need to make peace with the place I am at. I became more patient with myself, we are fragile creatures after all.
Written by Jason Anderson. Music that inspires me here.