The simple answer. Because I can.
The not so simple answer, and the one I’ve been pondering for almost 2 months now.
I have flashes of memory from one of my first camping trips as a little tyke. It was with my Mom, Dad and Sister in a Southern IL campground. (Yes, Mom and Dad, I really do remember.) We had a one of those mosquito coils on our picnic tables that worked oh so well, Dad had set up this ultra bulky tent with the big aluminum poles, and he had to burn off a tick with a match (more on ticks later). We also made many other trips with a pop-up tent when I was young. I seem to remember Yogi Bear Campgrounds. Outdoors was a thing for us, and our family friends. Living near Chicago made it hard but we still managed to get out. Point in fact, one of our family friends had a double-wide just off a lake in Michigan which we visited frequently. Fishing, bonfires, s’mores, etc.. So it’s no surprise that I started camping by myself as soon as I was able. When I was 19 I even camped in Bahia Honda State Park,which is located in the Florida Keys, with a friend, in the heat August, just before college orientation. Super amazing! Over the years I’ve bought and used so many different pieces of gear. Lodge brand pans, hot dog skewers, fire starters, rain gear, hatchet, ax, sleeping bags, etc., and the tent I currently own and use when I ‘drive-in’ camp is 23 years old and in great condition. It has seen some amazing things. But it’s not enough anymore. It’s time to step it up to the next level.
For over twenty years I’ve thought about hiking the Appalachian Trail or at the very least start long distance hiking somewhere. I remember reading, all those years ago, about how these hikers would cut the tags off there clothes and shoes, and lighten their load by bringing only the bare essentials to ease their hike along these long distances. I thought how crazy that was. Does, the weight difference of a few tags mattered that much? Tags? So crazy that it has intrigued me to the point of wanting to follow in their footsteps and try it for myself. I’ve since learned that shedding a few ounces here or there makes ALL the difference. Now, I’ve camped all over the Midwest, some parts of Pennsylvania, and as far north as Canada and the Minnesota boundary waters, but nothing ever of this scale or length of time. I want more, much more. I kind of consider this my plunge, head first, into icy water. I’ve been preparing, researching, and saving for 4 years now. I. Can’t. Wait!
So why the PCT? Not until 4 years ago when a couple guests, at the bar Cabs where I worked, were talking with me about my desire to hike the Appalachian Trail, or AT, did I find out that the PCT even existed. They talked about this book called ‘Wild’, by Cheryl Strayed, and how she hiked the PCT and that I should read it. Not long after, the couple stopped back in to lend me the book to read. As I am a pretty avid reader, I burned right through that book. I was hooked. I looked up all I could about the PCT and started comparing the 2 trails. And the question inevitably came up. If I were to do one trail and one trail only with the intent on finishing it in one season, which would it be? The winner of that internal debate, of course, was the PCT. There will be rattlesnakes, mountain lions, bears and the flying bugs, I hear, are incredibly insane, but OK, that’s hiking. The AT has one bug that scared me to the PCT; ticks. Remembering that I have an incredible desire to Finish the trail, ticks somehow frighten me more than rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bears. They can have Lyme disease. If I miss one night of diligently checking my whole body for ticks, poof, Lyme disease, and I am knocked off the trail for the season. OK, totally irrational I know, considering that a tick has to feed for over 36 hours to transmit the disease and the odds of getting it are 1-1.5%. Yes, I looked up my irrational fear. That fear will dissipate when I decide to thru-hike the AT, and I will be diligently checking my body every night before bed. But until then, PCT it is.
Another few reasons for the PCT over the AT: I have some family out west in Southern California. If for any reason I needed some help I could call on them. Also, I have friends up and down the whole trail, albeit more toward the coast. Some have offered to meet with me at a local town, some to take me back to their place for a hot meal and a bed, and some may even walk with me for a few on the trail. You all know who you are! And then there is the wine! Now I may not be able to see any wineries or even come close to visiting any, but that won’t stop me from trying. I have spoken to a good friend in the wine industry about seeing what I can do to arrange a visit or the like. Maybe even stay the night at a guest house… hope, hope. How’s all that for good motivation!
So, I’ve come to the end of my Why blog. It was edited and cut over and over, and I hope it wasn’t too long. If I left everything in and unedited, you might not have gotten down this far. This will probably be one of the hardest Blogs I write, because it is based off of my feelings and the bits and pieces of my memories. As it is, I think I summed it up OK.