When you’re on a long distance hike, a fantastic day can come on the heels of an absolutely terrible day. And in contrast to that terrible day, the fantastic day seems even better.
I’m currently 2.5 weeks and 250 miles into my thruhike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Last week on the trail, I suddenly fell very ill. I had to hike 12 hot miles with hardly any water to get off the trail and hitch into Idyllwild from the Paradise Valley Cafe. Those were the hardest dozen miles I’ve ever hiked in my life. I was practically staggering, moaning from fever and abdominal pain with each step. A couple of times, I started to tear up from frustration but had to force myself not to cry so that I wouldn’t get dehydrated.
Then, after an evening in town drinking broth and resting, I felt remarkably better. When I woke up the next morning, I decided I was up for the challenge of climbing San Jacinto. The relief and gratitude I felt towards my body for recovering so quickly, mixed with the sheer beauty of ascending the first “real” mountain I’d encountered on the Pacific Crest Trail, propelled me 6,000 feet in six hours.
At the icy summit, I slept in the stone emergency shelter with four other hikers, then got to wake up to one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen. As the sun rose over Southern California, I marveled at how the bad things that happen to us can make the good stuff so much sweeter. It’s incredible what a roller coaster a thruhike can be!
Variety is the key to happiness. We wouldn’t be as stoked about the little victories of life if we didn’t have to put up with hard shit, too. Why, then, have we made civilization as convenient, controlled and monotonous as possible? There was a time in human history when we had to endure the whims of nature in order to eat, to live, to thrive. But now, we’ve taken it too far in the opposite direction.
For me, this is where thruhiking comes in. Hiking thousands of miles and living outdoors for months at a time isn’t always easy or fun. In fact, it’s uncomfortable most of the time. But that’s what makes moments of sheer joy like my experience on San Jacinto so profound. In my 31 years on this planet, I haven’t found anything else that makes me feel so alive.
I’m hiking the PCT to fundraise for three amazing, women-run nonprofits that are empowering girls in nature. To join my community of funders, visit YouCaring.com/HikeForGirls!
Photos by Walter Beauchamp. Find him on Instagram @walter.world.wild