I’d hiked on the PCT before. The first time, I just didn’t even knew, I just wanted to hike in Yosemite because I was on holidays and I wanted to hike and Yosemite was famous and it had to be so for a reason. I then knew about this John Muir Trail and thought it’d be great for the scheduled week I had. Then I knew the JMT shared the tread with something much longer.
I loved that JMT section. Even in what is considered a crowded trail stretch for north american standards, I felt it was different from anything I could do in the really crowded environment I grew in. You Americans have to come and hike in Europe before you can use the word crowd properly.
I came back to the PCT a few years later, this time fully aware of the trail and looking for the best I could find in the one month I had. We had, actually, as there were two of us in the party. We hiked along the Northern Cascades and it was fantastic, we enjoyed so much being out there, having no other choice but being on our own, meeting nothing but like-minded people doing basically the same thing we were doing.
By then, I knew I had to hike the whole thing some time. The PCT’s got this added value over anything I can find in my corner of the world, this nice mix of wilderness and a safe environment where I can forget any worries, it’s just about hiking and enjoying. It’s not that I don’t like to be aware of my surroundings (I actually do) but the peace of mind it gives me to know what to expect. Civilization is always there, never too far but (and this is an important but) hardly ever too close.
Hiking at home I can’t relate to most of the people I meet on the trail. They’re doing things different from what I do. That’s fine with me but I can’t forget how nice it was to meet anybody along the JMT or the Northern Cascades and feel there was something in common.
I’m not looking for the ultimate wilderness experience nor am I prepared for such a thing but I love being out there for days with basically no other option but being on my own. And I love the travelling, the feel that my steps are taking me somewhere different every day, the fact that I can go on for thousands of miles just by walking.
As I once read from another hiker, and I agree, by the time I wrote these words my hike had began already: it started the moment I decided I wanted to do it.