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Day 141: Putting the PCT Into Words

Posted by on September 25, 2015

September 18, 2015
Tentsite at Vista Creek (2544.8) to Tentsite at Glacier Creek (2567.8)
23.0 PCT miles today
2602.4 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 5,838 ft, – 6,178 ft

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Any blogger will tell you that keeping a daily blog is truly a labor of love. And doing so while simultaneously hiking every day from Mexico to Canada takes it to a whole new level. My entire PCT experience has been so enriched by this daily public story telling, but like anything worth doing, it hasn’t always been easy. There have been more nights than I can count where all I wanted to do was sleep, but still somehow had to muster the energy to write. I’ve driven Pickles and Mama Bear crazy with my insistence on an hour of silence at some point in every day so a I could blog. Then there’s the whole process of getting the blogs posted, which often led to stressed-out mountain-top flurries of work. However, despite all the extra time and effort this blog has demanded, it has turned out to be a cherished and precious gift that I couldn’t imagine going without while on this journey. It has helped me sort out thoughts and feelings at the end of every day, has brought us new friends and a whole arsenal of encouraging words and motivation, and more than anything, has become a detailed record of this adventure that I know Pickles and I will look back on for years to come.

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There have been a few challenges in particular in keeping a daily blog while on the PCT. First of all, I have felt on most nights like words can only capture so much and they often fall short. Much like how a photograph is only an attempt at sharing an experience with others, but doesn’t tell the whole story, so is a written blog a small snapshot of a diverse and sometimes indescribable experience. I tried hard to put into words the wide range of emotions, visions, experiences, and transformations that we encountered on a daily basis, but I often found myself stuck with limited skill, energy level, and time. At times I wished I had a larger vocabulary, because without a thesaurus I know of only so many ways to describe a breathtaking, majestic, awe-inspiring, epic mountain view. But alas, I was forced to work with what I have in my head, and trust that my words, coupled with some select photos, might at least begin to convey some of nature’s most impressive sights.

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There is another aspect of blogging that can’t go unmentioned. In choosing to keep an online journal, we were choosing to share our adventure with the entire virtual world. Sometimes this has involved more vulnerability than we expected. It has also undoubtedly helped shape the direction of each night’s story. Even when I showed up at camp cranky, tired, and sore, I knew that the day consisted of much more than my immediate grumpiness and I felt responsible for capturing more than just my irritation. Oftentimes, after writing a blog that ended up sounding much more positive than I actually felt, I would realize that much of my negativity had been shed, and even I had been convinced of the day’s overall success.

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There were other ways that I had to censor some of my writing, too, since I knew it would be public record and I didn’t want to regret it later. In this way, blogging is in a category related to but separate from journaling. I could have chosen to just keep a detailed journal throughout this trip, letting my prejudices and opinions run wild, as many hikers do, but the beauty of blogging is that I get to share my experience with others, and the community that enjoys stories of hikers on the PCT is a community that I want to reach out to and engage with. So I made daily decisions, I told my stories the best I knew how, and I reaped the benefits of sharing our experience with others.

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I also have had the privilege of putting “pen to paper” every single night, a practice that I’ve always hoped to achieve but have never quite accomplished for so long a period as this. The truth is that I love writing, and the fact that others have enjoyed reading what I write makes it that much more fulfilling. Of course, I am always aware of the fact that each blog I post is essentially an unedited rough draft, published for the world to read before I’ve even had a chance to regret what I’ve said, but I’ve gotten used to that fact over time. I think some of the enjoyment and uniqueness that comes from following a hiker’s journal is the immediacy and current reality of the happenings, so a rough draft seems like the right medium. After all, each day out here is lived in the moment, without time for much thought or the luxury of an eraser to wipe away bad decisions, so perhaps a blog is just a nice reflection of this existence.

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I realize that I’ve made this post all about blogging and haven’t said a word about our day’s hike. As a remedy, I might as well mention that today felt significantly more manageable than yesterday, we finally caught a few views of mountains in the afternoon, the sky was overcast all day, but we only got sprinkled on for about an hour, and we are camped in a lovely little site right near a river. With only 5 days to go there is still so much I want to say and so little time. I’ll spend the rest of the week trying to write about our final miles on the PCT while still covering some larger themes that I feel this blog won’t be complete without.

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On that note, now that we have less than 5 days left, and this journey, along with this daily blog, will soon be coming to an end, I’d like to ask a favor. While Pickles and I have had the privilege of hiking all summer long from Mexico to Canada, a close friend of mine has been enduring her own personal adventure. Back in April, my friend Susan’s 2-year-old son, Daniel, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and together with her husband and newborn, Susan has spent all summer navigating the frightening and challenging road of childhood cancer. It has been hard to feel so far away and know there is little we can do, but since we have spent our summer committed to this trail and this blog, I figure the least I can do is dedicate our completion of it to Daniel.

If you have followed and enjoyed this blog, if you have vicariously hiked the PCT along with us or perhaps been inspired to plan your own hike, I would like to invite you to please consider donating to Susan’s fundraising page as a way of “paying it forward”. You can read more about Susan’s story on her blog, (she is an excellent writer and her story is one worth hearing) and if you choose to, you can donate to her and her family here: I will make mention of this in the rest of this week’s posts, so if today is not the right time, perhaps later this week will work better. Thank you for helping to elevate the purpose of our hike and for playing a part in the treatment and recovery of one very adventurous little boy.

2 Responses to Day 141: Putting the PCT Into Words

  1. John Mahl

    Thank you for writing every day. I went about a week without a blog recently and started wondering how you were doing, even though we have never met. My friends even asked how my PCT hikers are doing. I have read every blog since around Mammoth. I have always been interested în the PCT and maybe one day I will do larger sections of it.

  2. John Mahl

    I am interested to hear what you are hiking with in terms of a computer to type your blogs, since you likely want to carry as little as possible. I traveled around the world on 1996 and 1997 and kept a detailed journal of every day. It was a lot of work, but I remember those trips vividly. Awesome hiking and awesome writing. You two are inspiring.

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