As my departure date looms ever nearer on the calendar, I’m continually surprised by the level of skepticism, snide remarks, and the barrage of unsolicited advice from non-backpackers about my hike. Everyone from extended family members, friends, coworkers and managers, the barista at my favorite coffee shop, and the checkout lady at Safeway (who inquired after the many bags of dried beans, pasta, and rice I was purchasing for resupplies), can’t wait to give me their two cents, tell me how miserable I’ll be, and ask me what type of gun I’ll be carrying (see FAQ post). While I try to remind myself that many of their thoughts are well-intentioned, answering the demand for justification with each person is wearisome. Though I want to spread the love of the outdoors with others, I find myself getting irritated with some of the more unsupportive interrogations and passing jibes.
Maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I’m not going into this blind. I’ve done my research. I’ve been out in the mountains. I have a water filter. I know my own body.
Concealed within these remarks, I suppose, lies a reflection of each commenter’s or inquirer’s or cross-examiner’s values. Perhaps even his or her own fears.
When I was in high school, I was deathly afraid of falling into the trap that is the American Dream. I hoped I wouldn’t meet a handsome, charming, and ambitious man in college and fall in love. I prayed not to begin my adulthood with the requisite 2.5 children, golden retriever, and SUV with a house in the suburbs, as so many of my contemporaries pined for, and what appeared to be a common thread in my community. I didn’t know what I wanted (still don’t), but it wasn’t that.
Of course, as I discovered, I didn’t have to. I’d caged myself in with what I believed my family & friends expected of me, when in reality they thought nothing of the sort.
Sometimes I still look at family and friends who have followed the more traditional course, and I envy their security. They have 401ks and stable jobs and reliable cars, and they stay around long enough to see their autumn tulip bulbs sprout in April.
And perhaps they fear leaving this lifestyle of certainty behind, or feel pinned to decisions and commitments they made many years ago, or ones that were made for them.
I am young, I’ll be the first to admit that. I often feel naive and humbled by the experiences of those around me. And I’m not prone to voicing grand pronouncements (but face it, we’re all more than a little supercilious about our chosen lifestyles), but I suppose I like to think I live intentionally–I fear frittering away my small allotment of existence at a menial job, tolerating a static or mercurial relationship, playing video games, or trolling the internet for entertainment. I sometimes get caught up checking up on old classmates I don’t even know anymore on Facebook, or standing in an impossibly long line at the store, waiting to purchase an item I don’t really even need, and I get a little flustered. Is this really what I want to be doing?
I don’t feel my decision to thru-hike the PCT was in any way crazy or brave–it just feels like the next thing to do, for me, in this moment.
This weekend I’ve been dehydrating like a fiend!
I purchased a million dollars worth of dried beans, soaked them all, cooked them, and then dehydrated them, so I’m back with a bunch of bags of dried beans again. I also picked up a few boxes of mac and cheese, a bunch of peppers and onions, and some ground beef to cook, dehydrate, and mix into chilis, pastas, rice mixes, etc.
My entire apartment smells like black beans, and the dehydrator (thanks LeeAnne & Nolan!) is working overtime and steaming up all of my windows.
I even found some little packets of silica beads to throw in each meal package to help keep it dry for as long as possible.
Things are coming together!