“Have you heard of the PCT?” my husband Samuel asked me, as I looked up at him sleep deprived while wiping my newborn’s bottom clean.
“What? Uhhh, isn’t that the hike that goes from one end of America to the other?”
“From Mexico to Canada on the west coast. I think we should do it. With Acacia. When she’s a little older.”
That was how it all started.
That’s when the seed was planted, the research began, gear slowly collated and the rusty yet steady training sessions commenced for all three of us.
After road-tripping up the coast of North America when Acacia turned 1, then hiking a section of the PCT in Big Bear when she was 2 and then testing out her endurance on thru-hikes (Catalina Island, the Blue Mountains, the Great North Walk and several other overnights) we became confident that the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) was going to be our family dream in 2020 when Acacia turned 4.
But choosing to tackle the PCT, especially with a 4-year-old, isn’t just something you choose to do on a whim, like bungee jumping because there’s a discount on Groupon.
Years of trail planning, gear research, safety assessments, climate analysis, zero day evaluations, food drop navigations, nutrition testing with dehydrators and watching hours and hours of Vblogs on youtube were conducted. To better grasp the reality of what hiking the PCT actually looked like.
Though, it’s never just about the logistics when choosing to something so physiologically monumental as hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
Taking 6 months out of your life to travel to the other side of the world and walk for 4,265 kilometers is a decision that is upheld and run by your heart.
You have to WANT to do it with every fibre of your being.
Because if you don’t and you find yourself in the Mojave dessert; hot, thirsty with several blisters on your feet, a twinge in your knee and first degree burns on your face, it’s your WILL to finish that’s going to keep you going.
So when our daughter turned 4 (comfortably hiking 20km days) and requests she sit in the tent and blow up all the mattresses then eagerly gets to work on setting up a campfire, we knew she was ready. That we were ready.
Then the pandemic hit.
While the notion of setting out into nature, breathing in fresh oxygen and calming our anxieties was something we were all encouraged to do in 2020, hopping on an airplane and heading into a country with high transmission rates then putting that population at risk with our choices seemed…well, wrong.
We didn’t want to be ‘that family’ who wanted something so badly that they were willing to risk the wider community, their own family members, motel owners and the trail community.
Even if we completed the hike, would we feel confident that we didn’t play some part in the spread of a virus?
Beyond that would we feel SAFE on the trail, with the possibility of contracting the coronavirus ourselves, along with the complications of foreign health insurances?
The PCT was always meant to be this wondrous social event, where we would meet fascinating people, journey with them, rest in motels along the way in quirky little towns and happily resupply at any grocery store we could find. Hoping for a little trail magic along the way. And dabbling in a little bit of hitch-hiking to nearby REI stores.
What the reality of thru-hiking the PCT in 2021 looked like was to rely on none of the above.
To thru-hike the trail during a pandemic would have required extra funds, extra self-sufficiency and a lot more planning than usual. That’s to assume that the shelters, hostels, campgrounds, water sources, grocery stores and diners that previous PCTers relied upon over the years, wouldn’t be closed or out of business due to Covid-19.
What it would have looked like is having to say goodbye to roasting marsh-mellows with fellow hikers over the same fire, huddling up together at a diner after hiking for 4 days straight without a shower and worrying about where or how to stay at a motel for a night (as well as what to touch and not touch while there).
I still can’t fully explain how devastating it was for us to realize it. And we didn’t let go of the idea for a long time.
But when we neared our start date of May 15th 2021 and the world was still finding it’s balance/recovering/battling/crumbling it was time to quit our dream of completing the PCT this year.
Before Acacia goes to school. Before we try for a second child. Before life goes on and you can’t hold off everything anymore…just for the PCT.
It took us a year and two months, after coronavirus hit the world, for us to finally let go of the idea of the PCT in 2021.
I’m still trying to move passed it.
As with any dream that has been lost this year or last year, all you can do is hope that something BETTER is going to take it’s place.
It’s either hope, or lose the hope and suffer in your sadness until things change. And who knows how long that might be.
Yes, the PCT is always going to be there. And yes, this year wouldn’t have been the same as all the other years prior to it.
But it doesn’t stop me from closing my eyes and imagining my feet treading into adventure each day with my two loves by my side, taking on the world.
Walking through God’s country.
Giving my daughter an experience of a lifetime before she starts school. To shape her, to deepen her. As it would have for my husband and I.
I won’t give up on that dream. I can’t. Because it’s engrained in me now…in all three of us.
And one day in the near future you’ll see us out there; blisters, burns, tears, laughter, trail magic, marsh-mellows, hugs, diner burgers and mountains…
lots of mountains.
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