The joy of all the good medical news was short lived. As soon as I left the doctor’s office yesterday my mind turned to our long delayed and now upcoming trip: the Pacific Crest Trail. Where exactly are we going to get on the PCT this late in the season? When should we leave? How far would we get? This isn’t some kind of jump up for joy we’re going on an all-inclusive cruise moment (although neither of us would jump up for joy for that. We’re not cruise people). After making plans, changing plans, abandoning plans, and reviving plans, the thought of getting on the trail is now making me mildly nauseous.
We have excel files, mailing labels, boxes and more dehydrated food than a Mormon family of three wives and six kids. Still, the idea of hiking the PCT seemed distant and abstract. Now that we actually have a real shot at physically touching the MX border, my anxiety is flaring up like a bad poison ivy rash. But really, this is how I always feel before a trip, more anxiety than excitement. This has only gotten worse in the last few years since I graduated myself from causal sightseeing trips to progressively more challenging expeditions that pushes me to grown physically and mentally. But all those trips and distance running were deliberately choosen to prepare me for the PCT. I had literally started planning for this four years ago (I just didn’t think I would have a small infant attached)! I even asked Scott in San Diego to drive me to Campo when the time comes. Well, now the time is here! And true to his words, Scott is going to host us and shuttle us to the trail on THURSDAY MAY 25t!
I had been looking at one-way flights to SAN for days. I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I kept asking myself and Peter, at what point would we feel comfortable enough to book the tickets? Of course, there is no answer because there is no such point. What kind of new first time mom is truly comfortable taking her two months old infant to the desert to walk 400 miles? Anytime we’ve mentioned our plans to someone (which is very few), we have been met with either disapproval or dismissal. It has become something we don’t talk about in public. In hiking people say “HYOH,” which means hike your own hike. In parenting we subscribe to the same belief. We have nothing to prove, nor do we think our way is somehow superior than others. We are open to constructive criticisms. We heed to warnings on actual risks and welcome suggestions on how to avoid or overcome them. But to dismiss hiking and camping as a whole is not acceptable. I’m a thoughtful person to a fault, hunted by every remote risk possible. I prepare the best I can and make great effort to go forward despite my fears and worries. I even traveled with an ID tag and wore bright colored jackets so I can be more easily identified. The point is I don’t do things because lack of fear. To the contrary, I do them as a way to challenge myself to accept the fears and risks.
In a similar vein, we want to hike the PCT not because we think we can but because we are want to give it a shot. We are not hiking in spite of having a small infant. We are hiking because of him. We want to show him the outdoors and to share our adventure as a family. At this point I would consider it a win just to get to the trailhead. Every step northward from there is a bonus. As often the case, if we succeed people will come to admire us. If we fail, we’ll be written off as foolish and reckless. None of that matters.
I recently saw a short documentary on Enock Glidden, paralyzed from waist down, successfully climbing El Cap. Two quotes stuck with me:
- It is not realistic to expect the mission to succeed. What is realistic is to give it your best shot. You know, just let it play out. And how it plays out is a beautiful thing.
- Climbing is all immediate. You have to think about what has to happen right now. I’ve got to make the next five feet. I can’t go five feet unless I go one foot. I can’t go a foot unless I got an inch.
With that thought, we packed up five boxes of resupplies and booked two crazy expensive one-way tickets to San Diego, leaving at 6am on Wednesday, May 24th. I know If there is a chance of me feeling comfortable, it is when I take that first step north.