Although I’m really happy to be back in civilization and around family again, there is a lot that I miss about the trail. Namely…
1. The constant influx of endorphins. Once your body realizes that you’re just going to keep walking no matter how much your muscles complain, it releases a flood of feel-good chemicals. Sort of like drugs, but without side effects.
2. Pure, cold, mineral-rich water. You just can’t beat drinking water filtered straight from mountain streams, icy and fresh-tasting. Even in the desert, when we were taking water from a trough filled with tadpoles, the water tasted better than tap water anywhere I’ve been.
3. Feeling in awe of what my body could do. After we’d tackled a steep climb, I’d be sweating from every pore, and my leg muscles bulged from exertion. I’d feel like my body was made from iron, and it felt good.
4. Having a more natural sleep schedule. Artificial light is a strange thing. It was much more natural to wake up and go to sleep with the sun.
5. Feeling small. When I was out hiking up mountains and through forests, I felt comfortably small, not self-conscious about my (ridiculously tall) height. When we returned to civilization, I kept on running into pieces of furniture and feeling an uncomfortable sense that, while under a roof, I just take up too much space!
6. Sleeping under the stars. On a clear night, we could see the Milky Way even through the mesh of our tent.
7. Transcendent eating experiences. After a hard day on trail, a bowl of hot mashed potatoes drowned in olive oil would give me a rush of euphoria. Towns were even better, when we could eat things like yogurt and Oreos— the tastes were so sharp and new and pleasant that I found myself blinking back tears. More than once, I sobbed because I was so happy to have toast or soda or pancakes. Since we returned to civilization and we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want, that sense of awe and gratefulness has disappeared.
8. Pikas. Seriously, I miss pikas. Also, all the cool birds we saw, like gray jays, ravens, hummingbirds, Steller’s jays, and countless beautiful warblers.
9. Being self-sufficient. It was an incredible feeling to be in the middle of the wilderness, three days from the nearest town, and realize that we had everything we needed: water, shelter, food, and love!
10. The trail community. The people who hike the PCT are some of the coolest, strangest, most interesting, trustworthy human beings you’ll ever meet. This extends also to the trail angels and to the locals in town who pick up hitchhikers. Everyone looks out for each other. Everyone has a sense of personal property but incredible generosity. We share resources and help each other out. We give each other a liter of water in the desert, or ask if anyone has a spare aspirin, or see who wants to take some of these tuna packets we found in the free box. We come from all walks of life, but the trail is an equalizer, and people of all personalities mingle together and find that they are friends. I would say that I had never seen such a beautiful community before, but I’m very blessed to say that I have— my church. Still, I miss being part of the PCT community, and honestly, the camaraderie and friendship is one of the best parts of hiking the trail.