Saturday, April 11, 2015

In Which I Am Terrified of Being Judged

First of all, before I launch into my emo ramblings, I have blog format news! For those of you catching up on my PCT posts or just coming in, I now have a list of all my memoir entries in the sidebar (right below Popular Posts). If you want to start from the beginning, just click on the first post, and then at the bottom of that page, click “Newer Posts” to read the entries in sequence.

So, huzzah for that! Now onto the emo ramblings.

Starting on Monday, I’m going to start posting entries about the part of the trail that I regret most deeply. The High Sierra was an incredibly gorgeous section of trail, and I didn’t appreciate it at all. For most of our time I was so terrified, exhausted, malnourished, hungry, depressed, and worried about money that I missed all the beauty and wonder that the Sierra had to offer. 

As such, getting ready to post some of these entries makes me feel really anxious. I imagine a seasoned hiker, one who loved the Sierra and found it easy, staring at the computer screen, shaking her head and mumbling, “Good grief, if she hated it that much, why didn’t she just quit?! Crybaby.” 

 Recounting the way I felt— especially since we were hiking on one of the lowest snow years on record— makes me feel awful. I can’t help but compare myself to all the other hikers we ever met on trail, who were having the time of their lives. No one else ever seemed to think it was hard. In the months afterward, when people asked us our least favorite part of the trail, and we answered the Sierra, we got incredulous glares and long lectures about how we should be so glad we didn’t go in another year when the snow was so high, and how this was the lowest snow year in ages and the whole Sierra should’ve been easy and you guys are silly wusses. (Well, maybe not the last phrase. But I felt that was the implication.)

They’re not exactly wrong. The hiking and snowy passes were difficult, but not that difficult. The trail was a bit treacherous, but not that treacherous. The fact is, I didn’t deal with my own emotions in a constructive way, and so my experience of this section of the trail was much worse than it ever should have been.

I can come up with all sorts of excuses— Zach and I were inexperienced (having never walked in deep snow before), always running out of food, not spending enough money to take care of our needs, and not engaging in substance abuse to calm our nerves— but in the end, it’s on us. Mostly me. Hence the regret, gnawing at me as I write, making me wish that we could go back and hike the John Muir Trail. Wishing we could tackle the Sierra again actually knowing how to walk across a snow field or pack enough food or forget about money for a while in order to care for ourselves. Wishing I could look at the mountains without worrying about them, and eat food without rationing it, and walk over Forester Pass at a reasonable time of day instead of when all the snow was soft and crumbling under our feet. But that’s not what we did on the PCT, and there’s nothing I can do to change it.

I’ll try not to wallow in my emotional state too much (although honestly, I can’t separate this section of trail from the wallowing), but seriously, if you want to hear about happy hikers who appreciate the beauty of nature, you might want to go read about someone else’s experience for a few days. Anyone else is sure to give a much more glowing report than I. 

In the meantime, I will continue to post entries that reflect my sincere and authentic emotions, no matter how anxious they make me feel or how afraid I am of being judged. I’ve heard it said that whenever you tell someone an awful story, the listener takes a bit of the awfulness away from you, until you can bear that memory without the trauma. I think this is true of my writing. For those willing to go on this part of the journey with me, and, in reading, purge some of the burden of regret from my memories, thank you. 



  1. As a long time Sierra hiker, they'll be no judgment from me. The Sierra is a serious range, even in a low snow year, inexperience in this type of travel can be daunting. I hope you come back and explore it again. When you can go in for a week with all of the food you need on your back, you'll be able to shed the worries that plagued your first experience and truly enjoy what you know could have been. But,,,, you did summit THE 14'er

  2. As a section hiker, I read a lot of blogs. There are some where the authors seem to never have been lonely, hungry, tired or annoyed. I appreciate the truth as you experienced it. But I do think you would enjoy a sobo JMT hike in August.

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  4. Thanks for the support! I would definitely love to go back and tackle the Sierra when I am well-fed, not in a hurry, and know to cross the passes in the morning rather than the afternoon. Zach and I have talked about going back someday, if we're ever in a financial situation where that would be possible. Here's hoping!

  5. Lisa, you should never feel anxious about telling it like it is/was for you! It was your journey and for whatever reasons, you felt you missed out on some things. But what I read is pure honesty and raw emotions. It is your journey and no one else's and I'm thanking you from the bottom of my heart to hear that it is difficult, what to expect in terms of being thirsty, hungry, physically and emotionally raw, tired, bereft of so many things, etc. Never apologize. You're young and could maybe go back for parts of the trail when you're in better financial condition, etc. I'm appreciating and loving reading about everything on your journey and inspired. ~:-)

  6. I fully agree with Maryellen and have to say that when you bare yourself to the world the way you are anyone who criticizes is not worth the time to read their criticism unless of course it's constructive. I am SO proud of you both for the courage you took in thru-hiking the PCT and for sharing your experience and adventure honestly with the world. I appreciate your story. Thank you.