10 Things I’m Going To Miss While I Hike The PCT

I leave for the Pacific Crest Trail in two and a half weeks, and I’m excited and nervous and ready and unprepared and anxious and thrilled! You know, all the regular feelings you feel before you embark on your very first thru-hike. I’ve been focusing a lot of my blog entries on my PCT Prep, which is obviously super important, but I’ve also been focusing a lot of my mental energy on things that I will miss while I’m gone, and I felt like it might be interesting for folks reading along to get a glimpse of what that looks like, too.

I haven’t seen a lot of PCT bloggers write about this, maybe because it’s implied or maybe because they don’t think it will be that interesting or maybe because it’s a more vulnerable thing to share than a gear list or a resupply plan. There’s also a lot of focus in the hiking community on being mentally prepared for the hike itself, and taking into account that there will be times when you want to quit so you better have a plan to talk yourself into staying when you hit those blocks. And I think that’s valuable advice and very real and important, but I also think it’s bizarre to pretend that I won’t miss a whole bunch of stuff about life off the trail, and it’s not going to help me through hard times on the trail to pretend I won’t miss this stuff or that it doesn’t exist.

I’m very lucky to love my life, and that isn’t going to abruptly change when I set foot on the Pacific Crest Trail – it’s just going to be the background to a very long walk for a few months, rather than the foreground of my day to day existence. With all of that said, today’s post is a break from a look into my PCT Prep, and instead is a look into my brain/heart/soul about what I’m going to miss while I’m on the PCT.

10. The internet

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Me, on the internet, in 2013 — will I ever escape it?! (Spoiler: No.)

Oh, the internet. This one is so weird and complicated! The internet is so many things. The internet sucks. The internet is magic. The internet lives in my phone. The internet is a thing I’m trying to run away from. The internet is something I’ve tried to run away from before but that I missed and came back to eventually. The internet is integral to living in modern society, at least in the way that I do. The internet is useless! The internet is a thing I am addicted to. The internet is neutral. Whatever. Here’s what I’ll miss: Instagram. Facebook. Connecting with friends who live far away. Plugging into the many ways we are resisting, and feeling like I can easily join in. Reading the internet on a Sunday morning the way I imagine my mom reads the Sunday newspaper. Looking stuff up quickly. Lurking on hiking forums. Blogging. Here’s what I won’t miss: Facebook. My unruly inbox. Trolls. The panic-inducing news cycle. Unproductive call-outs. Articles with headlines that say “[X] Ways You Are Being A Bad [Y].” Donald Trump’s twitter account. Staying up too late staring at my phone doing, ultimately, nothing. The addiction. So yes, I’ll miss the internet. Of course I will. But I wish I wouldn’t! Maybe by the end of my hike I won’t so much. That would be rad. (But of course I’ll want to come back and post things on Instagram and write more on this blog and other publications and keep in touch with old friends and and and…yeah. I’ll miss the internet. It’s part of modern life, like it or not. MORE ON THIS ALL LATER, PROBABLY.)

9. Showering

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I’m using this fountain photo as a metaphor for showering because it’s prettier than showing a photo of what my hair looked like after not showering for five weeks, ya know?

Anyone who knows me well is laughing out loud in disbelief at this one. I hate showering! I avoid it at all costs! One summer I decided to see how long I could go without showering and I lasted five weeks before I caved. (I was swimming in the river a lot this summer, but still.) So am I really going to miss showering? I mean, maybe not, but honestly probably? I dunno, I feel like after hiking 15+ mile days in the desert heat I will probably be excited to shower and may miss being able to take one whenever I want. WE SHALL SEE!

8. My bookshelf

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Hey girl, wanna come over and see my bookshelf?

Books are my favorite tangible objects to own. I love the library, but there is something really special about putting the words you love on a shelf in your room and letting them soak into your existence daily. Over my many moves I’ve culled my book collection to include only the ones I really love, and in turn my bookshelf has turned into a piece of my heart. When I spent a month in Southern Oregon last summer I found myself missing my books. When I was in college I flirted with many a girl by inviting her over to peruse my bookshelf (don’t judge me, it always worked). When I grow up I want a whole library in my house, but for now I have four shelves that Erin sweetly installed for me, and that is my bookshelf, and my books are my friends, and I will miss them. I’m excited to get into audio books and listen to a lot of stuff I’ve been meaning to read but just haven’t found the time, and I’m grateful for my Kindle that lets me bring a million books with me wherever I go, but I will never not love the smell of a well-worn paperback, and I will never not miss my bookshelf when I’m gone.

7. Gluten-free-dairy-free-everything

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Readily available in all Portland grocery stores, also extremely delicious, also doesn’t make my stomach hurt

I am spoiled living in Portland. I can eat pretty much whatever I want, whenever I want, and still stick to my annoying gluten-free-dairy-free existence. Grilled cheese? Yep. Soft serve? Uh huh. Donuts? Sure. Bagel and cream cheese? Here’s a New Cascadia gluten free bagel with tofu spread that tastes better than cream cheese. I know it’s eye roll inducing, but it’s also a huge luxury that I’ve totally gotten used to and that my gut really appreciates. I am going to be consuming gluten (and maybe some dairy?) on trail because right now I value convenience more than feeling my absolute best, and I won’t die if I eat gluten or dairy, I just get gassy and sort of feel like shit sometimes? I don’t know, I’m honestly not sure how my food intake is going to work on trail. A few years ago I got a stomach parasite and it took a long time to cure and ever since then my digestive system has been…delicate. But I’m also stubborn and don’t want to send myself a million resupply boxes and also love milk chocolate, especially Cadbury mini Easter eggs which are all over the stores right now, so I don’t know! I just don’t know! I obviously can’t hike if I feel like shit 24/7, so I may need to revise my thinking when I actually get on trail. What I do know is that I will really miss being able to get gluten-free-dairy-free baked goods, pizza, sandwiches, fro yo, etc etc etc whenever I want. Bless you, Portland, for living up to your stereotypes in the most delicious ways.

6. Portland in the summer

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We wait 10 months for days like this, but when they happen, they’re perfect

It literally rains 10 months out of the year in Portland, so those of us who live here take the two months of sunshine we receive very, very seriously. Portland in the summer is hiking and swimming holes and trips to the queer nude beach and late nights on patios and backyards and porches and campgrounds. It’s an explosion of fresh food and farmer’s markets and gardens and neighborhood fruit trees. It’s waterfalls and rivers and camping and playing in the dirt and hours and hours of precious sunlight. It’s lakes and queer summer camp and community building and picnics and laughter and water fountains and bike rides and perfection. The joke is that if you visit Portland in the summer, you’ll never leave (and then you’ll be subjected to 10 months of the greyest rain you’ve ever experienced and you’ll wonder what the fuck you did, no just kidding it’s fine, I’m fine, everything is fine). I visited Portland for the first time in July 2014, and well…here I am now. Portland in the summer is magic, and I am really sad to be missing it. I’ll get back in October, right on schedule for those 10 months of rain.

5. Summer weddings

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Barb and Susie’s wedding was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed and I openly wept during the ceremony

I used to think I didn’t care about weddings, but then I realized I just didn’t have any close friends getting married. Now some of my best friends are engaged, and I am finding myself incredibly sad to miss a crop of summer weddings and engagement parties. A friend rolled her eyes at me recently and was like, “You’re not the center of the universe, we all can’t stop living our lives while you’re gone!” (That sounds harsh when I type it out but she said it lovingly, promise.) And of course I know that, of course I don’t want anyone to stop living their lives ever! But I can still acknowledge that missing all the “life stuff” that occurs over the 5-6 months that I’m gone makes me sad, and in this case, missing out on these public displays of love and commitment amongst some of my favorite people is a bummer. Jess, Shannon, Justine, Fen, Tay, Evie…y’all better have the most beautiful weddings and engagement parties ever (I know you will), and you better post a million photos to social media so I can pretend I was there later. And you better know I love you for forever and wish I could be at your celebrations (but I also know I’m not the center of any universe and that they will all be beautiful magical perfect scenarios even without my presence, duh).

4. Sushi

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This is a sushi burrito — are you going to be the person who brings me one this summer?!

Sushi is my favorite food in the whole world and I assume I am not going to eat it for 5+ whole months and I am bummed about it. No further description necessary. (If someone brings me a sushi burrito from Eugene when I hit Ashland and take a zero at Barb and Susie’s – my friends who live in Southern Oregon – I will propose to you on the spot. Just saying. Sorry, Alley.)

3. Weekly phone calls with my mama

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Mama and me

My mom is one of my best friends, and since I moved to the opposite side of the country, our long phone calls have become our primary way to keep in touch. We usually text every day and then talk on the phone briefly a couple of times a week, but we try to have a long catch up call on the weekend, and they’re the best. We go over what’s happening in our lives, review gossip from Newton and gossip from Portland, share silly and/or cute things our respective kids have done lately (my mom is a preschool teacher and I’m a nanny, so there’s a lot of silly and/or cute stuff to report), plan trips to see one another, help each other figure out what the fuck we’re both doing with our lives, occasionally bicker…just regular mother/daughter stuff. I am going to miss our phone calls so much, and can only imagine that at the end of my hike we’re going to have to schedule 2+ weeks to just talk non-stop and go over everything we’ve missed – get ready, mama!

2. My weirdo friends

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How could you not be in love with these weirdos?

I’m in love with my friends. I could just stop there, but I’ll elaborate a bit. There’s an essay I read in college, For Lovers and Fighters written by Dean Spade, that I always think about when I think about my relationship with my friends. The essay itself is about non-monogamy and queering romantic relationships, but there’s a paragraph about friendship specifically that means a lot to me and that resonates very deeply. I’ll share it here: “One of my goals in thinking about redefining the way we view relationships is to try to treat the people I date more like I treat my friends—try to be respectful and thoughtful and have boundaries and reasonable expectations—and to try to treat my friends more like my dates—to give them special attention, honor my commitments to them, be consistent, and invest deeply in our futures together.” When I think about my friends, I think about investing deeply in our futures together, and thank the goddess for that. Thank the goddess for the many weird and wonderful humans in my life who I am lucky enough to call my friends. I love you, and I will miss you.

1. Alley

alley_vanessa

I love this person a lot

I’m writing this explanation last because I don’t know how to say what I want to say. Alley is my person, my love, my rock, my babe. She’s way more private than I am so writing all this on the internet is probably embarrassing her – sorry, baby. I honestly keep writing things down and then deleting them because they probably belong in a private love letter, not published on the internet, and if even I can acknowledge that you know they’re big sappy private feelings, ya know? I will say that I could not have asked for a more supportive partner in life or for this particular adventure I’m embarking on, and even though Alley is sad that I am going to be gone for a long time (and I am sad too, to be away from her for that long, I feel like there’s a narrative sometimes that the person “at home” is sad and the person “adventuring” is just totally fine and that’s ridiculous, of course I’m also sad, duh) she has never once asked me not to go, she has never once implied that I’m selfish for following my dreams, she has never once said, “Stay.” Because she wouldn’t. Because she loves me and supports me and wants me to be happy and fulfilled, whatever that looks like on any given day. I am so fucking lucky. I am going to miss sleeping in the crook of her arm and waking up and kissing her and falling asleep talking and sitting on the couch doing nothing and walking around town holding hands and doing boring errands and taking exciting trips and seeing her handsome face every single day. I am going to miss Alley so much.

I’d love if other hikers would share some things you’re going to miss (or did miss on previous thru-hikes) in the comments – I think this stuff is just as interesting as what’s in your pack.

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10 thoughts on “10 Things I’m Going To Miss While I Hike The PCT

  1. Jill A Hector says:

    I thought you were going to post your blog while hiking. How can you do that with no internet? I enjoy reading your thoughts. 💖

    • Vanessa says:

      Hi Jill! I am definitely going to post to my blog while hiking. I won’t have internet for most of my time on the trail, and even if I do my phone will usually be on airplane mode to save battery life, but I’ll be able to write blog posts as I go (and save them on my phone even when I don’t have internet) and then publish them when I’m in towns or when I happen to have internet service on the trail. When I say I’ll miss the internet I more mean the very “plugged in 100% of the time” lifestyle that I’m used to — I won’t have time or ability to check my phone a million times a day, respond to every iMessage text as I receive it, mindlessly scroll through my Facebook news feed, etc. But don’t worry — I’ll still be sharing my thoughts 😉

  2. Jenny Bruso says:

    I was going to save this for later because I’m now late getting ready for work, BUT I’m so glad I did because I love this. I was so moved by it. I think it’s far more interested than what’s in people’s packs, though I def find that interesting, too. I absolutely feel sad that you’ll miss Portland in the summertime because we all become these superhero goddess versions of ourselves. It’s our true selves, really, but all the ways we are are our true selves and whoa I can really get existential on shit like this so I’ll stop.

    I know Alley will miss you so much, and her, you. I love you both!

    I’ll miss you!!! Maybe I’ll get my shit together and try find you on trail at some point. I hope to be a hiking machine again by then.

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank you for this, Jenny, though I’m sorry I made you late getting ready for work!! I love you and I will miss you and I certainly hope you find me on the trail — from my understanding it’s easiest to meet up with people in Oregon, so let’s do it!! XO

  3. Tam says:

    Vanessa, thank you for this wonderful post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as I could really relate to missing things as I was preparing to hike the Long Trail last August and that was only a month!!! I had scoured the internet looking for my story and couldn’t really find it. Most of the thru-hiker stories I could find were written by folks who either were already living fairly transient lifestyles or were in a big life transition. I had a hard time finding stories of people who were pretty happy and content in their day to day and didn’t necessarily want to leave that even though the trail was calling. I faced many challenges in leaving town for a month. Leaving my partner, home, community, work, and neighborhood for a month was extremely hard for me. The morning I left I could not stop crying. I couldn’t even look at my partner without my eyeballs just leaking and leaking. I was honestly grief stricken. Once I was in the car I was totally excited and I loved being on the trail and living in the woods and having that experience…AND I missed my girlfriend in an embarrassingly huge way. In conclusion, while I think having a big home foundation adds a different layer of challenges to going on a thru-hike, ultimately I think it really helps with the transition off-trail. I had a lot to come home to and a lot to look forward to after my hike. And it sounds like you will too!

    • Vanessa says:

      Tam, thank you so much for this sweet comment and sharing your experience about missing home while on a thru hike! I agree, it’s definitely not a story I see talked about a lot, and I really appreciate hearing how you felt when you were gone for a month on the Long Trail. I don’t think it’s embarrassing to miss your girlfriend — or anyone who matters a lot to you — in a huge way AT ALL…I think it’s amazing and cool that you went anyway, and I hope it’s amazing and cool that I’m going anyway? Haha, maybe I’m projecting a bit. I hope you’re right about a big foundation at home leading to a smooth transition off-trail; I hadn’t thought about that before and it’s a great insight. I loved hearing your and Travis’s presentation about the Long Trail so much, and I hope we’ll all get to hang out and chat about thru-hiking together again when I’m done with the PCT!

      • Tam says:

        I am so glad I got to meet you Vanessa! I am so looking forward to following your adventure on your blog. I think its so awesome that you are going for it!
        And just to be totally transparent, my transition off-trail definitely still had its challenges and I stumbled but ultimately having deep roots and a loving home and a life to come home to really helped me not completely fall apart after such an intense life adventure. I’ve always been kind of a homebody so going away for a month was a big step out of my comfort zone. I LOVE being home! I love day hiking! I love a good 3-4 day backpacking trip and a week away from home is generally my max. So a month was big…
        And yes I would love to connect again after your hike! I’ll be thinking of you out there!

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