Over the weekend I was able to take a short hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail that I (and countless others) read about in Cheryl Strayed’s book, “Wild,” has spurred many to follow in her footsteps – though perhaps without the heroin use. I’ve often thought that I would love to try to thru-hike the whole trail from Mexico to Canada, all 2600 miles of it. And then I wake up and realize that though the will might be there, and the physical ability might be found or developed, I don’t know that I could swing the logistics of walking for many months, probably on my own.
But perhaps it would be possible to plan many shorter trips to see various parts of the trail, north and south. As I told my brother-in-law this weekend, “Fuck it. I have cancer. I’m going to hike.”
My sister, her husband, their son, and I got on the trail where it crosses Donner Pass Road, and headed north. My brother-in-law went on ahead at a run, leaving the three of us to savor the surroundings as we walked at a more leisurely pace, one that was set by my three year old nephew. “I want to lead,” he said. And, since his legs are shorter than mine, and since I’m still working on getting back into shape after having my kidney removed, and since, really, I didn’t want to hurry up that hill, I let him lead on.
It was great to get in some practice hiking at elevation (around 7000-7200 feet). My trip in Colorado will start off at 10000 feet, with an elevation gain of about 1300 feet over 4 miles. The distance doesn’t phase me, but the elevation makes me nervous. Showing myself that I can make it up a big, steep hill (which we encountered on the PCT) was enough to ease some of my fears about the September trip. Even if I had to go slowly. Even if I had to stop every three minutes, I still made it to the top. Yay me!
The trail varied in quality. At times we were scrambling over granite slabs, watching climbers above or below us. Other times we walked through stands of pine trees, with ponds nearby or ferns at our feet. And then there was the hill with shrubs along each side, guiding us up the switchbacks. There were lots of rocks – many more than I tend to encounter hiking around the bay area, and that eased other fears. My trail runners (Brooks Cascadia) held up just fine with the rocks, big and small. I don’t think I’ll need to purchase “hiking” boots for my trip.
I was amazed by how many wildflowers there were on the trail – white, pink, purple, yellow, orange. The variety astounded me, especially since I’m not used to seeing many around home after May.
We had to turn around entirely too soon; such is life with a toddler. My sister and I have begun to discuss taking a short backpacking trip later this year, and I intend to drive back up to the Sierras while my kids are in one or another of their sleep away camps, just to get in some more high elevation hikes. And to hopefully see more of the Pacific Crest Trail, which continues to tempt me with her siren song.