What Draws Us to the PCT?
Why do thousands of people elect to voluntarily work harder than they could ever imagine, deprive themselves of creature comforts, experience searing heat and voracious mosquitoes, expose themselves to dangerous river crossings and unpredictable weather? The reasoning is somewhat different from the thinking and observations we have imparted in previous posts entitled ‘Why the PCT?”.
The whys and the whats shine different lights on different places. In fact what draws the collective ‘us’ to the PCT is as variable as the weather one can find all along the trail. Every time I am hiking along the PCT I intersect and interact with a wide variety of people; young and old, experienced and inexperienced in nature, seekers, discoverers, people avoiding or embracing their next step in life. I have met people celebrating a recent life event or considering great life changes. As you can see the list is long and could be developed even more. My question for the people I meet often comes back to ‘what drew you to do this?’
The point is, there is not one specific element that draws each and everyone of us to walk the PCT. No matter if you are a sectioning or thru hiking, going it alone or together. Certainly many share a sense of challenge for the unknown. I have thought and written about that on numerous occasions both here and in the privacy of my trip journals. Beyond the sheer challenge of putting oneself out in nature there is also the interest in going somewhere few have gone and few have seen while overcoming a wide range of diverse problems and challenges.
Despite the significant increase in the number of people on the PCT over the past ten years, the overall sense is there really aren’t that many people who are going after it. Of course the so called ‘wild effect’ that occurred after the publication of Cheryl Strayed’s, ‘Wild’, has influenced more people to search out themselves and the PCT. In particular it appears there are more women on the PCT than ever as a result of Strayed’s story. However when one considers the population of only the United States, and the fact that when we refer to the PCT we are referring to a National Scenic Trail the PCT is no interstate hiker’s highway with big traffic jams. Sure there are the occasional accidents, detours, and at specific times of the year, ‘bubbles’ of people moving in what has been described at times a herd but there are many miles where it can be just you.
Then add in the international visitors and the impact is still not all that great. However the reasoning for a PCT hiker from outside the US to walk the PCT may be different or not from his or her American colleagues. Certainly there is nothing quite like the National Scenic Trail system and specifically the PCT anywhere else in the world.
So, what does draw us to the PCT? There is a social component that can’t be denied, just look at social media and You Tube. All kinds of people have experiences to share and announce to the world. In that way, their draw may be a desire be noticed. Their fifteen minutes of fame or a whole lot less. In fact a whole community exists around the PCT and that community draws ever more interested folks to see what it’s all about. There are numerous books about the PCT, e.g.’The Pacific Crest Trailside Readers’ as an example. All of this sparks interest and desire to see what the PCT is all about and ultimately check it out in whatever way one can.
Finally, the greatest draw to the PCT is the opportunity to experience parts of the United States and specifically the far west that few will ever see or experience. Simply going where others only go in calendar photos, coffee table books, or hear about in public talks and other places across a variety of media. Whether vicariously or up close and personal what draws us may be that we as people are interested in getting in touch with the desire to know more. Know more about the world, ourselves, and each other. For that the draw is undeniable, taking us on a journey of a lifetime that goes deeper into our hearts and minds than we may not always fully realize unless we continue to ask the question, ‘what drew me here?’