PCT Post Mortem

The Day After

August 2, 2016

Waking up in a bed, flushing a toilet, taking a long, hot shower—ah, the accouterments of civilization. Everyone should spend time out in the wilderness to gain an appreciation for these magnificent luxuries we all take for granted.

One thing I love about staying with our friends G-Man and Belle is their morning ritual of a leisurely breakfast in their comfy dining room with its gorgeous mountain views. As usual, G-Man procured an utterly decadent array of pastries to choose from, and he even made me a latte. These two trail angels really know how to live.

We sat around the table, chatting, reading magazines, iPads and laptops. Nobody was in a hurry to go anywhere, even though it was a workday. It felt heavenly, lounging in a leather chair, hot coffee in hand, looking out at those wild mountains—not having to deal with the cold, pack up my stuff and get on the trail that day.

But at the same time, it felt odd knowing that chapter of my life was over, that all my gear, which had been such an important lifeline out there in the wilderness, would now be packed away in a box under the house, suddenly immaterial.

Unpacking and sorting, getting ready to put it all back in storage.
Unpacking and sorting, getting ready to put all my supplies and equipment back into storage.

As G-Man, Belle and The Hubby got on with their workdays, the girls and I took off in the rental car. I dropped them in downtown Truckee at a meditation center and took my sleeping bag to the Laundromat for washing in the big machines.

There was a salon next door, so I went in to inquire about getting my hacked haircut fixed. Luckily, Alana was able to squeeze me in, salvaging my moppy mess into a cute, pixie cut. She loved hearing the story of how Fish Nugget cut it out on the trail with my teeny-tiny Swiss army knife scissors. I felt like a badass for going through with it.

While my sleeping bag tumbled in the dryer, I went to a nearby thrift store to get the girls some cheap, lightweight street clothes to take with them to Lost Coast Trail. The Hubby and I would be flying home to Puerto Rico in a couple of days, so I needed to get the ones I’d lent them back. There wasn’t a huge selection, but I did manage to find a couple things that worked.

This is my Zoolander moment, rocking my hacked haircut.
A Zoolander moment, rocking my Swiss Army Knife haircut courtesy of Fish Nugget.

Back home I spent the rest of the afternoon sorting, cleaning and packing my gear for storage. I’d been debating whether or not to ditch my sleeping bag and get a new one, but it’s such a huge expense, I decided to get a liner instead and picked one up in town. Hopefully, that will work okay on my next trip out.

I got everything organized, put it under the house (yes, these trail angels of ours offer free storage, too—I told you they were the best) and packed it in such a way that it could easily be mailed to me at the start of my next trip. By then I’d decided that I would be doing the rest of the Sierra next July, from Kennedy Meadows South to Mammoth Lakes, 220 miles of some of the wildest terrain in the Lower 48.

That evening, Belle, G-Man, The Hubby and I went to a dinner and music night on the clubhouse lawn at Old Greenwood. The band was terrific, the food delicious and the setting divine. Kids danced in front of the band like groupies as the sun dipped beneath the mountain skyline. We caught up with our friends over some rather inventive cocktails and had such a great time, so thankful I could be there with them.

I slept much better the next night.

The band at Old Greenwood, with their number one fan dancing out front.
The band at Old Greenwood, with their number one fan dancing out front.
The Hubby giving me the eye at dinner.
The Hubby giving me the eye at dinner.

Two Weeks Later

Back home in Puerto Rico, I quickly adjusted to sleeping in a bed again, loving civilization. The Caribbean heat felt somewhat oppressive, but I slowly got used to it.

My feet and legs still hurt, even though I was no longer hiking. The first few steps of each day were always a little painful, but then the kinks seemed to work themselves out. My friend Holli, who’s a physical therapist, said this is normal after hard body usage. She said it takes a while to recover.

Running into people socially, they would ask me about the trail, and I would tell them something about it, but it didn’t nearly convey how epic it was. They had no idea.

For two weeks straight, every night, all my dreams were about the trail.

Creek Over Trail Near Stubblefield Canyon
The creek runneth over on the trail down into Stubblefield Canyon in Yosemite National Park.

Two Months After

It took about two months for my body pains to subside. That seemed kind of long to me, but maybe that’s because I’m getting old. I’d still do it again in a heartbeat.

Thru-hikers often experience post trail depression, finding it difficult to integrate back into normal life. I felt only a bit of that, maybe because I’d been out for a month versus the full five it takes to do the whole trail.

Charlie Knight, a PCT hiker from the class of 2016, did a nice job describing emotions post trail. I can especially relate to the part about how hard it is to explain the hike to people who ask about it. Words elude me.

Fish Nugget at Dorothy Lake
Fish Nugget resting by Dorothy Lake, ignoring the mosquitoes.

Following the footsteps of my daughter, I joined the trail on a seeming whim. But it had been a long-simmering dream of mine to walk the PCT, so when a window opened, I threw myself through it.

I didn’t know if I would make it, but I gave it my best shot. And when the going got tough, I just kept walking, through the cold, the heat, the hunger, thirst and pain.

All my life I’ve loved these mountains, ever since I was a little girl backpacking with my parents in Yosemite. I don’t know why they beckon me, but they do. I want to see them end-to-end before I die, and this trip got me halfway there.

The lessons of the trail weren’t obvious right away, but they’ve unfolded over time. The trail taught me that I can succeed at anything I put my mind to, if I simply persevere—though for me, there’s a personal catch.

The scenery must be worth suffering for.

Looking Over Kennedy Canyon
Looking back over Kennedy Canyon near Emigrant Wilderness.
flowers by the trail
Flowers by the side of the trail, we saw so many lovely wildflowers!
Carson-Iceberg Wilderness
Another beautiful day of hiking in Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.
Me on the Trail
My shadow leading me down the trail.
Aloha Lake in the Morning
Aloha Lake in the morning, still as glass.
My Wilderness Guides
Fish Nugget and Squarepants, my wilderness guides.
High Country of Ansel Adams Wilderness
Scenery worth suffering for, in the high country of Ansel Adams Wilderness.

PCT Post Mortem—1 Day, 2 Weeks, 2 Months After the Trail
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PCT Post Mortem—1 Day, 2 Weeks, 2 Months After the Trail
Adjusting to normal life after an extended period of trail hiking is a journey unto itself. This is how my adjustment unfolded, days, weeks and months after my 30-day trip on the PCT.
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