OrangeBrown, Covid-19 and the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)
It seems a long time ago when I started thinking about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). They weren’t really serious thoughts initially, more like distractions from my daily routine.
This was around 3 years ago. I had taken a few weeks off work to do some volunteering on Bon Bon Station Reserve in South Australia, a property run by Bush Heritage where they run environmental and ecological projects. After that I travelled further north via the Old Andado Station, to Alice Springs and then into the West MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory – a beautiful part of Australia. While I was there I received news that something serious had happened to a family member back in Germany, so I drove back to my home in Melbourne and flew to Germany a few days later.
I spent a few weeks in Germany, with most of my time spent visiting my relative, who was in a rehab facility in a small German town. I was really missing my mountain bike and my exercises, so to get some fresh air I started walking two or three times a day through the town, along the river and through the parks. To distract my thoughts and fill the time in in the evenings, I also watched YouTube a lot, and soon got hooked on videos about some of the big thru-hikes in the US - the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and so on.
Somehow the bug got under my skin and about a year later I knew I had to do one of them, and decided the PCT was the one. This trail runs more or less parallel to the west coast of the US, from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada – 4200 km (2650 miles) in total. I started researching and training, and prepared a countdown sheet - I know that sounds weird ;-) - ticking off the days until 1 April 2020, which is when I thought I might start the hike.
In January this year, I set the alarm to be up very early one morning to be ready to join the long online queue to try to get a permit for a southbound (SOBO) PCT hike. Luckily I got a spot – for a start on 2 July 2020. By the end of February I had finished up with my job, and I was training a lot and trying out my gear, trying to decide what to take (this is no easy decision!). Wow, it was all coming together! I was so excited!
But then…. Covid-19 came along, ouch. Three weeks later I (and the rest of Australia) was in lockdown and I knew I wouldn’t go anywhere. This was really disappointing. Someone said to me once that it is good to have a plan – and you can always change the plan if necessary. My PCT plan had been to go for a hike every day and see how far I would get. Could I do the whole lot, half or maybe only a week? I always knew that I might not be able to finish the hike and that due to an injury it would have possibly been cut short. My old legs might not have been fast enough to get me through the High Sierra in California before winter kicked in. Or maybe I wouldn’t have been strong enough mentally to get through 4200 km in one go, who knows. I had hoped to start my adventure at the Canadian border with a relatively short day of 15 miles (24 km), on Thursday 2 July. But the plan had to change, and instead that’s what I did a few days ago here in Australia - 15 miles along my training trails, followed by a good coffee and some superb chocolate at home. Guess where I would have rather been?
For me, the PCT dream continues, and I hope that those who are out there this year will experience something they will remember for the rest of their lives. For those of us who are staying at home - be safe!
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