Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Unrealistic Fantasy #2

I am hiking the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Mexico to Canada--2,655 miles. Yep. In my dreams.

I have always liked the idea of long-distance travel by foot. I remember as a kid, I'd get squirmingly bored while visiting relatives in Evanston, IL or Oak Park, IL and my lenient mother would let me and my sibs escape the tedium of their after-dinner grown-up talk. We'd head out the door and start walking. I remember the first time we crossed the border into Chicago. I was ecstatic! It was like we'd crossed over into another country! In reality, we'd probably covered less than a mile, but suddenly we were in a big name-brand city. Amazing to think that my mom let us just wander into Chicago like that and trusted that nothing would happen to us and that we'd be able to find our way back. I am at this very moment awarding her posthumous brownie points for not buying into the culture of fear.

Years later, I found out about the Appalachian Trail and for a while had an unrealistic fantasy about hiking that, which was supplanted once I discovered the existence of the much more exotic and entrancingly named Pacific Crest Trail.

Now, I have hiked portions of the PCT on day hikes, and in fact hiked a measly three miles of it (about 0.1 percent) on Sunday. And who did we see but about 8-10 thru-hikers living out my fantasy! It just so happened that if you'd started out in Mexico in April, by August 29 you'd be just crossing over into southern Washington. It really made my day to see these folks. We stopped and talked to one of the guys; I almost wanted to ask him for his autograph I was so in awe of his accomplishment. On our way back to Oregon, driving over the Bridge of the Gods (which spans the Columbia River between Cascade Locks, OR and Carson, WA), we saw some thru-hikers walking over the bridge. I was outraged to find out that they have to pay a 50-cent toll to cross that bridge! There's not even a sidewalk or a pedestrian/bike lane on it so they have to slimpse along hugging the railing with all the car and truck traffic whizzing by. C'mon--they've hiked all the way from Mexico, the least the state of Washington could do is give them free passage into the state.

So here's why there's only a microscopic chance that I will ever realize this fantasy:

  • I have never carried a backpack weighing more than 20 lb.
  • I have never camped (unless you count the time I was forced to set up a tent on a tennis court at a YWCA camp, every moment of which I loathed).
  • I am a wuss about fording streams, and on the PCT I'd have to get both myself and my gargantuan backpack across some really treacherous ones. Note: It sometimes takes me a good ten minutes to psych myself up to get over a tiny trickle that most people don't think twice about. Pathetique!
  • I like flush toilets.
  • I don't like ramen noodles or other desiccated "food."
  • I'd have to take six months off from work.

Yeah. I know some people would say, "It's your dream. You should just go for it. Think of how empowering it would be," blah, blah, blah, but...really I can be content just knowing that it's out there as something I might do if pretty much everything in my life were different and/or I was a different person.


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