Dreams Change as the Trails Change

In The Beginning

Dreams change. When Brianna and I first hatched this plan to start thru-hiking, it was an idealistic dream of escaping what was for a journey into what could be, what should be. We had achieved a moderate amount of success in our life goals up to that point, but none of the things we had acquired were equal to the happiness found on the trail. Our annual trips to the Smoky Mountain National Park made us feel more alive than the 50 weeks we spent working to get there ever could.

Like so many others, the trail became the beacon of light we would look to after a stressful day at the office. The hate we held for our jobs did not negate our need for the money they paid us, the funds we needed to save to make our dream come true. Weeks turned into months, months into years, until a funny thing happened. Time is the river of our lives, carrying away our baggage-filled debris, forcefully cutting us into the shape of tomorrow. By the time we had enough money to safely quit the jobs we both hated, I had grown to love my work and the people I worked with. What had started as a middle finger to society’s rules had grown into a much more complicated decision.

What does a person do when a thing they love is preventing them from doing a thing they love? I spent a lot of time thinking about this very question. Pandemic lockdowns and uncertain trail conditions allowed me to delay this decision for a couple of years, until the beginning of 2022, when the murkiness began to clear up. 

January 2022

Brianna lured me into applying for PCT permits in January of 2022. She would say, “Getting permits doesn’t mean we have to go this year, but not getting permits means we definitely can’t.” I knew in my heart of hearts that the inverse was also true – if we wait in the digital line and get the permit dates we wanted, ready or not, this would be the year we thru-hike the PCT. The process for securing a PCT permit required little more effort than signing into their portal 5 minutes in advance of the start time. Shocker, we got the early July permit dates we were shooting for.

Internal strife over leaving a job I love filled my days and my nights with terror. Sometimes I think ‘Dichotomy’ would be a better trail name for me, because I am always overthinking decisions, and people could just call me ‘Dich’ for short. Push came to shove and I did finally make a decision – I would let the employer I have been with for over a decade know that my last day of work would be July 1st. That would be that and everything else would be trail preparation.

The thing about decisions made in a bubble is that the forces outside of the bubble often have opinions, too.

Moves and Counter Moves

When notified of my life plans and the separation they would require, my employer, my amazing supervisor, decided that I was worth waiting for. Humbled and eager to overcome my latest bout of imposter syndrome, I accepted the opportunity to return to the job after my thru-hike and the conditions required to do so. The only thing more difficult than planning for a 4-6 month trek on the trail is… Everything else that also needs to be done.

Life decisions in my 40s are less about throwing caution to the wind and more about risk assessment and risk mitigation. Maybe I can balance work and play in a way that will allow me to do both? Less than 30 days until we leave for the trail, so I guess we will find out together.

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