Pre-PCT Post #2

Risk Management

Once you’ve got the PCT permit in hand, there’s nothing left to do except everything else. With so much else going on, today felt like a good day to get a 10 mile practice hike in on the Waterloo-Pinckney trail. This trail isn’t a mountain, but it’ll do. I love to write things out while I’m hiking.

Our PCT start plan is a little easier than the average hiker’s.  A support crew of fellow hiker family members is driving us to the starting line. I use the words ‘starting line’ instead of ‘trail terminus’, which is where the trail actually begins, for a couple of reasons.

  1. It is impossible to drive to the PCT northern terminus. It is about a 30-mile hike from the nearest parking at Harts Pass (60 miles round trip).
  2. It’s a high snow year and we, as of yet, are unsure where we will be able to start hiking safely. Tracking snow levels here –

A family-size safety net is nice. How one goes about using that safety net to make the best decision is still a complicated equation. 

On our Ice Age Trail hike last year, Brianna and I learned that we view the completion of a trail quite differently.  Skipping a couple of hundred miles south and missing the northern terminus would be a bummer for me, but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. For Brianna, skipping that much trail without a high level of certainty about what the actual conditions are would be very hard.

My risk aversion and Brianna’s risk acceptance generally balance each out.  The PCT will test this balance like never before: snow, wildfires, heat, altitude, storms, and the unknown situations that pop up when you’re in the middle of nowhere with not many people around. Centering my life around the existence of these dangers requires a high-risk acceptance, but once we are out there, I quote Chucky from the Rugrats cartoon a lot – “I don’t think that’s such a good idea, guys…”

This, That, and the Other Thing

If I don’t have a nervous breakdown in the next 19 days, it will be a miracle.  Maybe the breakdown bar is too low, perhaps I should aim for at least 2, no more than 3. 

The leave of absence gift given to me by my awesome workplace comes at a cost. Everything I am involved in leading must be handed off to a person of my equal management level before I go. It’s not a whole lot different than if I was quitting, really. I love the people I work with and the only feeling stronger than my desire not to screw staff over is my need to take the stifling collar off my life and run free. Quitting would be easier, but I don’t want to quit, I just want to live differently for a while.

Deciding to hike this year was not easy. It’s never a good time to make a big life decision, there is always a prudent reason to wait. While we do not have any kids, I like to compare thru-hiking to that level of a life decision. The economy will never be perfect and it will never be the exact right time to forever upend your life. Maybe it’s all in my head, but it feels like the people judging us poorly for these life decisions would not be treating us the same way if we were taking a few months off to have a child. We would not have been able to predict $5+ gas prices any more than we would have a shortage of baby formula.

Why Do We Hike?

My purpose in covering all of these pre-hike topics, in addition to testing how the Trek online blog works, is to set the stage for what this online journal will be. Brianna and I are just ordinary people trying to enjoy life in extraordinary ways. We are not hiking the trail because of a tragic life event that made us realize that every moment we get on earth is precious. We have lost important people, and their ghosts are with us always, but they are not leading the way. I am a veteran of the 2000-2006 era but am lucky enough to not have PTSD, to not be hiking the trail for that reason.

I drove to a live audition in Detroit for the TV show Survivor back in 2019 and found myself to be both uplifted and dejected by the inspirational stories people had for wanting to be on the show. It made me feel like I was not good enough, that my reasons for the things I do were not good enough. And so I write from the perspective of a normal person with a level head who likes to tell stories. Most of my posts will focus less on trail conditions and how-tos, and more on meandering thoughts, momentary feelings, and the crazy shit that happens in between.

There will likely be one more post before we pack up and leave Michigan on July 1st.  TheTrek requires three posts before certain blog features enable and I would be remiss not to test them before we head out for northern Washington.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *