My Fears Going Into My First Thru Hike on the Pacific Crest Trail

Keto & Ultralight Backpacking Gear & Technique

I’m Going to Thru Hike The Pacific Crest Trail! Wait, What?

Up until two weeks ago, I had no plans regarding thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It had not crossed my mind in any way, shape or form. Perhaps one day, I always thought, but with no strong feelings about it either way, despite my love for backpacking. I knew I was looking for change in my life, but I wasn’t sure what form that would take. Perhaps a move to a new city, hitchhiking around the country, going on Grateful Dead tour … who knows, just something to shake up my too comfortable existence.

At some point as I read other class of 2016 peeps getting excited on various PCT FB groups, a seed was planted that it could be a possibility. A week ago I was 50% committed. Today I’m 110% in and excited for a new life adventure.

Along with the excitement involved with prepping for a thru hike, comes of lots of planning, preparation, life changes and also fear. Things like your possessions, work, school, car, etc. have to be adjusted, especially since many will not have income while hiking and they don’t want to pay rent for a home they aren’t using. For me, prepping for work is not an issue as I’m self employed, finances aren’t an issue, my skill level isn’t an issue, my gear is 100% dialed in and I’ve been looking to move. So why would I have fear and what shape would those fears take?

Fear #1: Injuries

On a recent backpacking trip I had a pre-existing injury (nerve pain in the ball of my foot) and new injuries (achilles tendon pain) come up. I worked through them and have been doing physical therapy, but I don’t know how these will go in the long run. It would suck to have to quit a thru-hike early due to injury, but the reality is that this can and does happen to some hikers EVERY year.

More importantly, if I have to pull out two weeks or two months in, I have nowhere to live and have to start over. That would REALLY FUCKING SUCK.

Fear #2: Losing My Home

I live a couple blocks from the beach. I like love my apartment. I run on the beach every day, I have the best weather in the world and my super organized self loves how everything is perfectly organized in my home and every thing has it’s place. Apartments like mine are hard to find on the beach due to the high demand. So giving that up is hard. It’s so comfortable and I love it so much … but I’m too comfortable. Putting all your possessions and car into storage won’t be fun either. Moving sucks.

 Fear #3: Cold Early Mornings

This is silly and I know it will go away eventually, but I hate waking up when it’s freezing out. I live in San Diego with the best weather in the world, so we don’t have winters that prep us for cold! I’ve camped in winter, have had many cold mornings on previous trips, but this is a bit of a mental block I will be excited to get over!

Fear #4: Fear of the Unknown

If I had to guess, I would say many first time thru-hikers have this fear. We don’t quite know what we’re getting into yet. We know it’s big, we know it could be REALLY big in terms of life experiences, but we will not be able to wrap our mind around it until we are in it. Doing it. Sore, tired, hungry and dirty in it.

This is actually a huge driver for me. I like giving up things that I’m comfortable with and taking risks, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy…. but hey, nobody said it was going to be easy … so that’s a good thing.

What are you fears going into a 2016 Pacific Crest Trail thru hike?

5 thoughts on “My Fears Going Into My First Thru Hike on the Pacific Crest Trail

  1. colleen olson says:

    hi there. my name is colleen. lived in san diego all my life, until 6 years ago . moved to big bear lake. started hiking a lot.
    there are several areas here, you can get on the PCT. I want something different in my life. love camping…….
    so im going to hike the PCT . starting in May. working on my gear now… I will be starting from here in Big Bear.
    very nervous, excited, scared, I cant believe im going to do this. few more months.

  2. Brian says:

    Hi Trace, all the things you listed seem like very rational concerns most people would have prior to departing for a thru-hike, I can relate to a few. I’ve been hiking, camping on and off for most of my life, love the outdoors. It wasn’t until last spring did I ever consider doing a thru hike. I have all my gear squared away after having saved for several months, now I am counting the days until I can take off on the PCT this year, my tentative date to being the PCT this year is mid-late may.
    -Injuries: I’ve been trying to heal my knee which gave out on me about a year ago. Everything seems solid now, but in the back of my head im thinking my knee issue will come back to haunt me on trail…but there is no way I an going to let the “what if” scenarios prevent me from hiking this trail as far as I possibly can. Just got to have a little faith and hope for the best honestly. There is no way to know what will happen once you’re on the trail, just dive in and if some injury pops up, cross that bridge when you come to it, who knows you may not have anything injury wise to deal with from Campo to manning park. Just do the best you can to prepare prior to leaving and take it slow the first couple days weeks. Listen to your body.
    -Losing Home: Sounds like you have a killer setup going there on the beach. Honestly though, you might not find a great place on the beach easily after hiking is over, but who knows after hiking you might want to just keep traveling/hiking and you won’t even want a place on the beach…but if you really want to keep the place and you’re sure you will want it upon completion of trail, why not find someone to sublet the place to someone for 5-6 months and take it back when you finish? Options are available just got to get a bit creative. I personally rent a room so leaving it behind is far from a problem for me as I plan on moving to big bear once winter comes around next December after the trail. I have learned over the past few years to live very comfortably within my means, so I don’t need much, just a few creature comforts. Im sure you can always find another place on the beach, but don’t let living in your comfort zone prevent you from doing this amazing hike. In the end its not the things you have that you will remember nearly as much as the experiences and the people you share them with.
    -Cold mornings: I can’t relate much here. Both my parents are from Canada, I love cold weather. I also adore my sleep just as much as the next person however, you will be thankful for the cold mornings when you trek through the mojave with ridiculous temps and no cover to speak of. I’m sure you will adjust once you get on the trail it will just take a little time. If you sleep or “run” cold bring heavier sleep wear or sleeping bag/quilt with a lower temp rating. It will help.
    -Fear: I can relate most here. I have lived most of my youth in fear, I still do today, although I have a much better ability to recognize my fears and stem them. Fear has prevented me from doing so many things, but I refuse to let that define me as a person. Truly though, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”. Don’t let fear keep you from what could and probably will be an incredible experience trekking for months through some of the most pristine and gorgeous landscapes the USA can offer. You will meet awesome like-minded people , breath fresh air, climb mountains, sleep under the stars and get in better shape than you ever imagined and thats just the beginning. There are so many great things to take from this trail, you just have to go out and work for them. It won’t be easy, but nothing ever worth having does come easy.

    Anyways, hope you can some positive encouragement from my spiel here. My name is Brian and maybe i’ll see you out on the trail this year, either way, you should definitely take the dive and just go for it. Fear of the unknown has not kept humans from traveling to the moon, or climbing Mt Everest, don’t let it keep you from living life man. Take care and happy trails.

    • Trace says:

      Brian thank you for your thoughtful answer and you make some great points. I’m feeling better than ever at this point and can’t wait for this journey to begin … As I’ve thought through how this might play out, I’ve realized this will be a great opportunity to move to Colorado or Northern Cali or perhaps go North to Alaska. I think my fears are as much about leaving San Diego as they are doing the PCT. At this point I’m excited, relaxed and letting go of any overthinking, taking things as they come. Thanks again and can’t wait to say what up on the trail!

  3. Shane says:

    Hello, I also live in San Diego! Pacific Beach to be specific. I am thinking of going for the trail this season as well. Let me know if you want to chat about it!


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