It’s been exactly four weeks since the day I arrived at the Canadian border, officially completing my hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, and I think I’m finally ready to break my post-trail silence. I originally wanted to have come out with at least a couple post-trail blogs by this point, but it took me longer than I expected to really start processing my feelings after finishing the trail. But before I dive into all the feelings and shit, I guess I’ll give you guys a quick update on what I’ve been up to since I arrived in Vancouver after finishing the hike.
After our night in the swanky hotel room, we spent a couple more nights in Vancouver at the home of a friend I went to high school with. It turns out that even off the trail, people are still good and generous and kind. The city itself quickly became overwhelming. We spent an afternoon exploring the downtown waterfront area, which was really cool, but things quickly became stressful once real life entered into the picture. As I’m sure many of you deduced (although I never explicitly mentioned it in any blog posts), Gummies and I became a couple during our hike, and we would one day maybe like to relocate to British Columbia. So, with that in mind, we tried to spend a day scoping out potential jobs and places to live, but ended up returning to my friend’s house after a couple of hours where Gummies had a nap and I baked cookies (my own personal form of therapy). It was just too much, too quickly.
Our next stop was Seattle, where we spent one night in an Airbnb and two nights with some old friends of Gummies. This city was much less overwhelming, and I’m still not sure if it had something to do with the character of the cities themselves or was just due to the fact that I was starting to readjust to urban life. We saw the Space Needle, and Pike Place Market, and played Mariokart with the family we were staying with, and then we flew home. Well, to my home, specifically. Gummies came to stay at my parents’ place in my hometown for a couple of weeks, where I showed him my favourite places to eat, introduced him to some of my closest childhood friends, and finally began to miss the trail.
Thanksgiving day hike with Gummies and my parental units.
I won’t lie: I did not miss the trail at first. I was happy to be done. By the time we reached the last few weeks of the hike, I was exhausted, I was tired of walking, tired of the cold, and just so ready to be done. Finishing felt like a celebration, and while I felt like it should be tinged with some sort of obligatory sadness, it wasn’t really there. I was too excited about exploring Vancouver and Seattle, about bringing Gummies home to meet my family and friends, about going to visit his home in Indy (leaving this Tuesday and I can not wait), and about eventually embarking on the grand adventure of real life together. So, once I reached home, I was happy to be off the trail… but I still felt lost.
As part of our transition back into the real world, Gummies will be attempting to become a resident of Canada, a process that is confusing, stressful, and a bit overwhelming. That pretty much means he needs to find a job before I can start looking (because we’ll just relocate to wherever he can find work). So while all I wanted to be doing was something productive, I ended up feeling stuck and a little bit useless. On top of all that, almost as soon as we returned home, I started experiencing some intense groin/hip pain, which meant that I was unable to turn to my usual stress-relieving tactics of running or doing yoga. Luckily the pain gradually went away with a few days of rest, and I’m now able to fully enjoy running and practicing yoga again, which has help immensely with my mood. But a couple of weeks ago, a new feeling arose: I missed the trail.
While getting in the car to drive from my hometown to Toronto (about an hour away), my brain suddenly got all excited, feeling as if we were departing on another backpacking trip. And it was then that I realized… I actually wanted to go on another backpacking trip. I really thought it would take longer for the desire to come back to me, because I was just so tired of hiking by the time we finished the trail. I honestly felt like I was a little bit weird, because I didn’t seem to have been bitten by that bug that most other thru-hikers experience. But the desire is definitely here now, and if someone asked me to leave on a backpacking trip tomorrow, I would almost certainly enthusiastically agree. I’m still excited about what real life might have in store, but I’m now excitedly looking forward to planning more adventures.
I want to live outside again. I want to breathe the fresh air that is full of life all day and all night. I want to sleep under the stars. I want the simplicity. I want the closeness of trail friendships. I spent a bunch of time over the last few days going through all of my trail photos to make galleries for each section, and I realized I miss it all terribly. The memories of the pain, the fear, the exhaustion, and the frustrations disappeared so much faster than I thought they would, leaving me with my mind full of the beauty, the awe, and the simple pleasures of trail life. This does not necessarily mean I am already planning my next thru-hike. Simple weekend or week-long trips are what appeal to me right now. While on the trail I realized that real life is actually more important to me than I thought it was. Having a job, and a family, and a home actually are things that I want. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the mountains and the woods.
Anyway, I had no plans for where this post was supposed to end up, but I just felt it was time to put my feelings into words. I’m excited for the ordinary adventures real life will bring, and I’m also excited for more wilderness adventures, both big and small.