PCT Day 41 + Quitting + Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo: Finished with the Tahoe Rim Trail
Miles: 0.0 - 174.0
I quit my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. I actually quit at the beginning of July, but I didn’t want to post any updates publicly because of how embarrassed and ashamed I felt. I needed more time to process my emotions and grow confidence in myself again. I thought a good way to do that was to do more hiking!
Over the last month, I hiked the 174-mile Tahoe Rim Trail. A 174-mile trail that loops around Lake Tahoe and overlaps the PCT for ~50 miles from south of Echo Lake through Desolation Wilderness. I really enjoyed making these blog posts while on the PCT, so I decided to make a new blog for the TRT. It is located here if anyone is interested. I guess blogging will continue to be a little tradition for each trip I do.
Now for the reasons why I quit. When I was planning my hike of the PCT, my goal was to thru-hike it. To me, that meant going from Mexico to Canada in one hiking season regardless of skips, breaks, etc. I think after only Day 2 I had truly realized how ambitious a goal it really was. I felt like I was in way over my head, and that I had made a huge mistake. However, I got over this feeling by finding friends on trail and writing this blog. Having more people supporting me and my goals was a really good motivator.
It was on Day 7, at mile 109, near Warner Springs, that I had a large hurdle tossed in my way in the form of post-tib tendonitis. I did too many miles too fast. The pain in my feet was so bad that I couldn’t walk so I hobbled 1 mile to the gas station and eventually made it back home. I rested, got new shoes, and after a week I felt ready to go again. Another 3 weeks of hiking went by and around mile 370, the pain came back. This time I went home to rest for a month, hoping that the rest + a pair of custom insoles would help my issue. During that time off, I was watching all the people who I met on trail finishing the desert section, entering the Sierras, and some even completing the Sierras. My motivation slowly deteriorated, along with all the progress in my fitness that I had gained while hiking on trail.
With my motivation at an all time low, I knew I had to get back on trail at least one more time to see if the spark for hiking would come back. Getting to Canada didn’t seem in the cards for me at that point, so my goal transformed to just hiking from Kennedy Meadows to South Lake Tahoe. I would then decide whether to continue going north from there, or stop hiking and go travel elsewhere before returning to my “normal” life. I also told myself that if I ran into any issues in my arches, I would stop the hike earlier than planned, accept that I wasn’t ready for the PCT yet, and try again another time.
On Day 41 while I was still in Lone Pine, I woke up to more pain in my Achilles than the day before. That was a sign that my body needed more time to heal and that I wasn’t ready to hike through the Sierras. Instead of staying in Lone Pine for several more days while my foot got better, my Dad gave me the option to rest up at home and take me back to the trail the following weekend. In my mental state then I wanted nothing else than to go home so I did.
I didn’t provide that day as a normal blog update since I felt extremely embarrassed by the fact that after only 3 full days of hiking on the PCT, I was already heading back to the comfort of civilization.
Luckily, the pain in my heel did subside after resting, exercising, and hiking. After a week it was time to head back to trail. My bag was packed, my Dad and I were right about to head out the door to drive back to Lone Pine, and at the last minute, I realized that I didn’t want to go back. I was unmotivated to complete my smaller goal of making it to Lake Tahoe and instead decided to quit that day.
That day wasn’t all bad though. It was also when I decided that I would instead do the Tahoe Rim Trail! It’s the hiking trail my favorite hiker Jupiter suggested people do before setting out on the PCT. I’d still be hiking a part of the PCT while finishing an amazing long distance trail in the process. Despite having this new goal in place I still felt like I had made a huge mistake by quitting. The following days I was going back and forth, constantly trying to decide if I had made the right choice. I had a feeling that after I finished my new goal, I would be content with my choice, and that feeling would subside. Now that I’m here, after being done with the Tahoe Rim Trail, I am pretty happy with my choice to stop where I did. It allowed me to have an incredible experience without a lot of mental pressure weighing down on me, and it helped me build confidence in myself again. Exactly what I needed.
If I could go back in time, I would have spent more time getting into shape, while doing several seasons of larger shakedown hikes. Specifically the Tahoe Rim Trail, John Muir Trail, Colorado Trail, and Arizona Trail. In my eyes, they all seem like such a better way to transition from weekend backpacking into thru-hiking. All are much shorter, ranging from the shortest taking 1.5 weeks to complete and the longest taking 6 weeks to complete. Doing each in ascending order would make my body and mind in shape for tackling the behemoth of a goal that is the PCT.
I’m sure I’ll be back on the PCT sometime in the future. Whether that’s thru-hiking or section hiking, I’m not sure. I just know there’s going to be a void in my brain for a while until I decide what I want to do, and eventually, do it to completion. Until then, I’m gonna travel a little bit and then live my life normally again. 600+ miles of hiking is enough for me this year.
Thank you to everyone who followed along on this blog, everyone I met during the last few months, and everyone who supported me on this journey! I seriously wouldn’t have been able to make it through most of the miles without the constant messages of support, encouragement, and overall just being interested in what I am up to. It truly means a lot to me.
Chandler aka Captain Leisure