Return To The PCT With A Vow To Slow Down, Enjoy The Moment

Within a week of leaving the trail and saying goodbye to my friends, I was back in Portland and employed at my former job as a bartender.  My first day back at work, it only took about four hours before I took a ten to go outside to cry.  Everything was the same, everything was normal, everything was so f*cking regular that I couldn’t stand it.  I had income, a fabulous new living situation, and endless food, drink, and entertaining amenities at my disposal.  Never in my life did I think these things wouldn’t matter to me.

I started a thru-hike on April 22, 2017, and left the trail on my two-month anniversary. I was in Northern California — we had skipped the Sierras due to the insane amounts of snow (which I am sure everyone knows about at this point).  It was my first time doing something of this magnitude and it was so exciting, yet terrifying, yet exhilarating all at the same time.

When I left the trail, I didn’t realize what I was leaving and what was being given up.  I honestly thought that I was done with thru-hiking and that this two-month stint on the PCT wouldn’t affect me whatsoever.  I figured I had already gotten enough out of my miles and it wasn’t a big deal if I didn’t continue farther down the trail.  Oh, how naive I was.

I was so upset with myself for leaving trail that I never even posted a follow-up blog of the pictures I took toward the end of my hike.  I felt almost as if they didn’t matter, that they would be less valuable because I didn’t make it to Canada (I included some of those photos as a follow-up and introduction to my 2018 hike).

I am setting off to once again, attempt another thru-hike on April 15.  This time around I am even more excited and even more stressed out.  I know what to expect, but I am not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.  I guess I will find out.

I’ve learned so many more lessons by leaving the trail early last year, but the biggest one I learned was that I want, need, and yearn to be out there everyday.

Advice To Follow

  1.  Take more photos. Stop for five minutes and get that shot of that person, flower, mountain, animal. Yeah, you have to take off your pack and get out your four-pound camera, but you’re just going to regret it later.
  2.  Take more zero days on trail, not in town.
  3.  Keep up with those you want to hike with. You can do it, ya big baby.
  4.  Take less showers, you’re just going to smell like shit in a few hours anyway.
  5.  Listen to calming music as you go uphill. Sure, Britney Spears and Rihanna have some good tracks, but it’s stressful and less motivating for you.
  6.  Camp by yourself more. You’ve done it, you’re not a scared little bitch anymore, and you enjoy it.
  7.  Cowboy camp with your friends more. It’s like a slumber party outside.
  8.  Stay up later if you’re having a good conversation. Yeah, you’re tired, but you have all the time in the world to sleep when you’re done.
  9.  Don’t make instant mashed potatoes anymore. They are a pain in the ass to clean out of that pot and you know you’re going to be too lazy to wash them out at the end of the evening. Just avoid that crusty shit altogether.
  10.  Carry less food. Your trail friends made fun of you for how much you didn’t eat. Just accept that you’re a small eater and cut the weight.
  11.  Write and record your days more. Not necessarily for people to read, but to remember when you finally put that photo book together.
  12.  Cry more. You did good holding it together last time, but you could’ve also let yourself go more. That’s the point of this hike. You know that, so suck it up and let yourself cry.
  13.  Only tell hikers your trail name if you feel like getting into a conversation about how you got it.
  14.  If you stay at an Airbnb, don’t put whip cream on your nipples while you’re standing outside. The owner might live next door and walk up on an awkward situation. Yes, you’re hiker trash, but class it up a bit for the sake of your dignity.
  15.  Start the aqueduct earlier and get to that bridge before the sun comes up.
  16.  Only have your phone on to tell Mom you’re alive and put up a pretty picture on Instagram – otherwise, keep it on airplane mode as much as you can stand. You’re out here to get away from it all, not stay connected. 
  17.  Call Mom more. And Dad.
  18.  Drink coffee every morning. 
  19.  Wear more sunscreen; just because you’re tan doesn’t mean you’re immune to skin cancer.
  20.  Remember why you’re out there.  Be present, be grateful, and most importantly, be your most vulnerable self.  It’s the one time people will understand any emotion you feel you need to express.


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Comments 4

  • Curtis Murley : Jan 18th

    Why did this article hit me so deeply… I’ll be starting on April 12th. Hopefully I’ll see you out there.

    • Tommy : Jan 18th

      Thank you! If I can catch up! Ha

  • Theresa Kimmel : Jan 18th

    Curtis, I feel the same way. I think it is the photos that make it so moving. Best hiking advice I have ever read. Tommy, your photos are gorgeous. Best of luck from someone who obsessively dreams of thru-hiking.

  • AK From LA : Jan 28th

    I agree with all of those points.

    See ya out there. I’m starting from where I left off last year, Bishop Pass towards the ebbs of June / early July. All depends on that snow melt.

    Have (more) fun out there! ?


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