Why Am I Hiking through Washington?

Hopefully, by the time this post is published, I am already hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail through Washington. I can not be 100% certain that is the case, because shit happens, and I scheduled this post way in advance.

Anyway, why am I doing this?

It’s not for the beautiful scenery – if I just want to see beautiful scenery, there are much easier ways I could do that (though the scenery is a lovely bonus). Ditto for the exercise.

Well, first of all, I’m curious. I am curious what it’s like to go backpacking for more than a month. I’m curious about the state of Washington, which I’ve never visited before. That’s one of the reasons this stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail appeals to me more than the Sierras – even though I’ve never gone hiking in the Sierras, I have in fact been in the Sierra mountains when I was a little kid (and I passed through the Sierras by train last winter). I am curious about what the Pacific Northwest is like (yes, I’ve been to Oregon, but I never went north of Eugene before – I’ve mostly been to southern Oregon, which is more like California than the Pacific Northwest in terms of climate).

I also think the idea of crossing all of Washington without visiting any cities is also really cool (I’ll have to pass through Seattle on the way back home since I will only be allowed to re-enter the United States by land or sea, but at least during my first visit to Washington, I won’t ever go to a town with more than 600 residents – assuming everything goes according to plan).

It’s also been years since I’ve been in a real alpine climate (except in a train). I look forward to being in an alpine climate again.

I’m also drawn to the people and culture of the Pacific Crest Trail. I want to visit the trail towns.

However, there is more. As people who follow my blog may have noticed, I am drawn to the idea of pilgrimage. ‘Pilgrimage’ is associated with religion, but in my reading about the Shikoku henro pilgrimage, I’ve learned that even ‘religious’ pilgrimages can have many secular elements, and many pilgrims are drawn to the pilgrimage for non-religious reasons. A journey like this, when one withdraws from one’s familiar environment to plunge into a completely different environment, can foster a heightened experience which can be used for personal development. I definitely am planning to try this with some meditative exercises.

Part of me does not like withdrawing from my day-to-day life at all (in fact, one of the reasons I think I will never do a thru-hike of the PCT or other 1000+ mile / 1500+ km trail is that I do not want to withdraw for such a long period of time). But less than two months? I think I can do that. And while I don’t want to withdraw, I also like some of the benefits. For example, my internet access will be EXTREMELY limited while I’m hiking, and I look forward to that. While the internet has brought many good things into my life, I think occasionally disengaging from the internet is good for my mental well-being.

I also hope that this trek will make me more resilient. Not so much physically – I think any physical benefits will go away shortly after I end the trek – but maybe I will pick up a few useful skills and, more importantly, I hope to develop non-physical forms of resilience.

And, if I am going to be completely honest, I am resisting the aging process. Yes, I know I am still less than 30 years old, and yes, I know that many older people go hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, and I know that I’m not being graceful about the aging process. I reaching my physical youthful peak when I was in Taiwan, and I know I will never completely return to that state. But I don’t want to quietly submit to the process of physical aging. I want to go on this trek to remind myself that, even if I am no longer at the peak of my physical youth, I still have a lot of my youthful vigor, and I’m going to use it damn it!

Oh, and I’ll reach Canada. Hopefully – shit could happen to stop me from reaching that destination. Sadly, even if I reach Canada, I probably will only stay there for a week, but hey, I’ve never been to Canada before, and staying in Canada for a week is better than never going to Canada ever, right?

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