Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey of Self
Austin Marques, 2020
As the Mojave sun cast down beating rays on my back, I looked forward only to see a steep incline with no shade to protect me from the heat. I was 600 miles into my mission with six months to go. My goal: hiking from the Mexican border to the Canadian border on the Pacific Crest Trail. Staring into the sun, I began to feel like my dream was impossible. Beating my feet raw walking along a small trail zig and zagging across hills and down mountains challenged me in every way one could imagine. Through this pain and struggle, it was easy to forget why I was there. Why was I there?
In these challenges, I relied on my ability to find motivation and keep myself grounded in my purpose for being where I was and where I planned to go. When my overall mission felt too large, I would change my perspective by breaking down the journey into small and attainable goals. I would ask myself what was needed to make progress that day and remind myself of the good things to come. With every new town, a delicious meal and a comfortable bed would be waiting. This perspective shift turned every day into a success and step forward. Completing this arduous journey no longer felt so far away.
As strong and motivating as perspective can be, perspective alone wasn’t always enough. I was in the high mountains of the Sierra Nevadas at mile 1300 when the snow had reached record highs. The coming summer was melting the snow so quickly that the river standing between myself and the rest of my journey had become a raging, seemingly uncrossable beast. Regardless how prepared my mind was for that challenge, it was clear I could not cross on my own. In this time of defeat, I felt alone until I realized I was not the only hiker trying to cross this river. With strength in numbers, I linked arms with fellow hikers and we crossed that waist-high raging river. In that moment, I realized the power and necessity of community.
I ended my journey at 1500 miles, not because I had given up but because I realized that my mission of completing the Pacific Crest Trail wasn’t really the journey I was on. I was on a journey of self-discovery and growth. By that fifteen hundredth mile, I had learned hard lessons about life, survival, and perseverance. I had challenged myself in a way I never thought possible and became a stronger man. My appreciation for life and the simple luxuries that are easy to take for granted grew in the most meaningful of ways. I had learned the resiliency of the human body and spirit. It was time to come home, carrying these lessons with me.
It’s time to take the journey into 2021. Climb the mountain. It will be worth the effort!
Author Bio: Austin Marques is an avid outdoorsman, enjoying backpacking, hiking, fishing and hunting. He is currently enjoying adventuring with his fiance and 5 month old son.