My Favorite Songs for the PCT

This is just a fun post where I list some of my favorite songs that I listened to on my PCT playlist. Here is the link to my Spotify playlist: PCT Playlist It is full of quite the random assortment of genres and artists, but I only kept songs that sparked some sort of joy in me. Many songs were meant to invigorate or motivate me, some songs were for those more reflective and calm moments, and some were just for fun (like “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain or “Believe” by Cher). The ones that I list below were the songs that I could more or less take the lyrics literally with my trail experience:

Arrows- Trevor Hall

I feel the need to write a little something special about this one. This song was one of the first songs that I listened to after I committed to the idea of hiking the PCT in 2019. It got me excited for the adventure and felt validating to my decision to stick with my intuition. As I continued my journey on the trail, this song became more meaningful and I’d save it for wide open spaces. It would often make me cry because it went straight to my heart.

“This journey has got me bleeding
A certain kind of feeling
But I can never leave it
Good God I know I need it

Arrows come straight for my heart
Arrows come straight for my heart

I thought I’d never face it
And now it’s stripped me naked
Here standing in the open
I thought I missed the omen

(Chorus)

The dark is all around me
But I’m so glad it found me

Over the moon and through stars

(Chorus)

Everything I Need- Trevor Hall

(A good mantra)

“Mmh, I have everything I need
I have everything I need
I have everything I need
Mmh, from the mountain to the sea
All of this is within me
I have everything I need

(Don’t be afraid)
The fruitful darkness
(Don’t be afraid)
Is all around us”

Old Pine- Ben Howard

“Hot sand on toes, cold sand in sleeping bags,
I’ve come to know that memories
Were the best things you ever had
The summer shone beat down on bony backs
So far from home where the ocean stood
Down dust and pine cone tracks

We slept like dogs down by the fire side
Awoke to the fog all around us
The boom of summer time

[Chorus]
We stood
Steady as the stars in the woods
So happy-hearted
And the warmth rang true inside these bones
As the old pine fell we sang
Just to bless the morning.

Hot sand on toes, cold sand in sleeping bags,
I’ve come to know the friends around you
Are all you’ll always have
Smoke in my lungs, or the echoed stone
Careless and young, free as the birds that fly
With weightless souls now.”

Thank U- Alanis Morisette

“How bout getting off of these antibiotics
How bout stopping eating when I’m full up
How bout them transparent dangling carrots
How bout that ever elusive kudo

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How bout me not blaming you for everything
How bout me enjoying the moment for once
How bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
How bout grieving it all one at a time

(Chorus)

The moment I let go of it
Was the moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down

How bout no longer being masochistic
How bout remembering your divinity
How bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How bout not equating death with stopping

Thank you India
Thank you Providence,
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you clarity
Thank you thank you silence…”

All Star- Smash Mouth

“Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me
I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed
She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb
In the shape of an “L” on her forehead

Well, the years start coming and they don’t stop coming
Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running
Didn’t make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb

So much to do, so much to see
So what’s wrong with taking the back streets?
You’ll never know if you don’t go
You’ll never shine if you don’t glow

Hey, now, you’re an all-star, get your game on, go play
Hey, now, you’re a rock star, get the show on, get paid
And all that glitters is gold
Only shooting stars break the mold”

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The Trail is Over… Mostly

It has been difficult to start writing my post-PCT thoughts. I’ve been putting it off because I thought I needed more time to process it, or the perfect time and place to write, or maybe I wouldn’t remember my password to get into WordPress, etc. The time is now. I have to make progress on something. On the trail, I was getting closer and closer to a goal every day. Here at home, I need to create a new goal every day.

In those last eight miles that I walked from the northern monument to the “official” end, EC Manning Park, I still couldn’t quite process that these were truly the last miles of this seemingly endless trail. Everything I did was the last time I’d do something on trail: gathering water, treating my water, going pee, eating a snack, climbing a hill… As Tea Time (a fellow hiking partner) and I finally reached the park, we weren’t greeted by a crowd of cheering people as we were at the monument. We walked down a road in the middle of nowhere and spotted a few hikers whom we knew, who were struggling to find a room in the lodge and were coping with the fact that they were going to have to spend this victorious night camping in the rain. We made it to the restaurant, but accidentally went down to the bar first, which was a not-so-lively venue with no other hikers in it. Even the restaurant upstairs was not very lively, but it did have hikers at the tables. It was strange and anticlimactic. The servers didn’t congratulate us or really even seem to understand the monumental occasion that this marked for us. On the way home, I strongly felt obligated to hike soon- like I was about to just take a little time off trail and then go back. It wasn’t until I was pulling onto my road at home that it started to sink in that it was over. This dream that I had kept in the back of my mind for 8 years and finally manifested, was over. Well, the truth is that I actually still have 260 miles of the Sierra to do- Kearsarge Pass to Ebbets Pass- but, I won’t be doing that until sometime next year probably in August or September, when the snow is mostly melted. So, I’m happy that 10% of the PCT still waits for me.

When people ask me, “How was it?”, I have no idea how to summarize about 150 days. It was everything and more. I struggled more than I ever thought I would. I cried too many times to count. But, I also loved and laughed so hard. The trail was so brutal and challenging at times, and other times, my body would feel broken regardless of how hard the trail was. Persistent physical pain had such an effect on my mental state. I thought of getting off trail so many times. Two weeks before the end, I was sad because I realized that I just wanted to get the trail over with so that the pain in my shoulder would stop. Thankfully, a lot of my pain subsided in the last week of trail, and I could mostly focus on cherishing all the moments I could. What usually pulled me through any struggle was the people I met along the way.

That was a huge takeaway from my experience- how much I cherish connection and community. I realized that throughout my young adult life, I have often tried to keep a few people very close, because I like creating a chosen family. With my first trail family, we stayed together for almost three months, and I found it hard to think about letting them go, but I realized that we had different goals and we would have to part ways. It felt great in Oregon to hike a lot of the trail by myself. I had this newfound freedom. I still saw Stitch (a member of my first trail family) fairly often, which was nice to have a familiar person around sometimes.

In Washington, I was totally alone at first, which opened me up even more to new people. I ended up meeting someone who I consider a very close friend now: Beans. We seemed to click right away and people thought that we had known each other for a while, even though we had just met a few days ago. On trail, time works differently because there are far fewer distractions. Time can slow down, and you can spend hours talking to someone that you haven’t known for long, exchanging vulnerable and personal stories about each other. Trail relationships are intense because of this phenomenon.

If you’ve known someone for 1 or 2 weeks, it’s like a whole month in the “real world”. There aren’t all of the fronts or masks that people put up in the “real world” that usually take time to break down. People on trail are putting plenty of energy into keeping it together physically, so keeping up the energy to put up an emotional front is not as likely to happen. Plus, people have something to bond over immediately. We understand each other’s struggles and what we’ve been through. We already stink and are dirty, so doing foul things in front of each other is no big deal. So, when I say that my first trail family and I were together for almost three months, that’s a long time in trail time. I connected with a few random other people besides Beans in Washington, and we formed a little family: Stitches (from Oregon), Tea Time (from France), and Spicy Bite (from SoCal). We really knew how to have fun and laugh, and probably drank too much beer. It was great, because Beans had thru-hiked the trail in 2016, so she had such a relaxed air about her since this was her second time in the Washington section. The others were also pretty relaxed in nature, but with Beans, it made the unknown miles ahead seem less scary. We dawdled a lot in towns, packed out beer, made campfires, watched stars, and enjoyed each other’s company until way too late into the night. It was like we were making up for lost time.

Goodbyes are bittersweet. They’re the marking of a new chapter, and they’re also an occasion where you have to realize that the next time and place you’ll see the people you’ve grown to cherish to might be far away. Thankfully, a conversation with them is just the click of a button away. It’s been nice processing this big life thing with them over text or messages online. We did it. We made it out alive. Maybe that makes us unstoppable. We can’t stop seeking, we can’t stop searching for meaning or adventure or connection. That’s the point of doing something like this. The PCT had this way of occasionally showing you, in wide open spaces, the miles of path that you came from and the path where you were headed towards. The exciting thing was walking into the unknown.