Pacific Crest Trail: Fears

As you probably know, Avry and I are getting ready to launch off into the great unknown. We are 44 days away from our take-off date, and we finally have bought our one way tickets to California. The fantasy is quickly becoming a reality.

As with every new experience I seek out, there comes this feeling of overwhelming thrill and excitement. The two emotions wash over me in rushes, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes they intermingle, producing a strange, confusing sensation of a reality other than the one I normally live in.

A few weeks ago someone asked Avry and I what our Pacific Crest Trail fears were. We have chatted about this extensively since the question was raised. And here our our answers:

Aer’s Fears

Aer Tiger Mountain

A few weeks ago I gave a sort of off-hand response:

I’m afraid of dying on the trail! There are bears to fight with, rocks to trip over or get stuck between, rattlesnakes to step on, and waterless stretches to contend with. There is the possibility of getting lost and falling off a waterfall (true story!).

This answer might be true — I am afraid of all of those things. But, that is not what I’m most afraid of.

I’m most afraid of being with myself for five months straight.

There is a saying I hear a lot:

Wherever you go, there you are.

On Bike & Build, everywhere I went I had to deal with me. On my bike I had long stretches of solitude to just be with my thoughts. It was sometimes lovely, but often it was a horror show. I was two years sober and constantly trying to be anywhere but in my own body. Riding for 4,000 miles doesn’t allow any kind of avoidance.

I’m afraid that there are whole new layers to myself I haven’t grappled with. Maybe there is self hatred I have to feel, maybe there are endless doubts that will plague me mile after mile, maybe there will be cruel judgements I pass on myself and others and the sickening feeling that comes with unfounded meanness. I fear that I’ll be as cruel to myself as I was on my last go at a long distance event. But there is also a tiny part of me that is hopeful that this time I’ll be better able to silence those terrible voices when they arise.

Avry’s Fears

Avry Tiger Mountain

With an undertaking the size of the PCT, I think there are a lot of things you can anxiously obsess over — so the subject of fear is tricky. I could easily cop out and say that my biggest fear is that I won’t make it, but that would really be a lie.

As a person who tends toward the large side of the spectrum, I am pretty used to the feeling that I may not make it in physical endeavors. But I have learned through trial and error that actually I can do just about anything — if I’m truly willing.

My actual fear is a lot less interesting. I’m most nervous about being out in the wilderness for five months, away from the security of home and all that it represents. I think that there will be a feeling of profound exposure living in a tent. I make a nest — I value my space immensely. In the wilderness, I have no space. I’m in the world’s space, constantly on it’s terms. I think that not having a safe bed to crawl into after the discomfort of every day will be jarring.

While I know this will be uncomfortable, there is a degree to which this discomfort is why we’re embarking on this project in the first place.