May 262015

benson plateau

Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was the single most blissful and transformative experience of my life. But I was also pissed off about 8% of the time. Here are some potentially aggravating scenarios you may encounter to fuel your 8% :

  1. Blisters.
  2. Waterless stretches. (So glad I spent all that money on ultralight equipment because 4 more ounces on TOP of the 22 pounds of water I have to carry would be cruel.)
  3. Animal screaming. (Shrill animal screaming just spanks any other reason you’re being kept up at night.)
  4. Unshakeably needy hikers. (They’re out of food. They’re out of water. They’re out of money. And they MUST talk.)
  5. Disappearing tread. (Wait. Is the trail over? Where’d it go? Is this Canada? Oh, there it is under all that poison oak.)
  6. Wash-outs. (Yes, indeed. The trail did just end.)
  7. Glacier water. (Killing hundred dollar water filters one liter at a time.)
  8. Sundays. (How dare they close the post office. Didn’t they know you were coming?)
  9. Things labeled waterproof. (Nothing is waterproof. Nothing.)
  10. Burn areas. (A big fat feeling of sad.)
  11. Day-hiker questions. (Of course, they might offer you some candy too.)
  12. Hitchhiking. (Bears? No problem. Mountain lions? Not even a threat. Getting into the back of a truck with a couple of drunken maniacs with an “I’m Your Bitch” bumper sticker? Unnerving.)
  13. Commercially dehydrated camping food. (You will find out fairly immediately that your body doesn’t acknowledge it as food.)
  14. The inability to dehydrate beer. (And you won’t carry it unless you’re an intervention level alcoholic.)
  15. Hunting season. (Bullets being the number two sound under animal screaming as terrifying ways to be kept awake at night.)
  16. Raisins. (Raisins failed both “grapes” and “wine”.)
  17. Gear shaming. (Oh you carry a pillow? Wow, I guess you’re new at this.)
  18. People quitting. (You’re leaving me?)
  19. Oats. (Oats aren’t food either. Oats are shavings of cardboard feces.)
  20. The trail banked at about a 30 degree angle for over 80 miles, just enough time to crushingly compress one side of both of your ankles.
  21. Posts on the Facebook PCT page stating how awful all the hikers on the trail this year are. (Yeah, but they’re on Facebook. You’re on the trail. Who wins?)
  22. Gear failures. (It’s going to happen. But even expecting it, it will still piss you off because it will happen mid-section. It’s an unwritten law encoded in the gear’s construction.)
  23. Wilderness fires. (Besides the sad, you’re body wants to behave as if there is an emergency afoot. Cuz there is.)
  24. Infringements of your off-trail universe. (Bills? Damn. Emails from work? Really? Family drama? C’monnnn.)
  25. Your plans. (see: 100 Factors That Will Make Pre-Planning the Details of Your Thru-hike Certainly Ridiculous)
  26. Other people’s plans.
  27. The news. (I’m sorry but I’ve just spent a hundred miles convincing myself that the world is a wonderful and beautiful place.)
  28. Having to stop for a break because your legs are shredded but it’s 45 degrees out and pouring rain. (Collapsing or hypothermia? You decide.)
  29. Empty water and goodie caches. (And yes, you also have to be ashamed that you’re mad about it.)
  30. The McDonalds at Cajon Pass that you’ve been running towards for 15 miles will make you sick. (You ARE about to climb 4000 feet through poodledog bush in 110 waterless degrees after all.)
  31. People that stay awake after 11pm. (This is 2600 miles of parteeeeeee, right?)
  32. $100 hotel rooms that don’t allow hiker room sharing. (You can’t blame them, but ouch.)
  33. Not bringing enough toilet paper.
  34. Post-holing in what you didn’t notice was a creek bed underneath.
  35. Exaggerated weather reports. (I bet you didn’t have any idea how frequently armageddon could occur.)
  36. Absolutely 100 percent incorrect weather reports. (As in, did that storm literally just pop straight up out of the inside of the earth because it certainly wasn’t on the radar map.)
  37. That guy that charges $120 per person to drive you to Lone Pine.
  38. Butt chafe. (Bringing you right back to your infancy.)
  39. Gnats. (Hovering at an eerily constant rate right in front of your face just waiting for the right moment to skinny dip in your ocular juices.)
  40. Water sources labeled “unreliable”. (Can you count on nothing in this world?)
  41. Lava fields. (Were your feet just starting to feel better?)
  42. Just missing an outrageously elaborate trail magic event that everyone’s talking about.
  43. The underwhelming halfway point. (You really don’t know what to feel here. And you’re still in California.)
  44. Mean plants.
  45. Having chocolate melt all over everything in your pack. (and not grieving for the gear, but grieving for the chocolate)
  46. Trail closures for “bridge maintenance”. (What did people do before a bridge was ever there? Turn around and go home? I’m waterproof.)
  47. Unmarked bags of white powders in hiker boxes. (Is it cocaine? Nido? Protein? Butt powder?)
  48. Gas station resupplies. (6 microwave burritos and some Slim Jims should take care of you for a section)
  49. Bear can requirements. (Calm down. I know it’s a good thing. But it still sucks to carry it.)
  50. Mountain bikers on the trail. (It is factually terrifying to have a biker screaming towards you at 35 miles per hour in 18 inch wide tread. It just is. Controversy aside.)
  51. A closed restaurant. The only restaurant. Closed.
  52. People thinking you’re homeless. (I mean, you are. But still.)
  53. The first 100 miles of Washington. (I’m just going to let you find out why for yourself.)
  54. Occupied camping spot. (That’s MINE. I was aiming for it so it’s mine. I believe that’s called “dibs”.)
  55. Having picked all of the M&M’s out of the trail mix by day 2.
  56. False summits. (I’m always speechlessly perturbed when I’ve declared victory on a climb too soon.)
  57. Unburied human feces. (complete with toilet paper… bonus points if it’s actually IN a campsite… extra bonus points if a small rock or stick was placed over it)
  58. Aggressive dogs. (However, nice dogs are the BEST)
  59. Road walks. (Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.)
  60. Anyone being creepy, especially to single female hikers. (And I’ve seen both hikers and supposed “trail angels” doing it)
  61. Someone thinking YOU’RE being creepy when you’re just being nice.
  62. That one tablespoon of instant mashed potatoes that always seems to miss the rehydration cue.
  63. Pitching next to a colony of red ants. (and being too tired to re-pitch)
  64. Someone building a campfire in southern California. (Do you not SEE the state burning down around you?).
  65. The wind disfiguring your sunbrella.
  66. Being in a trail town longer than you want to for reasons beyond your control. (Like snow. Or sickness. Or the damn post office hours.)
  67. Being needy and knowing you’re being needy.
  68. Having to leave the Sierra. (You could totally stay for at least three weeks easily.)
  69. Missing something really cool happening in a loved one’s life. (Can’t you schedule your graduation/marriage/baby/art opening around my thru-hike please?)
  70. Unmarked mystery trail junctions. (It’s probably just a cow path. Right?)
  71. Condensation creating the rain storm of the century inside your tent while you sleep.
  72. Pain. (Oh right. That. That happens a lot.)
  73. Tree plops. (When it’s actually not raining, but a small group of trees decides to gang up on you and discard all collected moisture from the past on top of you at once as you amble beneath them.)
  74.  That one, and there’s only one, slime coated rock discovered during a creek crossing.
  75. That sneaky 500 foot climb you didn’t know was there right before you arrive at your campsite.
  76. Realizing you only have ramen left, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
  77. Deer that eat your clothing. (Didn’t happen to me, but I saw it happen to someone else. He was mad for a WHILE.)
  78. Large hiking groups. (It’s just an overwhelming amount of wahoo in a pristine little wilderness solitude.)
  79. Northern faces of snowy mountain slopes at 4 in the afternoon. (It’s a posthole-a-palooza.)
  80. Getting skinnier than your hip belt can cinch.
  81. Somehow gaining weight. (Thanks estrogen!)
  82. Getting a bad song in your head. (Usually Huey Lewis or Prince. They might even have songs being broadcast into the wilderness.)
  83. Obsessively thinking about anything. (“What am I doing with my life” and relationshit issues seem especially aggressive.)
  84. Persistent fear of heights. (You’d think that’d dissipate after a while wouldn’t you?)
  85. Rocks that navigate their way through your gaiters and into your shoe less than an hour after you put them on.
  86. Leaning into your trekking pole when it’s placed on top of a gopher tunnel. (probably pisses off the gopher more though)
  87. Hikers with giardia passing around their trail mix bag.
  88. Mosquitos that can bite through clothing. (Usually they can’t bite through rain gear, but its wayyyyy too hot to wear rain gear.)
  89. Hike shaming. (You’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it really really wrong.)
  90. Complainers. (Otherwise known as “negative Nancies” or “Debbie downers” or “why are you even out here anyways”. Of course this entire post is one long complaint I suppose.)
  91. Food portions. (The whole “serving size” designations are a fiasco of deceit. There is no way there are 4 servings in a box of mac and cheese. No way. And since when is a hamburger under half a pound?)
  92. Realizing at noon that you’ve walked about 4 miles less than you thought you had. (that math thing)
  93. Large patches of clear-cut forests. (There’s got to be a better way.)
  94. Knowing you’re in a spectacular section of trail but not being able to see due to weather/fog. (Pretty much all of Washington)
  95. Hikers a couple of days in front of you that behave like assholes in trail towns making everyone hate you when you get there.
  96. Persistent bears that check to see if you’ve let go of your food every half hour or so throughout the night.
  97. Having at least 4 miles of exposed ridge hiking both in front and behind you when a lightning storm hits. (I guess I’ll just die now.)
  98. The trail itself becoming a creek. (especially after you’ve ninja-ed across so many to keep your feet dry all day)
  99. Backtracking. (Having to backtrack for any reason whatsoever, usually because you are lost or left your trekking poles,  is infuriating.)
  100.  Sunscreen, Deet, and daily handfuls of ibuprofen. (You know it can’t be good for you.)
  101. The trail ENDING. (How can it do that? How can it take away the most fulfilling and entertaining endeavor you’ve ever had and thrust you so cruelly back into a world of pavement and paperwork?)

The trail is a gift. The trail experience is a gift. Besides parenthood, I can’t recommend anything more highly. But it WILL piss you off, at least 8% of the time.

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  2 Responses to “101 Ways Thru-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail Will Piss You Off”

  1. I miss, like, half of these. The other half I want to either beat with my trekking poles or make them physically incarnate so I can beat them with my trekking poles.

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