It was in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, as a child that I first really encountered snow. There, high up in the mountains, eight years old, just after the first days of spring, a still wintry landscape stretched out before me.
I remember how crisp and clean the air was, and how, after a time it stung my face. The entire experience filled me with wonder, and pulled at this deep inner calling I have always felt to explore, and explore I did.
I spent days traversing through the woods that surrounded the small cabin that belonged to friends of my parents. On the property was a tree that was hundreds of years old, and I’d always start my day there, beneath its towering branches, listening to the birds sing in the forest.
It was there that I first developed a love for hiking, stoking a drive to wander that’s been with me my whole life. Little did I know it then, but those first few forays, freezing in the forest, were the start of something, the beginning of a trail that was leading me beyond the horizon far off into the future, all the way to March 20, 2020.
The day I set out upon the Pacific Crest Trail.
Following that call to wander has taken me all over the United States, and parts of Canada, not to mention hikes across the Pacific Northwest and California. For years, I’ve been building up to this moment, training, obsessing over gear, learning what I could where I could, watching YouTube, reading blogs and trail books.
And now, after a lifetime of wandering, after all those hours spent researching, working out, and planning. Do I feel ready?
In all honesty, I do not know if I can feel ready for my first thru-hike. It’s simply something I’m going to have to do. There’s a difference between knowing and doing after all, a visceral quality to the experience that builds confidence as you plow through challenges and overcome obstacles.
By the time I’m finished, I’m certain it will be largely routine, but now, as I stand before it, with March 20 looming before me like a mountain, I will admit that I often find myself in its shadow.
It’s so easy to get intimidated as I read trail blogs and journals, as people describe altitude sickness, or mosquitoes so thick that you can go full mercenary capitalist by bringing an extra bug net to sell to your fellow hikers. Not to mention the Mojave, with its long treks between water supplies, rattlesnakes, and the dreaded poodle dog bush.
Why, I’ve been asked, time and time again, would I want to put myself through all of this?
My answer lies back in my childhood, yes, all the way back to Cloudcroft. Out in the woods, wandering, spending much of my time beneath the branches of a hundreds of years old tree, I was finding something out about myself.
There, mixed between the cold breeze rushing through the pine, and the gentle trill of birdsong I was discovering something about myself, something deep and innate that I’ve never been able to deny.
It’s out in nature that I’ve always felt the most at home. Even though I was cold, even though there were moments of profound discomfort, wearing only a cheap winter jacket and blue jeans, there was this sense of belonging that I’ve never felt within the comfortable and curated boundaries of our cozy modern society.
And it was from this early revelation, in the fading winter of New Mexico that I took my name… Snow.
The PCT is going to be hard. It’s going to be a massive challenge logistically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In the effort, though, is one of the truest expressions and realizations of myself. Now, that may sound strange, but what I was beginning to discover at eight was that out in nature were the answers to questions I’ve never found the words to utter, that out in the wilderness were powerful truths I could not deny.
Yeah, it’s going to be hard. It’s also going to be amazing. No matter what happens, I will not go through this experience unchanged. There are no guarantees going forward, save that one day will lead to another, hopefully concluding with my arrival at the Northern Terminus in late September, just ahead of the first snows.
As I stand there, on that day, preparing to conclude my first thru-hike, I know I will look back, toward the southeast, reflecting on where it all began, 31 years ago.
I’m Snow on the Trail, and I invite you to join me, as I document my experience prepping for and hiking the PCT.