High on Friday morning, using Whitney’s Trail Crest (13,612′) as just… a mountain pass. A way into the Sierra. I wonder now, who does that? If you’re 1.9 miles and only 800 vertical feet from summiting the tallest peak in the lower 48, having those bragging rights and that chest-filling view, why just cross over and run down the other side of the mountain? Why does the chicken cross the road?
21 miles later that day (2 extra, futile miles trying to distance myself from a very large bear), I wondered why even thru hike? And just like that, my entire outlook changed, and my summer plans jackknifed. I think I’m leaving thru-hiking for backpacking. Because they ARE different, and I suspect thru-hiking as a sport has jumped the shark. I saw the same thing happen with cyclocross in Portland once it became popular: its essence was diluted, perverted, extracted and sold. Maybe I’m burned out after volunteering with PCT hikers ~7 weeks this year, maybe it’s also the previous 4 years volunteering and hiking on the PCT, but there’s a substance – palpability – to this thunderbolt of realization. It’s the third year in a row I’ve struggled with these thoughts, and it’s time I really pay them heed. I struggle wondering why I volunteered so much of my time helping privileged white people take 6-month vacations. Yes, I remind myself a long walk in the woods generally makes people better people. But does it?