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  • Emily Hayes

PCT June Update: Mental Challenges

First published in Botley Bridge, a village magazine in Botley, Hampshire, UK.

3 months in a tent is quite a challenge. My sleep has generally been poor and uncomfortable even after an exhausting long day. I often do not have the energy to enjoy the views at sunset and find myself getting ready for sleep at 8pm. I have an ultra-lightweight 1 person tent that relies on my hiking poles for it's frame. I sleep on a foam pad and I can just about fit my key possessions in my tent with me. It's cosy and my own space, I've got used to my routine each evening. Sometimes I even prefer my tent over sharing a motel room with my hiking friends while we are in town. I've slept in snow at below freezing, I've slept ontop of sand in the desert, forests on windy nights hoping my tent does not blow down and now in July I camped in burnt forests ruined by forest fires of previous years. Nonetheless this wilderness experience in my cosy tent is extremely rewarding despite it's challenges. I've learnt to appreciate the simple things in life like running tap water in a house.

Sleeping well has not been my only challenge while on the Pacific Crest Trail. I've found my diet has changed considerably and it is increasingly difficult to get the amount of calories needed to sustain a 20 mile day. I've lost my appetite at altitude and I've lost a lot of weight, lacking energy I've forced myself on determined to find foods that will help me regain weight and energy. I've resorted mainly to eating sugary treats more often and adding extra fats to my meals which over the last few weeks has had great effect.

Sourcing water has become easier as I have hiked through the Sierra Nevada mountains and into North California. I drink upto 6 liters a day and use at least a liter for cooking. In the desert there were stretches of 23 miles with no water this is in comparison to where I am now in North California with streams every 3 miles. I'm very glad not to need to carry that weight of water anymore!

An aspect that is becoming more important as towns become less frequent along the trail is my resupply and rest strategy. I was in a beautiful sleepy town called Quincy. I hitch hiked into town from where the trail crosses the road and l bought 5 days worth of food to go back on trail with. I managed to find a cheap motel to sleep and shower, also a launderette. As I progress along the trail I need to plan in advance how many miles I will walk each day to the next town, sometimes the next town may not have a big grocery store which makes food selection limited for hikers. In these cases I could send a resupply box in the post with items I'd bought in a bigger town. All this needs to be planned in advance and takes time. If planned well I save time in the long run, money and I will find myself in some lovely small towns not stressing about food.

I completed the Sierra Nevada Mountains section at the end of June yet I'm still in California, just over halfway through the total Pacific Crest Trail mileage. I've walked more that 1,400 miles so far. A month has passed since i last wrote but it seems i have so many more miles to walk. Something needed to change if I am to finish this trail in the next 2 months. I have now been walking an average of 25 miles a day which should get me to the Canadian border for early September.

Having now walked past the halfway mark, this long distance hike is becoming more of a mental challenge than physical. I remind myself why I am hiking: to raise money for charity and to challenge myself.

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