The steppes of Mongolia are a harsh and unforgiving place. In order to survive there, Ancient Mongolians had to be more skilled and stronger than almost anyone today. When chieftans raided and conquered new lands, life became much easier. They noticed their sons that grew up in these lands were not as strong as those who were raised on the steppes. The comfort of these new lands had spoiled them. Some chieftans made this connection and started a custom. They would have their sons go back to the steppes to live as they had. Only then could they return to inherit what their fathers had won.
I grown to view my interest in wilderness much in the same way. I enjoy the natural beauty, the clean air, and exercise it brings, but the challenge of the outdoors has always been the most important aspect for me. When I began to mull the idea of doing the PCT, I never doubted it would be hard.
The trail has allowed me to experience things I had never done before. I had never been out in the wilderness for such an extended period of time. I had never lived for more than a few days with only what I could carry on my back. I had never made camp above 7000 ft. I had never walked 30 miles in one day. I had never hitchhiked or walked for hours along country roads.
I got to see so many places that few do, from remote mountain towns to backcountry so removed no roads lead to anywhere near it. I was able to meet so many new people every day. I spent hours upon hours of solitude where only sound was the wind. I was helped by friends and family along the in more ways than I could have imagined.
Had I taken the easy path, none of this would have been possible. I could still have all of the niceties and comforts I left behind earlier this year. Without challenge, nothing new enters our lives. While a goal like walking the entire way to the Canadian border might seem arbitrary, it provided me with exactly what I was looking for. Each day presented me with new needs and challenges. I never had a dull day on the trail.
I'll never look at hiking the same way. Going out on the weekends to hike a few miles will still be enjoyable, but it will seem only like a stroll in the park. I hiked 10 miles before noon more times than I can count now.
I'm not sure how much through hiking I'll do in the future. As much as I'd like to complete the entire PCT or AT, it simply does not hold the same challenge anymore. I know what my limits are.