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Building Resilience on the PCT: Challenges Faced and Lessons Learned

The Honeymoon Phase

The beginning of any journey often starts with a sense of wonder and excitement, and my trek on the PCT was no exception. It was an ecstatic whirlwind of meeting new people, learning about backpacking, and basking in the freedom of outdoor life. Each day was an adventure, and it felt like nothing could stop me.

PCT hikers getting ready for night hiking the LA aquaduct
Good times with good friends. Excitement all around

Facing the Challenge of the Sierras

But as with any adventure, challenges arose. The Sierra mountains, with their record snowfall, tested my spirit. The once continuous stream of hikers scattered, paths broke, and I felt the solitude intensify. The once bustling trail became eerily quiet, with only 10% of PCT hikers braving the Sierra in 2023. I began questioning my decision, missing the camaraderie and the collective motivation.

Tired hiker after morning snow slogging in the sierras
The Sierras got the best of me.

North Cal Blues: A New Struggle

The term "North Cal blues" perfectly captures the daunting expanse of California. It's the stretch after the majestic Sierra mountains and before the much-anticipated Oregon. It's a section where hikers are tempted to question their journey, wonder if the scenic beauty of the Sierra was the pinnacle, and ask: "Is there more to look forward to?"

Discovering Beauty Beyond the Sierras

Despite its notorious reputation, Northern California surprised me. The Lassen Volcanic Park, Castle Crag Wilderness, Desolation Wilderness, Mt Shasta, and Burney Falls were breathtaking. The towns I came across were warm and welcoming: Burney, Quincy, Mt Shasta, to name a few. Yet, the North Cal blues persisted. Days of solitude made me yearn for the social connections I once had.

Beautiful views in north california on the PCT made it all worthwhile
The views made it all worthwhile

The Mental Struggle

There were moments of doubt and frustration, moments I wanted to quit. Yet, every time I came close to giving up, the trail had a way of reeling me back in. A beautiful vista, a kind stranger, or the sheer determination not to let the challenges define my journey.

Gratitude and Persistence

In moments of difficulty, it was the memories of those I met along the way that kept me going. The beautiful souls I crossed paths with, who offered a smile, a word of encouragement, or shared their stories. To all of you, thank you. You made the journey worthwhile.


The PCT, much like life, has its highs and lows. But it's the challenges faced, the memories created, and the people met that make the journey worthwhile. To anyone on their own adventure, remember, after every uphill struggle, there’s a breathtaking view waiting for you. Keep going, for there's always light at the end of the tunnel.


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