Heat, Depression and Loneliness on the PCT. 

I had, of course, anticipated the heat, this being one of the hottest and driest summers in the Pacific Northwest, but the reality of mile after mile in stupefying heat in the green tunnel, I had not. The heat also reduced my appetite, a dangerous development in any arduous undertaking – calories and electrolytes are not replaced. Excessive water intake in this situation can lead to hyponatremia. I drank all the time, the hoser was put to good use, but I was often sweating profusely. I knew I was dehydrated if hours had gone by and I hadn’t peed. Mornings were generally cool and pleasant to walk in; as the sun reached its zenith and into early evening were the hours of intense heat. This intense heat may now be the norm and one would have to adapt to it. 

Depression cast a pall from the first day. It is not something I suffer from, and It was surprising. The anxiety of the start was, after a day replaced by this heaviness that lasted until the last day at Olallie Lake, lifting only slightly at the end of the first week. I wasn’t able to enjoy much. I lost interest in photographing flowers and other unusual things along the way. There were moments of brightness however, like the first views of Mt. Hood, like meeting Tracey and Henry, and Batb and Rob, and Bipolar, but over it all was this low feeling. I tried to analyze it. I had wanted to do this hike because I had turned 65, and loved the idea of walking and walking with all my needs in a pack, not returning home for days, weeks. Researching, purchasing and preparation had been exciting, and I had learned to blog, and was loving it. I had prepared and dehydrated trail food and loved that too. I had not tried to advertise my trip, yet the excitement of family, friends and Jazzercise buddies was contagious and boosting. I told them that they would keep me going when things got tough. 

I was doing this trip alone, and I did not expect to be lonely. Yet after the second night I knew I was. I missed my wife, my dogs and my life. One night I just wanted to leave all my gear and walk out. But to where? I was in the middle of nowhere. I still had to walk that trail to get anywhere. 

I asked myself: are you looking forward to the next section? The answer was hard to say: no.  Are you having fun? – No. Do you want to leave the trail? – Yes. The decision was made. Then the second guessing began, but I put a stop to that soon. I thought mainly about my readers and how disappointed they may be. But they were also my friends and would continue to love me and care, and encourage me on the next adventure. 

What was amazing was how much I had learned in a few days. I had seen the best side of humanity – generosity, openness, love. I had begun this journey for me but I had not travelled alone. I had lived intensely and simply, and found challenges in the environment and in myself. 

Would I have changed anything? Done things different? Yes and no, no and yes, for the very act of doing had changed everything, changed me. In the vastness of the universe, as stars form the elements that become us, what difference does one missed turn or a pause in one’s footsteps, make?  They make the difference. They change the universe. Missed turns, missteps, mistakes, they change the time-space continuum. There is no going back. Second chances are small eddies in the swirl of time and space, but the river flows on. So I embrace the journey and the misses and the mistakes for these have changed the course of time. 

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16 thoughts on “Heat, Depression and Loneliness on the PCT. 

  1. Your entry is so full of wisdom and insight, Dr. Jo. I am not disappointed one iota for you cutting your trip short. You are on to the next leg of your journey, and you take with you all you have learned and gleaned in previous adventures – and sharing with us is a gift I don’t even know how to thank you for. Yes, you are loved!

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  2. Long distance hiking is a life style and better suited to loners. Socialites need to do it in a group. That’s why so many end up forging friendships on the trail and then stick together. They support one another. But hey, don’t give it up entirely. Even an overnight trip to a ridge high up on Mt.Hood can be a nice break from so called civilization. Getting away alone is good. It gives us the chance to determine priorities and puts perspective in its place without external interference. Best of luck to you SafariJo.

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  3. Hi, Jo! All of us who love you and like you will welcome you back with open arms. We are proud of all you did.
    Good for you for making the hard decision when you knew it was right for you. It is so often easier to continue on a path we start then make a decision and act on it. I am sure your joy will explode with a hug from Sally and a swarm of white fluff :). Looking forward to talking and exercising with you on a bike, kayak, or legs soon.
    Kath

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  4. So glad you did what YOU felt was right, and are back in loving arms. I’m sure you have a greater appreciation for everyone and everything–you made an incredible journey that most of us wouldn’t even consider, and you were successful in the attempt–maybe it was all about learning about yourself, and there’s nothing like solitude to provide a great deal of insight. We look forward to seeing you in Jazzercize and welcoming you back!!
    Anne G

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  5. Keeping track of you Jo! hang in there, As I was reading your recent blog, it reminded me of that solo night on Kilimanjaro! (Outward Bound Mountain School). Yes one did feel alone but the experience was something that has remained in my memory. Looking forward to reading some more from you!
    Marylou

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  6. Jo, whatever you decide is the right decision. We had a going away party and now we can have a coming home party…with dehydrated eggs!

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  7. Day hikes alone, long backpacking adventures in a group for sure…but make sure it’s the right group (or you could end up feeling just as lonely). 😉 Love and hugs from Portland!

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