Cedar Schimke
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Hiking the PCT alone, with a partner

Once upon a time, I wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone.

Then I met a partner who wanted to walk with me. I've struggled with how to hike my own hike with a partner there, and how my partner can do the same. So we're doing it alone, together.

What does that mean, exactly? We'll road trip from Minnesota to San Diego, stay with trail angels, and get a ride to Campo, California to the PCT trail head. For the first 2 weeks to one month of the trail, we're not going to sleep in the tent we bought together. We're not going to sleep within sight of each other, and we're not going to intentionally walk together. I'll plan my own food for that month, deciding what to eat, when to eat it. Where to camp. When to wake up. When to stop walking. When to start walking. When to stop for lunch. How many miles to do each day.

I don't want it to be forced or awkward, but we both want this. We want to get our sea legs about us and find out what it means to hike our own hike before coming together on the PCT.

And I am so much more nervous than I was. For so many reasons.

I'm nervous to find out what the trail will teach us.

I'm nervous to find out how I'll deal with things. I'm nervous for Alex to find out how he deals with things. What if he doesn't want to keep going? What if I don't want to keep going?

I'm nervous to be the only person responsible for not getting lost.

Because I have zero navigational skills, only common sense. Because if I do get lost on the PCT, I'll be the only person I can blame.

I'm nervous to cowboy camp.

This one is a little more straightforward. What if a scorpion crawls into my mouth? What if a colony of human-eating ants decides to ransack my bag or, worse, me? All of this during the middle of the night. Waking up to a swarm of ants or a scorpion scuttling out of my mouth and having a stinging sensation that indicates I might—or probably will—die before the sun comes up. Luckily (and surprisingly), hiking as a woman, most of my concerns don't include human pests, but I'll have my knife in one hand and cellphone in another juuust in case.

I'm excited about planning my stops.

I'll get to stop whenever I want, without having to consult anyone. I can just sit down and have a snack. Or mosey into town for a coffee. I don't have to ask anyone. I get to do whatever I want.

I'm excited about my trail food.

I am a serious eater. My life revolves around food. So planning food and figuring out what to eat on the PCT while satisfying that deep-seated foodie need becomes liberating once I only have to worry about myself. I don't have to account for a body that I can't feel the insides of. I don't have to know when both of us might be hungry. I just need to know when I'll be hungry and what I might like to eat, and be able to deal with it if those needs aren't perfectly met. Which I can definitely deal with.

I'm excited to have all the time in the world to myself. And to make new friends!

I'm excited to run into my hiking partner!!

I'll get to run into my best friend in the world and find out all the things he's been thinking about! What he's been eating! Seeing! Struggling with! Looking forward to! The friends he's made!

This will be an interesting experiment. Luckily we're both looking forward to it, and addressing the potential problems that could come up.

Of course, if it rains, I'll just find Alex and crawl into the 3-person Z-packs tent and have a cozy night off from dreams of scorpions crawling into my mouth. And if one of us eats it in our first month of solitude, we can still have fun together in the wilderness. Like this: