Having Walked The Pacific Crest Trail: Reflections Of A Grand Adventure

PCT2There was nothing wrong with me.

I didn’t walk 2,668.8 miles to cure myself, to become anything, or to fix anything.

I did it because I wanted to.

I was lucky enough to just want an adventure.

Part of me would have liked to have had something to fix, or something to work through, given that there was no better place or time to do this.

I told myself, in the hardest moments of the trail “remember this, remember how hard this is for next time you’re faced with a challenge back at home”.

I guess I thought nothing could ever be that hard.

As it is, lots of things are that hard, and the feeling that something is hard is difficult to quash, no matter what that hardship is. It’s all relative.

I ran today, and it was hard. It wasn’t suddenly easy just because I have walked a long way.

What I do feel that’s different, is my ability to let things be hard. Mental or physical. To acknowledge very fully, how things feel in my body, and decide if I’m to work through the feeling, or to let the feelings be, and do nothing at all.

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I’m not that into pain, or scary challenges, I do them so I can feel like I have earned a big cup of coffee and a cake at the end of it. I do things for the pleasure. I go to the top of the mountain for the view and the feeling that I earned the view, and then for the memories of it, forever with you.

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Initially on the trail, there was no time to think reflectively. There was only time to think practically – “Where is the next water source? When is the next break? Where are we on the map? Where will we sleep tonight?”. I was initially frustrated, that my brain was always asking these important questions, I wanted to switch off and ‘think’ then I realised, I had never in my life been so in the absolute present, as I was there and then. I was being forced to be, exactly where I was.

I so rarely am, exactly where I am.

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Of course, before I left for the trail, I wondered what would be different about me upon my return, there would have to be something. Wouldn’t there?

I don’t know – I’m not looking for the differences, I’m not looking back, I’m not even really looking forward, I feel I just am. I guess that is the difference.

Go on an adventure to feel something, to build fires and to get good at it. To know the weather before it happens, to feel thirst and hunger like never before, to feel alive, and to feel good and bad about that fact.

Or, do it to fix you, to become what you have always hoped you’d be. To feel poetry, daily. There is always a good enough reason, there is never the perfect time.

The most common question I’m asked is: ”what was it like?” As if I could sum it up in a sentence. My answer is always “long”.

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The more adventurous minds have pre-prepared questions ”How did you go to the loo?” ”How many pairs of shoes did you wear?” or ‘‘How many times did you wish you were someone else?”

The answers:
”Like I normally do”.

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Nothing seems easier now. I try to remember the ache I had so often, of just wanting to rest, stop, sit down and sleep – but I can’t because now I’m in the now. The memories are all golden – which is probably why I feel I could do it all over again.

I think I will.

Here then at home, by no more storms distrest,

Folding laborious hands we sit, wings furled;

Here in close perfume lies the rose-leaf curled,

Here the sun stands and knows not east nor west,

Here no tide runs; we have come, last and best,

From the wide zone in dizzying circles hurled

To that still centre where the spinning world

Sleeps on its axis, to the heart of rest.

Dorothy L. Sayers in Gaudy Night

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Astrid Callomon

Born and raised in the remote mountainous region of Suffolk, Astrid is a dyed-in-the-wool outdoors woman. Educated and qualified in mountain leadership, scuba diving, rock climbing, canoeing and kayaking, life preservation and many more daring and dangerous pursuits, she's an outdoor instructor and expedition leader. Astrid's also been known to attend the occasional Frontier Bushcraft course.

22 Responses

  1. Steve Bayley
    | Reply

    Another great post and more great photographs. Thanks for sharing your toughts and memories of this trip with us Astrid. It’s inspirational! As someone who has never walked a route longer than 100miles it makes my thoughts turn to the possibility of another, longer, walk. One of the things that I like most about a long distance walk is that ones thoughts do tend to become focussed on the practicalities of the journey and what you describe as ‘the now’, feeling alive, and not on all the mundane aspects of ‘normal’ life, like paying the gas bill or painting the kitchen. No wilderness journey leaves us unchanged, for good or ill, and I’m pleased to hear that your memories of the trip are all golden. I hope you DO get to do it again, but even if you don’t I’m sure this one will remain a part of you forever.

  2. Christopher "iPod" Condap
    | Reply

    I always summarize the PCT as having been “amazing, spectacular, fantastic, and exhausting.”

    You’re a charming writer and and brilliant photographer and I wish I could have met you and Israh on the trail. Who knows, maybe I will one day. 🙂

    • Astrid
      | Reply

      CDT 2019???!?!

  3. Majeeda Goodall
    | Reply

    Another terrific account Asti – very proud xx

  4. Katie
    | Reply

    You make me want to walk a long way. Can I come with you when you do it again please?

  5. Jennie
    | Reply

    A-mazing !…..beautifully and thoughtfully written, really enjoyed it, you made me want to do more than just walk the dog a few miles. Write more.

  6. Emily
    | Reply

    This is perfect Astrid. A great piece of writing and you totally sum up the reason (or lack of) for doing these sorts of things. Inspiring.

  7. Laura
    | Reply

    I have loved these articles so much. I want to hear all the stories!!

    Thank you for being so inspiring. I’m not going to walk the PCT but sometimes I need to be reminded to just put one foot in front of the other. Thank you for that reminder

  8. David
    | Reply

    Great summary Astrid, being in the here and now is a great way to describe the feeling of trail life.

  9. sharky and bebo
    | Reply

    Well said, Astrid.
    So much good about the trail, and you capture it so perfectly.
    Thank you.

    • Astrid
      | Reply

      My heart fluttered when i saw this comment…. Such a nice surprise

  10. Astrid
    | Reply

    Thank you lovely people

    It’s such an honour to get such lovely feedback from you all….

    Steven, I wish you well, on any walk – 100 miles is no stroll!

    Ipod – We heard about you along the way! I hope our paths do cross sometime in the future! CONGRATULATIONS!

    Thank you all! X

  11. Mike Cunningham
    | Reply

    Astrid – quite simply, you are super woman. Can’t wait to hear about your next adventure, which I am advising you my lovely, should involve a KTM motorcycle 😉

    Loads love,
    Mike Cunningham xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  12. Danielle
    | Reply

    Oh Asti what a treat to read that and see yr glorious photos. It’s true you have a beautifully spare but succinct writing style that I’m sure is the distillation of thousands of thinking hours!
    Do you know about the Guyalwang Drupka’s walks in the Himalayas? He’s a Tibetan Rinpoche who takes all his nuns and monks walking sometime for months in the Himalayas to clear up plastic rubbish and to visit the remote mountain villages where he talks abt drinking and eating ther traditional foods as opposed to buying drinks in tins and plastic. He does a lot more besides but too much to say here. Diana and I went to hear him speak, she also interviewed him , and we saw a really gorgeous film that a 21 year girl had made abt the walk. Which was so moving and beautiful I think you’d really love it.
    At the end of the walk they plant something like 30,000 trees to help stop the mud avalanches which is how the film begins.
    Bravo you, you are an inspiration!
    Fancy a horse trek in Romania? Xx

  13. Sara
    | Reply

    Hi Astrid,
    Just wanted to say how inspiring your account and photos of this trail are. I have always felt the urge to do something like this but never had the time off work or the money to do so, but having read your account I think why not just go for it! Am seriously considering walking the Camino de Santiago for a starter. Have you walked this?

    Many thanks for writing down your inspiring trip, loved reading about your experiences.

    • Astrid
      | Reply

      Sara, thank you for your loveliness.

      How nice of you to comment…

      The Camino, a fine choice indeed!

      Before I hiked the PCT, I watched ‘The Way’ with Martin Sheen, if you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth a watch, (nice soundtrack too) It’s a film on the Camino, which I have not hiked, but fully intend to; potentially next year… I like the idea of a large carafe of wine after a long days walk, something we never had on the PCT.

      There are many routes to take, as the pilgrims would just walk from their home, so many routes to choose…

      With regards to your work, the Camino can be done in short sections, or, the bulk in a month, which is a great length of time to walk… I bet I could find you a good excuse to get the time off…!! Character development, spiritual awareness? What boss could say no!?!

      With regards to money, book early, borrow kit, eat bread wine and cheese.

      I hope you make it!

      Happy trails!


  14. mike
    | Reply

    Morning Astrid from Cape Town South Africa…a really great piece..thank you..can feel my feet getting restless already!
    my wife and I are hoping to walk through part of Norway in May [about 650 km] next year..cannot wait!!

  15. Avalon Adam
    | Reply

    Excellent stuff Astrid. You are an inspriation to me. I will finally get my Ridgeway walk together.

  16. Stephen Tomlinson
    | Reply

    I now know what it feels like to feel inspired and frustrated in one go! Thank you! Seriously what an inspiring piece of writing. I thought the first two “episodes” were good, but this one, sort of distilling your thoughts, was just great writing. I’ve done The West Highland Way and Hadrians Wall walks and I’m looking longingly at The Pennine Way. The PCT would be the dream but I can’t see me getting the pass out to swan off for 6 months to America! Thanks for writing about your walk and best wishes for your future adventures.

  17. Paul England
    | Reply

    Hi Astrid – I still enjoy following all your adventures on FB. If you get out here again to do the PCT or even the CDT, let me know if there is any way I can help. I’ve been a PCT Trail Angel the last three years – giving people lifts and delivering resupplys. Good luck with all your plans!!

  18. Nigel Gregory
    | Reply

    Wow, what an amazing adventure you had, many thanks for sharing your experience. I have just read all three of your articles, just thinking about what you achieved made me need a lye down, looking forward to seeing more of your amazing adventures.
    Many thanks,

  19. Anthony
    | Reply

    I just came across this article, though it is probably many years after you completed it. I have always wanted to do something like this, but at 65 it probably won’t happen. I lost the one person who would done this with me. A very inspiring story indeed.

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