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A Hiker’s Return: The Pacific Crest Trail

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On the Pacific Crest Trail: Determination is the name of the game.

I got home tonight around 1AM, and after a long day of fake smiling and clearing dirty plates, I was ecstatic to take off my grease stained work clothes and seclude myself from the outside world. I open my bedroom door, set my backpack down, take my work clothes off and immediately put on my short, black Nike hiking shorts and my new Hawaiian button up which I will wear on the Pacific Crest Trail.

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As I lay back on my bed, I move aside the 3 resupply packages awaiting to be sent out. Usually this would annoy me that there is random shit on my bed but because it’s trail related, it makes me smile. I lay there for a few minutes and stare at my ceiling, taking deep breaths and exhaling the stress of the 8 hour shift I just completed. I turn my head to look toward my closet and see my 2400 Southwest pack all packed and ready to go. I stare for another few minutes and daydream about wearing it everyday for the next 5 months. (Relevant Video: )

I eventually pull myself off the bed and go put on my pack. I put it on and adjust the straps to make it comfortable. I’ve gained 15 lbs since I got off the PCT last year and notice a tiny bit of overflow on the hipbelt. It doesn’t bother me because I’m going to be skinny as hell in a month. I look in the mirror and analyze my attire as if I’m getting ready for the goddamn Academy Awards. I stand there for a few seconds and then I start to cry. I’m crying because I feel like I’m finally looking at me. I don’t see work me, fancy me, going-out me, first date me – I just see myself and the clothes that will go unwashed for weeks at a time. I see the me that will not have to keep appearances for half a year. I see the most authentic person I’ve ever known in this mirror, and it breaks my heart in the most beautiful way. Tonight was a long night at work. People were needy, they were impolite, they stayed late after closing time. It’s worse to put up with when you know you’re so close to being away from it. There are just some days you don’t want to talk to people, and today was one of those days. I’ve been quite the introvert since my last long-distance hike. I attempted to thru-hike the PCT last year, but only made it about 750 miles. Some people laugh when I say “only hiked 750 miles” but to me, it wasn’t long enough. It wasn’t until about a month after I left the trail that I realized how much I loved the PCT and needed to be on it.

I learned more about myself in the 2 months on trail than I did in the last 10 years. I made more life-long friends on trail than I ever dreamed possible. I laughed everyday, smiled all the time and cried out of happiness. I also cried because I was sad, broken and frustrated – but through all of the shit, I was so inexplicably happy. The happiest I’ve ever been probably.

I got to watch the sunrise every morning and tell it goodnight at the end of the day. I was so hot sometimes that I laid under bushes to find some shade and so cold that I wore every item of clothing I had and still shivered. My body felt stronger than it ever has, and my mind wasn’t far behind. After over a decade of moving to large west coast cities to find myself and discover who I am (and all that BS), I, for the first time ever, had just been me was so present for it. As I set off on this next foot of my adventure, I’m honestly a little nervous. Although I guess I’m technically an experienced backpacker now, the same insecurities plague my mind. What if I get hurt? What if I don’t make friends? What if the work I produce while on trail is all just complete crap? I should know by now that all of my worries are ridiculous, but it’s easy to be scared when you love something so much. The PCT is truly the love of my life. There is nothing I’ve ever wanted more than to be back on trail – to walk, to think, to take pictures and to just be present in every step of every mile.

Tommy Corey is an often unfiltered photographer hailing from Portland, Oregon. Check him out on Instagram () for a glimpse into the inner workings of life on the Pacific Crest Trail and for some of his off-trail photography work.


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