Shattered on the Pacific Crest Trail

When they wake up broke, broken, and far from home, how do thru-hikers find the will to go another mile?

We usually focus on the pleasures of a long-distance hike. We tell ourselves the pain will dissolve into a march of panoramas from Mexico to Canada. But the truth of thru-hiking is that it is brutally physical.

This excerpt from recently published Journeys North by Triple Crowner and PCT trail angel Barney “Scout” Mann follows his northbound Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike in 2007, tracking his experience and those of fellow thru-hikers Blazer, Dalton, Ladybug, and 30-30.

Their stories map the glory of the trail but don’t look away from the fear, money issues, and injury that underwrite the experience. And any hiker will recognize the ties that bind this group of travelers.

Those considering a long-distance trek ought to know that to travel thousands of miles by foot is to race both the season and the body’s unfolding demise. Every mile has to be earned until, eventually and reliably, something in the body or mind gives. But it’s what hikers do next that defines their hikes—and themselves.

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