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Anyone ever regret a thru hike??
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Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Anyone ever regret a thru hike?? on 03/26/2013 11:35:12 MDT Print View

So I have a plan that would allow me to do the PCT next year (mind you, I'm 42 with a dog and a mortgage and bills and no one to help pay them...), and when I'm finished I'd just stay in the PNW to settle down (which was my original plan).

Here is my question: has anyone gone through the trouble of putting life on hold to do a thru, then regret it??

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Anyone ever regret a thru hike?? on 03/26/2013 12:11:33 MDT Print View

"Here is my question: has anyone gone through the trouble of putting life on hold to do a thru, then regret it??"

Never done a thru, but I'd recommend also asking the question: has anyone ever decided not to put life on hold to do a thru, then regretted it?

Edited by idester on 03/26/2013 12:14:50 MDT.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Except I really am looking for the negatives... on 03/26/2013 12:15:52 MDT Print View

Because I AM the one who has been putting it off and regretting it; I have a plan and the pragmatist in me is looking for good reasons why it's not a good idea.

It's sort of how scientific research works: try to prove the null hypothesis. Basically you look for reasons why you are wrong, then when you can't you know you're right. And right now, other than my poor CharlieDog, I can't find a good reason not to do it.

Paul Wozniak

Locale: Midwest
No but ... on 03/26/2013 12:35:31 MDT Print View

I know 3 through hikers and none have regrets. I had a free month to do an AT section and no regrets. However, all were pre-career. Seems like you have thought this through ... sounds like you need to try this. I read that about 1/2 who start, fail to complete. Are you prepared to accept something less than completion if snow, injury or the will to finish get in the way?

I highly recommend reading WILD, by Cheryl Strayed. The full title is a little longer. It comes from the perpective of a solo female PCT through-hiker. The book is a very well written, very personal account of her hike and the events leading up to it.

Best wishes

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Except I really am looking for the negatives... on 03/26/2013 12:46:19 MDT Print View

"And right now, other than my poor CharlieDog, I can't find a good reason not to do it."

Why should you give any credibility to someone else's reason not to do it?

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Re: Except I really am looking for the negatives... on 03/26/2013 13:01:12 MDT Print View

If you have the chance, why not?

CharlieDog will be fine.

Life is what you make it, right?

Same ol- same ol, or experience? Your choice.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: Re: Except I really am looking for the negatives... on 03/26/2013 13:27:52 MDT Print View

I'd stay away from Wild. Book was bad. Lots of better out there. Go read a few blogs as they r better. Wireds was good


You can learn from others.


Do it. I'm waiting for my chance. Married. Job. Kid. But I'm not waiting till the kids 18. Life is too short.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Anyone ever regret a thru hike?? on 03/26/2013 15:01:10 MDT Print View

When I was 22 to 24 years old, I worked in a backpack/ski shop in the burbs. We had our regular customers and because we led 8-day backpacking trips in the Sierra in the summer, we'd get to know many of them pretty well. They were all middle aged (like you and I are now) and financially successful enough to live in the burbs and shop locally.

NONE of them said, "Get back to school, start a real job, get a mortgage, and settle down real soon."

MANY of them said things like, "I went right to work after school, got married, bought a house. Now I have the bank account, gear, and the shop full of tools I wanted when I was younger, but no time to use them. Keep doing what you're doing for a few more years." because we'd chat about trips and twice a month I'd jiggle my schedule for a week here and 5 days there and take a backpacking or road trip somewhere new. Whereas they'd dedicate one of their few weeks of vacation to go backpacking with the groups we'd put together and look forward to all year.

You say you have a plan and but it is unclear to me if you are selling the house before or after the thru hike. I'd suggest selling it before. Reduce the mementos to a few boxes in Mom's basement, loan the few sentimental pieces of furniture to friends and family. Craigslist or Goodwill the rest. The freedom to have an open-ended agenda is remarkable. The housing market is once again quite hot so it is a good time to sell. If you sell before you are ready to start your hike, then coach-surf if you have some weeks on the job left or do a road trip with the dog until it's time to start hiking. Get a minimal cell phone plan and imagine life without mortgage, home insurance, electric, gas, water, sewer, and cable bills.

Having done this a few times, (admittedly only once involved selling a house), I found the freedom invigorating and all sorts of opportunities for trips, friends and temporary employment popped up that I never would have imagined (i.e. had blinders on to) while in town, at work, in my regular routine.

You'll bug the hell out of people when they ask you when are "coming back" or "getting on with your life" if you say "I don't know" or "when I'm ready" or "I think this IS part of my life.", but, hey, maybe it will put a bug in one or two of them to do likewise someday.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Regrets? on 03/26/2013 15:06:40 MDT Print View

I regret not being in the postion to thru-hike right now. :)

All the hiking I've done from my early 20s - 35 yo has made me the person I am right now (Turning 39 this May)

Currently I am in career building mode (as opposed to job-building mode that paid for my thru-hikes). Within 2-3 yrs, I hope to put my hat in the contractor ring and structure my life around having more time off in between gigs.

For now? I relished the fact that I spent my formative adult years being a hiking bum.

I also relish that fact that my current self still gets out every weekend and a fair amount of longer trips every year.

If I had not spent my earlier adult years doing the thru-hiking thing, I probably would not have moved to Colorado, have my current circle of friends and not have met my wife.

SO, no regrets.

Edited by PaulMags on 03/26/2013 15:07:53 MDT.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
All these things I want to hear... on 03/26/2013 15:16:54 MDT Print View

You know I love you guys, right?

You are all telling me the things I want to hear. I own a condo in Chicago so selling is out of the question...but renting it out is a perfectly plausible solution (I even have some possible renters and a friend to manage the place for me while I'm gone). But I've been dying to jump off the treadmill for a few years now, and actually it's this site and all the blogs and whatnot that is convincing me how badly I want to do this.

I had a nasty health scare earlier this year that made me think about what would I want my life to be if I had 3-5 good years left...and - surprise! - none of those years involved work and mortgage and bills and commuting.

So...I came up with a solid, do-able plan that lets me hike the JMT in August, live with my brother and 13-month old niece in Austin until April (paying off bills and saving cash) then pct here I come.

Nothing quite like middle age hiker trash, eh?

Paul Wozniak

Locale: Midwest
Go! on 03/26/2013 15:27:54 MDT Print View

What David said, all of it. Sell the house if it fits the plan and is at all financially feasible. And go. And when you're back, whether a month later, or two or hopefully four, by all means let us know if it was worth it.

This is a unique opportunity. If you "knew" it was going to be worth it, it wouldn't be an adventure.

And pick up WILD. A terrific bio written by a woman who did many things the "wrong" way, both before and during the hike. As a how-to hiking book, nah. As a woman's account about her trials, tribulations, courage, perserverence, frustration, friendships, kindness, dangers, beauty and salvation - very very good. At least this husband, father, and now grandfather saw it that way. Besides, Michael only only likes car repair books (juuuust kidding). Enough of the review.

Yes, it's possible you will regret it, but stands of chance of being a fantastic adventure.


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: All these things I want to hear... on 03/26/2013 15:36:57 MDT Print View

And remember, in the words of the delightful Lucille Ball: I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Anyone ever regret a thru hike?? on 03/26/2013 15:45:40 MDT Print View

Like some of the other post-ers, I haven't done a thru-hike. I'm now in my early 40s, with 2 kids. I'm struggling with this issue. Only when you have kids do you realize how commanding the school-year schedule is and how short the summer vacation really is, when you factor in the weekends with obligations. I just don't get out enough. I have the gear. I'm constantly organizing the gear, thinking about the gear, tinkering with the gear, which just don't see enough use. I just don't get on a trail enough.

I was lucky enough to get a 3-week vacation to visit a friend in Bolivia last year. It was hard leaving the kids. But, it was incredible to have few obligations and an open schedule. I felt . . . lighter. We hiked, toured around. It felt life-altering (for about a month after I got back. Then back to the real-world).

Take the time if you can.

In the words of Frank Drebin: "Go for it, Stephanie."

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Anyone ever regret a thru hike?? on 03/26/2013 15:56:19 MDT Print View

A couple of comments:

(1) Pick up a copy of Justin Lichter's book Trail Tested. He has some great comments about long distance hiking with dogs, and specifically addresses the question of what to do when you're hiking those sections where dogs are verboten.

(2) As a landlord, I'd suggest against having a friend act as your property manager. It can be extremely hard work, or at the very least time consuming, and the last thing you need is to have to come off the trail to deal with a major issue because it's too much for your well-meaning friend to deal with.

I'm not sure what the going rate is in Chicago, but outside the ski resorts here in Colorado, property managers tend to charge ~8-10% of the gross rent. (In the ski resorts it's closer to 35%, but that's a totally different market.) That would be money well spent if, once you've run the numbers, you can factor that into the cost of having your condo turned into a rental.

Those numbers should also include the cost of vacancies, which depends on how desirable your condo is as well as the tightness of the local rental market, and the cost of maintenance. There are other considerations, too, including depreciation and tax write-offs, that may influence your decision. Feel free to PM me with any questions.

Christopher *

Locale: US East Coast
Re: Anyone ever regret a thru hike?? on 03/26/2013 16:28:01 MDT Print View

I have a regret.

I completed a thru-hiked last year.

I went alone and my fiance stayed at home. I did an extended trip, so I was gone for 7 months. She lovingly supported my every step, but work didn't afford her the opportunity to come meet me out on the trail. She isn't much of an outdoor gal anyway. But now, at home, every time I tell a story or an anecdote or share a photo or get caught staring dreamily off into the bright blue sky I feel like I am cheating. After 8 years together it is the first thing to ever stand between us. She cannot relate.

So yes I have a regret. I regret not hitting her over the head to be awoken at the monument in Campo. Oh well, there is always next year!

(And if things go terribly wrong, Mexico is right there after all.)

Edited by cfrey.0 on 03/26/2013 16:38:22 MDT.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Anyone ever regret a thru hike?? on 03/26/2013 16:49:06 MDT Print View

"Like some of the other post-ers, I haven't done a thru-hike. I'm now in my early 40s, with 2 kids. I'm struggling with this issue. Only when you have kids do you realize how commanding the school-year schedule is and how short the summer vacation really is, when you factor in the weekends with obligations. I just don't get out enough. I have the gear. I'm constantly organizing the gear, thinking about the gear, tinkering with the gear, which just don't see enough use. I just don't get on a trail enough."

Couldn't have said it any better Steven. I've struggled with this a lot in the last few months.


My advice (which is worth little) - Go for it. I highly doubt you would have much to regret. I've had the opportunity to hike and socialize with folks who are in their 60-70's quite a bit. I've asked many of them, "Looking back, what things would you have done differently in your life?". Granted, kind of a heavy question, but they are always willing to share. You know, not one of them has ever said they would work more, earn more money, or buy more things. It was always things like, "Drive across the country". "I would have hugged my kids every day & told them I loved them." "Hike the whole AT."...They all looked back and wanted more experiences instead of more things. I think hiking the PCT would be one heck of an experience for you.


Edited by ViolentGreen on 03/26/2013 17:02:33 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Warning: thread drift on 03/26/2013 17:02:47 MDT Print View

Re: thru hikes and kids.

Okay, I'll grant that the school year and soccer schedules seem to leave no time for a thru hike.

BUT, Are your kids really going to be damaged by an absence of the last 3 weeks of school in May/June?

I'm 51, and my son at 11 didn't slow me down at all on serious day hikes (Half Dome, GCNP Colorado River) or backpacking trips. My daughter at 7 needs more handholding and day hikes under 15 miles and BPing under 10 miles a day. BTW, UL backpacking technique and gear REALLY help on a whole-family trip.

So my thought, and to some extent my practice, has been to do those trips as they present themselves and figure "screw the school schedule" - a day in the outdoors with a physician and an engineer can pretty educational, too.

I've long had a practice of "father-son road trips" which have recently featured more hiking and backpacking. I'm seriously considering starting to section hike either the PCT or the AT, probably those sections where I could enlist friends or family for the shuttles to the trailhead. The "father-daughter road trips" are now in their second year and are also getting more outdoorsy.

If the kids are old enough (over 6?), I'd say to plan your thru hike as a family event - maybe not a full PCT, but there's always next year to finish it. If they aren't all old enough, use it as motivation to plan family car-camping trips, hikes, outdoor cookouts, short backpacking trips, and such to build their skills and interest now.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Anyone ever regret a thru hike?? on 03/26/2013 17:50:24 MDT Print View

Plan, plan and plan, then go for it - but also have a real plan for when you are done. Yes moving here is nice - but will you have work lined up? Do you have a savings cushion for 6 months of being out of work after you re-enter life? Can you find good dog care? To me a dog is no different than a child - it needs to be thought out, with someone loving.

But you have a plan if your thru hike flops? It does happen, more often than realized...that a week or a month into it you peter out and quit, or have an injury. All things to think out.

As for those talking about kids, being in 40's and all is all about looking over the fence and seeing green grass. I'd rather have security in my 40's than not, but that is me. I wandered in my early 20's, had a kid at 24 and wandered with a child. I turned 40 this month and now have 2 more children - and I just can't imagine wandering like I did with my oldest. They deserve more from me I guess. But...these things are a PERSONAL decision.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Having a job when I'm done on 03/26/2013 19:26:58 MDT Print View

For me, if I lost my job today I would have another one before the sun set. As a physical therapist there are so many jobs all over - maybe not in the practice or setting that I want - but I will have absolutely no problem finding a job ASAP. Ideally ill have something lined up before I leave, but if not its not the end of the world.

Leaving the dog bothers me, he'll be miserable, but I have a very good friend who loves him a lot, and CharlieDog likes him (he dog-sat while I was in Patagonia for a month last year) so that will be ok...just really, really sad :(

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Anyone ever regret a thru hike?? on 03/26/2013 19:29:30 MDT Print View

Nice thing, though, it's so easy now to get photos and updates about CharlieDog while you would be away. : )

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: Anyone ever regret a thru hike?? on 03/26/2013 19:36:41 MDT Print View

it depends upon you "coin of the realm".
if you look at a decent trek as "how much did it cost", that is fine (and you will earn no-place special doing that dogma).
if you look at a work as "it cost me 14 eff'n months not walking to afford this ridiculous condo: .. thee may well be better served.
it just depends upon what is your particular currency. money ? or time ? or miles ? or in my case .. views, solitude, fear, and ice.

at the present time, one value can be reasonably traded for another. coming pretty soon, you may not be able to where you want.

i started too late. 20 years perhaps.
i have a career, and in the last 10 days two previous employers have called trying to lure me back. that is very nice a feeling, to have a good rep. it is also a nice feeling to have a long red line on the map on the wall.

it is your life, the decision can not be taken back once the time is spent.
consider carefully that careers these days are more about sucking butt than competency.
and make your choice.
why would you listen to somebody telling you Not to go ?
why would you not listen to somebody telling you how to properly wire your garage ?
because if you can not listen to others, then your ears and the space between them is most likely a wasted thing, eh.


Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Tomorrow is not guaranteed. on 03/26/2013 20:05:42 MDT Print View

Like other posters have mentioned, I have a gorgeous wife and kids I love dearly so most of my personal adventures are a group project. I've put my wife on notice that I will be PCT class of 2022 (she's already given me a hell no for joining me.) Honestly, the thought of leaving her for 6+ months leaves a knife in my heart. I've already deployed away from her for a couple years combined so I'm not excited about doing it on a voluntary basis. The reality is that this is at the very tiptop of my bucket list and no one (at least very few) can step on that trail as a through hiker without making some form of a personal sacrifice. If it was easy then everyone would do it.

I'm grateful for the few years I worked on an ambulance as an EMT to teach me how finite and precious life is. I've seen enough tragedy to know that I'm not guaranteed a damn thing so I try to do my living now. I'm fortunate to have a job which will allow me to retire when I'm 51 so I'll be plenty young enough to give the triple crown a go if I have it in me. Until then I'm satisfying my backpacking needs with weekend hikes and the occasional intermediate length hike.

Go so I can live vicariously though you!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Having a job when I'm done on 03/26/2013 20:14:24 MDT Print View

Yeah, if you are a PT you won't have an issue. One of my friends who did a PCT hike in '09 is one.......

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: Having a job when I'm done on 03/26/2013 20:28:22 MDT Print View

"NONE of them said, "Get back to school, start a real job, get a mortgage, and settle down real soon."

Well, I took the opposite tack and I am really happy that I did...

I got my MBA when I was 25 - finished on a Friday and started work the following Monday -- and I made a conscious effort to save up. I retired at the end of 2003 when I was 42 -- and took up backpacking in 2004. My "virgin" multi-day trip was at Wind Rivers, and I loved it!! I also travel abroad for 2 months (sometimes more) each year -- hosteling -- picking whichever countries I fancy at the particular moment. While I haven't worked a day or earned a dime -- my stock portfolio is still just about the same as it was back in 2004 -- even with the recession. Yes, the cup of plenty that replenishes itself can be a reality -- but you have to lay down the ground work first. Pay your dues, then kick back and have fun.

Financial success comes in all shapes and sizes. But in my case, I was ALWAYS just a salary man -- so I think I can say that it is (1) do-able if you are married with children and (2) pretty easy actually if you are single -- like me -- with a fraction of the expenses of most families -- unless you unwisely choose to live beyond your means.

So, I DO advise younger adults to get serious about their careers and their savings/investments. America has one of the highest incomes in the entire world. There is NO earthly reason why we can't enjoy a little AND save up as well. Do y'all really need to have a new iPhone every time Apple comes out with one? Rhetoric, of course, but y'all know what I mean...

But back to OP's question. As a single woman with responsibility mostly or only to yourself -- I say GO FOR IT. Why not? When I was in-between jobs back in 1999, I took off for a month, traveling in India and Uzbekistan. Loved it!! And given that you like hiking -- you likely will too. And what's the worst outcome anyway? You start the hike, you hate it -- all you have to do is drop out and fly on to PNW -- given yourself more time to settle down and look for a new job. And how is that bad?

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
Two thoughts on 03/26/2013 21:30:14 MDT Print View

1. I didn't do a through hike, but I did drop out of my university and spend five years living in Europe. It was considerably more educational than my years in school (I never did get a degree), and way more important for who I turned out to be. Not a single regret.

2. I have just been invited to speak at a major national conference in my profession. It would be a real feather in my cap---but I've already got a backpacking permit for those dates in SEKI...and I am not giving that up. I told them I'd do it next year...

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Anyone ever regret a thru hike?? on 03/27/2013 05:13:02 MDT Print View


I would ask, what to you want out of this hike?

When I was young I did two 6-month hikes. Basically started in the southern Sierras with no goal and destination in mind. Started hiking north. After 3 months I turned around and returned, not always taking the same trails back. I was alone most of the time, which I think was the best part. Those trips are in my mind. The memories cannot be lost or taken away from me. I cannot assign a value of any sort to them. They are there, big and and somewhat difficult to quantify.

I have thought about doing the PCT. The one thing that does not appeal to me is the social aspect, a time table to get to the end, and the constant re-supply along the trail to meet your time table. To me it sounds more like a job than an adventure.

When I was newly married (the first time) my wife and I did a 3 month, 10,000 mile motorcycle trip from Calif, to NY, through parts of Canada, and back. We towed a miniature tent trailer and it was a great trip. Different kind of trip, different goals. Different memories.

When I was 50 (and single again) I lived and worked from a tent trailer. Camped in all kinds of great places and worked a few days each week in locations around the southwest. Wonderful life and again had a great time. This was my nomadic stage of life. No great memories, just a sense of satisfaction of living in the work-world on my terms.

When I had kids, I didn't have the urge to do long hikes away from family. I still hiked a lot; but raising kids was job #1 and there was a lot of life satisfaction to this. I wouldn't change that period of time for anything. No regrets during this phase of life.

I have been married to my 2nd wife for 10 years. I am thinking about a possible PCT through hike. I think I may want to do one last big solo adventure. But I don't know that I want to be away from my wife for 6 months; and there is no way she would be willing to join me. The PCT would allow me to stay in frequent contact with her, but in my mind the frequent contact with her and others on the trail might diminish the "adventure" piece of the experience. It would not be as much fun as other adventures in the past. It would be a compromise for me.

I have made a lot of life-changing decisions; decisions that might impact career and even family relationships negatively. Once I have mentally determined "no regrets" no matter what the outcome; even if worst case scenario happens, I go for it.

Sounds like career, family or income are not an issue for you. That is good, because for many folks that is the overriding factor why they don't do something they dream about. So again, what do you want out of this trip? If it is something you just have to do; do it. If it is not a fire in your soul, reconsider.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Nick I love your wisdom on 03/27/2013 05:34:47 MDT Print View

As always, your insights are solid. Thank you. Now back to regular programming.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Very Balanced on 03/27/2013 06:15:18 MDT Print View

This conversation is much more balanced (and rational) than the typical " I'm going to chuck my job and hike."

Ben, you post is a very different take and one that in hindsight in my life makes the most sense.

I was fortunate to be able to take a leave of absence from my Company to hike the PCT. I literally went back to work the morning after arriving back in Atlanta. Your post detailing the ease that you can return to a similar job leads me to put your situation in pot the same bucket as mine, you are putting a career on hold likely to pick it up upon your return. So assuming you can fund the short term then there is little downside to doing it.

Since you live on the west coast, have your wife follow you in a motor home and meet you on whatever frequency you chose. That is my dream, hike a long day and have a shower, meal and comfy bed waiting at a road crossing. (And my wife too!). But in second thought, that does sound too much like work.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Very Balanced on 03/27/2013 06:44:18 MDT Print View

Since you live on the west coast, have your wife follow you in a motor home and meet you on whatever frequency you chose. That is my dream, hike a long day and have a shower, meal and comfy bed waiting at a road crossing. (And my wife too!). But in second thought, that does sound too much like work."

Re: comfy bed/shower/meals - this is certainly one of appeals of the GR-10 which is also on my bucket list.

I did a section hike of the PCT last year and ran into a lady through hiker on the trail in Washington. Her husband wasn't into the idea of the hike so he would leapfrog up the trail in their RV and she would meet him along the way for resupplies and to enjoy some time together.

I'm trying to come up with a plan where my wife could drive an RV or campervan that she would be comfortable in where we could do something like this.

Jan S
Re: Re: Very Balanced on 03/27/2013 07:49:25 MDT Print View

"Re: comfy bed/shower/meals - this is certainly one of appeals of the GR-10 which is also on my bucket list. "

It's the standard mode of European hiking and works anywhere (provided you are willing to pay for it) except for the far north.

The dog: Can't he come along?

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Yes, a nice balanced discussion on 03/27/2013 08:56:25 MDT Print View

All the insights here are great. As I mentioned, I can't really find a good reason not to do it other than fear of casting aside what is comfortable and known (and socially accepted) to venture into the unknown. I have great family support and encouragement, the job issue will be fine (heck, as an orthopedic PT living in the Pacific Northwest I would think having done the PCT would actually be a positive credential, eh?) and if I work really hard for the next year saving and getting rid of bills and obligations...

Anyone want to buy a couch and some dishes??

Besides, in my 20s I was also quite adventurous and lived a rather nomadic lifestyle all over the globe. This is nothing new to me, I'm just a tad rusty at it. And all this encouragement is very, very helpful.

As for the dog, way back when I really had thought of taking him, but it seems a thru hike is NOT a good idea for a dog, especially the PCT. The mileage and the desert heat would kill him :(

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Regrets on 03/27/2013 12:07:04 MDT Print View

A hospice nurse did a survey of the regrets of people about to die. The top regret was failure to be true to oneself. Number 2 was working too hard. Number 5 was not letting yourself be happy. I think a thru-hike would be a good antidote to all of these.

My GF and I are roughly at your stage of life (30s-40s, fancy degrees, established careers, etc.). We are both quitting our jobs and getting rid of most of our stuff to thru-hike the CDT this year. Some things are more important than money, houses, or careers.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
For more on this ... on 03/27/2013 12:26:03 MDT Print View

I know that this discussion has come up at least once on whiteblaze, so if you want even more (!) on it, search there; it's about the same thing in this case whether the AT or PCT.

W.r.t. the recommendation to read 'Wild' I agree with whoever suggested that you don't read it. It won't give you a sense of what a more typical thru-hike experience is like. I think that it's unfortunate that for both the AT and now the PCT the standard "thru-hike" book that everyone seems to know about is by a person that doesn't finish the trail and didn't approach it in the way that thru-hikers generally do. At least Bill Bryson is funny.

In case no one has already pointed this out, please don't be insulted if I mention the really obvious fact that you're going to get a skewed set of responses by posting this question on a site like this one. OTOH, like Mags and likely some others here, I know quite a lot of thru-hikers, and can't think of any that has regrets.

Yet OTOH, that's a skewed group too, as I mostly know the subset of people who finished their trails. If you could somehow poll those who attempt a thru-hike but for whatever reason don't finish, you might get a different average response, but I suspect that in general those folks are less likely to be posting in hiking forums (?).

Only you can know all the dynamics of your situation; I wish you the best of good fortune with whatever you decide.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Writing the purple prose on 03/27/2013 15:25:32 MDT Print View

I wrote this a few years back. Perhaps it will help and/or enlighten and/or make you bored to tears. ;)

I need to update it for 2013 (I am married now. That is one one rather significant change. :D)

rowan !

Locale: SF Bay Area
Go! on 03/27/2013 15:51:50 MDT Print View

My mother used to say to me, "If you wait until you can afford something, it will never happen." If you wait until you are absolutely sure this is the "right" decision, that time will never come. There will always be unknowns. And I think all of us have an innate need to meet the unknown face to face, however much we may fear it. We recognize somewhere deep inside that security, predictability, and permanence are all illusions -- very strong illusions that give the appearance of reality, but nonetheless illusory.

It sounds to me as though your heart has already decided; best to stop second-guessing it and do what you desire. Imagine yourself at the end of your days, looking back on your life. Can you really picture yourself saying, "Oh, I wish I had never followed my heart. I wish I had stayed where things were familiar and routine, and vaguely unsatisfying."?

Edited by romonster on 03/27/2013 15:53:21 MDT.

Confused Newbie

Locale: Northern CO
on being careful on 03/27/2013 16:42:27 MDT Print View

Years ago, at 22, I left my computer programmer job in a run down city and moved to Oregon. I figured I'd spend the next 10 years playing and working odd jobs, then go to graduate school thereafter. It didn't work out. I had already dropped out of college due to lack of funds, and so I was a poor long-haired guy with little employability, even though I worked hard when I had a chance, and worked very hard in trying to find jobs. During this time I got sick, and had little access to medical care, and typically was living month to month. It wasn't fun, and I wish I had been more thoughtful in my approach to trying to live an active outdoor life.

Life is great now, but I mention this because I had thought if I followed my dreams the rest would work itself out, and it didn't. I wish I would have stayed in my job, finished college and then graduate school earlier, and established my career first. This is a little different from taking 3 months off for a thru hike of course, but figured it might be relevant to the discussion.

Edited by confused on 03/27/2013 18:05:27 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: on being careful on 03/27/2013 17:58:27 MDT Print View

I would love to take a break in my "career" but cannot do so at the moment.

It does not really bother me as I can get out most weekends backpacking, skiing, doing water sports as much as I want and get to go on cool backpacking trips all over the US and back in Europe every couple of months.

I say go for it :-)

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
GO! on 03/27/2013 18:06:25 MDT Print View

Jennifer, if that's what you want, go for it!

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Three PCT starts, no regrets on 03/27/2013 21:04:14 MDT Print View


I started variations on PCT thru-hikes in 1976, 1980, and 2003. All ended after a few days or weeks.

I had immediate regrets, mostly over not finishing and not having a Plan B, and in one case, losing a girlfriend.

But in the long run – no regrets. I'm glad I made all the attempts, they helped make me who I am today.

My advice: Go for it. You will regret not starting much more.

-- Rex

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: GO! on 03/27/2013 21:31:06 MDT Print View

Jen, that fear of what's comfortable is really just bratty boys throwing rocks at you. Remove the shackles of fear and Go Jen, Go!

Ozzy McKinney
(PorcupinePhobia) - F

Locale: PNW
See you there on 03/27/2013 23:14:28 MDT Print View

I'm going for PCT 2014, whether it is a wise decision or not.

I can't add any more to this discussion than a suggestion to read "A Thru-Hikers Heart" by Ray Echols. My favorite book by far, and SO much better than wild ;)

Dirk R
Re; Anyone ever regret a thru hike? on 03/28/2013 01:36:06 MDT Print View

The only person I know to regret a thru-hike was a friend who basically became so fed up by the experience that he abandoned the trail after 900 miles. He regretted not forming strong bonds with other hikers along the PCT, as opposed to his experience on the AT, which was much better for whatever reason. His regret was born from high expectations and hope of recreating the experience of his first thru.

I hiked the PCT at age 39 and often wonder if I had started my thru-hiking career at say, age 23, how much different my life may have turned out. Obviously I have no regrets about the hike, although there are things I would have done diffidently in hindsight.

Similar to the experiences of others, the company where I work gave me a leave of absence that allowed me to pursue this dream, an incredibly kind gesture. There are no regrets, only good memories and a great appreciation for the sacrifices others made to help make an experience like this possible.

I wish you nothing but Happy Trails ahead.

Michael Gillenwater
(mwgillenwater) - M

Locale: Seattle area
Re: Re; Anyone ever regret a thru hike? on 03/28/2013 01:48:13 MDT Print View

"...although there are things I would have done diffidently in hindsight."

please tell us more.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
The bigger question on 03/28/2013 04:41:36 MDT Print View

Will you spend the rest of your life wondering or regretting that you did not go for it when you had the opportunity.

A couple years ago I "tinkered" with the idea of climbing Kilimanjaro. No burning desire, just a "nice thing to do" kind of trip. My wife didn't warm up to the idea so I skipped it. No regrets on that one.

I would have regretted the trips in the Grand Canyon had I not done them.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Anyone ever regret a thru hike? on 03/28/2013 08:54:32 MDT Print View

Life is a thru hike, but it is a finite trip and you don't know how it ends. That means you better get busy!

There was an old JanSport advertisement that read, "GET OUT, WHILE YOU CAN." Says it all I think.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"...things I haven't done." on 03/29/2013 15:28:00 MDT Print View

I once saw an "off-off-Broadway" play in which the middle aged cop character said,"You know it's not the things I HAVE done that I regret, it's the things I haven't done."

Don have those regrets. Besides, after you are done put it in your resume (yes!) and you will find that the employers who like that are the kind you want to work for.

Bon Voyage! and Happy Trails.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
@ Jennifer on 03/29/2013 17:15:35 MDT Print View

So, Jennifer, you're DOING IT, right? C'mon -- let's hear it! The first step of long journey is a simple 'yes'. :)

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Oh yeah!!! on 03/29/2013 20:20:43 MDT Print View

You guys totally talked me into it!! As a matter of fact, a clinic in Oregon that I had been talking with - seemed like an awesome job - called and said they had a position for me, but I had to start this June.

I turned them down.

Need I say more??!!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Oh yeah!!! on 03/29/2013 20:33:06 MDT Print View

Good for your, Jennifer!!

Now, I imagine there will be a lot of gear you'll need to buy. Have you started looking? :)

The Gear Enabler.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Gear? I get to buy gear? on 03/29/2013 20:57:11 MDT Print View

You know what my New Years resolution was? To NOT buy any more gear this year and simply to enjoy my rather nice kit.

I am already buying "my dad" a new shelter, apparently ill need a new ULA pack for the JMT (and now the PCT!) cause my gorilla isn't going to cut it. I'm looking at the skyscape X for a pct shelter (I can see how the net floor of the hexamid might get annoying...), just bought a downmat after my synmat blew up; I'm currently debating cap 4 bottoms vs cap 3 for the most versatile long underwear....


Where is that thread about having a gear problem?

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Gear? I get to buy gear? on 03/29/2013 21:51:24 MDT Print View

Well at least you got the sleeping pad right.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Gear? I get to buy gear? on 03/29/2013 22:33:04 MDT Print View

How 'bout some wool underwears? I love my Cap3, but damn do they get stinky! I think I'd be using Merino wool on a long walk.

Dirk R
What I would change in retrospect on 03/30/2013 00:56:53 MDT Print View

"...although there are things I would have done diffidently in hindsight."

please tell us more.

Michael -

I would have done a number of things differently. First, I did study up on the trail and felt I had a fairly light gear.

The issues: being out of shape. You are a Pacific Northwesterner, like me, and you probably can appreciate the fact that hiking season really doesn't begin in earnest until mid-June when the mountains finally begin to melt out. Well, come May when I started I was still not in even good hiking shape. I'd be in better shape the next time, and not because the PCT is so strenuous. There are a lot of climbs and descents, but the grade of the trail isn't particularly difficult. The problem I had initially was due to the heat of Southern California. Going from barely breaking 60 degrees to 90+ degrees really socked it to me. Being in better shape would have helped, most certainly.

If I were to do it again, I'd ramp up the miles slowly. My feet and body would have thanked me for being more conservative in terms of miles early. Fewer miles would have helped my feet in particularly, which were pretty blistered and sore for the first two months. It took me a while to begin the practice, but early in the trip when temperatures soared, I stopped hiking midday. We'd hike from 5:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then stop for four or five hours. We'd then get back underway and hike again until it got dark. It was surprising how it really didn't affect your overall mileage because you didn't have to carry a ton of water and you didn't wear yourself out as fast. Later in the hike hot days weren't really as much of an issue since by then I was in better shape.

I would have also like not to have been so obsessed, particularly early in the trip, with the goal of reaching Canada. I think this is normal - it took a while for me to relax and just learn to enjoy the moments and not worry about it. Make 20 miles a day for a 132 days, and you too will reach the border. Of course, town stops and zero (mile) days have their allure, which means....

...Taking zero days early in your trip come at the expense of zero days later in the trip. Ask anyone who is still hiking in late September / early October if they'd have liked to have a few of those zero days back - I know I did. But the truth is your second half of the trip will be much faster than the first half - you are bound to be a faster, better hiker by then.

I wouldn't worry so much about gear. Everyone talks about gear early in the trip. After 1,000 miles, NOBODY worries much about it. It all works, some better than others. People are comfortable with what they have. If anything, I became way less of a gear head doing the trip.

Hope that helps!


Ozzy McKinney
(PorcupinePhobia) - F

Locale: PNW
thanks on 03/30/2013 11:12:21 MDT Print View

Thanks for the insight Dirk, always nice to read a succinct "what worked/what didn't"

Anthony Analetto
(Fubar2us) - F

Locale: MidWest USA
Hike on 04/01/2013 05:22:15 MDT Print View

I will say I wish I got into Hiking much earlier myself as well. I now have the Family, Mortgage, and Career to keep in check. Luckily my job allows for a few weeks off here and there but never anything that would allow for me to do a full thru hike. I have been able to do Sections of the NCT but due to it still being under construction and me not wanting to do long miles of road walking I don’t end up with more than 40 or so miles on the trail.

Wife knows she will be without me when I retire at 52 in 2032 and I will be on the AT, PCT the following year, and CDT after that.

I regret not being able to thru hike. I regret not finding my passion and appreciation for the outdoors until after I had made commitments. I regret that I am not willing to take the risks that it would involve for me to do the hikes I want to do now.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: What I would change in retrospect on 04/01/2013 06:47:57 MDT Print View

Dirk that was very helpful. One of the (smaller) goals I have for such a trip is to STOP being such a gear obsessive nerd. I'm sure I'm not the only one who spends long stretches between trips drooling over cool gear because I don't have sufficient opportunity to use what I have.

The thru hike bug really hit last year while I was in Patagonia. We stretched the trek to 11 days to take side trips and I found I just wanted to keep walking and walking and walking...and other than really wanting a shower I had no desire to stop sleeping in my tent and getting up every day with no responsibility except to walk. I wanted to do it until I was bored of it...then do it some more. Mentally and physically it was such a free feeling.....

So yes, the gear obsession, I believe, is what happens when you enjoy something but don't get to do it every day. How else do you channel your hobby?? So if you really do get to do it everyday - even when you don't want to - it makes sense that you stop obsessing about your kit.

Which means even without 6 months' would actually be CHEAPER...............

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Anyone ever regret a thru hike??" on 04/01/2013 10:15:53 MDT Print View

I've never done the entirety of the pct at one go, but in my mind I would always skip the the whole first bit from the Mexican border to well into the southern Sierra. I always figure that I could do this bit later. In other words, I'm not a 'completist'. The desert section of the pct presents so many problems (water primarily) for fewer rewards (for me!) that I'd rather just begin in the mountains. Sorry if this comment is a bit of a drift.

In short,given time/job constraints, I'd regret thinking that I had to do the whole pct border to border or it wouldn't count. Surely two months or so of hiking the trail is very worthy in and of itself.

The guy who wants to pogo stick the jmt to set a record...wants to set a record. Maybe hiking the whole enchilada doesn't have to be an end in itself.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Chunk vs. thru-hiking on 04/02/2013 09:57:47 MDT Print View

A couple of comments about this:
"I've never done the entirety of the pct at one go, but in my mind I would always skip the the whole first bit from the Mexican border to well into the southern Sierra. I always figure that I could do this bit later. In other words, I'm not a 'completist'. The desert section of the pct presents so many problems (water primarily) for fewer rewards (for me!) that I'd rather just begin in the mountains."

The reality of a thru-hike I think is *typically* different than what people expect it to be, and that was certainly the case in spades for me in two different "dry sections". I approached SoCal (and sadly, also NM on another trip) with similar feelings. I'm now very glad that I hiked that.

The not-really-a "desert" stretch of the PCT is such a different climate than where I live in terms of land form, flora and fauna, and it offers some real advantages. Starting earlier in the year for one. Being able to wash things and those dry fast. Sleeping under the stars every night, while coyotes yip and howl, just like you're living in a cowboy movie.

Another thing for a thru-hiker, though, is that those first 700 miles or so is a sort of "bonding" time where pretty much everyone you meet on the trail is someone attempting a thru-hike. If you jump on trail later, you can still join the "tribe", but it's a very rich experience IMO to start right from the beginning with others who are also having such an adventure.

Finally, it's a big advantage to have 700 miles of experience and body-toughening/strengthening under your belt before getting into the Sierras.

I think that it CAN make excellent sense to "chunk" hike (hike a large percentage of) rather than thru-hike a trail, but for me at least, that wouldn't include skipping the beginning bits.

In terms of obsessing on gear --- a lot of wise words spoken there. Just practically speaking, people get bored with gear discussion after a while. In the first few hundred miles everyone wants to talk about gear and about people getting trail names. After that, the names are mostly in place and the gear has just become "your stuff", and you talk about anything but (certainly food-related conversations are high on the list).

Dirk R
Re: What I would change in retrospect on 04/03/2013 01:39:16 MDT Print View

Ozzy and Jennifer - you are both welcome. Glad to be of help. I must confess the thru-hiking experience leaves me sounding something like the bride who can't quit talking about her wedding that happened four years ago. I am sure others tire of hearing about it. But really, i would urge you all to give it a go when circumstances allow.

But if you want better advice, I would follow the lead of Brian, he's a a Triple Crowner (all three major trails completed.) I'd urge you to pick up his e-book named "Make Your First Thru-Hike a Success". I wish it had been around prior to my trip, would have saved me a lot of grief. It is full of practical advice and insights.

Jennifer, I agree on the gear thing. It makes the hobby fun and certainly, being gear obsessed in backpacking is way cheaper than other hobbies. I have taken up cycling but refuse to get caught up in the arms race that is bike technology. I don't have the deep pockets.

As for your revelation about wanting to be outside, I would urge you to try a thru hike when you can make the time. Financially it can be a hit. But I never think about the cost, only the benefit of having done such a trip.


Edited by Dirk on 04/03/2013 01:45:00 MDT.

Eric Marcano

Locale: Southcentral Texas
Just Do It on 04/04/2013 20:03:43 MDT Print View

Such a cliche, that phrase, and yet those three small words have such power and punch. Jennifer, I'll be right behind you...maybe by a year or two, but I'll be there, walking along the paths that you and many others have taken. I'm 46, mid-career, and nothing to show for it in the sense that, with no spouse or pets or debt, i haven't made a firm commitment to do what I've dreamed of. I've NO excuse to not begin my adventures.

This thread has been inspiring and I appreciate the candid question you asked to initiate it. I now have a plan and it involves simplicity, risk, and many nights under a tarp :-)

Wishing you the best!

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Anyone regret a thru hike? on 04/07/2013 20:49:17 MDT Print View


I think you should do the PCT, then move out west. If you don't have a problem with finding a new job (and I agree that as a PT you don't) what's a summer out of your life? From several other posts I think you believe you need a life/location/priorities change, and if you are going to make one of those, the next life chapter can wait a few months. Don't know if you are a skier, but one line from lifetime ski bum Warren Miller's films has become a mantra for me since I left the rat race. He was referring to heliskiing but it could apply to any special trip, bucket list item, or other objective. "If you don't do it this year, you'll just be one year older when you do."

Cheers, Richard

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Anyone regret a thru hike? on 04/08/2013 08:04:36 MDT Print View

Thanks to all of you for the PCT inspiration...and to Richard for your repeated (and much appreciated!) nudging to relocate. I have a great plan now, I still can't find anything wrong with it, and I haven't been this excited in years.

Ill do the JMT in August, the pct in 2014, and end up in Portland (?) or some other environs (maybe after a summer on the pct ill be ready for a much smaller town!)

Anyone want to buy a kitchen table?

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
do it! on 04/10/2013 09:48:44 MDT Print View

I did the JMT in the summer between my jr and senior years on college, so it was not a huge interruption in my career or schooling. That and my other trips in the Sierra were life changing for me. They made me think that backpacking and outdoors activities were a way of life, not a recreational activity.

After college I put all my worldly possessions in my Ford Falcon and drove to Washington state. Before leaving CA, I rode my bike around Lake Tahoe, and hiked in the Immigrant Wilderness. Day 3 in WA I climbed Mt. Rainier. I had $400 and 5 lbs of soy beans, and spent the summer doing week long hikes in Washington and Canada. After Rainier, the Enchantments, Holden Village to Darrington, Revelstoke, Cascade Pass and Sahale Pk. I went back to Wenatchee and found a job when I ran out of money.

I worked September thru June, then quit the job and did another 3 months hiking in Washington: the Olympics, Alpine Lakes, the Pickett Range, the Ptarmigan Travers in the North Cascades, and lots of time in the Enchantments and Stuart Range.

The next summer I also took off 3 months for hiking; ElDorado, the Ptarmigan again, Enchantments, Mt. Stuart, Rainier again, Rampart Ridge, Tuck and Robin Lake, and the upper Enchantments via Colchuck Lake many times (no permit required in those days). I saw more of Washington in those 3 summers than people who live there all their lives. It was probably a setback to any kind of career, but what I ended up doing is totally different than what I planned to do anyway.

I don't take the big chunks of time off now, with mortgage, business ownership, and kids in school, but I get out as much as possible, including at least one 9 day backpack. Now its with my son, so that is a huge bonus. Have a great trip!

Edited by rshaver on 04/10/2013 09:50:53 MDT.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Anyone regret a thru hike? on 04/10/2013 09:49:41 MDT Print View

"Anyone want to buy a kitchen table?"

Are you crazy! You just gonna eat off your lap on your hike? You need that thing!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: Re: Anyone regret a thru hike? on 04/10/2013 11:06:18 MDT Print View

Yep... most carry the kitchen sink with them too.

Daniel Fish

Locale: PDX
... on 04/10/2013 14:25:26 MDT Print View


Edited by on 06/10/2013 09:27:12 MDT.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Here's a downside... on 04/10/2013 16:49:24 MDT Print View

How in the world am I supposed to work and concentrate on life and saving money NOW when I have a JMT and a PCT to look forward to??!!

It's a good thing my employers aren't on this forum, because heaven knows I ain't putting much energy into work lately; nor will I for the next several months. Ha!!

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Here's a downside... on 04/10/2013 17:01:02 MDT Print View

I am going to tell your Boss Jennifer ;-)

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Plan Ahead for No Downside on 04/10/2013 19:53:25 MDT Print View

I once saw a couple of mall security guards "escorting" an elderly man to the exit. The man asked out loud why he had to leave and the guards barked back that he was seen picking through the trash cans. Very, very sad.

Not saying that will happen to anyone here... but life is a balancing act. We all need to live a little -- but we also need to save up as well. Relying on social security won't make for a fun retirement --- even assuming there is still money for us. And we need to be realistic -- food and gas prices are always creeping up...

just Justin Whitson
Re: Plan Ahead for No Downside on 04/10/2013 22:58:57 MDT Print View

Edited on request

Edited by ArcturusBear on 04/10/2013 23:41:33 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Plan Ahead for No Downside on 04/10/2013 23:34:31 MDT Print View

Yeah, erase it.

Jennifer only wants to know if anyone regretted doing a thru hike. The biggest regret would be not going after your dreams.