P.S. We took 154 days to hike the PCT, from April 21 until September 21, 2012. In total, we had 22 zero days during the trip. Not counting zero days, but including all our "nero" days, our average per day mileage hiked over the five months was 20.6 miles per day. We had three days with rain.
PPS. On 21 Sept. 2013, one year after stepping off the PCT, we found ourselves sitting in our townhouse now empty of furniture. We had sold everything we owned and were moving to the Virgin Islands -- owning pretty much only what we could carry in our luggage. Our goal was to make the nomad life sustainable -- emotionally, intellectually, physically, spiritually, and financially. Where we will go after the Virgin Islands is anyone's guess.
We had struggled with re-entry once we returned. Cars moved much too fast. Grocery stores were still a nightmare of colors, noises, too-intense-stimulation. We had to give up ice cream when our metabolisms slowed down. Concepts of distance had changed. We could write pages and pages about how challenged we were returning! And this from us who have traveled in 60 countries.
No one understood what we had experienced on the PCT except other thru-hikers. Trying to explain was an exercise in polite incomprehension. Our "difference" alienated us in mild or profound ways from our community. We kept identifying characteristics of ourselves -- ones we had known for years, but had somehow come to full ripeness on the PCT -- with being thru-hikers. The trail can change you if you let it. But if you let it, it can change you in profound ways.
On the PCT, we wondered what "the next big thing" would be. Should we do more long-distance hiking? or what? The PCT had changed us, and after we returned to Boulder we found many otherwise "normal" parts of our lives now discomfiting or incompatible with our experience. For one thing, we looked around us at all our material possessions -- furniture, art, dishes, appliances, sheets, blankets, pillow pillow pillows, etc. --- all those "things" -- and we couldn't help feeling we didn't need all this stuff in our backpacks. And only when we were out and going -- especially on high mountain trails -- did we feel "at home." We were no longer at home at home. Home was us together on the trail (as metaphor = both/and) with the world rising to meet us. But can that be sustainable? What about our writing? What about income?
Other PCT thru-hikers have certainly felt the re-entry disorientation and reflected on it. Some change their lives because of it. Some don't need to or want to. Everyone comes up with their own response.
For us, we returned to our former town, moved into a much smaller place, got rid of some furniture and meditated, pondered, opened ourselves up to what change might come. By July 2013, an opportunity came for Chris to work in the Virgin Islands -- so we discussed it together closely and intensively, then we three moved full gear to getting our gear ready for a new, very different trail.
Within a few weeks, I had sold all our furniture. Our huge library we dispersed and distributed; but we went digital with iPads, and iPhones, and upgraded laptops.We had virtual libraries that fit in the backpack.
Then, by late September we were ready to make our move.
Now we are here, on St. John, in the Virgin Islands. We hike, snorkel, and embrace the wonderful weirdness that is St. John. We are completely mobile, with literature, films, good music, etc. -- all we might need -- in our backpacks. For furniture and kitchens, we rent a beautiful furnished place.
What comes after the Virgin Islands? We will do what we did on the PCT. We will open ourselves up and be vulnerable to our lives, to this experience, and let change come into us, then later, whenever the time has ripened, we'll let the changed selves we have become make the next choice. They'll no better than we do now.