Celebrating 50 years of the PCT
as a National Scenic Trail.

This is what hiking 2000 miles feels like

By Kara Kieffer, PCTA P3 Hiker

2000 miles feels like waking up tired every morning, like eating the same food again and again until it loses all meaning. It feels like wondering with amazement when 20 miles became a short day. Like pushing yourself up the last climb of the day. Going faster and faster while your legs ache and sweat runs down your face and into your eyes, but you don’t slow down, you keep pushing because you’ve become so strong that you no longer know where your limit is, where the bottom of this energy sits and it feels good to dig way down deep, to where you forget what easy is and there is only the burning left. And suddenly. Suddenly you’re at the top of the climb and the world erupts around you and a wave of endorphins threaten to overwhelm your more human side and you laugh away the urge to open up your throat to the heavens and howl. But the urge is there, it is right below the surface.

Hiking 2,000 miles feels like the merging of what you hoped would be and what is. Where you realize that you’re now doing all of the things you’d dreamt of when you planned this hike. All of those desires which you held at arm’s length, knowing that the odds for finishing the PCT are not in your favor and it would break your heart to admit to yourself how desperately you wanted this, only to not get it. But now you’re here and it’s nothing like what you imagined, though all the better for it. Hiking 2,000 miles feels like making it to the playoffs, the final round of the spelling bee, it feels like the moment before the hero pulls off the big heist. You’re not there yet but you are so, so close. And if you can just be smart and lucky and hold your body together for a little longer, then you’ll make it. And that will be the best worst day of this whole thing.

Even though it feels sickeningly saccharine, hiking 2,000 miles makes you realize that it really is about the journey, not the destination; after all, clichés are cliché for a reason. Achieving the goal of reaching Canada will be the both the culmination and termination of months or years of dreaming and working. And in the same way that a cliché rings with repetitive honesty, the hike becomes less novel with each passing day. In the course of hiking 2,000 miles, you become more confident and more capable. You begin to understand what needs to be done and when. Things are less new, less exciting, but also less stressful as a result. It feels like success through familiarity and habit.

Hiking 2,000 miles feels like the world turning around you, like a tiny beautiful bubble of reclusion, and have you ever lived anywhere but this forest? Where the world is far away and muted. Here on this little dirt path you can abstain from it all, and watch the days grow shorter even as the wild flowers riot into color for their short but fabulous lives. 2,000 miles is that feeling of sitting on the earth and tilting your head way back so you can see the tops of giant trees. The feeling that reaches right into your chest and squeezes ‘til you recognize how much of the world there is and how little you are within it.

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Kara Keiffer.

About Kara

Kara grew up a tomboy in Boulder, Colorado, where she spent most of her time outside collecting rocks in her overalls. On any given weekend, you can find her backpacking, climbing or running ridiculous distances up and down mountains, so much so that her friends refer to her as “an outdoor dog.” Kara later moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams in the film industry, working on Hollywood feature films, Super Bowl commercials and more. She’s now taking a little time to refresh and get back to her outdoor roots, embarking on another remarkable journey. Her mission is to help the hiking community become a better version of itself by being a voice who helps spread LNT ethics and inclusiveness for all in the community.