Embracing solitude: getting back to the roots of wilderness travel on the PCT

I can’t imagine a more perfect year for seeking solitude on the Pacific Crest Trail. True solitude. True quiet.

Before the eye-rolls and the “you don’t get its,” I’ll defend: I get it! It’s the people. People make the experience. The trail lets us know small town hospitality, limitless kindness, and deep connections with new and old friends. In remote deserts and on windy ridges we meet people from all over the world. There’s cultural exchange and time with people who are different from ourselves. And there are lifelong relationships built on the trail.

But when we say, “the PCT connects” we’re not just talking about people. Solitude brings one of the great gifts of the Pacific Crest Trail. Time alone, or with just your partner, allows us simply be a part of the natural world, and turn inward to reflect.

Experience the joy of turning off your phone. You can find a life in the wilderness without Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, without reading the comment section in an app. Disconnect to connect. Detach from the routine social pressures of the online world. Without these distractions, I think you’ll turn inward.

When I’m on the trail, I think about things. I think about my goals. My life. My relationships and what matters most to me. I come up with new ideas and commit to new paths. These are some of the gifts of the trail: how the PCT connects us to ourselves.

Solitude on the Pacific Crest Trail

Photo by Dignity @iamtraildork

Another gift comes from seeking solitude and detachment from society and industry: I get to rely on myself. I get to learn how to read the land and think through my own personal path. Instead of my experience being a reflection of other people’s lives, I forge my own. Instead of having people tell me when to worry, or when to prepare, I decide. I learn. I grow to meet the challenge.

An idea has tickled me for a long time: what if I visited the towns that the typical hiker doesn’t? Would it be more like how it used to be? Little stores where I walk in and people don’t already know some version of my story? They exist: places hardly on the radar of most hikers. What if I walked to them? I’d see side trails. I’d stay in my own mind. I’d experience nature more, unconcerned by the dynamics of society.

To me, the Pacific Crest Trail is about a lot of things. It’s about protecting a 2,650-mile strip of America. It’s about the wildlife whose home the trail passes. I visit the trail to exercise. To quiet my mind, reset, and renew my spirit.

I’ve hiked the PCT for more than 20 years. These days, you might only catch my “nice place, huh?” as we pass. You’ll find me, or you won’t, camping alone, likely in the off-season, or in a quieter spot—my secret gems. Even if I’m only out for a day, the trail is my retreat and nature is my partner.

Even if we don’t meet, the trail connects us.

Join me, but not too close. I’m looking forward to not seeing you out there. It’s a big place.

Author: Jack "Found" Haskel

As the Trail Information Manager, Jack works to connect people to the PCT. He's involved with a wide variety of projects that help the trail, the trail's users and the community that surrounds the experience. He has thru-hiked (Pacific Crest Trail in 2006; Colorado Trail in 2008; Continental Divide Trail in 2010) and is an obsessed weekend warrior.