2) Read a book about deaths in Yellowstone. Focus especially on the people killed by bears. Become convinced that if you spill even a little bit of food on your clothes, or wear deoderant, a bear will literally drag you from your tent and eat you.
3) Buy brand new hiking shoes. Wear them around the airport during a business trip. Call that breaking them in. While you’re at it, get really snooty about how you just love cotton socks and you don’t care what hiking snobs say, you’ll be wearing your cotton socks.
4) Talk your friend from high school into coming with you. She should be substantially more experienced than you. When she comes to visit you to plan your trip, spend the whole time eating, drinking, going to the Pride parade, and finally find your way to the library. Spend forever looking for books on how to poop in the woods, and what not to forget. Forget your library card.
5) Put in your time off request, taking only exactly the number of days you need for your hike, giving yourself no time off on either side of your trip.
6) Plan out your route. Give yourself seven days to travel 140 miles. When your dad tells you that you really shouldn’t be planning to hike more than 13 miles a day, tell him that you know what you’re doing. You go on 20 mile day hikes without a 30 pound pack all the time. Assume this will be just like that.
7) Set out almost four hours late for your first day. Make your friend’s mom ride out a very long, very uneven gravel road with you to the trailhead. Use the GPS on your phone for the ride, but don’t bring a charger. Let your battery die along the way. Use a compass to find the trail. Succeed! Race against the sun to your first stop.
8) Choose to camp your first night at a remote campsite next to a slowly flowing stream and marsh area. Watch mosquitoes try to poke themselves through your clothing. Spray yourself heavily with deet, but don’t make any dent in the number of mosquitos feasting on you.
9) Take a picture of the sunset on the stream. Luckily, you didn’t charge your camera so this will be the last picture you take.
10) Realize that along with the mosquitos, your campsite is home to a lot of branchless trees which creak each time the wind blows through your small clearing. Additionally, none of them is a particularly good choice for hanging the food. Rig a pulley system that keeps the food 8 feet off the ground, but doesn’t meet that standards of that damn Yellowstone book by a long shot.
11) Settle in for the first night. Hear all the creatures of the forest moving around you. Hear something sniffing at your tent. Tell yourself it’s a mouse; imagine that it’s a cougar and a bear and maybe some sort of dragon. Probably it’ll turn out to be raccoon.
12) Eat oatmeal, while leaving trail mix sitting on the makeshift log table. Walk away to pack up the tent, and watch the birds dive bomb your bag and tear holes in it. Shoo them away and tie shut all the holes they made.
13) Hike ten miles before noon. Lunch at a river and campsite area that you’d be smart to stay at. Pull your thirty fucking pound packs back on and set out for the second ten.
14) Start thinking about just how many more days in a row you have to do this. Start to become overwhelmed by the insane task you’ve signed on for. Try to rationalize leaving a day or two early.
15) Feel your first blister pop at the beginning of a long ascent. Try to power through before having to stop. Take off your shoes to examine the state of your feet. Things are not good. Count 5 blisters, including two on the soles of your feet. Borrow non-cotton socks from your friend and load up on moleskin. Dread every step.
16) Apologize profusely to your friend.
17) Reach your campsite in horrible pain. Ditch your boots, wrap your feet, and sit quietly on the boardwalk that reaches out over the lake. You’re staying at an actual campsite, and your friend has cell phone service. Weigh your guilt heavily against the likelihood you will ever get your boots on your feet again. Call your mom and ask if she’ll come pick you up in the morning.
18) Send your friend off on her own in the morning. Feel horrible. Your feet hurt, your pride hurts, and you feel like a shitty friend. Read quietly in the sun until your mom shows up. She’ll bring her own sleeping bag, tent, and caffeinated beverages hoping she can convince you to rest up for a day and then set out again with a less aggressive schedule. Remember later what an amazing mom you have. Remember that every day. Show her your feet, and tell her you just really want to go home now.
20) Talk to you friend on the phone. Feel a little bit better because after a day of hiking on her own, she gave her parents a call too and is back in town. Plan to go to the beach the next day. Wish you’d packed something other than hiking clothes. Be glad that she can still stand you.
Megan is going to hike the whole of the Pacific Crest Trail, even if it’s just one day at a time. She’s forever grateful to her friend for going along with her crazy plan.