In my head

When you talk to someone who has completed the Pacific Crest Trail they will often tell you that the challenge in hiking the trial is not only a physical one but also, and perhaps more so, a mental one. On my recent hikes I’ve pushed myself pretty hard, seeing how fast I can make it to the end and If I can make it without stopping. In doing so hikes have become easier physically but more difficult mentally as you don’t take the time to enjoy the hike itself.  This became very obvious on my hike up Mount Teneriffe, a 14 mile hike with 4,000 feet of gain, this past Sunday.

I hiked up Mount Teneriffe last summer and remember it being strenuous but nothing that made me hate life, while I knew I was in for a challenge I knew it was one I could accomplish. The trail starts out very easy, about 2 miles on the very flat Mount Teneriffe Road before spotting the sign directing you towards Teneriffe Falls (aka Kamikaze Falls). After the junction things start go get fun, the trail becomes pretty steep and rocky as you make your way up to the falls.  As I made my way up the trail I found myself not really taking in my surroundings and focused on making progress. I wasn’t feeling it, which I found strange, but I pushed on. I made my way to the switchbacks where you start to see the bottom of the falls, I stopped to take some pictures and spent time texting them to friends as I continued on. I finally reached the best view of the falls, snapped a picture and moved on without spending time there to take it all in.

I found the trail that continues up from the falls to the summit of Mount Teneriffe, which is so steep you find yourself using your hands to help you make your way up. This is the part I knew would be challenging.  I pushed on until I made it up to the ridge and took a quick look around, finding myself in a cloud with no views. Onward I went, remembering all the challenging bits as I came across them.  The trail becomes faint as you make your way through the trees along the ridge.  I found myself becoming annoyed as I had to maneuver over a large boulder or up a steep part in the trail, but I continued to push on.  That feeling of annoyance became more prevalent as I hit the snow. I knew there would be snow I was just hoping it would be isolated to the summit. I had trekking poles and microspikes but couldn’t be bothered to get them out, luckily my new pair of Saucony Peregrine 7‎’s have some awesome traction and I slowly made my way through the snow. The snow became more prevalent the further I ascended and the trail became more faint. Then it started snowing.

As I continued up I started thinking about turning back, not because of the physical challenge or being cold, I was actually pretty comfortable, but because I just didn’t feel like hiking anymore.  I started to rationalize turning back, thinking about how I hadn’t seen a single person since the falls and concerned that I might lose track of the trail if it continued to snow.  I knew I was getting close to the summit and should just push on, so I did. The snow had frozen solid in spots and was a bit slippery, it was becoming more difficult to navigate without sending my foot into some soft snow which came up to my knee.  I eventually came to a clearing and looked up to see a group of trees where I expected to see the summit, I wasn’t as close as I thought.  This is the point I actually turned around.

I made my way down feeling somewhat defeated but at the same time relived. Heading down I passed some people on their way up who asked me if I had made it to the top. I told them that I didn’t make it because of the snow although I knew it wasn’t the snow that stopped me an issue but rather my lack of enthusiasm for hiking on this particular day. As I continued down the snow eventually turned to rain. I slowly worked my way down the tricky parts and while my jacket did a good job of keeping me dry for the most of the hike it eventually became saturated and I ended up feeling like Eeyore stuck under my own personal rain cloud.

However, throughout all my gloom and lack of interest in hiking I knew it was only temporary.  I know there will be days when i’m on the PCT and feel like I did hiking up Mount Teneriffe and that’s OK. There will be days that I don’t hike at all and days I feel like giving up but I know I will push through. This hike was a sobering reminder that I need to prepare mentally as well, finding the balance between performance and taking the time to enjoying the hike itself.

P.S.  Don’t worry Teneriffe, i’ll see you again soon.

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