There are so many adventures to have on this planet. So many unique areas to explore, and multitudes of trails criss-crossing the landscape. Since humans only have one life to live, it seems natural to seek out new and foreign trips, and this year I was asked by many hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail why I chose to hike from Mexico to Canada for a third time.
"Haven't you seen it all? Why keep going back?"
To me the answer seems simple. My experiences on trail are in constant flux, and every day is different. There are so many variables that change day to day, month to month, and year to year. Of course there are the obvious changes, like weather. The desert flora changes, depending on the time of year I begin my hike, along with variable seasonal differences. Some days the Sierra is a cold and unforgiving landscape, yet the following one will be bathed in sunshine and warmth. Oregon and Washington can be sunny, rainy, and sometimes a combination of both! While the repetitive act of hiking day after day can seem monotonous, watching the seasons change makes every hike a unique experience.
Another reason I don't get tired of repeating the same trail is the people I meet. Every year brings a new cast of characters, and I get to meet many of them as I hike along the well worn path we all share. Some of these hikers end up being close friends, and I now have hundreds of interesting people to visit when my travels take me across this continent, or even overseas! Visiting Trail Angels is like coming home for the holidays, and these members of my family are just as important to me as my biological roots. Hiking the PCT (or any of the other trails I've repeated multiple times) keeps me in contact with my tribe.
Most importantly, the biggest factor of change is within me. Every year I set out, I'm different. When I did my first thru hike, I was 26 years old, and the Ice Age Trail was where I cut my teeth. Hiking the trails has helped me mature and appreciate the world around me, and at 35 I can look back and see how my experiences have shaped my personality. I'm not done evolving, and I can't imagine a better petri dish than a long distance trail. Observing the same trail through new and older eyes allows me to notice things I didn't on hikes past, and every thru hike is an eye opening experience full of wonder and awe.
Life has smiled on me, and I've been fortunate enough to hike 20,000 miles on the long distance trails over the past ten years. These experiences have forged me into the man I always wanted to be, and I couldn't imagine a truer embodiment of success. Not many people get to live their dreams. Not to mention, with credentials like these, I get offered free creamer every time I order coffee. Totally worth it!
This post was written by Trail Ambassador Lint Bunting.