I met Zachary Kermicle through my cousin. Like most “trail people”, I was drawn immediately to his wit, humor, curiosity for life, and his insane ability to seep every ounce of consciousness from his adventures. Zac Lives Boldly.
We are all in such a hurry every day. Appointments, work, family, life, school … you name it. What I love most about the trail? The hurry of life disappears. You meet people over someone else’s timing, making it possible to create new connections. Simplicity trumps chaos as you realize how completely relatable that we all are to one another.
Enjoy my new trail friend, Zac. Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, he now resides in Colorado. An incredible 27 year old man, I’m thankful he has chosen to share a lesson learned from the Pacific Crest Trail with all of us. In his own words …
Follow Zac (aka Zac Sparrow):
Life After the PCT: How to Keep Walking
I just walked from Mexico to Canada. I hiked 2,650 miles over the course of 158 days. The PCT, or Pacific Crest Trail, courses through five national monuments, five state parks, six national parks, 25 national forest units, and 48 federal wilderness areas. The trail crosses over 57 major mountain passes and dips into 19 major canyons while meandering past more than 1,000 lakes and tarns. It may have been the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, but it was without a doubt the best experience of my life. And now, it’s over…
Life on the trail teaches you many things.
From learning to appreciate each day for what it is, to taking those days just one at a time, the PCT is full of valuable life lessons. As a hiker, it’s up to us to then apply those lessons learned in an everyday manner, but sometimes that can prove to be difficult.
First and foremost, I didn’t want the trail to be over. I still don’t. The people that I met and the experiences that I had were so beautiful and so powerful that I have tears running down my face right now as I’m typing this. I miss my friends. I miss the quiet of the pine forests. I miss the simple day to day routine. I miss hiking…
Besides not wanting the hike to end, I wasn’t exactly stoked to return to ‘real life’ either. Not having much contact with the outside world for almost half a year couldn’t have come at a better time. I was not excited about plugging myself back in. My only real concerns on trail had been food, water, and shelter. That’s it. Life moved at 3 miles an hour, and you could really see it. You could smell it. I didn’t want to return to life at 60 m.p.h., with cell phones and Facebook, fluorescent lights and microwaves, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton… But, I did. I had to. Knowing full well that it had to happen sometime, I got in a car and drove back into reality.
I’ve now been done hiking for exactly one month.
I returned to my parents’ home in Madison, Wisconsin to visit friends and family, and to take some time to decompress and reflect on my journey. During the course of the last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about my fears. It’s funny, thinking about fear after having just completed something that encapsulates a lot of people’s fears in life. I went with little to no access to technology or the outside world. I ate boring food, and a lot of the same. I didn’t have regular access to showers or laundry, and the thought of using things like makeup or deodorant was laughable.
I was hot, hungry, sweaty, tired, cold, wet, and I hurt all over, but I’ve never been happier.
The hardest part of the trail was finishing it.
I felt like Superman because of how impervious I was to things like physical pain or discomfort, the elements, and the mental challenge of walking almost 3,000 miles, yet when the trail started to come to a close, I was afraid. I was afraid of missing my trail family, of getting too settled back into ‘The Routine’, and of how long it was going to be before I could go adventuring again. I was afraid of forgetting how beautiful the simplicity of life on trail is, of going back to work and being seduced by comfort and technology and the almighty dollar. I was afraid, and I still am.
I am afraid every single day that I will give in to my fears. The way I see it, you can let fear limit you, or you can let it empower you. You can be defined by how you cowered from your fear, or how you conquered it.
That moment in life when you choose to do something that you’re afraid of is one of the most powerful things a human can experience because of how much we grow in that moment.
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if our effort results in success or failure. What matters is that you tried – and, I’ll bet that you didn’t get the stones to try this new thing by thinking about all the ways that it could go wrong.
Action cures fear.
So, what’s all this mean? All of this reflection and creative writing means nothing if we can’t apply it to everyday life. It means you can do whatever you want, you simply have to try. It means recognizing what you’re afraid of, and then kicking that fear right in the ass: having the presence of mind to identify your fears, and having the mental fortitude to tackle them. It means realizing that we’re all afraid, some of us have simply found a way to use this toxin as a fuel.
“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky.” Thich Nhat Hanh