Ask any PCT hiker where they are, and you’ll probably get an answer back immediately, accurate to within ten miles — “Oh, about mile 1270 or so”. (Ten miles is just a morning or afternoon of hiking, so that’s actually pretty accurate, to us.)
But ask any PCT hiker where they actually are, and the hilarious part is we really have no idea. The north and south of the trail is really all we know, and we don’t truly know where we are — what towns, streams, mountains, valleys, or anything else are out there. On a ride into town, someone will ask us, “Oh, did you come through blahblahblah?” A short embarrassed silence, then…”uh, I really have no idea”.
Because we really don’t — all those place names blend together so quickly that none of us have any idea what they are, or remember them for more than thirty seconds after passing a trail sign pointing to Whatsit Creek. It’s just plain impossible to remember (and do you know how many places there are called Bridalveil Falls?). Further, we’re all, of necessity, monomaniacal enough about the trail that it’s everything we can do to remember where the next water is, how many miles we have to go, what the elevation profile is like…trying to also remember what all these places are, particularly when they’re going to be gone forever in an hour or two, is just about impossible.
So we forget — and become, in this odd way, lost souls even as we walk two thousand miles. We know exactly where we are, and yet we have no idea where that is.
(And, before you ask…it’s just about impossible to actually get lost on the PCT. We’ve never come even remotely close to that!)