1) Where are you from and how would you like to be identified?
My name is AJ Wright, 26 year-old-male, from Ashby, Massachusetts. A small town right on the border of Southern New Hampshire.
(2) Thinking back to your “day-1 self,” what is going through your mind at the start?
I remember having to pee really badly from the 1hr + car ride from Scout and Frodos. More importantly, I felt like the moment was so surreal—I couldn’t believe that first day was actually happening. After more than a year of planning, this car ride was the beginning of an adventure that I wanted for so long.
(3) Do you feel ready?
I don’t think I ever felt ready. There were things that were tying me to back home in the East and it felt like there was always a reason to potentially back out at the last minute. Diving right into the PCT was the most important decision that I’ve ever done.
(4) What are you most afraid of?
I was most afraid of failing and quitting in the first couple of days or weeks of the trail. After spending countless hours of planning for the trip, I felt like I had so much invested personally and financially it would have been super disappointing to quit over an injury or something along those lines.
(5) What are you most confident about?
I was confident in my gear list. I had nothing that I felt like wasn’t necessary. Many items had dual purposes. I ended up having to switch out my tent but was happy with every other purchase.
(6) Does anybody not want you to go?
I remember a week before I had left for the trail, my family had a going away party for me and questioned me about the aspects of the PCT. Whenever I answered one of their questions, there was a look of shock from their faces. I wouldn’t say that they didn’t want me to go but just never really understood why anyone would want to hike a trail that long. My girlfriend at the time didn’t want me to leave for 5 months. We were really having a tough time before the trail and felt like this would be a real strain on the relationship. Turns out she was right.
(7) What made you decide to take this hike?
I have always dreamed of doing a long-distance thru-hike since I was a kid. I wanted to do the AT but wanted a complete change from the East Coast. I just graduated from my Master’s Program and wanted to do some long-term traveling. I had held back on the idea of a thru hike for so long and didn’t want to compromise on that dream anymore. The PCT seemed like it was a perfect fit.
(8) What do you expect to get from it?
I guess I wanted a sense of accomplishment but I think I just wanted to live in the moment for a while instead of looking for happiness and fulfillment in my future self. That’s something I really hadn’t done in my life at the time.
(9) Have you ever done anything like this before?
I never did anything like that. I did some multi-day backpacking trips but nothing that compares to a thru-hike.
(10) What have you done to prepare?
I quit my job a month early so that I could train full time. I was living near Portland, Maine in early April and would hike around 10 miles a day with a full backpack- sometimes on the beach. I would also go to the gym and walk on the treadmill to figure out which hiking shoes would fit me best. I got my ass kicked the first weeks on the trail.
(11) What are you looking forward to the most?
I was looking forward to getting on the trail after wanting to do this for so long. I wanted to meet new people, to just be on the trail and to catch up with my friend from back home who had started 2 weeks before I did.
(12) When/where did you leave the trail?
Finished the thru-hike on September 12th.
(13) What caused you to leave the trail?
Didn’t leave the trail but had to skip up from Burney to Etna because of a back/achilles injury.
(14) Would you like to add anything else?
I never thought that the trail would have such an impact on me and how it changed my perspective on what I want out of my life. Coming into it I wanted a sense of self-accomplishment and how I’d only get that was to complete the trail. That quickly changed because seeing how awesome and thoughtful the people you met along the way is what really made the trail for me. The landscapes eventually blended in but the people and their perspective is what will stay with me. My friend, Pilgrim, from back home said something that stuck with me while we were getting a hitch in the back of a pickup truck going 70mph down a highway, “We’re meeting people at their bests. Everyday people that you pass on the street and wouldn’t think otherwise.” Halfway through the hike, it didn’t really matter if I finished or not- I felt like I got what I wanted from the trail and what it had to offer. Totally worth it.