Flat Earth (Joris)

Mile 2,591


1)      Where are you from?

- The Netherlands


2)      What day did you start?

- May 9th


3)      What day did you finish?

- October 6th


4)      Do you have a trail-name?

- Yes, it was Flat Earth


5)      If so, where did it come from?

- My buddy Photo-op suggested it to me several weeks out on trail. I was pretty adamant about finding flat campsites when we made camp. It just makes for a lot better sleep for me. It had happened that I passed up sites which others would deem perfectly fine. Instead while the others settled in, I would look for someplace better. Also, I am from the Netherlands, which is probably one of the flattest places in the world. Ironically, I graduated as a geologist, so I’m pretty confident the earth is not flat. I did get the question if I was a Flat-Earther a lot on trail though. With a smile I always told the other hikers they needn’t worry.


6)      What did you dream of when things weren’t going well?

- Getting to town (where getting comfortable is a lot more accessible), home, family & friends, warm meals, showers, watching a movie, playing guitar, access to all my music.


7)      Did you experience anything miraculous?

- No shortage of miracles on the PCT; getting that hitch just before nightfall when you really can’t stand to spend another night in the wild, that cooler with icy-cold soda’s when you’ve been breathing in dust and being tormented by the scorching sun for hours on end, a smile and a little chat from a stranger when you need a pick-me-up the most, a shared state of reverie with other thru-hikers when you’re completely immersed in the amazing surroundings you find yourself in day after day, the realization that if you put your mind to something big you want to do and love (like hiking 2650 miles), you can do it.


8)      Any memorable encounters with the elements, or wildlife?

- On day 1 , several hours into my hike, I was startled by a rattle-snake which had hidden in the crack of a boulder only a couple feet off trail. It scared the living day-light out of me and the adrenaline-rush that early into my adventure made me realise quickly that I was really out in the wild now (we don’t get rattle-snakes back home).
More than that I learned that the elements, Mother Nature, is to be respected and appreciated. She’s fierce.  No matter how much you prepare, she’ll always find ways to surprise you, to test you, to catch you off guard. Every time you start to think that you’ve got this ‘living- in- the- wild-thing’ pretty figured out, the trail throws something new at you. It can make you feel very small as a human. I found that wonderfully humbling.


9)      Think back of your ‘pre-hike self”. Now think of yourself here at the end. Has anything changed?

- Well, my feet hurt in ways they’ve never hurt before, so that has changed. What’s more important is how the trail has taught me about simplicity and gratitude. Out there I’ve learned that you don’t need a whole lot feel good. Everything you need in a backpack, surrounded by like-minded souls with a shared purpose goes a very long way. The kindness of people along the trail and all the wonderful hikers has proven time and time and time again that there’s an abundance of good in this world. Sometimes in the hectic rat-race like lifestyle of my pre-hike, that was not that easy to find. The trail has showed me it’s there, and for that and all the beautiful things I’ve seen, I’m immensely grateful.


10)   Now that you are ‘off-trail’, what do you miss the most?

- Oh there are many things. The space. The wide-open spaces you find yourself in all the time. I just love that feeling.
The simplicity of life on trail; as soon as you’ve packed that pack and set out for a multiple day stretch, pretty much the only thing you have to do is put one foot in front of the other and deal with your surroundings in the moment. There’s no mental clutter.
The shared  ‘understanding of what we’ve gone through’ with the other thru-hikers. In the end there were hardly words necessary. I got the feeling that through nearing the end of the hike, a shared sense of amazement, relief and appreciation started building in all of us, until upon reaching the end it just radiates out a thru-hiker. It’s sometimes hard to not have people around you who know exactly what you’ve gone through.


11)   Before you started, what were you most afraid of?

- To not finish. To not make it to the Canadian border.
I really wanted to make it all the way, hike all 2650 miles to Canada so badly! The day I read about the existence of the PCT I realized that this was something that I wanted to do at some point in my life. Up until starting my hike I don’t think there’s been a day that I didn’t think about it. This was something I strongly felt I had to do. And as time passed, an intense desire rose to finish it, and a fear to not (for whatever reason) be able to make it.


12)   Now that you are finished, what are you most afraid of?

- This has not changed; to not do the things I really want to do. Hiking the PCT has showed me that the only thing getting in your own way is you.


13)   What is the difference between life on trail and off-trail?

- A sense of freedom. On trail you’re stripped off all pretense, reputation, image and all the fake intentions that come with those. People on trail are a very pure and real form of themselves, because they literally have nothing, just like everybody else out there. For me it was a breath of fresh air to only be surrounded with people who don’t act, but just are.


14)   Would you like to add anything else?

- I would really like to encourage people who have a desire to do something scary, to do it! Be it hiking the PCT, or something completely different. Getting out of your comfort-zone is an amazing thing. You never know what you’ll find behind the uncomfortable, the pain, the struggle, but I believe that’s where real growth lies. In whatever way that growth may manifest itself.
So be afraid, that’s okay. But do what you really want to do.
As for hiking the PCT? I strongly recommend it to anybody.
It will change your life.