It's hard for me to believe I've spent one hundred days on the PCT. Looking back on my time on the PCT I realize I've hiked the vast majority of the 1800 miles alone. Within the first hundred miles of Oregon I've only hiked with two thru hikers for a total of twenty-five miles, and I'm guessing these numbers could be representative of most of my hike.
Roughly fifty hikers started hiking from the Mexican Border the same day I did, but I soon realized how much time I'd spend by myself. Early on I had to adjust to the solitude. Luckily in Southern California I had good cell service, and the nights I camped by myself I could "check in" with my parents. Over the course of a few weeks solitude became the new normal. Every day I'd run into at least a few thru hikers or section hikers, but the interactions only accounted for a fraction of the day.
On a few occasions I've spent the better part of the day hiking with a fellow hiker or two. Hiking in a group can be entertaining and time often goes by quickly, whereas when I'm alone the hot afternoons can slow to a halt and the miles seem to drag on and on. I see my solitary hike as a mixed blessing, however. I enjoy the freedom I have to choose when and where to stop each day, and I call all the shots; but most afternoons I'd trade my control for some good company.
With all of my alone time I originally thought I'd have time to think through career choices and other big life questions, but I never make any progress. Each day my thought process remains tethered to the same loop of thoughts. Each morning I start thinking about my progress on trail and then I think about the coming miles, and I analyze what I need to accomplish for the day. I then focus on my friends and family, and slowly my mind wonders around, jumping from one shallow pool of thought to the next. I spend so much of my energy on making miles that I can't seem to invest in deeper levels of thought.
I wish my miles of solitude would bring me to a place of enlightenment, but all of the questions and decisions I brought to the trail still remain. In fact, the trail has introduced even more questions, but maybe that's the natural progression on the PCT. Perhaps the trail only widens the horizons instead of refining preexisting thoughts and ideas.