About 200 miles into attempting the Pacific Crest Trail, overlooking the glittering lights of Palm Springs, the author writes, “I was stunned that I wouldn’t be anywhere else but here. I didn’t recognize myself. I wasn’t on a hike, or even a retreat, but a pilgrimage. How could I leave before it finished its work on me? Chastened by hardship, in awe of the mountains, soul-shaken by wind, I desperately wanted to go on.”
With her husband Porter, Storey embarked on a journey that revealed more than the physical challenges of hiking 2,663 miles. The aches and pains were merely the beginning. Beyond a trail journal, this is a story of self-evaluation and personal growth centered on the author’s relationships with Porter and her mother.
Every evening of reading brought a glimpse of what the trail had to offer Porter and Gail: arduous travel, danger, beauty, solitude and personal revelation. I marveled at their planning along with their resolve.
Without giving too much away, pay particular attention to the title “I Promise Not to Suffer” and what the author learns about herself along with changes in her ability to cope. The title is significant as there are lessons for daily living tucked along the trail. As Gail prepares to take on the Continental Divide Trail, Active Junky dug deeper in a recent interview.
AJ: Has your "I Promise Not to Suffer" distinction between pain and suffering continued to help you since your PCT experience?
GS: This is one of my favorite questions, because it gets to the heart of how the PCT transformed my relationship not just with pain and suffering (in that we all have pain but don't have to suffer), but with myself, with other people, especially my husband, Porter, and with whatever is happening in the moment. The question "Who am I?" continues to deepen for me, with very practical implications for living my everyday life. So much so, that Porter and I are now embarking on a Continental Divide Trail adventure, with him hiking and me along as his trail angel support while I move town to town on a solo meditation retreat.
AJ: How often and in what circumstances do you reflect back on the journey?
GS: Every day? (Laughs) First, every morning I'm thrilled to wake up in bed instead of on the ground, then when I go for my almost daily hike I feel the love for the trail reverberate in my bones. Porter and I often talk about the PCT – the shifting terrain from the Mojave Desert to the snow of the High Sierra, how the challenges of the trail deepened our trust in and love for each other, and how the journey itself taught us to live life as if a mountain lion could be around the next switchback. As it often is, metaphorically speaking.
AJ: Three words of advice for anyone considering the PCT?
- Prepare (route, gear, food).
- Train (physically, emotionally, spiritually).
- Laugh (enjoy every dimension of the journey).