I first learnt about the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) by the deserted ticket booth at the back entrance to world heritage site Petra. Living in Amman at the time, I was walking a section of the Jordan Trail when a bearded hiker asked: “Is this where we show our Jordan Pass?”
Mitch had travelled from Australia to thru-hike the Jordan Trail as a warm-up for the PCT. Having spent the last couple of nights by himself in the desert, he seemed happy to have found some company. When he told me about his aspiration to hike all the way through California, Oregon and Washington for five months, I thought he was out of his mind. My five-day stint from Dana to Petra had seemed rather heroic to me at the time; five months, on the other hand, unfathomable.
And yet somehow here I was, standing in line outside the U.S. embassy in London on a cold, but sunny morning a year and a half later. After handing over my documents, I queued for the final hurdle: the visa interview. The consular officer smiled sympathetically at the young couple in front of me, struggling to contain their toddler’s inexhaustible energy reserves.
When it was my turn to approach the window, her smile quickly turned into a frown.
Her blank stare made me wonder whether I was conveying my desire to walk all the way from Mexico to Canada adequately enough. “We will fly to San Diego, make our way to Campo and then walk for 2,650 miles until we reach the Canadian border,” I rushed to clarify, without appearing to alleviate any confusion.
Fortunately, the wish to travel the length of the United States on foot is insane enough for it to have to be true. So after a multitude of questions, her verdict was reached: “Your visa application has been approved and will take three to five working days to process.”
And just like that, my attempt at thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail became a reality.