PRISONERS OF OUR OWN DESIGN: EXPLORING THE NATURE-CIVILIZATION DICHOTOMY'S EMOTIONAL IMPACT ON PACIFIC CREST TRAIL THRU-HIKERS
While many report positive changes after completing a long distance hike on the PCT, many who return experience a sense of depression or intense sadness. This sadness can be debilitating, but very little research has been done to explore possible causes and remedies. This thesis argues that volatile environmental conditions on the Pacific Crest Trail act in a similar way to that of entities such as fraternities and the military in that the effort required to be initiated must be justified with the value received. As such, thru-hikers increase the value of the trail for themselves along with the cultural values that the trail may hold. These cultural values are predominantly equality, liberty, and the concept of the sublime. However, as nature is understood to be the opposite of urban environments, urban environments take on qualities of inequality, oppression, and corruption in the eyes of the hiker. These qualities then cause a hiker distress upon returning from their six month journey in that they have to both exist in and participate with such a society.