There's a saying about trekking in Nepal. You go to see the mountains, but it's the people you never forget. That certainly doesn't trivialize the breathtaking Himalaya. It just points out what a surprise the people of that country are, how much they affect you.
It is a profound experience hiking the PCT to have so many total strangers make such a positive impact on your life. Especially for the younger people who have grown up in a world of Amber alerts and being told never to speak to strangers and not even knowing their neighbors or playing outside unsupervised by adults. To find out that the world really isn't a dangerous place full of predators is an incredible experience of freedom.
As Americans we are so well steeped in pushing ourselves and achieving and trying to be great. The effort to walk border to border is immense, physically and psychologically. But we all do this kind of thing all the time. We strive. We're rugged individuals. There's another world out there on the trail and some are going to find it to have a very profound impact on their lives.
That I, too, found the hike to be all about the people doesn't negate the fact that I also found the hike to be all about the wilderness, and all about the solitude, and all about the effort and achievement, and all about the food.
I'm glad nobody told me about the people before I started my hike. It was a pleasant surprise.