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Over the Mountains and Through the Woods to Start a New Life I Go

Right around this time, two years ago, while eating dinner with a family friend, the topic of thru-hiking was brought up. The friend had completed the Appalachian Trail only a few years prior and was considering the Pacific Crest Trail next. The thought of thru-hiking the PCT has been a faint thought in the back of my mind since college, but I never considered it an attainable goal. It seemed wild, reckless, and intimidating. At the same time, the thought of hiking cross country could provide a sense of freedom and connectedness to the natural world.

My friend reassured me that while the thought of such an expedition can be daunting and, to some flat-out crazy, it would be an adventure of a lifetime. If I decided to take the plunge, I would have the chance to meet great like-minded people and learn more about myself than ever before while visiting some of the most beautiful places the U.S. has to offer. It sounded like the reset button that I needed to push. If only I could get the courage to push it.

Leaving dinner, the original spark of interest I had to hike the 2,650 miles of trail ignited into a smoldering tender. That tender slowly grew into a small flame throughout 2020 and into a wildfire in 2021. At the start of the Covid shutdown, I thought I had everything sorted out and was happy with how my life was shaping up. But, the longer it dragged on, the more impatient I became, and I slowly started realizing I was not going to be happy living the "normal" life. In my mind, that consists of settling down, working a 9-5 job, going to kid's sporting events, hosting holiday dinners, and competing to be the best parent for the rest of my life. I do not give consent to that! I once imagined following this typical lifestyle, and I am sure that I will return from my adventures ready to quiet down one day. For now, I want to embrace boundlessness. I am ready to push the reset button.

Traveling from Mexico to Canada through Califonia, Oregon, and Washington, the Pacific Crest Trail will be my home for six months this summer. Covering 2,650 miles of wilderness, I hope to expose myself to the most tremendous challenge I have ever faced to grow into a more fearless woman who is no longer afraid of taking significant risks to achieving whatever goal I set before me. I do not want to be haunted in the future by what-if thoughts. I am at the perfect place in my life to pack everything up, say "goodbye, and I'll see you later."

Of course, to attempt this dream, there are downsides. While my family has supported my ambitions, I know they worry. It isn't a walk in a park. There are going to be instances where we could be in danger. High river crossings, predators, wildfires, and lack of water sources are some of the threats we will face. Having a contingency plan in hopes of never needing it is the best prepared we can be. I will carry my loved ones in my heart through the desert, across rivers, into the mountains, and around volcanos and lakes.

I will also have to leave behind the first job out of college that I thought would be my lifelong career. While I have gained so much experience and met some wonderful people, I know it is time to move on to something that makes me feel more self-fulfilled. I am so thankful for the support and guidance everyone at Marlin Landscape provided me over the last five years. Because of you all, I have grown exponentially as a person and no longer fear learning from my mistakes. At this time, I don't know what my next stop will be, but I have 2,650 miles to figure it out. Ideally, whatever is next will allow me to help others in need. If anyone has any ideas, I am all ears.

Many thru-hikers begin their journey solo. I had come to the recognition that I might have to make this pilgrimage unaccompanied. However, I will not be setting out alone to make some of you less worried. My mother doesn't think I am that insane and instead wants to be my companion along the way, or she may and is only braving the wilderness to make sure I am safe. Either way, given recent events, I am looking forward to spending as many miles with her as I can. Maybe we'll become best friends by the end, or get so tired of each other we'll need a month-long break. Only time and miles will tell. One thing is for sure, she will undoubtedly be eating better than me. Given my lack of motivation to prepare food in everyday life, my diet will consist of whatever dehydrated foods I can smoosh into my pack. On the other hand, she has recipes for fancy ultralight backpacking meals.

March 20, 2022, I will set out to experience living free in a whole new way. As the departure approaches closer and closer, I begin to get more nervous. Not because I don't believe I have the willpower and strength to accomplish this goal, but because I will leave behind my comfortable lifestyle and the ones I love. Growing up, and still, now, I am such a homebody. More attached to the people than a physical place, I always became homesick at camps and eventually stopped going. I do not think that my childhood suffered because of this. I still participated in many extracurricular activities that I believed shaped me more than camp would have. It just meant that when I went away to college, I would have to work my way out of a dark place. Trekking cross-country along the PCT will be similar to the first year of college. Completely new, unfathomably uncomfortable, and mentally debilitating at times.

These ideas in my mind don't mean I only think the experience will be a miserable one. I catch myself romanticizing the adventure a lot of times, but remind myself to think back to July 2020, when I hiked my very first 14er (a peak of a mountain exceeding 14,000ft+ in elevation). It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, being mentally and physically exhausted almost the entire expedition. I also remember how proud I was for pushing on to the summit when I wanted to give up several times. This experience is what keeps me grounded, so I don't fly away to Neverland. The only way to know what you can do is to jump right into it. Of course, some preparation is recommended.

I am most looking forward to meeting new people, experiencing trail magic, seeing spectacular views, and counting how many pairs of shoes I go through. Things that I am not looking forward to include being miserably cold and wet, digging catholes, coming across a bear (or anything that could kill me), and physical pain. Although I am still working on our itinerary, with a permitted start date of March 20, 2022, and a completion date of September 22, 2022, we will cover an average of 14.2 miles a day for 186 days. Along the way, we will make time to enjoy new cities and sites that we come across and take breaks, so our bodies get the necessary rest.

During this grand adventure, I will do my best to keep my blog and Instagram up to date on how things are going. A significant amount of planning goes into such a long backpacking trip, especially when carrying all of your gear on your back. I plan on going into more detail about how I am preparing for the PCT for those interested. At this moment, I am still piecing together the puzzle myself. My overarching goal is to educate and empower people to step outside their comfort zones to do something they might be scared to try. To do that, I must first step outside my comfort zone to set the precedence. I hope you will follow me on this journey!


*There are 2,650 miles of PCT trail if anyone decides they would like to visit my new home, step away from civilization, and explore the West with me.

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