An Unlikely Turn of Events: A Last-Minute SOBO Permit
Like everyone else, my 2020 was a whirlwind. I had a planned start date on the AT of March 26 and was all ready to go. My sister and I had to postpone our thru-hike a week before and after a whole lot of naivete about the direction of the pandemic, we officially canceled by early May. Our 2020 went in completely unexpected directions after that. She signed on for another season working at her favorite place, the Grand Canyon, and my partner and I moved out of DC and headed out west. In late July, I completed my very first thru-hike—the 100-mile Uinta Highline Trail in northeast Utah—which I hiked with two friends. It was incredibly remote, required a whole lot of route-finding, and was nearly all above 10,000 feet, but it was a magical first thru-hike!
While I was hiking that trail, I decided that the Colorado Trail was the right choice for me in 2020. I spent a week and a half prepping logistics and all of my resupplies and hopped on the trail in Waterton Canyon in mid-August. My partner was my official support vehicle, and he generously met up with me at trailheads every 5-7 days to bring me my resupplies and get me to a shower and laundry without needing to hitch during the pandemic (which I was adamant about). As my first long-distance, solo thru-hike, I prioritized testing my body’s limits and just appreciating the mountains over hiking with others. Because of that, I completed the Colorado Trail in 24 days, just before the San Juans got hit with an unseasonably early Labor Day snowstorm. I was so in love with the big mountains and high altitude out west, so the PCT was becoming even more enticing than the AT.
After some time spent earlier this year in San Francisco and in Seattle (where we finally got vaccinated), my partner and I went on a trip through the Sierra, driving from Sequoia up to Lassen. I got a walk-up permit to hike the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon and got to hang out with several PCT thru-hikers as they were coming over Glen Pass. I felt so jealous that I still hadn’t gotten to do a very long thru-hike, so when I got back to cell service I decided to see if there was any small chance I could hike the PCT this year.
There just so happened to be exactly two open permits from cancellations in the first week of July, so I quickly snagged the later one (exactly three weeks from then) and spent the next couple of days making and solidifying the decision to thru-hike SOBO. This meant canceling a couple of visits with family and adventures with friends, but it’s also the best opportunity I’ve had for I had already managed resupply logistics in a very short window of time on the Colorado Trail, so it has felt pretty straightforward as I prep all of my resupply boxes for Washington. My flight is booked, a few pieces of gear have been swapped, and all that’s left to buy is an ice axe. As the heat wave rages out here, I’m hoping it’ll let up for a bit in July, although I know there will be fire closures to contend with later in the summer. I’m staying flexible and looking forward to the adventure!
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