How We Ended Up on the PCT Together: Michelle’s Story

Hello, world! My name is Michelle. I’m an occupational therapist from a small town in southern Illinois. I lived in Nashville, Tenn., for five years before making the decision to sell most of my things, pack up my car, and venture west to pursue travel therapy.  I hopped around Oregon for a year and a half, then relocated to Colorado for a 13-week contract in January 2018. I first learned of the PCT while on contract in Roseburg, Ore. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of doing this crazy adventure ever since, but planning a solo hike has seemed insurmountable. I met my hiking partner/boyfriend, Nolan, in Grand Junction a few weeks after moving there. He’s a travel nurse who also lived in Oregon for a time. I knew before we met that he loves adventures and is hiking the PCT this summer, so meeting him was a must. We discussed the PCT on date number one and I, of course, said something like, “Oh my gosh, I want to hike it with you!” He told me I should and it’s something we would offhandedly say during those first few weeks of dating and getting to know one another.

We had “the talk” about a month into dating during a road trip to Moab. My sometimes emotionally unavailable self was being a bit extra and wanted to know where we stood and what would happen once our time in Grand Junction came to an end. We decided to be practical and came to the mutual conclusion that it would be best for us to enjoy our time together and go our separate ways once our contracts were up. He would get lost in the wilderness and I would continue with travel therapy. The end.

My heart wasn’t very agreeable. Unbeknownst to Nolan, I applied for my PCT permit the day after “the talk.” I knew I wanted to hike the PCT, and I knew he was the person I wanted by my side. I wasn’t sure if he would come to the same conclusion, but my intuition told me to be prepared for that possibility.  A week later, while on another road trip, he told me I just needed to do the PCT with him, this time a little more seriously. I told him OK and informed him that I had already applied for my permit. He made me pinky swear that I wouldn’t back out. I received the permit in an email right after that conversation. The decision was made. What better way to test a new relationship than to spend three to four months in the wilderness together? Go big or go break up.

I spent my final month in Grand Junction dealing with an unforeseen illness that required surgery. Nolan stuck by my side through it all. To say our relationship progressed quickly is an understatement. Falling madly in love with each other and committing to something as daunting as the PCT in less than three months sounds absolutely insane. We are well aware that this won’t be easy, individually or as a couple. The odds are probably not in our favor. My thought is that we will make the most of this experience no matter the outcome and, if we make it to the end without murdering each other, ours will be one of the greatest love stories ever.

“You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.”   ~Dr. Seuss

So that’s my/our story. We hope you continue to follow our journey into the unknown!

Read Nolan’s story here.


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Comments 2

  • Avatar
    Denise Waibel-Rycek : May 10th

    So very excited to follow your journeys! Thanks for inviting us along! Remember; it isn’t the ending that is the point; it is the journey. Enjoy and be safe.

  • Avatar
    Rolen Sell : May 10th

    Wow! I am so excited for the two of you and am looking forward to following your fantastic trip…from my “easy chair.” God bless you with safety and an amazing discovery of what a mighty God created all of this.


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