Going Solo to Fulfill My Dream
When I have been explaining to others about me hiking the PCT, another big question that is asked other than the big “why” is, “Is someone going with you?” I tell them I am going solo. In response, they are concerned about my safety, since I am a small young woman. They see a tiny, blonde college student who doesn’t look like she belongs in the woods. They couldn’t be more wrong. I have been adventurous and playing in the woods since I have been able to walk. I have summited mountains, in the best and worst weather- ice, snow, sleet, and wind. This will be my next challenge in life and there is no better way besides going solo.
One reason for going solo is because nobody wants to go with me. Many of them think that I am crazy for wanting to hike 2,600-plus miles. Not many people are willing to or even want to think of doing anything like that. Other reasons why some willing friends and family are not able to join me is due to lack of gear, time, and money. The trail takes five to six months to do and it is expensive with all the gear, food, and town expenses. Graduating college right before starting the PCT, I will have the time available, along with a future career offer I can start in the fall, which they were gracious enough to allow me this opportunity of a lifetime before I commit to them. I have accumulated most of my gear beforehand and I have been working on my finances ever since.
In other words, I am not willing to give up my dream of doing this amazing life-changing challenge of a thru-hike just because someone thinks that I am crazy and thinks it’s too much of anything besides amazing!
Reality of Partner Hiking
If I did hike with someone the whole time, the reality is that we would have to modify our journey when we have different needs. For both parties and their own experiences it would be better to separate at times due to differences in pace, personalities, and/or injuries or even sickness. Those who travel with a partner tend to need their own time to think and process thoughts and emotions that are going through them while they are on their own journey. Hiking solo is my way of being able to learn and discover myself, my person, all over again and on my own terms, no one else’s. This journey is about me, myself, and I. I am in charge of my next step.
Solo, but Not Alone
I won’t be necessarily alone. There are more than 50 people each day who have thru permits going weeks before and after my start day. A few people who will be starting around the same time have been in contact with me, and I am excited to meet and hopefully become part of a trail family with many of them.
I will also be hiking a bit with my dad along the trail; we will be doing Mount Whitney, and then some parts of Oregon and Washington, along with finishing with me. Plus, I have a little home comfort from my fabulous adventure buddy, Dodger (the ram). Going solo doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some company along the way. It just means I will go at my own pace and focus on myself.
Many people are concerned about my safety due to each possible encounter. I am not so much scared of things possibly happening, as I am prepared to handle them as they come. Here are some of my responses to those questions.
Are You Taking a Gun?
No. Even if I do have one at home, my reason for not taking a gun is that guns are heavy. I am picky about the weight of my pack; the heavier my pack, the slower and the more negative impact on my body. Everything I carry will be efficient and used constantly. I am not going to be fast enough to be able to pull it out and use it safely in an emergency due to different predators. In those cases, I will have bear spray/mace and a knife, and, of course, my trekking poles are a nice defense. Lastly, in some areas of the trail, guns are not permitted. I am prepared in other ways to take care of myself. It’s safer and lighter to use my poles or mace.
What If Something Happens?
Well, things might happen, and they might not. So that is why I will limit things that may increase the likeliness of incidents happening. I will be carrying a Garmin inReach Mini. This tracks my steps, so my family will know where I am on the trail. I will be able to communicate with two-way messaging when there is no cell service. The SOS button will be activated if I am seriously in danger or hurt. If I do hitchhike, I will be in a group or I will be selective and go with my gut feelings. Also, with being by myself for most of the trail, I do have gear that will help me if something happens, such as an ice axe in the Sierra, along with my trekking poles helping me look big and tall against predators.
I will be diligent where I step and take precaution to my actions involving food. My dad has taught me everything I need to know to be safe in the wild. Now it’s time to take what I have learned by being smart and logical when I come face-to-face with those challenges.
Training and working on my strength, mentally and physically, as I come closer to my starting date is the best way for me to prepare for whatever I encounter while on my journey.
Are You Scared? Excited?
Of course. Scared and excited in some aspects. My first time being really alone and reliant on myself and my knowledge is a bit scary, but thrilling. Facing many challenges as all hiker trash do will encourage growth within me. More excited and nervous than scared is how I am currently feeling being so close to starting. Being able to discover myself, strength, courage, and how different my life will be when completed is all very exciting to me. I can’t wait to see what I will become and how different I will look at life. Challenge accepted; here I come.
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