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.

My dad and me on the summit of Mount Hood.

Why 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.

Me and Dodger – Oregon’s section G.

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.

Safety Concerns

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.

My first time fording a river.

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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Comments 13

  • Avatar
    Kenneth W Anderson : Feb 16th

    Great blog post Kali! I hope we may get a chance to talk again before you start your hike. My wife would really like to meet you too and have a chance to “pick your brain” and compare notes. We’re both excited to follow your blogs once you’re actually out on the trail too!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Kali Cecil : Feb 17th

      Thank you! Yes, absolutely, I will send a email at some point next week.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Sandy : Feb 17th

    Love your blog! I am 60 and have been hiking my whole life. My daughter is 27 and I hope we can do the trail together. You are an inspiration and we will look forward to your feedback as you undertake this tremendous feat!
    Good luck and God Bless!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Kali Cecil : Feb 17th

      Thank you! Same goes to you, good luck!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    AP : Feb 17th

    This post randomly popped up on my homepage, and I’m glad I clicked it. I am a 30 year old single woman and I have been doing solo backpacking adventures for the last decade. I totally know how you feel when people react to you telling them you’re doing something alone. Some are supportive. Many are shocked. Everyone worries. I always get asked (especially in Arizona) if I carry a gun. Heck no! Bear spray and a pocket knife is all. I hitchhike alone too. You’re right, you just go with your gut. Don’t get in the car with any creepy men, and especially don’t get in a situation where you’re outnumbered. I have never carried an emergency beacon but am thinking about getting one. I don’t feel the need to justify my preference toward going solo to other people. They either get it or they don’t. Some people are totally incapable of being alone with themselves or making their own decisions. That’s exactly what I enjoy. I enjoy the quiet meditation of hiking and I like to make decisions spur of the moment, and not have to consult or compromise with anyone. Anyway, good for you! The more badass, strong, brave, independent women that get out there and do their thing, the better. We can do it just as well as the men can. Have fun on the PCT, sister! I solo thru-ed the JMT last summer to celebrate my 30th and it was amazing!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Kali Cecil : Feb 17th

      Yes exactly! I’m excited and looking forward to it. Good luck on your next adventures!

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Rhonda : Feb 17th

      I’m always so inspired when I read articles like this. I just started back packing a few years ago. I’m 57.. never to later to hit the trails.
      Sounds like you have great family support and knowledge passed down to you. That’s awesome.
      Wishing you a fantastic journey and thank you for paving the path for other ladies to adventure out.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Beth McCarthy : Feb 17th

    Excited for you Kali and cheering you on!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Kali Cecil : Feb 17th

      Thank you!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Julie Blenn : Feb 17th

    You go, Sistah !!! Good for you! I live in White Salmon Washington, so if you’d like to take a day or two off, I could easily come pick you up in Cascade Locks when you get there. I have a lovely guest room in a house with a fantastic view, and would be more than happy to host you.

    I am 65, and attempted to hike the JMT last year, but tore a muscle literally the day before our permit started. Majorly bummed. I have plans to hike in Greenland this year. There is nothing as peaceful and rewarding as being in the woods alone.

    You can text me or email me at some point on your journey, and let me know if you would like to visit. I am very excited for you!

    Julie

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Kali Cecil : Feb 17th

      Thank you! I will reach out once time comes closer, I am planning on hitting cascade Locks during pct days.
      That’s a bummer about the injury, hope Greenland is better luck!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Christopher Griffith : Feb 17th

    Have a great and safe hike! Followed Sarah Dhooma’s trip last year online.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Kali Cecil : Feb 17th

      Thank you, I will try to do my best! I will have to look into her.

      Reply

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