Hiking for Sanity. My Motivations to Hike the PCT

The Formative Years

I’ve worn a lot of different hats in my life.

In my youth I was quiet, shy, athletic, and outdoorsy. I played soccer and basketball, roller skated, and loved to dance even though I never formally took lessons. On an average day you’d find me running around our suburban neighborhood with friends to the woods nearby or in our large backyard digging holes in our “dirt garden.” On most days we stayed outside until the streetlights came on and we heard our mom yelling our names from the front porch. It didn’t matter much if it was summer or winter; we preferred the outdoors unless it was pouring rain.

As a teen, I continued to spend a lot of time outdoors. It was how we spent that time that changed. We would take long walks or ride our bikes to a nearby creek. As we started driving, we would take trips up to Mount Pilchuck to camp, fish, or play in the snow.

The Disconnect

In my early 20s, I started to juggle more hats than I could handle. I became a mother, wife, aerospace mechanic, and domestic abuse victim. I can easily call my 20s the worst decade of my life and the pressure of life was getting to me. I was living in a 25-foot fifth wheel in the middle of nowhere with two kids, a dog, and a narcissist. I was completely isolated and for the first time nature became my prison. A layoff and a job loss complicated my situation and my already unbearable marriage got worse. I was a shell of my former self. I had no self-esteem, severe anxiety, and (unknown to me at the time) PTSD. I tried to leave multiple times and each time my efforts were thwarted with force and manipulation. It took me eight years before I successfully escaped the situation and I was lost! I had no concept of who I was as a person and at 28 years old I was starting from scratch. I walked out with nothing but the clothes on my back and would spend the next six years rebuilding my self-esteem and working hard to create a life for me and my children.

Calm Before the Storm

At 30, I decided it’s time for me to pursue a hobby I’d always wanted to try—ballroom dancing. I needed an outlet for my stress and anxiety. During my first few lessons, I was so nervous! I would freeze if someone walked by the window and watched me. I was so self-conscious and feared being ridiculed. Nathan’s encouragement kept me showing up to lessons. It didn’t take long for my confidence to build. I was a quick study and eventually Nathan convinced me to dance in a showcase. I reluctantly agreed and after that first performance I was hooked. It wasn’t long before my skill level increased, and I started competing in local competitions.

At 33, I married a wonderful supportive man and shortly after saying “I do” our world came crashing down. I’d had six years of calm and now I was reliving the trauma of my past. My children and I suffered deeply during this time. To protect my children from further damage I went to court and as a result endured bankruptcy, wage garnishment, and foreclosure over the next year and a half. My hair started to fall out and I was officially diagnosed with PTSD.

Personal Growth and Empowerment

Shortly after losing everything, fueled with purpose and anger, and still raw from my personal life when the company I worked for pulled a shady move during a non-contract year. I viewed it as a manipulative abuse of power and was DONE with that type of behavior, whether it was a spouse or employer. Scared out of my mind and carrying a bullhorn I led a series of marches and union events that year, winning two awards for my activism.

 

A Return to Nature

It was also during this time when I started frequenting a local nature trail to take long walks. I started walking daily and before long I was running the same trail. Walking in nature filled me with calm and eased my stress in a way I hadn’t experienced before. I searched for books about running and nature and ended up reading a book by Kelly Winters titled Walking Home about her journey on the Appalachian Trail. This was the first seed planted that a journey like this was possible. Over the next few years I was a sponge. I read as many books and magazines about long journeys that I could find. I discovered trail videos on YouTube and day hikes in the Cascades became my favorite hobby.

Some of you may be shaking your head asking, “What in the hell does all that have to do with hiking?”

These Are Reasons I Hike

These are the events in my life that cause me think, “If I  survived THAT, I can do THIS!” and the moments  when I felt that deep guttural fear, took a deep breath and did it anyway!

 

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Comments 6

  • Emily and Parkes : Jan 9th

    You are an inspiration my friend. Honored to share the trail with you this year!

    Reply
    • Shannon R : Jan 10th

      Thanks so much!

      Reply
  • Mark : Jan 14th

    Thanks for sharing your journey. I might see you on the trail this year.

    Reply
  • Shannon R : Jan 15th

    Thanks for taking the time to read it! I start in early April so its possible.

    Reply
  • Deana Ricketts : Jan 16th

    Wow. You remind me so much of myself. Thank you for sharing something so personal. Even more so, adding to my inspiration and motivation for my PCT hike in 2020.

    Reply
    • Shannon Ryker : Jan 17th

      If sharing my story motivates or inspires another person it was worth the effort! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Have a wonderful hike and maybe we will cross paths!

      Reply

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