Hiking Toward Home on the Pacific Crest Trail

I am sitting here writing this on my first official day of unemployment (ahhh!), just under two weeks away from my PCT start date (ahhh again!). It doesn’t feel quite real yet that I’ll be taking my first steps from the Southern terminus so soon, but it’s getting more and more real every day!

First, allow me to introduce myself…

For anyone who happens to be reading this who doesn’t already know me (welcome!), I’ll start with a brief introduction.

The basics: Hi! My name is Jillian. I use she/her pronouns. I’m in my mid-twenties.

I’ve spent most of my life on a little island in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by the Salish Sea and Washington’s temperate forests. I attended university in British Columbia and got my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies before returning to my hometown during the pandemic, where I’ve been for the last few years.

I love spending time outside, of course, but also enjoy a cozy day at home with a good book and a cup of tea. I was and still am a theatre and band kid (I come from a very musical household) and a big nerd (think Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars… I love it all).

Why do I want to hike the PCT?

From a very young age, my parents would take my sister and me on hikes and camping trips, so I grew up being very comfortable in the outdoors and I continued to be drawn to natural spaces as I grew older.

Me (left), my dad, and my sister on a hike, circa 2004. Mama’s behind the camera.

I got to experience backpacking for the first time in high school—first on a quick overnighter with my dad and sister and then on a week-long trip to the Grand Canyon with my school’s hiking club. Being out in the backcountry with everything I needed to survive strapped to my back, getting to see incredible views that couldn’t be reached any other way, felt so empowering and humbling all in one and I was immediately hooked.

I went on a couple more backpacking trips in college with my partner at the time and then braved some shorter solo trips after we broke up. I quickly realized I liked hiking alone just fine!

Backpacking in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, 2020.

When I first heard about the Pacific Crest Trail, years ago, I knew it was something I wanted to do someday. A hiking trail that went all the way up the West Coast from Mexico to Canada?! Awesome.

Last year, “someday” started looking like 2024 as I decided I was ready to move on from my job and my parents’ house and pondered what I wanted my next steps to be. I wasn’t ready to settle into a career and new city just yet, and since I have no big responsibilities, relationships, or dependents holding me down right now, it seemed as good a time as ever to take the leap and attempt a thru-hike.

As a California/Washington girly, the PCT called to me more than the AT or other long trails because the West Coast is my coast. And as a northbound hiker, I’ll be hiking toward home.

Hopes and fears…

I’ve been trying not to put too many expectations on my thru-hike attempt because I know there’s a lot that’s not in my control and I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment or frustration if the journey isn’t everything I hope it will be.

That said, it’s nearly impossible not to imagine what the experience will be like when I’ve spent the last year reading and watching other hikers’ stories, researching gear and trail culture, and getting excited for my own adventure.

I would love to make it to Canada. I’m going to try my best to complete a full thru, although I know the statistics are against me and the odds of having to skip sections are high depending on weather events like snow storms and wildfires.

I’m excited to do something that is solely for me—for my own personal growth and enjoyment. No matter how my hike goes, I know it’s going to challenge me in new ways every day and will take a lot of mental and physical endurance. I’m a little terrified, but mostly excited to see how the trail shapes me into a stronger, more confident version of myself.

I can’t wait to meet the other hikers embarking on this journey alongside me! Being lonely and homesick is definitely a worry of mine and I’m not always the best at sparking up conversations with strangers. I’m hopeful that this experience will force me out of my shell a little bit and I’ll meet some super cool new friends along the way!

No matter what, hiking the PCT is bound to be a grand adventure and the unpredictability is part of what will make it so! I’m eagerly awaiting my arrival at the US/Mexico border and everything that will come after. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

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Comments 5

  • Mama : Mar 26th

    I’m so excited for this amazing adventure you’re about to take! (And a bit worried, too, but I refuse to marinate in worry! That’s where prayer helps.) you are an inspiration, Jillian. I’m so proud of you!

  • Shelby : Mar 26th

    So excited for you to start this journey!! I will be cheering you on every step of the way!

  • Terry and Dakota : Mar 28th

    Happy trails Jillian. I think all your expectations and then some will be met. The trail will give and take from you, as you allow it to. Good luck and never quit on a bad day.

  • Alisa Schoultz : Mar 30th

    We’re excited to follow along with you as you embark on this amazing adventure. We’ll be thinking and praying for you. All our best! 😘

  • Janet : Apr 1st

    May every moment of your trek be blessed. May angels surround you and greet you as you journey. Here’s a Celtic prayer that I will be praying for you:

    Bless to me the land whither I am bound,
    Bless to me the thing my eye shall see,
    Bless to me the thing my purpose discerns,
    God of life, bless my condition.

    Bless the journey whereon I go,
    Bless the earth that is under my foot,
    Bless the matter which I seek,
    King of glory, bless my condition.

    I’m holding you in prayer with your lovely grandmother Kitty.


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