To All the Friends and Family I’ve Scared Before

My name is MC. I’m hiking NOBO (northbound) on the PCT. I’m 25 and from Chicago, IL, and I’ve got some explaining to do.

1. What on earth is the PCT, and why are you on it, MaryClare?

PCT stands for Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a 2,650-mile hiking trail that stretches from Campo, CA (the Mexican Border) to Manning Park, British Colombia, Canada. I’m on it because I love hiking, the outdoors, eating ramen, and smelling bad.

2. 2,650 miles is a genuinely unreasonable distance. How long is this gonna take?

You’re definitely not wrong. The farthest I’ve ever walked was the Camino Frances on the Camino de Santiago (aka Thru-Hiking Lite™) in October 2017. It was 500 miles of extreme pain and unadulterated joy, and the experience literally ruined my life. Apparently I think it’s perfectly acceptable to just buzz off to the woods for months at a time these days.

The Camino took me 31 days. This thing is looking more like 4-5 months.

3. Didn’t you literally just finish grad school last week? Isn’t it time to get a Big Girl Job?
No.

4. Aren’t you afraid of bears?

There are bears in the woods??

(Also, yes, I have a bear can for a certain section of the trail that requires it. Other than that, I’ve got a supposedly “smell-proof” food bag and the four weekends of kickboxing lessons I took in ninth grade).

5. Are you going alone?

Imagine walking in the wilderness with the same person for five months straight. My dude, of course I’m going alone. That said, the PCT is an extremely famous hiking trail, and I will be meeting other hikers along the way, just the same as I did when I began the Camino alone in France. About 800 people attempt hike the trail each year (there’s something like a 30% finish rate…), although we all start at different times and in different directions. So yes, I’m going alone, but no, I won’t be alone.

6. How are you going to eat? What are you going to eat?

I carry all my food in my backpack. I’ve sent five boxes to various places throughout the trail, but I’m pretty much winging the food situation other than that. I plan to either hike to towns not far off trail or hitchhike every four to seven days, depending.

My diet is going to consist of pretty much whatever is a) cheapest b) lightest c) cheapest and lightest. Think ramen, tuna, peanut butter, mashed potatoes, Pop-Tarts, Clif bars.

7. What if you get hurt or lost?

I have a SPOT device, which is a personal tracking/GPS device that allows me to send “OK!” and “SOS” messages to my family. They can track my position online. Theoretically. However, if I do die, please remember to play “Surrender” by Cheap Trick at my funeral.

8. I love you, and I support you, and I either a) want to do this but I can’t or b) absolutely do not want to do this and don’t get it at all.

Thank you. 🙂 Your love and support is more than enough. I couldn’t have planned this trip without the love and support of my family and friends, all of whom having been very understanding over the years through whatever strangeness I’ve gotten into. It’s with great sincerity that I say: you make leaving hard. Love you all! See you… not really soon, but soon enough anyway.

Several people have asked if they can send me letters or packages along the way. First of all, thank you. You absolutely do not have to do that. However, if you are one of those people, and you’re trying to figure out what to do, email me at [email protected] or message me on Facebook or Instagram @mczonthepct. I will tell you where I will next be, or a post office down the line.

Now… to stress over my gear list for actual millionth time.

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