Why I’m not Hiking the Te Araroa Trail

Or the why I chose the Pacific Crest Trail. 

I have gotten the question many times over, with being in New Zealand. “Why aren’t hiking the Te Araroa (TA)?”

The short list for my answers:

  1. This is my first thru-hike.
  2. California is home and knowing I have my amazing family/friends close by as a support network is comforting.
  3. The PCT is a more established trail and community.
  4. A stretch of the PCT is where I fell in love with the wilderness even though I didn’t know I was on it.

My parents’ first backpacking trip while visiting me in New Zealand.

The long answer

Let’s dive deeper into the last one and start from the beginning. About once a year growing up my family would go on car camping trips, and I loved it. Those trips were my first taste of the outdoors and what gave me my foundation for the desire to explore. It may have never been in the rugged wilderness, but my parents were damn good at it.

They even gave me a preliminary course in Leave No Trace without even knowing what that meant themselves. I remember when packing up camp my mom would  hand my brother and me (sometimes my cousins or a close family friend) trash bags and told us, “Whoever collects the most trash gets a prize.” To this day I still follow this principle of leave it better then you find it. 

Those car camping trips were amazing, but we never really went to that remote of locations. Enter my good friend Kyle and his family around sophomore year of high school. They took me on my first trip to Echo Lake and the Desolation Wilderness. Kyle’s dad grew up making yearly trips to Echo and the Desolation. It was a second home for him. We always stayed at one of the cabins on Lower Echo Lake, but his dad would guide us on adventures deeper into the Desolation during the day. I instantly fell in love with Lake Aloha and all surrounding it. I had stepped foot on the PCT for the first time and didn’t even know it. I continued to go on their trip to Echo for a few more years. 

Entering the wild.

I then moved off to college and found myself even closer to Echo Lake. I started doing longer day trips to hike from Echo to Aloha and then back. It was on these trips when I started to take notice of the people lugging big packs and backpacking out there. My interest was definitely perked.

While attending college I made the best decision of my life to study abroad in Australia for a year. It was here that opened up my eyes to all that was out there. It ultimately changed my mind-set. I decided to no longer wait for others or the “right” time to do things. Instead I started to make moves to make my dreams come true.

The Aussie crew.

First step upon returning to the States was to start buying gear to get me farther out there and finally on my first backpacking trip. That trip was the Point Reyes National Seashore with close to a 50-pound pack; nonetheless, I was hooked. I learned my lesson and started to get my gear dialed in  over many different weekend trips. I finally got my chance to backpack out to Lake Aloha and go on some other amazing trips, like Havasu Falls and the Lost Coast Trail. 

During this time I started reading some of John Muir’s writings and about his life. This gave me the idea that after I honed in my skills I would set out for the John Muir Trail (JMT). The idea quickly began to progress. I started to realize what those Pacific Crest Trail signs were that I saw out in the Desolation. When I found out that the PCT overlapped with the JMT I knew I had to give it a go.

Via Zach


My list could go on with why I chose the PCT, but bottom line is I fell in love with it before I knew what it was. That little six-mile section between Echo and Aloha holds a special place in my heart for where the wild captured my soul. If a six-mile stretch of the PCT could change my life so much imagine what the remaining 2,647 will do.

Stay tuned to find out.

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Comments 4

  • Shannon : Dec 13th

    Nice read! It is so amazing what an influence our parents have on us. As a mother of 3 girls, that is definitely not lost on me. 🙂

    • Kevin Neft : Dec 20th

      You will be and already are such an inspiration for them!

  • Chloe : Dec 19th

    This is so amazing cousin! I can’t wait to see how this goes and all the beautiful pictures! I need to make it to New Zealand to visit! Miss you 🙂

    • Kevin Neft : Dec 20th

      Really excited to be sharing the journey with all you! No doubt your guys’ unconditional support will be huge for me in pushing through this thing.


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