Introducing Marlene, SOBO on the PCT… because why not?

It would be sensible not to go.

But to be sensible is to be commonplace.

To be commonplace is unpardonable.

-Margaret Gehrke

My name is Marlene Hild, and I am hiking the PCT Southbound this year! I’m 31 years old, born and raised in Charleston, Illinois, but I’ve been a California resident, mostly around the Bay Area, for the last 9 years. I am a farmer and an artist, with my claim to fame being that I am a professional pumpkin carver one month of the year. I’ve never worked the same job for more than a year and a half, and I usually end up moving every couple years. I’m a traveler.

no, not THAT kind of traveler… any other Star Trek fans out there?

How I got here… via the JMT

Last year, I lost my father to pancreatic cancer. He passed away only three months after his diagnosis. During this tumultuous period, my inner Cheryl Strayed got the better of me, and I applied for a permit to hike the John Muir Trail, a 220 mile trail through the Sierra Nevada in California. Little did I know that this is one of the most competitive permits you can apply for. Magically, I immediately got a permit for the whole trail starting in Yosemite Valley and ending at Mount Whitney.

hiking in the mountains

I had no real backpacking experience prior to doing the JMT, but I did a lot of car camping and day hiking. But the urgency of making the most of the time I have on this world overwhelmed anything else I had planned, and I thought I might as well give this whole thru-hiking thing a shot now because, as Mary Oliver wrote, “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

I spent most of September out on the trail, and every day was amazing. Even the day that my eyelids swelled shut because they got so irritated by rock dust from a multi-day windstorm. I loved that thru-hiking provided me with the opportunity to move forward every day, metaphorically and literally, and use my body to its fullest capacity.

When I finished the JMT, I felt a sense of accomplishment, but there were still lingering thoughts. Could I have kept going? I thought so. Yes, I was sick of dehydrated food and my feet hurt, but I felt like a badass. Also, I didn’t get to summit Mount Whitney, so there was unfinished business there. I had met a SOBO PCT hiker (Plants) on one of the passes who told me, “This is how it begins. Next you’ll think… what if I did this, but 10 times longer?

conquering hiker

Kearsarge Pass at sunset

And so… PCT SOBO it is.

I really enjoyed the solitude of my JMT hike. After Labor Day, the crowds out in the park dwindle, and I only saw a handful of people a day. I felt like I knew everyone else who was out on the trail at the same time. My trail family was small, but close. I could hike alone (my preference) and meet up with friends to camp. And the weather in the Sierra in September is PERFECT. I knew I wanted to go through this area again at the same time of the year, but it seemed silly to just do the same hike again… so I figured I’d better add a couple thousand miles to it to make it more interesting!

A SOBO PCT hike for me means less hikers, a later start date that allowed me to save more money before beginning, and goes with my black sheep persona.

A Higher Cause

I’m using my PCT hike to raise money to build a student art gallery in my hometown that was created in memory of my father, who was an art professor at Eastern Illinois University in my hometown for 30 years. 

All funds raised will go to the art gallery, student scholarship, and educational programming at the university in memory of my father. Nothing will go to me or the logistics of my hike. I have worked hard to make sure I can fund my own hike, but we can’t build this art gallery without your help. Please join me on this adventure!

man in front of paintings

Follow along…

I’ll be posting the most updates on my instagram, which is @themarlfox or

You can find out more about me (and see photos of my pumpkin carvings) on my website:

I may even make some videos, which might be uploaded on my YouTube at


I’ll also be posting updates on my GoFundMe page for those who donate to my cause.

Here’s a photo of my dad and I in the Wind River Range when I was 2:

father and daughter hiking

Thumbs up for hiking!

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Comments 2

  • Mike B : Jun 16th

    I’m so happy that you got that JMT permit last year and were introduced to the world of backpacking and the beauty of the Sierra. I spent 18 days hiking around the Sierra last year, starting on August 29. While only a few of the miles were on the JMT, maybe we crossed paths. SOBO is definitely the way to go this year with the light snow in Washington and the heavy snow throughout Oregon and California. Good luck and maybe I’ll see you in the Sierra this year (I can’t get enough of those mountains).

    • Marlene Hild : Jun 18th

      Thanks, Mike! Last September was perfect for backpacking; I’m hoping it is again this year. Hope to see you out there!


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