Live Intentionally: Inspired Chemo Nurse Preparing for the PCT

A satisfied grin crept across my face as I neatly printed the words, “To Allison, From Santa” on a package neatly wrapped in llama print Christmas paper. I tucked it under the three-foot tree that was gifted to us, knowing that I’d act surprised when I opened yet another piece of backpacking gear that I bought for myself on Christmas.

The countdown timer on my phone ticks away the days, reminding me that my PCT start date is just three months away. My excitement builds as we watch videos and read books by former thru-hikers (more food hauls, please!).

How Did You Hear About the PCT?

Each person has a unique calling to the trail. Like many others, Wild was my first exposure to the PCT. Cheryl Strayed was 22 years old when her mom died of cancer. I was 19. I read her book while trying to “fake it till you make it” during an awkward family Christmas without my mom. At first, I was drawn to her character’s epic trek following the loss of her mom. I felt connected to her in grief and her desperate longing for adventure. 

Redirected Purpose

Since then I have done so many incredible things shaped by the loss I faced at 19. I spent half a decade coaching the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program for cancer survivors, raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Ulman Cancer Fund by biking and running across America, and started my incredible career as a (traveling) oncology certified nurse. Slowly I realized that perhaps I have my poop more in a group than my own idol. I accomplished all of these great things in the wake of grief. I’m thankful to have skipped the painful choices she made that lead her to the trail (read: hard drugs, infidelity, divorce). I was lucky enough to cope with my grief in a positive, generous, and uplifting way. 


Why the PCT?

Now when people ask me, “Why do you want to do the PCT? The whole PCT?” My answer nods to my original inspiration and focuses more on a new and flourishing motivation. I have always been drawn to huge adventures. I want to do the larger than life, best, biggest, and over the top version of a thing you can do. Sure, I could ride my bike to the ice cream store, but what if I rode it from coast to coast? My weekend backpacking trips in Northern Idaho and British Columbia became my favorite diversion. Because I am who I am, I wanted to do the longest and most adventurous version of my main hobby. THE PCT. 

I want to do it because it’s there. Because it’s huge. And because most people think the idea is deranged. The obsession lingers and grows and now it’s finally time.

No Job? No Money? No Regrets

I chose to start my hike in the year 2020 to balance two very conflicting values in my life. I wanted to be completely debt free when I started the trail. When I graduated from nursing school in 2016 I made a plan, stuck to it, and paid off nearly $28,000 of student loan debt, auto loans, and credit cards. I wanted to pursue my aspiration as soon as humanly possible. Working as an oncology nurse, I am all too familiar with the ways life and illness can sideline a person’s plans. My patients consistently and almost unanimously tell me they regret waiting to pursue what they really wanted out of life. The people I’ve taken care of lament deferring their plans for when something was just right. Time, money, fear, laziness, and complacency all work together to tell us that we will get to our goals later. My patients inspire me to live life as fully and intentionally as possible, and to do it now.

PCT March 22, 2019!

If you’re still reading this I’d be honored if you chose to be a part of this journey by reading along. I’ll be sharing my experiences here so you can be a part of me becoming the dirtiest, happiest, hiker trash version of myself.

Your favorite dirtbag nurse,


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Comments 7

  • Drew Boswell : Dec 26th

    This: “My patients consistently and almost unanimously tell me they regret waiting to pursue what they really wanted out of life. ” I’m one of the lucky ones who made it through diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and (so far) recovery. Cancer will change one’s priorities. We all have the same life expectancy – one. One life. Go climb your mountains, and thanks for reminding me to keep climbing my own. Cheers.

    • Allison Perrine : Jan 6th

      Thanks for sharing! What are your big mountains? Got any exciting goals?

  • Tracey : Dec 29th

    You are a wise person. I wish you the best of luck on your journey. I try to trail angel in my area near the PCT. Maybe I can catch you as you come off the Hat Creek Rim.

    • Allison Perrine : Jan 6th

      That would be incredible because I know that is a very hot, dry, and difficult stretch. Follow along and stay in touch 🙂

  • Carolyn : Dec 29th

    Best wishes

  • Jim Collins : Jan 5th

    What an inspiration! I’m not leaving till March 28. Maybe I’ll catch you. We have a mutual friends in Elevator and Dustbuster.

    • Allison Perrine : Jan 6th

      Are you also from Spokane or are you a fellow thru-hiker?


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