Not Just Another Jessica on the Trail – My Why for Hiking
Right, Who Am I?
Hi, I’m Jessica! I’m originally from the Northern California coast. After moving for school and hustling in San Francisco for the past ~eight years, I shook up life as I knew it and decided to move across the world to South Korea. When I’m not teaching English, I’m aiming to hike all of the peaks this interesting country has to offer! When I return to California later this year, I will be starting my longest journey to date and attempting a northbound thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) because I’ve run out of excuses not to try it for myself.
I didn’t expect to burn out so early in my career. Juggling full-time work and simultaneously working on my master’s full time, I finished school and decided I needed a change. I looked into opportunities for work that would offer me more chances to travel, and that’s how I found teaching abroad. Think along the lines of literally googling “good jobs for travel” and “top jobs abroad.”
I moved to South Korea at the end of March back in 2019. I quickly discovered that my placement here was in an area surrounded by mountains, and dubbed the hottest city in the country, featuring six months of summer weather. What a perfect place to test out my grit for trail life, right? Fortunately for everyone, we won’t have the same humidity on trail that I had to endure while over here.
It’s now 2020, and we’ve welcomed in not only a new year, but the beginning of a new decade. Cue every cliche in the book about new beginnings we’ve heard already back in January.
Now that I’m finishing my teaching year, I will be returning to the states to an open-ended plan. I have no lease to break, no job to quit, and no pets or partner to leave behind—only myself to take care of. Timing has always been a major issue in the past, and recruiting people to complete sections with me has proven equally challenging. Completing the PCT is now my mission, and I can focus on the other tasks at hand.
But, Like, Why Hiking?
Hiking the PCT won’t be my first-ever backpacking experience. Growing up, I had always been interested in doing the outside chores more than dusting the shelves inside (sorry, Mom). I didn’t get into hiking until high school, and backpacking later in college. I did my first backpacking trip in the Trinity Alps Wilderness with my then boyfriend. Neither of us were experts by any means, but it was my first rush of feeling what life on a trail could be like. The thrill of having to navigate snowpacks, and knowing when to turn around (remember, the snow?). After this first trip, we had a better sense of our abilities, how much food you should prepare, our equipment, etc. You mean, hiking in jeans isn’t the sensible thing to do in cold weather?
A Newfound Affinity for Hiker Trash Life
I was excited and ready to plan my next trip after this first weeklong backpacking adventure. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out like how I had wanted. Our next trips to the mountains were postponed. Then postponed again. Then eventually canceled as I had to return to school. It was then that I received a copy of Wild by Cheryl Strayed as a gift to keep reading and stay motivated that someday soon I would return to the mountains where I had been so eager to get back to.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say the book inspired me to start the PCT. Before reading the memoir, I honestly hadn’t heard about the trail. After reading the book, I devoured all thru-hiking related content I could get my hands on. This mostly consisted of antique backpacking guides I’d picked up from Goodwill or used book stores. It’s then that I decided that someday I would start that hike. If she could do it, then I could totally do it, right?
OK, But Why Thru-Hiking Again?
There has always been a fear that someday I will lose the ability to complete physical tasks. As each year passes, we become more vulnerable to succumbing to injury and illness. For me, this fear hits closer to home with relatives who have neurological conditions that progressively evolve and manifest physically: peripheral neuropathy and multiple sclerosis. I’m hiking for them. I’m hiking now while I can. I want to be able to look back on my experiences and know that I did as much as I could in the time I was granted. I’m doing it for them to be proud.
It was one of these family members, who suffers from peripheral neuropathy, who encouraged me to travel and and even move to South Korea. She has always supported me going outside the norm and encouraged me to do everything that I enjoy doing. Before losing much of the feeling in her hands and feet, she’s the one who taught me the importance of going out and doing what we want when we can. She is the only person I know who has driven around the country to not only follow a musician, but also compete in bowling tournaments. Thru-hiking might just be my bowling.
Here’s to calculated risks, and adventuring!
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