Part 1: Committing to the Trail

Anyone who knows me, knows I am painfully indecisive and struggle to make big commitments. And a 6 month walk is a big big commitment. And somehow I’ve made the commitment but I’ve made it slowly over many years, so slowly that I almost didn’t notice, until I finally had to take the plunge, commit to the permit and ask my work for leave. So here are some of those moments in the slow journey from Alice, British teenager who can stomp around in a raincoat on some lake district hills, to now still Alice, but who is about to start a huge thru-hike.

Becoming a PCT day dreamer

The very beginning of the dream. Spoiler alert: I’m a cliche! My mum reads Wild and recommends it to her teenager daughter (me). I was a little bit stubborn, and could be resistant to parental recommendations. So it was quite a few years when later I finally dig it out and read it all. Before reading it, I didn’t even know Oregon and Washington were the states above California (don’t come for me, I’m British not American). But after reading it, a small seed is planted. My family are a walking family, and I did the Gold Duke of Edinburgh walk at highschool. It’s a big walk where British teenagers carry huge over stuffed backpacks and stomp around the Welsh mountains in the rain for 5 days, trying to map read. (Once you’ve done it, and various other socially good activities, you bizarrely got to meet the Queen or one of her family members). So I read the book and think, right at the back of my brain, – huh, maybe I should do this. I share the book around and watch the film.

Family walks in the UK – that’s me in the cool wrap arounds

Duke of Edinburgh – two friends who I still hike with to this day

British walker becomes American hiker

A few years after that, my work asks for me to move the US. Can’t say no to something like that, surely? Work have practically made the decision for me. I nervously accept and move to NYC, halving the distance between myself and the trail. The world of American hiker culture comes closer.

My first year in the US, my friend Iona suggests we go on a trip to the Colorado mountains. In the UK, she is fed up of the dark spring and has looked and seen that Denver has very nice weather in May. We head off on my first American multi-day hike up in the Colorado mountains. We rent gear in REI, and rush around a Walmart grabbing snacks. The warm weather in Denver is not the same as the mountain weather – as we get higher, we meet cross country skiers rather than hikers, we camp near the top of a pass in the snow in freezing temperatures, and stumble around loosing the path in the snow singing out to scare away bears. We finish the hike, agreeing that it was epic.

Great views – struggling a little bit with the altitude

A snowy campsite

The following year, 2023, Iona and I fly to Seattle. This time to section hike part of the PCT in Washington, between Stevens Pass and Stehekin. It’s rub-your-eyes, eat-your-heart-out beautiful. We meet (and are regrettably but understandably overtaken by) PCT hikers, with bags so small our bags could eat them for breakfast. Iona tells them I’m planning on hiking the PCT at some point. I shush her. I tell them the Visa is hard as an international hiker, so its a bit impossible. That excuse falls flat when we meet a British man who says it’s not really not that hard to get the visa. At the end of our section I can’t wait to get back to civilization, to sleep, shower and eat some more food (we woefully under packed on food – naively we had believed that an REI freeze dried meal did actually feed two people). It takes only two nights before I am desperate get back on the trail. All our new PCT friends are headed for Canadia – why were we only headed for the airport?!

Washington section K – I can’t wait to be back here

Hiker becomes a solo-hiker

In Autumn 2023, while living in Argentina for a few months, I do my first ever multi day solo hike. It’s not solo on purpose – I try to find a hiking buddy but it’s shoulder season and noone else at my hostel wants to go, so I go alone. It’s a technical trek that involves two tirrolian traverses (hanging in a wire in a harness and using your arms) and a walk across a glacier. I’m a a mix of terrified and elated through out. Who knew it could be fun hiking on your own? Disclaimer – I wasn’t alone the whole time, I did find a lovely couple who I clung to during the scariest day. Clung to so much so that I ended up gate gate crashing their beautiful, scenic and remote proposal. Woops.


Snagging a permit and making decisions

After my solo hike in Argentina, I think about the PCT more and more. It will never be a perfect time. I can keep putting off doing this walk, but now is probably time. I might not always be in the position where doing the PCT is even possible. Why don’t I just apply for the permit, I think – nothing to loose.

The permit system is online – you sign up online and are assigned a time in the release day for when you can log in and choose a start date. There are 50 permits per day for March to May, with 30 per day released on the first round. My time to choose a date is awful, and I watch as permits vanish throughout the day. I am panick-googling “early March or late may start dates”. (Answer: are you a slow walker who wants to freeze / or a fast walker who wants to burn). I get a very very early march start date (I’m a slow walker who wants to freeze). I am lucky to even get a start date – I see some sad posts on Reddit of people who had missed out.

Once I have a permit I am in a spiral of decision making. Can I do this? Do I really want to do this is or is it a day dream out of control? Cheesily I think – what would 7 year old Alice think? Is this date even feasible? (Internet says no to that last question)

Then I get unexpectedly lucky in the second round of permits and manage to move the permit to a perfect date. But I’m still playing chicken. The final convincing comes in a strange form. I tag along to a friend’s Soul Cycle class at the end of the year and while we all struggle against our machines, the instructor is giving ted-talk style motivational commentary about the new year. The kind of comments that make me roll my eyes. But this time, in that dark and sweaty box, as she repeated for the 10th time “don’t stand in your own way this year”, I was sold. The next day I booked a meeting with my manager and asked her for a sabbatical and amazingly she made it happen.

So I’ve ended up here – closing down in the starting date and start line, amazed that I’ve taken the plunge, a little scared and trying to get prepared. More to come, happy trails!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 5

  • Ellie : Apr 7th

    Love this Al!!!

    • Natalia Molinary : Apr 7th

      I’m on my own journey to start hiking solo. LOVED THIS. Thank you!!!

    • Alice : Apr 20th

      Thanks Ellie 😀

  • Natalia Molinary : Apr 7th

    I’m on my own journey to start hiking solo. LOVED THIS. Thank you!!!

    • Alice : Apr 20th

      Thank you! Good luck!


What Do You Think?