My Path to the Pacific Crest Trail
I haven’t always been the outdoorsy type. Growing up in Florida made family vacations more conducive for cruises and trips to Disney World rather than camping trips in national parks; I had never even been camping before the age of 20. So it may seem surprising that someone with this type of background would want to walk 2,650 miles through the wilderness, but even though I lived a pretty tame life growing up I was always very active. My family and teachers even called me “Standin’ Brandon” since I would often refuse to sit down. The main outlet for all my energy was hockey, which I played from four years old until my sophomore year of college. Once I stopped playing I started experiencing a lot of anxiety, which was most likely due to a combination of 1) the typical stress of college and 2) not having an outlet for my pent-up energy.
Running into the Outdoors
I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I started running to cope with my anxiety. I would often run to a small forested area on campus surrounding a lake and walk on the nature trails there. It was amazing how calming those trails were for me. They were my ultimate escape from reality. I could’ve had a terrible day, but when I got to those trails and I took my first few deep breaths of fresh air all of my worries were carried away with the wind blowing through the trees. This is where my love for the outdoors began.
As I started to run more and spend more time on the trails I started to really appreciate how beautiful this world is. I didn’t run with music, so my focus would usually drift to the environment I was immersed in: listening to mockingbirds singing in the trees, watching the dawn sun glow through the broad tree leaves, hearing the sound of my shoes crunching leaves on the dirt trail. It was so peaceful. It was like meditation for me. My runs got longer and I used my newfound endurance to go explore other natural areas, even running 13 miles to watch the sunrise on the beach.
Sure, I could’ve just driven, but there’s something special about relying only on your two feet to get you from one place to another; a sense of freedom that I had never felt before. This feeling would drive me to learn about ultrarunning and other feats of endurance, including the Pacific Crest Trail. I was completely entranced the first time I watched a documentary about the PCT: the majestic snow-peaked Sierra Nevada range, the crystal blue alpine lakes, the dense green forests of the Pacific Northwest, the night sky illuminated by the glow of stars unrestricted by city lights. I instantly knew it was something I wanted to do, but I had other priorities at the time so it would only remain a dream of mine.
I went on living life, indulging in my new passion for the outdoors, which led me to have some pretty incredible experiences.
Some Cool Things I’ve Done
- I went to Australia for a month to help rebuild nature trails and explore the country.
- I went back to school to get a master’s degree, focusing on data science and sustainability psychology, and was fortunate enough to travel to Sri Lanka to study drought adaptation.
- I ran my first marathon (total disaster).
- I got an internship with the National Park Service to study coral bleaching and I lived in the Everglades for three months (worst mosquitoes I have ever encountered).
- I took a road trip around Iceland.
- I went on multiple backpacking trips.
- Lastly, I ran two more marathons and my first 50k.
Don’t Forget Your Dreams
All this time I never lost sight of my dream to thru-hike the PCT. The past two years I’ve been working at my first real job and after thousands of hours spent staring at a computer screen, I decided that it was finally time to chase my dream. I got my PCT permit and submitted my letter of resignation. I’m nervous, anxious, and a little afraid, but mostly I’m excited; especially knowing that I’ll be keeping a promise that I made to myself many years ago.
Now that you know a little bit about me and what led me to the PCT, I hope you’ll follow along for the rest of my adventure, which I’ll be sharing on here as well as my Instagram. Please drop some comments down below if you have any questions or just want to chat. Talking about this trip gets me stoked!
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