PCT Permit? Acquired.

First thing is first. My name is Kelly from Pittsburgh, PA. I’m your typical nature lover that wants to say “poop poop society” for 5-6 months.


Obviously, it’s way more than dipping out of real life. Per Zach Davis’ instructions in Pacific Crest Trials, I wrote a letter to myself, outlining the reasons why I’m doing this, but I’ll post that later so you can hold me accountable.


Now, the “why” short story to satiate your curiosity. Thru-hiking came into my life when I worked at a resident camp a few miles from the Appalachian Trail. Some staff members provided trail magic to a thru-hiker, and in return, she gave a brief presentation about her hike. I was in awe of her grit and determination—something I thought was unachievable for your average Kelly.


In 2018, one of my best friends from that same camp thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (she is hiking the PCT this year, too!). I had the opportunity to join her for three weeks in Virginia as my first ever backpacking trip. Cliche as it is, I was hooked. I was in awe of the rawness, grit, and pure joy experienced by her and her tramily. I witnessed the highs and lows of backpacking day in and out. I was openly welcomed into the thru hiking community. The simplicity of it all—living with what’s on your back—intrigued me. At the end of my three weeks on the AT, I almost called my summer job (hint: it was at that camp by the AT) telling them I was walking the rest of the way to Maine. I was yearning to experience the life-changing benefits the trail can provide.


My friend, Wilt, and me. In 2018, I joined her for a three-week section during her thru-hike.


In 2019, I visited my friend in San Diego and we road-tripped around Southern Cal. This was my first time in any desert, a much different experience than the green tunnels PA offers. After we did a short day hike on the PCT in the Anza Borrego Desert, we drove two hours to Idyllwild, a PCT trail town in the mountains. It felt like a time warp going from desert to mountain in two hours, and it blew my mind that thru-hikers walk it. I knew I needed to come back.


The PCT near the Anza Borrego Desert on a visit to thevSan Diego area.


Since those two experiences, completing my own long-distance thru hike has been on my mind.


I spent more and more time in the woods through trail running (thanks, Pittsburgh, for a stellar parks system) and backpacking throughout Western PA, including a Laurel Highlands Trail thru-hike. I thought about what it feels like walking in a desert or filtering fresh water in the high mountains. I eventually started saying this ambition out loud, added a date to my dream, and the thought of tackling this beast solidified in my brain. I committed.


Start date secured, I began poking around REI.com thinking about all the gear I would upgrade or purchase. I started putting things in my cart, seeing the price add up fast. That’s when I thought “oh wow, it’s time to finally spend all that money you’ve been saving.”


Does it feel real now that I’ve gotten a permit, purchased some gear, and posted my first blog? We are getting there. This adventure I am about to embark on is so massive to digest that it is going to take time. I know I won’t be the same person after months without a real bed, a readily accessible water source, and fresh fruits and vegetables. It might hit me once I have all my gear, but I won’t start to feel the ~feels~ until I’m checking into my one-way flight to San Diego. Until then, there is only forward momentum.

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Comments 12

  • Alan : Nov 27th

    Feel the feels! Back in the gold rush they said “seeing the elephant”!

  • Jhony : Nov 28th

    Thanks. Very impressive article. So much that I subscribed and looking forward to following your trek/adventure.
    Seems like you have lots of Moxie and I think that is very cool.

    • Kelly S : Nov 30th

      Thanks for the follow!

  • Kelly Groen : Nov 30th

    Hi namesake! Awesome blog, hope to meet you on the trail 🙂

    • Kelly S : Nov 30th

      Kelly’s rule the world! Hope to meet you on trail too!

  • Kyra : Dec 4th

    Kelly, this is so cool! Thru hiking the PCT has been a dream of mine since highschool and I’m also SO excited to be able to do it this year. I’ve been thinking about my “why” as well, and it’s so hard to pinpoint an exact reason. It’s just so much easier to tell people, “it’s just so beautiful, I want to see it all.”

    • Jim McCarthy : Dec 4th

      Best wishes Kelly. I moved from Pittsburgh to Phoenix 7 years ago, and am currently training for a 2023 AT thru-hike. Let me know when you plan to start, and if you would like company for part of your Southern California hike.

    • Kelly : Dec 6th

      It is absolutely impossible to pinpoint an exact why. I hope to see you out on the trail!

  • Egor : Dec 5th

    Hi! So proud of you! Im going to take my pct in March 2022 from Mexico border!! Anyone please welcome with me let’s go 😉

  • Jean : Dec 6th

    Kelly, so proud of you for following your dreams. I’ll be following your progress and cheering you on from the other side of the country! You go girl!!

    • Kelly : Dec 6th

      Thank you!!! I’m so glad you can follow along with me!

  • Checkers : Dec 6th

    Good Luck Trips!!!!! I’ll be cheering you on!!!


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