Personal Growth, Our Hopes for Oregon and Washington

After more than three months in California, I have now crossed into Oregon. Reaching this border felt like the most significant milestone of the trail for me so far.

The smoke has made for some pretty sunsets.

As some of you may have noticed, I have not posted since South Lake Tahoe, over 600 miles ago. Throughout Northern California I have been doing higher-mileage days (averaging about 25 miles/40 km) and spending less time in towns. More hiking and less time relaxing has resulted in this drop in blog productivity. I hope this post will be worth the wait.

Dinner time.

Back in the desert I did a Q&A with my trail family at the time. Now that over 1,000 miles have passed, I thought it would be worthwhile to follow up and see how everyone has grown and what they have experienced. I appreciate the time and energy that my friends put into their thoughtful answers. I’ll start it off.

Canadian Treasure

Made it! About 1,700 miles down, less than 1,000 to go.

1. What has changed for you between Big Bear and now?

Back in Big Bear everything was still so new and I did not know whether I was physically or emotionally capable of completing a PCT thru-hike. I knew I would do my best, but I also knew that I was taking on an immense challenge. Now I believe that I can make it to Canada.

It’s taken 103 days of hard work to hike through California. I’ve gained an incredible amount of experience during that time as well as belief in myself that I can do this. Crossing the Oregon/California border was emotional – I cried when I got to the sign posted on the tree because it hit me that I can finish the trail and make it home to British Columbia.

Wow wow wow!

Over time I’ve also learned that being comfortable when you are hiking all day is a major priority for me. I’m now carrying less weight than I was at the start, and I’ve recently replaced my 60L pack with a 40L one. I’d rather have fewer clothing options and no camp shoes and have less weight to carry. As long as I am warm and cozy at night and can sleep well, I’m good to go.

Out with the old and in with the new.

Finally, one neat, unexpected bonus of thru-hiking has been getting to see what my body looks like in top form. Off trail I consider myself an active person, but walking 40 km per day is a crazy amount of exercise. I know that this is the fittest I will ever be, and trying to obtain a fitter or thinner body off-trail is completely unrealistic. There’s something sweet about knowing that this is it and being at peace with that.

2. What have been the most challenging parts of the trail for you? What has helped you deal with these challenges?

The emotional challenge of missing home has been the biggest challenge for me. On days when I’m very uncomfortable, tired, and/or hungry I sometimes think about how nice it would be to go swimming in the lake, read a book, and cook whatever food I’d like. I miss my family and friends, but I also know that they will still be there when I finish the trail. My life in British Columbia will resume when I’m done, including the activities I love doing in Vernon and Nelson. It has been helpful to remind myself that the things I miss aren’t going anywhere. I also know that I’ll miss the trail once I’m done, so I try to be present as much as possible.

I’ll miss moments like these with my friends. Taken at the halfway marker.

3. Who has helped you get this far?

The support that my friends and family have shown, through messages, phone calls, mail, and comments, has meant the world to me. Your encouragement has helped motivate me and I appreciate how many of you have been interested in my hike.

I hiked almost all of California with Flamingo Sunrise and Hot Tuna. They are the core of my trail family, and I couldn’t ask for better trail friends. I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to share this experience with other positive people who I have lots in common with. Thanks, you two; I look forward to spending more time on the trail together.

Flamingo, Tuna, and a ton of other hikers – we all camped on this ridge that wasn’t very flat.

Flamingo Sunrise

1. What has changed for you between Big Bear and now?

I’ve gained a world of confidence in myself as a thru-hiker and knowing I belong out here just as much as anyone else. For a while, I was super intimidated by other hikers with tiny packs and quick feet who seemed to know so much more than I did. But now I know, after talking to and learning from so many other awesome hikers, that we’re all just out here trying to figure out our own ways to get to Canada and there’s no “right” or “best” method. I really am hiking my own hike and it feels great to be so sure of that now. This week I hiked and camped by myself for the first time and, while I missed my trail family, I realized just how far I’d come since day one in being confident, comfortable, and happy on the trail.

Triumphant Flamingo.

2. What have been the most challenging parts of the trail for you? What has helped you deal with these challenges?

The most challenging thing about being on the trail has definitely been missing friends and family. I anticipated physical challenges and mental lows while hiking, but I don’t think I processed how hard it would be to only talk to family once a week. At a certain point, just before hitting the halfway mark, I realized how much longer I’d be out here away from home and it was really, really daunting. One of the most helpful things has been writing and receiving letters. I love getting to share what’s going on out here and nothing boosts my morale more than getting letters and packages in town. The other thing that I think has made a world of difference is having a trail family that I feel so comfortable with — we all make each other laugh and keep each other positive, and we’re also able to share when we’re not feeling 100 percent and help get through it. Shout-out to Hot Tuna and Canadian Treasure!

An example of Flamingo being a fun, positive person. Hopefully she won’t be mad at me for including this. Rock on, Flamingo.

3. Who has helped you get this far?

Second shout-out to Hot Tuna and Canadian Treasure! And another shout-out to my parents and family, girlfriend, and friends who have written me letters, given me pep talks when I’m feeling down, and sent encouraging satellite messages to my GPS device that always make me smile when I receive them in the middle of the mountains.

4. What are your hopes for the rest of the trail?

My biggest hope is to enjoy every remaining mile and not feel rushed or like I’m in a race to the finish. I want to be totally present in the moment and not stress about what comes next. Also, I want to swim in more lakes and rivers. Canada or bust!

Hot Tuna

1. What has changed for you between Big Bear and now?

I feel a lot more confident and at ease on the trail, and much more adept at navigating the types of situations and challenges you encounter. Physically, I also feel a lot stronger. Back in Big Bear, a 25-mile day seemed crazy to me, but now that’s just a typical day on the trail. It’s truly amazing that our bodies are able to adapt to such consistent strenuous activity, and I’m thankful for that every day.

I also feel more in tune with myself. I can be a pretty indecisive person, but thru-hiking has helped me understand what I both need and want in any given situation, and allowing myself to pursue these things has been liberating and an essential part of this experience… as they say, “hike your own hike.”

Being on the trail has also put me in a lot of situations where I’ve realized I still have a lot of room to grow. It’s given me time to reflect on this, and hopefully work on these things during the rest of my time on the trail and beyond.

Lastly, I’ve realized the trail feels like home, in the sense that it’s become so special and familiar to me. No matter what unfamiliar territory I’m hiking through, seeing the thin trail ahead of me, with hiker footprints and pole marks, is so comforting.

2. What have been the most challenging parts of the trail for you? What has helped you deal with these challenges?

For the most part, the trail has been diverse enough to always feel exciting and interesting to me. However, the past couple of weeks we’ve been dealing with a lot of wildfires, and hiking in smoke and heat day after day has felt monotonous, which has been really challenging for me. There have been days when I’ve felt like I’m just trying to get through the miles, which is not the experience I want on the PCT. There have been a couple of things that have been helpful in dealing with this: reminding myself why I’m out here (and how lucky I am to be out here) and forcing myself to notice the beauty around me no matter how hot and tired I am; finding small ways to lift my spirits and change my attitude to look at everything from a more positive perspective; and hiking with people who make me laugh and are good company.

3. Who has helped you get this far?

So many people have been so wonderful and supportive throughout this whole experience. First and foremost, my family. They have always been encouraging, even when I had doubts before starting the trail, and my parents have been so helpful in helping me send some of my boxes and always leaving a special note and some surprises in each one. It would have been so much harder to make the decision to do this without their support.

My partner, Brendan, who has been endlessly supportive, helped me think through logistics before starting the trail, has come out to see me and hike with me on the trail, and has always been there to listen to me recount the highs and lows, with excitement and through tears.

My friends, whose words of encouragement and support have meant the world to me. They are wonderful.

And finally, my trail family. I’ve met so many wonderful and diverse people on the trail, and it’s been so great to share such a strong sense of camaraderie with them as we go through this crazy experience together. They are the ones who really help me get through the hard days.

Our packs.

4. What are your hopes for the rest of the trail?

I hope to take in and enjoy the rest of the experience as much as possible. To allow myself the time to enjoy places I find beautiful, and not get too caught up in the sentiment that seems to take hold with a lot of hikers at this point on the trail of speeding to get to the end. To continue to grow and challenge myself.

Hiker Box

1. What has changed for you between Big Bear and now?

Quite literally? My shirt, shoes, socks, body weight, lol … but also the people around me, my attitude about this hike, what I want from it, realizing some of my demons and trying to become a better person.

2. What have been the most challenging parts of the trail for you? What has helped you deal with these challenges?

The LA Aqueduct was miserable. Not because of the heat or exposure, but the surface we walked on was unforgiving and painful. It’s flat, which meant we never gave our muscles a break compared to going up and then down. I never want to do that again and a 30-mile day along Hat Creek Rim. Another dry exposed stretch. No views of Shasta because of smoke, longish water carries. The heat was so hot and humid it had to be one of the hottest days on trail, the shade didn’t help, and there was no point in sitting in it. Also, it’s a part of Northern California, which seems to be never-ending. I was in a lot of pain as it was my fourth consecutive day of 30+ mile days. I was really in my head this day losing the mental battle contemplating why I am doing this hike. Just too much negativity.

Days like these I try to look at the big picture and remember that they are unfortunately inevitable. The reality is that it’s not going to be just highs, the lows are also what make the thru-hike a thru-hike, duhhh. and I’m out here to get the full experience. If there is a beginning to the suffering there is always an end even if it may last all day. Also sharing the suffering with other hikers helps tremendously, it keeps your spirits up and is much easier then doing days like these alone.

3. Who has helped you get this far?

My Mum!! Love you ma. Anyone I’ve hike with. Flower Child, Canadian Treasure, Hot Tuna, Flamingo Sunrise, Daiqirui (still unsure how to spell it), Big Spoon, Pizza, Bad Apple, Wind Spirit, Trash Pile, Ben, another Ben, Mammoth, etc. I’ve learned a little bit from everyone above, whether it’s a trick here or some life advice there I am so thankful to have met you all.

4. What are your hopes for the rest of the trail?

To finish! Obvi. To see all these people above again I hope. I’m starting to gain some insight of who I am but I’m not quite there yet.

That’s it, folks. Thanks for reading and I’ll post again once I’m farther north.

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Comments 1

  • Tristan : Aug 22nd

    Woohoo! Your pictures are amazing! Keep having a time, and I look forward to checking in on your posts as you get closer to home!


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