Ripped from the Violent Birth Canal of the PCT

Come Rain or Shine

It was difficult to hear PCTA’s designated greeter, Eric, over the uproarious wind.

“Do you have your permit?” He asked.

I reached into my fanny pack and pulled my PCT permit out of my ziploc bag when suddenly, the wind ripped another piece of paper out of my hands.

”Oh no!” I shrieked as I tried to run after it. “My California fire permit!”

Eric smiled as he grabbed the paper. “Well, that answers my second question,” he said with a stoked smile.

It was difficult to feel down about the weather as I stared at the southern terminus. I had been waiting for this moment well before I snagged my permit in November. Like most cliches, I read the book Wild. At Lone Pine Lake. 10,000 feet above sea level. 4,000 feet below the peak of Mt. Whitney. It was the highest I’d ever been since that 4/20 senior year of college where I invented ‘Second Butterfinger’ by sucking the nougat out of my molars. More seriously, it’s the tallest I’d ever stood outside of a metal aviation machine.

So I took all the adrenaline and emotion at the terminus and pushed through what quickly progressed from wind to rain to sleet to hail. And I hadn’t even hit mile 1 yet.

Yeah, you’re confident now…


I came across CLEEF campground. A popular, nearly essential, spot for all hikers to enjoy pre-trek. But I had just started! It was my duty to soldier on and find my fellow drenched March 24th brethren (and sistren).

This would be regret number one.

You see, gentle reader, my fellow brethren and sistren were not on trail. They were listening to stories and getting warm by the fire and meeting everyone else at CLEEF. For I? I was alone.

It didn’t take long for my happy tears to turn into sad tears (you can always tell based on the flavor). I not so successfully encountered my first water crossing. What appeared to be a solid log betrayed me, smacking its back end on my shin. I still have that welt nearly a week later.

I then followed a wrong path through manzanita so thick that it looked like my poncho had gone through a cheese grater.

And I still saw no one.

I found a tree that sheltered me from the elements long enough to decide not to eat lunch. My sad tears provided enough salt to ensure I wouldn’t have shin splints. And my anxiety was enough to feed a family of 12.

I kept remembering why I decided to do this. But every chunk of hail smashing against my head made me think otherwise. I had just had an incredible weekend in San Diego with my LA friends. Why did I leave that behind to embrace this suck?

My lovely friend took this photo of me embracing the suck

Home At Last?

I found a tent site about 7 miles up. Tiny. Right on trail. Awful. I set up my Lunar Solo with the grace and elegance of a dying swan. And then I laid in my tent listening to the rain. Then my sad tears took a cue from the weather and began hailing down my cheeks. I wasn’t being bear aware about my impending panic attack. It was definitely too close.

So I stopped. “Fuck this site,” I said to no one. I saw there was something FarOut described with much more reverence just a bit up trail. And refusing to accept a life of unhappiness, I took down my tent, packed up, and headed closer to Canada.

3/10 of a mile later, I was home. Enough space to sprawl, flat, and (if the weather would break) a view.

I was proud of myself for persevering. I puffed out my chest, took surveillance of my work, and burst into tears.

Because my rain gear had wetted through, my puffy got wet, rendering it useless. As such, I needed to wrap myself in my quilt immediately to save myself from hypothermia before sundown.

I didn’t know a human could stare at the ceiling of a tent for that long.

Misery Loves Company

As I contemplated the purpose of life, I suddenly realized… I was no longer alone! The pitter patter of a friend was joining me at my site. A small… delicate… MOUSE! Gnawing at the food I was too lazy to properly put away.

I smacked at the tent and watched him run away. Just to return 30 seconds later. Smack. Run. Return. Smack. Run. Return. Smack…

This continued through the night. Needless to say, that chocolate bar was his now.

I slept on and off, as I’m wont to do while sleeping in a tent. Sometime in the middle of the night, the rain stopped. The wind calmed. And the night became still.

Finally, light began poking through the thin layer of my single wall tent. I ripped open the zipper like a kid on Christmas morning. A gorgeous fog had settled above the small lake below my site. The sun glimmered through spattered clouds. And the mouse was gone.

A smile wound its way onto my face. Welcome to the PCT.

The proverbial forest through the trees


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 2


    Oh Hannah!!!

    Reading your 1st post seems like an evil way to welcome you to the PCT… But hey Hannah, kudos to you for your resilience and grit of still leaving on the Sunday as per your solid plan. Such honesty in the way you can jot up your feelings is simply amazing. I am glad you found some little silver lining at the end of the day. Always in awe and support for you… More Power to you Hannah!!!!!

  • jhonY : Mar 31st

    Well that was nicely written and sounds like you are having a PCTblast. Glad for you and glad to be following vicariously too. Thanks Hanna


What Do You Think?