You Want to Hike, But Have a Family, Responsibilities

This is me, and probably many of you reading this.

To put it into perspective, I haven’t just left school and going into a gap year and I’m not retired. I am a wife, I am a mother to a nine-year-old daughter, we have a mortgage, we have bills, and we both work full time and I want to fulfill my life goal and thru-hike the PCT in 2019.

How I Told My Family

I’ve only hiked the Overland Track in Tasmania, Australia. It’s a seven-day hike, with a total length of 82 kilometers (51 miles) and the luxury of wooden trail huts for overnight accommodation. The highest peak in Tasmania, Mount Ossa, 1,617 meters (5,305 feet) is a return day hike from the track.

I also had some gear, tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, pack, and cooking pots that I used when I cycle toured and backpacked. The gear was 20 years old and no good for a thru-hike.

In June 2017 our family holiday took us to the US. I took my husband and our then seven-year-old daughter to REI. I explained that in two years I would like to thru-hike the PCT and we are here to start buying gear.

Later that night, we sat down as a family and I explained the trail, the time it would take, budget, and answered all the questions my husband and daughter asked me. And with that, permission and support received. I am going to thru-hike the PCT in 2019, and I am so excited.

How I Am Preparing My Family

My husband and I both served 20 years in the Royal Australian Navy, so we are used to the separation and being away from home for long periods of time. However, I will be leaving my daughter at home with her dad. For five to six months he will be both dad and mum.

As for my daughter, I took her out for a hike, to see if she would enjoy hiking. She loved it, so much so that I bought her a pack, trekking pole, clothes, and boots. Our adventures now include longer hikes, overnight camping, and talking about the PCT. It is important for her to see me out hiking, setting up the tent, cooking food, so when I’m on the trail, and we are talking about hiking, camping, and cooking, she can picture these things in her mind and understand what I’m doing. And she loves toasting marshmallows over the MSR Pocket Rocket!

Involving your family in your hiking, talking and watching preparation, are just as important as your own thru-hike preparation.

Setting up camp.

A future thru-hiker

Communicating from the Trail

I have a wall map of the PCT that I will hang in our kitchen and a little arrow, so my daughter will be able to follow my hike on the map. My family will also be able to track my hike through my Garmin inReach. I will send a postcard from each trail town and make a call home weekly.

Parenting from the Trail

Not parenting as such, but from the other side of the world, I will convey words of love, support, and encouragement. That is all that you can do.

Involving My Daughter’s School Class

I talked to my daughter’s teacher, as for five to six months her moods could be different at school, she will miss her mum, and those words “when are you coming home” will be spoken frequently.

The class will also follow my progress on a map and will once a week watch a YouTube video of my hike. And upon my return, I will visit the class with my pack and answer their questions.

Final Words

There is a lot that you can do to prepare and involve your family, to make your thru-hike a success.

Toasting marshmallows.


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Comments 14

  • Taylor Weixl : Nov 4th

    Vanessa; I hope all your preparations for the trail go smoothly and I look forward to following your hike next year! You’re in for an incredible experience. All the best! 🙂

    • Vanessa Dodd : Nov 5th

      Thank you Taylor for your support, I look forward to having you along for the journey and congratulations on your thru-hike.

  • Rocco : Nov 5th

    We are so happy for you Vanessa. My wife and I are thrilled you are documenting your adventure and sharing the trail with your readers.

    • Vanessa Dodd : Nov 5th

      Thank you. I really hope to bring a different perspective of the trail and trail life to my blog. Glad you both can share the adventure.

  • Eric Focht : Nov 5th

    Awesome family project…wish you well and look forward to following your adventure

    • Yermo : Nov 5th

      Vanessa, you have handles a difficult subject very well. Sounds like everything is laced up and in place and you are ready to hit the trail.
      I am sure your little one, with all the ways you already involved her in your hike will be so proud and supportive. All fotos show us an ultra happy, well adjusted, loving child and daughter. I feel your hike will be great not only for you but her as well.
      As always, enjoyed your posting, can’t wait for the next.

      • Vanessa Dodd : Nov 6th

        Hi Yermo, WOW! thank you for the kind words. You have been following my prep for a while now, and always showing your support. I appreciate your friendship, even though we have never met. Bring on the PCT in 2019, I cannot wait. Maybe my daughter will want to thru-hike the PCT when she is older. Happy trails!

    • Vanessa Dodd : Nov 6th

      Thank you for your support Eric. Indeed an awesome family project. I look forward to having you along for the adventure.

  • Liz “Rest Step” Fallin : Nov 5th

    Hi Vanessa,

    I’m a wife and mom too. My family needs me home most of the time, but my youngest is a teenager, and that means I can section for a few weeks every summer. Five years, two states, and 1000 miles, so far. I’m thrilled for you, that you’re able to seize the moment, and follow your dream!

    ~Rest Step

    • Vanessa Dodd : Nov 6th

      Hi Liz, thank you for taking the time to read. Funny how as mums/moms we are needed at home. You are indeed very lucky to be able to section hike. That is amazing, five years, two states and 1000 miles and still going. Awesome! And that is what it is, seizing the moment, and if I don’t hike next year, I’m afraid it may be to late. Glad to have you along for the adventure.

  • Leanne Wray : Nov 6th

    A great article Ness. You deserve to have such a great life adventure on the hike. You have worked hard and are being thoughtful about the impact on your family. You are a great role model to not only your daughter but also to anyone who has a goal that can seem too difficult to make happen. I cannot wait to follow you on your journey.

    • Vanessa Dodd : Nov 6th

      Thank you so much for your words of encouragement Miss Leanne. Having your support means alot to me 🙂 Maybe you should come and hike some of the trail with me? Can’t wait to hike the PCT next year.

  • Shanna Madsen : Nov 8th

    It’s so refreshing to see an article from this perspective. My husband and I continue to plan, dream, and discuss our thru hike. You’re an inspiration to those of us who see our responsibilities as a blockade too high to cross. I’ll be following your adventures and cheering you on!

    • Vanessa Dodd : Nov 9th

      Thank you Shanna for your kind words. When you have a family, its the hardest question to answer, when do I hike? If you keep putting it off, it will never happen. I don’t want to wait till I retire, next year is my year, and when you have a supportive family, it takes the pressure off. I just have to teach my husband internet banking before I depart haha. Happy trails and I look forward to having you along for the journey.


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