They Stole My Gear but not My Community

Hi. My name is Kaitlin and my PCT dream was stolen.

And I know what the first thing that pops in your mind when reading that statement is—you and thousands of other thru-hikers. Big deal. How are you different? Even before the PCTA gave a firm direction to put the health of the world priority and walk off the trail, not on—my PCT dream was literally stolen.


Taken without asking.


Stolen in the going-to-jail stolen way.

Everything Was Gone

I stirred to a jolt from my sleep. I felt the pressure of my weighted soft blanket combined with my furry and snoring puppy beaconing me to return to dreamland. But the air felt off as panic suddenly filled my lungs. I rolled out of our bed, bumping into the kitchen cabinets in our tiny short school bus. Wobbling, half-dazed, I peered out of our original bus double doors to our dirty, well-worn Subaru parked beside the skoolie.

Oh no, no, no,” I started to involuntarily wail.

I took in my living nightmare as I saw the trunk of my car wide open. I raced down the three stairs in my wool socks, not feeling the stabs of rocks littering the ground. It was gone. It was all gone. My legs buckling as I fell to the ground, releasing sorrow into the night sky. Clouds hiding stars yet accepting my pain.

Time stood still as I cried.

What Was Taken

The days after the condition of our country went from panic to frantic desperation to chaos, and ultimately to the crushing reality that the PCT was no longer a attainable journey for me. I remember the hot flashes of tears when the mass email took priority of my inbox from the PCTA.

“It’s over,” I cried to my tall one husband. “It’s over.’”

The criminals took my bank account.

They took my pack with my tent and sleeping setup.

They took pictures of my children.

They took new trail running shoes.

They took thousands of dollars of gear in one well-calculated break-in.

But perhaps the most disturbing piece they took was my sense that in this time of mass deaths of our most vulnerable lives, they would kick strangers when they are down instead of reach out to lift up. I find this same anger reaching my lips as I read about campgrounds being closed, about national parks being shut off, when I see young and healthy humans acting like this is an extended party and destroying the hope of normalization for all of us.

Those lowlifes stole from me, yes, but all they took are items. Material things that are reproduced and distributed. But the folks digging in that they will not follow the requests of authorities to social isolate for the greater good. You are stealing lives in more ways than you may ignorantly accept.

What Was Given

The days after the robbery were a blur. I restlessly kept checking and rechecking my car just in case I was mistaken. Was all my gear somehow shoved beneath the seats? I mean, that is logical to hope for perhaps? As I searched for what was lost I started to be flooded with what was now being given.

Backpacks. Tents. Money to buy groceries. To replace sleeping bags. Message after message after message of encouragement. Of kindness. Of hope. As I looked around me with jaded eyes believing the whole society was selfish and evil, I could not hold onto these truths of pain anymore as strangers became family who became a community who was lovingly putting my shattered self back together.

After the dust settles.

After life returns to normal yet always slightly changed.

What will stick out to me is how even when so much was taken—gear, pictures, money, the PCT—that a community still held true in kindness.

I am not sure if the PCT is in my future but the friends formed from brokenness forever will be.

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Comments 22

  • Rich : Mar 30th

    Truly feel for you, probably 50 years ago when I was about 8, camping with my parents and little brother with friends in a .50 cent a nite state park on a long holiday weekend and a rainy night we lost about a 40 quart cooler of weekend food, others lost the same or other gear, whatever was out-side at every camp site in the park. Those fools took something from everyone of us and ruined slot of campers trips, we luckily had friends with food in their regular trailer while ours was a small PopUp, and we were able to stay the weekend, but 50 years later, it is still a crappy memory… Don’t let it ruin your ideals of being out camping and those that are good, but you will never forget the bad eggs out their either, you just learn to become more vigilant… hoping you get back on the trail, after we all get past this current obstacle in life…

    • Kaitlin Musser : Mar 30th

      I love this. Thank you for sharing. What a way to live

  • Randy Lex : Mar 30th

    Ya I was living in Seattle many years ago and i got kicked out of the Christian house i was living in because i had a few beers then i put my stuff at a campsite and went back in town and i got arrested for not paying a traffic ticket then after getting out of jail someone stole all my camp gear and my wrestling medals there are lowlifes everywhere

    • Kaitlin Musser : Mar 30th

      But we can still be kind right!? Sorry about that. People have their own pain I suppose they work from. Not your fault at all.

  • Steve : Mar 30th

    Maybe you or your husband should have been a little more alert. I’m sure they weren’t very quiet and I doubt anyone normal would keep some of those things in the trunk. Hmmm……

    • Kaitlin Musser : Mar 30th

      Geez Steve you must be on to something. The victims are always to blame right? By the way – you did not acquire new gear recently did you?

      • Ryan Mickelson : Mar 30th

        I can’t believe someone would respond to you that way…I was recently in Guatemala, and had my bag stolen. Had some of my backpacking gear in it. I have a May 17th permit for the trail. Probably not a possibility anymore anyway, but I felt the same way as you. I’m so sorry that happened to you. Know there is someone out here thinking of you!

        • Kaitlin Musser : Mar 31st

          Thank you Ryan- crazy world but happy you are a light in it

    • Scott Hicks : Apr 9th

      Steve is a troll.
      Don’t feed the trolls.
      Don’t be a Steve.

      • Kaitlin Musser : Apr 9th

        Scott you are my favorite person right now ?

  • Mike Mathews : Mar 30th

    I’m so sorry you had this experience. There are people who just don’t live up to our expectations and you had a run-in with one (or more). But the trail provides and you received some kindness from others.

    Some people I would worry about, but you’re a bunhead, you know all about overcoming disappointment, unfairness, and overcoming adversity. You’re tough, tougher than some punks out to ruin your year, and you’ll rise to heights far above this rotten event. I hope you have the chance to get on the trail this summer. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you at Timberline Lodge or in Cascade Locks.

    One additional story: our daughter returned from Ballet Austin summer intensive and left her dance bag in the car. Overnight someone crashed the window and stole there paper of stinky pointe shoes, a pair of technical shoes, and uncounted slightly damp tights. Everything well-used, but expensive to replace. Fortunately the thief opened the bag a block away and dumped it in someone’s yard. We decided he didn’t like what he smelled and dropped it like a rock!

    • Kaitlin Musser : Mar 31st

      Ballet austin is a great company! My heart is forever with the Pacific Northwest ballet. Sorry she had that happen to her — all the love ?

  • Philip : Mar 30th

    If I had to guess, the people who stole your stuff are either your good friends or your parents. They did it to wake you up. Seriously. Good grief, you’re living in a van and you’re biggest concern is not going hiking during a pandemic? Read what you have written. Can you not detect even a hint of the drama queen in it?

    • H J Witt : Mar 31st

      Sorry to hear of you loss. Bump in the road. Isn’t the kindness of the other people wonderful? You can choose to dwell upon the good stuff or the bad. Don’t let them steal all of the good all around you.
      We loved our bus even in Wyoming winter. Go see, recharge, get your equilibrium back. You don’t need the PCT to find yourself. You already have the resilience to weather these storms. Sit on Tall Ones lap, pull your babies close and just be. The trail is always there. One day you’ll stand in awe on it.
      Be happy where you are.

      • Kaitlin Musser : Mar 31st

        Thank you! You are so kind H J

    • Kaitlin Musser : Mar 31st

      So you are sending me my crown?

    • Scott Hicks : Apr 9th

      Philip – do you have to work at being a dick, or does it just come naturally? ?

    • hillslug98239 : Apr 22nd

      Odd that you’d infer that the writer’s biggest concern is that she cannot go on a planned hike, and that you’d assume people who care about her would steal her possessions.

      People are allowed to be sad. People are allowed to lament opportunities lost.

  • Russ : Apr 5th

    Sucks you were stolen from. You might consider renters insurance and a car alarm. It’s a shame that we can’t access nature without worrying about the darker side of our nature.

    Also a shame you tie it into the illegal shutdown and our constitutional right to access natural resources.

    Nature is the healthier place for people to be right now. Nature allows people to conveniently socially isolate.

    Nature doesn’t not stagnate air. You are 20 more times like to spread disease indoors than outdoors. More people should be heading outdoors.

    Continuing with the general panic state of mind that the world is currently possessed by is not compatible with the truth of what should be done in response to the sickness.

    Panic, hate, fear, resentment etc blinds one to truth.

    • hillslug98239 : Apr 22nd

      Nature is a healthy place for us to be, but it would only take one thru-hiker with Covid-19 to create an outbreak in a trail town. Imagine what an outbreak would do in a community like Stehekin. There are only a three coronaviruses that make humans ill – SARS, MERS, and Covid-19. There is too much we don’t know about this virus. We have to take it seriously. And sadly, I’d say only about 30% of the adults I see outside are wearing any kind of face covering right now. That suggests to me they’re not taking it very seriously, which means the outbreak will drag on, which means the USFS may not re-open Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie & Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests to recreation this year. And that means no one’s thru hiking to Canada.

      All of our constitutional rights are subject to reasonable restrictions. None of them are absolute, and one person’s freedom ends where it harms another.

  • hillslug98239 : Apr 22nd

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. You’re currently surrounded (online) by people who dreams of a thru-hike were stolen away, and yours was literally stolen. Pain on top of pain. And yeah, it’s not the worst thing that could have happened, but it is a terrible thing & it did happen. It sucks.

    Last year, I met a thru-hiker in Parks Lake Basin north of Snoqualmie Pass. He’d accepted a hitch from the pass to town. He went into the restroom to use the toilet and when he came out the hitch & his gear were gone. Fortunately, he had his wallet, and between the hiker box, donated gear, and a few purchases he was able to keep going. But it has to be hard for that to not be the most prominent memory of his 2019 thru-hike. That’s terrible. It should be trail angels and camaraderie, not trail devils & disappointment.


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