From Tracks to Trails: Leaving the Railroad to Hike the PCT
First things first. Did you say railroad?
Yup, that’s right, the railroad. I took the job right after college, and over the past seven years I experienced life from the railroad tracks. It’s been an adventure, that’s for sure. From having home bases in Minneapolis, Denver, Flagstaff, and most recently Albuquerque, I have been able to see so much of the country in a way that most people will never get to. At the end of the day, as much as the railroad was a fantastic career, it wasn’t my end all, be all. Now I am here introducing myself to you and hoping you will follow along with me as I thru-hike the PCT as part of the class of 2019.
I have had a desire to hike the PCT for the past four or five years. After a colleague surprised me by leaving the railroad and showing up at the Southern Terminus for the class of 2018, I knew that I wasn’t far behind. This year makes a lot of sense for me personally; I was at a point in my career when I had to decide the path I wanted to take with the railroad, and quite frankly none of the paths were something that I really wanted to pursue. Don’t get me wrong; they would have led to a great career with financial stability, but it more likely than not would have led to living in Fort Worth, TX. With the lack of mountains in North Texas, I knew that option wasn’t really an option. The other option was a position in one of the 32 states we operate in, requiring a 60-80 hour workweek.
So, with the opportunity to bow out of the rail industry, it also made sense in my personal life for me to take this time off. Having spent my 20s finishing college and then committing my life into the railroad, I know that want my 30s to be different. There is no better way to make that happen then by turning 30 somewhere on the trail in California.
Yes. Well, no. Yes! Yes I am ready! I am ready for the new chapter in my life and I am ready for this adventure. I have been working on my gear for the last year. I have been working out four to five time a week to get into shape for the past year. But truth be told I am also a little terrified.
Terrified of What?
On a practical level, I am a little afraid of rattlesnakes. I’m a little terrified of my stove (I really hate fire). I am also scared of forest fires. I am also terrified of a lot of the things you would expect a hiker to be a little scared of: running out of food, running out of water, the snow pack in the Sierra, etc. On an abstract level, I am also nervous.
I am scared of the potential that I walked away from at work. As much as I know that the railroad isn’t for me, there was a lot of potential to rise through the ranks and become a trailblazer as a female in a male-dominated industry (my department has about 700 employees with roughly five to ten percent being female, and of that I was one of them who are managers or higher up in the food chain). And what about the people who had helped me in my career? Did I let them down? Do they know that I still care about them? It a little unnerving to let people down. With my end date for work so close to the start of the trail, I didn’t have a lot of time to talk to/explain my decision with people who I truly care about. It doesn’t feel good to leave people even when it’s to pursue a different dream.
I am also scared of life after the trail. Will I find a job that I love? Will I find a new place to live? Will I have enough money to start over? What will future employers think of my time off? And the big question: What do I want to even do with my life when this is over? There are so many questions that could deter me from quitting my job and hiking for six months. Even though there are so many things that scare me, at the end of the day, I know in my heart that the PCT is calling me. For me, the risk of the unknown is worth it. That is one thing that I have no doubt about.
I think so. My hope is that you love my adventure as much as I do. I hope you got to know me just a little before I start this walk. Finally, I hope that if you are contemplating this journey but are terrified of the unknown, I hope that I will be able to show you that it’s worth it.
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