Why I’m Thru-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

“Are you going alone?”

It’s a question that arises every time I mention my plan to hike the Pacific Crest Trail this April. My response? ” Yes, I’ll be hiking solo, but no, I won’t be alone”. The PCT is a place where strangers become friends, and friends become family. I will eventually find my trail family, and for safety reasons there are times I will definitely not be hiking alone.

As an independent spirit, I’ve always been content with my own company and never felt the need for a constant companion. I’m spontaneous in nature, I embrace every opportunity that comes my way without a second thought. But when people question WHY I’d willingly choose to embark on a 2,650-mile trek through California, Oregon, and Washington, living in a tent for months, and growing my leg hair out, I find it hard to respond.

As my hike approaches, I’ve been struggling with how to condense my reasons for this adventure. The reality is that there are countless motivations. 

Let’s break it down and point out the obvious

Every hiker has a unique personal story as to why they hike. I can’t speak for everyone but most hikers have these common attributes:

  • A love for nature and the outdoors.
  • A passion for travel 
  • A touch of crazy – let’s face it, hiking for months isn’t normal
  • A goal-oriented mindset 
  • A mindful approach to life, appreciating the simple things and living in the moment.
  • Toughness, both physically and mentally
  • A desire for trail cred 
  • A chance to meet like-minded individuals 
  • An escape from the 9-5 grind
  • Wants the freedom to eat whatever they want, whenever they want.

Snacks on trail >

So, whether you’re an experienced hiker or just starting out, these common traits are recurrent on trail.

It’s impossible to plan the future

After I graduated high school in 2021, I knew that college was not my next step, but I also didn’t have a clear idea of what my career path should be. I didn’t want to accumulate a mountain of debt pursuing something that might not be right for me, especially after hearing too many stories of people graduating with a degree they never used.

During my sophomore year of high school, I stumbled upon the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) while reading Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild, about a young woman hiking the PCT alone. The idea intrigued me, at the time, but I couldn’t imagine doing it myself. We were groomed to believe that college was the logical step after high school.

It wasn’t until my junior year that my perspective on the future changed dramatically. I became unenrolled from school due to health reasons. During that time, I became more mindful, and although I still valued education, I no longer desired to learn in the traditional way that the school system is structured today. I discovered that the lessons I learned during that period outside of the classroom were invaluable, I gained a deeper understanding of myself.

Where I’m from

Although I was born in San Diego, I didn’t remember much of it so I longed to go back. My older brother however, remembers living there, and I envied him for it. When I was younger, people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I would say that I wanted to live in a beach house on the ocean. Eventually, that dream morphed into living in San Diego again one day.

My family ended up settling in Gilmanton, New Hampshire on a small lake. Summers were spent outside in the woods building forts, jumping off rope swings, and cracking open clams and feeding them to sunfish, normal New Hampshire activities. Growing up in NH, it’s no surprise I’m as outdoorsy as I am.

My brother and I at the lake

Finding my passion for hiking

I started hiking solo frequently in the Belknaps and White mountains of New Hampshire. The sense of accomplishment I felt as I covered more miles fueled me to set more goals. Being alone in the wilderness became a form of therapy for me, and I realized that hiking was “my thing.” As I spent more time in nature, I also began to recognize my own tendencies and triggers and learned how to manage my thoughts and emotions. As a result, my mindset about what I should be doing and where I should be changed.

Mt. Lincoln, White Mountains NH

I came to the realization that the future cannot be predicted. Life is constantly in motion, and it’s up to us to create our own paths. The ebbs and flows of life are inevitable, and we must learn to adapt to them rather than fight against them. The most important thing is to remain open to new experiences and to stay true to oneself.

My lifestyle is a very important factor 

Sitting still for extended periods of time, especially indoors, is not something that comes naturally to me.

My desire is to live an extreme life. By this, I mean that I want to experience as many different places and activities as possible. I aspire to learn how to downhill longboard, learn how to spearfish, I want to try whitewater kayaking, you know those crazy people doing flips and launching themselves off waterfalls. I want to immerse myself in foreign cultures on the other side of the world, and travel like the characters from my childhood favorite series, Magic Tree House, who could transport themselves to different times, ride dinosaurs and dolphins, and visit polar bears in the Arctic.

I dream of hiking the PCT, I consider it to be quite on brand to the extreme lifestyle I crave.

Making dreams a reality

My last kayak tour in La Jolla

In 2021, I made my way to the sunny shores of San Diego. I landed a job as a kayak guide in La Jolla and spent over a year working and playing in the ocean. While there, I quickly learned that sometimes, we can’t do everything alone. I owe a lot of gratitude to close family friends who gave me a place to stay when I first arrived, shoutout to the Antons. I will never forget the amazing people I met at the kayak shop. Those connections helped make my time in San Diego unforgettable.

Fulfilling the goal of living there, I also had my sights set on the PCT for the spring of 2022. However, as we all know, life happens. I should have taken things one step at a time, but I got ahead of myself, and financially, I just couldn’t make it work. 

Fast forward to September 2022, I drove back to NH to regroup and focus on getting to the trail. The PCT is my next step, and I have never been more sure of anything in my life. 

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Comments 17

  • Cherie Vallee : Mar 18th

    Looking forward to reading about your adventures Emma.

    • Fm : Mar 19th

      Dumb ass…record snow..youll end up gulping for air in a frigid water slide into unconsciousness

      • John : Mar 19th

        You’re an idiot

      • Joe Munger : Mar 19th

        Don’t listen to FM. He’s a dumb ass.

  • Martina : Mar 19th

    Go, Emma! Can’t wait to read all about your adventures and the whole journey. Living vicariously through you ?

  • David : Mar 19th

    The Pacific Crest trail must very be challenging. I plan to follow your journey and help maintain a positive and supportive attitude towards your endeavor. You are so brave to embark on such a journey.

    I cant wait to read about all of your ups and downs. Stay positive, Ill offer words of encouragement to you and others who are embarking on this journey. By doing so, we can create a supportive and uplifting community of hikers who can inspire and motivate each other to reach their goals.

    I celebrate your bravery and determination for choosing to take on this challenging adventure. I’ll support you anyway I can every step of the way.

    None of this matters, however; your wings can cause a typhoon.

  • Amanda : Mar 19th

    We will see you in Etna Ca! Be safe, enjoy the ride aka journey

  • Scott : Mar 19th

    Wishing you all the best , but it is an INSANE snow year. Already the southern Sierra has record all-time record snow levels. Stream crossings and the passes will be very difficult/dangerous for much of early/mid season. I suspect that many (most?) won’t be successful with a through hike this year. Prepare for extreme conditions.

    • Emma Ramsey : Mar 20th

      Yes, I’ll most likely have to skip some areas and that’s okay. I’d rather make it home alive

  • Andy : Mar 20th

    I think its great, and she will be just fine.
    Just think twice before doing risky things on the pct. Dont be mindless

  • Patrick Gasper : Apr 1st

    National Guardsmen to Tiger Den leader in the Cub Scouts, to convincing myself as a humanitarian that it would be a great idea to accept the challenge of hiking the PCT. My goal is being aware of the poor water infrastructure in the United States and to raise money to supply 50,000 people with clean drinking water and hopefully bring enough awareness to purchase a sea water desalination plant on the northern west coast of the United States. I’ve been training since 2020 but, all of a sudden my left hip have been giving me problems. My date I intended to travel is 1 June 2023 from Canada border to Mexico border

  • Alan R Trainor : Apr 1st

    I think it’s wonderful. My youngest dotter started the hike with her hubby just one day ago from the southern terminus. You’ve got this ?

  • Janet Brough : Apr 10th

    Michael and I wish you the best. We will be following your adventures closely. Take your time and be safe! Wayfarer all the way❤️❤️

    • Emma Ramsey : Apr 10th

      Thank you Janet and Michael!!!!

  • Janet Brough : Apr 10th

    Michael and I wish you the best. We will be following your adventures closely. Take your time and be safe! Wayfarer all the way

  • Lee : Apr 27th

    I believe my husband Karl and I met you today while walking our dog. It was nice chatting with you. We wish you the best adventure and a safe journey!

  • Jason O. : Aug 14th

    Oddly enough, I just finished watching the movie WILD last night. What an adventure! Best of luck to you! Be safe and enjoy this adventure!


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