Saturday, March 25, 2017

"You're Doing What?!": Breaking the News

My loans were paid off in the late summer of 2016 and it was in the fall of that year that I began to plan and prepare for my thru-hike. I was cautious in the announcement of my next adventure, telling only a couple of people here and there. It was daunting to announce such an ambitious goal to the people in my life. Some were confused, others were surprised, but the vast majority have come to be incredibly supportive.

The first person that I told when I was seriously beginning to consider hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was my then-boyfriend. We were driving to McCall, Idaho for a weekend of fall hiking and I said something along the lines of, "Ummm, soooo, I'm thinking about doing the PCT next summer..." It didn't go over particularly well at the time and lead to some long conversations throughout the remainder of our relationship. (He really did try to be supportive despite the worry!)

Then I told my best friend and she her reply was, "Oh yes! You SHOULD!! Need anyone to walk a section with you??" Best friends hold that title for a reason, though I'm about 110% sure that I have the very best one of them all!

I finally told my mom after we met up with some friends for lunch and were sitting in a Shopko parking lot. I almost always have my next travel adventure in mind, so when she asked my about my latest plan I told her about the PCT. She and I are similar in that when we aren't exactly sure how to react to something we do our research by asking a million questions and putting Google to good use. Since then she has been contacting everyone she has ever known that currently lives in the state of California, lining up rides and showers for me as I go.

The rest of my immediate family read about my trek in my Christmas letter (which was disguised as a list of things to buy me for Christmas, such as a fancy sleeping bag). My dad said that "it will be amazing, just like you!" One of my grandmothers responded, "Ohh Becca......  To be Young Again!"

Everyone else in my life has been a fair mix of worried and excited. It seems that after I answer all of their questions and demonstrate that I have indeed done a ton of research for the trip they convert more toward the excited end of the spectrum. Though I don't think that many of the wonderful people in my life will do the PCT in its entirety (because they aren't insane like me!), I do hope that it inspires them to fulfill one of their own goals!

PCT: Frequently Asked Questions

Every time someone finds out about my upcoming trek they immediately respond with a mix of shock and excitement, closely followed by a line of questions that never seems to change. To put eager minds at ease I will answer these frequently asked questions.

1. You aren't going by yourself are you?!

Yes and no. Yes, I am neither taking anyone else with me, nor am I planning on hiking with anyone for an extended period of time. Though with 50 permits issued per day during the season, it is nearly impossible to hike the PCT entirely by oneself.

2. How long is that going to take?

The average time span for this thru-hike is five to six months. I do have a deadline for returning to civilization, so am aiming for the shorter end of the spectrum and will be off trail by mid-September.

3. What inspired you to do this?

As with many other PCT hikers over the past few years I (and Lorelai Gilmore) first became acquainted with the trail from Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild. The book was a Christmas gift from my grandparents and it sat on my bookshelf for several months before I finally had a chance to crack it open while on my college internship. The story and descriptions of the trail stuck with me for the next couple of years, but I set it way on the back burner of my life goals (2650 miles is a long way!).

It wasn't until I started hiking the Camino del Norte in Spain that I inadvertently set a concrete goal to undertake the trek from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. On the Camino fellow peregrinos would go though a laundry list of questions, one of the common ones being, "where will you hike next?" From the first time it was asked I would respond, "Well, when I finish paying off my student loans I'm going to hike the PCT." From then on the goal seemed less like a pipe dream and more like an attainable future accomplishment.


After the big three questions the more curious people ask a series of more logical and theoretical followup questions.

How will you get food and supplies?

There are a couple of options for resupply. One is that you pack up boxes of food and gear and have them shipped to predetermined places (mostly post offices) along the trail. Another is that you buy as you go, foraging through whatever stores are available (from Winco to gas station convenience stores). I plan on doing a mix of the two by having supplies shipped to the smaller towns and buying as I go in the larger towns.

Who is going to ship all of those boxes for you?


My dear mother, whom volunteered to do whatever she could to help, has graciously offered to take up this all important task! When I get to Washington my dads will generously bring me resupply all the way from Seattle! Having a supportive family and a network of friends makes all the difference!

Will you be camping or are there places to stay along the way?

I'll be camping most of the time in my snazzy ultralight tent. Some of my resupply stops will take too long to hike in, get my stuff, and hike back out, so there may be times that I camp in or around the town, or other times I may splurge for a fancy place with interior plumbing and a roof.

How will you know where you're going?

Thankfully there's more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to navigating the PCT! Beside packing around a compass and my lovely paper topo maps (courtesy of Halfmile Maps and Yogi's Books), I will also be carrying a Delorme InReach Explorer which is super fancy and capable of two-way satellite communication. I'll have my phone as well.

Is there a way to keep up on your journey?

Well, this blog is one venue that I will be using to gloat about how much my feet hurt and how sick I am of oatmeal ;) I'll also try to keep up on Facebook and Instagram. Internet is a bit sketchy along the trail, but I'll do my best to keep up on the communication!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Announcement: PCT 2017!

Well, I guess the world may as well know: I will being thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017! Though some of my family and friends have known for a couple of months, I decided to write a letter (which I've posted below) to make the announcement to the remainder of my family (you can read about how that went here). When I decided that this year was my best option for completing my PCT goal I knew that many people would have questions and difficulty understanding my motivations. "Why do you want to hike 2,600+ miles?" "Alone?!" "But what about your job?" My usual answer: "Why not?" Why not spend time intimately experiencing the country that I live in? Why not hike by myself on a well established trail that hundreds of other people hike everyday? Why not leave my part time jobs when I'm already debt free and have the savings to do so? With a capable body and logistical timing, why not take the five months to experience something that I can then think back upon with fond memories for the next 70 year?


Hey Fam!
With Christmas just around the corner I thought I ought to pass along my list for this year. As with previous years I have a theme that correlates with something that I am looking forward to or in need of (thanks again for the computer last year!). This year's theme is: The Pacific Crest Trail. I first heard about the PCT while reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed (actually, this book was a gift from Gramma & Papa in Christmas 2012), a book that follows the mis/adventures of a lady walking the trail in the 1990s. From there I was inspired to look into other hikes, which lead me to discovering, researching, and completing the Camino del Norte in summer of 2015. 

Overlooking Basque Country (northern Spain) on a foggy morning.
Photo Credit: Haley M. Egan
Though it was challenging to walk the 500+ miles in 33 days, the Camino was an experience that was meaningful and enriching in so many ways. The pilgrimage was also an excellent way to explore a country from its very roots, literally and metaphorically. Of course, I could have joined a bus tour and seen the entire coast in three days, but I never would have been able to see the verdant forests, glimmering beaches, and rugged mountains the same way. Not to mention that those tours cost more for a two-week trip than I spent during the entire three months of my adventure that spanned six-ish (I’m counting Ireland separate from the U.K.) countries on two 
separate continents! But I digress. Hiking the Camino was the most intimate way that I feel I could have travelled Spain, a feeling that I haven’t experienced outside of traveling my own state. How have I managed to see so much of my own beautiful and diverse country, but lack the same connectivity that I did while abroad? How is it that I’ve only really explored the main cities of the western coastal states, when the environment that I really enjoy to be in is the one less populated? I’ve hiked more than 500 miles through a different country, but I haven’t hiked the one that I live in? Something doesn’t feel right about that, and I don’t see much time in my future that will allow for me to amend this. With my responsibilities few and my debts repaid, I think next spring/summer (dependent on snowpack in the Sierra’s) will be the optimum time for me to complete the PCT.

On the Camino, people would ask about what hikes I wanted to do in the future. My answer was always, “I want to hike the PCT once my student loans are paid off!” And with $27,000 of debt, I had thought it would be a few more years in the future. So, after working two official part-time jobs, pet sitting (sometimes for weeks on end), picking up odd jobs, getting loads of help from Mom & Kenneth, and receiving a generous gift from Nana R., my loans are gone. And here I am. Unencumbered and well-supported by loved ones. Now I have the chance to fulfill this dream and begin create the next one to work toward.

                Though I already have most of the gear that I will need for this adventure, I am still looking to purchase a quality, lightweight, warm sleeping bag. Here is the link to the one that best fits my criteria: http://zpacks.com/quilts/sleepingbag.shtml . In terms of details, I would like the 10 degree, slim, short (preferably in blue). If you would like to contribute smaller things here is the link to my Amazon list: xxxxxxxx Of course, I will also need a boatload of food, so any donations of jerky, tuna packets, and nuts would be lovely! Shoot me any questions that you may have about this next adventure!


                Love,
                Becca

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Hello Reader (I'm still trying to decide on a title for you),

I've just joined Bloglovin', as well as Activate by Bloglovin'! Links to those will be in the sidebar of the blog. Bloglovin' is a great place to fine and follow blogs that interest you.

Thanks!

Friday, April 1, 2016

"Should I study abroad?" Unequivocally, yes!

Before starting college, partaking in a study abroad was an experience that I knew that I wanted to do, but was unsure whether or not it was actually feasible. My program of study was intensive, time consuming, and left little room for scheduling variations. How would it be possible for me to skip an entire semester of classes required for graduation and still get everything done within my four year graduation plan? Not to mention, where do I get the money to travel abroad on a student's Ramen Budget?

When registering for my first semester of classes I had originally signed up for an Italian history class with a jazzy title that fulfilled three of the six credits I need to fulfill the requirements for a History minor (Advanced Placement classes from high school gave me 12 credits already!). Unfortunately the class ended up being full and I had to go with my second choice, Art History. Though I did enjoy Art, and I did enjoy History, the idea of a course with the two subjects combined made me wonder how difficult it would be to sneak a pillow into class for a more comfortable napping experience.
To my relief the class ended up being quite interesting and a week in the professor announced that all students were welcome to sign up for the department's semester abroad in Italy the next fall. After class I sent a photo of the flyer to my parents (who heartily encouraged me do it) and began revising my four year plan.

Okay, so I'm going to be straight up with you. I love planning things. Piecing together flight itineraries, scheduling dinners out with friends, and (my now obsolete semi-obsession) orchestrating my 4-year College Plan. My spreadsheets were beautiful, colour coordinated, and allowed me to take any class that I wanted while still fulfilling all of my required courses. Truly, they were amazing. All ten of them. One for every semester ... and a couple to spare.

   

After talking to my academic adviser and being reassured that the scheduling would all work out fine, I reworked my four year plan (2nd photo) and was left with only one more hurdle to face: money.

This, too, was simpler than I had expected. I had expected the additional Italy program fee to make my semester more expensive, but in reality it ended up being the least expensive of any semester during my four years (not including the summer courses). Because I wasn't partaking in my major program I didn't have to pay that fee, and since I wasn't living on campus I didn't have a dorm to pay for either. With my schedule reworked and my financial math in order, I signed up for the trip and enjoyed a semester of beautiful art, delicious food, and interesting conversation in Italy!

Studying abroad ended up being much more feasible than I had expected. The issues that I had anticipated as being potentially problematic ended up being resolved with a little encouragement and extra brainpower. When my semester abroad (or any of my other travels) comes up in conversation people almost always say, "I wish that I had done that," and I say to them, "it's never too late to do it now."

The Roman Forum
September 2011
                                   

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What is this thing anyway?

Dear Backpacker,
I'm not yet entirely sure what this is. Is it in regards to travel? Yes. Will it include photos? Most likely. That's about all that I know for sure. This blog will probably (hopefully) be some sort of rapidly evolving creature. In essence my main goal is to chronicle my adventures and offer travel insight and inspiration to my readers. I'll post about current, upcoming, and past travels, and maybe some informational/instructional things as well. If you have any suggestions for future blog posts just let me know via contact@thepetitebackpacker.com!

Don't worry, I'll write a "real" post soon! With three trips already planned for the year (NYC next month!) I should have plenty of material.


The White House
April 2009

Previous Blog: Italy 2011

During my 2011 fall semester abroad in Italy I kept a (primarily) photo blog. I'll probably refer back to this trip in future posts, but until then, I hope you enjoy the visual adventure!

Photo Credit: Ben Sherman