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!