Blog

Beliefs about Yourself

A saying that I’ve heard repeated many times is: our thoughts create our reality. For a long time, this was one of those sayings that, for me, sounded nice, but maybe a little over the top. It made logical sense- if you are constantly thinking negatively and feeling sorry for yourself, not a whole lot of good comes from that. I know that when I’ve gotten down on myself for any extended period of time, it became increasingly easier to find the negative in things outside of myself. All of this can add up to stress, anxiety, and/or depression. This is the basic understanding that I had of this saying. Recently, it’s come to my attention just how accurate it really is.

Stuckness comes from cycles of thought. This is how the cycle often goes: we want to change something in our life, we start the process of initiating change, then there’s an obstacle. The blockage can be external or in internal. When we, say, come across the external obstacle, what is our approach? Do we take it as a sign that change will never happen? It’s too much to tackle? Why? What are our beliefs about ourselves that makes us think that the obstacle cannot be overcome? I know that for me, it has sometimes taken just a minor challenge that causes me to doubt the path I had my eyes on in the first place. Why? Is it supposed to happen effortlessly? Even if I got to where I wanted, I might change my mind about it after all of that effort. So, why even try? Or, if it’s a financial cost, why aren’t you worth investing in? Will you really never be able to pay for it? These are just a few examples of how stuckness can present, and how challenges cause certain beliefs about ourselves to come up, which can set us back to square one. It can take a lot of reflection to even realize that you have been repeating a pattern. What can break this cycle? What can get us past what feels like a dead end? You have to first recognize what beliefs come up, then do something different from your normal pattern!

When you believe certain thoughts about yourself, behaviors manifest. Sometimes, it’s a non-doing, sometimes, it’s the way you interact with those around you. Maybe you can see where I’m going with this. When someone doesn’t believe they deserve something, do they usually go about life attracting that thing? Probably not. A person needs to believe that they are deserving, because that breaks the cycle. Sometimes, it can be really hard to actually believe. That’s where faking it until you make it can come in. There is still real action in the faking. Once one acts in ways that indicates that they deserve their aspiration, things will happen. If a person once avoided job applications because they didn’t think they deserved a job that they would enjoy, they may have thought that there was someone more qualified, more hardworking, etc. Once they changed the way they showed up and behaved in a way that was self-assured, they probably saw more jobs that they could qualify for, and, of course, applied- with confidence in their cover letters to boot.

Our thoughts determine what we actually achieve. If we continue with a dead-end cycle, it constantly proves that we cannot trust in ourselves, that we cannot follow through and get what we really want. Perseverance is key. One day at a time.

The most relevant experience that I can speak from is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019. I had originally thought that I would hike the trail in 2018, but because I didn’t actively commit to the dream, nothing happened. I kept waiting to see if something would just happen for me, but I needed to be the one to make it happen. It wasn’t going to just all easily fall into place. What made it happen in 2019 was telling myself that I was actually going to hike the PCT for 5 months, starting in April of 2019. So, anything that came up after August 2018 (when I made the decision to commit) had to keep in mind my plan. Then, the time actually came to do the trail. My persistence and perseverance with hiking every day, one step at a time, one day at a time, is what got me to achieving my dream.

If I had treated hiking the PCT like I have treated other goals that I’ve pursued, I wouldn’t have made it. The first thing that was different was that I decided this experience would be valuable enough to me to invest in for myself. It was not cheap to buy gear, food, and all of the expenses that added up along the way- like hotels, gear repair/replacements, town food, etc. It did create some debt when all was said and done. Do I regret it because of that? Not one bit. Do I regret putting my other goals on hold? No. Another thing that I didn’t do was say, “I’m not even halfway yet, or anywhere close to my goal. I might as well give up.” It’s completely silly to think of doing that. Of course, if I had thought like that, I would never have finished the trail. My other goals may not be as tactile and literal as making it from Point A to Point B, but the same concept applies. If I’m not willing to invest, if I’m not willing to put in the work every day to eventually- oftentimes, slowly- make it to my goal, I’ll never get there. Remember: have faith in the process. It is essential.

This concept of thoughts creating our reality applies to everything! A fantastic resource and place for inspiration is the Facebook Page “TOTAL BODY CONFIDENCE“, which was created by a team of people I love and respect so much. One thing I know for sure about changing anything in my life, is that it starts with my mindset and not losing momentum. Surrounding myself with other people who care about growth and self-improvement has played a key role in steering me in the right direction, reminding me of my motivation, and inspiring me to live out my potential. The page I mention above is a great community for that.

Now, I hope I’ve inspired someone out there. I know that just by writing this, I’ve inspired myself! Figure out your goals, start working towards them, and then, don’t let anything stop you. If you fall, pick yourself back up. Don’t let your own head get in the way.

 

Momentum Takes Consistency

Continued momentum… This is an idea that was articulated by a friend of mine on trail, Spicybite. He and I were talking on trail one day about our pre-trail lives and what we wanted after trail. He mentioned that he wanted to continue the momentum that the trail gave him, and that he would need to keep that in mind pretty much as soon as he got back home so that he wouldn’t fall into the enticing comfort of going back to how things were. I knew that it was one of the reasons that I wanted to hike the trail in the first place- to have momentum in my life, and one of my goals was to continue with that momentum when I got home.

One of the beauties of trail life was the simplicity and freedom of every day. We woke up, ate, walked, ate, walked some more, ate, set up camp, ate some more, and went to sleep. All of that and some conversation with friends (or oneself) sprinkled in, plus, maybe some music, podcasts, or an audiobook to spice it up. The objective was clear everyday: keep walking and stay alive. For me, it wasn’t really until toward the end of the trail that I came to terms with the fact that it was going to end, and I started to daydream about the stability of everyday life back home and having a warm and cozy house to snuggle up in during the cold and rainy days.

Winter is hard in the Pacific Northwest. Seasonal depression kicks in… and top that with intermittent post-trail depression. Keeping that momentum going has been especially challenging in the winter. What I’m finding is that if I at least keep that goal of momentum in my mind, it is really helpful in pulling me out of a funk. In order to level up in my life, I need to be challenged by something. So, instead of asking myself, “Why is this happening to me (whatever “this” may be)?”, I ask, “Why is this happening FOR me?” I got this beautiful idea from someone named Brittany Taylor (check her out!). Another important thing to keep me moving forward is to surround myself with people who challenge me as well as support me. I’ve come to realize that the people who have stayed in my life didn’t just happen by chance. They are people who I subconsciously decided to keep in touch with, because I felt accepted, supported, and challenged by them.

I am currently in an interesting in-between phase, where I feel like there is forward progress, but it’s going slowly. It’s like when you start pushing a heavy object and it feels like it’s barely budging, then, it starts gaining more and more momentum. As long as you keep pushing. That’s the main thing I’m learning: consistency is key. Don’t give up and don’t stop pushing. Don’t make the challenge so hard at first that it feels like you’re pushing up a giant hill. Start out with sustainable changes, then, once you gain some momentum, you can handle that hill. It’s like the trail: one step at a time, one mountain at a time, one day at a time. If you stick with it, you’ll get to where you want to go.

Being Vegan on the PCT in 2019

Food is a huge topic among PCT hikers, because we were hungry most of the time. Our metabolisms became so high, that we were constantly eating and instantly burning through the calories. It was fun being reminded of school days, when we’d compare foods and sometimes trade snacks. Many people who learned that I remained vegan on the Pacific Crest Trail, were curious about what I ate and if it was difficult for me to find options. For me, it felt quite easy most of the time, with the exception of gas station resupplies, or small resort stores. I also tried to regularly take my vegan multivitamins to make up for any nutrition gaps I might experience.

I cold-soaked the whole time I was on trail, meaning that I did not cook any of my food. I would soak my food in a container when I got to camp, and waited a maximum of 20 minutes for a meal to be fully soaked and softened. My staples for dinner were: couscous, instant mashed potatoes often mixed with dehydrated refried beans (I’d buy Idahoan Original, with no butter, or a generic brand, with no added flavors), and ramen (the vegan ones, of course). These three meals were what I rotated through pretty much my whole time on trail. One might find this boring, but for me, I would have most of my variety in my snacks. I also didn’t mind not having to use mental energy just to switch up my meals. Sometimes, I would buy tortillas so that I could put my dinner in a burrito form. I always tried to make sure that I had an adequate amount of salt and flavoring within my three dinner choices. I stuck with cold soaking because it worked for me, and I didn’t crave hot foods, because I got my share of that in resupply towns. I held on to my tiny FOHOZ stove (BRS Ultralight Stove knockoff) for about 4 months, just in case I were to change my mind about cooking. Once I realized that I was only about 2-3 weeks away from the end, I figured that I probably wouldn’t feel compelled to change up my food preparation technique in that time.

For snacks, I found that I liked bars a lot, because they were fast and usually packed with calories and quick sugar. My favorite bar was the Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars, because they tasted somewhat healthy, and they were cheap. I also would sometimes buy Clif bars if they were reasonably priced, same went for ProBar meal bars and Bobo bars. I often liked to have something crunch and salty too, so I liked to get either original Wheat Thins, or the Tomato & Basil Wheat Thins. Other delicious salty treats were peanut butter filled pretzels.

In the beginning, I sent 8 packages to myself in the desert. I didn’t want to send a ton of packages, just in case I ended up getting tired of the food in them. I’m glad I did that, because since my journey became non-linear with several flips, the shipping process became more of an inconvenience than anything else. So, I started buying stuff at the store. I still got a few packages shipped to resupply spots that were limited with their options, especially to the towns in Washington. My packages started out with a very nutrition-packed oatmeal (lots of chia, flax, spirulina, other seeds, and protein powder), sweet snacks (dried fruit, date balls, and chocolate & seeds energy nuggets), salty snacks (flax corn chips and peanuts), and my two dinner choices (couscous and mashed potatoes). I got tired of my oatmeal pretty quickly. It was such a large quantity and was simply a terrible texture with all of those seeds, especially as a cold soaked item. I kept having date balls, but was glad when I got a break from them whenever I didn’t have a package.

When I bought from the store, I’d often get a jar of peanut butter (nice to snack on spoonfuls for a quick snack, and to spread on other things), english muffins (much easier to compress than bagels, and slightly lighter), bars, crackers, couscous, ramen, and mashed potatoes. Sometimes, I’d get instant oats to supplement my english muffin breakfast, or tortillas to supplement my dinners. If I wasn’t packing for more than 4 days, I’d sometimes pack out some fresh produce, like a banana or avocado. If I was feeling generous with weight, and if the store had some, I’d buy some TastyBites Indian food pouches (had to make sure it was the kind without dairy) or some baby food fruit/veggie pouches (basically like having a smoothie or apple sauce). My absolute favorite resupply spot was Mount Shasta, because they had a Natural Foods store, which was like a vortex for us who were health nuts. They had so many sales on hiker snacks like bars, vegan jerky (there were, like, 5 kinds), and fancy vegan ramen! They had the things that we were craving, like healthy smoothies and veggie filled breakfast burritos.

Since I became vegan 4 years ago, the PCT was fairly easy for me to navigate diet-wise. It’s a lifestyle that I’m used to. It’s my normal. So, for some who are new to veganism, it might have been a bit more challenging. It was helpful to have the Vegan PCT Hikers and Supporters Facebook page, the founder of whom I got to meet at Trail Days! That page was often updating us on the options we may find in different towns, whether at restaurants or at stores. I got a lot of my package inspiration from Paul the Backpacker on Youtube. I also found Cotezi’s (also on Youtube) PCT vegan story helpful. More and more people each year are becoming vegan, and that includes PCT hikers. We live in a great time, where it’s getting easier and easier to find vegan options. I am so glad that I didn’t have to let go of my values for this trail. I am also very grateful for the trail angels that had options for me. For the Class of 2020, I can attest that being vegan on trail is very much possible and enjoyable!

Ways That I’ve Chosen to Live with Lower Waste and Be More Minimalist

The topics of low/zero waste and minimalism always pique my interest. An influencer called Sustainably Vegan introduced me to the term “low waste” instead of a more common term of “zero waste”. She likes to use this term because “less” is more attainable than “zero”, and many people do not have the same access to “zero waste” stores or fancy water bottles. It is a more inclusive term that I personally like as well. I have this belief that if one person at a time makes positive choices and realizes the power of their dollar, it can create a much larger positive change.

I remember when I was in high school and first started to get interested in ways that I could change what I buy and how I live my life that could help heal the Earth. I read a book, which I unfortunately cannot remember the title of, which covered a number of ways to have a more sustainable home- from floor materials to homemade cleaning products. I was dreamily writing notes from this book, and getting really excited about these simple changes I could make, especially when I was older and had my own living space. Well, now I’m living in my own space, and over the years I have made it a home that I’m proud of. I know that it can be hard and seem daunting starting from ground zero, but even one or two small changes to your lifestyle could make a difference! How? Because it takes one person at a time making small changes for real change to happen.

So, I’ve listed a number of things to think about- a list of options, if you will- things I have decided to change in my life that were done for the purpose of not only reducing my waste, but also keeping my home more simple and minimal. Let me know if this is interesting to you, or helpful, or if you have any suggestions!

Let’s start with some simple changes…

 

Here are my to-go items that I usually keep in the car so that I don’t forget them at home. I used my utensil set for over half of the PCT, because I bought it in Mount Shasta (a town that was close to the trail). I had been wanting a bamboo utensil kit like this for a while, and finally got one for myself. It is so light and easy to bring along anywhere, which is great for reducing plastic utensils. I also love my coffee cup, which has actually gotten me coffee at a discounted rate many times! Lastly, I’ve got a trunk full of tote bags and washed and dried produce bags ready for whenever I need them.

fullsizeoutput_37df
Note: the plastic produce bags hanging over my sink. I reuse the bulk food bags that I get from the store, because at the store I go to, you are not allowed to bring your own produce bag, so I still use their bags, without creating more waste.
fullsizeoutput_37ec
Here is an example of one of my typical weekly grocery trips. I try to reduce the amount of plastic bags that are used by keeping most of the produce loose. As mentioned above, I reuse the store’s plastic bags so that I’m not using new ones every time I come to the store. Unfortunately, this is a store that doesn’t allow customers to bring their own produce bags, so I use theirs… multiple times. I also try to reduce the amount of canned items by buying dried beans in bulk. This is not for everybody, but since I have time to, I soak the beans overnight and cook them usually the next day. While recycling is sometimes better than throwing things in the garbage, it depends on the recycling program near you. Unfortunately, many things that are thrown into the recycling actually end up being disposed of in the landfill anyway- either because they aren’t able to recycle some items in their location, or sometimes the items just aren’t clean enough.
IMG_20191008_153910878_HDR
I reuse glass jars that I’ve accumulated from food that I’ve used, and use them for storing my bulk items. Buying in bulk means less packaging. Plus, it’s usually cheaper.
IMG_20190926_132004213
Tea bags typically contain plastic, believe it or not, so that they don’t disintegrate in the water. The envelopes they come in also creates waste. It’s less wasteful to use loose leaf, so I typically use either my french press, a tea pot, or a tea ball for my tea. It’s great, because I can easily drain out the liquid and add the tea leaves to my compost.
IMG_20191008_153523837
I have been very glad for purchasing a couple of silmats (silicon) a year or two ago. They have made it so that I do not have to constantly buy or use parchment paper or foil. Things come off of the material so easily, I don’t even need to use oil if I don’t want to! They are easy to wash and dry.
IMG_20191008_154225521
I was tired of constantly buying dishwasher detergent, and always trying to make a good decision about which one I should buy. I ended up finding a great “recipe” for making my own! It uses these three ingredients, plus a few drops of lemon essential oil for smell. https://happymoneysaver.com/homemade-dishwasher-detergent/
IMG_20190924_153516354_2
For several years now, my bathroom spaces have included a handheld bidet attachment, because toilet paper allegedly uses 27,000 trees per day. There are other options out there, like recycled paper toilet paper, bamboo toilet paper, etc. I like bidets because I find that they do a better job of cleaning your bum, and the water that is used is actually a very small amount. I use reusable cloths to dry. These cloths are washed in the laundry, and take up very little space in the wash load. I do always have toilet paper as an option, because I know that not all of my guests will want to use the bidet or the reusable cloths.
IMG_20191009_100530073
I bought this crystal deodorant over 5 years ago! It is coming to it’s final 6 months, but this deodorant has astounded me with it’s lifespan. It is a simple crystal of salt, and all you need to do is wet your armpits and rub the stick on. The salt kills the bacteria that causes odor, so while it’s a deodorant, it is not an antiperspirant. Full disclosure- for me, it took about a week for my body to ween off of regular deodorant, meaning that I had a slight smell for about a week before it really started working. 
fullsizeoutput_37ed
This was my food bag on the PCT, which was just an Albertson’s bag that I picked up in Tehachapi, CA. It lasted over 3 months. I felt good about reusing this bag and not needing to purchase a fancier food bag.
20190912_174935
After almost 5 months of backpacking, it was hard to not feel like throwing out most of my belongings when I got home. The photo above shows my pack, which held my sleep system, clothes, food, water, and shelter. I found myself wishing that I could just wear a “uniform” back home, like I pretty much did on trail. I do regularly go through my clothes and try to donate anything that I haven’t worn in at least 6 months. With my other belongings, I prioritize the most functional things, and any sort of decorations usually need to promote health in some way- whether that be a plant, a photograph, a candle- as long as it contributes positively to my mental and physical health.
fullsizeoutput_37ef
This is from my friend, Hannah’s, apartment in Seattle. I was so inspired by the plants and contrast of dark lines on the white wall.
fullsizeoutput_3804
Biophilic design takes into account the benefits of plants in urban, indoor, and manmade environments. In psychology, they have found that exposure to nature boosts our serotonin levels. There have been many studies where scientists found that people healed faster in hospitals (compared to the control group) when they had natural elements in their room, or even just a window looking out to nature. Not only that, but plants often remove toxins from the air and produce oxygen.
fullsizeoutput_3802
My room has been minimalist for the 1.5 years I’ve lived here, and I love how relaxing it is. I felt like it needed something to make it feel more balanced and a little more alive, so I decided on this…
fullsizeoutput_3807
I added shelves with plants and lantern lights. Often, minimalism means subtracting from what you have, but this addition was intentional. I find that minimalism is more about intention and a purpose for each belonging. In this case, I wanted to make my room feel more balanced and alive, and at night, cozier. This does just that and makes my nights feel better.

 

A famous TV show called Tidying Up with Mari Kondo got me reinvigorated to go through my things last winter. So, I watched the show at the same time as gathering all of my clothes and putting them into one big pile, as she advises to do. I tried to figure out what “sparked joy”, and then I refolded.

Minimalism and low/zero waste is a journey, not a competition. It takes time to find what works for you and to figure out what is essential to your own health and well-being.

My Favorite Songs for the PCT

This is just a fun post where I list some of my favorite songs that I listened to on my PCT playlist. Here is the link to my Spotify playlist: PCT Playlist It is full of quite the random assortment of genres and artists, but I only kept songs that sparked some sort of joy in me. Many songs were meant to invigorate or motivate me, some songs were for those more reflective and calm moments, and some were just for fun (like “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain or “Believe” by Cher). The ones that I list below were the songs that I could more or less take the lyrics literally with my trail experience:

Arrows- Trevor Hall

I feel the need to write a little something special about this one. This song was one of the first songs that I listened to after I committed to the idea of hiking the PCT in 2019. It got me excited for the adventure and felt validating to my decision to stick with my intuition. As I continued my journey on the trail, this song became more meaningful and I’d save it for wide open spaces. It would often make me cry because it went straight to my heart.

“This journey has got me bleeding
A certain kind of feeling
But I can never leave it
Good God I know I need it

Arrows come straight for my heart
Arrows come straight for my heart

I thought I’d never face it
And now it’s stripped me naked
Here standing in the open
I thought I missed the omen

(Chorus)

The dark is all around me
But I’m so glad it found me

Over the moon and through stars

(Chorus)

Everything I Need- Trevor Hall

(A good mantra)

“Mmh, I have everything I need
I have everything I need
I have everything I need
Mmh, from the mountain to the sea
All of this is within me
I have everything I need

(Don’t be afraid)
The fruitful darkness
(Don’t be afraid)
Is all around us”

Old Pine- Ben Howard

“Hot sand on toes, cold sand in sleeping bags,
I’ve come to know that memories
Were the best things you ever had
The summer shone beat down on bony backs
So far from home where the ocean stood
Down dust and pine cone tracks

We slept like dogs down by the fire side
Awoke to the fog all around us
The boom of summer time

[Chorus]
We stood
Steady as the stars in the woods
So happy-hearted
And the warmth rang true inside these bones
As the old pine fell we sang
Just to bless the morning.

Hot sand on toes, cold sand in sleeping bags,
I’ve come to know the friends around you
Are all you’ll always have
Smoke in my lungs, or the echoed stone
Careless and young, free as the birds that fly
With weightless souls now.”

Thank U- Alanis Morisette

“How bout getting off of these antibiotics
How bout stopping eating when I’m full up
How bout them transparent dangling carrots
How bout that ever elusive kudo

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How bout me not blaming you for everything
How bout me enjoying the moment for once
How bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
How bout grieving it all one at a time

(Chorus)

The moment I let go of it
Was the moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down

How bout no longer being masochistic
How bout remembering your divinity
How bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How bout not equating death with stopping

Thank you India
Thank you Providence,
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you clarity
Thank you thank you silence…”

All Star- Smash Mouth

“Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me
I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed
She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb
In the shape of an “L” on her forehead

Well, the years start coming and they don’t stop coming
Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running
Didn’t make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb

So much to do, so much to see
So what’s wrong with taking the back streets?
You’ll never know if you don’t go
You’ll never shine if you don’t glow

Hey, now, you’re an all-star, get your game on, go play
Hey, now, you’re a rock star, get the show on, get paid
And all that glitters is gold
Only shooting stars break the mold”

The Trail is Over… Mostly

It has been difficult to start writing my post-PCT thoughts. I’ve been putting it off because I thought I needed more time to process it, or the perfect time and place to write, or maybe I wouldn’t remember my password to get into WordPress, etc. The time is now. I have to make progress on something. On the trail, I was getting closer and closer to a goal every day. Here at home, I need to create a new goal every day.

In those last eight miles that I walked from the northern monument to the “official” end, EC Manning Park, I still couldn’t quite process that these were truly the last miles of this seemingly endless trail. Everything I did was the last time I’d do something on trail: gathering water, treating my water, going pee, eating a snack, climbing a hill… As Tea Time (a fellow hiking partner) and I finally reached the park, we weren’t greeted by a crowd of cheering people as we were at the monument. We walked down a road in the middle of nowhere and spotted a few hikers whom we knew, who were struggling to find a room in the lodge and were coping with the fact that they were going to have to spend this victorious night camping in the rain. We made it to the restaurant, but accidentally went down to the bar first, which was a not-so-lively venue with no other hikers in it. Even the restaurant upstairs was not very lively, but it did have hikers at the tables. It was strange and anticlimactic. The servers didn’t congratulate us or really even seem to understand the monumental occasion that this marked for us. On the way home, I strongly felt obligated to hike soon- like I was about to just take a little time off trail and then go back. It wasn’t until I was pulling onto my road at home that it started to sink in that it was over. This dream that I had kept in the back of my mind for 8 years and finally manifested, was over. Well, the truth is that I actually still have 260 miles of the Sierra to do- Kearsarge Pass to Ebbets Pass- but, I won’t be doing that until sometime next year probably in August or September, when the snow is mostly melted. So, I’m happy that 10% of the PCT still waits for me.

When people ask me, “How was it?”, I have no idea how to summarize about 150 days. It was everything and more. I struggled more than I ever thought I would. I cried too many times to count. But, I also loved and laughed so hard. The trail was so brutal and challenging at times, and other times, my body would feel broken regardless of how hard the trail was. Persistent physical pain had such an effect on my mental state. I thought of getting off trail so many times. Two weeks before the end, I was sad because I realized that I just wanted to get the trail over with so that the pain in my shoulder would stop. Thankfully, a lot of my pain subsided in the last week of trail, and I could mostly focus on cherishing all the moments I could. What usually pulled me through any struggle was the people I met along the way.

That was a huge takeaway from my experience- how much I cherish connection and community. I realized that throughout my young adult life, I have often tried to keep a few people very close, because I like creating a chosen family. With my first trail family, we stayed together for almost three months, and I found it hard to think about letting them go, but I realized that we had different goals and we would have to part ways. It felt great in Oregon to hike a lot of the trail by myself. I had this newfound freedom. I still saw Stitch (a member of my first trail family) fairly often, which was nice to have a familiar person around sometimes.

In Washington, I was totally alone at first, which opened me up even more to new people. I ended up meeting someone who I consider a very close friend now: Beans. We seemed to click right away and people thought that we had known each other for a while, even though we had just met a few days ago. On trail, time works differently because there are far fewer distractions. Time can slow down, and you can spend hours talking to someone that you haven’t known for long, exchanging vulnerable and personal stories about each other. Trail relationships are intense because of this phenomenon.

If you’ve known someone for 1 or 2 weeks, it’s like a whole month in the “real world”. There aren’t all of the fronts or masks that people put up in the “real world” that usually take time to break down. People on trail are putting plenty of energy into keeping it together physically, so keeping up the energy to put up an emotional front is not as likely to happen. Plus, people have something to bond over immediately. We understand each other’s struggles and what we’ve been through. We already stink and are dirty, so doing foul things in front of each other is no big deal. So, when I say that my first trail family and I were together for almost three months, that’s a long time in trail time. I connected with a few random other people besides Beans in Washington, and we formed a little family: Stitches (from Oregon), Tea Time (from France), and Spicy Bite (from SoCal). We really knew how to have fun and laugh, and probably drank too much beer. It was great, because Beans had thru-hiked the trail in 2016, so she had such a relaxed air about her since this was her second time in the Washington section. The others were also pretty relaxed in nature, but with Beans, it made the unknown miles ahead seem less scary. We dawdled a lot in towns, packed out beer, made campfires, watched stars, and enjoyed each other’s company until way too late into the night. It was like we were making up for lost time.

Goodbyes are bittersweet. They’re the marking of a new chapter, and they’re also an occasion where you have to realize that the next time and place you’ll see the people you’ve grown to cherish to might be far away. Thankfully, a conversation with them is just the click of a button away. It’s been nice processing this big life thing with them over text or messages online. We did it. We made it out alive. Maybe that makes us unstoppable. We can’t stop seeking, we can’t stop searching for meaning or adventure or connection. That’s the point of doing something like this. The PCT had this way of occasionally showing you, in wide open spaces, the miles of path that you came from and the path where you were headed towards. The exciting thing was walking into the unknown.

Pre-trail Thoughts

Many thoughts have been going through my head in the past few months as I’ve mentally prepared myself for leaving for the PCT. I often find myself thinking of what I am looking forward to, and also what I will miss. There were events that were created or thought up after I chose to commit to hiking the trail, so even though this is the opportune time for me, missing incredible get togethers or events was inevitable. I know that I will need to remember to just have as much fun as I can while I can, and soak in this experience. Oh, and of course: never quit on a bad day.

I will miss: my little family (my partner and my dog) and cuddles with them, my friends, most of summer in Washington, sporadic adventures with my friends, a couple of weddings, fresh local fruit grown by neighbors and friends, fresh fruit and veg in general, season 8 of Game of Thrones, chilling and eating popcorn while watching shows at the end of the day, comfy pajamas, centralized heating, and many of the things that bring convenience and comfort to my day to day life.

What I’m looking forward to: new friends, watching the landscape change every day, being less sedentary (more like not sedentary at all), fresh air, feeling a sense of accomplishment each day for making it just a little further, time to reflect with minimal distractions, getting more clear on what I’d like to do with my life after the trail (harvesting ideas), using food truly as fuel, eating a lot, not having to meal prep, getting to see the details of these states that I’ve called home, having this journey be a part of my life story, trail magic and trail angels, the beauty, the hard days that I will overcome and become stronger from, focusing only on one day at a time (and sometimes the next day)

PCT 2019 Packing List

For my 2019 thru-hike of the PCT, my aim is to go as light as possible, with a base weight of under 10 lbs (ultralight). My base weight (pre-hike) is coming in at around 8.8 lbs. Base weight basically means everything in your pack that doesn’t fluctuate weight. So, this includes your big 3 (shelter, pack, sleep system), electronics, toiletries, and clothes that you aren’t currently wearing. I wanted to stay within a budget of $500-1000, especially if I decide to switch an item while out on trail. So, for some items, I decided to get the best option I could for a lower price, but still good quality. My most expensive items were my big 3. What I normally hear is the average thru-hiker can expect to spend between $2,000-$4,000 on gear, depending on what you already own (here’s one resource: https://www.rei.com/blog/hike/how-much-does-it-cost-to-hike-the-pacific-crest-trail). I am pleased that my expenses came in at around $850. Some things I received as Christmas presents (or by using gift cards) and some things I already owned. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to afford certain gear and I realize that everyone’s gear list will be different.

Here is my list:

Pack: Gossamer Gear Kumo 36

Shelter: Tarptent Protrail with trekking poles

Sleep system: Hammock Gear Econ Burrow 10 degree, with Wellax inflatable sleeping pad

Clothes: Darn tough socks, Injinji sock liners, ExOfficio underwear, Thinx, Avia sports bra, running shorts from Target, lightweight and quick drying pants from Target, Mountain Hardwear puffy, Frogg Toggs rain jacket, long sleeve polyester base layer, ExOfficio sun shirt, hat, sunglasses, buff, New Balance Minimus 10v4 trail runners with inserts

Small things: Sawyer Squeeze water filter, kid sized bamboo toothbrush with end of handle sawed off, baby wipes, 1.25 oz of face moisturizer, sunscreen stick, chapstick, hand sanitizer, trowel, anti-diarrhea pills, ibuprofen, multivitamins, nail clippers, safety pin, duct tape (wrapped on trekking pole), Rite in the Rain 3×4″ journal, permits

Electronics: Phone (Moto X4), Anker Powercore 10000 mAh, charging cords, earbuds

Snack tools: GSI Ultralight pot with grabber, compostable spoon, bandana, lighter, BRS ultralight stove

 

In the Sierra, I will be adding a bear can, microspikes, an ice axe, and possibly some leggings.

Break down of the weights: https://lighterpack.com/r/dux8i0

Featured image of me snowshoeing with my gear at Hurricane Ridge, taken by Michelle Kester.

fullsizeoutput_3603

A New Chapter is on the Horizon

I will be hiking the PCT.

Let me expand on that in the order that I usually need to:

I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border in California up to just past the Canadian border in Washington.

I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border in California up to just past the Canadian border in Washington, starting April 14th.

I will be solo thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border in California to just past the Canadian border in Washington, starting April 14th. It is 2,650 miles long, which takes between 4 and 6 months to complete.

 

Something that I feel is important to mention is the amount of privilege I have that will allow me to hike the trail. I have enough financial support, I am able to take that much time off from a job, my body is capable of handling that much physical activity and challenge, and I had access to an education that made me aware of the trail in the first place. I am also able to budget for lightweight gear. I realize that the land I will be walking and sleeping on is stolen land. It will be an enormous privilege to be essentially homeless by choice for months, all while appreciating the nature around me. I am so very aware that this is an opportunity that not many people get to take advantage of and I often feel guilty about being able to go. But, I also know that this is a dream that I’ve had for several years and I don’t want to miss this opportunity. All I can really do is acknowledge the privilege I have and not take it for granted.

With that said, here are common questions I have gotten and my answers to them:

1. You’re going without your husband? 

or-

You’re going alone?!

Yes. I did say that “I” will be hiking the trail, not “we”. This is a trip for myself, a feat I have wanted to accomplish for several years now. It is not easy for many people to take 4-6 months off of work. I made a commitment at the end of my AmeriCorps VISTA year to make time on my calendar between April and September so that I had no other excuse but to hike this trail. Also, I get this question a lot from women, oftentimes followed by, “Wow, you’re so brave to go alone. I’m so afraid of hiking by myself.” I urge women to go on a day hike alone (which can include your dog). On my first solo hike, I realized just how silly the fears are, especially on trails that are further away from cities. The other people on trails are usually out there for the same reason as you- to enjoy the nature and to get some physical activity. The notion that some deranged man might leap out from behind a bush to attack you several miles out on a trail is really irrational. Media fear-mongers women into not going out alone. These are extremely rare cases. Statistics are on your side. You would be at a much higher risk of death or injury by driving your car down the street.

2. You’re bringing protection, right? (Some people have suggested a gun, a rape whistle, or bear spray)

I try to answer this very cautiously, but recently I’ve been a little snarky. First of all, have you met hikers? The hiking community is not a group to be afraid of, unless of course you bring up the controversial question of whether to wear boots or trail runners. The people to be most fearful of along the trail will be town or city folk. In the times that I’ll be visiting towns or cities, where I’m not a few miles out in the wilderness, I’ll most likely be with other hikers. To quell fears, I am bringing a little neck knife, which is pretty fool-proof (unlike a gun), and I would have less time spent fumbling around for my weapon, just in case I do get in a dangerous situation. Also, a neck knife can function as a knife for avocados, resupply boxes, and all sorts of survival situations. Bear spray, yes, can be used on people too, but is banned in many areas. It is also very heavy. I’m also pretty sure that I would just anger the bear that might be trying to attack me.

3. Are you taking your dog?

No, because she did not sign up for a hike of this magnitude. I am sure she would enjoy a lot of it, but it is my journey- not hers. To expand on that- I would have more responsibility than just keeping myself alive, which I think would take away from my overall experience of the trail. It would also be almost twice as much food to send in resupply boxes. There are also many national parks that do not allow dogs. I would also not want to risk her running off after wildlife that could potentially harm her.

 

If you are interested in hearing more about my preparation/training for the PCT or want to virtually experience the journey with me, this site will serve as the place where I write about it!

Countdown to leaving for Campo, CA: 10 weeks, 1 day

Perseverance

 

In high school, I won the “Perseverance Award” in cross country. Later, I won the “Sisyphus Award” in one of my college art classes, honoring my ability to push the boulder up the mountain, even after it falls down every time. Now, please don’t take this as bragging, because at the time, all I could see in those awards was some sort of joke. On one hand, I could look at these awards as typical millennial awards, where I received recognition just for trying. On the other hand, I could look at them as a reflection of my core character, where I have consistently pushed myself or stayed hopeful, despite obstacles.

Perseverance is an act of courage, confidence in oneself that everything will have been worth it in the end. Getting out of bed every day in itself is an act of courage, as we face yet another day and try our best to make the most out of lives, hoping that we can push ourselves enough that we progress as human beings.

Every winter, we are faced with challenges: formidable weather, coming inside and having to face our own thoughts, maintaining exercise habits, Seasonal Affective Disorder, etc. Winter is all about perseverance: testing our limits and hoping to make it through fairly unscathed. I think that we can often become emotionally stronger due to winter-time hardships.

With it being the end of February, we can start to celebrate coming out on the other side of winter! Let loose! Rejoice with the few flowers that have popped up from the soil! Even if there is another snow to come, what harm does celebrating a little early cause? Maybe listen to some music that makes you feel lighter or excited. Eat some raw fruit and veggies. Take some pictures of flowers. It’s the beginning of a new cycle.

As usual, the playlist I listened to while writing (suggested by my friend Michelle):