“And there it happened… it didn’t hit me at Abol Bridge, or when I wrote my last register entry, or when we ate the last supper at the Birches, or even the moments shared with the Katahdin letters beneath my cold, pruned palms- when I held my lips to that wooden sign and thanked it…It happened when I was in the back seat of my friend Hannah’s car. I was staring out the window with tears running down my face. Knowing that the mountain was getting smaller and smaller behind me. I was trying not to breathe too loudly, to save myself from needing/trying to explain this feeling to her…or that being in a fast moving vehicle, in general, made me feel uneasy. Leaving Millinocket, Maine was the most confusing, conflicting, and rawest emotion I had experienced on trail yet. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Seeing my friends leave with their real families or seeing them get on planes to go back to their real homes was really hard… it all happened so fast. There I was sitting in the car, my hair in knots, in clothing that I had been wearing for months- “clean” but dirt and salt stained, dirt deep in my nails, with skin above my knees, so brown and tight from the sun, and I was “going home.” And that’s when it happened, driving away from the mountains was the first time I have ever felt genuine homesickness. I felt a pit in my stomach, a mourning, a true heartbreak…That night I took the longest bath I had ever taken in my life, where I sat and stared at my reflection in the faucet, periodically draining the cold water and replacing it with hot.”
I wrote that paragraph on September 17th on my one month anniversary of completing the AT. I was not planning on sharing it publicly, though with reflecting on the year, and the impact that thru-hiking has had on my life - it feels wonderful to share it and read it again. It feels even better to say that even though most would read that paragraph as a sad story and probably the beginning of “post-trail depression”, to me, it’s a love story and I am so thankful to have loved something so strong.
First off, I would like to thank the beautiful and inspirational duo, Grace and Joel for sharing my Appalachian Trail journey with such a supportive community of adventurers! With how gloomy and concerning the world may seem at times, it’s refreshing to have a network of people following their dreams and spreading the love. Secondly, I am going to do my best to regularly share my progress with the next grand adventure with you all...What is the next grand adventure, Isabelle? Well...thank you for asking...
A Southbound thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail!!!
(with an estimated start date of mid June-early July- Weather permitting/snow fall)
What?! How long even IS that?
2,650 wampin’ miles (that’s 450 miles longer than the AT).
Which states does is go through?
California, Oregon, and Washington. Trail runs from Mexican border in Campo, California through Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia. (Yes, a passport is required)
What are some of the biggest challenges?
Definitely quite a few! *Some* may say more challenges than the AT, I say different: Water scarcity is a big one; it is not uncommon for hikers to camel up enough water at one source or cache to suffice for an entire day...forcing the hiker to average a huge mile day just to get to the next source while meeting maximum weight and carrying capacity in pack. So the Desert is a thing not so common on the East Coast-intense heat and sun exposure is a big concern, often hikers carry sun umbrellas to help with this. Towns are significantly far (some more than an hour away in worst case scenario) from trail heads making food resupply and resources difficult to access, additionally making hitching more challenging as well. Because I am going southbound, a big concern of mine is snowfall... I will be taking crampons and an ice axe. During my free time, I can most likely be found looking up youtube videos on how to do a self arrest and, separately and equally important, prevent hypothermia.
Yes, but like the AT, meeting people along the trail is part of what makes it so magical! Hiking with a small group during a difficult/questionable section is extremely common. You are a part of community and everyone looks out for one another.
Why Southbound and not Northbound?
I was a “NOBO” for the AT and it was a great experience. The majority of people go North and even the guidebook for the PCT is written only for those going North. Going South is a new challenge for me. I like the idea of going against the current. Also, I have a dream job finishing up in early June, so the timing is ideal for the Sobo weather window. Lastly, hiking does cost money unfortunately, so the more time work equals more time hiking.
Last question/answer for now:
I’m simply not done with thru-hiking. Like those who go to a temple to meditate, I am called to the mountains to practice- the end goal is to apply your practice to all settings and walks of life. For me, the hard part was never the hiking. In fact, I found the best version of myself when I hiked the AT; I felt a light within me radiate so bright where my only function was to love and accept the present moment fully. Transitioning back to the old world was the important challenge, especially once leaving behind a lifestyle seemingly so simple and good. My goal for this thru-hike is to simply enjoy it for the treasure it is. I used to be critical of those who hiked just because the trail was there, because I thought, and still do think, of it as a sacred thing, but there is a beauty and honesty to those people. There is no reason not to do exactly what makes you happy. What makes me happy is to have a direction, a purpose, and to be self-dependent. What makes me happy is that I am proudest of myself when I am out there. What makes me happy is to be accepted into a community of people who are united, diverse, and inspired. What makes me happy is that thru-hiking allows me to appreciate this worlds natural beauty and I feel connected with the Earth’s elements as if they are my brothers and sisters. What makes me happy is that my body thrives when I ask it to walk, not once did I experience a Rheumatoid Arthritis flare up on trail and I was able to feel the natural communication between my body and my mind. Do I believe this can be done off the trail? Yes. But the opportunity is presenting itself to keep walking and my heart says YES. And I am so excited!