Life is full of detours. There’s one I didn’t take one eighteen years ago: I had applied for a piece of crown land to build myself a house, and my plan B, in case the application was denied, was to hike the Pacific Crest Trail – a 4,240 km (2,650 miles) long hiking trail that stretches from the US-Mexico border all the way to Canada. I got the land and shelved the PCT for later in life, but my life choices then saw me adopt more dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, and move further out into the bush with my boyfriend away from roads and human neighbours.
My PCT hiking guides (actual books because 18 years ago an app was just a typo) have accompanied me all that time, catching my eye again and again on the bookshelf as we added on to our cabin, grew a garden, figured out a livelihood and my dogs grew old and passed away.
As responsibilities dwindled (no more cats, chickens and ducks, only one dog left now) I began to pull those books out again. Every map calls out a promise, these ones also sound a challenge. Which begs the question: how do I keep challenging myself and continue to grow as a person, tucked away since 2005 in a wilderness cabin? 10 months of being a foster mom to orphaned black bears at Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter was one experience I knew I needed, one that still follows me into my dreams at night, one that has forever changed my feelings towards bears because I came to know black bears so closely.
Getting to know a long, long stretch of landscape closely seems to be another experience I need since the appeal of a thruhike hasn’t paled at all over the course of 18 years. I wonder how that experience will unfold. Since our dog is already 11 years old and will have to carry his own food, we’re not tackling the PCT but will try our luck with the Arizona Trail, by comparison a short cruise: it’s only 1,300km (800 miles) long, but not as overrun as the PCT has become.
There’s one advantage of having waited for 18 years to attempt a thruhike. Gear has become incredibly light compared to those good old days of clunky leather boots and towering backpacks. Going lighter is much easier on the body (now 18 years older). We’ll see how we do, but this is my gear that works out to a pack weight of just over 6kg (13lbs) without food or water:
Backpack: OspreyExos 48 - without the removable lid around 900g/2lbs
Foamie: Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol - short version: 290g/10oz
Sleeping bag: Marmot Women's Phase 20 - regular size 820g/29oz
Tent: TarptentRainshadow - my share of the tent and footprint weight: 800g/28oz
Stove: MSRPocket Rocket - my share of the stove, pot, cartridge, cutlery: 500g/18oz
Total weight of backpack, foamie, sleeping bag & my share of the tent and kitchen: 3.3kg/7.3lbs
Clothes (much of it homemade):
Coolmax fleece pants 235g/8oz
Merrell hiking pants 284g/10oz
rain pants 140g/5oz
rain jacket 160g/5.6oz
fleece hoodie 380g/13.5oz
fleece vest 142g/5oz
Odlo thermal shirt 162g/6oz
tank top 60g/2oz
socks @ 24g/pair = 72g/2.5oz
fleece hat 39g/2oz
fleece mittens 39g/2oz
Total clothes 2.3kg/5lbs
Shoes: Dynafit Feline Vertical Pro 250g/9oz
Assorted other stuff (toothpaste, toilet paper, sunscreen, camera, water filter) about 1kg/35oz
My homemade clothing - still debating whether I bring the green hiking pants and the skirt: