“I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And most surprising of all, that I could carry it.” -Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
What would it take to get you to drop everything, pack up all that you need to survive and carry it on your back for 2,650 miles? For Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, it took the death of her mother and a lot of wrong choices to get her there. But for Kathleen Neves, all it took was the challenge.
Kathleen is a yogi, blogger, and hiker from Seattle, Washington who hiked the PCT over the summer of 2018. The PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) is a hiking trail that goes from Mexico to Canada, spanning the entire length of California, Oregon, and Washington. It takes you through deserts, mountains, forests, and rivers.
Kathleen explained why she took on this challenging adventure, telling this story, “My real, honest answer for why I wanted to hike the PCT starts with when I first became obsessed with hiking, which was only back in 2015. I had just finished my first hike across the Grand Canyon, from North Rim to South Rim, in one day, for 25 miles... I was relatively new to hiking. We started training in May and by the time September came around, whether I was ready or not, I hiked all 25 miles across the canyon on my own two feet. As soon as I reached the South Rim, I knew I could do anything I wanted to do. Anything. This is the moment I decided I wanted to hike the PCT.” What a feeling!
But deciding to hike the PCT and actually doing it are two very different things. Kathleen explains, “After I came back home from hiking the Grand Canyon, I spent a year talking about how I wanted to hike the PCT. (But) I got tired of wondering when I would do the hike and decided to set a start date for my hike. I knew once I had a start date, the rest would fall into place.” And that is exactly what happened. Kathleen set the date for the following year and did everything it took to get her on the trail.
In April of 2018, she was off. “For five months, my life consisted of hiking, eating and sleeping. Life was simple. It was one foot in front of the other and I only traveled with what I could carry on my back.” That is the element of thru-hiking that captivates many (including me). To not have to worry about work, social media, bills, or anything. All that matters when on the trail are your simplest of needs: food, water, sleeping and moving forward.
Kathleen’s life was consumed by beautiful views and amazing adventures. Some of her adventures were fun, some scary, but all were part of the experience. “My favorite section of the PCT – Hands down, the High Sierra from Kearsarge Pass all the way through Yosemite. I just had said goodbye to my whole trail family and had to hike from Kearsarge Pass to Reds Meadow alone, all by myself. I was scared and lonely. The river/creek/water forgings and crossings were the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. But I’d do this whole section all over again in a heartbeat.” How is it that being so far out of your comfort zone turns your experiences into something even more amazing? The elements of fear and conquering fear teach us what we really are capable of. And we tend to be more capable than we ever thought.
This is the advice Kathleen gives to anyone wanting to do what she did: “Throw all your expectations out the window. The person you start the trail as, the gear you start your hike with and even the plans you make before getting on trail, will all change once you get on trail. Let the trail provide. Get ready for the biggest, most wild ride of your life. Thru-hiking will ruin your life, in the best way possible.” What does she mean when she says thru-hiking will ruin your life? Well, let me just say that Kathleen is hiking the PCT again in 2019.
If you want to follow her 2019 trip, you can find Kathleen at the following links:
Facebook: Kathleen Loves Yoga