20 years ago a seed was planted – the idea of a long distance hike, with nothing more than what I could carry on my back.
The seed was planted in 1999 when I became aware of a man who planned a 2000 Camino (walk) to the Cathedral of Saint James in Spain known as Santiago De Compostela, beginning here in Lake Forest, CA at its sister parish, Santiago De Compostela. His name is Patrick Dazelle. He walked 1200 miles across southern US and 800 miles from his home in France to Santiago De Compostela in Spain.
My loyal followers, I’m going to share with you my journey to the Pacific Crest Trail or PCT.
The seed lay dormant and life carried me along it’s day-to-day journey, but like the Princess & the Pea, I knew it was there. And I began to hike with whomever would go with me.
As my 50th birthday approached, I thought it would be an epic way to celebrate by walking a 400 mile Camino in Spain. (Certainly not 2000 miles!) When I mentioned this to my husband, he did not share my enthusiasm. He didn’t know about the seed that I felt deep within. His reply was a simple flat “No you’re not doing that.”
I was crushed inside, but out of respect for him, our marriage, and family situation at the time, I didn’t press it. I don’t think he even knew how terrible those few words felt and how they still burn in my heart. The seed remained – dormant – for a time….
It never killed the seed. I hiked and trained on local trails with a group of friends I know I could count on to hike with me. I was always planning and conditioning for when the day would come, I carried a day pack that was far heavier than day hikes required – sometimes to the mild ridicule from my hiker babe companions. They probably didn’t know or understand about the seed.
However, the day-to-day life journey carried on. And another milestone birthday came and went without even mentioning the Camino de Santiago. I just couldn’t face another crushing “NO.” Why bring it up?
By 2015 I retired and closed down my business. The kids were grown and pretty much on their own. My husband had been retired for 5 years and it became crystal clear to me that his idea of retirement was to stay home. BUT THAT WAS NOT MY CHOICE. I continued to hike around local trails and would seek out popular trails to explore. Always carrying an oversized pack to keep my back in shape.
Since the Camino in Spain seemed out of reach, I became aware of another long trail, one practically in our ‘back yard’…. PCT – The Pacific Crest Trail! And the first 500 miles were all within a two-hour drive from home! This might be doable!
YouTube Phenom’s captured my attention while I researched more and more about the PCT. I followed weekly episodes of those actually on the PCT. HomeMade Wanderlust, Darwin on The Trail, BigFoot and others. Homemade Wanderlust was my favorite following Dixie on her weekly YouTube episodes as she traversed the trail in 2017.
When 2018 rolled around – this was going to be it! I was going to make it happen this year! However, this time it was my body that crushed me with a resounding “No.”
After a relatively easy local hike, my knee felt weird after I got home and then it swelled up. While at the doctor, I explained I HAD to get it better fast because I was going to hike the PCT, and that I’d been hiking and conditioning to carry up to 30 pounds! Her words still ring in my ears: ”You’ve exceeded the capacity of your knee. If you lose 20 pounds you can carry 30. …..RUDE! Have you ever wanted to slap someone? I did a bit of PT but continued to hike with a brace, using hiking poles for stability, and lots of Vitamin I (that’s trail lingo for Ibuprofen.) It wasn’t until 4 months later that I finally got an MRI to confirm a meniscus tear. Oh – and I dropped the 20 pounds…so much for PCT 2018.
Towards the end of 2018 the stars began to align. I began to discuss the idea of me hiking the PCT with my husband. I was secretly gathering the gear and food I’d need, and Dixie was getting close to completing her PCT journey and through her videos I had a pretty good idea what the trail was like.
Funny story – at an open house for a friend’s Yoga Studio, My husband won a month of training at a place called Fitness on Fire….he didn’t know what that meant, but everyone else who knew him knew this was pretty funny. FOF is a training facility for those who participate in Spartan Competitions….look it up! He was just fine allowing me to use the prize! Talk about being in over my head…But the staff and participants were very accommodating and understanding of this 60-something woman with a goal to hike the PCT. And they whipped me into shape! Also, Dixie was nearing completion of her thru-hike of the PCT. So I could visualize the trail and I felt I was ready.
My husband was beginning to see that I was not taking no for an answer. (Although at this point I don’t think he still didn’t really grasped the whole concept.) But for Christmas, he gave me a Garmin inReach Mini not only for my safety (SOS enabled) but for his peace of mind (ability to track my position).
As it turned out, none of my hiker babe friends could join me for one reason or another. So what was I going to do? Since I’d never backpacked before, the thought of going solo was too intimidating, and I’m pretty sure my husband would have come back with that awful, “No, you’re not doing that.”
In early December 2018, I did what any normal person would do in this instance. I made an appeal in one of my local FaceBook Women’s hiking groups I was seeking a PCT hiking partner; that I was old, slow, and had NEVER backpacked. Only a few responded, but one stepped up rather enthusiastically: Debbie. We agreed to meet for coffee. (You have to be careful – who knows what kind of crazy is out there, and this was a pretty crazy request!) We talked for hours, sharing our hiking experiences and dreams for future hikes. We tried each other out on a few local hikes and by January Debbie was still game. We set a date…January 25, 2019.
The seed had come out of dormancy – and was ready to sprout.
The rest of the story is….
……To Be Continued.