(1) Where are you from and how would you like to be identified?
Danielle Perino from Boise, Idaho
(2) Thinking back to your “day-1 self,” what is going through your mind at the start?
I had two conflicting streams of thought: "I've given up everything for this...what if I fail?" and "I can't believe I'm really doing it!"
(3) Do you feel ready?
I had graduated from a masters program less than a week before starting the trail and had faced several injuries leading up to my start date. I was physically and mentally broken. But, there was no reset button. There was no delay button. There was no, "let's do this next year button." I had sold everything I owned, made all of the arrangements and had gotten to the terminus. Ready or not...I was going.
(4) What are you most afraid of?
I was most afraid of not being able to physically meet the demands due to my injuries, and thus, letting myself and my husband down after years of preparation.
(5) What are you most confident about?
Honestly, I wasn't confident about anything. I was terrified. I second guessed my gear, my skills, my training, my body, and my resilience. Gaining confidence was one my biggest achievements on the trail.
(6) Does anybody not want you to go?
Thankfully, we only had support on our side. Our entire family chipped in with gear and preparations, and we are eternally grateful for them.
(7) What made you decide to take this hike?
So many things went into the decision to take this hike. Having lived in Portland, OR, I was inspired to do the trail initially through my weekend warrior trips throughout the Pacific Northwest. However, it wasn't until I moved to Michigan for grad school that I really dedicated myself to the thought of it. I was living in the midwest and attending an extremely challenging, yet unfulfilling graduate program. The thought of being on trail, and dedicating all of my free time to planning and training for this experience, was the inspiration I needed to get me through a very dark two years.
(8) What do you expect to get from it?
As thru-hikers in our mid-thirties, my husband and I found that we were a bit of an odd couple sandwiched between recent college grads and retirees. Although we weren't looking to "find" ourselves, our calling, life purpose etc. like many hikers we encountered, we had been through an incredibly difficult past few years and just needed mind space to plan our next steps. I also needed a reset. I felt that, despite all the best intentions, my life and career were evolving in a way that I didn't plan, nor liked. I needed a pause to reevaluate and the trail seemed to be the perfect place to get back to basics.
(9) Have you ever done anything like this before?
Aside from weekend backpacking trips...no.
(10) What have you done to prepare?
Initially, I was committed to practice hikes, treadmill workouts on cold Michigan days, and obsessing resupply spreadsheets. But, my foot injury and grad school demands soon took precedent. In the months leading up to my start date, I was seeing a physical therapist three days a week, a chiropractor every other day, and just trying to survive as I finished my thesis. Thank goodness for my husband who prepared all of our plant-based dehydrated meals from scratch and planned all of the resupplies. Without him, there wouldn't have been a hike!
(11) What are you looking forward to the most?
(12) When/where did you leave the trail?
We left the trail twice. The first time was two weeks in, under the I-10 overpass after coming down Mt. San Jacinto. We finally left the trail after approximately 900 miles of hiking at Tuolumne Meadows during the park fire closure.
(13) What caused you to leave the trail?
I ended up leaving the trail twice. The first time, my previous foot injury progressed into a collapsed arch and severe tendinitis. The podiatrist and physical therapist were not confident I would be able to return to the trail without a minimum three months of rehab. However, two weeks in the desert left me hungry for more, and I dedicated myself through time in a walking boot, intense physical therapy, nutrition and dry needling to get back on trail. Six weeks later, I was cleared for take-off to everyone's surprise. Although my foot held up another 600ish miles, after a few close fire calls and closures, extremely limited visibility and suffocating smoke, we decided the risk was not worth our health and safety and called it a summer in Yosemite. One of the hardest decisions of my life.