(1) Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Iowa City, Iowa and for the last ten years I have been traveling.
(2) What day did you start?
We started on May 10th
(3) What day did you finish?
We finished on October 4th
(4) Do you have a trail name?
I didn't receive a trail name on the Pacific Crest Trail. Prior to hiking the PCT I acquired the trail name Queen Green in Glacier National Park, but I didn't really use this name on trail. Funny enough, I didn't tell anyone this old trail name, but coincidentally they were trying to come up with names to do with foraging, which is how I got my first trail name.
(5) If so, where did it come from?
I actually got this name from the first person who told me about the PCT. This was five years ago in Glacier National Park and I had never heard about the trail before, because well I grew up in Iowa and there is nothing like the PCT there! It sounded like an amazing and intimidating adventure at the time. He gave me this name because I am always foraging on trail and looking at all the plants. I remember eating lots of trout and wild onions in Glacier National Park.
(6) What did you dream of when things weren’t going well?
Somewhere warm like Thailand or Bali. The heat in the desert did not bother me, it was the cold up north that was tough. On those days I would wake up and think about traveling abroad again to some warm, sunny place.
(7) Did you experience anything miraculous?
I think the most miraculous thing on trail was all the trail angels. The unwavering kindness we experienced on trail was the best part. Every time we went to town we left with spirits soaring because of all the positive interactions we had with strangers that were so eager to help us. One woman French braided my dirty hair, a couple gave us organic vegetables from their garden, countless rides to and from trail heads, the list just goes on and on. When my boyfriend lost his credit card and within five minutes an older gentleman came over and ask us if we needed money. Another time a woman snuck twenty dollars into each of our hands while we were sitting in front of a church drinking beers. We felt like we didn't deserve it, but she hid it in her hand so well that when she gave it to us we didn't know what it was until she was walking away. Hundreds of encounters like this along the trail is what makes the experience so great and it isn't about the money or the goods it is just about experiencing that love and compassion from someone you just met.
(8) Any memorable encounters with the elements, or wildlife?
We had loads of encounters with bears. One of the most memorable and closest encounters was when we were sitting and cooking food by this gorgeous stream. My boyfriend was cooking up some food and I was just lazing about looking at the beautiful nature around us. A tree started moving pretty vigorously upstream from where we were sitting and that really caught my attention because it wasn't windy and it was only that tree alone that was moving. My brain took note of it as being odd, but I didn't know what to make of it. The trail itself curved in to the stream crossing and then back out again, so where we were sitting we could see where we had to walk next just in front of us on the other side of the stream only 20 feet away. I was so shocked with this giant black bear walked out on this part of the trail in front of us that I could barely speak! I elbowed my boyfriend and was able to finally say quietly and very brokenly "B....e....a.....r" The bear looked over at us with this very confident and somewhat bored look that I interpreted as "I've decided not to eat you" and he just kept walking down the trail very slowly away from us. I wish I could have seen that bear in that tree he was shaking though. Maybe he was scratching his back like Baloo in the Jungle Book.
(9) Think back to your “pre-hike self.” Now think of yourself here at the end. Has anything changed?
I feel a bit liberated, because when I first heard about this trail five years ago it sounded so impossible and challenging that it made me scared to think about doing it, but because of that I couldn't stop thinking about it! Every day for five years I would think about doing this trail until I finally worked up the courage to just go do it! It is always liberating to do something that you are afraid to do and pass through the eye of the needle to the other side. Now that I have completed hiking the PCT I can move on to the next adventure and it just feels like so many doors are always opening up around me.
(10) Now that you are off the trail, what do you miss most about it?
I don't feel like I have been off trail long enough to feel like I am missing anything. I guess though one thing was made clear the other night. I am back home visiting my Dad in Iowa right now and for the first two nights I was back I slept in my first real bed since getting off trail with sheets and covers and pillows and everything. I was just tossing and turning and couldn't sleep at all, which is extremely unusual for me. I didn't know what was wrong. I had laid out my sleeping bag earlier on the bed to let it stay fluffed up and when I took notice of it again after not being able to sleep for so long I hopped into it and fell right asleep. So I guess without realizing it what my body misses most about being on trail is sleeping in my cozy sleeping bag!
(11) Before you started, what were you most afraid of?
Frankly, I was a bit afraid of the whole thing. It wasn't anything in particular it was just something I hadn't done before so I really had to work up the courage to put my foot down and say this is the direction I want my life to take right now.
(12) Now that you are finished, what are you most afraid of?
The thing I would fear most is having to get a job solely to make money. I have had a taste of freedom for too long. It is from an accumilation of travels and experiences and projects. I have a lot of interests and passions I would like to pursue and I am definitely not afraid to work hard in my life towards a goal, I just don't want to have to go to work for something I don't believe in. But I am not too afraid as long as I put trust in my abilities.
(13) What’s the difference between life on the trail and life off the trail?
My body feels a bit different since before I started the trail. Before the trail I had a daily yoga practice and now that I have hiked for so long my body feels a bit foreign to me now that I have stopped hiking and been able to really assess what is going on. New muscles have formed and others have gone away. My body has changed a lot from the hike and when I went to a Yin Yoga class in Mazama the day after we got back from the Canadian border everything felt so painful. My toes felt like they were going to fall off when I was in downward facing dog. I think it was a combination of not having moved my toes like that in five months and also I think my toes were thawing out from being too cold in the last sections of the PCT and having to hike in the rain and snow.