Taking Paths Less Traveled

Joyful Hiker. Mother. Teacher. Adventurer.

In mid June, I went on a solo backpacking trip on the PCT. My path took me nearly 40 miles from Kennedy Meadows to Lone Pine. Everyone has been saying things to me like “That’s badass!” or “I’m so proud of you!” Yet, I feel like an impostor. Let me explain.

I have been preparing for this trip mentally for many years. Ever since my very first experience backpacking in 2012 I have been collecting gear and knowledge that would ultimately lead me to begin section hiking the PCT and eventually complete a thru-hike.

As I made my preparations a number of fears and concerns hammered at my psyche. I have always struggled with weight and self image. Looking in the mirror at myself wearing my backpack, the waist band cinched up on my hips and a muffin-top protruding, I didn’t look like a “real” backpacker. Real backpackers, after all, aren’t pudgy. These thoughts have been part of what held me back for so many years. I kept telling myself, I’ll be able to backpack when I lose 20 pounds.

Of course, losing 20 pounds would be ideal, but I was letting that become a road block to achieve my dreams. It’s not like I hadn’t been training. I’d begun hiking 2-3 times per week and doing Yoga every day. I would have been more prepared physically if I hadn’t gotten plantar facciitis. But, I am sure that even if I hadn’t had to take hiking break, I would have had self-image issues.

Another roadblock that I had to overcome in order to go on my trip is that I am a woman, hiking alone, in the big “scary” wilderness. Friends, family, and even my therapist all voiced concerns. In the past these fears might have stopped me. But this time, I was ready. I have been following beautiful women bloggers that take solo trips and have read about the benefits of solo hiking. I even scraped up an article that gave the statistics of the safety of hiking alone vs. being in a city. Apparently, being in the wilderness is one of the safest places a person could be as long as you are prepared.

It’s been 3 days since I got back from my trip. I was exhausted the first two days and hobbled around the house treating the two bad blisters I had gotten on my feet. My toenail is going to fall off because of my toe ring (sad face) but other than that, I feel amazing.

Hiking for nearly 40 miles with a 30 pound pack on my back was one of the hardest things I’ve done. It was also one of the most amazing things I’ve done. There is a sense of empowerment that I’ve gained and as the realization of my accomplishment sets in, my adventure wolf has been fed and is hungry to go out again.

What I need to say here is… I was probably the most over weight person on that trail for those 4 days. I was in the company of people that had been already hiking for 700+ miles on the PCT. By that point they were literally hiking machines. I struggled not to compare myself to them and, instead, soaked up their experience, asked questions and reveled in the fact that I was even there.

I’m still struggling with comparing myself to others, but I am also looking forward to my next adventure, and to the journey of making myself stronger for what lay ahead.

Me on the PCT Day 1
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My therapist said something to me one time that really stuck with me.

“You don’t want to be blown away by every wind.”

It was really profound because I realized that I was getting yanked around flying through the air by all the bullshit around me. Instead I grounded myself and remembered to be like a strong tree that sways in the wind.

To be strong enough to bend.

Maybe you want to add some daily Yoga so you can work on being grounded. Get your feet on solid ground, so to say.

Cedar tree shading the PCT near Lone Pine, CA.

I recommend Yoga With Adriene’s “Anchor in Hope” video. For a deeper commitment you can check out Dedicate, a beautiful 30 day challenge to get your inner Yogi fired up. These videos have impacted my life in so many positive ways that I can’t help but share them. I would love to know if you have any grounding practices to share.

~Namaste

PS. This post is dedicated to my sweet and dear cousin. You deserve only the best. Stand tall, proud and strong. Dig your roots deep into Mother Earth and reach for the sky because there is no limit to what you can do.

Every time I talk to my grandpa he has a life story to share, full of wisdom. I told him about my blisters from my 38 mile hike and he was very firm that I tend to them with exceptional care. He told me about the “biggest man in the world” that died from an untended blister on his heel.

Story has it that when my grandpa was very young he would run along the fence of his house as this giant boy walked by on his way to school. The boy was so big that when he carried his text book in one hand all you could see was the four corners of the book. He was 8 feet tall. I asked them what they used to feed them out there in Illinois. My grandpa is a very big man himself, so for him to describe someone else as “big”, it’s saying something.

Moral of the story: Even the biggest, strongest man alive can be taken down by an untended blister.

He laughed gently when I told him that one of my toenails is falling off. He assured me that it will grow back. But I could hear the smile and pride in his voice. It’s not everyday a grandchild walks nearly 40 miles and only suffers a couple blisters and a missing toenail. haha! 

My amazing foot getting some TLC.
Kennedy Meadows to Lone Pine

Earlier this year I obtained wilderness permits to hike the JMT from Devil’s Postpile North to Yosemite’s Happy Isle. You have to do this months in advance, and there is no way to know what the snow conditions will be like in those areas.

Shortly before heading up to the trailhead, I contacted the ranger station. Their advice: If you know how to self arrest with an ice axe, have snow shoes and good navigation skills, then you might attempt it.

This was to be a solo trip, so I decided to change my plans. Not only am I a beginner at all things snow, it’s just not smart to go out alone in conditions like that. I was quickly able to get the permit to overnight in the Golden Trout Wilderness, however, so backpacking in beautiful country was still a go!

Prepping for the trip was a bit last minute. I had to get the maps, figure out the mileage and pack for food. This was my first extended back packing trip, and I had no idea how much I was going to need, but I did know it all had to fit into the bear canister.

Also, picking out the right clothing is another hard choice. At the last minute I ditched my fleece lined water resistant pants and opted for the moisture wicking summer pants instead. I also left my 800 fill puffy behind and opted for my nano-puff instead. I still brought warm gloves and a beanie, and a base layer that would double as pajamas.

My pack weighed in at 23 lbs dry, but then I added the bear canister with all its food… Let’s just say, I don’t really have that advanced of body strength yet…

I headed out early on Thursday morning to meet my friend in Ridgecrest that offered to give me a ride to the trail head.

All ready to go!
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Taking Paths Less Traveled

Joyful Hiker. Mother. Teacher. Adventurer.

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