Thursday, October 2, 2014

What hiking the PCT has taught me

Firstly, it continues to blow my mind that this trail even exists. The fact that there is a continuous wilderness trail from the Mexican border in California to the Canadian border in Washington is astounding. It's not an easy trail either, as it runs along the Pacific mountain crest, including the mountains in the Mojave Desert, the Sierra Nevada, the Oregon Cascades and the Washington State Cascades. The geography ranges from hot, dry desert terrain with little or no water, into the high Sierras with snow and multiple 14,000 ft peaks, to the Oregon lava fields and lake regions and finally the steep, cold, wild and wet Washington mountains.

As my life has turned out, hiking this trail and living in the wild in my tent for 146 days has been a bridge for me from my 'old' life to my 'new' life. I had got divorced a year previously, quit my job, sold my house and most of my possessions and met a new love only three months before embarking on this epic five month sojourn, which meant I would be MIA from my home state of Hawaii. 

My biggest take home experience from this adventure is a renewed faith in humanity. I have experienced so many random acts of kindness with people expecting nothing in return, ongoing from the day I started until I finished. I am humbled at the kindness and generosity of so many people and I hope to pay it forward.

The trail is a metaphor for life. It is a journey for which you have to be present in and focused upon, one step at a time. You cannot focus on the destination as it will become overwhelming. The trail, as with life can be exciting, boring, filled with adventure, mundane, monotonous, filled with both beauty and ugliness, disappointment, elation, gratitude, fear, comfort, loneliness, solitude and companionship. I've met good people, bad people, kind people, indifferent people, angels, magic, planning, spontaneity and so the list goes on. The motto that comes from all of this is "Just Do It", live life to it's fullest potential.

I don't feel as though hiking the trail changed me, but I do feel that it reaffirmed some philosophies on life that I already had and influenced me to continue to pursue being my own authentic self. Never try to be someone else but you can evolve into the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.

Have hopes, dreams and desires but don't have too many grand expectations as you are likely to be disappointed. Rather focus on the present and enjoy all of life's little gifts that come your way on a daily basis which you might overlook if you're too focused on some potential, eventual outcome.

 I've realized how many people truly care about me and are interested in my life. This creates a feeling of happiness and belonging and highlights the significance that communication and affirmation can have in one's life. 

So many people gave me ongoing encouragement and support, in the form of messages, comments, gifts, resupply boxes, hitches, trail magic and encouragement. There are too many to name but I am eternally grateful to each and every person.

My kids Ian and Sian and my family and close friends and colleagues have been so important to the success of my adventure. I am incredibly fortunate to have all these people in my life.

I am in awe of my fellow PCT hikers. Even though I hiked the trail solo, I met amazing people along the way and made many friends, sometimes only hiking a day with them and other times seeing and camping with the same people for big sections. These people inspired me and motivated me, making me realize that I was not the only person struggling along. Seeing their stamina and endurance made me conscious of the fact that I too had those qualities and that I could continue even when the going got tough. Every hiker has moments of suffering and rewarding moments and it's good to know this when you're going through your own difficult moments. 

The trail also highlighted the importance of flexibility. As with life, a fixed, rigid approach does not always work out the way you want it to. The conditions along the trail, as with life change and sometimes throw curve balls at you. This happened to me with all the fires in northern California. I was initially very disappointed but being burnt alive or succumbing to smoke inhalation was never part of my game plan, so I had to go with the flow of things and go around the fires.

Last but not least, a true romance story always makes an adventure even better. Josh has been my biggest trail angel of them all. Although we only knew each other for three months prior to the trail, he stayed by my side and encouraged me every single day via satellite phone text messages. He also flew over from Hawaii three times, once to every state and the last was to be there for me when I finished and accompany me home. He has gone above and beyond for me and I am filled with gratitude and love for him.

So yes, a remarkable experience, a bridge and a successful endeavor with a happy ending. Carpe Diem!  


  1. So very happy for you! Time on the trail is always a microcosm of life. Great reminders of what really matters = thanks for sharing those important affirmations!

  2. Heather,

    I wanted to let you know that each year I pick one or two thru hikers and watch their journey. I chose you because of your descriptive writing and great pictures showing your hike. I looked forward to your journals and felt good after reading your entries. I had planned my SOBO Section hike in Southern Oregon earlier in the year and during my short stint on the trail I was able to meet you. I enjoyed our chat and was impressed with your attitude. I knew you were having a blast since you didn't stop smiling. I want to congratulate you on your accomplishment and wish you great luck with Josh.

    Take care,


    1. Thank you so much Frank! I appreciate you joining me on my journey 😄

  3. You are amazing and an inspiration, Heather!! :-) Blessing for your adventures to come and glad you came out with such great tales to tell!

    1. Thank you Amy. I appreciate your support and friendship 😘

  4. I appreciate your reflections on your PCT experience. I would love your permission to re-post on a website I maintain featuring photos and stories from the trail . . . . . . Rees Hughes (

    1. Thank you Rees. That would be fine if I was credited as the content will also appear in a book in the future.

    2. Heather, it will post on October 31st . . . . . . it will be slightly edited for length and I won't use all of the photos in your original post. Congratulations on adding the PCT to your many achievements!

    3. Awesome! I look forward to seeing it there.