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  • Emily Hayes

Diary of a hiker in training: Hello my name is Emily

Updated: Jun 30

First published in Botley Bridge Magazine March 2021 (a village magazine in Hampshire, UK)

Hello I’m Emily and next year I’m going to walk 2,600 miles for Charity. I’ve chosen to walk the Pacific Crest Trail in the USA and fundraise for KOTO Vietnam.

The Pacific Crest Trail or “PCT” is a long distance hiking trail, starting in Mexico, finishing in Canada and crossing 3 states. Some athletes finish this endurance in 4 months; I however plan to complete the thru-hike in 5-6 months starting in April 2022.

I have been planning this trip for the most part of last 2 years; in fact it was the lockdown of March 2020 that encouraged me to commit to this project. I had moved back home from London and felt inspired by spring and the countryside that we are so lucky to have in Hampshire. Walking the full distance of the PCT has been a dream of mine ever since I saw Reese Witherspoon in the film “Wild” with such stunningly beautiful landscapes. I have always been a keen walker, from a young age I naively day dreamed that I would walk around the world one day to the more recent real life adventures where I have hiked through indigenous communities and found lost Colombian cities. My commitment to pursuing the PCT has come at a time where creating future plans and having hope for the future is very welcome. I had been planning to start my journey in April 2021 but the last few months of unpredictable and saddening state of the virus have forced me to make the sensible decision to delay my trip to 2022. This allows me a year of training and saving!

There is a lot to consider and prepare for this journey; after all I will be carrying everything on my back for the duration. I plan to walk 15-20 miles a day with all my food and camping equipment for a week before re-supplying and having a rest day. Hikers are known to need 4,000 calories a day so that’s some considerable meal prepping required. It seems my diet will mainly consist of rehydrated carbohydrates and protein energy bars. Water sources can be found quite frequently, except in the Southern Californian dessert, of course adequate water filtration or sterilisation processes need to be followed. The weight of one’s backpack is a highly debated topic in the hiking community. “Ultra light” would be considered something like a 10kg back pack but this means a lot of sacrifices have to be made on comfort. I’m not prepared to shiver at night or become bored with monotonous foods so I’ll be packing closer to 13-15kg.

I’ve invested in a fancy tent and sleeping bag which pack up surprisingly compact and weigh about 1kg each (which is not considered particularly light weight in the hiking community). They have done me well for most of my training trips in the UK except in Scotland where the constant October rain in Loch Lomond kept me soaked both inside and outside of my tent. I’m promised it won’t rain that much on the PCT. However snowy conditions are a real concern, the snow on the high Sierras will be melting as spring arrives into May which means this mountainous section of the PCT is both beautiful and dangerous. Hopefully I will have completed some snow training before I depart the UK.

People often ask me about the hazards, what about bears? Will I be alone? What will I eat? What about Coronavirus? How will I carry everything? The truth is that there is a very low chance of encountering any dangerous wildlife but many precautions are taken. I will have to place all consumables and perfumed items into a bear canister for much of the journey and I certainly won’t be sleeping with a jar of peanut butter in my tent. The real hazards come from poor planning, fatigue and injury. So now I’m planning and training, planning and training so that in April 2022 I will be ready to embark on this journey.

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