Tuesday, September 19, 2017


The weeks since my knee surgery have passed both surprisingly quickly and painfully slow. Sparing details, the procedure corrected a misalignment of my patella and removed some degraded bone, likely the result of a cyst at some time. My surgeon seems happy, so I'm trying to catch his enthusiasm for my recovery. Realistically, I can get through every day with only mild pain. The things I still cannot do, however, are numerous and near to my heart. My knee isn't ready for the intense exercise, long miles, and simple yoga practice that keeps me feeling like myself. In taking care of my body, I feel as though I'm being forced to neglect it.

I've moved on from being sad and hopeless to being bitter and angry; an inward transition and a skilled outward front. NOBO's are touching Canada, and my SOBO counterparts are entering the Sierra. Every photo of their triumph leaves me feeling like my heart now resides in my stomach. I'm no longer celebrating with them, missing them, or longing to be a part of the community. I take each mention of the PCT as a personal attack, as if they are punishment for my defeat. I've had to resist tearing down my own resupply plan, afraid that I might be too jaded to put it back up when it's time to prepare for next year.  

I feel like a big, fat, failure. 

These days, I live a fairly ordinary life. I go to work in the morning, do my PT in the evening, and pray for the time to pass quickly. I challenge myself each day by reviewing the events of my short time on trail; could I have made another decision? The answer, every time, is no. Even if thru-hiking wasn't important to me, I would have needed that surgery to maintain my lifestyle.

Last week my physical therapist asked me how much, from 0-100%, I felt my knee was healed. "What kind of question is that?" I said, taken aback and slightly angry with him for asking. Until then, the word healed had never even entered my mind. Recovery, rehab, improvement- these are the words I would use to describe what's happening inside my knee. The healing will happen over time, I'm sure of it, but it will be happening in my head and in my heart.

Of course, I'm grateful for the opportunity this winter to meet my financial goals, spend time with family, and continue to learn more about myself. Just imagine how happy I'll be this time next year, when my feet are flying and my soul is free!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Life is a Thru Hike

I don't want to share this with you. 
I don't want to let you in, to be vulnerable, to try and explain how I am feeling. I don't want to, but I've put myself in a position to be obligated to you. So please, forgive me, as I write this from a place of sadness. 

On July 23rd, I left the PCT and boarded a plane in Seattle. The day was cloudy, but as we gained altitude and soared into the sunshine I saw her- Rainier. I've seen the mountain many times, but never like this. It felt like I could reach out and touch the summit if I really wanted to. Suddenly, three more peaks appeared. Hood, Shasta, and Whitney I thought, although maybe I was reaching. All I knew is I was looking south along the pacific crest, upon which my feet should be walking. Instead, I was leaving my friends and my footsteps behind in a cloud of jet fuel. 

I've always taken injuries seriously, even as a young child. Every cut, scrape, or bruise required thorough analysis and proper treatment; I guess that's what I get for being the youngest woman in a family full of nurses. After my shoulder surgery last year, I've become even more sensitive to my body's cues. But my knee injury didn't require sensitivity to notice; it was crying out for help with every step. By the time I knew I had to seek serious medical care, it was devastating. I had been on and off trail 3 times, each time soliciting more advice from physical therapists, friends, hikers, family. No one gave me what I was looking for: an answer. Was I being weak? Should I continue to hike through the pain and uncertainty? Was it something more serious? How many times do I try before I stop trying? I can't even count the sleepless nights I spent battling myself to make the right decision. Finally, it was unavoidable. My insurance wouldn't cover me out of state, and I needed to see a doctor. So for the second time in just over a year, I flew home and began the grieving process.

It's been about a week since I landed in Michigan. I haven't been sleeping well, my appetite is minimal, my muscles are tied in knots, my friends want to see me but I've refused them every time. Some mornings I feel pretty good- but several hours into a day devoid of activity, I find myself crying or raging or desperately seeking attention. I am frustrated, angry, sad, relieved, confused, annoyed, discouraged, bored, ashamed, envious, and heartbroken. I have been planning this hike for so long that it has become the only part of me I believe in. But here I sit, out of time, out of money, and out of patience.

The upside is that I'm already established with a doctor I know and trust. Radiographs and an MRI show a deformity in my kneecap, likely from an injury last summer. Next week, I'll have an exploratory arthroscopic scope. The recovery period from this surgery is relatively short (about 4 weeks), but having spent all of my time and money seeking treatment, my thru-hike is over for this year.

It is impossible to hide from your weaknesses on the PCT; what else is the trail for but to show them to you? If I learned anything, it is that those 2,650 miles are not going anywhere. I will try again next year, and the year after that; as long as it takes until I feel I've succeeded. I will listen to my body above all else, I will embrace all hikers as friends, and I will NOT bring a stove because Lord knows I can't cook so why try. 

It is all part of the journey; life is a thru-hike, and I am still walking.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The First Few

I've been on trail for 6 days, off for 3. Intense knee pain began on day one, but I kept going for 110 more miles. As it turns out, limping and sobbing down trail isn't really a good look for me, so I decided to take a few days off to rest. With the advice of physical therapists and athlete friends, I'll be rejoining my trail family tomorrow to give it another go. 

I'll admit to you though, I didn't even think I'd make it this far. Outside of the physical pain that was its own hell, the first few days had my mind on a downward spiral into the flames. The first day, following a hectic morning, I said goodbye to my dad and started speed walking towards the Canadian border. A few steps down the trail, after convincing Roo not to follow me, my heart was already breaking. The desire to get to Mexico left me completely; all I could think, all day long, was how badly I didn't want to be on the PCT. I chose my camp for the night, set up my tent, and burst into tears. I was all alone, with at least a night's sleep between me and the next miles that would be my distraction. Several hikers rolled into camp shortly after, and although I enjoyed their company, my mood didn't improve. I packed up the next morning and with no emotion, touched the Canadian border that afternoon. The third day would lead me back to Hart's Pass, where I desperately wished to see my dad and dog waiting for me. They weren't. 

Luckily, a few other hikers were there, so I latched on to a partner and told myself I'd give it another couple of days. Although the knee pain continued to worsen, my spirits began to lift. Now, even though I am skipping a section to rest, I have more than my own thoughts to look forward to when I get back to the trail.  

It's hard to be vulnerable when you are giving a first impression to several people a day. I tried to talk to a few other hikers about the way I was feeling; to be as candid as possible in a desperate attempt at some peace of mind. What I got in return was so very unpleasant. I never could put my finger on an explanation of how I was feeling, but it didn't matter. Every single hiker I confided in said the same thing: "I know it's hard, but just keep going!!", "You're going to love it, I promise!!", "It gets better!!". Although this advice is positive, and more than likely correct, I felt so annoyed. No one was listening to me. No one said "It's ok to stop whenever you want; it's ok not to like thru hiking; it's ok, it's OK". So, for those of you reading who may be feeling this way, I want to tell you:

It's ok to get off trail at any time, for any reason.

Being part of the thru hiking community comes with so much pressure to actually complete your thru hike, but there are no rules, and there is no point if you are miserable. I'm sure there will be more unpleasant days ahead, but in one short week I've already learned to be true to myself, not to the trail.

With that, onward I go, for now. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


PACK: Gossamer Gear Mariposa, trash compactor liner bag

YAMA Mountain Gear Swiftline 1P tent,  tyvek groundcloth, Vargo titanium stakes (8)
Thermarest NeoAir xTherm
Enlightened Equipment Enigma (20deg)


Patagonia sunshirt, Purple Rain hiking skirt/poly leggings, Icebreaker wool bra, Ex Officio underwear, Point 6 wool socks, Altra Lone Peak 3.0, Casio ProTrek watch, Zeal Cascade sunglasses, ball cap
Patagonia Capilene hooded long sleeve (sleep), Smartwool 250 bottoms (sleep), Darn Tough socks (1, sleep), Point 6 wool socks  (1), Injinji socks (1), Patagonia Houdini jacket, Arctery’x puffy (stuffed inside an Eagle Creek Specter Tech cube, this will also serve as my pillow), YAMA rain skirt, YAMA pogies, OR gloves, buff, bandana, Bedrock sandals, Ex Officio underwear (1), Bug net

MSR Pocket Rocket, Vargo titanium pot, Sawyer Squeeze mini, MSR Aquatabs, Snow Peak spork, Platypus 3L, Smart Water bottles (2), lighter, Loksak (2, large), empty peanut butter container

iPhone 6, lifeproof case (extra battery), headphones, phone charger, external phone storage, headlamp, SPOT device

Sawed off toothbrush, toothpaste dots, bite splint, floss, floss picks, sawed off comb, birth control, benadryl, ibuprofen, hairties, leukotape (wrapped around journaling pen), Vagisil, sunscreen, lip balm, fire starter, safety pins, 1/2 bandana, Deuce of Spades trowel, TP, backcountry bidet, soap leaves, nail trimmers, wallet, journal, Locksak (small), P-cord

OR Crocodile Gaiters, Kahtoola Microspikes, ice axe (borrowed), bear canister (borrowed), Leki Ladie’s MicroVario DSS trekking poles, Euroschirm umbrella, OR stamina gaiters

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Resupply is a word I've come to despise over the last month. It conjures up imagery of my poor hiker self, alone in the woods and starving because I didn't pack enough food; of stumbling through town on a rainy day to discover the post office is closed; of certain misery because of my inability to count calories properly.

Even though I don't start my hike until July, I've been feeling extra crunched to get my resupply strategy down. Tomorrow, I'm headed back to Colorado to spend my final weeks before trail at a remote field camp for work. There won't be time or resources to continue packing, so it needs to get done now.

The plan is to send seven resupplies through Washington and Oregon, then regroup to analyze my hiking style and strategy.  

Food has been the main focus area of A Little Green Hike so far. It's been a challenge to find light, calorie dense foods with minimal packaging and a low price tag, and I'll admit I've been pretty stressed about it. After making my own (disgusting) protein bars, spending countless hours searching for recipes online, and keeping myself awake with ways I could afford this project, I decided it was time for a priority change. I had to remind myself this is about the amount of waste an average hiker does create, not about forcing myself to have a zero waste hike. Accordingly, I chose food that is convenient, tasty, and high in calories.

That being said, I have made considerations for repackaging food, repurposing items, and even preparing for bodily functions:

Repackaging: It's common to buy certain products in bulk, then repackage into smaller containers to split into resupply boxes, a strategy that saves money and weight. Although I tried not to do much of this, it was difficult to avoid. I repackaged things like cous cous, chia seeds, and powdered peanut butter. All but SIX of the plastic bags I used were fished out of the recycling. For example, that M&Ms bag in the picture above? It's filled with freeze dried fruits from Harmony House.

Mostly applicable to gear and intended for weight savings, repurposing items just makes sense. My bandana will be used to wash dishes and protect my neck from the sun, my Leki trekking poles are the foundation for my tent, and my journaling pen doubles as a Leukotape spool. Another tip I picked up from triple-triple-crown hiker Lint: using an empty peanut butter jar as a cold soak container. Soaking my food through the day means less time, effort, and fuel consumption when I get to camp. I may end up ditching my stove altogether, but Mom isn't a fan of that idea, so it stays for now.

Eliminating: Human waste is a HUGE problem on long, popular trails like the PCT. Proper Leave No Trace principle dictates you should pack out your used toilet paper when you can, but I'm hoping to barely use any at all. For urinating, I'll use a 'pee rag'; half of a bandana that ensures I don't have to drip-dry or use TP every time I've gotta go. It will be designated as such and hung from my pack to dry as I walk. For poop, it has to be the backcountry bidet! I have an empty eye-wash saline bottle to keep me fresh and clean after my morning ritual. I'll use TP to polish up and pack it out with me. Since I'm not sure the US Postal Service would appreciate the smell of 5 months worth of toilet paper, it won't be going in the traveling trash box. I'll document the size of each bag and throw it away when I can.

Monthly: I just want to take a moment here to say that women hikers have it WAY harder than men. Fortunately for me, a monthly period isn't something I'll have to deal with. My birth control journey has led me to a place where as long as I'm taking my pill, I'm free from worry. That freedom comes with a price, but for a period-less thru-hike, I'm willing to endure it. I considered going sans-hormone (and may still do some thinking on that), for which I would have purchased a Diva Cup. Reusable time after time, it means virtually no waste. Compare that to carrying loads of pads or tampons that you then have to pack out? Easy answer.

General hygiene: Gotta be honest- I'm not a big fan of it.  So, I don't anticipate bathing to be an issue for me on trail, but when I do wash, I'll be using biodegradable soap and that bandana I mentioned earlier (although when I'm lucky, I'll be bathing in a hotel). Toothbrushing, on the other hand, is something I do care about. I love my teeth and don't have insurance for them right now, so it's important to me to keep up my brushing ritual while hiking. To avoid hundreds of those travel size toothpaste tubes, I've made toothpaste dots. For an estimated 5 months of hiking, I only used ~5oz of toothpaste. The dots took about 2 weeks to dry, after which I packaged them with baking soda to keep them from sticking. This method cuts down on waste and weight; all I have to do is pop one in my mouth and start brushing!

In reality, the project itself comes with very few specifics. I'll hike my own hike and consider my waste as another resupply:
  • Trash will be stored in an odor-proof LokSak while hiking
  • When the bag is full, it will be emptied into a USPS priority box and bounced to a southern location (courtesy of Michigan Recycling Coalition). I'll determine the location each time based on how fast I'm accumulating waste and how many miles I'm covering in that time
  • When the box is full, I'll ship it to Michigan and start a new one. At the end of my hike, I'll be returning home to get my bearings and take a look at the results.
  • Empty resupply boxes will hopefully be recycled at the post office they are shipped to. It's unrealistic for me to carry these until I reach a recycling center myself, so I'm hoping for the best here. I'll keep track of any boxes that have to be thrown away.
Remember to follow me on Instagram, and leave any suggestions you have for A Little Green Hike in the comments! With that, I'm happily off to the mountains again.

"Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance"

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


OK, YOU GOT ME...I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed (and if you haven't, I strongly recommend that you do). A powerful story that planted the first PCT seed in my brain, I'll admit it was part of what led me to decide on a thru-hike. I often choose books based on their cover, and picked up Wild because of it's simplicity; the single Danner boot was remarkably similar to the work boots I had just purchased in preparation for a month long term with WisCorps. I was embarking on my first real solo adventure, where the book kept me in good company. Still, reading Cheryl's story was the least of the insights I was about to unearth. I was finding myself- something I didn't think was possible at the hearty age of 23- but I was fresh out of a break up, and the world was new. I discovered a raw passion for hard work, the outdoors, and a certain male co-worker. I felt brave, inspired, and loved. I was unstoppable.

That was 2014. When the idea of a PCT thru-hike entered my head that summer, I couldn't get rid of it. I spent the next years silently planning, but it wasn't until moving to California in 2016 that I really started to understand what I had committed to. The trail was no longer a vision, but a real place that my feet had already touched. Over the last few months the pressure has been building, especially with several other commitments and my sudden decision to hike SOBO. But still now, I am unstoppable.

, you know the way I can get about waste. Last summer while living near the PCT, the hiker herd came and went in the span of about 10 days. They left town to be on their way, but also left behind trash- lots of it. Don't get me wrong, they took pretty good care of the place, but my eyes picked out the overflowing cans in a rush of irritation. I was shocked that people I likened to myself could create such a massive amount of waste. I told myself I would do it differently.

So, you can probably guess what's coming next- another waste oriented challenge I've dubbed 'A Little Green Hike'. This time, as opposed to the 2014 in-home project, I won't be setting a maximum waste goal. Instead, my aim is to measure just the amount of waste I DO create on trail. The general idea is to box my trash and send it ahead of me as I walk, but details on that will come in a later post. My planning and resupply will involve as many low-waste options as possible, and at the end of my hike I'll have a visual representation of the impact that even a conscious thru-hiker can make.

BECAUSE OF THIS PROJECT and my enthusiasm for sustainability, I've garnered quite a bit of sponsorship and support from several companies, who deserve some serious love. Let me shamelessly introduce you to the following...

I'm participating in mYAMAdventure, an annual sponsorship/mentorship program organized by YAMA and partnering with several other companies: Gossamer Gear, Purple Rain Skirts, Bedrock Sandals, Vargo, Point6, Euroschirm and Harmony House. The sponsors provide us with some free or discounted gear, and YAMA has gathered mentors in the form of previous PCT thru-hikers to offer advice. My part of the program involves awareness for the above companies and fundraising for the Pacific Crest Trail Association. If you've already donated to my campaign- thank you!! If you're interested in supporting the mission of the PCTA, click here to make a donation.

In addition to the fundraising campaign for PCTA through mYAMAdventure, I have been selected to work directly with the association as part of their P3 program. In it's first year, myself and 9 others will be advocating best-care practices and encouraging hikers to preserve, protect, and promote a healthy trail experience for everyone. PCTA has generously partnered with Leki, Osprey, and Eagle Creek to provide P3 hikers with some additional gear. 

An incredible outdoor outfitter in my hometown, owned by two of my classmates. RFO has been kind enough to provide me with discounted gear, and although I don't think they are expecting anything in return, I'd like to encourage everyone to check out their super-hip Fenton, MI store (and bring your dog!). 

I was working for MRC in 2014 when I started to wander away from my conventional lifestyle to find new passions. Not only was it a fantastic place to work, but Kerrin and the board of directors were fully supportive of me moving on in search of my dreams. After reaching out with the A Little Green Hike project in mind, MRC has kindly agreed to sponsor the postage cost of my trail-traveling-trash-box.

ALL OF THIS BEING SAID, I hope it is clear how touched and grateful I am for the support of my sponsors, family, and friends. However, I have a reciprocal part to play, and it is a bit of a sacrifice. I am now committed to maintaining social media and blog posts during my hike, something I had not anticipated previously. As my NOBO counterparts are beginning their hikes and posting beautiful pictures daily, I find myself resisting the urge to pull away from the community. I need to maintain some of the mystery of the trail, both before and during my hike. Still, I'll do my best to keep regular and reasonable updates, which you can look for by following me on Instagram, Facebook, and here on my blog.

“It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.
It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets."
Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Friday, March 31, 2017

Sincerity; to be or not to be?

About this time last year, my grandmother had a stroke. It was the first of what would be many trips to the hospital over the coming year, and happened around the same time I flew home for shoulder surgery. We were both down in the dumps, my mother running back and forth between the two of us for weeks, caring for and loving us as much as she possibly could.
After my surgery, I'd visit with Grandma where ever she was- this hospital, that hospital, dark rooms filled with the smell of medicine. On a particularly upsetting day, I decided to read to her as a distraction. We chose Three Short Moments in a Long Life, a small series by John L'Heureux, out of The New Yorker magazine. She was captivated; soaking in every word. At one point, she interrupted me to tell me how proud she was that I had written these stories. I reminded her that someone else had written them, I was only reading. It was then I knew I would lose her. 

We only read 2/3 of those short stories. I promised her I would call from California and read to her over the phone, but I never did. I saw her once more before she died. Today, without her, I decided to read the third story. My tears overflow as the author fittingly describes his own year of suffering, his own death.

On that same day in the hospital, Grandma talked and talked, more than I had ever heard. She told me her life story, her fears, and how confused she was. She wished she could write down all her thoughts; to gather them, analyze them. I said I would write for her, if she just told me what she wanted to remember. We started planning a book, and though she entitled it "Sincerity; to be or not to be?", I'm not sure my grandmother ever struggled with this question. Her life, love, faith and devotion were always undoubtedly sincere. 

I remember all this today because it is time for another transition in my life; my winter job is over, my belongings are packed in the car again and the future is uncertain. I'm finding the time to reflect on the last year of both our lives- how, coincidentally or through resolution, I have been my sincerest self to date. I'll credit a little of that to California sunshine, the mountains of Colorado, and the wisdom that comes with age; but Grandma gets most of the acclaim. 

Here's to you Grandma; and to sincerity, in all it's forms.


The weeks since my knee surgery have passed both surprisingly quickly and painfully slow. Sparing details, the procedure corrected a misal...