I have talked to several women who have dreamed of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, but for various reasons, never have. Some talked about planning a trip with their girlfriends, others have talked about doing it solo, but to actually speak with a woman who had followed their dream of doing it, never, that is until I read about Elyse( chardonnay) Walker and reached out to her about her journey.
Here’s her story.
What was your inspiration to hike the PCT?
All the strong tough women that went before me. I did a lot of reading about other women and their experiences on the trail before I decided to go. Heather “Anish” Anderson’s story of breaking the fastest known time on the PCT, was truly inspiring. She completed the trail in 60 days, wow I thought ,I might not be breaking any records but I can certainly get out there and give it my all. I could have my own thru-hiker adventure. I owed it to myself to at least try.
How is it to hike the trail as an African American woman, do you feel your experience was different because of it?
I believe my trail experiences were colored more by my life experiences than by the color of my skin. The PCT community of hikers is a kaleidoscope of people, but on the trail we are all just hikers. All the people I met and/or hiked with were some of the most generous, kind, caring people I have ever met. One day I was sitting along outside a small general store in Trout Lake, WA when a lady came up and asked me if I was a hiker and would I like a shower. Yes, I said! (having not showered in about 5 days).She drove the short distance to her house for not only a shower but lunch with her daughter and husband. They even gave me some food for the trail then took me back to the trail-head. Trail angels like this helped us all out ,all along the trail.
What advice would you offer to other African American woman who are considering hiking the PCT?
Get those training miles in, your feet will thank you. Everything else will work itself out. Whether you thru-hike (hiking a long-distance trail end-to-end) or section hiking (hikes the same trail, but completes it over a period of years) Just be flexible, fearless and open to adventure. I decided it’s called a thru-hike for a reason. You have to go thru some tough things on the trail mentally,
physically and emotionally. When I fractured my ankle, I hiked 33 miles alone, over Sonora Pass just to get to a road. It was painful, scary and yes, there was some crying; but I’ll never forget the view at the top of the pass or how strong I felt when I made it to the road. Just keep moving forward, you’ll get through it.
How did you prepare for the hike?
Besides doing a lot of reading, I hiked A LOT. I knew I wanted to be able to at least do 20 miles on the first day (the distance from the southern terminus to the Lake Morena campground), so I needed to train. First I started with walks around the neighborhood. I even took my backpack to the grocery store then carried all my groceries back home. When the weather wasn’t ideal I walked on a treadmill at the gym, then did longer and longer hikes on the weekends. I lost quite a bit of weight before I even hit the trail; but most importantly,I felt healthier and stronger.
What is your next adventure?
It is fair to say that I have been bitten by the thru-hiking bug! So another long distance hike is on the horizon. Let’s just say the Appalachian Trail is calling my name! Stay tuned and follow me here: WanderingChardonnay