Working as a staff writer for Boise Weekly is my dream job, and I've had a blast writing about recreational opportunities around the state, not to mention delving into important issues concerning our city and exploring human-interest stories.
For the next five months, I'm taking a break from my desk—and, consequently, cellphone service, non-dehydrated food, hot showers, indoor plumbing in general and pretty much every other convenience of modern living. Instead, my dog Marcy and I embarked on the Pacific Crest Trail on Tuesday, April 12.
Yes, I read the book Wild. That's the first question people ask me when I tell them I am going to hike the PCT. I read it when it came out in 2012 and thought, "Why in the hell would anyone want to do that?" No, I have not seen the movie, either, and I don't plan to.
Now here I am, standing at the border of California and Mexico and taking my first steps north. I plan to cover all 2,663 miles.
The second question is always, "Why the Pacific Crest Trail?"
I got my first job when I was 14 ½ years old, at Cold Stone Creamery. I scooped ice cream through high school and went straight to the University of Montana in Missoula to study journalism. I worked two jobs to pay for it. My graduation party was on a Saturday and I started my first "adult" job in Boise the following Friday.
The point is, at 25 years old, I have at least some of the big important stuff figured out. I've had an awesome start to my career, I live in a place I love, I paid off my car, etc. All that, but I've never gone soul searching, so I decided I needed to take a journey.
I interviewed a guy for a story in December 2014 who hiked the PCT, and it got me thinking, "Could I do that?"
This past year became the year of planning.
I spent last summer trying out gear—buying stuff, returning it, buying more stuff, returning it again. I accidentally burned holes in my socks; lost a cook set to some sharp-toothed rodents; and walked a lot of hot, dusty and dehydrated miles. With a lot of help from friends, family, partner and guidebooks, I started figuring things out.
Then there was the food preparation. Buying five months worth of food is a bit overwhelming, but packing it into 34 boxes is far worse. I'll pick up each one from a post office along the way.
According to dietandfitnesstoday.com, the average female burns almost 600 calories per hour while hiking with a backpack. That's around 5,500 calories per day. Which means I have to eat a lot.
My grocery list included 300 granola and protein bars, 104 packets of oatmeal, 70 packages of Idahoan-brand instant potatoes, four pounds of Craisins, more Pop-Tarts than I care to admit, quinoa, instant rice, freeze-dried raspberries, blueberries and bananas, a lot of just-add-water lasagna, 150 bags of tea and 35 dried pig ears. Those last items are for Marcy.
Now we've arrived at the third question everyone asks: "Are you hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone?"
Well, sort of. I'll be the only human on the journey. This is where Marcy—my 50-pound Shar-Pei/German shepherd—comes in. I got her from the humane society in Missoula four or five years ago and we've been inseparable ever since.
When I got her, though, Marcy was unfit for society. I quickly found out she had an unpredictable streak of aggression (my first hint: she bit my face). She attacked neighborhood dogs; snapped at friends, family, roommates, colleagues and boyfriends; and growled at pretty much anyone who tried to pet her.
She became my furry, panting, pending lawsuit.
I was faced with the decision of putting her down and I was heartbroken over it. I needed to know I gave her every opportunity to improve, so we signed up for an intensive training program through Sit Means Sit dog training in Boise.
A thousand dollars and training hours later, she has undergone a spectacular transformation. She's now my certified service dog—trained for psychiatric calming in triggering situations. More important, she will be my protection on the trail. I refused to leave her behind.
Let me note: Taking dogs on the Pacific Crest Trail is a contentious subject. I've talked to several veterinarians, as well as folks who have successfully thru-hiked with their dogs. I took a canine First Aid class and did a lot of research. Her needs come before mine and if she is incapable of the task at hand, she'll go home.
So here we are, beginning our journey. I'll send the occasional trail report to Boise Weekly as we make our way to Canada. I hope we make it. We're sure going to try.