The Elephant on the Trail

trmpWe first decided we were going to thru-hike the PCT three years ago, on an overnight trip to the Desolation Wilderness in September, 2014. We set 2017 as the year to make it happen, as it seemed sufficiently distant that we could certainly coordinate the logistics for such a trip by then. We definitely weren’t thinking about who was going to win the 2016 presidential election, and what that might mean. Of course, everything’s different now.

In some ways, it feels like it’s entirely the wrong time to head out into the woods and stop obsessively reading the news. There are awesome organizational efforts happening in my neighborhood, and I’ll miss the chance to get involved (while regretting not being involved sooner). There are rallies to attend and congressional representatives to call and oh so many Twitter updates to read. It feels like escapism.

On the other hand, each new day brings some threat to our streams and rivers, our endangered species, the Environmental Protection Agency, our federally protected lands. I feel maybe I should enjoy the outdoors while we still have an outdoors.

A thru-hike is the antithesis of everything this administration stands for. I can’t imagine anyone in that family spending time outside unless it’s on a golf course, and I revel in the idea of shedding possessions and spending five and a half months getting sweaty and smelly and exploring our shared land in a way that would only baffle and bemuse those in charge. I’ll be doing more physical work each day than I’ve ever done in my life, but I’ll be completely unproductive from a capitalist point of view. There’s something exciting about that.

Plenty of people give up housing, jobs, comfortable situations to thru-hike a long trail. Tim and I count ourselves very lucky- we’ve got savings, and I’ve got a good job to come home to. We knew going into this that we didn’t want to lose sight of the privilege that allows us to embark on this adventure, so we decided early on to use the hike to raise dollars for causes we believed in.

Post-election, this feels even more urgent. So we’re fundraising for the Sierra Club, an environmental organization, Planned Parenthood, for women’s reproductive access, and Housing Works, a New York based org that helps find housing for people with HIV/AIDS. If you want to chip in, you can choose which cause you’d like to support right here! You can donate a flat amount, or pledge per mile that we hike, if you want to give us a little extra motivation to get through those tough stretches in Northern California.

Aside from this, I’m still trying to figure out the best ways to resist while hiking. I’m looking forward to breaking my addiction to the current news cycle, though I know I want to stay active and informed as much as possible. “What can I be doing? Can I be better?” are questions with which I should always be grappling; shaking up my routine by dropping out and thru-hiking is an opportunity to address them directly.


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