This past year I've worked with an aspiring through-hiker, Kelsey McGill, and decided to share her story here for you to enjoy.
Kelsey has been a wilderness educator for many years at Outward Bound here in the North Cascades. She is a colorful character who practices excellent self-care, trains diligently, and she's one of my daughter's best friends. Her ultra-light kit is a testament to her thoughtful approach to athleticism. Kelsey's PCT journey began two weeks ago and she recently passed the hundred mile mark.
First things first: what's your favorite trail snack? SNICKERS
What is in your pack? Cooking system: Crotch Pot, titanium mug, Titanium spoon, mini Bic lighter, MSR Pocket Rocket (for purely hot drinks!) 8oz fuel canister, stuff sack. Shelter: Black Diamond BetaMid, 6 stakes, gossamer gear UL umbrella Sleeping system: 15 degree marmot xenon down, polycro ground sheet, Thermarest z-lite. Pack: ULA CDT. Clothing (not worn): nano puff, alpine Houdini, Houdini, R1, Trek pants, baggie shorts, Capilene tshirt, Capilene bottoms, wool hat, liner gloves, 2 pairs Darn Tough socks, bandana. Clothing (worn): tropical fish dress, Injinji socks, desert button up, dirty girl gaiters, Altra Lone Peak 2.5, Black Diamond traverse poles, sunhat, Suncloud glasses. Hydration: 2 2-liter platypus, 4 Smartwater bottles, Sawyer squeeze. Nav: Halfmile maps & compass, Yogi's resupply info. Ditty bag: gossamer gear UL trowel, tooth powder & brush, anti-chafe stick, hand sanitizer, earplugs, mini leatherman, mini light, AAA battery, sunscreen, Dr. Bronners soap, diva cup, arnica salve, sharpie, journal, pen, pocket palette. FAK: arnica salve, weed salve, monkey butt powder, lavender oil, turmeric tincture, tea tree oil, Leukotape, ibuprofen, antihistamine, mini anti-chafe stick, gauze, safety pin. Repair: needle w/ floss, repair tape Tech: iPhone w/ charger, Anker backup battery, headphones.
How did you train for this multi-month, 2,700 mile hike? I believe there are two components to this: physical and mental. Physically, I was skiing and running during the winter several days a week eventually transitioning to mainly hiking into the spring. On top of training, I was in physical therapy for my hip (an injury sustained by years of to carrying heavy packs and repetitive motion as an Outward Bound instructor). This opened my eyes to how intricate the connection is in the body and the awareness I can observe while I'm moving. However, I strongly feel that the bigger focus for me was the mental preparation because this is what it boils down to in endurance events. An 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class was a life-changing experience for me in many ways. This class incorporates various meditations, yoga sequences, and tools to carry with you in everyday life to become more of an observer in life versus attaching to emotions/thoughts that can so easily rule our lives without even knowing. Since I've struggled with anxiety for most of my life, I've also been in therapy which I'm so grateful to have someone to support me in this process! I think back to a year ago and how daunting anxiety was for me, "something is wrong with me" or constantly comparing myself to others was crippling all the beauty in my life. I'm amazed at what I've overcome the past year and how much more confident and grounded I feel, with much thanks to both of these paths.
What has been the biggest challenge as you prepare for your trip? Adjustment is usually the crux for me whether I'm coming back into the "real world" or I'm heading back out in the field for another season. Reminding myself to be patient, have self-compassion, and give gratitude is key.
How did your coaching engagement with Magnetic North help you prepare for the trail? Brittany was an invaluable resource in preparation. Having a thorough discussion on my self-evaluation including my current self and goal setting. Afterwards, we dove into the physiology of endurance and how to give it what it needs to receive positive results. Having a regimented training plan allowed my awareness to grow on my body's needs and make that connection stronger between the mind and body.
Is there a piece of advice you'd share with others considering a through hike? I would strongly emphasize cultivating meditation as a part of your journey and purchasing Yogi's Pacific Crest Trail handbook while you're at it.