Let the planning begin

After graduating last year, I spent a ten months overseas backpacking in Australia and New Zealand. During that time, I spent two months hiking the length of the South Island of New Zealand on the Te Araroa trail. And I can honestly say, it was the best experience of my entire life.

Since my return to the states, I have worked on building a career in the outdoor retail industry as an apparel buyer. I love my job and the industry I work in, but the yearning to pick up my pack and hit the road is always there in the back of my head. I was bit by the travel bug, and the itch is back.

My time and experiences in New Zealand rooted a hunger inside of me that I think can only be satisfied by another long trail. After careful consideration of my future and what’s next, I’ve decided I will hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018. I will spend this year planning and preparing myself for the long journey ahead. While I have thru-hiking experience, the Te Araroa was only a fraction of the PCT. While the distance I covered in New Zealand was roughly 900 miles, the PCT is 2,660 miles; three times the length I walked! Two months in the South Island, New Zealand vs. six months across the length of Washington, Oregon, and California. My concerns about sandflies will be replaced with concerns of rattlesnakes and bears.

Despite the doubts and fears I’m sure others will have for me, (mom I’m talking to you) I know that this is the right decision for me. I have not felt this good or excited about my future since I bought a one-way ticket to Australia last year.

I will be using this blog to report on all things PCT: gear, research, training, everything.

I have a goal, let the planning begin.

Crazy to think we were there just before the wild fires came rolling through. I’m still entranced by the beauty I saw while spending just a few short days in the #greatsmokeymountains #nationalpark. I must admit #carcamping is way easier than the #backcountry #tramping I was doing in #newzealand, but I can’t help but hope the next time I go through I’ll be hiking the #appalachiantrail! #tbt #backpacking #wanderlust

Arthur’s Pass to Boyle Village; 114 km (71 miles); 5 days

When I got to Arthur’s Pass I decided to take a rest day at the YHA and work out how I was going to tackle the next section of the trail.  It starts with two days of crossing the Minga and the Deception rivers.  Just a week ago, a woman died trying to cross the Deception River. I
was feeling apprehensive about even doing the rivers. I was debating
all day whether I should just hitch around the two completely and start further up the trail.  A gut feeling in my stomach told me I should. 

Here’s when Jessica walked into my life.  She is a smart, sweet Swedish woman also walking the Te Araroa Northbound.  She caught up to me in Arthur’s Pass.  When she walked into the hostel, she asked for a room for 3 days.  The man at the desk said he only had a room available for that night.  She took it and said she would figure out where to stay tomorrow later.  I knew she was a Te Araroa walker from the moment I looked at her legs: scratches and scrapes from the ankles up to her thighs. I said, “are you hiking the Te Araroa?” she replied, “yes, are you Therese?” We chatted and she explained she had been following my progress and knew I would be there from my notes in the hut books.

I had gone into DOC (Department of Conservation) information center the day before and asked about the trail.  They said the next 2 days were good to do the rivers, but then heavy rain was expected for the next 5 days after that.  I told Jessica about this, the woman who died, and my apprehension of doing the two river crossings alone.  She really wanted to take a full rest day because she had been walking for over 11 days straight, but she also did not want to get stuck in Arthur’s Pass for a week, waiting for the rain to clear.  So, we decided that we would team up and do the river crossings together.  We spent 2 days together, and they were wonderful. 

The track, especially through the woods around the Deception River was absolutely breathtaking.  The water in the river was gorgeous, clear, and powerful.  I couldn’t help exclaiming out loud, “How beautiful! This is so amazing, I’m so happy we didn’t skip this section!”  We also found ourselves scrambling up, down, and around huge boulders the size of cars.  At one point I had to push my backpack over a huge boulder and crawl through a hole between two smaller boulders next to it in the river to get through.  Jessica wanted to stay out of the water, so she went up into the woods, trying to go up and over.  On the other side where she was supposed to come down was a steep slope.  She took off her backpack and passed it down to me, then I half caught her while she jumped down from the cliff.  In times like these, we were screaming at each other, “THIS IS CRAZY!! THIS IS NOT A TRAIL!”  But, through all the craziness, we made it!  We worked our asses off and pushed through two really long, hard days.  

On the third day, we walked the first 3 hours together.  At this point, we came to Locke Stream Hut, and Jessica decided it was best for her to have a short day and rest.  I was still feeling good, so I decided to continue on for 6 more hours to the next hut.  It was misting, but not too bad as I climbed up to Harper’s Pass.  It was a steep climb up, but a much easier descent down past Hurunui Hut, along to Hurunui Hut #3 where I spent the night alone.

The 4th day I walked 29 km from #3 Hut to Hope Kiwi Lodge.  Two hours into my walk I found a hot pool! I had a soak, and the sandflies had a bite, or 20, of my bare backside when I got out.  The rest of the day’s walking was pretty easy and uneventful.  I spent it avoiding horse poo and dreaming about getting to Hanmer Springs and having a coffee.  I arrived at Hope Kiwi Lodge, which was huge and luxurious.  I was so tired, I fell asleep as soon as I got there.  I was woken by a hunter coming in.  Later, two others on horses joined us.  I had to fight the urge to ask them if I could go for a ride.  I’ve been wanting to go horseback riding since I got to New Zealand.  I am hoping it happens soon!

I woke up to the threat of rain on the horizon.  I packed quickly and said my goodbyes.  The hunter replied with, “alright I’ll see you up the trail.”  I wanted to say, “oh no you won’t.”  But alas, as I was trying to find my way across a pile of mixed rock next to a river, he caught up to me.  He came up behind me and greeted me with a loud, “how’s it going?” Of course my reaction was a big, “AAAAHHHHH!”  I get spooked easily.  He offered me a ride from the carpark to Hamner Springs; I quickly accepted.  Less offended that he caught up to me after that.  He took the lead, and I followed him to Hope Shelter where he decided to take a break.  I told him I’d keep walking, sure that he would catch up to me again.  I booked it.  I didn’t want him to catch up to me.  I wanted to be faster!

I ended up stopping, taking a break, and talking to some SOBOs about the next few sections ahead.  It’s funny seeing their reactions when I tell them I am a NOBO.  First it’s shock, then huge smiles spread across their faces and excitement fills them.  “OH! You are the first I’ve met so far!!!” It’s always a nice reaction to receive.  They tell me I am coming up to the best parts of the trail.  The most challenging, yet rewarding.  All of them informing me that I am almost done.  Hearing this makes me excited, yet sad at the same time.  I don’t want it to be over! I feel I have only just started!  I decided I am going to pace myself in the next few sections.  Take all of the days slowly and enjoy them.  The Waiau Pass is next! 116km in 5-8 days.  I think I will lean towards 8 days for this trip.  Rain is in the forecast, but I am hoping it clears, and I get some beautiful weather to enjoy the views!

Also, I ended beating the hunter to the carpark.  A whole half hour ahead of him.  A win for me and a great end to this section 🙂