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A 4,265 Kilometre Hiking Journey

By: Marcelo Vargas

So, what has to go wrong in a person’s life for them to willingly decide they want to hike 4,265 kilometers for 5 months straight?

Well, to answer that question; apparently not much. With over 4000 people deciding they want to do it every year, this journey is now turning into an increasingly popular and more widely accepted conquest. Especially after the movie WILD came out.

The trail I’m talking about, if you haven’t already realized, is the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The PCT spans 2,650 miles (4,265 kilometers) from Mexico to Canada, with stops through California, Oregon, and Washington. The route passes through 25 national forests and 7 national parks. It is a National Scenic Trail. It reveals the beauty of the desert, unfolds the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada, traverses deep forests, and provides commanding vistas of volcanic peaks in the Cascade Range. The trail symbolizes everything there is to love —and protect— about the outdoors.

Now, a little more information for you. In the United States, there are three big trails; (1) the aforementioned PCT running alongside the west coast (2) the Continental Divide, running across the middle of the continent. The Continental Divide begins in New Mexico from the south and ending in Montana at the north end. Lastly, (3) the Appalachian trail runs across the east coast, - starting south in Georgia and finishing in Maine.
Together, these three trails make up the ‘triple crown’.

As for my story...turning almost 30 (in 2 years) I have realized that although I'm incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I have been given and the choices I have made, they have led down a path which does not necessarily seem “fit” for me. Growing up on a dairy farm and coming from a family dedicated to farming and agriculture, I have always loved nature and the feeling of being in the open air. The outdoors have always felt like home to me. Yet here I found myself at age 28, working a nine-to-five job for the third year in a row, in an office on the 9th-floor of a building buried in a financial district in Bogota. At the time I took this job, it seemed like the right thing to do, but as the years passed I began to see things from a different perspective. Contrasting my roots with the way my life was shaping up to be, I decided to change direction.

For the next 4-5 months, I will be hiking my way from the Mexico/United States border, all the way up to Canada. I understand it’s a very strange idea to grasp and ever since I have started telling people about this, I have gotten the same questions over and over again. So, assuming readers will ask similar questions, I will try to give you a better understanding.

I will live in a tent most of the time, except when I reach a town to re-supply on food and water, which will happen on average every 4-6 days. Yes, living in the wild does mean that there will be a limited amount of showers and hygiene will probably go out the window. I will carry all that I need on my back (tent, sleeping bag, food, etc..) and yes, I will have to dig a cathole every time I need to poo. Some consider the people doing these long thru-hikes to be masochists and to be honest, I can’t really argue with them.

I’m sure that this pandemic has made everyone realize new things or help put into perspective aspects of our lives that we use to neglect. For me, it made me realize that I wanted to take a year off and do something completely different from my previous job, but at the same time in line with my beliefs, my upbringing, and who I am as a person.

I’m not saying that working in an office and wanting to grow within a company is wrong or unfulfilling. I do believe people can do that for an entire lifetime and be genuinely happy. I liked working at my old company - the work was interesting, the people and environment were fun but at some point during this pandemic, I knew that I needed to make a change. To regroup internally and reassess the path I was on.

Throughout the past 3 months, I have been buying all my gear, researching the stops I need to make, the best type of food for me, and reading every article I can about the PCT. My oficial starting date is April 30, 2021, and although maybe I haven’t been able to properly conceptualize how much 4265 km is walking, I am pretty fucking excited to find out.

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