The Pacific Crest Trail is a ribbon of dirt that stretches across the length of the United States from Mexico to Canada. It meanders through California, Oregon, and Washington among the best ecosystems in the United States – the Joshua Trees of the Mojave desert, the high mountain passes in the Sierra Nevada, and the steep climbs and volcanoes of the Cascade range. Setting out in 2017, my legs carried me 1,017 miles from Mexico to Sonora Pass, California, until I fell 30 vertical feet to volcanic rocks below. This slip resulted in breaking my left foot, fracturing the other, and tearing my meniscus. For the two years of recovery and rehab that followed, getting back on trail became my daily motive. Experiencing a loss of identity from the inability to pursue foundational passions meant honing in on daily goals and celebrating small victories - increased strength and stability in full body exercises, a low-inflammation diet, and gradual reintroduction of movement. Putting my head down and focusing on the day-to-day with unpromised healing, I found myself back where I left the trail two years later.
Since being forced off trail, I’ve grown conscious about the cumulative impact that our actions have on the environment, whether it be through single-use packaging, flying, or supporting certain industries. Without close control, these high impacts derive from our minute everyday habits.
I had two options: either gather my gear and return to the trail through multiple flights along the west coast, or omit the carbon output by honing in on logistics to make biking south to Sonora Pass a possibility. Setting out with wide eyes and fresh legs from my apartment in U-District, I began pedaling south.
Amongst my three weeks spent on the saddle, I found myself navigating unforeseen challenges – the stress of narrow shoulders, riding along busy freeways, and a degree of separation anxiety developed between my bike and I. Biking south offered me everything I needed and nothing that I expected – insight and selfless help offered by strangers, community among other cyclists, regular bakeries and a strong appreciation for quiet country roads. I found myself at Sonora Pass three weeks later, darkened by the sun and ready to trade my bike and panniers for a backpack and ice axe.
I found myself shifting with the terrain as I devoted my whole self to continuing this northbound footpath for 78 days, watching the ecosystem, season, and small-town populations shift in a natural progression. I found peace in the solitude of the Sierra Nevada in a high snow year, awe among the wildflowers and open ridges of northern California, and joy in the trail family I slowly inched myself north with. The trail wasn’t without humbling moments, and I grew familiar with strained muscles, full body hives, and balancing undesirable weather with minimal gear. The contrast in these two aspects of trail fostered a sense of connection beyond self as my body carried me north. What started out as a strong sense of curiosity of a summer fueled by my own energy culminated into 2,849 human-powered miles. After 99 days, I found the end of my north, 25 pounds lighter with an insatiable hunger and familiar ache in my bones. Reaching the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail represented a moment I’ve both dreamt of and dreaded – celebrating a goal I previously deemed impossible, while also mourning the loss of an interconnectedness fostered between my natural environment and those I shared it with.
Foxgloves, a flower that grows along the west coast, lined the roads for all the miles ridden in Washington. Longview, Washington
"How could I simultaneously implement sustainability into my own travel and experiences? Would an entire summer without the use of motor vehicles be possible?"
"The pace of life on the trail is like no other – sleep, eat, walk north"
Mid-afternoon snacks outside of service stations became the daily norm. Leggett, California
After 2 weeks of solo travel, I began traveling south with two other cyclists, whom I would spend the next 4 days cycling, laughing, and eating too much food with. Ferndale, California
To avoid busy highways, we took the Lost Coast alternate route. Three brutal days of climbing were all worth it. Honeydew, California