Backpacking since birth, but before the trail had never packed solo, or for more than 11 consecutive days, or over 12 miles per day.
Generally athletic, for 2 months hiked a couple 13ers and walked to work 1-2 days a week (20mi total). Felt very prepared.
Harts Pass to the border July 6th, then south on the PCT w/ 3 other hikers.
Got really sick and headed home at S Lake Tahoe
Candy Cane was working as a physical therapist assistant as well as at Neptune Mountaineering before deciding that her life needed an overhaul. She planned the trip in two months and hit the trail. Middle and southern Washington were difficult for her due to shin splints. They healed and she got through Oregon. She got sick on trail, rested for a week with family, then attempted to head back out, only to get sick again. She decided she needed to listen to her body and take time for a full recovery which meant leaving the rest of the trail for another time. She hitched back to South Lake Tahoe and found a mother and son who offered her a ride to Oakland the next day.
LEAVING THE TRAIL
"Leaving the trail was the single hardest decision I have ever made for myself. This hike was all about me. I upended my life for this trip. I felt so many emotions, healed so much, forgave so much, learned so much about myself, met so many incredible people and made so many friends along the way. I didn't want to stop short of my goal of walking to Mexico and feel like I had yet again failed at something. I struggled with shin splints through southern Washington which was difficult and painful but manageable. When I got the flu in Oregon I couldn't even sit up in my tent. I contacted family to let them know I might be in trouble. Family rescued me on trail and I slept for a week straight, unable to eat and barely able to drink anything. I attempted to get back on trail. I was so depleted and my body so sick in so many ways I couldn't walk a mile without sitting to rest. I decided to honor the promise I made myself at 18 when I vowed to never push myself so hard that I sustained lasting damage to my body again. Advice I would give others in the same situation is listen to your body. Yes, the trail is a huge suffer fest. It's painful. But it shouldn't be so painful every day that you aren't having fun anymore. The trail will always be there. You can finish it another time. Reach out to people for support. They will be there for you. People you hardly know will be there for you. You have so much support. You just have to ask for it. "
LIFE AS A FEMALE HIKER
"I think as women we tend to underestimate our ability levels. Know yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses. You know yourself best. Hear other people’s advice, but make decisions based on what you think is best for you. I took to heart everyone else’s terror regarding the snow and lack of melt before I left and thought I was going to die. With my experience, knowledge, and comfort with snow travel it ended up not being an issue at all and I never even used my microspikes. This is not to say that snow or mountains or other potentially dangerous situations should be taken lightly, but again, you know yourself best, so make decisions based on what your experience and comfort level lead you towards. Also, bring a pee bandana. You will want it."
STARTING THE TRAIL
"Northern Washington was surreal. The mountains were so different from the mountains in Colorado. The snow was a nonissue for me, although I was fully prepared for it. The scariest part was the “rainforest”. The trail was so overgrown and I was in the first group of people on the trail so the branches and vines were still completely covering the trail. While it was sometimes physically difficult to push and kick my way through the overgrowth, my main hurdle was psychological. I have a phobia of snakes. I have never allowed it to limit my outdoor exploration, but they are something that I factor in when doing a pro/ con list. Not being able to see the trail, my feet, or animals that might be lying in wait for me was hugely taxing both mentally and emotionally. That being said, I pushed through that fear because the views were unbelievable and so was Washington as a whole."
HER TRAIL ADVICE...
"Have fun! Find beauty and be grateful for something every day. Yes you are in pain, yes you are hungry, yes you are more exhausted than you ever imagined. This is your life. This is your adventure. Live it. Love it.
Take pictures every chance you get. Take pictures of the amazing people you meet along the way, even if they are all candids. Everything. You will want to look back on them and each one will have so much beauty and be so amazing 3 months after your trip. You will remember so much from each picture.
Tennis balls are a great, lightweight way to roll out tight, sore muscles and feet. I highly recommend bringing one.
You can do this! This is your journey. Do what is best for you."