A lot of 4-5 day trips and a summer working in Glacier NP.
Some day hikes, mainly just biking a lot and baseline decent shape.
Ashland, OR (Callahans) and went north - July 1st. August 20th at US/Can Border, then back to Ashland and southbound.
Reached So. Kennedy Mead
Made it to the US/Mexico border
Before the trail Huck was working a part-time job and seeing if she wanted to study law. She had talked to a good friend a lot about the trail, and both agreed that unless they were in debt or had children they wanted to do the trail as soon as they could. It wasn’t that either needed the trail to find themselves, but they both thought they'd just really enjoy it. They northbounded from Ashland to the US/Canadian border to avoid the snow, and then Huck's friend left the trail. Huck went to Ashland and continued south alone, spending about three weeks of her hike hiking by herself.
HIKING WITH A FRIEND
"I hiked the first 7+ weeks with one of my best friends. We were both competent on our own in the outdoors and had similar levels of physical and mental endurance. We both liked to push ourselves, but neither of us was addicted to clocking miles. You're planning the intimate details of life together when you hike with someone - what will we eat, where will we camp, when will we stop for a break, why do you take so long to poop? It's way too much time together to internalize resentment about basic physical wants and needs, especially in a context when you're more tired and worn down and those simple topics are more important. So being comfortable enough with each to communicate was key. People say it's important to each have a full gear set in case you split up, but we shared a tent, stove and other items and it was fine. For us, it wasn't about each doing the trail, it was about doing it together. I'd say our friendship was even stronger when we finished.
My friend stopped, as previously planned, after OR/WA and I continued on in CA on my own. I also really, really liked getting to have that solo experience. I hiked almost 3 weeks by myself in different segments and that was challenging but also empowering.
In general I trusted people a lot on the trial, and as a woman hiking alone you get a lot of respect. I definitely had that thought in the back of my mind that I was at risk, but overall I was empowered and I trusted people and I felt like people respected me. I feel like women are viewed as equals by fellow hikers, or at least most fellow hikers. In general safety wise I felt fine. I would encourage women to feel fine hiking alone. I think it’s better for lots of reasons to hike with people, but I don’t think someone should feel afraid.
Being alone also opens you up more to meeting people and joining up with others on the trail. It's a great community, and it seems most people meet others to hike with along the way. I ended up hiking with a solo guy and a married couple, and it was a fantastic group. I have heard about many "trail break-ups," though, mainly between friends. One person decides they don't want to do the trail, people hike at different paces, or people just have a falling out. Hiking with a friend can be an incredible shared experience, but communicate a lot! Make sure your friendship is more important than your miles, even if that means splitting up. Also, one thing my friend and I agreed to was that if one of us didn't feel comfortable or safe doing something, we wouldn't do it. And this actually came into play one time when we were deciding whether or not to cross a river (we ultimately kept going down stream till we found a log), and it was a good thing to have established beforehand."
"I made the decision to flip-flop because there was still a lot of snow in the North Cascades and I couldn't push my start date back because of my hiking buddy's post-trail plans. We didn't feel like we had enough experience in snow, particularly with route-finding, and ultimately decided it wasn't worth risking it. We started at Callahan's (Ashland) and headed north to the Canadian border, then I flipped back to Ashland to head south to Mexico. We hit snow a day south of Crater Lake but besides having to use Guthook a bit to stay on trail, it was fine. Snow continued several days past Crater Lake off and on but we didn't have any serious traverses or passes, just following footprints, wearing more clothes, and using Guthook pretty regularly. Northern Oregon was almost completely free of snow, as was all of Washington except a couple traverses in the Goat Rocks. Our time in the North Cascades was spectacular. Not only were there no snow complications, but the weather was beautiful and we had stunning views. We met quite a few NOBOs in OR/WA, many of the front 30 or so of the pack, but we never crossed the herd. It would have been an interesting experience, but I was glad to never have a crowded trail. "
"When I flipped back to Ashland, I was probably 1/3 of the way back in the SOBO "pack" and I continued on with the SOBO crowd. Flip-flopping definitely provides a more solo experience. Very few others will be doing the same route so you don't meet as many fellow hikers and you don't share as common of an experience. People you meet on the trail and hike with really are a huge highlight of the experience so this is a significant con for flip-flopping, in my opinion. Perhaps more of a flip-flopper community can be created and it can become a more established third way to do the trail, whether that's from Donner Pass or somewhere further north. It's a great option for avoiding risky snow and potentially lengthening the time you can take to do the trail. It's also a fantastic option for people who want a solo experience. For those who just want less of a crowd though, I would recommend going SOBO. I loved my experience and the people I met because I flipped, but all things considered, if I had it to do over again, I would have gone straight SOBO."
GEAR AND FOOD
"Some of my favorite items I brought aren't on a typical gear list. I bought a lightweight waterproof speaker toward the end when there were four of us hiking together. We used it to listen to music, podcasts, a presidential debate, and an audiobook together. Awesome way to pass the time, and great for spurring conversation. I also started carrying a strand of battery operated Christmas lights after my sisters came to hike with me for a bit and brought them along. So great. We'd string them up over wherever we were all eating our dinners and it created a nice little ambiance. My mosquito net was another game-changer. I highly recommend getting the full torso one with long sleeves, not just a head net. Oregon would have been mostly misery without these. One thing I loved but that I ditched toward the end when I was sending home everything possible was a lightweight collapsible bucket. I had two shirts, 2-3 pairs of socks and two pairs of underwear that I rinsed in that, dried on my pack, and alternated each day, especially in the first 2-3 months when it's hot enough to really get sweaty. Rather than washing directly in a water source. It was also great for getting water to put out bonfires, carrying dinner supplies to a pretty eating spot, and for sitting on."
"My friend and I decided to make a bunch of dehydrated dinners for our trip and it was a fantastic decision. Thai peanut sauce with rice noodles, black bean chili and rice, mashed potatoes with ground beef and green beans, chicken coconut curry with veggies and rice, spaghetti... You can do so much with a dehydrator. We learned a lot and some meals were better than others, but overall I really liked my food. It takes a lot of time, cutting up vegetables, making sauces, getting everything cycled through 8-ish hours of dehydrating, packaging the different elements together, but it was worth it for the taste and better nutrition. The total cost wasn't a lot different but I think overall it's a little less than buying pre-prepared everything. I did also supplement most of my boxes at grocery stores for snacks and lunch stuff."
HER TRAIL ADVICE...
"Get the app "Overdrive" and a library card for access to lots of free audiobooks and ebooks. You log in with your card number and any ebook or audiobook your library owns can be "checked out" remotely and downloaded directly to your phone so it's even available on airplane mode.
Swim as often as possible. It doesn't take long to take a dip, it feels so good, and it's a great way to experience your surroundings, not just walk through them.
Make bonfires often (when safe) and invite other hikers to come over and join you. Especially when the mosquitoes are bad!
Spend a night at Evolution Lake in the Sierras if you can. And take at least one on-trail zero!
You become able to do the trail in the process of doing it. 30-mile days sound crazy now, but when you just walk all day, that becomes a really doable distance. You will build up the mental and physical strength to keep going as you go, you don't need to have it all in the beginning.
Being with other people is REALLY helpful. For enjoyment, for safety, for pushing through and staying motivated."