A ton of 2-5 nighters the year before trail along the PCT and AZT. One 10 day Pct trip back in 14' which started it all.
Lots of backpacking. Lots of talking to thru hikers. Listening from the best.
Harts Pass up to Canadian border, kissed the monument, turned south on July 7th
Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
Lived a 5 month long dream. Made it to the US/Mexico border
With the discovery of the AT, Ally had wanted to thru hike since she was 18. But taking half a year off and saving enough money just never quite seemed attainable. She started her own art print business in 2012 with the goal of having one of those lives with more than a weeks worth of vacation time a year. A good friend of hers passed away suddenly at the age of 33 in 2014 and she decided that thru hiking was moving up on her list. Saving became a priority, the PCT was discovered, and the decision was set. She met a woman thru hiking the PCT southbound solo almost right at the halfway point and during that conversation realized that SOBO was the way for her. It was that same chance meeting with that SOBO where Ally learned that thru hikers were filled to the brim with golden hiking knowledge. She spent a year and a half before the trail traveling around in a self built camper van saving money, backpacking as much as possible, and picking the brains of those wise thru hikers.
INVALUABLE THRU-HIKE PREP ADVICE
"Romanticizing the trail can lead to a huge reality check and letdown once you're out there. Books and the internet are all fine and dandy, and during my prep I read everything that had been or ever will have been written on thru hiking, but the most invaluable parts of prep for me were short backpacking trips learning for myself, as well as sitting down and talking to other thru hikers one on one. That's where the romanticizing dropped off and I truly realized what I was signing up for. I made it my mission to backpack as much as I could and talk to as many thru hikers as I could. I started at the Mexican border heading NOBO with a thru hiker friend of mine, took a notebook and grilled as many thru hikers as I could. I hiked up in WA and talked to every thru hiker I came across who was almost finished with their hike. I wanted to know what they had to say and I wanted to see their faces light up when they talked about those 'only out here' moments. My hike would not have been the same without my own backpacking experiences under my belt or without hearing from the saltiest hikers, the ones smack dab in the middle of their own journey. They're the ones who told me to stop obsessing over gear and just to focus on what I want out of this. They're the ones that gave me the bigger picture mindset going in."
"I personally loved tackling some of the most challenging portion of the trail right in the beginning. Washington and all of her beautiful glory right out of the gate was just the ticket for starting out, with such brutal elevations. The beginning is going to be hard regardless of which way you start, might as well get the tough handled. I would start in Washington over the desert if I could choose again. Hands down."
TIME OFF TRAIL
"I like to think the boost from spending time with loved ones evened out the struggles of getting back into the daily trail grind, but in the future I would avoid long breaks if at all possible. I took three days off at the WA/OR border for a family emergency, three days off in NorCal to visit family, and five days off just after the Sierra for my best friend's wedding. The days following each of those breaks were some of the hardest. The only time I ever really wanted to quit the trail was after the 5 day wedding madness break. I was struggle bussing hard and just needed serious rest. I took a true restful zero and was rejuvenated. I had to swallow my pride and lower miles a bit after each break. There is something truly magical about the rest and rejuvenation a double near-o can bring, maybe even a zero if you need to full sloth it out for a day, but any more than that just didn't work for me at all. I paid for it later. As much as your brain wants to run the show, you seriously have to listen to your body out there. Find what works for you."
"I felt safer those 5 months on trail than I do traveling around in cities solo. I would often text my checkin people, "I'm safe and back to the trail" when I left a trail town and headed back out for another stretch. Know how to take care of yourself out there, and you'll be just fine. Don't let fear get to you. And always have a prepared excuse for not accepting a hitch if you're not 100% comfortable. Even if we're wired for politeness, be firm and stand your ground if something is off."
HIKING WITH A ROMANTIC PARTNER
"My boyfriend met me for the last 650 southern miles of the trail. That was an adventure all on it's own. We had the huge advantage that he was also a thru hiker and had hiked the trail NOBO in 13' so he knew what to expect. We had a bit of a disadvantage with this taking place fairly early in our relationship when we were still getting to know one another. It took effort prioritizing the trail as well as our relationship. There were some growing pains for sure, but I wouldn't have wanted anyone else there with me at the southern terminus other than my main support system throughout the entire trail. Knowing what you both want and knowing what you're both willing to sacrifice will help a lot. And just expect to have more conversations than you could possibly imagine about incompatible pacing issues… it's just going to happen. Share cookies with one another, don't forget that you're living in a dream out there, and just keep walking."
A TRAIL STORY
"So out here you poop in the woods. It's just part of it. Some people love it, some people merely tolerate it. I totally embraced it. I held up my bright orange snow stake trowel and snapped a shot whenever the view was just too beautiful to believe for a bathroom view. At the end of the hike, I put together a Places I've Pooped calendar with my collection of photos. A big smile washes over my face when I look as these photos and know that those spectacular views were as normal as morning trail poops. What a life. The trail is all about your mindset. That's all it really comes down to. Have a great mindset, have a great journey."
HER TRAIL ADVICE
"Expect for 90% of the trail to be cold, wet, lonely, just suckery, but for the 10% to be so over the top amazing that the 90% doesn't phase you. It'll never be that horrible I promise, but just keep your expectations in check. It's tough, but goodness is the tough worth it for those 'only out here' magical moments."
"Books totally count as consumables; their weight shouldn't count towards your baseweight. They are also friends on lonely days."
"You will start to resent passing so many NOBOs come southern oregon. It's just gonna happen. Try this! High five them and say, "Between the two of us, we've just hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail! Good job to us!" I smiled for an entire day when one of the last NOBOs I came across introduced me to that amazing greeting."
"Keep a hand written journal every night. Or a doodle journal. Or a music journal. You'll treasure it when you finish."
"Soak as many of those fleeting moments as you can. The blister squirt in your face, being the first human of the day to see the sun touch the top of a pass, the quick hug from a trail family member you didn't know you wouldn't see for the rest of the trail. Don't slow your feet down, you've got snow to race, but slow your mind down and soak it all."
"If the question is, 'Should I pack out guac?" the answer is always an enthusiastic, "Yes!"
"Be thankful for everything you come across along the trail. A grateful heart remembering all of the wonder in past few days will be much more patient when plans go awry. Our lives are dreams out here, the least we can do is be as grateful to the trail as possible."