Life Update: 4 Weeks Off Trail

It’s been exactly four weeks since the day I arrived at the Canadian border, officially completing my hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, and I think I’m finally ready to break my post-trail silence. I originally wanted to have come out with at least a couple post-trail blogs by this point, but it took me longer than I expected to really start processing my feelings after finishing the trail. But before I dive into all the feelings and shit, I guess I’ll give you guys a quick update on what I’ve been up to since I arrived in Vancouver after finishing the hike.

After our night in the swanky hotel room, we spent a couple more nights in Vancouver at the home of a friend I went to high school with. It turns out that even off the trail, people are still good and generous and kind. The city itself quickly became overwhelming. We spent an afternoon exploring the downtown waterfront area, which was really cool, but things quickly became stressful once real life entered into the picture. As I’m sure many of you deduced (although I never explicitly mentioned it in any blog posts), Gummies and I became a couple during our hike, and we would one day maybe like to relocate to British Columbia. So, with that in mind, we tried to spend a day scoping out potential jobs and places to live, but ended up returning to my friend’s house after a couple of hours where Gummies had a nap and I baked cookies (my own personal form of therapy). It was just too much, too quickly.

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The Caffeinated Hiker Thru the Ages

The Caffeinated Hiker Thru the Ages

I’ve been thinking about my “hiking backstory” recently. I’ve been hiking literally longer than I can remember, so I went straight to the source (my parents) to gather information about my early hiking days. We all had a good time going through family photos (warning: this post will be photo heavy) and reminiscing about hiking trips of old.

Awenda

Elora Gorge

Travelling in style during my earliest hiking experiences

My first hiking experiences began at the age of 5 months, although I’m not sure those really count seeing as I rode along in a pack carried by my dad. Early hiking excursions included trips to Awenda Provincial Park here in Ontario, Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick, and Mackinac Island in Michigan.

Hiking in Awenda - Kristin's 5 km trek (first hike)

My first ever (self-propelled) hike! Now my little brother is in the backpack.

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Why I Want to Thru-Hike the PCT (or, You Want to do What?!)

Walking all day, every day, for months on end. Living in a tent, sleeping on the ground. Waterless miles through the desert, sinking into snow fields in the Sierras. Listening to critters creeping through the dark night. Being exposed to thunderstorms, blizzards, the blazing sun, and everything in between. Spending days dreaming of eating real food (ie. anything other than bars and instant mashed potatoes). Countless blisters and bug bites. If this sounds like a nice way to spend a summer, thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail might just be for you!

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Photo from the PCTA website

As a master’s student with graduation approaching in a couple of months, the future is a hot topic of conversation with pretty much everyone I run into. Because of this, I’ve found myself explaining to a lot of people that my post-graduation plan isn’t to settle into a nice, full-time career, but to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. This is usually met with a pretty predictable set of questions: “How far is that?”, “How long will it take?”, and “Who are you going with?”. I’ve already covered the topic of solo hiking in another post, but the answers “from Mexico to Canada” and “five months” usually elicit a reaction that falls somewhere between shock, awe, and sometimes horror. Given the description above, many people probably wonder why on earth someone would ever willingly subject themselves to this seemingly tortuous endeavour. I thought I would use this post to explain why I want to thru-hike the PCT, or at least try my best.

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My Dream Hiking Bucket List!

I’m back!! It’s been a while since my last post. The past couple of weekends have been pretty busy for me, which means it’s been almost 3 weeks since my last hike. This had me feeling a bit uninspired, so I decided to write about my dream hikes to get myself feeling motivated again. This list is by no means exhaustive, but this set of dream hikes will keep me busy and happy for quite a while. So, without further ado, my dream hiking bucket list:

My first three dream trails come as a kind of package deal, as together they make up what is known as the “Triple Crown” of hiking. This term refers  to the three major long-distance hiking trails in the U.S.: the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Appalachian Trail (AT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Completion of the Triple Crown involves hiking a total distance of 12 700 km (7900 miles), and Triple Crowners will visit 22 of the 50 U.S. states during these three hikes. The title of “Triple Crowner” has only been officially claimed by several hundred people, and thus is quite the achievement.

The Trail: Pacific Crest Trail, U.S.A.

PCT map

Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The Distance: 4270 km // 2654 miles, from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington, following the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges

The Sights: 7 national parks, 700 miles of desert in Southern California, the Sierra Nevada mountains (including 8 named passes with elevations above 11, 000 ft.), old growth forests and volcanoes (including Mt. Hood) in Oregon, and the rugged northern Cascades of Washington

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Welcome!

Today, the Caffeinated Hiker is born. I’ve been a hiker for as long as I can remember, and caffeinated since I entered university, but today it’s Official.

I created this blog as a hiking journal of sorts. Here, I will chronicle my journey into the world of ultralite backpacking. I’ll be writing about training hikes, backpacking gear, backpacking FOOD, and of course, journaling during my trips down the trail.

Ultralite backpacking is something new to me, but it combines two things I am already deeply in love with – hiking and camping. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? (Besides wildlife attacks, getting lost, getting caught in inclement weather, not having enough food/water, and being scared of the dark. Not to mention hiking extremely long distances with a heavy pack…)

Okay, so there are a lot of things that could go wrong. Trust me, I’m a planner. I’ve done my research, and I know that on most trips, there will be at least a few moments that just suck. I’ve also already been acquainted with some of these moments in my previous experiences with hiking, camping, and backcountry canoe tripping. To me, the rewards make it all worth it. Rewards such as moments like these:

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