In a Hole in the Ground Lived a Hiker
My hiking interest started long before thru hiking the PCT in 2016. I grew up as a rambunctious kid in the San Francisco Bay Area. The outdoor world was something I was indoctrinated into at a young age. Little did I know it at the time, but over two decades later, hiking and outdoor recreation would be my profession, let alone my passion.
I graduated college with a Bachelors in Public Relations in 2015. What next? For the first time in my life, I wanted to do something raw, challenging, and seemingly unique to me – a thru hike. From here, you’ve heard the story a million times: the hike changed my life and perspective. I suffered through post-trail depression. Life hasn’t felt the same since. It’s true… the Pacific Crest offered a slice of life so decadent, a high so intoxicating, that I’ve been wracking my brain ever since, trying to learn how to capture it in a bottle.
I’ve replicated the experience from time to time: thru hikes of the Appalachian Trail, Arizona Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, High Sierra Trail, Wonderland Trail, and more, have left me satiated in short spurts. However, as anyone who has thru hiked can attest to, chronic thru hiking is not conducive to a productive career or to building long-term relationships. So how to find a balance within this tension?
I Can Get Paid for This?
My first thru hike left me feeling like I had swallowed the “red pill”. Now that I was in wonderland, how far down did the rabbit hole really go? I was eager to find out. The first step was realizing that I wanted to instill my passion in other people. Guiding seemed like the best good application of this endeavor. It wasn’t long until I acquired a job guiding backpacking and camping trips for travelers in Death Valley, Bryce, Zion, Yosemite, and Sequoia National Parks.
Guiding was rewarding in so many ways, but it wasn’t always beautiful. Once I got over the initial shock that I was being paid to hike, I realized I was also being paid to pop blisters, cook traveler meals, and wash bear cannisters… to top it off, I was also sleeping out the back of my VW Golf. When time allowed, I relished the opportunity to get away from work and hike at a more comfortable pace. The flexibility my employer offered allowed me the opportunity to hike the AZT in the fall of 2017, the Skyline-to-Sea Trail in winter of 2018, and the AT in the spring and fall of 2018 as well.
A realization dawned on me after two years of guiding: I had the innate ability to provoke within travelers an attachment for the places we were visiting, but my platform was limited to those traveling within my party at any given time. I wanted to increase my perspective in the travel industry to reach more, do more, and grow more. Around the same time, I fell into a serious relationship with my partner.
We both felt ready to settle into 9-5 career oriented jobs, and were interested in moving out of CA. Enter: Washington.
In January of 2019 I took a job working administratively for the adventure travel department of an enormous outdoor retailer located near Seattle, WA. We moved in February, and I enjoyed over two and a half years selling trips, managing travelers, and streamlining systems for my company. Later, after grinding through much of the pandemic to date, I’d work for another reputable travel company developing and managing custom North American itineraries.
Working in travel pre-pandemic allowed me to travel, but that opportunity slipped away with the onset of COVID-19. Washington State also provided ample spaces to play and explore (hello, Mount Rainier), but the stringent schedule of a the 9-5 drastically limited my ability to relish in these experiences to the fullest extent. Having tasted the sweet freedom of a life outdoors – after my experience thru hiking and guiding, especially – I have more recently understood that in order to be happy and feel well, I too need to get outside more often.
The Next Journey
I’ve kept to a thru hikers mindset the last few years. My lifestyle is relatively frugal, and my cost of living is more affordable than many (by Seattle standards, anyway). With my funds in check, and the support of my partner, I left my job in February. My sights for 2022 are set on a goal I’ve had since 2016: the Continental Divide Trail.
I’ve spent the last two months getting back in hiking shape and putting my affairs in order. My plane tickets are booked, my gear list is dialed, and inner circle is all on board. I hope to leave from Crazy Cook on 5/10/22, but don’t worry – you’ll be hearing from me between now and then! Please feel free to check out my Personal Blog, Instagram, or LinkedIn in the meantime. Happy trails!