The Journey Here

It’s been weighing on my mind to write a blog about how we ended up deciding to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. The journey to get here is filled with a lot of prayer, hardship and growth between Paul and myself. After being out here for nearly 1500 miles, the post trail life seems to be nearing quickly and lately has had my mind spinning with every single detail that led up to this experience.  
After graduating from Humboldt State with a degree in Psychology, I felt confused about what to do for a career and with my degree. I had loved my studies in agriculture and horse science but after a bad breakup moving home was the best decision for myself and Humboldt state had a fantastic psych program that I immediately enrolled in. I worked at a jewelry company in Arcata and one day at work saw an ad in the paper for the Redding Laborers Union was in need of a secretary. This job never opened. No secretary had ever quit, only died or retired so I applied immediately. After having been a road construction flagger and laborer, this job seemed perfect. Somehow, someway, I got the job and moved back to Redding for the second time. The day after I started my new job, I drove back to the coast and ended up giving Paul my phone number at a birthday party. Doesn’t that figure? We are friends at HSU for years then I move and the timing was right. We became inseparable over text and were a couple long distance by the following spring.  
As the year went on however, I noticed major changes with my health and felt my body was spiraling downhill regardless of my health conscious decisions. By that next December I was shaking so bad I could hardly write and had lost 20lbs. I couldn’t hardly get up the energy to work everyday let alone live a normal life. My heart rate was scary high and my sleep had stretched to 20 hour stretches. I started throwing up randomly and even passed out a couple times without notice, and was getting allergy shots once a month to be able and breath and fend of constant sinus infections. One doctor after seeing my health decrease fairly quickly, immediately wanted me tested for lymphoma. It was all so scary and overwhelming, I didn’t know where to turn for a long time. One day I went to Barnes and Noble and bought a Backpacker Magazine and the book Wild. I read the magazine with such fascination, I became engulfed in reading about gear. Wild was also great, but much more a personal tale of a woman’s life. Still, it involved backpacking and having parents who were backpackers, I was intrigued. Paul watched from afar thinking this may be another one of Kali’s wild obsessions that fizzles within a year. I started looking online for anything local for backpackers and it was then my life slowly started to change.
Back at work, my boss mentioned that there was a major black mold problem in my office. The head of the company immediately sent someone up to test the air and discovered it was 400 times the healthy breathing limit for mold spores. When they pulled the fake siding off the walls, the walls were completely black and the building was shut down immediately. My employer sent me home on leave and the doctors started putting me on countless medications to try to slow down my heart rate and pain levels. Before I knew it I was on pain pills, sleeping pills, pills for my heart rate, allergy shots and allergy medication. Finally an allergy specialist who had dealt with mold was able to give me some answers, but it took going to the doctor sometimes three times a week for tests and blood work to finally get forward progress. It looked like if all went well, it would be three years before I felt 100% again. Just knowing what it was made everything so much better, but what I didn’t know was there was also mold at my house which would continue to haunt me until we moved back to Humboldt before the hike. I didn’t stop having sinus infections and sore throats until five years later when I moved home.  
Meanwhile, I had found a website that listed local events for almost any outdoor activity called Meetup. I found a local woman named Beekeeper was going to be doing a backpacking gear display near our house at a professional building and she was going to break down all her gear, what she recommends, and how to start figuring out your needs and what’s right for you. I signed up immediately and drug Paul along too. I loved her immediately when we walked in. She had more gear then I had ever seen and I took notes like a madwoman about everything she said. After the class I emailed her and she sent me some suggestions for further research and information. One thing she sent me changed my life forever. A woman named Muk Muk was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail by herself, and was doing a fantastic blog about her journey. I became so obsessed with the Pacific Crest Trail I told Paul within two months that if my body ever healed, I was going to do it. Of course he thought I was nuts but from that first moment he supported me and so did my parents.  
Over the next couple months, I had an REI credit card and gear for both of us on the way. Paul was willing to invest his money in a full set of gear because of my dream. Our first hike was up Castle Crags in Redding as a day hike, and within twenty steps I knew I was born to be a backpacker. We started hiking regularly in the Trinity Alps and Beekeeper remained my mentor with everything from gear to local hikes to the Pacific Crest Trail. Over and over we went into the alps trying out new gear and visiting new lakes. How was it nearly every time out there we had these lakes to ourselves or almost to ourselves? Was hiking ten miles too much that people didn’t think it was worth it? Regardless, we loved it and it became our weekend thing to do when we weren’t visiting family on the coast.
The commitment to do a 2,650 mile hike is something that takes time for most people. I was in within days and wanted to prove that after having reconstructive ankle surgery, I could still respect myself as an athlete. Paul however took a little more time to make up his mind. My twenties were spent making stupid decisions and growing, always seemingly the hardest way possible. It seemed like once I started getting sick everything came to a head. It was by far the most emotionally trying time of growth and introspective observation of my life. There’s something that happens when we get older, suddenly by some learning curve of life, you begin letting go of unhealthy choices and people. Some don’t ever have this time of pain or growth and I found myself growing closer to those willing to support my changes as I patiently waited to start hiking more. When you feel that awful, it’s very easy to get obsessed with a distraction and thankfully mine was the best thing for me.
We both knew we were both going to have to quit and give up our rental in Redding and move everything back to the coast. When the move got closer we became increasingly more excited and it was clear, this trail was our destiny. Today sitting here in the tent with Paul, it’s hard to even comprehend how it all came together. I don’t know if without the mold poisoning I would’ve appreciated life like this. In my darkest hour I was forced to ask who am I? And what do I stand for? I eliminated friendships from my life that weren’t beneficial and started spending time with my friends who stuck by me sick or not and thought the trail was fantastic. In the end what I thought was going to kill me ended up saving me. Everything else fell into place with nothing less than perfection. Without family, Paul, and the best trail angel Beekeeper, I could never have prepared this much mentally or emotionally for this experience. Every mile we lose more weight and grow more as humans. Today we discussed how everyone should be required to do some sort of backpacking in their lives. We will never be the same even after only a short period, and the longer you stay in the discomfort who you are is defined. My confidence is higher than it has ever been in my entire life. I’ve been reminded once again of what I love and who I am. These things I’m afraid I would’ve sauger after the rest of it life, trying to stay in the box and still somehow find answers. It’s not for everybody, but for me this has truly brought me back to life. Finally.


8 thoughts on “The Journey Here

  1. Woooner! You talk about what and who has inspired you to be on the trail, and now, having read this post, it’s clear that you are the one inspiring others! You write so beautifully about your experiences on trail, I feel like I’m out there with you. What you and Paul have achieved already is remarkable and I can’t wish you enough success in the remainder of your endeavour. With your strength, will and determination, I look forward to watching your journey unfold all the way to Canada. You motivated me so much through my journey with your heartfelt comments and advice, you became an integral part of my experience. If I had any role in helping you stand on the ground you’re on today, I’m honoured. Happy trails, Muk Muk


    • Muk Muk! You made me cry three times reading this! I often think about you out here and wonder how did you ever do this alone? On bad days how did you pick yourself up? How did you ever get over the mountain lion scare? I saw a note you wrote in a log yesterday 11 miles before Ashland at a soda cash and just shook my head in gratefulness. There is no better person to be inspired by, with your honestly and physical ability, I could never have done this without you sharing your experience. Thank you so much for this amazing note, I’m still avidly following your journey and ALWAYS here for you.


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