Since April 12, Edmonds resident Isabel Reeb has been hiking through California, Oregon and Washington, taking on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a long-distance hiking and equestrian trail that extends 2,658 miles, from California to Canada.
It’s her first thru-hike, defined as hiking a long-distance trail end-to-end within one hiking season. And it’s only her second backpacking trip lasting more than one night.
A 2012 graduate of Meadowdale High School, Reeb was raised in the Pacific Northwest and knows the area well.
When she was a child, her family — dad Achim, mom Hanni and brother Nicholas — went on regular day hikes, she said. However, she began this trip alone because none of her other friends — with the exception of her boyfriend — like the kind of hiking “that involves not showering for weeks at a time.”
The hike itself begins in San Diego. Reeb flew there in early April to begin.
“The day before I started [the hike] I was a little nervous because 2,650 of anything, let alone miles, is pretty intimidating,” she said. “The morning that I was driven to the southern terminus I was scared I would forget how to walk when I got there… but once I got there and started hiking all of that went away,” Reeb said. “I became so immersed in the experience that now getting up and packing all my belongings into a 40 liter bag and just walking has become second nature.”
Her hiking partners include two young men from Israel named Shahar and Sahar, a man from Germany named Janick and a man and woman from France, Alex and Thisbe. Reeb initially started hiking on her own, but met up with everyone on the way. Since so many people hike on the trail, it’s easy to find others, she said, adding that she believes it’s best to find your hiking team on trail.
“None of us knew each other before a few weeks ago and now we are family,” she said.
While the scenic views are nice, Reeb said that what she’ll remember most from her hike is the people, who come from all over the world and have varying backgrounds.
“It’s crazy to even imagine meeting them anywhere else,” she said.
Her day consists of about 13 hours of straight walking and hiking. She does that daily until the group has to resupply their food, which occurs every three and seven days.
She spends most nights in tents with other hikers. Occasionally, Reeb even “cowboy camps,” in which she sets up her tarp, sleeping pad, sleeping bag and nothing else. The unobscured view of the stars is nice, she said, but the bugs can be a problem.
Her mornings pose a choice: She can either wake up and immediately begin hiking for the day or choose to rest for a while. Reeb tends to begin hiking, as her goal is to make it to Canada. But when walking all day, she said she doesn’t find herself too exhausted.
Reeb explained that she decided to hike the Pacific Coast Trail because she didn’t have an immediate plan following her graduation from the University of Washington with a psychology degree this spring. She wanted to take some time off for herself and prove that she was capable of completing such an adventure.
Her main challenges have been the snow level in the Sierras and the high water levels caused by the melting snow. But she said she’s educated herself on emergency situations, such as how to use an ice axe to stop herself from sliding, otherwise known as self arrest. Luckily, she hasn’t yet had a need for that technique.
The trail, while long, has not been too daunting. And she said she’s had time to learn a lot.
“I have learned that being alone is OK and that no matter what, as long as you put one foot in front of the other, you will eventually get to where you are going,” she said.
She also studied what previous PCT hikers ate during their trip and what they carried. However, she said that those things can be different for each person, so she had to adjust and learn when she got on the trail herself.
Her boyfriend has been helping by preparing dehydrated meals for her and sending supplies to nearby towns for her to pick up when needed.
Reeb also keep a blog to track her adventures, trialsthrutrails.wordpress.com. Reeb had researched other thru-hikers and looked into their blogs for a perspective.
“It is really helpful to see what other people’s experiences have been, but in the end the PCT is not the same for everyone,” she said. “Even if you are hiking in the same group, so you have to read other people’s blogs with that in mind.”
In the beginning, she was very diligent about posting every night about what had happened that day, but soon found she’d rather be enjoying the evening with her friends and hiking partners instead. At times, it can be hard for Reeb to remember the day’s events as she experiences and sees so much on the trail, she said.
She said she tries to keep notes about what happens, but even that can be difficult after walking for 30 miles at a time. Most of her hiking partners keep some kind of journal, either a written one or a blog, to document the trip.
“The PCT is not an experience you want to forget,” Reeb said.
— By Stephi Smith