PCT: Promoting Community Transformation on the Pacific Crest Trail

In approximately 70 days, my brother Gus and I will be embarking on the long sought-after experience of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a family that puts hiking and other outdoor activities as a priority above most other things.
I didn’t always consider this a ‘lucky’ aspect of my family. Instead of the summer camps that my friends attended throughout elementary and middle school, parts of my summers were spent lugging a weeks worth of food and other survival necessities through various mountain ranges in Washington with my mom. While I yearned for the quintessential childhood visit to the so-called “happiest place on earth”, spring break of fifth grade consisted of piling hiking gear and the four members of our family into the car and driving down to the southwest so that we could spend the week sleeping in tents, eating dehydrated food and again, carrying that which would sustain us on our backs. Over the years however, through a little blood, much sweat, a fair amount of tears (and a lot of dirt!)  I grew to love being outside and the simple lifestyle it requires.
            The Pacific Crest Trail stretches from Mexico to Canada and extends 2,663 miles in total. It passes through three states, two mountain ranges, 25 national forests and seven state parks. It is roughly estimated that 180 out of 300 people who attempt to thru-hike the trail, finish each year. It is an adventure. It is an expedition. It is a challenge. And it is a goal.
            Both Gus and I hiked parts of the Washington section of the trail when we were younger with our parents, and since then had, independently of one other, created the same seemingly abstract, far-off goal of one day completing the PCT.
            The trail is usually completed in 4-6 months. There is a pretty specific time frame in which the PCT must be hiked, due to weather (very hot in the south in the summer) and snow-fall (sometimes the Sierras are impassable). Therefore, the trek requires much planning, and the ability to leave whatever responsibilities and duties one may have in order to devote the time and resources towards the completion of the trail.
            Fortuitously so, Gus and I are both graduating from our respective level of schooling (him: highschool and college for myself) this spring, so we thought, what better time to attempt the PCT than when we are both “in-between” so to speak? So, with much preparing and saving, we plan to begin this extensive hike in May of 2013.
            More importantly however, we want to make this trip expand beyond our own growth, enjoyment and learning. We recognize the honor and privilege that we possess in our ability to have this experience. We want to make this trek meaningful for more than just ourselves, friends and family.
            We have partnered with Tacoma-based not-for-profit organization, Etta Projects, in order to raise awareness and funding for projects in rural villages in Eastern Bolivia. They believe in promoting positive change through sustainable development and partner with Bolivian communities to identify, prioritize, and implement sustainable solutions to the health, education, and economic challenges of poverty. (For more information go towww.ettaprojects.org). We chose to collaborate with Etta Projects because we agree with their philosophy of sustainable development – the conviction that local people know their needs best and that they also have the power to meet those needs.
            This blog will be a coupling of a few different themes. First and foremost it serves to share the experience, through writing and pictures, of what it is like to live a nomadic hiking lifestyle for four months. Furthemore we want to reflect on living without everyday comforts such as clean water, toilets, easily accessible food and nearby health services. Working in conjunction with Etta Projects, our experiences will be echoed back to ourselves, and shared with you, in terms of raising awareness and creating understanding about daily issues in the developing world. We recognize that ours is a choice to live simply such as this, but that others do not have the same option. Experience generates understanding and reflection creates significance.
We hope to put reflection into action through donations that will directly support rural villages in Bolivia by implementing water, sanitation, health and nutrition programs. We are attempting to raise a goal amount of $5000 in order to fund and support projects, families and communities through Etta Projects.
            A quote by E.B. White reads:
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
 It is with these words that Gus and I  embark on this journey in May, hoping to create  awareness and support for people, communities and issues outside of our own daily lives while hiking north-bound thorough the beautiful U.S!