*Note: My hope is to do another entry later today as I fly into San Diego to give everyone an idea of the start process and how I’m feeling.

In my final goodbyes, my friend Breana gave me the perfect going away card. If you look closely at the picture, you can see that she drew in a backpack and hiking poles for the penguin flying above. Inside the card, it says, “You soar where others merely waddle.” For some reason, it wasn’t until I saw this card, that I got excited about this trip. Previously, I just felt like I was going on another weekend backpacking trip…Now I’m psyched!

This card is more applicable to my journey than Breana could have imagined. When people look back and talk about what defined the 2011 PCT, it will most likely be known as the year dictated by snow. Not just a little bit of snow…A LOT OF SNOW! I will spare you the details, but it’s not to be taken lightly. What does this mean for PCT hikers? It means that the Sierra section from roughly Mile 750-950 (aka the John Muir Trail) will be intense. Hikers will spend 2-3wks at 9000-13,000ft elevation, slowly trudging through snow that has yet to melt, and fording extremely high rivers. Some hikers have moved their start date back a few weeks, but that means they will face more intense desert heat in the first 700 miles. For me, if the trek is too dangerous, it may mean that I will have to hang out at mile 700 in the beginning of June for a week or so until the conditions improve. It is all unknown and will be dictated by the weather between now and then.

One thing I do know, is that it will be a challenge. For a planner like me, the unknown factor is very unnerving. I worry about the small window of time I have to complete the trail by the end of Sept before Washington snow sets in. There are a couple side trips and visits I plan to make along the way and I hope to still be able to those. It is frustrating that conditions out of my control at mile 700 can dictate the rest of my hike, but I have to embrace it and make due with what I have (which is not easy for me!). Many hikers plan on taking their time hiking the first month or so to allow time for the snow to melt and I’ll probably do the same.

People who know me say this will be a great life lesson for me. I can’t control everything and I know that, but I’ve yet to fully embrace that idea. What I do know, is that regardless of the conditions or where I am, I will think of that soaring penguin and smile as I get a little added burst of motivation. Yeah, I’m ready to SOAR!

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