Pacific Crest Trail hiker Janine Wilson is coming home.
In a tearful live address to Facebook followers the Terrace resident explained from Tehachapi, California, that a lower-back injury and resulting leg pain called sciatica forced her decision to call it quits 566 miles into the roughly 2,700-mile hike.
“I’m obviously devastated and disappointed that my body didn’t hold out,” Wilson said. “It was a difficult decision to make.”
To continue with the hike Wilson needed to drop about eight pounds from her pack, but facing a 4,000-foot climb into the Sierra Nevadas, with longer stretches between resupplies, she would need to add at least that much weight in food.
“I was really torn between ending the hike and just playing the game mile by mile by mile. But the knowledge that it wasn’t going to get easier for a little while…if I ran into trouble it would have been harder to get off the trail. It sucks, plain and simple.”
Wilson was scheduled to see a chiropractor and massage therapist in California before flying back to Terrace this week.
Wilson began training for the PCT about two-and-a-half years ago as she lost 140 pounds of weight and wanted to test her new mental and physical capabilities.
“What the trail made me think about is the ability to find yourself, to learn what you’re capable of and to depend less and less on technology and other people. To let that survival instinct kick in,” she said one month before starting the hike.
The Pacific Crest Trail is a rugged, volunteer-maintained path stretching 4,265 kilometres from Campo, California on the Mexico border to the edge of B.C.’s Manning Park on the 49th parallel. Crossing through 25 national forests and seven national parks, the trail is carefully aligned with the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.
Only 15 per cent of the thousands who attempt the trail each year succeed.
Wilson said the trail has been a wonderful home for six weeks, and despite her health she struggled with her decision to leave it. “The trail beat me up, but it also taught me so much…you don’t need to finish the PCT to get what you’re looking for out of the PCT.
“I learned there are still good people in this world, and I think that was very important for me to learn … There are hills full of heart. The people in these communities who open their doors for us and gave us water.
“When I started planning for the hike, it was a dream from so long ago I put aside because my life happened. I became a different person, I became unhealthy, I couldn’t move, so the dream just died. I wasn’t putting the work in to make it happen. When I started making the changes, with the weight loss, it was a nudge reminding me that even though you have a dream that’s not achieved, if you put the work in it still can be.
“I know I’m going to achieve this dream—it may not be in through-hike form, but who said I had to hike all 2,760 miles in one shot?”