Pacific Crest Trail hiker, Janine Wilson, is returning to the California desert to resume the epic trek a back injury forced her to abandon last May.
“I’m still disappointed I couldn’t finish last year, especially with all the training and emotional work, the fundraising, I put into it,” Wilson says. “But I’m just happy to be getting out there again. It’s still a dream unfinished. Eventually it will be realized in pieces and I can say I through-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.”
The PCT 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.
|In her final days of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail last year, Janine Wilson pauses in California’s fading daylight for a selfie with fellow hikers met along the way.|
Wilson has set a tentative return date of May 5 to Tehachapi, CA, the 566-mile marker she reached last May 22. The scheduled 220-km leg planned for this year will take her to the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountains, where she will resume the hike again next year.
“Doing the hike in sections actually gives me a huge advantage,” Wilson says. “I can limit what I need for gear based on the terrain and season. Going in early May I’m also looking at lower temperatures and more water availability between sections, so that cuts down on the pack weight and lets me get more mileage.”
Wilson originally began training for the PCT about three-and-a-half years ago while in the process of losing 140 pounds of weight. She decided to hike the trail 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.
About seven weeks into the journey, in a tearful live address to Facebook followers, Wilson explained pressure on her L7 disc had resulted in severe leg pain called sciatica. To continue with the hike she 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 also need to add at least that much weight in food.
After 910 km Wilson realized she had to quit.
On doctors’ advice, Wilson will wait until February before she begins training again for May’s trip. She still suffers some sciatica in her left leg, for which she has been doing low-impact and core exercises over the winter.
“It’s in the back of my mind that [the injury] will come back, but I’ll just continue to do what I did last time I was on the trail. I’ll listen to my body. That’s the best I can do.”
Follow Wilson’s journey on her Facebook page, Janine’s Pacific Crest Trail Hike.