I’ve left this blog dormant for so many months and I have so many things I’d like to write and publish here, eventually, but today I’m updating for a very specific and singular reason, and that is to talk about toxic masculinity in the long distance hiking community!
When I got off the trail last year I was both vague and transparent about what was happening. Every day since leaving the PCT I’ve thought about writing a version of this essay, but honestly I felt way too nervous to speak this truth.
Eight months later, I’m still nervous. But it’s time.
Here’s an excerpt from the full piece, Why I Got Off the Pacific Crest Trail After 454 Miles Instead of Walking All the Way to Canada:
This is how it goes: I’m huffing and puffing my way up a steep incline. We’re gaining almost 3,000 feet of elevation in just 4 miles, the next water source is (probably, hopefully) one mile away, and my pack weighs 30 pounds, heavy with food I’ve packed out of town. I’ve hiked a couple of miles so far and plan to hike ten more before I set up camp to go to sleep. Other hikers keep passing me; some have smaller packs, some have larger packs. I stop to take a sip from my water bottle and a tall man approaches me, bounding up the trail effortlessly. He pauses to take a break too. “What day did you start hiking?” he asks me. Everyone always asks this question. What it really means: how fast or how slow are you traveling? Did I start before you and now we’re in the same place? Am I better than you are? Maybe he’ll ask some other questions, seemingly innocuous but designed to make one feel less than. “How many miles are you doing today?” “What time did you wake up?” “Are you walking all the way to Canada or are you just a section hiker?” These questions are baked into long distance hiking culture. No one questions why they’re asked or what they mean. Folks just wanna know, so they can put themselves on a roster and decide where they belong when it comes to being a “successful” hiker.
You can read my full essay on Autostraddle.
I have immense gratitude to my editors, for letting me tell this story, to my partner Alley, for holding me up as I experienced this culture in real time and for being my biggest champion always, to the badass adventure women who took part in the Endless Summer Winter Coastal Writer’s Retreat last month for helping me stay brave and for creating a space that allowed me to finally fucking write this essay, and to every single hiker who has messaged me over the past eight months to say me too, I also experienced this, you’re not alone, you’re not crazy, thank you for speaking out, I also want things to change.
I think together maybe we can make things change.