By Kathryn Mulligan
The Pacific Crest Trail is a hiking trail on the West Coast of the United States. Running at 2,653 miles, the trail begins at the border of Mexico and ends at the border of Canada. While some choose to hike small sections of the trail at a time, many choose to hike significant portions of the trail, sometimes the entire trail, in the matter of months. Among those individuals is Anna Smiley, a third-semester student at the College of Nursing.
Anna’s first experience with the Pacific Crest Trail was during her senior year of high school. She hiked thirty miles of the trail with her mom in Oregon and not only fell in love with the trail, but fell in love with the idea of hiking the entire trail. Anna quickly decided she wanted to make this idea a reality. She spent her freshman year of college preparing for the physical intensity and mental toll of the trail, and began her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail at the beginning of the summer on the Mexican Border. She spent the majority of the summer of 2018 hiking the trail and hiked about 1,200 miles of the trail, finishing her hike in Truckee, California.
“The trail taught me a lot of perseverance, determination, resiliency and, I think most importantly, self reliance,” Anna says while reflecting on her time on the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail also taught Anna skills directly related to her future career of nursing. “[The trail] just taught me to trust in yourself and trust in the skills that you have. I think in nursing all the time, like in my clinical practices now, I just stand there and I’m like ‘oh my gosh, I have to use insulin right now, like I don’t know how to do it,’ but then I just have to trust that I know how to do it. I’m stronger than I think and I can do it.”
The trail also provided Anna with the strength and resilience necessary for the nursing program. “It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done physically and mentally, but I got a lot stronger. The further I went in, the more I stuck with it,” Anna explains. “It’s applicable to nursing, especially as you go into the advanced semesters. It gets harder and harder and you feel like’ I can’t believe I’m doing this. This is so overwhelming.’ But you can just take it one step at a time.”
Despite the physical and mental difficulty she experienced, Anna hasn’t had enough of the Pacific Crest Trail. She plans to hike the second part of the trail in the summer of 2022 or 2023. She’ll begin at the Canadian border and hike to Truckee, California, making the event a full circle with her hike in 2018. Her personal goals for her second trip are different from her goals from her first. “I feel like my first time out there is really a journey of self love and self acceptance. My body kind of turned to a machine by the end of it… When I go back out there I want to just have a sense of calm and peace, and enjoy the journey.”
If you want to hear more about Anna’s experience on the Pacific Crest Trail, you’re in luck! Anna blogged her entire trip on the trail. Her blog posts include everything from the people she met to the nature she encountered to her go-to foods and sources of entertainment. You can check it out at https://thetrek.co/author/anna-smiley/ .