Photo by Becca Bergstrom
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My Trail Story featuring Little Skittle

Becca Bergstrom, a.k.a. Little Skittle, reminds us that we all start somewhere and offers encouragement to anyone thinking of hiking in 2020.

Natalie McMillan      My Trail Story       01/09/2020
Natalie McMillan
My Trail Story
01/09/2020

We All Start Somewhere

Let’s play two truths and a lie. One, my eyesight is so bad I can’t see past my outstretched fingertips without my glasses or contacts. Two, prior to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I never once spent a night alone camped in the backcountry. Three, I got a killer deal on a pair of Five Ten climbing shoes last Christmas, but they’ve yet to see the light of a climbing gym. 

A woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
Photo by Becca Bergstrom

Can you guess which is the lie? If you guessed one or three, you’re wrong. I know, I know, you’re probably more shocked by the truth behind the third statement than the lie behind the second. Before we start in on the lie, let me say that I had every intention of giving climbing a fair try. It’s just that as soon as we celebrated bringing in the new year, my obsession with the PCT grew tenfold so anything non-PCT related became a waste of time that could be better spent planning and preparing. The new year meant I was about to take on my biggest dream and the greatest adventure I could ever imagine. I wasn’t going to risk injuring myself before this incredible opportunity so taking on a new hobby could wait, especially such a physical one. 

A hiker collecting water from a snowy creek.
Photo by Becca Bergstrom

Shall we move onto the lie? I’ll preface it with this: I think it’s going to surprise many of you that the lie isn’t too far from the actual truth. Here goes; I only camped in the backcountry once prior to the PCT and it was only for one night. I picked a day in early June of 2017, before the summer rush of backpackers flooded all the popular spots. I dug out my 42L Gregory Maya and all the other introductory backpacking essentials I’d been accumulating and storing in my closet for the last 6 months and loaded up the car for a solo night at Goat Lake in the North Cascades. It went off without a hitch; the hike itself was pleasant enough with my fully loaded pack, I somehow had the lake all to myself and the weather was perfect for leaving the rain fly off my tent. I sipped whisky from my flask and watched the stars dance across the night sky before falling sound asleep. In the morning, I took my time watching the sun light up the lake basin while I ate breakfast. Shortly after, I packed up camp and began my hike back to the trailhead. 

A woman holding a man's hand at the Southern Terminus of the PCT.
Photo by Becca Bergstrom

Fast forward to April 3, 2019. It’s just after 3pm and I’m taking a video of my boyfriend and I walking away from the monument at the PCT’s Southern Terminus, but in different directions; he, toward the rental car that would take him back to the San Diego airport, and me, heading North towards Canada. I turn the camera on myself to capture my emotional yet exciting first steps on the PCT. There isn’t another hiker in sight, which is how I planned it. Rumor has it that the monument can be very busy from sunrise until just after lunch with tourists, hikers, etc. so I wanted to do what I could to avoid the crowds. My pace is slow. I take my time soaking in all my “firsts,” like coming across my first water source and delving into my food bag for my first snack stop. Afternoon turns to evening and every campsite I come across is somehow already full. Finally, only 8.5 miles from the terminus, I find a random, right-along-trail spot that was both flat-ish enough and big enough for me to pitch my Zpacks Duplex tent. I toss my pack inside just as the sun dips below the horizon, painting the desert sky with the most beautiful blues and vibrant purples I’ve ever seen. 

A woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
Photo by Becca Bergstrom

Here’s one more truth: you don’t NEED any experience to hike the PCT. That one and only overnighter was CUSHY in comparison. I think it’s fair to say that not a single moment of it prepared me in any way for the 135 days I spent walking from Mexico to Canada. Furthermore, I met several people along the trail who had even less experience than I did, yet they also dreamt of discovering what this trail could provide; what better way to learn how to backpack than to completely immerse yourself in the dirtbag, hiker trash lifestyle. One of these people belonged to my tramily. He was from Liverpool (i.e. he had zero experience). After a heavy night of drinking, he woke in the morning to find his browser history full of PCT videos on YouTube and an email from Amazon confirming his purchase of a Six Moons Design tent. Just a few months later he found himself at the Southern Terminus, ready to see what the hype was all about. 

A woman sitting on top of the PCT Northern Terminus.
Photo by Becca Bergstrom
A hiker crossing a river.
Photo by Becca Bergstrom

So for anyone with 2020 permits or dreams of other long-distance trails with hesitations regarding their experience level or lack of, remember that we all start somewhere and that somewhere can be humbling and sometimes comical, but also inspiring and admirable. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re new to the game or unfamiliar with something, even if it’s the very gear you brought. Your voice has the power to bring a surge of courage, confidence and also a sense of community to those who feel the same. 

A hiker standing on a mountain.
Photo by Becca Bergstrom

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Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is an epic journey of three states and over 2600 miles. Its path travels from the US border with Mexico to the northern border with Canada.

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2650 mi (4260 km)       $29.99 full guide
Washington, Pacific Crest Trail
Photo by Justin Helmkamp
Washington, Pacific Crest Trail
Photo by Justin Helmkamp

Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is an epic journey of three states and over 2600 miles. Its path travels from the US border with Mexico to the northern border with Canada.

2650 mi (4260 km)
$29.99 full guide
Learn more
Get our trail guide for this area!
About the Author
A woman wearing a denim jacket and a brown hat stands in a field of wildflowers.

Natalie McMillan

Natalie grew up hiking in Arizona where she fell in love with the outdoors. Her favorite hikes are to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon and Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, UT. She loves taking pictures of people, places, and nature, which might explain why she has almost 47,000 photos currently residing on her phone. She takes care of all things related to social media and marketing and recently moved to Denver, CO from Flagstaff, AZ. You may find her frolicking around the trails and mountains of Colorado, or exploring the new city she gets to call home.