In 1996, Sarah LaRue (aka TurtleGirl) almost gave up on hiking after a miserable attempt at climbing Mount St. Helens in Washington. It was early in the season and she was out of shape, unprepared and had never hiked or camped in the snow before. It took her a while to get back out on the trail again after that, but she eventually did and since 2008 has become a frequent hiker. Sarah spends most of her trail time hiking solo, or with an occasional companion, around the Columbia River Gorge, Central Oregon and Eastern Washington. “I like to stop a whole lot and take photos of everything,” she says. This year, Sarah took her first solo section hike on the Pacific Crest Trail from Elk Lake to McKenzie Pass.
What inspired you to try a section hike on the PCT?
LaRue: I got hooked on watching documentaries about Lewis and Clark, and about exploration and wild places. I was fascinated when I learned that there was a trail that went from Mexico to Canada. When I quit my job of 7 years, I thought maybe I should try that: hike for awhile, test myself. I didn’t. I got a new job and went back to school. But trying to hike the PCT always stuck in the back of my mind. This year, I finally managed to do a section. It was the best three days ever.
What did you enjoy most about spending those days in the wilderness?
LaRue: The quiet. The unhurriedness of the wild. The forest air that fills my lungs. How quickly I can let go of luxuries and just be.
As a new PCT hiker, what did you learn from your experience?
What is your ideal hiking day like?
LaRue: Listen to the veterans advice, but follow your own path and make your own mistakes. Learn to trust your instincts. And always stop and look around. Don’t be so focused on making miles that you miss what you went out into the wild to see to begin with.
Now that the Pacific Crest Trail hiking bug has bitten, Sarah has plans to keep up her hiking through the fall and winter in Oregon’s coastal mountains. Then next year, she’s back on the PCT again, with plans to continue her journey from McKenzie Pass to Olallie Lake. You can follow Sarah’s hiking adventures on her blog, Words of Randomocity, and check out her trail photos on Instagram.
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