According to an old Chinese proverb, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
“The negative part of my brain is like, ‘Shawn, do you do you have what it takes to do it…or are you just going to fail?’” said Shawn, recently retired and looking ahead to what’s next.
No doubt, the uncertainty of retirement forces you to rethink the routine you’ve always known (written by a guy who is far from retiring!). Shawn is not only approaching this uncertainty, but charging right toward it.
“I've wondered if it's in my DNA,” Shawn said. “My grandmother summited Mount Hood in the 30s, and I wonder what type of gear they even had back then. So I wonder if I just kind of have that explorer in me that didn't really wake until I went on my first backpacking trip.”
She didn’t begin backpacking until her 40s. At her home near Portland, Oregon, Shawn walks through a routine she’ll be quite familiar with once the summer is over. Packing and unpacking her backpack, preparing for a journey of much more than just a thousand miles. She’s preparing for a 2,650-mile thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. The PCT stretches from the California/Mexico border in Campo, CA all the way north through Oregon and Washington, ending in Canada.
Amazingly, Shawn has dialed down her pack and says it weighs “about 18 pounds.” Among the things she’ll carry are a tent, trekking poles, sun hat, spoon, ice axe for the potential hazards brought with unprecedented snowfall in California earlier this year. It’s definitely something that has Shawn and other thru hikers on high alert.
“I am expecting there to be horrible days where all I want to do is quit and come home and tell everybody, ‘that was the dumbest thing I've ever thought of and what was I thinking and it's miserable,’” she said half smiling.
Shawn said it’s a surreal feeling to buy one-way airfare to San Diego and essentially walk past home on to the Northern Terminus of the trail. A long road to be sure, but perhaps not as difficult as one she’s already been down in her life. In 2014, she tore her ACL skiing. It devastated her at the time, but turned out to be a life-saving accident.
“I thought, ‘I can't ski for a year this is horrible,’ but I developed a lump on my leg that the doctor said, ‘well, let's go see if it's an embolism,’ and so sent me to an emergency room and when they did an ultrasound and x-ray on my chest they found some tumors.
Shawn was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Four rounds of chemo later, she was cancer-free and still is. With the above average snowfall in California, Shawn has a plan and won’t take any unnecessary risks on the trail. She also has a history of toughness you could say runs in her blood that says she definitely has what it takes.
“Eight to ten miles a day in the beginning just to get my gear dialed in and my feet dialed in,” she said. “It's just It's crazy how such a long-term dream and all these micro goals to get there. So I'm finally there.”
Shawn began her thru hike at Campo, CA in early March. You can follow along with her and nine others as they make the trip north over the spring and summer on Jon Goodwin’s KGW Facebook page.
To respect hiker safety and privacy, KGW will be using only first names and delayed GPS data if hikers choose to share.
Let's Get Out there airs once a week on KGW's 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. We're including viewer photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.