“We will get out to the PCT one day!”

By Kendra Slagter

I remember sitting at my desk at the office in February, crossing my fingers and hoping there would be a permit date available for mid-April. I had already written off the possibility of getting one considering how quickly they were snatched up when originally released in October and January. My expectations were low, though I had a small feeling that my luck would turn around.

The PCT permit page loaded, and to my shock, a permit was available for April 15. I gasped, looked around the office to make sure that no one was alarmed at my shock, and snagged the only permit available for that day. I was officially hiking the PCT.

Kendra Slagter.

I’m a 23-year-old Canadian who has been working full-time for the past two years since graduating university in 2018. I’ve been working hard to further my career in the social services/international development sectors, though the allure of being outside and experiencing something so completely outside of myself has always been with me. I wanted to experience the rawness of the wild with the hope that I would see a new side of myself. The PCT was a chance for me to be challenged while also fueling my love for the outdoors.

Within hours I went into full planning mode. As a recent graduate with a decent amount of student debt, the idea of pulling the PCT dream together in just a few months did not seem realistic to many friends and family. To prove them wrong, I began to sell most of my possessions, babysat on the side and reached out to several brands for sponsorship. I managed to gather all the gear that I needed and was left with a small amount of money to get me by while on the trail. My financial situation was definitely not ideal, but the thought of hitting the PCT in a few short weeks kept my spirits high.

Kendra hiking in Courtcliffe Park in Freelton, Ontario.

During the initial phase of my planning, the COVID-19 conversations were just whispers. I officially announced my hike on March 13th via Instagram and received several comments of congratulations and excitement. The virus wasn’t a concern until three days later when Canada closed its borders into the U.S. indefinitely. Five days later, the Canadian government released the number of COVID-19 cases across the country. Soon after, the PCTA urged people to get off trail and to postpone or cancel their trips, while small trail communities along the PCT pleaded for people to stay off trail.

It only took a week for COVID-19 to completely alter the next seven months of my life. The sadness of my trip being on hold hit me like a brick. I didn’t want to go outside. I didn’t want to hike any local trails, and I definitely didn’t want to watch any more PCT YouTube videos. The new reality felt out of control.

After allowing myself to be sad for a little while, I had to recognize that I am so fortunate to be safe and healthy! Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I’m becoming thankful for an extended opportunity to better plan for my time on the trail.

The reality is that the trail isn’t going anywhere. The trail will still be there once this is all put to rest. This is our time to be responsible and to care for one another. This is our time to stay home, stop the spread and play our part. Let’s continue to support one another in this uncertain time and dream alongside each other. We will get out to the PCT one day! It will happen eventually. I think that’s a truth we all need to hold on to.

For now, my PCT gear sits in my closet and I wait patiently for the day when I can pack it all up and book a flight to San Diego. For now, I’ll keep dreaming and holding onto the truth that I will complete the PCT one day.