All in the journey: Silverton teen hikes Pacific Crest Trail

April 2019 Posted in Community, Travel, Your Health

Silverton hiker Anna Koch, shown at right at the start of the Pacific Crest Trail’s start near the Mexican border. Courtesy Rochelle Koch

By Melissa Wagoner

19-year-old, Anna Koch is setting out on the journey of a lifetime – a 2,663 mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail.

“I’m starting in Idyllwild, [California,] which is the worst spot because they’re getting dumped on every day,” Koch shuddered. “I’m totally nervous because this year is a record snow year. I’d like to think I can do the Sierras but unless it melts…”

The idea for Koch’s impending PCT hike came from another hike – the Three Sisters Loop – that she took with a friend last summer.

“We planned on doing it in six days and five nights,” she recalled. “We did it in 33 hours. After that I was like, I would really enjoy doing more of this.”

Koch, who grew up hiking in California’s Central Valley, is a lover of all things outdoors. She skis, she climbs and she recently took up wilderness first aid, discovering that is what she wants to pursue once her hike is finished this fall.

“I did a year of college and I was like, this is really not for me,” she remembered. “That [first aid] class really showed what I want to do for my future. It was
really cool.”

Although Koch’s preparations for her PCT adventure have already given her some insight into her future, she is quick to say that self-discovery is in no way the impetus for her trip.

“I’m going out to be in nature and to find what it has to give me,” she said. “Natural places are disappearing.” Concerned that the places she longs to see won’t be there forever, Koch is using the PCT to immerse herself in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.

“If I only have 50 years left to live, then I’m going to enjoy it,” Koch reasoned. “You hear all these older people who say, ‘I regret not doing these things.’”

Along with taking a wilderness first aid course, Koch has spent the past several months preparing for her trip – working on her parents’ farm to save money and preparing her supplies.

“I went to Costco last week and bought so much food,” she laughed. “And my friend was cleaning someone’s house out and she got me a bunch of dehydrated food.”

Most of Koch’s food supplies – granola bars, cereal and a myriad of soups – are being left behind in nine, open resupply boxes at her parents’ home in Silverton.

“I’ll call my mom a week before and say, ‘This is what I need in these boxes,’” she explained. “And when I do resupplies I’ll probably pick up fresh fruit.”

Her backpack, which will contain her home-away-from-home – a hammock, a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad and all her worldly possessions – currently weighs-in at 43 pounds.

“A lot of people say that’s too heavy,” she noted. “But a lot of people are unprepared.”

Although worried about weather and the possibility of injury, Koch said she feels she has done as much research as is necessary.

“I’ve done way too much,” she laughed. “It’s like a rabbit hole.”

She’s also joined a Facebook group for PCT hikers where she can ask questions, get advice and meet others who are going to be on the trail.

“There’s an amputee this year,” she said. “And there are two people with their cats.”

Although Koch is planning to hike the majority of the PCT alone, she will be joined by her aunt for the first several days and possibly more friends and family when she reaches Oregon.

“I’ll have to get comfortable with my person,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ll be alone that often.”

Hoping to average 14 to 15 miles a day, Koch has developed a foot care schedule she hopes will lessen the risk of blisters and foot problems.

“Every two hours, no matter what, I stop and let my feet dry and put my hemp cream on and put on new socks,” she described. “When we did our Sisters trip my friend got ten blisters and I didn’t get single one.”

Throughout her journey, Koch plans to keep in contact with her family and friends through Facebook and Instagram but she also has a Mini inReach satellite communicator for emergencies.

“I think both of my parents are excited that I’ll be going on this adventure,” she noted. “My whole childhood I spent hiking in Yosemite.”

Day number one of Koch’s nearly five month adventure from Idyllwild, California – 150 miles north of the Mexican border – to Manning Park, Canada – ten miles over the Canadian border – kicked-off April 6 and Koch said she is more than ready.

“I’m excited for the experiences and the people I will meet and the tranquility of nature compared to the rush of society,” I just want to be in nature. I’m kind of done with society.”

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