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On April 23, 2022 at 10:22 a.m., I sent a message on Twitter to a stranger that would ultimately change my life. Most people would say something like this when talking about meeting their spouse by “sliding into their direct messages (DMs for short)” but, in my case, it was a little weirder than that.

Sliding into Tori’s DMs

To set the scene, in 2020, I started my journey as a Masters student at Utah State University (USA) earning my degree in Watershed Sciences. By the spring of 2022, I had spent the last year and a half studying microplastics in a local river system and was on top of my grad school responsibilities. One morning while I was waiting for my next appointment, I found myself on Twitter and during a quick scroll I came across a post about a scientist who was supposed to be studying trash while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Reflecting on this moment, I imagine my very complex internal dialogue going something like this:

Scientific brain. Wow, garbage trail question. I wonder what they will find out there. Bar wrappers and toilet paper, probably. What does it do to the environment? That stuff definitely breaks down into microplastics.

Outdoor brain. So you’re hiking for research? Smart lady.

A real brain. Nice project, maybe I’ll offer to help with the data.

So I plucked up the courage to DM into Dr. Victoria McGrewer and we set up a time to chat.

Visual evidence of me sliding into Tori’s DM.

Even though the original message says I’d like to join the “even whole” track, that’s not what I originally thought. I had only backpacked once in my life at that point, and that was only after moving to Utah. So on the initial call with Tori, I offered to help process the project data as off-track support.

Over the course of many months, I continued to meet with Tori and Wynn (our dear friend and project partner at the Moore Institute for Plastic Pollution Research) to discuss the premise of No Trace Trails (NTT) and talk about our wildest hopes and dreams for the project; Slowly, my interest shifted from the data processor to the idea of ​​walking the trail with Tori to formally ask her if I could just join her for the whole thing.

Where are we now?

If you’ve made it this far, I’ve decided to hike the PCT and Tori welcomed me with open arms, here’s how texting a stranger on the internet changed my life. I drove to Las Vegas to climb with Tori at Red Rocks in October 2022, and that would be the first and last time we met each other in person before hitting the trail together.

Me (left), non-climber, confidante Tori (right), very talented climber and internet stranger at the time, my life (I’m afraid of heights).

Tori and Winn live in So-Cal, and in March they came to pick me up from Los Angeles International Airport. The initial chaos of the week began with zoom meetings with NTT, last minute gear purchases, temporary goodbyes to friends and family, and trips to the grocery store where Tori and I cried in the mashed potato aisle.

On March 28th, we set foot on the PCT in Campo, California to begin our journey together. That first day we promptly made the mistake of hiking 15 miles instead of the originally planned 11 because “we felt really good” and ended up looking for a campsite and eating mac and cheese in the dark. . I knew then that Tori was the perfect partner in crime.

In the weeks that followed, we walked through the chaos together. Tori and I laughed as we camped through winter storms, hiked in the wind and rain, and ate more food than we ever thought possible. We made friends, took our first zeros, and walked through the ever-changing desert. Our legs got stronger and we walked more miles with ease. Trail life became the new normal and I fell in love with nights under the stars.

In Idyllwild, Tori and I found the people who would become our trail family and went with them to San Jacinto Mountain. Soon our original group of 6 or 7 grew to 10 and we adopted the name Dumb n Tough. We would spend the next 600 miles with these people trudging through snow, heat and rain and sleeping each night in the Mega-Tivek cowboy camp. Last week we made it to Kennedy Meadows and celebrated together before splitting up into the Sierra group and the Nor-Cal group. The two groups plan to stay in touch and see each other again.

The wilderness section of the PCT offered more than we could have ever imagined, and now we are excited to head north from Chester, CA.

What to expect from me?

Let me start by saying that I’m a bit late to the party as a blogger. Usually, people start doing this on or before the first day of their hike, but that wasn’t the case for me. Since I’m late to the party, you’ll get a rundown of the events I’ve experienced on the trail. We’ve had some big things happen in the last few months, from getting scared (that’s how I got my track name) to having our supplies stolen from our friend’s car, and I’d like to talk about those things. . I’ll do my best to make it clear that I’m flying back in time when I talk about things that happened in my introductory blog today.

In general, expect to hear more from me about current and past trail events, science and conservation anecdotes related to the PCT, and the day-to-day aspects of trail life. I am very excited to share my thoughts and experiences with all of you as I move forward on this journey. Thanks for reading.

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