Who: Hannah Kiser and Chelan Pauly – both 25 years old Wenatchee High School alumni with a love for science, the outdoors, and Type II fun.
What: A 2,660 mile thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Where: From the Mexican border to the Canadian border. We’ll hike through the Southern California mountains and Mojave Desert. Up into the Sierra Nevadas to the top of the Mt. Whitney (highest peak in the lower 48 states), through the volcanic landscapes of Northern California and Oregon. Then, into our own stomping grounds of the Northern Cascades.
When: Starting May 4 and hopefully finishing by the middle of September (that’s averaging 20 miles a day).
Why: To celebrate a quarter-century of life, do something a little crazy, and more importantly to raise money for an organization called Inspiring Girls Expeditions. For every mile we hike, we plan to raise at least $1 to help send a high school girl on a wilderness-science education expedition. This means each step is not only part of a personal adventure but also part of a broader purpose. Please go to https://www.crowdrise.com/pct-fundraiser-raising-1-for-every-mile-we-hike-to-help-future-young-adventurers/fundraiser/chelanpauly to learn more.
How did you decide to hike the PCT?
Hannah: Chelan and I mentioned doing it in passing throughout the years and I always told her she had to wait until I was done running competitively, or she’d have to do it twice. Last spring I decided to take a break from competitive running, started backpacking a lot, and thru hiking the PCT came to mind. Being millennials, this journey of 2,660 miles started with a text: “Hey Chelan, want to hike the PCT?!” and I think her response was, “Yes! You’re serious, right?”. We decided that if we put it off more than a year the probability of us being in a better situation to do it wouldn’t be guaranteed, so we made the leap and committed last August.
How do you know each other?
Hannah: We met back in 7th grade as dorky cross-country runners with pigtails, braces and bodies that didn’t fit us yet. They say if you’re friends for seven years it’s likely you’ll stay friends for life. It’s been 14 so I think we’re good. We ran, took classes, joined clubs together throughout high school, and have stayed in close contact despite going different directions in life.
What have you done since leaving Wenatchee?
Chelan: I spent the year after high school as a Rotary exchange student living in Lima, Peru and then attended Whitman College. I continued running cross-country at Whitman, was heavily involved in the outdoor program and graduated in 2015 with a Biology and Geology degree. I spent the next two summers working for the Entiat Hotshots as a wildland firefighter and most recently spent the winter working at a Nordic ski lodge in Idaho.
Hannah: After high school I attended University of Idaho and ran cross-country and track while getting my degree in biochemistry. Since then, I’ve been working as a lab technician in a reproductive biology lab at Washington State University.
What are your goals for the hike?
Chelan: Having fought fire in many of the national forests on the West Coast, I want to explore and appreciate them from a recreationalists perspective. Personally I look forward to writing, drawing, and reflecting on the natural world and my role within it.
Hannah: My goal is to get back to that childhood-like feeling where you lose track of time, don’t look in a mirror for days and eat mac and cheese everyday. I would also like to make new friends in two minutes and sleep so hard not even a curious bear could wake me.
What are you most excited about?
Chelan: I am very excited about the trail community and the people I will meet.
Hannah: For me hiking the PCT is about celebrating my life. In college I didn’t take much time to reflect on races or seasons, or celebrate my and my team’s successes. As post-season competitions would be bigger, more competitive and more demanding of my focus and fitness. I don’t regret the sacrifices I made, it is so rare to have the opportunity to give your life to your passion but now that it’s over, the PCT is all the vacations and celebrations I never got to have.
What is one of your biggest fears?
Hannah: My big picture fear is that I will love thru-hiking so much I will have to become a bum and continue hiking until I have hiked all the long trails. Once I find something I enjoy, I am really good at making it into my life. A more life-threatening fear is the incredible snow pack in the Sierras this year.
Chelan: I am terrified of river crossings and running out of chocolate.