When Beverly King retired on Dec. 20, 2022, she knew she had at least one goal for her retirement, and that was to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which stretches from the Mexican border to the Canadian border by going through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.
It’s 2,650 miles in length.
King told The Chronicle she viewed the challenge as a chance to restart her life after her last child graduated and she retired last year at the age of 62.
King said the idea of hiking the PCT originally came from her family.
“My kids and grandkids were doing a 4-mile fun run and they invited me to go too. … I never stopped to walk. … That was the beginning of, ‘I can do this,’” King said.
While she had known about the PCT, King didn’t consider hiking the trail until one day when she was with her husband. King said they were watching TV when the PCT was mentioned and her husband told her she could hike it.
“Yeah, I could do that,” King recalls thinking.
King, an Olympia resident, has a long history of being outdoors. Before her retirement, King worked for Sequoia’s Farm and Forest School, an outdoor school for young children.
“I love being outside. It puts me together,” she told The Chronicle.
Now, King is hiking the PCT. She said a major reason for her making the hike is to help raise awareness for mental health issues.
“(Mental illness) has affected my family and a lot of other families,” King said.
For her journey, King began by camping on the border of Mexico before heading north in March. She said she isn’t sure how long her journey will be, as it'll depend partly on the amount of snow still in the Sierra Nevadas and how well she handles the hiking.
“The hardest part is actually the mental part of it,” King said.
During her journey, King will experience the changes in lifestyle that come with long hiking trips, including changes to the types of food she eats and her sleeping arrangements.
King said she’s going to eat a lot of dried fruits and vegetables, as well as meats and protein bars. She added she thinks she’ll sleep in a tent at first before possibly switching to cowboy camping — when someone sleeps without shelter — though she added sleeping in a tent has value in keeping bugs and other critters away.
“There’s so many different particulars,” King said of her planning.
King said the part of her journey she was most looking forward to is hiking alone.
“You have all this space and time to just be, to just exist,” King said.
Before starting her hike, she said the parts of her trip she was least looking forward to were the snow in the Sierra Nevadas and carrying her food.
To help deal with the challenges of hiking the PCT, King is joined by her husband, who serves as her resupply person while traveling in an RV and visiting small towns. She added her husband driving a van is helpful, as rides to town are crucial for hikers on the PCT.
“He wants to help out,” King said. “It should be really fun for him.”
King said while she hopes to hike the entire length of the PCT, she knows unexpected problems, such as snow or health issues, could make her stop or prevent her from finishing in a timely manner. With those concerns in mind, King said while she’ll try to push herself, she’s going to try and remain aware of her limits.
“At first I’m going to push myself to not walk too much,” King said. “(But) I’m not going to push myself to an injury I’ll never return from.”
But King took an optimistic view of her trip, telling The Chronicle even if she has to skip parts of the trail or stop short of finishing the journey, she can always come back another time and complete the route.
“Even if it’s one to three months and it doesn’t work out, that's still a lot of mileage,” King said.
In a news release announcing her journey earlier this year, King again addressed her reasoning for going on the hike.
“Because it’s about time, don’t you think?” she asked. “If not now, when? When will I finally get off the couch and chase after a dream? I’m running out of years, this is something I have always wanted to do, and I’m going to give it a go. And I wanted to do something special, as well, to raise awareness about mental health. It is a topic which is important to my family, and I hope my efforts will at least start a conversation, or two, about the topic, which affects so many in this country.”
King is recording her adventure while on the trail and her husband is editing the videos and posting them on their YouTube channel, As We Wonder. They also have a Patreon page, also called As We Wonder, for those who wish to financially support their journey.