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PCT Thru-Hiker Intro: Meet Mantis!

PCT Thru-Hiker Intro: Meet Mantis!

Q: Who are you? And what are you about to do?

A: My name is Malia, or Mantis if you know me on trail. I am an outdoor enthusiast, environmental educator, and a lifelong learner! In my opinion, one of the best places to learn is outdoors in nature.

I am about to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail; actually, by the time you read this, I will have already started! I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2022 and fell in love with trail life. Everyone tells me that this is gonna be a tough year to hike the PCT, but I guess we will just have to see if that prediction holds true (is there ever an easy year?)! 

Q: This is your second thru-hike: What made you want to return to the trail for another go-round? 

A: I loved the physicality of my first thru-hike—feeling my muscles work, feeling my body tense and catch itself after a misstep, feeling the warmth from the deepest laughter. I loved how connected I felt—living so close to nature, sharing meals with strangers who quickly grew into friends, acting as my truest form of self because that’s all I had energy to be. There is a beautiful magic that you experience on trail that both softens your soul and sharpens your senses, leaving you both the most confident you’ve ever been and yet vulnerable to the forces of nature and grace of your peers.

I believe that some of the very best people in the world hike long trails. In fact, I met my partner on the AT :) We decided we wanted to experience an entire thru-hike together and have similar goals and mindsets for our hike. 

Q: What do you seek outdoors—is it the scenery, the peace and quiet, or is it community? What is the reason you’ve built your life around being outdoors?

A: In the outdoors, I seek to better my relationship with myself. I savor joy in small moments like noticing a slug on a dewy fungi following a mid-morning shower or the way green leaves filter the light as the sun sinks lower in the sky. Having people to share these experiences with and reflect in conversation make even the smallest observations the most memorable moments.

I built my life around being outdoors because it is a place I find solace, adventure, and wonderment. Outside of trail life, my career goals are to facilitate outdoor learning experiences for youth and communities to help nurture our relationships with nature.

Q: What did you struggle with most on your first thru-hike? How are you hoping to overcome that this time around? 

A: I took really good care of my feet in a lot of ways (my only blister was from playing soccer in my crocs), but I only used three pairs of trail runners for my entire hike. I need to listen to my feet and change out my shoes more often to minimize foot pain. Happy feet make for a happy hiker!

Q: Best food combo you've cooked up on trail? And the worst?

A: Best - dill pickle potato chips, lemon pepper tuna packet, mayo packet, red pepper flakes, chunks of extra sharp Vermont cheddar cheese, tortilla. *chefs kiss*

Runner up - 1 shrimp ramen pack, 1 chili ramen pack, spoonful of crunchy peanut butter.

Worst - My worst meal had more to do with the ambiance around the meal. After a long day, I sat down in the dark to fry up some spam to add to my Knorr alfredo pasta. Mosquitos chased me into my tent and I spilled some noodles on the ground. Of course I proceeded to eat the meal with added dirt calories, but I have yet to repeat that dinner combo.  

Q: What are you most looking forward to on the PCT?

A: Broadly, I am looking forward to exploring a less familiar-to-me part of the country in ways one can only by walking on her own two feet. I am excited for walking through wildflower season, conversations with fellow hikers and trail angels, and walking through less-human populated wilderness :)

Q: Talk about the gear you've chosen to bring with you—have you had any personal experiences or preferences that influenced your choices?

A: I want my gear to be functional, lightweight, and durable so that I can make miles and have the best time possible while staying comfortable. I have torn ligaments in both knees in the past and had subsequent reconstructive surgery on each, so the balance between reliable and lightweight is super important to me while considering my gear choices. A few of my favorites are below:

Pack - Hyperlite Windrider 2400

Sleeping quilt - Zenbivy Light Quilt 25° with the Fast Footbox paired with the Zenbivy Fast Sheet and Light Pillow 

Sleeping pad - Thermarest Neoair Xlite inflatable pad (an upgrade from the z-fold foam pad that I used in the AT... RIP my hips)

Favorite luxury item - GSI Outdoors Compact pot scraper…LNT (leave no trace) friendly without rinsing/drinking the dregs of your dinner. Get every last bit of your calories, friends! 

Q: Any parting thoughts as you get ready to set out on trail?

A: Live out your dreams now! There’s no time like the present :)

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