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Hiking the PCT as a First-Time Thru-Hiker

Dedra – PCT Thru-Hiker

Zenbivy's 2024 Thru-Hiker Ambassador Dedra (aka Forest Gump) takes on the Pacific Crest Trail. Take an inside look as she shares her thoughts leading up to the trail and her first check-ins on the trail.

Mile 0 – Setting Intentions and Getting Started

Nice to meet you Zenbivy friends! If we haven't already crossed paths on Zenbivy's social media, I'm Dedra. In 2024 I'm hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (NOBO) for my first ever thru-hike SOLO. I’ve dreamed of hiking the PCT since I hit the road in my camper van two years ago and fell more and more in love with the wilderness.

When I first envisioned this trek, the task of even getting to the start line seemed incredibly daunting to the point where I almost didn’t apply for a permit. And now nearly 7 months later, I’m preparing to step up to the starting line. 


As somebody who suffers from a lot of anxiety and has a lot of fears about the world from past experiences in my life, stepping foot on the trail will already feel like a win. My intention with this journey is to help me reconnect with my confidence, learn how to navigate anxiety and gain some independence as I head into my 30s. 

I'm so excited to be partnering with Zenbivy to share my experiences as a first-time thru hiker taking on one of the world's most challenging hikes! 

Check out my pre-hike Q&A as a first time thru-hiker here.

Mile 0 – Preparing my NOBO Gear List

My Lighterpack NOBO Gear List has all the items I’m going to take with me to survive the next 5 months. When it comes to backpacking, some people go for what’s classified as ultralight and then some people prioritize comfort over weight. I think I fall somewhere in the middle of the two. 

In this video, I show everything I choose to bring on my very first thru-hike of the PCT. Most people who start this hike either add or take things out of their pack along the journey and I’m excited to see how my backpack evolves throughout the trek. 

If you're here for the gear, check out what Zenbivy gear I'm packing.

Mile 70 – First Week Trail Check-in

It's crazy to think I've already had so many firsts on the trail and experienced so much in such a short time. This journey has already had so many ups and downs!

Seeing the Terminus for the very first time in person and not online was surreal. A moment I had been waiting for years has finally arrived and being able to touch it felt so special.

Even signing a logbook for the first time was so cool. Everything felt so exciting, like hitting the first-mile marker, having my first snack, crossing my first gate, filtering water, eating dinner and setting up the first camp, having a town meal, seeing all the towns like Lake Morena, Mt Laguna, and Julian, meeting new people and getting free pie, and hitting my first 50+ miles. 

Of course, not everything is always sunshine and rainbows. I’ve had some bad firsts as well. Like getting a gnarly sunburn, falling hard and scraping my leg, getting mild heat exhaustion, running into an aggressive rattlesnake for the first time, getting blisters, and breaking my stove. 

All of these things I wouldn’t change. It’s part of the journey and experience.

Mile 100 – Zero to One-Hundred

Such a short distance traveled (100 of 2650 miles), but so many lessons already learned! Heading into this journey I was a complete newbie to thru-hiking. I had a lot to learn in terms of gear tips and tricks, taking care of my health, and other common topics. I’ve also learned so much beyond these things so far.  

Some of the key lessons in my first hundred miles have been:

  1. We are ALL stronger than we think.
  2. You don’t need a lot to survive and need even less to be happy!
  3. Your community can make or break a thru-hike.

My biggest takeaway: Don’t always listen to the common gear recommendations, choose what’s right for you!!! Although other people’s opinions are a good place to start for recommendations, I’ve seen a lot of thru-hikers unhappy with the tent, bedding, and footwear choices they made based on others’ opinions.

I chose to go for a hybrid of comfort and ultralight, I’m sure glad I did! I sleep great and have minimal injuries or discomfort – it’s all making for a great experience on trail. 

Mile 307 – The Daily Routine

Life can get repetitive but hiking the PCT is a kind of repetitiveness I can get down with every day! My typical day looks like trying to do about 20 miles per day in Southern California!

At first, the routine felt weird. I woke up feeling like I should be at my desk working, walking my dogs, doing chores, and dealing with all the other stresses of the normal life I was conditioned to (even as someone who lived in a van for 1.5 years before this trek.)

It took me about two full weeks to actually start getting accustomed to this “new normal” and owning every little detail but now that I know I am capable, I can’t explain how freeing and exciting it feels!

With every sunrise and sunset, I can feel myself transforming from an anxious, reliant, and fearful woman into a confident, capable, independent, and freer soul! 


Mile 330 – Acquiring a Trail Name

When you do a thru hike there is something known as a trail name. What is a trail name? This is a name that you’re given by the thru-hiker community along the journey. It can come from a personality trait, something you’re interested in, a habit, or even something as small as a funny moment you’re forever remembered for. 

These are often non-traditional names and I’ve heard so many unique ones. You don’t have to accept a trail name right away. Often, thru-hikers will try to give you a trail name within the first week but that doesn’t mean you need to take it. As soon as you start referring to yourself as your trail name then it's official.

You can also change your first trail name if you’d like if something else comes up. My first trail name was A-list and then I switched to Forest Gump.  Hear the whole story on my trail name over on my Instagram @route_tohappiness.


Want to stay up to date as we trek through the miles? Follow along on Zenbivy's Instagram & Facebook. Happy trails! 

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