As I prepare for the challenge of a lifetime, both physical and mental, I find myself looking at where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going, and why I’ve chosen to hike nearly 3,000 miles for my 35th birthday.
As for many people who choose to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I’ve held a long fascination with the outdoors, a love for being in nature developed in a childhood spent wandering the woods of Oregon and New York. I moved around a great deal during my childhood, and often found myself drawn to the isolation of the forests around my house, climbing trees and building hidden fortresses in the undergrowth, playing make believe and making swords out of sticks to hit my friends with.
When I moved to Iowa in my teens, my passions shifted toward more creative pursuits, namely filmmaking, writing, and photography, but the two loves often found common ground, and I found myself shooting outdoors as often as possible, trying to capture the natural beauty of my environment. When I got my first professional video camera, the first thing I did was spend three weeks shooting streams and leaves and every sunrise and sunset I could catch.
When I moved to New Zealand in April of 2005, it was my attraction to the raw beauty of its landscapes that drew me there, and I spent much of my time exploring the hills and forests surrounding Wellington, the old growth temperate rain forests and the rocky, wind-swept shorelines of the Cook Strait. I fell in love with walking, not owning a car, or knowing how to drive on the opposite side of the road, and trekked everywhere, eating up miles as I crossed town for work or to play Ultimate Frisbee or to explore the city. Walking became second nature to me, and I began to trust my own legs and feet more than anything else to get me from place to place.
In 2009, back in film school after a year abroad, I injured my knee playing the sport I loved, and my legs became a source of pain and an excuse not to do the things I enjoyed doing. As my life became focused on my career and I withdrew further from my former passions, I found myself lacking something significant in my life, a reason to be excited about the coming weekend or the change of seasons.
2012 began with heartbreak for me, as two relationships I invested all of myself in fell apart in rapid succession, and my best friend in the world, the man I called brother, passed away on April 15, before I could get back to his side.
I retreated inward, fleeing from all but my dearest friendships, and ran to the places I felt safe, the places I felt inspired by again. Despite the protestations of my still injured knee, and the financial strain my travels would cause, I spent every free moment on one trail or another. I called it my Summer of George, and it set in motion the wheels that would drive me to the Pacific Crest Trail in the summer of 2015.
Over the subsequent years, I geared my life around shooting the outdoors, hiking each of the National Parks in the Western US, exploring wild places, and taking up distance backpacking. I got my knee fixed and found happiness and comfort in my life through my newly recaptured love affair with the outdoors.
So here I am, a few months out from stepping onto the trail, three years to the day removed from one of the low points of my life, ready for the challenges that this undoubtedly life changing experience will hold for me.
So there it is, the brief encapsulation of the story of my life, and how it relates to the PCT and Project 2663. Now it’s your turn.
If you’re hiking the PCT in 2015 and want to share your story as part of Project 2663, please email us at the address below:
We’d love to have you on board, and I look forward to seeing all of you out here in April.