A hikers story

What leads one to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and what’s at the heart of the journey- by Viola Murgia

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The Pacific Crest Trail, a long distance trail which stretches 2650 miles (4240 km) from Mexico to Canada. What draws hikers to venture on this enormous challenge through hot deserts to snowy mountains and what does it take? We hear from one of our very own teachers Viola from Equal Oudegracht, who completed the trail in 139 days in 2014.

One day, during a training my teacher asked me to imagine that I only had 1 month to live and what I would do. I knew immediately what I would do: hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail! And I set out to just do it!

How did you hear about the trail and what was it that inspired you to take the journey?

I’ve dreamt about hiking this trail for years. I remember reading about it in a book, at the local library, pre-internet days! I read about traversing the dry desert, and how to handle the numerous rattlesnakes that live there! Pretty daunting right? But I knew that one day, I was going to do it. I kept putting it off, due to work obligations. One day, during a spiritual training my teacher asked me to imagine that I only had 1 month to live and what I would do. I knew immediately what I would do: hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail! And I set out to just do it! 

How did you prepare for the journey? 

How CAN one prepare for such an enormous journey?! First, I binge-read numerous blogs, and learned from others who hiked the trail before, I was especially interested in reading blogs written by girls who’ve hiked the PCT. I read everything I could get my hands on, made notes. I started to work out, hiked to and from work, carrying a backpack filled with 40 litres of soil through town! Shopping extensively, off-and online, spending bucket loads of money on gear. My shopping list was brutal and never ending. The funny thing is: I hated shopping! But shopping for a thru-hike was great! My last week before departure was like: plan, work, saying final goodbyes, shop, plan some more, working out, why are there just 24 hours in a day?!

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What did you discover along the trail? What is your wild adventure?

The wildest adventure on the trail is that I found love! Right there and then I finally started to learn to fully accept myself, to love myself. Not just a tiny part of me, no, ALL of me. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was biggest gift I gave myself. On the trail I felt whole, not divided. Light, not burdened. Accepted and fully present, not distracted or living in my head.

It was also on the Pacific Crest Trail that I met the man I'm about to marry this Spring! He was solo thru-hiking, just like myself at that time, a scruffy and dirty thru-hiker, smoking cigs, totally not a yogi at first glance and not someone I would normally date! If you'd told me that I was going to marry him when we met, I would absolutely not believed you. But such a very kind and sweet soul he was. After completing the PCT, some hard years were spend to finally love myself unconditionally, but when I did, I could open my heart to him and the love between us blossomed and grew. Such an incredible experience I’m so grateful for!

Tell us about some of the ups and downs along the trail

Hiking the PCT was hard. Harder than I could ever imagine. Getting up every morning at 5 am, the physical body still sore from yesterday’s miles. The weight that I carried on my back provided all the essentials to survive: my kitchen, my food, water, my house and my bed. Putting in about 32-48 km per day, hiking 14 to 16 hours a day. So I got dirty and sweaty. And sore. Mosquitoes everywhere, pesky flies that sting. My skin raw from bug bites, strong sun rays, sweat and dirt. I had one pair of clothes I wore every day. But at the same time, feeling totally overwhelmed by all the beauty around me. How amazing it is to walk when the sun is just peeking over the horizon in the morning! How beautiful the animals are which I got to see on the trail: the deer, the butterflies, the lizards, the colorful birds and yes even the snakes and the bears are so pretty. Feeling ONE with nature.

How did you feel after you completed your adventure? How did it effect your life going forward?

I completed the entire trail after hiking for 139 days straight! When I got close to finish, I felt exhilirated. I couldn't believe that I accomplished my lifelong dream. It was a very powerful moment. My body was happy it was over (I was in so much physical pain so my body definitely needed a break!) but I felt really sad and heartbroken that my life on the trail came to an end, the freedom, the space around me, the silence and quietness the desert offered me. When I returned home, I slept on the floor in my sleeping bag for awhile, couldn't sleep in bed for the longest time. After the PCT I continued hiking long trails. To date, I've hiked the Colorado Trail, the Haute Route Pyrenées, the Hayduke Trail (a cross country route through the canyons of Utah and Arizona). The mountains are my happy place!

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What did you learn by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail?

  • That you should always, always, always listen to the calling of the heart. No exceptions.
  • That the heart speaks the truth. Your truth, not somebody else’s.
  • When you totally let go of any expectations, anything can happen. Even things that you never, ever, thought were possible. Life is one big adventure when you let go of your expectations or strict thoughts on how things should be in your opinion. 
  • That it is possible to be comfortable under any uncomfortable circumstances.
  • That the people you meet are giving you back what you’re giving them. They are your mirror.
  • That you are capable of doing everything. You just have to believe that you can do it. Whatever goal you have set for yourself.
  • How to listen to your heart? Just sit somewhere comfortably. By yourself. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing for a while. Notice how you are breathing. See if you can breathe deeper and slower. Don’t force it. Just let it happen. Bring your attention to the heart centre. Feel the emotions of the heart. What is it that makes you happy. Try not to think about it too much. Just feel into it.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about a long distance hike?

Just. Do. It! For more info and inspiration see: and