Hi. My name is Janel Healy, and if you’re reading this, I have just stepped foot on the Pacific Crest Trail as a solo female thru-hiker. In the next six months, I will walk from Mexico to Canada with nothing but my Osprey Eja pack, food and water, and a few items of ultralight gear.
Over the course of 2,650 miles, I will experience shadeless deserts, freezing cold nights, hungry bears, angry rattlesnakes, snowy passes in the High Sierras, throbbing feet, trail closures due to wildfires, and pelting rain in the Pacific Northwest. But through all of these challenges, one goal will keep me going.
Why I’m Hiking
When I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2016, I stopped for a few hours to swim at a lake in New York. I overheard a gaggle of boys in canoes daring each other to do something by taunting, “Don’t be a girl!” Several moms and and young girls were within earshot, but no one said anything in response to the boys’ insults.
My heart shattered into a thousand pieces. I wanted to yell out, “Don’t be a girl?! Can you HIKE like a girl? Because this girl is hiking 2,000 miles!”
We raise our girls to be afraid. We try to protect girls from the world by discouraging them from getting themselves into risky situations, but this only hurts us more. (The New York Times published a powerful article about this in 2016). Boys intuit this cultural bias and associate being a girl with being fearful. But being fearful is not inherent to being assigned female or identifying as a girl.
Let me say that again: being fearful is not synonymous with being a girl.
The main reason I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail two years ago is because I knew the trail would teach me how to take risks in a way I had never been encouraged or given the opportunity to learn before. I had so many inner fears—fears of rejection, judgment, being alone, not being good enough—that I needed to face head-on. I knew the lessons I’d take away from the trail as a solo female hiker would empower me to bring my best self forward for the rest of my life, even if being my true self means being bold and pissing some people off.
Here is what I learned on my first through-hike: healthy risk-taking does not require the absence of fear. Quite the contrary. Risk-taking is about understanding when fear is helpful and when it is standing in your way. Sometimes fear is your ally—an intuition that taking a certain risk isn’t a good idea at that moment due to lack of skills/knowledge, the conditions, etc. But other times, fear is a saboteur—a judgment or cultural bias that you’ve internalized that is overriding your own objective assessment of your skills or the conditions.
We need to encourage our girls to take risks, so that they learn how to objectively assess their own limits and boundaries in the face of fear. ONLY THEY can teach themselves how to react in scary situations by walking right up to the cliff’s edge of fear and then practicing navigating there, in the space between comfort and distress.
Imagine what the world would be like if more girls had the support to cultivate a personal practice of risk-taking and intuition-building. How would they respond to sexual harassment? Workplace discrimination? Ecological destruction? What would they create?
This year, by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I want to support other young women in taking risks and embarking on their own personal transformation journeys, however that looks for them. That’s why, beginning with my first steps on the PCT today and ending when I get to Canada, I am raising $10,000 for three amazing girl empowerment nonprofits:
100% of what we raise will go to these inspiring women-led organizations that are mentoring girls and helping them confidence and self-respect in the outdoors.
Watch the Video
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Join Me in Empowering Girls
I hope you feel inspired to say yes to young women blossoming into the brave and intuitive beings they truly are. By becoming a part of my fundraising community, will receive periodic emails reflecting on my experience on the Pacific Crest Trail as well as success stories from the three inspiring women-led organizations I am collaborating with.
Learn more on my website or give a donation today!
Thank you for your support. Your contribution will change the lives of many young women.
Follow Janel’s journey on the PCT:
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