Every year, upwards of 6,000 hikers take on the Pacific Crest Trail, a trail that winds 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. Only 20 percent of hikers finish the challenge. East Side resident Katrina Horner is one them.
Horner grew up in La Junta, Colorado, a small town east of Pueblo. She met fellow outdoor enthusiast Bryce Hostetler in college. After a summer road trip hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail in British Columbia, they dreamed about taking on the PCT.
“Bryce called me up and said, ‘I’m doing this. Want to come?’ When would I have another opportunity? I couldn’t say no,” Horner says. The 24-year-old nurse gave up her job at Miriam Hospital, said goodbye to her fiancé, and set out on the adventure of a lifetime.
Fans of Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling book Wild will recognize the rigors of a trek of this magnitude. Hikers log 30 miles per day in ever-changing terrain. “You’re hiking through the desert for the first 700 miles. Then you are up in the Sierra Nevadas, where there is still snow along the trail,” she says. “Once we hit Northern California, we were in the middle of fire season. For three weeks we hiked through thick smoke.”
At certain points, Horner questioned continuing. “It rained for five days straight in the Cascades. Everything was soaked through and cold. But the trail is so remote that by the time you get to a location where you can end the hike, you’ve overcome the challenge. You just want to keep going.”
“I learned to live in the moment,” she explains. “Our everyday lives get stressful, too. I learned to stop, take a breath, and look at the beauty around me.”
The adage “the trail provides” is apt, whether through the serenity of nature or the culture of the trail itself. “The people were extraordinary. Trail angels leave bits of comfort at trail stops as a way to pay-it-forward or just out of kindness. That community support was magical.”
After five months spent dodging rattlesnakes, communing with bears, traipsing over snow covered ridges, and walking through fields of honeysuckle, she’s happy to be home. “I never appreciated a hot meal and shower more,” she says. “As soon as I got back, I ate oysters and calamari.”