Conquering the Pacific Crest Trail
Conquering the Pacific Crest Trail
Join Haya Alsamari and Fai AlOmran as they take on one of the most challenging hikes in the world
Seven national parks, five state parks, twenty-five national forests, thirty-three federally assigned wildernesses, and 4,265 kilometres – this is what hikers have to cross to complete one of the
longest thru-hike trails on Earth, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
In April, Saudi’s Haya Alsamari and Kuwait’s Fai AlOmran set out to undertake this formidable trek, starting from the border of Mexico all the way to Canada, weaving through California, Oregon, and Washington. The inspiring duo completed the hike in just four months and 19 days – supported by primary sponsor Under The Abaya, a Saudi female empowerment platform.
During their journey, a typical day involved waking up early, packing up camp, hiking several hours (interspersed with brief rests), scouting for water sources, and setting up camp again come evening.
At the end of the day was dinner with friends on the trail, before retiring for the night. Yet amidst what seems like a straightforward routine, there were challenges to overcome and lessons to learn. Haya and Fai sat with us to recount their extraordinary adventure.
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When Haya first started long distance hiking in 2015, she was hesitant and unsure of her abilities. As she hiked through lush forests, climbed towering mountains, and crossed roaring rivers, she realised she was capable of more than she had ever imagined.
“Fast forward to 2022. It had been two years since I recovered from a back surgery, and I felt like I needed an adventure to celebrate and enjoy my freedom.”
Hiking has allowed Haya to connect with nature on a deeper level, push her physical and mental limits, and instil a sense of confidence, self-reliance, and accomplishment, while connecting her with like-minded individuals.
Hiking the Oregon section of the PCT was the most challenging for Haya, a former system engineer at Saudi Aramco, and the mosquitoes were to blame.
“Their relentless buzzing and constant biting made every step feel like a battle.” Haya felt like they weren’t only draining her blood, but also her spirit. She found herself questioning the decision to embark on this journey, doubting her abilities, and contemplating giving up.
“Nature is beyond our control, reminding us that we are a small part of a larger ecosystem. While we may not have control over it, we can choose how we respond and find ways to adapt and coexist.”
Connecting with Nature
“When you hike alone, all your senses are more engaged. You hear and feel everything. You take in the surroundings a lot more, and you’re more connected to the present moment.”
Every night, Haya retreated to her cosy tent and indulged in a foot massage with a herbal pain relief ointment and journals, then lay down to watch the sunset or stars until she fell asleep. The PCT was an eye-opener for Haya, as she practised the Leave No Trace principle – leaving natural surroundings as found.
“It’s evident when comparing areas closer to towns that receive a high volume of visitors, to more remote hiking areas that are difficult to access.”
Challenges and Advice
Being physically distant from family and friends was challenging.
“The daily routine can become mentally taxing, requiring discipline and resilience to stay motivated and focused.” Yet, witnessing sunrises and sunsets, diverse wildlife, and the serenity of the wilderness was an opportunity for selfreflection and a break from everyday distractions.
“Remember, everyone starts as a beginner, and every experienced hiker was once in your shoes. Hiking is a journey of personal growth and exploration. It's not a competition or a race.” She advises adventurers to check the weather and trail conditions before hiking, plan an extra day of food and emergency supplies, and hike with a satellite GPS that has an SOS button for emergencies.
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A former production coordinator and an Emily Carr University of Art + Design graduate, Fai found her passion for the great outdoors at a very young age.
“I always loved being in nature. When I first started to go camping and hiking, I found that being in the wild kept me calm, grounded, and recharged.” As she explains, it felt like an addiction, which turned into a love for exploring new things and disconnecting from her everyday life.
“Sometimes you get lost with following the trail, lose sight of what an adventure really means, and end up walking without appreciating what's around you.” Days like these reignite the spark of exploration for Fai and revive her soul.
Several times on the PCT, Fai convinced herself to keep going. Whether on the side of a scary cliff, exhausted from a long hard day, or bored from the routine of a thru-hike, she had to have the willpower to keep going. Realising that these situations were temporary, she coped through finding joy in the moment by accepting the challenge and reminding herself that it shall pass.
Connecting With Nature
Fai believes that hiking with a group is a great way to pass time and connect with others on a deeper level, and is also essential when trails are dangerous or tough.
“Sometimes it’s the people around you that encourage you to keep going and save you from a terrible accident.” Yet, Fai emphasises the importance of hiking alone as a form of meditation, removing herself from distractions and allowing her mind to indulge in deep thoughts.
While hiding one day under a giant Joshua tree in the desert, waiting out the heat, the filmmaker looked around and all she could see were beautiful plants that had been growing for years. “In an environment so harsh, not only do they thrive but also bloom and create majestic flowers blending seamlessly with
the ecosystem they live in.”
“I feel proud and accomplished. Not just because I made a dream come true, but because I can already see its impact on the people around me. And that has always been a goal of mine. If I can do it, anyone can.”
Fai hopes that her experience will inspire people in the region to see the beauty and benefits of these kinds of adventures. To her, hiking can be one of the most personal activities people can do.
“It naturally makes you more in tune with your inner thoughts and allows you to exercise your focus, helps your mental health, and gives you clarity.”
Challenges and Advice
As well as the length of the trail, Fai found it challenging to spend time away from family and be off grid. Yet, the most rewarding part for her was having the discipline and determination to reach a goal, by simply taking one step at a time.
“Hike your own hike, do it your own way as long as it's comfortable for you. There’s no shame in understanding and accepting your comfort level. Whether it's your pace, path, routine, or style. Make sure to enjoy the ride.”