Weekend Warm-Up: It is the People

Do you remember what it was like to fall in love for the first time? In 2019, Elina Osborne did just that. And no, this is not an Eat Pray Love or Wild story about heartbreak and self-discovery on the open road. This love story is a dramatic and radical succession of first times: getting cozy with strangers, hitchhiking, getting hurt and of course, surviving “homelessness with intention”, collectively known as the Pacific Crest Trail. Oh, and it features a lot of hiking, too.

Oregon’s mountains and sky. Photo: Pacific Crest Trail Association


The 4,720km thread linking California and Canada is mostly popular among those who need to figure life out. Whether it is a mid-life crisis, a big financial decision or just a choice to abandon all practicality to pursue adventure, it offers a chance to reset or at least take a break from ordinary life. After facing personal tragedy and betrayal in her native New Zealand, Osborne felt the need to be reborn halfway across the world. 

The trail also gives you an adopted family. Like many others before her, Osborne  found like-minded comrades with whom she shared illness, injury, hunger, bad moods and every human experience you can think of. As they transitioned from state to state, the misfit group of 12 hikers tackled deserts, mountains, plains and forests for 137 days. 

San Felipe Valley. Photo: Charlie Willard/Pacific Crest Trail Association


Like many first loves, the PCT is also a painful journey. Help is not easily accessible. Rattlesnakes, exposure, frostbite and heatstroke were only a few things to worry about. The cold and unexpected rainfall in the desert inadvertently made Osborne feel superhuman in her capabilities.

Yet, amid the swollen and blistered ankles, the hunger pangs and nagging itch of dozens of mosquito bites, the kindness of strangers shone through. The painstaking hard work of traversing the land and avoiding the harshest elements was replaced by the occasional treats of hitchhiking, a motel, a refreshing swim in a lake and a warm pizza from friendly locals. 

What did she gain in the end? As expected, an intense love affair that came to an end. The heartbreak set in, “everything hurt”, and she unlocked a part of herself that she never thought existed.