Despite needing to be airlifted to hospital, suffering injuries and just plain discouraged, Alyssa Kroeker is now more determined than ever to complete her self-healing journey.
The 24-year-old is currently traversing the Sierra Nevada mountain range on her 4,270-kilometre hike of the Pacific Crest Trail which stretches from southern California to Manning Park, B.C.
By July 9 she had reached Bishop, Calif. where she had planned to rest for a couple of days after hurting her ankle.
Kroeker began her trek three months ago as a means to take back her life after twice being sexually assaulted. It is also a way for her to raise awareness and money to help victims of similar abuse.
“Without fail at least once a day I feel like giving up but what keeps my going is that I believe in my heart that as I go up and over mountains and through passes, and across meadows I’m getting stronger,” said Kroeker in a recent telephone interview after stopping to refill her backpack with supplies. “I came here for a reason and that reason is so strong and so ingrained in me right now, no matter how hard things get I’m getting back on the trail.”
That determination came after being sexually assaulted, the first time when she was 18, eventually reaching a low point where she attempted suicide and then finally, with help, beginning to see a tiny light at the end of the tunnel.
“I just didn’t feel like it was worth living any more but now I want to create a version of myself that I am proud of, to strengthen the qualities I have to the point where they can never be taken from me again,” she said at the start of her hike.
The helicopter airlift on her current journey came as a result of the extreme altitude sickness she experienced after descending the 4,421-metre summit of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states.
The prescription at the hospital was for rest and fluids but as soon as she could the young woman, who grew up in Penticton and now lives in Vancouver, was back on the trail.
For Kroeker even the bad days have some good in them, her hike into the start of Sierras and a town called Lone Pine, came quickly to her mind.
“I was with three other people and it was raining on us with icy cold water and because we were gaining elevation it was snowing on us and we were miles away from the next town,” she recalled. “We were afraid we were going to have to do a 25-mile road walk and yet that was probably one of my favourite days. You know what? If I didn’t have those setbacks I wouldn’t have met the people I did and experienced the things that made me stronger.”
While most of her time on the trail is solo, there are days when she travels with other like-minded people who have their own goals. She described them as her trail family “tramily” many of those people will also be her friends for life.
Averaging about 16-28 kilometres a day in the mountains, Kroeker hopes to substantially increase that once she gets to level ground in another 350 km or so.
While the unexpected setbacks have pushed her arrival a trail’s end in Manning Park back a month to October Kroeker knows she will make it.
“That’s because every single step I take brings me closer to this incredible goal and dream that I have and that’s what will keep me going to the end,” she said. “It’s that dream.”
Her fundraising efforts will go to help the South Okanagan Women in Need Society (SOWINS) and the Vancouver Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre.
Kroeker’s progress can be followed on her website www.thebcbackpacker.com where donations can also be made.
Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Penticton Herald