I am used to being the hiker, the adventurer; the one out on the trails, so watching someone else out exploring and pioneering a trail is a new activity for me. There are plenty of books about hiking and backpacking, and even trail magic, but there is a dearth of information about supporting from home. I have seen some short accounts of those that have, but there is certainly no guidebook to follow. And, the hiker that I am supporting and coordinating the effort for, Rue McKenrick, (IG @ruemckenrick) is not participating in your typical thru-hike. He is out hiking, designing, and creating a new trail. A trail that when complete will be the longest trail in the continental United States. Aptly named the American Perimeter Trail (https://americanperimetertrailproject.weebly.com/), this trail when complete and established, aims to create a protected corridor of land and water resources for recreational purposes roughly tracing the perimeter of the continental United States. Rue’s journey will take 12,000 miles, approximately 6 times the length of a traditional thru hike. Thus, you can understand my struggle in supporting him.
A resupply box on a traditional thru-hike brings love from home and a reminder that you are not alone in your journey, as well as supplies. When you’re hiking on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, or Continental Divide Trail there are established resupply points and towns that are familiar with hikers and prepared with appropriate supplies; this has not been the experience for Rue. Resupply boxes have become a critical lifeline for him. I have the task of coordinating this effort, juggling what he might need, ensuring that the box is not sitting at the post office too long, and sorting through existing supplies in the warehouse that is my garage. Timing of boxes is crucial as these towns are not accustomed to boxes arriving stating “Hold for Hiker” and we run the risk of the post office returning the box to sender. As he and I navigate this new experience we fall into a unique rhythm of double-checking locations, confirming post offices and arrival times. For Rue, having a consistent resupply box from an outside source has made his portion of the trail creation easier, as prior to my role Rue did not have consistent support and was balancing hiking, promotion/social media, resupply, and fundraising.
I joined the American Perimeter Trail project in January 2020, 6 months after Rue set out from Bend, Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail in July 2019. My work with this project is 100% volunteer as this project is a grassroots funded movement. In the 2 ½ short months as the coordinator for the American Perimeter Trail I find myself longing to be on trail myself, but for now I focus on the task at hand: bringing home to the trail and learning to be the trail at home. From tasks such as creating an Amazon wish list to help defray costs, contacting media outlets and working with gear companies I am learning about the “home” side of the trail from a unique perspective. I do not have the luxury of pre-arranged boxes or supplies laid out by the hiker, left behind to be mailed at preset intervals. I depend on the generous spirit of the backpacking and hiking community to guide and support not only Rue, but myself. As a backpacker without a thru-hike under her hiking poles I lack knowledge in areas and the community has provided me with beautiful guidance when Rue cannot be reached. Intermittent cellular service for Rue often finds me floundering in creating packages, but a quick search of the Facebook All Women All Trails groups guide me. Love, support and guidance have come in a multitude of forms for both Rue and I, and we each are grateful.
This stage of the American Perimeter Trail project is just the first of many. Upon arriving home Rue and I will have a multitude of tasks ahead, including creating the organization that will sustain and advocate for the American Perimeter Trail from the initial supporters. We will have to work with federal and state agencies, in addition to returning to particular sections of the proposed trail for further scouting and clarification. What began as a simple adventure that I wanted to join has become a passion project and lifelong adventure. To quote Rue “Since [the American Perimeter Trail] is a loop it has no beginning and no end. It is truly infinite.”