You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
That’s how Steamboat Springs local Hannah Melius felt when she moved to Tampa, Florida, away from the mountains she called home.
“I wasn’t sick of the mountains but wanted something completely different,” Melius said. “I went to the opposite of what Colorado is, but living in Florida made me realize how much I love the mountains.”
In April, Melius plans to embark on a four-month journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a product of her wanderlust and newfound independence.
“Growing up in Steamboat, I’ve been hiking and backpacked through Zirkels and Flat Tops (wilderness areas), and it’s something I really enjoy doing,” Melius said. “That’s the one thing I really missed living in Florida is not being able to go out on trails for long periods of time.”
Melius, now 20, moved to Florida to be with her significant other at age 18, and when the relationship fell through, she quickly began her own path. She worked at the Trinity School for Children as a substitute teacher while attending classes at Hillsborough Community College.
She saved enough money for her first adventure to Thailand, which was an experience that gave her the confidence going into the Pacific Crest Trail.
“So often kids my age are in school, and they get a job and they go, and sometimes they don’t even like it,” Melius said. “They don’t do the things they wanted to do. Once you do something you’ve wanted to do and figure out you have ambition for it, you just continue doing things you’ve always wanted to do.”
Melius spent two months in Thailand, earning her yoga teaching certification while also exploring the country. She returned to Florida to work as a yoga instructor at Crunch Fitness before returning home to Steamboat Springs to spend time with family and plan her hiking adventure.
She plans to apply for college at the University of Arizona, near her family’s second home, for a nursing degree next fall or Spring 2020. But before then, she’s making the most of her time by fulfilling her hiking ambitions.
“I have wanted to do this for a while, probably about eight years or so,” Melius said. “Ever since one of my dad’s friends attempted it, just that whole idea of walking across the United States was mind-blowing to me. I’m in a transitional place in my life, transitioning schools and places to live, so I’m going to put all my energy into this because I’m in the place to do this.”
The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long, spanning from Campo, a town on the U.S.-Mexico border in California, and ending in Manning Park, British Columbia. Melius will head northbound on the trail in April.
Ninety percent of hikers take the northbound route, which passes through multiple trail towns and is a more social experience than traveling southbound. For someone who is traveling alone, Melius is confident that she will meet new people.
Melius considered the Appalachian Trail first but said that the scenery stays relatively the same and is covered in trees. The Pacific Crest Trail is a longer, more arduous hike because of its drastic environmental changes from desert, to snow-capped mountain cascades and rainy forests.
The preparation for a 2,650-mile hike takes months. Melius is seeking sponsorships for gear and food since she plans to complete the trail by mostly hiking and camping, rather than taking three to four rest days in trail towns. She plans to average 25 miles of hiking per day while working in enough rest days to keep her energy up to complete the journey in four months. Being back in Steamboat Springs has also helped since Melius is able to increase her hiking mileage around the area.
A lot of hikers end up shedding gear along the way, so she hopes to pack light while sending herself care packages at stops along the way to prepare for the changes in climate.
Melius will apply for the permit Nov. 14, which will determines when her start date is. The trail only allows 50 hikers to start the journey per day.
“I’m excited for the solo part of this adventure,” Melius said. “There’s just one thing I’ll be doing, walk or don’t walk. I’ll be making decisions on my own solely by myself.”