Class of 2006, Adventurer
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2650-mile hiking and equestrian trail. The southern terminus is on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico, whilst the northern terminus is just a few miles into Canada’s British Columbia. Closely aligned with the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, the trail takes you through the wilderness of California, Oregon and Washington. Ryan Goggin (2005) took up the challenge to trek the trail to raise money for Cardiac Risk in the Young.
Ryan first became aware of the Pacific Crest Trail back in his late teens:
“It just so happened to be one of those things I’d come across, by chance. For reasons still unknown, I’ve battled depression since my mid-teens. By 23, I knew that escaping the situation might be the best solution. And so, the PCT became a necessity, rather than just a fantasy.”
Ryan knew that once he informed a charity he would fundraise for them, there was no turning back. Ryan chose to fundraise for Cardiac Risk in the Young, it was a chance to fundraise and hike in memory of Matt, a friend who had passed away a couple of years prior. Through generous donations, Ryan managed to beat his initial £6,000 target with time to spare so he then switched to the charity Refugee Action to carry on his fundraising efforts.
Preparing for a 2,000+ mile hike was no easy feat, especially with no prior experience. Ryan shares:
“Apart from brushing my teeth, I had little-to-no survival skills before heading out to America. The 800-gram tent took me almost an hour to set up. I’d never even seen a badger before, let alone the rattlesnakes, bears and mountain lions that are present on the trail. Fitness-wise, long and flat walks, whilst carrying a five-kilo bag along the North Downs Way does not prepare you for 5000ft+ elevation gains and descents in the desert, whilst carrying 30 kilos.”
Ryan who was already facing his own mental health challenges, found the mental challenge the toughest part of the trek and would often sing to himself for company; Billy Joel’s Piano Man and She’s always a woman were particular favourites.
“You get into a fairly stiff routine of physical torture for the first couple of months, and then it becomes a mental challenge to keep going. I’d be hiking for 14 hours each day, eating the same food, and often alone for several days at a time.”
Although Ryan was alone for much of the trek, he did meet some memorable characters along the way. On a long distance trail, hikers often gain a trail name, and one such character was ‘Focus’ who Ryan met at several points along the trail:
“Focus, was in his late-60s or early 70s. I’d seen and spoken to him on several occasions since the start of the hike. However, it was on one of my final days on the trail that we camped together and I finally found out that he’d worked at NASA for forty years.”
‘Trail angels’ were crucial to hikers along the length of the trail. Ryan explains:
“Trail angels would help hikers along the way in whatever capacity they could manage. For some this could mean providing the odd lift to the closest resupply point, whilst others would go as far as hosting every hiker who passed through. They’re who really keep hikers motivated to complete it.”
With all of that solitary time, Ryan had time to self-reflect:
“It taught me that memories are far more precious than any possession. Living out of your backpack in the wilderness is the best thing anyone can do.”
Ryan’s existing knee injury, which had already been operated on seven times by the time he turned 20 hampered his hike and he had to take the difficult decision to stop. After such an amazing challenge, getting back to normal life has understandably not been easy for Ryan.
“I still can’t stand it and will now only be happy with a life less ordinary. It’s an awful, but brilliant, problem to have.”
Since returning home, Ryan has embarked on a career in copywriting but still dreams of the next adventure. His absolute dream would be to attempt a trek from the South to the North Pole all in one go.