Former Pentictonite shares journey out on the Pacific Crest Trail while raising money for SOWINS

Healing trauma while hiking

A former Pentictonite is out hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in an effort to raise awareness and funds for sexual assault survivors through the South Okanagan Women in Need Society (SOWINS), along with another Vancouver charity.

Alyssa Kroeker started the trail at the end of March, which spans 4,265 kilometres from Mexico to Canada, entering Manning Park.

Kroeker lived in Penticton from grades 8-12, attending Penticton Secondary School before moving to Vancouver following her graduation.

While she said the trip has been nothing short of amazing, it has also come with challenges.

“There have been some very long [sections without water], some are 20 miles long. The desert I have found is not flat. It is filled with mountains. The heat is incredibly hot. A lot of rattlesnakes, I've seen four rattlesnakes so far and three out of four rattled at me.”

An injury halted Kroeker’s journey for a month, a setback that was challenging to work through. She has now just reached over 350 miles in her journey.

“I woke up one morning and I just wasn't able to walk anymore. I wasn't able to put pressure, weight bearing pressure on my right foot. And I was in a very difficult part of the trail where I was actually 26 miles away from the next town,” she said.

Luckily, Kroeker was able to get a ride into the next town and rest. She had to get off trail for 32 days to recover.

“I was trying to figure out what was wrong and no one really could come up with a definitive answer. So there was a lot of not knowing if I am not able to get back on trail.”

“[I thought] what if I'm letting myself down and letting everyone else down is following me?” Kroeker added.

“Mentally being off the trail almost broke me because I really didn't want to fail and not be able to finish, so it was a little scary for me. Because this is my dream.”

After surviving through her own sexual assault and learning to work through her trauma, Kroeker wanted to help other people and support their healing.

“I have too much of myself to uncover, still discover and still work through too much trauma and everything,” she said.

“Before the trail I say I would have night terrors maybe six out of seven days out of the week. Now since being on this trail, I think I only had a nightmare regarding my previous assaults, maybe five times total.”

“It's better to have five times out of 30 days instead of, you know, 30 or 27 out of 30 days or whatever it would have been. So my nightmares are definitely becoming less and less. I feel like I'm getting a lot more resilience.”

During her time in Vancouver, Kroeker had received counselling services from the WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre, a non-profit organization that specializes in supporting survivors of sexual assault.

The young woman shared her story of not being able to move from her bed to taking on a six month solo hiking journey.

Now that Kroeker is back out on the trail, she’s ready to tackle what's ahead for her.

“I now have to deal with the hottest part of the desert during the hottest time being on the PCT. So now I'm gonna have to battle longer water carries more dehydration, more heat exhaustion, etc. So those are really big fears.”

Starting again later in the year also pushes Kroeker in the danger of arriving during wildfire season in North California and harsher winter conditions when she reaches Washington.

“There's a whole lot of reasons why this is not ideal, but I'm gonna keep on pushing and keep going,” she said.

“But getting off the trail isn't an option for me because being on the trail is where I feel the most like myself and the most free. The adversities that I face, they're making me a stronger person and a stronger woman every day.”

Her goal currently is to raise $10,000 through her GoFundMe, where the donations go directly to the charities.

“I keep on getting messages and I keep on seeing the GoFundMe fund increasing and stuff like that and that keeps me going on the days where I'm just like this is absolute s*** show when I don't want to keep going.”

Kroeker shared a message to others that are working through their own assaults.

“Never give up. And if you have dreams, never give up on those dreams. If you want it bad enough things are gonna happen and I'm proof of that. The resilience, the grit, determination and everything is all got me back to the trail and got me on the trail to begin with from not being able to leave my bed.”

Donations to the GoFundMe can be made online here, and to follow Kroeker’s journey when she has time to update her travels on her website or her instagram.

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