APTOS - By the time Shelly Skye turns 61 in September she hopes to be in Canada.
She's got a lot of walking to do between now and then.
On April 15 at Campo on the California-Mexico border, the retired Cabrillo College counselor will take her first steps on a 2,650-mile trek through California, Oregon and Washington on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Friday, she gave Delta School students a preview of the trip that will take her through desert and the high mountain passes of the Sierra Nevada. Along the way, she hopes to inspire people to donate to the City of Hope Medical Center in Los Angeles, which is treating an uninsured friend with cervical cancer.
"I'm leaving home for six months," Skye said. "That's big deal. Once I get out there, anything could happen."
But Skye's been thinking about the adventure for years, and she's spent months preparing to increase her chance of success.
She made her own gear, from stove to pack, to ensure she doesn't have to carry an ounce more than necessary. She created a menu plan that consists of 26 different meals so she won't have to eat any one dinner more than five times. Then she vacuum-packed individual servings and distributed the packages into the 33 boxes she'll mail to drop boxes along the way. She stitched up a head net and light-weight mittens to keep bugs away, and drilled a hole in one of her trekking poles so it could double as a mono pod for taking photographs. Her ingenuity prompted one
Skye plans to take just one pair of spare underwear, with the principle, "wash one, wear one," and she'll sleep in hammock that weights less than a pound. She'll carry a GPS signaling device called a SPOT to transmit a daily OK message to friends via e-mail and, "if I fall off a cliff," an SOS.
"I have the basic things you need, but I don't have anything extra," she said.
Skye worried about carrying water through the desert - it's heavy, and about the tedium of walking every day. She hiked the 215-mile John Muir Trail to alleviate her concerns. She's looking forward to the people she'll meet. On past backpacking trips, she's been amazed at the kindness of people.
She's been hiking in The Forest of Nicene Marks State Park three times a week to get in shape. She'll hike eight to 10 hours a day, expecting to average 13 miles a day at first and work up to 20-25 miles. At the end of the day, she crawl into her hammock.
"You don't have to go to the store, You don't have to take a shower. You can't take a shower," she chuckled. "All you have to do is walk. It's a very simple life."
Skye urged the students to be open to new experiences, to try things. She worked in a carpenter's shop, as a lifeguard and in maintenance at a Girl Scout camp in the Sierra before earning a college degree. At the camp, she first learned that the trail running by could take her from Mexico to Canada, inspiring a dream she's held onto for decades.
"You never know what's going to strike your interest," Skye said
Follow Sentinel reporter Donna Jones on Twitter @DonnaJonesSCS