My name is Neal Parker and I’m 22 years old. I grew up around the Blue Ridge Mountains of Central Virginia. These mountains infected me with a love of the outdoors. This invaded every part of my life including my academic pursuits. I recently graduated from the College of William and Mary this May with a double major in physics and biology. Every chance I get, I’m hiking, climbing, biking, or training for something bigger or different. I had never left Virginia for more than a week or so until this summer. After graduating, I was set on going to a dream location of mine, Alaska. So, I got my pack together and shipped off for 5 months. I worked at a little resort an hour outside of Fairbanks (the middle of nowhere). And while there, I came down with the absolute worst case of wanderlust. I became even more obsessed with drinking in every natural beauty I could find. After leaving in November, because perpetual darkness really isn’t my thing, I went back home to Virginia. I love this place, but there is so much more to experience. I desperately want to work for the National Park Service but that will just have to wait for the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Why I’m participating with mYAMAdventure
This program comes together very nicely for me. It provides me with an opportunity to represent some local companies of Virginia. It gives me access to the knowledge of more experienced long-distance hikers. It provides a structured route to fundraising for a worthy organization in the PCTA. It will cut down on my costs for hiking the PCT. And finally, mYAMAdventure will provide me with exposure and experience for participating in more programs and ambassadorships like this in the future.
What hiking the PCT means to me:
The PCT represents a way of hitting a lot of bucket-list items but in a much more intimate way than I had originally cooked up. I’m able to pack in many dream locations into one amazing, albeit lengthy trip. I savor every moment I’m able to spend outside, and I’ll be living in it for 4 months! But in addition to this, the entirety of the PCT goes through areas and biomes with which I have no experience. So, there is this sense of exploration that drives me toward the trail.
Why support the PCTA?
The PCTA is a key collaborator in efforts to protect, preserve, and promote the trail. This organization produces vital, up-to-date resources such as trail maps and weather emergencies for the thousands of hikers who will call the trail home for 4+ months. The PCTA, in addition to these roles, develops educational resources for engaging the public to promote more responsible outdoor recreation.