If you haven’t heard of Elina by now, you are in for a treat. The kiwi native documented her adventure along the Pacific crest trail in 2019. And the result is one of the most inspiring hiking films (and mini-series) we have ever seen. “It is the people” is not just an insight into the world of thru-hiking, but a story of friendship, triumph over immense challenge and the true beauty of humanity.
Elina has also joined the Hiiker team as a Trail Author for the PCT. She will be lending her experience of hiking the trail on the app and website to help you on your PCT adventure.
Note to the reader *** This interview was done only a few weeks after lockdown was announced.
I’m Elina Osborne, also known as “Tip Tap”.
I was born and raised in New Zealand.
I currently work in digital marketing, but I consider myself a Visual storyteller and tend to bring my passion for that into any role that I have.
For me the dream is to be a documentary film maker. I have been making short films for YouTube and will continue to create content there that I hope people can watch and enjoy.
How did you start hiking?
It’s funny, when I think about that, my response is normally – when you grow up in a place like New Zealand, it’s hard not to get into hiking. You’re told that you’re so lucky to be from a place where the environment is so incredible and there are so many accessible trails. You have no reason not to get into hiking.
And that was kind of it! Because when I look at my family, none of them are into hiking – I’m kind of an outlier.
I have 4 siblings and none of them had been into hiking. I think I just had a natural urge to get out there and hike. I’m sometimes perplexed as to why my family didn’t hike.
What drew you to do the PCT?
I think it was because it was the first thru-hike I had been exposed to. I had no idea about the world of thru-hiking before that and barely knew of the other trails. I never heard of the CDT (Continental Divide trail) and only knew the AT (Appalachian trail) by name – I had barely scratched the surface.
I decided to do the PCT, purely because it was the first thru-hike I had heard of. So if it was going to be any of them, that was the one.
I had reached a point in my life where I wanted to make some sort of change. The idea of doing the PCT was always a pipedream – an unfathomable task. But at that point, I had to make it a priority.
I had thought about doing it in November 2018, so I applied for my permit. And when that was approved in January, the decision was pretty quick – I knew I had to do it. But I feel it had been simmering there for quite some time.
There was probably never going to be a convenient time to do it. Thinking back, I remember toying with the idea of holding off until 2020 – take more time to plan, get a better job etc.. But now I’m very thankful I did it in 2019.
Have you done other multi-day or long distance hikes?
Before the PCT, I had done many day hikes and a handful of multi-day hikes. Now I have my mind set on doing a lot more multi-day hikes in New Zealand. I’m very grateful to live in this part of the world. There are so many hikes on the South Island that I would like to do.
I keep thinking that after all of this [Lockdown], I should just jump in my car and go hike around New Zealand for a month.
The PCT took me 4 months to do and everyday felt like a lifetime. It’s hard to believe that I have been home for 7 months. I came back and started to plan my next hike. Unfortunately, with lockdown, I don’t think I’ll get to do the trail I was planning on doing. I was planning on doing the GDT (Great Divide trail).
I had a flow chart on my wall that simply says “Get a temp job… Hike another trail… move to Canada”. I managed to sort out my Visa so I could live and work in Canada for a few years, but with everything happening, this doesn’t seem so likely.
What gear can you not go hiking without?
So I’m planning to do a Q&A on youtube and so many of the questions that people are asking are like “hey, what is your favourite food on trail (that doesn’t involve peanut butter”. So yeah, peanut butter was kind of a lifeline for me.
In terms of gear, if I’m going hiking, I have to take my camera. Because it is such an extension of me and gives me meaning and purpose. But that’s obvious I guess. I made a list of the top items for my upcoming Q&A that really made a difference on my hike:
- My camera clip for my backpack – this was so helpful. If you’re heading out on the trail with your camera, you want to have it accessible. Otherwise, I would have stored it in my backpack. That would have just created another obstacle that would have prevented me from capturing everything on trail.
- I had a bit of string that attaches to my sunglasses and keeps them around my neck – probably one of the best purchases I have ever made.
- I have ankles made out of glass. If I didn’t have the combination of ibuprofen, KT tape and tiger balm – I don’t think I would have made it through the hike. Those three got me through it – popped my ibuprofen in the morning, taped up my ankles and slapped on the strongest tiger balm in the evening. It really kept me going.
When in town – what was your favourite food?
Essentially – anything greasy. Pizza was always a welcome treat. But some of the best foods were those that you wouldn’t reach out for in real life. Like all of the heavily baked goods! I think the best food were donuts that trail angels brought to us from Portland.
But then again, sometimes I would go into town craving all the fresh fruit and veg. “Irish exit” and I would roll into town and just eat and entire watermelon. So it really varied.
What are your top hiking tips?
I suppose my biggest hiking tip would be to do your research. Read up on the most important things – like your gear, knowing how to filter water, keeping fit and the kind of wildlife around. Once you have that research done, know that this is all you can do, and the rest is not completely in your control.
This might be more specific to a thru-hike, but no matter how much prep you do – you’re always going to feel like a n00b! And you kind of have to just accept that.
A couple of tips I wrote for my Q&A:
- Take planning a day at a time
- Trust yourself enough that you’ll figure it out as you go along.
- Be confident with your gear. Try it out before you head out. There’s nothing worse than trying to figure out a piece of tech when you’re trying to survive! You want to be as present in the moment as possible.
- If you’re documenting, try and have an end theme in mind for your piece. I read a lot about people’s PCT adventures and the common theme was how much they missed the people. That’s why I chose my theme.
At the time of writing this, Elina is in Queensland New Zealand at the NZ mountain and Film festival, where her short “It is the People” has been selected for viewing. She is also checking out some of the local trails in that area. We look forward to whatever she does next.