Thank you for the questions!
To begin with, yes, I will be hiking alone … sort of. There are approximately 300 people that attempt a thru-hike each year, with the majority of those people starting from the Mexican border between April 15 and May 15. So, I am not hiking the entire distance with any one person, but will be hiking with various other thru-hikers (soon to be friends) along the way. I also hope to meet up with friends and family along the way who are interested in hiking with me, or just meeting me along the trail.
My work (US Forest Service) has graciously allowed me to take an unpaid leave of absence in order to do this hike, and they are holding my job for me! I am giving up my apartment, getting rid of some furniture, and renting a storage unit for my remaining belongings. The trail will be my home for more than four months.
Now for the question of "why"...
It seems that there are as many answers to this question as there are people who attempt the thru-hike each year. For me, this is a good time in my life to take on this adventure. The majority of people I have had the chance to talk with about thru-hiking the PCT say something to the effect that they wish they had done it (or some similar adventure) when they were younger, before obligations to wives, husbands, kids, jobs, etc. became the priority (rightly so) in their lives. Others my age or younger are simply envious that I am going out there and making it happen for myself.
I also really enjoy being outdoors running, hiking and backpacking, so the thought of having the opportunity to live out of a pack off my back for an extended period of time excites me! There is a simplicity to the thru-hiker lifestyle that is very appealing and freeing. The only things you really need to worry about (food, water, and shelter) are right there on your back.
The challenges, both mental and physical, also intrigue me. You never truly know how much you can do or what your limits are unless you get out there and give it a shot. As a whole, I am interested to see how I react to surprises along the way. I have heard it said that when you begin the hike you look outward at the beautiful scenery and the people you meet along the way. As your time on the trail continues, you start to look more closely at yourself, who you are, and how you act. And then the final third of the hike you look inward at your values, beliefs, and other deeply held thoughts. Of course I can't foresee what will happen or how I will change, however I am confident that my perspective of the world will forever be changed for the better.