The Art of Hiking 2,653 Miles

The Art of Hiking 2,653 Miles

I’m Marlene Hild, and I’m raising money for the Glenn Hild Student Art Gallery in memory of my dad, Glenn Hild, by hiking all 2,653 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

**UPDATE: We did it! We reached my goal, which is beyond my wildest dreams. But there’s still a need for your support. Everything raised beyond the initial goal will be split between the gallery and the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), the nonprofit group that stewards the trail. With your help, we can fund the scholarship for multiple years, invite more visiting artists, and continue building improvements to the gallery. The PCTA needs your support to protect the trail from development, keep it safely maintained for hikers, and create educational opportunities to connect people with the outdoors.**

My Dad, the Artist

Last year, my life changed forever. In January, my dad Glenn was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, and three months later, he passed away. The suddenness of it was unreal. I went from having a healthy father at Christmas to moving back home to support my mother in the spring. April is the cruelest month - T.S. Eliot

My dad was the rock in our family, steadfast and reliable. He was devoted to his family and dedicated to his job. He was an art professor at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, for 30 years. He mentored many students and faculty during his career. Long hours were spent in his office, rather than in his own art studio, to make sure his students were successful.

40132414_1561255870336053_r.jpegMy dad with students that did a project based on his cardigans for class

Before my father died, the university started the process to build a student art gallery in his honor, but it still needs a lot of work.

The Journey

A big part of my healing process happened a few months after he passed when I hiked the John Muir Trail (known as the JMT), a 220 mile hike through the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, where I live. Over the 24 days I was out in the wild, I experienced the healing power of nature and found new strength inside myself. It was my first big solo trip, and every day was amazing. While backpacking, I felt truly alive, appreciating both the pains (blisters, aching knees, sore shoulders) and the pleasures (swimming in a cold stream on a hot day, the incredible beauty of the mountains). Every day, I had to move forward, literally and figuratively.

The purpose and drive I found on the JMT inspired me to take on the challenge of hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) by myself this year. This is a 2,653 mile trail from Canada to Mexico, traversing the mountains through Washington, Oregon, and California. I’m planning to start on the Canadian border on July 1 and reach the Mexican border sometime in December. Yes, that’s 5 months of hiking!

The Goal

My goal over the next 5 months is to raise $15,000 for the Glenn Hild Student Art Gallery. The space for the student art gallery is established, however the room still needs lots of things to make it into a useable gallery!

Your donations will go towards:

1. The Glenn Hild Award in Painting:  This scholarship was created to support young painters, which was my dad’s art form. The winner is selected from the All Student Spring Art Show based on creativity and excellence. This is a merit award of $250 that the student can use for art supplies, tuition, books, etc.

40132414_1561256157885896_r.jpegThis year’s recipient was Stephanie White, who used the award to buy her first stand-up easel, as well as paints and canvas. She said, “With the support I received from the Glenn Hild Award, I have been able to drastically further dedicate my attention and focus towards painting... it was a significant honor to receive an award in memoriam of such an inspirational creator and educator.”

2. Lighting: The primary thing the gallery needs to function is lighting. The gallery is a renovated classroom, lit only by overhead fluorescent lights. The cost to get proper gallery style lighting on the walls is $14,000. ($12,000 for the lights, plus $2,000 for installation)

3. Student Programming: The gallery will also provide students with an opportunity to curate art exhibitions in the space, and even bring in visiting artists. The funds would go towards supplies, travel expenses, and an honorarium to visiting artists, which costs on average $750 per exhibition.
This new gallery will be the cultural hub of the Art and Design Department!

All of the money raised here will be donated to the Art Department at EIU in memory of Glenn Hild. None of the funds will go to me and the logistics of my hike. I have made the preparations for that on my own. I just need your help to make this dream a reality!

To Thank You

My dad was an avid sender of postcards, and I received at least one per month from him since I was 18. I want to keep this meaningful tradition going by sending you a postcard from the trail! You’ll receive a unique glimpse into the experience of a long distance hike with a handwritten message from me.


Donors who give $30 will get a handwritten postcard from me from one section of the trail. The hike is divided into four main sections (Washington, Oregon, Northern California, and the Desert) so there’s four chances to receive a postcard from the trail if you want to donate in installments.

If you donate $100 at once, you will get a postcard from all four sections of my hike!

To reach my goal, that averages out to $30 from 500 people, or $100 from 150 people. But every amount makes a difference. Even a small contribution will mean one more paint brush, light bulb, or canvas.

If you can’t donate right now, your help spreading the word is so important. You may know someone who has lost a loved one to cancer or is following their dream and studying art, and your “share” could make all the difference in reaching my goal!

40132414_1561256478173686_r.jpegMy dad and I in the Wind River Mountains, Wyoming, 1990.

Any questions about this fundraiser's connection with EIU can be sent to Randi Bohannon, Director of Development: [email redacted].
  • Anonymous 
    • $35 
    • 22 mos
  • Clay Harrell 
    • $200 
    • 24 mos
  • Joanne Sanford 
    • $100 
    • 25 mos
  • Clare Byrne 
    • $15 
    • 25 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $100 
    • 25 mos
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Fundraising team (3)

Marlene Hild 
Richmond, CA
Bianca Encinas 
Team member
Epiphany Couch 
Team member
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