Kennedy: How a Signal Mountain man survived being sick and alone on the Pacific Crest Trail

Contributed photo by Skyler Baker/Skyler Baker, a Signal Mountain native, hikes the Pacific Crest Trail earlier this year. This photo was taken in the South Sierra Wilderness.

In the fall of 2020, Signal Mountain native Skyler Baker felt like he was at a crossroads.

Baker, who works for a Knoxville construction management company, said last November he got an email notifying him his apartment lease was up for renewal.

For the then-26-year-old, the email represented an inflection point. Lots of his friends were getting married and settling down, he said, and he knew his days of care-free decision making were numbered.

The question he faced was simple: Should he re-up his apartment lease or clock-out of his job and head for the hills?

For the past few years, Baker has built on his childhood affinity for the outdoors. About seven years ago, a random day hike in the Smoky Mountains sparked an interest in extended journeys afoot. A couple of years later, while working in Chattanooga, he began a trail running hobby that eventually led to running an ultra-marathon.