All The Questions I Get Asked When I Tell People I’m Hiking The Pacific Crest Trail

Friends and family who are not familiar with thru-hiking often have a lot of questions. Most people are excited for me, but very curious. These are questions I’ve been asked when people find out I’m hiking the PCT.

But What About Bears?

The number 1 most asked question from the uninitiated. On the PCT there are only Black Bears. Black Bears are not unlike wild dogs and scare pretty easily. They don’t like loud noises, they prefer to avoid conflict, unless it’s a mama bear with cubs nearby. But a mama bear is going to want to keep her cubs out of the way of humans, so if she knows you’re coming by the distinctly human noises and smells you bring with you, she will avoid you. I have seen a number of bears in person. Not once did I feel threatened. Bears are not a huge concern if you’ve spent any amount of time in the backcountry. They want your food, not you.

…Mountain Lions?

Once again, not a real concern. I live in Los Angeles. We have a mountain lion with it’s own instagram, P-22, check him out. It is exceedingly rare for a human to have a face to face encounter with a mountain lion. They are not interested in you, they want to avoid you.

Like that movie?

Yes, something like that movie which is based on a much better book. I did read Wild several years ago right after I moved from my home state of California to NYC. It made me homesick and I cried more than once on the 4 train (this is totally acceptable behavior in New York, it happens a lot). And, no, Cheryl Strayed is not the reason I’m hiking the PCT.

Are you going alone?

Yes. I know it sounds crazy, but I will meet people along the way and won’t be alone for long. Tramilies (hiker speak for trail family) are the best. I do enjoy hiking alone sometimes, but I really hate camping alone. The great thing about having a tramily is, you can decide on a meeting place to have lunch or camp for the night, but each member can hike at their own pace for most of the day. Frequent stops to take photos or just take in a moment are my M.O., not everyone hikes that way.

How long is the trail?

2,650 miles, usually this is received with wide eyed amazement.

How long will that take?

Well, hopefully about 5 1/2 months, but who’s to say. So many things can happen between the Mexican border and the Canadian border.

What do you eat?

I’m glad you asked! An assortment of freeze dried meals, kind bars, oatmeal, tuna packets, peanut butter, tortillas and pretty much anything that can be carried out and rolled in a tortilla.

Where do you sleep?

On the ground. Usually a tent is involved. I just cannot bring myself to cowboy camp. Maybe this will change after 1000 trail miles, but I really love the walls of my tent. On occasion I may stay in a motel or hostel in town, but mostly I’ll be sleeping on the ground.

What do you carry?

Well, a backpack, definitely a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water filter, etc… Plus food & water. I will likely carry some very small toy of some sort as a keepsake gift for my nephews. Outside of the essentials, what a thru-hiker carries is very personal.

Do you carry all your food from the start???

Absolutely not! That would be absurd!

How do you get more food?

Great question! There’s a few options. I’m using a combination of mailed resupplies and town resupplies. I’ll have some boxes put together at home that my roommate has offered to ship for me. I’ll have those sent to strategic spots that can be hard or expensive to resupply from. Otherwise I will pop into stores in the various towns along the way and purchase 5-6 days worth of food.

Will you need to change shoes?

Yes! The usual estimate for trail runners is every 300-400 miles. I might switch to a different type of shoe in the Sierras, but we’ll see, that’s a few months away. I will likely have to purchase new shoes about 5-6 times on trail.

How do you… use the bathroom?

This one only gets asked by the exceedingly curious female friends. Well, when you have to pee, you step off trail, away from a water source, find some privacy, and pee. I personally love using a pee cloth to dry off, and you just let it hang from your pack to dry and allow the UV rays from the sun to sanitize it. As for solid waste, walk 200 feet from any water source, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep, squat over said hole… I am a huge advocate for backcountry bidets and you squirt with the bidet first, relieve yourself, use the bidet again to clean as much up as possible, follow with a wipe, pack the wipe into your designated bathroom waste bag, cover your hole, clean and sanitize your hands, and be on your way.

Be sure to PACK OUT ALL TOILET PAPER AND WIPES! I see a disgusting amount of toilet paper in Will Rogers State Park where I do a lot of training hikes, don’t be that person.

…What about menstruation?

This is one thing that is unfortunately unavoidable for most folks with uteruses (uteri?). Pretty much the same as I’d handle it at home. Some people love a reusable cup. I, personally, don’t feel great about the cleanliness of something like that without running water. I will be using applicator free tampons and packing them out in my designated bathroom waste bag. Applicator free is my go-to so there’s less trash to pack out.

What do you do with all that trash?

Pack it out! I will re-purpose ziplock bags that previously contained food as trash bags. One for food waste and general trash and one specifically for bathroom trash. You should never have to worry about carrying more than 5-6 days of trash at one time. It can be thrown out at any re-supply point and if I happen upon a trail angel they usually offer to pack out trash for hikers.

How much does it cost?

Well the permit costs nothing. But with gear, food, and trail town stops…I’m afraid to do the math. On trail I’ve budgeted for about $1000 a month, which should be pretty feasible. Motels and other accommodations are where the cost really starts to add up, so I will be limiting those or sharing rooms.

What about your cat?

>sad face< I will miss his furry orange face so much! My incredible roommate will take very good care of him and I have no doubt she’ll send me photos and videos regularly.

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Comments 4

  • Daniel Ridgway : Mar 21st

    I am interested in all the books and stories about hiking the PCT

  • Qq1 : Apr 17th

    Another basic human thing you didn’t mention is sex. Trail sex is beyond a thing and beyond funky. Talk about it. Just don’t let anyone know.

  • JJ Dell : Apr 18th

    I saw an article dated 19mar22 I believe. Where are you now and how is it going? I live on the East coast so the Appalachian Trail is a dream one day and I am now 50 so I need to get cracking. Probably not going to happen but I hope one day. Send me updates if you can because I’d like to know if you make it. Is this your first through hike. What about training hikes which you mentioned but didn’t elaborate in this particular article.


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