Breaking the Silence, from NOBO to NOGO

Reality Setting In

It has been months since I was supposed to start my northbound Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. I never made any official announcements because part of me did not want to accept that it was not happening.

I held onto hope as long as I could. With being from California I had the luxury to wait till the last minute to make the decision. Three days prior to my permit date, May 4, I panic bought a few items thinking to myself:

“Screw it others are getting out there, let’s do this!”

It was just a few hours after that I came to my senses, and it finally started to sink in. I was not going to make my start date. Bottom line, I respect the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) and know they have the trail and welfare of its people at heart when releasing their statements saying to postpone (current statement). I then knew with 100% certainty that I would not do a thru-hike of the PCT without the PCTA’s blessing.

My PCT hopes fading, just like this PCT sign.

Holding onto Hope

However, I was still not ready, at that point, to renounce my PCT thru-hike attempt for 2020. I held onto a slim hope that the PCTA’s stance would change by mid May. Then I could be able to find a way to weasel myself onto the trail heading north after all.

The next few weeks I was a wreck, bouncing between maybe it will happen and what do I do now? There were two things keeping me sane during that time: keeping up with my training program with Trailside Fitness and probably the most important, hashing it out with a few other PCT hopefuls.

How I Coped

I have been working with Lee at Trailside Fitness for over a year now. He has been a saint and huge help in assisting me to get into better trail shape. I am happy to say I now feel confident physically to start whenever the green light is given. I will definitely continue with his trainings until my time finally comes and probably beyond.

Smaller belly, bigger beard (via instagram).

Social media has connected me to many PCT hopefuls for 2020, and being able to talk it out with some other people in my same situation made coping a lot easier. I was able to identify a few people (I think you know who you are) who aligned closely with how I was feeling and my viewpoints on the issue of whether to hike or not.

There were times these conversations would go on for what seemed like hours of us pouring our hearts out and trying to figure what the right thing to do was. We went back and forth whether to go, but ultimately landed with a similar decision.

The Reasons Why Not

This year was not what we wanted the experience to be. We wanted to be able to enjoy everything the towns had to offer, from sitting around tables enjoying pizza and drinking copious amounts of beer. What fun would a zero day be if you were stuck in your hotel room the whole time? Having stores be limited for resupply would make shitty situations (quite literally) a lot worse.

We didn’t want to miss out on the trail angels and trail magic that will likely be fewer and farther between. Hitching into these town days was bound to be a lot more difficult. Going into town just seemed more like a chore then a needed respite from countless miles.

I Officially Canceled

It was May 18 when the PCTA released a new statement still recommending avoiding long distance travel on the PCT. On May 19 I finally canceled my permit. I had made peace with it not happening. Bottom line was I did not want to hike with any apprehensions. The PCT is mentally tough enough as it is, and if I was not 100% sure I was doing the right thing I know that could have been the demise of my hike.

For a short while I held onto the idea of possibly going SOBO, but in the end I know that is not what I wanted and I would come to the same decision.

Silver Lining

I am now focusing on the positives that I can take away by delaying my hike to hopefully next year. My biggest concern with starting the hike this year was money. I have already stashed away almost double what I had originally saved with the extra-allotted time and a well needed stimulus check. This will make my hike so much better. I will not have to think twice about buying another beer or three. It will also allow me to upgrade some items to streamline my system. Then with continuing my training I should be a machine when it comes time to hit it (watch out FKT/Heather “Anish” Anderson).

In the meantime I have my eyes set on some shorter trips closer to home. Possibly the TRT? What are you guys doing now that COVID has changed so much of what was planned for 2020?

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Comments 8

  • Lance A Goehring : Aug 10th

    Could not have put it better myself, Kevin. I went through all the same stages and came to the same conclusions.

    I’m hoping to go on a 4 or 5 day trip in the Grand Canyon in November (waiting on my permit approval) and some smaller weekend trips. But otherwise, just maintaining, saving more money, dialing in my gear a bit and pining for next year.

    Hope to see you on the trail next year, brother!

    • Kevin Neft : Aug 17th

      Grand Canyon sounds like a good trip! Still got that one on my bucket list too. Technically I crossed the borderline to the park on my Havasu trek, but I don’t really count that.

      With the extra time I’ve saved a good few pounds so far with dialing in my gear with the new additions.

  • Scott : Aug 17th

    Thanks for sharing, Kevin! I was supposed to leave in April for a NOBO AT thru-hike, but as things started to unfold, I realized that it would be the trip I was hoping and dreaming it would be (ie, absurd amounts of beer in bars along the way), so I can totally empathize with that feeling. Hope this next year is a great one!

    • Kevin Neft : Aug 17th

      Yes, fingers crossed! My beer budget has significantly increased, so definitely a few positives coming out of the situation.

  • Dave Whorrall : Sep 1st

    Dear PCTA – Of those that did thru hike the PCT last year, how many incidents relating to the virus situations happened? What was the percentage of incidents per number of people that thru-hiked, compared to pre-virus years.
    Please, give us reason, give us proof that hikers last year had issues greater than previous years. If not, ISSUE PERMITS-ITS THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE!!!
    Please, work with the hiker towns to offer carry-outs, or develop safe methods to distribute the needed supplies. Please PCTA, put out requests, send out requests for people to help trail angles deliver food packs to hikers, and for volunteers to help the trail angels. I guarantee the hikers will gladly pay for and generously tip trail angels and those volunteers.
    I have called trail angels, and spoke to many people that would volunteers to help. Have you done this?? Thru hikers on not on the PCT but all trails are their because they are people that are responsible, and care dearly for the same things you do, the trails and the people that support them. Especially other hikers. The negatives you pass on by delaying or cancelling the permits are doing way more damage to the PCT than by issuing them. Please re-think the October permits.

  • Fireboss : Oct 5th

    With fire ravaging the West Coast, staying out of the woods is probably a good idea. The fewer people in the woods, the less likely anyone will run into trouble and burden rescue resources.
    Come hike in Pennsylvania. Plenty of State Parks with shorter trails; lots of restaurants, lots of bars; great Autumn leaves.

  • Anna Kulinski : Dec 20th

    Hey Kevin! Great read. I’m in the same boat and I’m so glad to hear that you’re making the right decision. I know that you will be rewarded with an extraordinary thru hiking experience soon enough, even better than originally planned! Also, your transformation pics rock! Hope you get out there soon.


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