How To Support Your Thru-Hiking Friend
If you know someone thru-hiking, you probably know that it is a major undertaking, not just of time, but resources. Not just money. It’s planning, coordinating; it can be a logistical nightmare, if that’s not your jam.
Fortunately for me, I love details and planning, but I will admit, even I have found that part of the hike nearly as exhausting!
So when people ask me how they can help, please know, I am touched by simply your question! Seriously, the thought/offer is so kind, and without generosity of various sorts, thru-hiking is near impossible.
But, what does your thru-hiking friend need? Here is a list of what I have found to be most valuable:
1) Well-wishes – seems silly, right? But trust me, it’s not. I love good vibes sent my way/ prayers/ blessings. Whatever you call it, keep them coming. Tell me about them; don’t tell me about them. Either way. I feel them!
One caveat: PLEASE, be positive!!!
I get being real, but there is a way to be real to a thru-hiker while also being positive! No, we don’t need someone questioning us as to why we’re staying on trail. We don’t need someone asking us if we’re ready to end our hike. We don’t need the, “do you regret this,” question either. Trust me: we already do that enough to ourselves!
We need good vibes/texts/messages saying, “I know this is hard”; “I know you want to give up, but you’ve already done “X”, keep going with “Y.” Obviously, tailor your message to the individual and your relationship to them, but please: positivity is contagious! (Let’s put it this way, I now know who I can turn to for this kind of support, and who I can’t.)
The caveat here; unless you know thru-hiking, coordinate with the hiker what’s in there!
Yes, there are things/meds/ bars/razors that I can add to my own bucket, but keep in mind, we have to carry everything OR we’re gonna dump it into a hiker box. (For example, there was a time when all I wanted was strawberry-frosted Pop-Tarts, but now if I see one, I will seriously up-chuck. Tastes change on trail!)
Also speaking to packages, knowing where you’re going next can be a challenge Especially for me, late in the season, certain stores haven’t been open. Or, small-town post offices are only open from 11 a.m. – one p.m., or not at all! It’s actually pretty ridiculous (the latter), but it’s a reality of thru-hiking. I have had to add days in town because mail gets delayed. I’ve also missed packages entirely because I refuse to wait around. I’ve wasted a lot of money, which is obviously a limited resource while hiking, so that’s a hard pill to swallow. Speaking of which….
3) Money – no one likes asking for it, and I surely have not, but I will say, getting the surprise Venmo/ PayPal/Zelle notification is an amazing blessing! $5-$100: it literally doesn’t matter! I received $5 once with the message to go buy some gummies for trail. It was AWESOME! This approach is also the easiest because the hiker generally knows what he/she needs, and as mentioned above with the pop tarts, things change! I also had someone offer a Trader Joe’s gift card, and I was so touched (I love TJ!), but there isn’t one on trail, so I told her to save her resources! Obviously, your relationship with the hiker will dictate whether money is an appropriate option, but generally, it is the easiest since we’re going to have to spend it on something anyway!
4) Hotels/towns – knowing where a hiker is going next is possible, and I have certainly planned ahead and reserved a room someplace, but this point is tricky. Much like the packages bullet, this takes planning and coordination.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I just enjoyed a week in South Lake Tahoe because of the generosity of a trail angel! It was glorious! Nothing had to be exchanged between the angel and myself; he reserved, and I graciously enjoyed! Talk about amazing!
5) Rides – if you don’t live near the PCT or a highway, this point may be useless, but if you do see a hiker one day asking for a ride, please stop (trust me, you’ll know the difference between a hiker vs a vagrant).
It is such a blessing when a car stops to offer a ride!
One town in WA, the folk that live there actually plan and coordinate drive-bys at the trailhead, specifically looking for PCT hikers!
6) water caches – So Cal friends…. I’m speaking more to you – if you live near the PCT or a highway that it intersects with, please consider leaving water out for hikers! Especially us southbounders, we’re walking south now and it has been a dry year (as a SD resident, I know we’re coming into Santa Ana season, too). Hikers plan their days and mileage around water, and going into this last desert section, we may have to carry 4+ liters. That’s really heavy! Please consider helping out, if possible, especially if you live near or frequent a PCT trailhead.
This was a long post, so I appreciate if you read through! PCT hikers are already slightly crazy to begin with, so having assistance along the way to keep us hydrated, sane and well-fed can only help! There may be more I could add to the list, but this will have to do for now.
If you know and love someone who is hiking, consider doing one (or more) of the points!🙏🏼
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