Of Route and Resupply
Snowpocalypse and the Navigation Dreamscape
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, talk to me pretty often, or watch the news, you know that this has been an insane snow year for the PCT. The Sierras and North Cascades had at or over 200% of their average annual snowfall, meaning that we have a big white wonderland that’s sure to be beautiful but will undoubtedly cause navigation, exposure and pace issues.
What does that mean for me?
My route has changed countless times since this hike became a reality, as I’ve tracked the weather, snow pack and melt rates along the trail. The original plan was to start around the middle of Washington and hike to Mt. Rainier for my summit attempt. I had everything set up with a trail angel who was going to pick me up on the east side of the park and drive me out west for my climb, then bring me back out to resume the trail. I loved that idea (and I mean REALLY loved it), because seriously how badass would that be?! Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.
My ex coworker (aww, ex) Ryan reminded me to educate you on the crazy mofos who hike from Mexico to Canada, turn around and hike back to Mexico in one go. We call this form of badassery a Yo-Yo hike, and the undertakers are YoYos. I am not that cool.
Because of all the snow this year, I’m going to be a Flip-Flopper, so named because I flip and I flop to the places that suit my timeframe, skillset and comfort level. In other words, I will not be hiking the trail in one straight line from Canada to Mexico, though I do intend to hike all 2,660 miles of the trail this year. There are PCT purists who will argue that this means I’m not actually a PCT thru-hiker, but to that I’ll smile real big and say that that attitude deserves a hard shove up into a place where the sun doesn’t shine. That’s right, really force it up there. Hike your own hike!
The plan I ended up settling on was to climb Rainier first, giving the snow a couple more weeks of melting time, and then begin my hike in southern Oregon, where my good friend Ali just took up residence and the snow is more mild than Washington. The first leg of my trip will be to hike from southern Oregon to Canada.
From Vancouver, Canada, I plan to fly south to Bakersfield, CA, where I’ll begin hiking north into the Sierras. Again, I changed my mind and my route a LOT before settling on this. Starting at the southern end of the Sierras means that I’ll hit the highest point of the PCT, Forester Pass, much faster than if I started from the north. It also means that I’ll be able to summit Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48, much earlier. This is important because the rule of thumb is that I need to be past these high elevation points before the end of September, when the threat of snow storms becomes real.
From the Sierras, I’ll continue north through Northern California until I reach Ali and the place I began my journey.
The final leg is where my SOBO finally kicks in. I’m a little bummed because I’d wanted much, much more of my journey to be SOBO, but I’ve consulted with a LOT of mountain mamas and mountain papas who have a healthy respect for this terrain, and we agreed that this route was my best bet at tackling this high snow year.
From my starting point in southern Oregon, I’ll need to fly back down to Bakersfield and hike south to Mexico – the last 650 miles of the journey. I anticipate that this will be the hardest part of the trail for me, partly because it’ll pale in comparison to what I’ll have seen, and partly because the end of the journey is supposedly pretty mentally taxing.
What’s in a resupply?
Maps, sunscreen, clothing swaps, ear plugs, travel shampoo (for town use only), ear plugs, bug repellent, hand sanitizer, rite in the rain notebooks, chapstick, batteries, hair ties, medications, wipes, ziplock bags.
In the Sierras, I’ll ship myself a bear canister, larger backpack and warmer layers in addition to everything listed above. Complicated enough for you?! Tell me about it.
Everyone’s favorite question! Kate!! What are you going to eat?!?
So much. I am going to eat soooo much. After the first couple weeks, thru hikers consume about 4,000 calories per day. That’s like double what any self-respecting American consumes (note the qualifier). I’ve been working for weeks to bake, cook, dehydrate, vacuum seal and buy about half the food I’ll be eating over the next 5 months. This has been a dream for me! I’m a foodie and I love to cook, so I spent many nights in my Seattle apartment falling asleep to the whir of my dehydrator.
Here are some of my FOODS:
Grandma’s spaghetti and meatballs
Bars (Luna, RX, Nature Valley, Clif, Kind, Builder’s, etc.)
Mountain House meals
Various homemade dehydrated meals
One bonus of loving the kitchen and owning a dehydrator is that I have a LOT of variety in my resupply boxes and no idea what I’ll get when I open each one. Ah, the little things.
Do you count calories?
Nope. Hell nope. It gets to the point where you’re basically just eating all day, and I have zero patience for calculating the calories of the food I’ll be pooping out over the next few months. I created a spreadsheet with a rough estimate of my daily mileage and how many days’ worth of food I’d need to send myself at each stop. From there, I grabbed either a Medium or Large Flat Rate Box (free courtesy of ye olde US Postal Service) and packed it to the brim.
A Note on Care Packages
I’ll be stopping to pick up resupply packages at 16 locations along the trail, the majority of which are in Oregon and Washington. I’ve sent information to family and friends who have expressed an interest in sending care packages to me along the trail. If you’re interested in sending a letter or package, shoot me an email or comment below and I’ll get the addresses and my ETAs to you.
Care Package Ideas
Thru hikers eat a lot of bland, lukewarm sadness, so care packages are gold. By far the favorite thing to receive is FOOD, with whiskey gaining fast behind it. Want to send me some homemade granola? Stoked. Wipes? Yes please. Brownies? Oh you, quit talking dirty to me.
But truly, I will love anything and everything you send me and it’ll all just bump my elation up three notches from the glee of being in town and taking a shower for the first time in a week. Except Julia, who’s threatening to send photos from my favorite Seattle Ramen spots. Someone needs to keep her contained. Not today, Satan.
Here are some ideas of what to include:
Ziplock bags (really)
Photos of my dog
My dog (can you tell I just left her yesterday?)
Please bear in mind that I’ll need to carry the consumables on my back! Even though I’ll probably eat most of it immediately and STILL order the 1lb burger from whatever place my hiker radar leads me to. So just send whatever!
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