PCT First Impressions

I’ve been PCT dreaming for months… prepping food, doing strength & cardio training, reading Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart and articles about gear. I even took an REI mountaineering course to learn ice axe usage. Through it all, my excitement remained steadfast, though a few doubts crept in as the 250% above average snowpack brought visions of treacherous traverses and dangerous creek crossings.

The Magic Begins

I got a taste of winter after I left my house-sit in Washington state and drove to Montana. When I arrived, it was too snowy to reach my parent’s ranch so I spent the night with a friend on the outskirts of town. The next morning dawned sunny and calm. My Dad spent hours plowing the drive with his tractor then ferried the majority of my food boxes to the house in his tractor bucket. I backpacked and sledded the remainder. Then he and my mom filled me up with home-cooked meals, the crown jewel being my Dad’s amazing GF crust cherry pie. A few days later my cousin helped plow us out and I was able to mail my first two resupply boxes. The next day my Dad dropped me off at the airport to begin my journey.

The Magic Continues

I flew into San Diego and after a short wait saw the smiling face of Serendipity. Last year we met 30 miles into the AT atop Blood Mountain and eventually became tramily (trail family). This year she is joining me on the PCT! We took an uber to the house of my friend Jim, who was out-of-town, but generously offered us beds to sleep in, a fridge to raid, and his friendly dog Cleo as company. The next day we walked to Sprouts to resupply and applied GearAid tape to our tents in the sunny backyard.

Even More Magic

The next morning Kathy, a member of my film group, generously gave us ride to the PCT’s southern terminus. It was an opportunity to chat and get to know one another better. She was excited to be part of our adventure and accompanied us all the way to the monument. There really is a wall on the border with Mexico… this startled me. We got our PCT hang tags, hugged Kathy, took pictures, and were off.

Home is a Tent

With every step I took along the trail, all my doubts fled like the remnants of a bad dream. We met other hikers almost immediately. My pack felt comfortable upon my back, my poles clicked along steadily, and my new sun hoodie kept me well-shaded. It was a warm-day, we passed and re-passed other hikers as we took turns ducking into shady areas. The beauty and scent of purple lilacs was plentiful, as was the water. When Serendipity wanted to stop early, I didn’t mind. The days leading up to the trail left me sleep deprived. I exploded gear about my tent, the special places of each item forgotten in my time off trail. But my tent… it immediately felt like home. I watched 1.5 episodes of Shadow & Bone on my phone (a treat as I had not finished it pre-trail) and was asleep early.

Instant Community

The next day, we encountered three hikers from the AT: Sunrise, Smiles, and Glamazon. I met Sunrise on the porch of Woods Hole in Virginia. What a wonder that we’d meet again on the other side of the country! Sitting beside a burbling stream, he filled Serendipity & I in on his post-trail journey.

Later that afternoon the trail passed near Lake Morena. Initially, I was resistant to leaving the trail so soon into our trek. However, it was another hot day and a siesta break at the Oak Shores Malt Shop sounded nice. The tables out front were full of hikers. We got food and chatted with a couple of them. Half the fun of trail is meeting like-minded new friends! When we made camp for the night, Serendipity wrote “Debbie” in the dirt of the trail and the young gal joined us at the site.

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Comments 2

  • Scott Bischke : Apr 17th

    Hi Emily,

    Fellow Montanan and long distance, albeit, section hiker. Great that you have AT under your belt so that you know a bit of what’s coming … although the snow levels this year are surely something few PCTers (or people) have ever seen. GOOD LUCK with those and be safe, on exposed snow crossings and with the river crossings that the snowmelt will surely feed for some time and likely increase the challenge.

    My wife and I are up to Kennedy Mdws on the PCT and assume (hope!) you’ll find your way there without anything too daunting in your way. We walked OR and WA PCTs each in one go and absolutely loved both. Don’t be afraid (my opinion, sorry, everyone has one!) to flip flop.

    And don’t forget life after the PCT! The CDT and PNT (the latter connecting your worlds of WA and MT!) are incredible, too … But lonlier–not nearly the moving party of the PCT (Also on the AT? Don’t know but you do!)

    Mostly want to wish you a safe, successful, and mind-enlightening journey! Good luck and perhaps I’ll see some of your future posts.

    Scott & Katie (we have never gotten into the trail name thing 🙂 )

    • Emily Rahn : Apr 24th

      Scott & Katie,

      You have certainly covered a lot of ground on the PCT! I am not afraid to flip flop, in fact, I plan to skip the Sierras when we reach them and go back later in the season.

      I already find my mindset different on this trail vs. the AT, but that’s great, it means more opportunity for growth. And I definitely want to tackle the CDT, perhaps the PNT, at some point.

      Thanks for following along!


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