PCT Update #1

Days: 1-13

Miles: 0-179.4

Currently in: Idyllwild, CA

Hi everyone! My first PCT trail update is kind of an ode to my AT BFF, Slim Shady, because (A) he’s sadly not hiking this one with me and I want to shout him out because I miss him and (B) he had a bunch of questions I didn’t get to answer before starting this hike, so hopefully I can recount the first bit of the trail for everyone in the form of answering his questions:

1.  Are you going to introduce yourself by your trail name or your legal name? Does a trail name carry across multiple thru hikes?

Aside from the first day or two, I have been introducing myself as Snapchat but I’m open to new PCT trail names too. At first Snapchat felt weird because it’s like introducing yourself to new friends by your family’s childhood nickname for you; it felt like a betrayal of a time/place/experience/friend group from the AT or something. It also felt a little snooty to already have a trail name – I’ve met few people on the PCT who have thru hiked a trail already. As I’ve introduced myself to more and more people it has felt more natural to do so as Snapchat, but still not entirely.

So I guess I’m not sure yet if a trail name carries across multiple thru-hikes! It’s like asking if your personality carries across multiple moves, relationships, experiences, years, etc. It does and it doesn’t, as you evolve. I think I haven’t been out here long enough yet to know if I’m Snapchat through and through or if that name will end up feeling sacred to only the AT. (Side question back to you – do you still have me in your phone as Snap??)

2. Speaking of trail names, you got the trail name Snapchat because you were sometimes posting for The Trek on Snapchat and often times a few paces behind Wes and me in town, heads down on your phone. How is your approach to your phone and/or social media going to be different this time around?

I definitely want to be on my phone overall less this time around, but on social media a bit more consistently. As you know, on the AT I was in a relationship with someone who demanded a lot of attention to the point where I ended up feeling one foot on the trail and one foot at home the whole time, which made everything more exhausting and less fun. That’s not the case now, so so far I’ve able to be much more present in the experience and off my phone which has felt great! As noted below, we’ve had plenty of cell service but I’ve kept my phone on airplane mode most of the time and have barely talked to anyone off trail these first two weeks.

I say I want to be on social media more consistently because it’s such an efficient way to check in with everyone at once. I’ve been posting little Instagram story snippets whenever I can, which I didn’t do on the AT, and I’d like to continue with this for the same reasons as below re: having a Garmin – to send out updates, share the adventure and stay connected in a quick, easy way. But beyond stories and maybe a weekly IG/blog post, I’m really enjoying being off my phone and more in control of how connected I want to be to life off trail.

3. I noticed you’re going to have a GPS device this time around. Why the addition? (Am I so out of touch with the trail community now, and this is the norm?)

It does seem more the norm now. I got it for the PCT because of the higher risk associated with the snow/river crossings, and I assumed I’d have less cell service in general but that hasn’t been the case so far. It’s come in handy already – we’re in the San Jacinto mountains now and doing the Apache Peak section into Idyllwild was a bit sketchy with snow crossings and lack of water. It was very useful to be able to send Garmin messages to get trail conditions and share where water was with friends ahead and behind us, and to be able to plan and share a safer alternate route to get down off the mountain despite not having cell service and all being dispersed across 10ish miles of the trail.
Added bonus is that my friends/family seem to really like being able to track where I am! It’s a nice way to be included in the adventure, I think, since unlike the AT I don’t plan on having too many visitors along the trail, and it makes everyone who cares about me feel more secure. Also I’ve appreciated sending a nightly check-in message more than I thought I would – it’s become a fun little ritual for me to signal the end of the day and make me feel more connected even if I’m on a mountaintop somewhere.

4. Your gear list indicates you’re taking more of an ultralight (UL) approach than you did on the AT. Why did you choose to do that? How have your thoughts and feelings on gear in general changed?

My Big Three gear is different for this trail, but my base weight is pretty much the same as on the AT. What’s one step heavier than UL? Just plain lightweight? That’s about where I was on the AT and where I am for the PCT too. I went from a 48L pack to a 49L pack that weigh the same; and I went for an UL tent this time but I changed to a heavier sleeping so it all evens out really.

I loved my AT gear and still do – the Osprey Exos pack and Big Agnes Copper Spur tent are still my favorite, but I’m not carrying either on the PCT mainly because they don’t make the same versions of either anymore, so if I had to make some changes regardless I figured good time to take the opportunity to try out some new things:
  • I went with a Hyperlite Unbound pack because it’s waterproof (ish) for rain and river crossings, and I like the simple design.
  • I went with the Durston X-Mid Pro tent because I really wanted to not have to carry tent poles, and it’s so much easier to set up than the other, more ubiquitous, option the  Zpacks Duplex.
  • I really hated my quilt on the AT and was always cold. After we finished that trail I bought the fluffiest, loftiest, (relatively) heaviest Feathered Friends 10 degree UL mummy bag and now I am warm and happy.

Everything else I’m carrying is basically the same, if not exactly the same gear. My thoughts on gear in general are still that it doesn’t matter. (Which I acknowledge might look hypocritical to the people reading this who know the gear I listed above is quite $$$); I just mean that at the end of the day a pack is a pack and a tent is a tent and your gear isn’t the thing that will make-or-break your hike; it just contributes to how you feel which is what matters.

The one thing I am doing differently for the PCT is primarily wearing wool everything vs. synthetic athletic clothing, and am finding it to be much more comfortable and less disgusting feeling/smelling when extremely dirty.

5. What will you be reading and listening to while hiking and during Tent Time?

I haven’t listened to anything yet! I have a bunch of podcast episodes downloaded (Backpacker Radio, This American Life, The Players’ Pod, The Moth, Snacks, Trail Correspondents, lots of celebrity gossip shit); a million Spotify songs; and a few audio books (Grit, Hunger, Between Two Kingdoms, Theft by Finding, obviously Wild) but so far I’ve been happily enjoying the flow of walking in silence.

I will 100% re-listen to our favorites the Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, and I’d really like to do the whole Harry Potter series.

Other suggestions??

6. Now that you’re a few years ~older and wiser~ since your last thru hike, how has your approach to thru-hiking changed, other than what you’ve already answered?

So far, I feel less precious about things like getting to town, being clean, doing laundry, how slow or fast I’m going relative to others, and trying to control everything. I don’t know whether it’s the security of experience or if I’ve mellowed out some over the last six years or some combination of both (or other things entirely). I have felt naturally at ease so far and feel far more able to actually be present and enjoy it than I did on most of the AT. Basically I feel like I’m channeling you and I like it!
If you’ve gotten this far you’ll note I didn’t provide much of an update on the first two weeks after all, so here’s a quick summary:
  •  Shoutout to Knight Campbell and my friends at Cairn Leadership Strategies for putting us up the night before starting and driving us to the trailhead in Campo! We started in the rain and enjoyed a cool first few days in the desert which made it easy to jump right in hiking 15+ mile days which seems to be the norm on this trail! No easing into it here like on the AT; but also the terrain has – for the most part – been much more forgiving.
  • After the cool came a number of days of hot, dry stretches and learning the fun of water logistics: you plan your day around how to avoid and heat and how far you have to walk to the next water source, which so far has been anywhere from a 1-20ish miles.
  • Now, we’ve walked up out of the desert and into the mountains west of Palm Springs where there still isn’t a lot of water but there is snow, which is fun, beautiful and scary. Everyone on trail seems a little on edge because this is the stretch where a young man unfortunately lost his life a few years ago after slipping on ice on the steep slopes we hiked yesterday; but we’ve picked up the necessary snow gear now and are flexible to do alternate routes off the PCT when necessary for safety.
  • Currently I’m writing from our first zero day in Idyllwild, CA – an exquisitely adorable mountain town whose mayor is a dog named Max.
  • The demographics on this trail are interesting! So many international hikers, older hikers, and women. I’ve hiked with people from Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Ireland, England, the Netherlands and across the US. It does feel like not as many people are on the trail this year, maybe because we’re behind the main bubble or maybe because people dropped out due to the snow? The people are great, and also I miss you Dan and wish we were doing this together!

And lastly, as always, lots of pics.


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Comments 2

  • Abby P : May 18th

    Audiobook recs!

    Good for a Girl, Lauren Fleshman
    Small Game, Blaire Braverman

    Enjoy 🙂

  • Jeff Greene : May 18th

    Day hiker, car camper, and occasional backpack overnighter from SoCal who is following everyone on this site on the PCT this year, and you’ve posted the best photo set so far. Very jealous of the horny toads/horned lizards and the rosy boa sightings! Keep up the good work and enjoy the journey. If you’re at Vermillion Resort mid-July, I’ll give you a ride from the dam to the “resort” or vice versa. That’s the closest to trail angel I get every year when my buddies and I go camping up there.


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