Quick PCT bio and my reasons for hiking it
In less than 12 hours I’ll be at the US/Mexico border about to start an epic journey on the PCT. For those unfamiliar with the PCT here’s a quick rundown.
The Pacific Crest Trail is 2650 miles in length and runs from the US/Mexico border in southern California to the US/Canada border in northern Washington. The trail passes through vast ecological zones including 700 miles of desert to high elevations of the Sierra Nevada range to the volcanic Cascade Range. Some highlights of the trail include the Mojave Desert, Yosemite National Park, the remote High Sierra and Mount Whitney (highest point in the US minus Alaska), Crater Lake National Park, Mount Hood, Mount Rainier and Cascades National Park.
Hiking through such different terrain brings a variety of challenges. Water is scarce along the desert section and altitude sickness is a concern in the Sierras along with deep snow at anytime of the year. Rattlesnakes, mountain lions, black bears and bigfoot populate the west coast, eager to make friends with us hikers. (Seriously, the bigfoot capital of the world is in North California)
Differences between the PCT and AT:
The lean-to shelters that line the AT every 10 miles do not exist on the PCT.
Water is abundant on the AT with a common between water source distance of just a couple of miles. In contrast the PCT is very dry with some waterless stretches of 30 or more miles.
Resupply is slightly more difficult on the PCT compared to the AT as it passes through long wilderness stretches compared to the AT where I was able to see a car pretty much each day.
The PCT is open to both backpackers and horses and because of this the trail is graded accordingly. Long switchbacks that seemingly go on forever are the norm compared to the AT where the trail usually goes straight up at a steep grade traversing over rough terrain. A more gradual grade on the PCT allows for hikers to move faster on the trail as the PCT and AT are commonly hiked in the roughly the same length of time.
Well if that description wasn’t reason enough for why I’m thru hiking the PCT here are my reasons for choosing to hike.
Keeping the adventure going
I started my PCT plans while hiking the AT last year, I’ll blame it on pre-post trail depression depression. After weeks of hiking through the green tunnel of Virginia on the AT I arrived at the Terrapin Station Hostel in Front Royal. The hostel owner had hiked the PCT and entertained us with his stories of his hike. Prior to this my PCT knowledge was from watching “Wild”… I knew this is where I needed to be hiking and was so excited I began setting my plans in motion. Once I arrived at Katahdin at the northern terminus of the AT, I started working on my PCT hike prep which helped me deal with post trail life.
Fast forward to today, where I’m on the cusp of experiencing the socal desert, High Sierras and volcanic Cascades and all the new adventures that these areas include!
During my hike of the AT I was constantly focused on how to reduce pack weight. With 8 months to prep I have lowered my pack base weight significantly. I traded my 2 lb tent for a 1 lb shaped tarp which is floorless, I’m continuing to hike without a stove and I switched to a pack that weighs around 1 lb. Each of these gear choices comes with certain sacrifices but hopefully I can adapt to the conditions and make use of my lighter gear.
For resupply along the PCT I decided to prepare and send all my food ahead of time. With the PCT a more wilderness trail, resupplying with decent food could be a little tricky. So I spent the last few weeks preparing hundreds of oatmeal breakfasts and dehydrated meals for dinner. I see my biggest challenge for this hike is dealing with the same food for 5 months… but it should be better than hunny buns and poptarts which were the norm on the AT.
Experiencing the hiker culture again
After reintegrating into the hetic world of chasing money post trail I couldn’t be more eager to getting back to the friendly trail culture. The PCT is known for generous trail angels that help hikers by giving rides to town and dropping water along the trail. Today was an amazing experience as after I arrived in San Diego I was picked up by hikers helping out the infamous trail angels Scout and Frodo. After dinner and a trip to get groceries, tomorrow will start at 5 am with breakfast for about 20 hikers and then a caravan for everyone to the border.
On that note, it’s time to get some rest and prep for tomorrow’s start. Future posts will have plenty of photos so stay tuned.
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