Southbounding the PCT, Part 4: Resupply, Towns, and Trail Angels

It’s no secret that the majority of long-distance hikers on the PCT choose a northbound itinerary. Many services along the trail tailor their schedules to best serve the bubble, which only coincides with SOBO season for a short period. So people want to know, what effect does this have on southbounders? I asked a few of the gang to share their thoughts on the matter.

Where was your first resupply?

Righteous: I hitched into Winthrop from Rainy Pass, about 20 trail miles north of Stehekin. Given my early start, I was worried that the shuttle wouldn’t be running yet (but it was). Winthrop was my plan all along. I think it’s a great option for SOBOs, as it has several outfitters and restaurants, a real hardware store, a real grocery store, a post office, and an affordable (and nice!) hostel. It provides an opportunity to buy or send home gear, get different shoes, or make other changes after a few days of trail testing. Plus, despite being a long way from the trail (30-plus miles), I got quick hitches in both directions.

Kirby: My first resupply was in Winthrop. Once I made it to Rainy Pass, about 60 miles south of the border, I was able to get a hitch down to Mazama/Winthrop. I was able to get a ride very quickly both ways but it was a long ride from the trail.

Cockblock Moses: The post office in Stehekin.

Rainy Pass, where SOBOs will see pavement for the first time in their trek. Hitching from here to Winthrop is a great idea.

Did you find many town services were closed early or late in the season?

Righteous: I can’t remember having any trouble with this. The road to Hart’s Pass wasn’t open yet, but that was totally not a big deal. Everything was still open through the Sierra in mid to late September. The trail is pretty close to major population centers in SoCal, so town services were plentiful. I guess the Warner Springs Community Center had shorter hours than when the NOBOs went through, but I hadn’t planned to stop there anyway.

Tuolumne and Red’s Meadow were both still open in mid-September last year.

Kirby: Most town services were open when I went through them but I know the stops in the Sierra were closing in about a week or so of being there so it was pretty risky to rely on them for a resupply.

Cockblock Moses: It seemed that this was only a problem, if a problem at all in the Sierra. Things were closing for the season. But overall, this didn’t seem to be much of an issue for me; just plan accordingly and keep yourself updated. The post office is always open, even if they have finicky hours. What more do you need?

And, of course, what everyone is dying to know…  did you get any trail magic?

Righteous: Tons. Maybe not as many setup hiker feeds, but that’s not what I appreciate most anyway. The armload of protein bars we got from a couple after coming down Mt. Whitney when Kirby and I had run out of food 24 hours from town. A bottle cap from a trail crew member in Glacier Peak Wilderness when I dropped mine in a creek. Carne Asada tacos and beer from some hunters we met south of Walker Pass.

I think many SOBOs have a better opportunity to really get to know trail angels by coming through in lower volumes. I had the Dinsmores all to myself. I talked with Jerry and Andrea for hours about their lives and love story, an experience I treasure even more now that Andrea passed. There were six of us together at Casa de Luna, and we got to enjoy movies in the living room along with all of the usual Anderson shenanigans. After completing the trail, I got to stay at Scout and Frodo’s, where we enjoyed a nice, relaxed dinner with the neighbors. These are such amazing people, and it was an absolute treat to get to know them like I did.

The key to any hikers’ heart: Trail-side tacos and beer.

All smiles at Casa de Luna.

Kirby: Yes! Trail magic was fairly common along the whole trail. Much of the time I was able to really meet and talk with trail angels since I was either alone or in a small group, which made it more special. Besides being more personal with trail angels, a lot of the water caches in Southern California and Oregon, maintained by volunteers, made surviving the hike a lot easier and that is always appreciated.

Cockblock Moses: Yes. Not so much people specifically setting up grills and giving me beer and hamburgers (this did happen three times, but I think it happens much more for NOBOs) but more so random acts from random people I’d run into. One day I got really lucky. First I ran into people who gave me some cigs and water. I later ran into people who gave me an ounce of weed for free. That night it started storming-and a lesbian couple let me crash on their porch because I didn’t have a tent. Then they gave me 5$ and fed me and let me shower. Some other trail magic I got just includes people handing me money, as well as picking up my bill at restaurants (generally anonymously).

With SOBO season about to begin, I’m getting ready to wrap up this guide. The final installment will offer some parting advice for the classes of ’18 and beyond. We’ll cover what helped us the most, what we wish we knew before setting off, and where you can go to find even more advice on what it takes for a successful SOBO trek.

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