T-Minus Two Weeks to PCT Launch!
Today marks two weeks until my brother and I lay eyes on the Southern Terminus monument of the PCT for the first time. The numerous hours spent planning, the many miles run/hiked in preparation, and the countless moments daydreaming about the trail over the past three years to get to this point has been in and of itself, a monumental task. What will follow after touching the Southern Terminus monument; the 2,650-mile journey north, will be nothing short of epic. There will be incredible highs (literally, around 14,000 feet!) and some rock-bottom lows (talking to you mosquitoes in Oregon), but I am ready to experience it all!
I’ve decided to blog my journey along the PCT to help share my experience with friends and family, have an awesome creation to look back on when I’m finished, and hopefully inspire others to get out hike! Now, since sharing with many of my friends and family my plan to hike the PCT, it was amazing to hear all of your support! A big thank you from both Alex and me for this! For those who don’t know, Alex (trail name tbd) is my brother and we will be hiking the PCT together.
Now, one important thing I’d like to share, and hopefully use to help answer some questions of concerned family members, is WHY I am hiking 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada. I’ve put a great deal of thought into this and have listed them below. I am thru-hiking the PCT because:
—I promised my brother we’d do it and finish it.
—I’m going on the adventure of a lifetime.
—I need time to evaluate my life direction.
—I love and need backpacking + the outdoors.
—Postponing happiness until retirement is a flawed life approach.
—I’ll be able to tell my grand kids I walked across the Unites States of America!
—I will gain confidence in myself that no task is too hard to complete.
—I want to see the beauty of the entire West Coast of the USA.
—I want to inspire others.
Now, one thing about thru-hikers and those aspiring to be one is that we are a little nuts about our gear. I’ve spent the better part of the past two years dialing in my gear as best I could before the PCT. I’ve done shakedown hikes to see what works, and what doesn’t; and learned a very valuable lesson about bringing a coat when hiking in mountains (shout-out to the time I almost froze in the Smoky Mountains). Finally, this past summer I did my final big prep hike by spending nine days on Isle Royale National Park—biggest thing I learned after over a week of backpacking was that all I wanted was more! I knew I was ready for the PCT. For those interested in seeing what gear I am taking I’ve included a link to my Hikerlink. This showcases all my gear in an easy-to-read manner, and lists the item, weight, and price.
Since returning to the US after my study abroad program in Warsaw, Poland, in early February, it has been a SCRAMBLE to get everything squared away for the PCT.
Taking what I learned from Isle Royale I picked up a few new pieces of gear that will work better (pot, spoon, water filter, hiking shorts, gloves). I also purchased the specialty gear needed for the Sierra Nevada stretch; this included an ice axe, micro spikes, and bear canister. Finally, I picked up a new pair of my favorite trail runners, Altra Lone Peak 4s. In total I dropped about $400 in last-minute gear for the PCT.
For those who know me quite well, you know that I used to be a big dude, like really big. Ever since a lifestyle change in my last year of high school (fourish years ago) I’ve lived a fairly healthy and active lifestyle. When deciding to do the PCT I knew the physical aspect would be immense, but I adopted the mindset that keeping an overall high level of fitness was the best way of preparing. So, besides doing backpacking trips when possible, I’ve gotten into running and paid regular visits to the gym. By following this plan strictly for the past three years I’ve trained and prepared my body as best as possible for walking every day for four to six months. Granted, it is hard to prepare the body for walking upward of 20 miles a day for months on end. The key (which I’ve read from other thru-hikers) is to take it SLOW at the start. So our first two weeks will be low-mileage days (8-12 miles) to build up our trail legs and prevent injury.
One question I get from those who are not backpackers is, “How do you carry six months worth of food on your back!?” Luckily this is something I don’t have to do, thank goodness! The weight of doing this would mean my food bag would weigh 325 pounds; I’d start the trail off looking like Santa Claus and finish looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame. Instead of doing this I will for the most part resupply in towns, save nine resupply boxes I’m mailing myself. I’ve done a couple huge shopping trips and picked up all my favorite backpacking foods to throw into my resupply boxes. You can check out my resupply strategy here to see where I plan to send packages.
Sleeping Outside (In Michigan in February!)
My mom posed a good question to me a couple of weeks ago. She said, “Eric, how do you know you won’t freeze out there!?” Before I responded with the usual “Don’t worry Mom, I’ll be fine, I packed a coat this time,” I actually pondered and thought, I’ve never slept in temps as cold as 20 degrees F outside. Living in Michigan, and it being February, I had the perfect opportunity to try it! I got outside with the shovel and dug a spot in the snow and pitched my tent. Happy to say I stayed the full night outside and slept well enough. The only issue I ran into was the R-value (insulation rating) of my sleeping pad was at its limit with the temp, causing a bit of CBS (cold back/butt syndrome). Other than that it went great! It was nice waking up and crawling out of my tent to see my dad standing in the window drinking his morning coffee, looking at me with a witty grin. “Movin’ out?” he joked in typical dad fashion. After this though, I knew I was ready for the temps of the PCT!
San Diego! We fly a couple of days before our start date on trail to explore the city. To get to the Southern Terminus we’re going to take public transport (about a four-hour bus ride) to Campo, California, then walk to the trailhead, about 1.5 miles. Then WE ARE OFF! I’d like to post fairly frequently to keep you all up to date on the journey so be on the lookout!
Until the next post, I’ll catch you on the trail clockin’ miles and crackin’ smiles- RR (Ranger Rick).
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