The PCT Isn’t What I Thought It Was: My Top Discoveries

Hiking the “desert” section of the PCT, you expect and get many of the obvious things: long water carries, feet problems, tweeking of your hiking kit, meeting lots of hikers.

But, this section also had unexpected elements, in a good way. Here are the top ways in which I was surprised by the first 700 miles of the PCT:

The completely natural and unembarrassing way in which you connect with other hikers, even those you don’t know.

The first time I consciously remember noticing this was in the parking lot of the the convenience store in Warner Springs. Hikers had gathered, resupplying, charging electronics, and eating. I didn’t know most of them but we all talked and exchanged food like we had known each other for years.

The second time was at Silverwood Lake. Yep, that’s the lake where you can order pizza from the picnic area. I was near the end of a long hiking day and came down the side trail towards the lake. Not really knowing where to go, I eyed a group of scraggly looking people with backpacks in a nearby area. In real life, one might be apprehensive to approach a group of people you don’t know and strike up a conversation. But that’s the thing … on the trail, you do “know” these people. You just may not have met them yet. They immediately welcomed me, pizza was ordered and all was good in the world.

The un-“desert like” natural beauty of many parts of the desert section.

This is apparent in many places: Mt. Laguna, San Jacinto, near Wrightwood, etc. But, specifically, I was thinking of Big Bear. After, the heat of the desert past I-10, and the directionless rock-hopping of Mission Creek, the cool pines, soft trails, and deer were most welcome. In my mind, before hiking the PCT, this was very close to what I imagined the trail to be.


The charm of small mountain towns.

Julian, with free pie for PCT hikers, and an outfitter the size of a walk-in closet that does a better job of knowing what those hikers need that businesses 50 times bigger.

Idyllwild, warm, walkable and unaffected by big city influence.

Wrightwood, quirky, tasty and all-in on hikers.

How quickly the daily routine of being a hiker can become “normal”.

Making camp, getting/filtering water, breaking camp, planning breaks/lunch, etc. These all become as regular as going to school or work.

I actually find myself forgetting how my life was like before.

Going into an endeavor with expectations is fine, but leave yourself open to possibility that it will be much more than you can imagine.




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