Tips, Tricks and Treats on the First 652 Miles of the PCT
6 weeks on trail. 8 zero days. Biggest mileage day: 30 miles. Lowest mileage day: about 3 miles. 15.52 average miles per day. 8 trail towns. Highest temp: 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Lowest temp: freezing.
Tips & Tricks:
1. Whatever your expectations are for a thru hike, forget them. Wipe your mind. Blank slate. This is where I believe people who have never backpacked before have a distinct advantage. Being an experienced backpacker but not a thru hiker, it took a good couple weeks to switch my mindset and adjust to the longevity of a thru hike. I’m still not quite used to how many people are out here and the lack of remoteness.
2. Beyond mentioning it once or twice, no one cares about the AT. Please stop telling us about it.
3. Bring a light foam sleeping pad (Thermarest Z Lite or something similar) in addition to your inflatable. The desert eats up inflatable pads for breakfast and the foam pad works nicely as a perfect place to sit for lunch breaks and siesta naps.
3b. Buy your gear from REI or another shop with a comparable return policy. When your inflatable pad fails, you can return it for a full refund and it’s free shipping.
4. There’s cell service in the desert. Bring a second power bank if you plan on staying regularly connected with loved ones. I was used to keeping my phone on airplane mode during all my trips, and didn’t realize how quickly the battery depletes if you can text all day long.
5. There are good people and bad people on trail, weirdos and eccentrics, drugs and alcohol, just like in “real life”. Set your boundaries and know your comfort zone. You WILL get rides from strangers and you WILL accept help in many forms from people you’ve never met. Determine what is ok for you and what is not. NA beer is widely available and I’ve enjoyed quite my fair share during this trip.
5b. Don’t be cheap. Word spreads quickly on the trail if you’re a mooch or grifter. Trail angels are integral to a functioning PCT. Offer them money for their time and gas and do your best to not inconvenience them.
6. Take regular foot care breaks on the trail. Blisters will absolutely happen, learn how to manage them (threading and draining properly will save you days of discomfort and potential infection).
1. Get the free pie from Mom’s in Julian by showing your PCT permit. Don’t forget the ice cream.
2. The Julian Cafe gives PCT hikers a 10% discount. The breakfast burrito is as big as your head and filled with yummy veggies.
3. Higher Grounds in Idyllwild makes a mean oat milk latte right when your cravings for non-instant coffee will hit.
4. Order pizza through Uber Eats to the Mesa Campground by Silverwood Lake. Tip generously.
5. Wrightwood is the most hiker-friendly town. Evergreen Cafe has huge portions and good prices, and the coffee place next door gives a free coffee to hikers. The grocery store has a free hiker box and an entire hiker lounge outside with free charging stations.
6. Get the pizza delivery to Acton KOA. Again, tip generously.
7. Kelcy’s in Tehachapi has the best pancakes on trail that we’ve tried. Don’t forget Thai-hachapi for the best Thai food I’ve had outside of Seattle and Thailand.
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