The PCT Permit Application Day

Morning check in

Coffee, check. Laptop, check. Trail bracelet my mom made for me for my birthday, check. My good luck charm for the day.

It’s 7:30 and I want to make sure I’m clear on the process before work gets going for a couple of hours this morning.  The portal opening time for getting our thru-hike permits is slated for 10:30 Pacific.  In today’s proceedings, the PCTA allots 35 northbound permits per day from March 1st to May 31st, with a second round of 15 per day to occur in January.  My understanding had been that we were all to show up in the online lobby in the moments leading up to the 10:30 window and then learn what our place was in the queue.  We could be first or five hundredth, and would plan our day accordingly once we found out. 

As I’m in the portal now, I’m reading “You’ve been assigned a random appointment for a launch day. Show up anytime after the appointment starts to submit your application.” My appointment today is at 2:45:51 Pacific Time. 

But, if I’m understanding correctly, the whole part about being in the waiting room before 10:30 sounds like it’s out the window.  Over to the PCTA website, which either changed or I had the wrong information in my head since pre-registering a few weeks ago.  As I’m reading the confirmation that this is indeed the correct process and that my appointment is indeed for 2:45, I read this:

“People will be distributed time slots between 10:30 AM and 3:00 PM Pacific Time. If you see that you got a late time slot, be prepared for the possibility that there won’t be any permits left by the time it’s your turn.”

Huh. Well isn’t this good practice for remaining calm in the face of Trail adversity.

It’s fine, it’s fine

If I were to describe my emotion at the moment, I’m picturing silly putty (do they still make that stuff? I haven’t been a kid for a while). You could stretch it pretty far before it would break, then roll it back up into a ball and stretch it again.  In my left hand, I’m pulling the silly putty with a strong desire to cry.  In my right hand, the half ball of putty still tied to the other end is me saying no big deal, of course it will work out.  Roll it back up, bring the two together, stretch it again, and you’ll understand how I feel.

I take a moment to talk to myself.  It’s not like I’m not going to be on the trail. This is good practice for the countless moments I’m going to encounter where I’ll be pulled apart and brought back to center. Maybe they actually give everyone 2:45 appointments just to test their nerves. I’m going to go about my day, check in at 10:30 just in case I was wrong, and settle in at 2:45 to see what I see.  

The time has come

Okay, back at the computer. It’s 2:43.  I don’t know why my heart is pounding so hard, surely everything will be fine.  The weight of a lifelong dream permeates my body. I refresh the page. 2:43:47.  2:44:28.  2:45:51. Click.

And all the dates are full. 

I am a tearful ball of silly putty.

Saltiness and Silliness

Here I am later, having regrouped to a relatively evenly dispersed normal ball of silly putty.  I don’t love having to wait until the next permit window (January 10th) to know if I’ll even be able to go northbound. There are some angry feelings that I was given such a late time slot, but I know that some of us had to be last and thus be excluded from the day’s spoils.  I wish that if they only had 90 days of 35 permits available per day that they would have capped the pre-registration at 3,150 people so that at least we all would know that we would get a day, even if it wasn’t the one we wanted.  Wishing and frustration doesn’t change reality.  

It will be what it will be.  I really hope the karma catches me for January 10th and I’m first in line, but if I’m not and I miss the northbound permits again, southbound it will be. I would really like to experience the more social trek north and fear that southbound would be more of a solitary trip, but if that is what the universe is throwing at me then I’ll go find out why and ride the adventure to what’s next.  

To be honest, I am trying to keep a stiff upper lip as I write, but I am frustrated that I don’t have a start date in hand on this day that should be a day of excitement.  

Side note, have you ever tried to actually keep a stiff upper lip?  I’m trying right now and it’s not as easy as it sounds, and it makes you look ridiculous.  

Okay, now I’m smiling again.  Ironically, it’s quite impossible to keep a stiff upper lip while smiling. The more you know.  Until next time friends!

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Comments 2

  • DaddyLonglegs : Nov 16th

    You got this. If you really want it, you are going on the PCT whenever, and in whatever direction, you want. Even if you don’t get the “thru permit” you can do this. It is a little more work, but you can acquire the section permits and do it.
    I was asked if I had my permit 5 times on trail. Three times by rangers who didn’t need to ‘see’it, they just asked. Had to actually show it twice: Once at the pie shop in Julian to get free pie. Once at Donner Ski Ranch to get free 40oz beer.
    Don’t be discouraged. If you want the PCT, the PCT will provide. Just do the work.
    Happy Trails,

  • Jan : Nov 16th

    Your post describes exactly my experience yesterday. My assigned time slot was 2.42 PT. Hopefully January 10th will work out better for the both of us.


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