In one month, I will be on the Pacific Crest Trail near Campo, California, on my way from Mexico to Canada on foot. How on earth did I get to this point? I could answer that question on many different levels, but I’ll stick with the most practical interpretation:
Once I settled on the PCT, rather than the Appalachian Trail, I started reading blogs, following chat groups, and watching videos. From those, I was able to get a sense of what would be the focus of my attention: permits, gear lists, and resupply. For the permits, I planned ahead to ensure I was able to snag the start date I wanted through PCTA. Then I immediately contacted the highly regarded trail angels Scout and Frodo to sign up for assistance getting from the airport to the start of the trail. For the rest, I referred regularly to PCT through-hiker surveys, this resupply overview, and this series of videos. Facebook groups can be somewhat useful, but you have to sift through a bunch of comments that are unhelpful, lazy (e.g. “what does xyz mean?” when it was answered three comments prior), or downright rude.
I intentionally use the plural form, because I fully expect to swap out a few items along the way. For example, I will want an umbrella for the SoCal desert sun, I will need a bear canister for central California, and I will need heavier rain gear for Washington state. I made a few recent purchases, but I am generally using gear that I know well. I am most excited to get my new shelter, which is on order with Yama Mountain Gear.
One possibly controversial choice I made was to stick with my Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 deg F quilt. Many PCT through-hikers have said that they wished they brought a 10 degree bag. I do tend to get cold, but I also like to bring a lot of sleeping clothes, because they can also be used to stay warm at camp. It’s no fun when everyone is hanging out, and I’m too cold to do anything but go to bed. That may prove irrelevant, as sleep may end up being the highest priority anyway.
According to Halfway Anywhere, the average through-hiker last year said that the optimal number of resupply packages was 10, so that’s what I’m tentatively planning. At least four of those will be in Washington state, where purchases in towns are a bit more difficult or expensive. Of course, this planning involves color-coded spreadsheets showing things like distance between resupply points, miles off trail, and resupply type (e.g. in town, bounce box, or new box). I fully expect this plan to fail after first contact with “the enemy,” aka reality.
I have tried to keep up a reasonable pace of backpacking to make sure I am prepared forsuch a long trip. I spent three weeks in South America hiking with my dad in January and February. I did a couple of trips with DCUL Backpacking, including a week-long stretch of the Mid State Trail in March. Unfortunately, the snow-covered rocks took a toll on my ankles (see photo), so I’m slowly getting myself back to 100 percent. I have been swimming laps, and I plan to backpack a two more times in the next month, including a long weekend to complete my section hike of the 527-km-long MST.
I will probably post my starting gear list in the next few weeks. Once I’m on the trail, I plan to provide more frequent but shorter updates, including information about where I am on the trail and daily highlights. If there’s anything else you’d like to hear about, do let me know.