I’ve started working my way to the southern terminus today. After a couple days of travel, I’ll be starting the trail first thing Saturday morning. In the meantime, I’ve put all my things in storage, there is no planning left to do, my bag is packed, and I’ve got a solid case of butterflies.
So, here are some thoughts as I approach PCT D-Day, and some answers to the most common questions I’ve been getting over the past few weeks.
Where are you starting/ending your hike?
How long will it take?
Thruhiking the PCT usually takes 4 – 6 months.
How heavy is your pack?
Currently weighing in around 18lbs with the addition of microspikes (more below) and a few last minute items.
Are you really hiking alone?
Yes. This one really seems to baffle people, but I genuinely like travelling alone. There’s something very liberating about choosing your own schedule, and not being tied down to anyone else’s whims.
But won’t you be lonely?
Sometimes yes, I am sure I will be. And that’s okay.
So here’s the thing: this is a very particular dream that I have. Hiking across the entire United States is not something that would appeal to most people. To be entirely fair, it’s extreme and difficult and more than a little nuts. I did ask a couple of people I know if they wanted to hike with me – but I also emphasized that they should not say yes if it is not something they’re wildly passionate about. Trying something this extreme without the dream would simply not be enjoyable.
You know who is passionate about hiking the PCT? Me. And somewhere in the ballpark of 6000 other people who will be attempting a thruhike this year. PCT visitor use statistics estimates around 5600 people attempting thruhiking last year, and the number of permits issued has been increasing drastically over the past few years. There will be lots of people around who are pursuing the exact same goal as me. So, I am sure that I will make friends there. And if I’m lonely sometimes, that’s alright too.
How much food do you have to carry/what will be your longest stretch between towns?
It depends a lot on where on trail I’ll be, but I expect to resupply on average every 4-10 days. I realize that’s a pretty wide margin, but I imagine I’ll know better after a couple of weeks on trail.
What about the snow this year?
The snow. Yes.
So the 2017 snowpack is currently standing around 200% the average. This is the 11th deepest level since 1950 and – given the drought in California over the last few years – the deepest since 2011. [Source]
Timing-wise, I’m already starting on the later end of the normal hiker “bubble”. I’m also taking a week off in June to come home for a friend’s wedding. This will put me in the Sierras a little later than is average, which is probably a good move this year.
Gearwise, I’ve gotten myself some microspikes.
I’ll probably need to invest in a whippet or ice ax before I hit the mountains. Luckily, the first 700 miles is mostly desert, so I have some time to get my trail legs before heading into the heavy snow areas.
Are you insane?
Very possibly. Should be fun!