A couple of weeks from now, I’ll be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for 5 weeks and I’m very nervous and excited about it. How do I prepare for a hike like this?
This article is also available in Dutch.
What is the Pacific Crest Trail?
The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the most well-known long-distance trails in the United States. Others you’ve might have heard of are the Appalachian Trail (3500 kilometers, from Georgia to Maine) and the Continental Divide Trail (5000 kilometers, from New Mexico to Montana).
The Pacific Crest Trail starts at Campo (the Mexican Border) in California and ends in Manning Park (the Canadian Border in British Colombia). The whole trail is 4286 kilometer (2650 miles) long and will take most thru-hikers about 4 to 6 months to complete. In 2018, almost 5000 hikers got a permit for the trail and only 1126 reported completing the trail.
Besides all the people who attempt a thru-hike, there are also about 2300 people who apply for a section hike permit. I’m one of the people that applied for a section permit and I got a permit for mile 0 to mile 745.
Why did I decide to do this?
This is a question I ask myself every single day. The longest trail I’ve ever hiked had a length of only 42 kilometers (the Inca Trail) and I didn’t even have to carry my own stuff. Still, it was one of the best experiences of my life and I was kind of bummed out we’ve arrived at Machu Picchu after hiking for four days. I really did want to hike some more! That’s why I decided to do a long distance hike during my big trip this year.
When I was browsing about long distance trails on YouTube I found the channel Homemade Wanderlust and saw many vlogs about Dixie, who was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Since I planned to travel to Southwest USA, it made sense for me to hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. At first, I decided to go for a 2-week hike, but after reading more and more about the trail, I decided to extend my hike to five weeks. I have no idea how far I will get in those five weeks, but I’ve made different scenarios that will take me from mile 0 to mile 350 to 550.
When I decided to do this, I applied for some facebook groups (like PCT Class of 2019) and I learned more and more about the trail. I also learned some hiker slang, and I’ll probably use some of these words in my travel diaries during my trip. So I would like to explain some of the words to you:
UL gear: Stands for ultralight gear. A lot of hikers try to get the lightest equipment as possible. They will spend hundreds of dollars to get the lightest possible tent or sleeping bag. A lot of this gear isn’t sold in Europe, so my equipment is not ultralight (but still light!). I’ll probably be slower because of the weight, but lucky for me, I don’t have to reach Canada in 5 months, so I can take my time.
HYOH: Stands for Hike your own hike. Don’t let other people get to you when it comes to gear or hiking speed, just do what feels good for you.
Bounce box: A box with stuff you mail to yourself on the trail. I plan to put everything I won’t use for my hike in a box (but what I do need for the rest of my trip) and mail it to myself a couple of times on the trail. It’s also useful to put some food in the box, which saves you time because you don’t have to shop in every town.
LNT: Leave no trace. Always take your own trash and leave only footprints.
Zero: A day when you’re not hiking.
Trail Angel: a person who helps long-distance hikers with food, accommodation or transportation. I will stay at trail angels Scout and Frodo the night before I start the hike, they’ve been accommodating hikers of the Pacific Crest Trail for years now. You can sleep in a tent in their garden, they give useful tips and arrange transportation to the trailhead. I’m really looking forward to this and hope to learn something from their expertise.
As I said, I’ve got five weeks to hike as far as I can. I hope that I’m able to do at least four sections, so I’ll probably end around number 35 in the picture above. As long as I can get decent transportation to Los Angeles (from where I’ll be flying to Honolulu, Hawaii).
I’ve calculated different scenario’s with Craigs PCT planner, a great resource. You can put in how many miles you expect to walk every hour, how many hours a day, how many zeroes you’ve planned and it tells you where you’ll get on which date. I hope to hike somewhere between 12 to 17 miles a day, but I’ll just see what happens.
They call the southern part of the Pacific Crest Trail the ‘desert section’, but I’m preparing for all kinds of weather. For example, San Jacinto peak is over 10.000 feet, so I might be hiking in snow as well.
I’ve got all my gear ready and try to walk a lot every single day. Since I have a full-time office job and a blog that deserves my attention, it’s hard to walk for long periods of time, so I’ll try to do longer hikes on the weekends. I’m really excited to start on April 5th and will definitely upload some blogs during my hike!
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