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Pacific Crest Trail 2014- Planning and Preparation

Posted by on April 5, 2014

Tomorrow I will begin the 2650 mile Pacific Crest Trail (or PCT) through California, Oregon, and Washington. After landing in San Diego International airport and spending the night at the house of “Trail Angels” named “Scout” and “Frodo”, they will drive a group of hikers, myself included, to the trail-head in Campo. We will take pictures by the trail monument and with the fence on the Mexican border, then turn around and begin our long walk towards Canada. My goal is to finish in less than 100 days, which will mean averaging over 30 miles per day, including rest days and miles I’ll walk off-trail, to resupply on food in town, or to summit Mount Whitney, for example. Compared to my walk across America, which loosely followed the American Discovery Trail, the PCT is about 2/3 the distance, but I plan to complete it in 1/3 the time. The main difference, however, lies in the trail itself, which is designated as a National Scenic Trail by the US government for its remoteness and pristine natural beauty. Whereas the American Discovery Trail was more of a mental challenge and social experience, leading me on rural back roads and occasionally through sprawling urban areas, the PCT will involve a much more physical and logistical set of obstacles. In this post, I will go over the main facets of my planning and preparation for this upcoming hike, while commenting on my own tried and true techniques for success when living outdoors and walking 20 or more miles day after day. To find more information not covered about the Pacific Crest Trail and it’s history, visit the Trails Association’s website at www.pcta.org

Physical Training

The first and most important part of preparing for a thru-hike  is physical fitness. Many people assume that they will get into shape within the first couple weeks of hiking, only to find that those are the most agonizing and least enjoyable weeks of their entire adventure because their bodies are not ready. That’s why most people that don’t finish will quit in the first few days, rather than a few months in.  Just like I’ll do during my hike, it’s important that I set SMART goals for my preliminary training and actually find fun in working towards a greater level of fitness. Of course, we are all at different levels of physical capability and would start our thru-hike training at different levels of intensity, but the most important part of a thru-hike, or an exercise routine for that matter, is the first step, and the easiest way to take that first step is by doing something you love.

  • I started my training by playing Ultimate Frisbee. Unlike some lifting or running days, I never felt like I was forcing myself to be there, but was getting into shape the whole time.
  • Then I started running during the week, slowly and infrequently at first- maybe a 3-5 mile run twice a week at a 9:30 mile pace.
  • After getting a much-needed new pair of lightweight Altra trail running shoes to replace my worn out 3 year old Nike’s, I noticed immediate gains in my running form. I was able to use a longer stride and take lighter steps, which helped me run faster and be less sore even after longer runs. Also, the zero-drop shoes encouraged me to run on the front part of foot which is better on your joints, but admittedly it took some getting used to before I could run with proper form in them.
  • In addition to the new shoes, I added a few yoga poses to my stretching routine and increased the frequency of my stretching to at least twice a day, even on days when I wasn’t exercising. The benefits of increased flexibility are nearly endless- less risk of injury, longer stride, less post-run soreness, etc.
  • One of my New Year’s resolutions was to start working out my core and upper body at least twice a week, then work up to 4 times a week by the time I left for the PCT. At that point, I had increased my runs to an average of 5-8 miles 3 times a week and 10-13 miles once a week. Clearly, I had made massive gains for my running, but was neglecting more than half of the other muscles in my body. Without ever getting a gym membership, I managed to greatly increase my strength with some simple techniques. I split my days up between push and pull, using supersets with a core exercise in between each one. Here’s a really great resource I used for learning exercises for each muscle, even if you don’t have access to gym equipment.
  • By mid-March, I was a month away from starting the PCT hike and I knew I needed to toughen up my feet, hips and shoulders- the areas that take the most damage during a thru-hike. I used the fire access trails right by my house that encircle the local reservoir for day trips with a full 40+ pound pack. Rather than avoiding rainy or snowy days, I welcomed them as opportunities to practice for the rough weather I was certain to experience later on. For more extended shake-down hikes, I would drive less than 2 hours away to the Appalachian Trail for weekend trips and pushed myself to do at least 25 miles a day. This was more valuable than any other training I had completed in the last 8.5 months because it allowed me to test the strength of my body and mind as well as the functionality of all my gear so that, ideally, I won’t need to make any large gear changes once I’m on the PCT

Maps/Resupplies

While it may be more peaceful and romantic to wander aimlessly through the mountains, as many great poets and thinkers have discovered, it is nearly always safer to follow an established route, especially when that route is maintained and documented well. Thankfully, there are a myriad of resources provided by the government, the Pacific Crest Trail Association, and a group of relentlessly dedicated volunteers that have allowed me to plan ahead and get some idea of what to expect at each mile. The maps I’ll be carrying with me are made by former thru-hiker “Halfmile”, who includes vital information about water resources, trail closures and conditions, resupply options, etc.- all on USGS topographical maps, which provide the best information a hiker could ask for about his/her surroundings. Using the 455 page map set to create a game plan was daunting to say the least, but the simple steps I took to organize and personalize my maps will certainly come in handy once I am on the trail.

  • The first thing I did to make the giant stank of papers seem a little more manageable was to designate the stretches between each resupply point as its own, color-coordinated section. So, for the first section, I used a green marker to color the top corners of the first 24 pages, which represent the miles between Campo (where I’ll start) and Idyllwild (where I’ll pick up my first resupply box). I used the same green marker to shade in the space between the towns on my overview page, which displays the route through all 3 states on one page. Not only does color-coding prevent me from accidentally mixing up the order of my maps, but it also allowed me to easily flip to a certain mile number if I needed to make a note on that particular page.
  • Once I had organized the stack into sections, it was much easier to determine how far and long I would need to travel each day to arrive at the next resupply on time, and to achieve my goal of less than 100 days. Some things I needed to consider when creating my estimated daily mileage- weight of food and water in pack, elevation gain and loss, possible weather conditions, sleeping location, access to drinking water. To me, my estimated daily mileage is a lot like par at a golf course- in reality, there will be some days that I can’t make par, but at least I’ll have an indicator of how far behind or ahead of schedule I am by the end of each day. Craig’s PCT Planner is a site that allows you to enter in your specific departure date, resupply points, and walking speed in order to roughly calculate what day you’ll be arriving at any resupply location. This is very useful when you consider that most resupply locations, like Post Offices, are only open on certain days and certain times of day.
  • The last pieces of information I included in the notes on my maps were potential water sources. Dehydration can be a real threat in the desert, as reliable sources of water are days apart in spots, so knowing where to go to find it can literally mean the difference between life and death. Hikers can report up-to-date conditions of water sources in Southern California, where flowing water is often seasonal at best, to the PCT Water Report. I made sure to list out the mile markers for more reliable sources a few pages ahead in my maps, so I know whether to fill up a little or a lot

20140415-085838.jpg

Itinerary

With my maps color-coded and annotated, the next step was to create an itinerary, using all the notes I had written at the top of each map page. This would include all the information specific to my trip, like my estimated daily mileage, dates to ship resupply boxes, and detours around trail closures. While it was very tedious work, the time I spent researching every mile of the trail should pay off in the long run. Here is my plan, or what I like to call “Par” because of its mutability. The miles (as in Mi 0- mi 178.6) represent the mile markers, while the total represents actual miles walked. The Sections and Pages refer to Halfmile’s PCT maps.

  1. Campo to Idyllwild (Mi. 0- mi. 178.6) 178.6 mi total, 25.5 mi per day, 19348 ft total elevation gain/loss, 2862 ft/day- ETA: 4/22/14
    Day 1: Par 26 miles- to Boulder Oaks Campground, mile 26, CA Section A, pg. 3
    Day 2: Par 21.5 miles- to Laguna Campground, mile 47.5, CA Section A, pg. 6
    Day 3: Par 29.5 miles- to Scissors Crossing Water Cache/ Campsite, mile 77, CA Section A, pg. 10
    Day 4: Par 28 miles- to San Ysidro Creek, mile 105, CA Section A, pg. 13
    Day 5: Par 24.2 miles- to Combs Peak Campsites, mile 129.2, CA Section B, pg. 3
    Day 6: Par 30.8 miles- to “Small Campsite”, mile 159.7, CA Section B, pg. 6
    Day 7: Par 12 miles- to Tahquitz Meadows Campground, mile 178, CA Section B, pg. 9 [Trail closed from mile 162.5 to 178. Going to hitch from HWY 72 (Sec B, pg.5) into Idyllwild, then take either Tahquitz Peak Trail or Devils Slide Trail (Sec B, pg. 9) back to PCT]
  2. Idyllwild to Hiker Heaven (Mi. 178.6- mi. 430.6) 276.5 mi total, 27.6 mi per day, 31012 ft total elevation gain/loss, 2958 ft/day- ETA: 5/2/14
    Day 8: Par 32.8 miles- to “Ziggy and the Bear”‘s house, mile 210.8, CA Section B, pg. 11
    Day 9: Par 24.6 miles- to “Creek-side Camp”, mile 235.4, CA Section C, pg. 4
    Day 10: Par 33.1 miles- to Doble Trail Camp, mile 268.5, CA Section C, pg. 7
    Day 11: Par 29.8 miles- to Splinters Cabin Area, mile 298.3, CA Section C, pg. 11 (Hike to Hwy 18 from Doble Trail Camp, Hitch into Big Bear City, restock on food, then get back to trail on Cougar Crest Trail)
    Day 12: Par 30.2 miles- To Cleghorn Picnic Area, mile 328.5, CA Section C, pg. 11
    Day 13: Par 22.5 or 29.5 miles- to Jeep Road, mile 351 or 358, CA Section D, pgs. 1 and 2 (Trail between 351 and 356 is covered in toxic Poodle-Dog Bush, so I am going to set up camp either before or after this section and will take the clearer Jeep Road to avoid contact while passing through. Rejoin the trail just after 356)
    Day 14: Par 21 or 14 miles- to Jackson Flat Campsite, mile 372, CA Section D, pg. 4
    Day 15: Par 28.9 miles- to Camp Glenwood, mile 400.9, CA Section D, pg. 7 (Climb Mt. Baden Powell, peak at 9399 feet. Will not be taking red Official Endangered Species Detour on pgs. 5&6, but will be taking original purple route)
    Day 16: Par 29.7 miles- to Messenger Flats Campground, mile 430.6, CA Section D, pg. 10 (May take Pacifico Mountain Road, pgs. 7&8, if Poodle-Dog Bush is still an issue between miles 410-430)
    Day 17: Par 23.9 miles- to “Hiker Heaven”, mile 454.5, CA Section D, pg. 12Hiker Heaven is an oasis for thru-hikers run by Jeff and Donna Saufley from their home in Agua Dulce, CA. See http://www.hikerheaven.com/
  3. Hiker Heaven to Kennedy Meadows (Mi. 454.5- mi. 704.7) 240.4 mi total, 26.7 mi per day, 27438 ft total elevation gain/loss, 2912 ft/day ETA: 5/11/14
    Day 18: Par 27.5 miles- To Green Valley, mile 478.2, CA Section E, pg. 3
    Day 19: Par 26.2 miles- To Hikertown, mile 517.6, CA Section E, pg. 7 (Trail Closed from 486-511, instead going on Pine Canyon Road which is 13.2 miles shorter than the section of closed trail) See http://www.hikertown.com/
    Day 20: Par 24 miles- To Tylerhorse Canyon, mile 541.6, CA Section E, pg, 11
    Day 21: Par 29 miles- To one of many small campsites, mile 571, CA Section F, pg. 1
    Day 22: Par 31.1 miles- To Robin Bird Spring, mile 602.1, CA Section F, pg. 5
    Day 23: Par 28.7 miles- To Bird Spring Pass, mile 630.8, CA Section F, pg. 9
    Day 24: Par 26.1 miles- To unnamed campsite, mile 656.9, CA Section G, pg. 1
    Day 25: Par 26.2 miles- To Fox Mill Spring, mile 683.1, CA Section G, pg. 4
    Day 26: Par 21.6 miles- To Kennedy Meadows Campground, mile 704.7, CA Section G, pg. 7 (Must buy bear canister here)See http://www.kennedymeadows.com/
  4. Kennedy Meadows to Vermilion Valley Resort(Mi. 704.7- mi. 878.8) 200 mi total, 25 mi per day, 29178 ft total elevation gain/loss, 4151 ft/day ETA: 5/19/14
    Day 27: Par 26.1 miles- To Death Canyon Creek, mile 730.8, CA Section G, pg. 11
    Day 28: Par 20 miles- to Chicken Spring Lake, mile 750.8, CA Section G, pg. 14
    Day 29: Par 19.2 miles- to Guitar Lake, mile 766.3, CA Section H, pg. 1A (Approaching Mount Whitney, highest mountain in Lower 48 at elevation 14,505 feet. PCT overlaps most of the John Muir Trail in this section)
    Day 30: Par 25.8 miles- To Forester Pass, mile 778.7, CA Section H, pg. 3
    Day 31: Par 23.9 miles- to “Campsite”, mile 802.6, CA Section H, pg. 7
    Day 32: Par 28 miles- to Middle Fork Kings River, mile 830.6, CA Section H, pg. 11
    Day 33: Par 25.3 miles- to Camp near Piute Creek, mile 855.9, CA Section H, pg 15
    Day 34: Par 31.7 miles- To Vermilion Valley Resort, mile 878.8,CA Section H, pg 18A (Taking Bear Ridge Trail into Resort, an extra 7.3 miles, because ferry is not in operation due to low water level in Edison Lake)See http://www.edisonlake.com/
  5. Vermilion Valley Resort to South Lake Tahoe (Mi. 878.8- mi. 1115.4) 236.8 mi total, 26.3 mi per day, 28710 ft total elevation gain/loss, 3422 ft/day ETA: 5/27/14
    Day 35: Par 25.1 miles- To Crater Creek Campsite, mile 903.9, CA Section H, pg 22
    Day 36: Par 27.3 miles- To Lyell Creek Campsites, mile 931.2, CA Section H, pg. 25
    Day 37: Par 25.2 miles- To Virginia Canyon, mile 956.4, CA Section I, pg. 3
    Day 38: Par 26.9 miles- To Stubblefield Canyon, mile 983.3, CA Section I, pg. 5
    Day 39: Par 23.9- To Kennedy Canyon Creek, mile 1007.2, CA Section I, pg. 9
    Day 40: Par 26.8- To Small Lake, mile 1034, CA Section J, pg. 3
    Day 41: Par 28.4- To Campsite near Seasonal Stream, mile 1062.2, CA Section J, pg. 6
    Day 42: Par 26.9- To Another campsite near a seasonal stream, mile 1089.1, CA Section J, pg. 9/10
    Day 43: Par 26.3- To Phipps Creek, mile 1115.4, CA Section K, pg. 3 (Hitch into South Lake Tahoe via HWY 50, pick up package at PO, hitch back)
  6. South Lake Tahoe to Old Station (Mi. 1115.4- mi. 1400.6) 289.1 mi total, 28.4 mi per day, 32417 ft total elevation gain/loss, 2990 ft/day ETA: 6/7/14
    Day 43: Par 26.3 miles- To Phipps Creek, mile 1115.4, CA Section K, pg. 3
    Day 44: Par 27.5 miles- To Squaw Creek Campsite, mile 1142.9, CA Section K, pg. 7
    Day 45: Par 31.4 miles- To Unnamed Campsite, mile 1174.3, CA Section L, pg.2
    Day 46: Par 30.6 miles- to Spring West of Trail, mile 1204.9, CA Section M, pg. 1
    Day 47: Par 27.7 miles- To Unnamed Campsite, mile 1232.6, CA Section M, pg. 5
    Day 48: Par 26.8 miles- To Seasonal Spring, mile 1259.4, CA Section M, pg. 7
    Day 49: Par 24.7 miles- To “Small Clear Seeps”, mile 1284.1, CA Section M, pg. 11
    Day 50: Par 30.9 miles- To Unnamed Campsite, mile 1315, CA Section N, pg. 4
    Day 51: Par 30 miles- To Domino Spring Camps, mile 1345, CA Section N, pg. 8
    Day 52: Par 28.6 miles- To Hat Creek Campsites, mile 1373.6, CA Section N, pg. 13
    Day 53: Par 27 miles- To flat spot on steep ridge, mile 1400.6, CA Section N, pg. 17 (Stop at Old Station PO at mile 1377.6)
  7. Old Station to Seiad Valley (Mi. 1400.6- mi. 1682.4) 284.4 mi total, 28.5 mi per day, 24766 ft total elevation gain/loss, 2356 ft/day ETA: 6/17/14
    Day 53: Par 27 miles- To flat spot on steep ridge, mile 1400.6, CA Section N, pg. 17
    Day 54: Par 28.4 miles- To Rock Creek Campsite, mile 1429, CA Section O, pg. 1
    Day 55: Par 30.9 miles- To Alder Creek, mile 1459.9, CA Section O, pg. 5
    Day 56: Par 27.1 miles- Campsite by small creek, mile 1487, CA Section O, pg. 8
    Day 57: Par 29.4 miles- To Unnamed Campsite, mile 1516.4, CA Section P, pg. 2
    Day 58: Par 26 miles- To Deadfall Lake Creek, mile 1542.3, CA Section P, pg. 5
    Day 59: Par 28.9 miles- To unnamed spring, mile 1570.8, CA Section P, pg. 8
    Day 60: Par 26.5 miles- To creek below Statue Lake campsite, mile 1597.3, CA Section P, pg. 12
    Day 61: Par 27.2 miles- To open flat above Summit Lake, mile 1624.5, CA Section Q, pg. 3
    Day 62: Par 31.1 miles- To Grider Creek Campground, mile 1655.6, CA Section Q, pg. 8
    Day 63: Par 27.3 miles- To Bear Dog Spring, mile 1682.4, CA Section R, pg. 1 (Stop at Seiad Valley PO in morning)
  8. Seiad Valley to Crater Lake (Mi. 1682.4- mi. 1846) 173.7 mi total, 27.2 mi per day, 19416 ft total elevation gain/loss, 3025 ft/day ETA: 6/23/14
    Day 63: Par 27.3 miles- To Bear Dog Spring, mile 1682.9, CA Section R, pg. 3
    Day 64: Par 26.1 miles- To spring/ vegetation free and flat area, mile 1709, CA Section R, pg. 7
    Day 65: Par 26. 9 miles- To fenced in spring, mile 1735.9, OR Section B, pg. 2
    Day 66: Par 26.5 miles- To Big Springs, mile 1762.4, OR Section B, pg. 6
    Day 67: Par 29.9 miles- To Christi’s Spring, mile 1792.3, OR Section C, pg. 2
    Day 68: Par 26.5 miles- To flat spot by Goose Egg, mile 1818.8, OR Section C, pg. 7
    Day 69: Par 27.2 miles- to open spot near Crater Lake, mile 1846, OR Section C, pg. 11 (Stop at Mazama Village Store after 10.5 miles to pick up resupply)See http://www.craterlakelodges.com/
  9. Crater Lake to Big Lake Youth Camp (Mi. 1846- mi. 2001.3) 172.7 mi total, 28.5 mi per day, 14293 ft total elevation gain/loss, 2206 ft/day ETA: 6/29/14
    Day 69: Par 27.2 miles- to open spot near Crater Lake, mile 1846, OR Section C, pg. 11
    Day 70: Par 31.7- To Six Horse Spring/Camp, mile 1877.7, OR Section D, pg. 5
    Day 71: Par 31 miles- Near Lils Lake, mile 1908, OR Section D, pg. 9
    Day 72: Par 23.6 miles- To Charlton Lake Campsite, mile 1931.6, OR Section E, pg. 3
    Day 73: Par 26.5 miles- To Small Lake by Park Trailhead, mile 1958.1, OR Section E, pg. 7
    Day 74: Par 30.2 miles- To Lava Camp Lake Campground, mile 1988.3, OR Section E, pg. 12
    Day 75: Par 29.5 miles- To Koko Lake, mile 2017.8, OR Section F, pg. 5 (Stop at Big Lake Youth Camp after 13 miles to pick up resupply)See http://biglake.org/
  10. Big Lake Youth Camp to Cascade Locks (mi. 2001.3- mi. 2155) 153.4 mi total, 27.8 mi per day, 15065 ft total elevation gain/loss, 2706 ft/day ETA: 7/4/14Day 75: Par 29.5 miles- To Koko Lake, mile 2017.8, OR Section F, pg. 5
    Day 76: Par 26.6 miles- To Unnamed Campsite, mile 2044.4, OR Section F, pg. 9
    Day 77: Par 27 miles- to small spring/campsite, mile 2071.4, OR Section F, pg. 13
    Day 78: Par 26.1 miles- To Frog Lake Campground, mile 2096.9, OR Section F, pg. 17
    Day 79: Par 28.5 miles- To Lolo Pass Campsite, mile 2124.8, OR Section G, pg. 3
    Day 80: Par 28.7 miles- To Cascade Locks, mile 2155, OR Section G, pg. 8
  11. Cascade Locks to White Pass (mi. 2155- mi. 2303.9) 148.9 mi total, 28.9 mi per day, 20822 ft total elevation gain/loss, 3596 ft/day ETA: 7/10/14
    Day 81: Par 30 miles- To Trout Creek Campsite, mile 2185, WA Section H, pg. 1
    Day 82: Par 30.9 miles- To Junction Lake Campsite, mile 2215.9, WA Section H, pg. 8
    Day 83: Par 28.1 miles- To Horseshoe Meadow, mile 2244, WA Section H, pg. 12
    Day 84: Par 29.1 miles- To Walupt Lake Campsite, mile 2273.1, WA Section H, pg. 16
    Day 85: Par 27.8 miles- To Ginnette Lake Campsite, mile 2300.9, WA Section H, pg 20
    Day 86: Par 27.9 miles- To Dewey Lake Campsite, mile 2328.8, WA Section I, pg. 1 (Stop at Kracker Barrel at White Pass this morning to pick up resupply box. 3 miles in, West on HWY 12)
  12. White Pass to Skyomish (mi. 2303.9- mi. 2476) 175.4 mi total, 28.2 mi per day, 22635 ft total elevation gain/loss, 3365 ft/day ETA: 7/16/14
    Day 86: Par 27.9 miles- To Dewey Lake Campsite, mile 2328.8, WA Section I, pg. 4
    Day 87: Par 26.9 miles- To Urich Camp, mile 2355.7, WA Section I, pg. 8
    Day 88: Par 29.9 miles- To dry meadow campsite, mile 2385.6, WA Section I, pg. 12
    Day 89: Par 24.1 miles- To Ridge Lake campsites, mile 2409.7, WA Section J, pg 1
    Day 90: Par 28.9 miles- To Waptus River campsite, mile 2438.3, WA Section J, pg. 3
    Day 91: Par 30.2 miles- To Mig Lake campsites, mile 2468.5, WA Section J, pg. 7
    Day 92: Par 29.3 miles- To campsite near seasonal creek, mile 2497.8, WA Section K, pg. 3 (Hitch to Skyomish PO via Hwy 2 to pick up resupply, 7.5 miles in)
  13. Skymomish to Manning Park (mi. 2476- mi. 2668.8) 192.7 mi total, 27.9 mi per day, 30213 ft total elevation gain/loss, 4029 ft/day ETA: 7/23/14
    Day 92: Par 29.3 miles- To campsite near seasonal creek, mile 2497.8, WA Section K, pg. 3
    Day 93: Par 25.8 miles- To Kennedy Creek, mile 2523.6, WA Section K, pg. 7
    Day 94: Par 29.4 miles- To Miners Creek, mile 2553, WA Section K, pg. 9
    Day 95: Par 27.2 miles- To High Bridge Ranger Station, mile 2580.3, WA Section K, pg. 13
    Day 96: Par 28.8 miles- To campsite by creek, mile 2609.1, WA Section L, pg. 2
    Day 97: Par 26.8 miles- To Tamarack Peak campsite, mile 2635.9, WA Section L, pg. 5
    Day 98: Par 27.9 miles- To Castle Creek Campsite outside Manning Park, mile 2663.8, WA Section L, pg. 9
    Day 99: Walk 5 miles to Manning Park then done!

Gear List

The differences between a novice and an experienced backpacker can be summed up by the difference in their perception of wants and needs. Many newbies come out with 60+ pound packs (like I did when I started the walk across America) and have a miserable time because they are so sore all over, when they could actually be carrying less than half that amount of weight while sacrificing little to no comfort. I made a lot of gear changes for this trip because I knew if I was going to make more daily miles, I would have to decrease my backpack’s base weight (or weight without food and water). I spent time identifying everything I wanted to carry with me, then crossed off most of the things I truly didn’t need in order to save weight and space in pack, which could otherwise be used to carry extra food and water and allow me to go longer without needing to resupply. Obviously, buying all new, ultralight backpacking gear can cost a fortune if you buy it at retail price, so I sought out numerous ways to save money while still getting the high quality I prefer. I started working at the North Face retail store in Towson, MD back in October of 2013 and worked there until March of 2014. This was the perfect way to earn money for my trip, and to save with the exceptional discounts The North Face’s parent company, VFC, provides on a variety of brands. I worked as hard as I could, covering shifts as often as possible and always going the extra mile, which payed off when I became employee of the month in January and received a $100 gift card for the store as part of their sales incentives (which I could still use with my %50 in-store discount). Believe me when I say that I took full advantage of my savings opportunities- I got nearly $3000 worth of gear and food and payed a little less than $1000 for it all. Add onto this the sponsorships and pro-deals I received on my own, like the free boots from Vasque, free crampons from Kahtoola, 144 free Clif Bars, etc. and you can see how I managed to come across all this high quality equipment while working a part-time job at a mall. Feel free to download the PDF version of my Gear list and read the comments I wrote about each piece of gear- how and why I chose it and what advantages it will give me over the last hike.

Pacific Crest Trail Gear

 

Summary

As I pack the final things into my backpack, I am going through my mental checklist over and over, making sure everything is ready to go. Occasionally, my mind will take me back to when I was about to leave for my walk across America. The process seems very familiar: scramble to figure out what I may have forgotten, eat way too much breakfast just because I can, try to ease my mom’s endless worry, watch the clock move extra slowly. This time, however, I do not feel the least bit nervous. I am aware of the risks I am taking and have learned how to manage them, but recognize that there is still much to be learned. Rather than fret over the uncertain, I embrace it and feel excited just to have such an opportunity for growth. One thing is for sure, though- after this adventure, there is no turning back. I’ve already completed one long walk, and if I’m able to complete this one, it will mean that my walk across America was not just a fluke, but the start of an addiction.

5 Responses to Pacific Crest Trail 2014- Planning and Preparation

  1. Greg Nemeth

    I am preparing to make my first attempt to through the PCT. I have done parts of the AT/PCT in early life and I have a question: Do you normally go 150+ miles to resupply? Is this a personal or average distance: I am putting myself at 100 to 120 miles for each resupply. Thanks PapaNemo.

    • Quiet_Earp

      PapaNemo, while my plan put me at 150+ miles between each resupply, my average while on the trail was actually closer to your goal of 100-120. There were a couple sections where I went up to 160-180 miles, but that was a personal choice. During your preparation, try to set your average distance between resupplies about 10% lower than you know you can hike day after day after day. That way, if a storm, or sore feet/knees, or an irresistible side-trail slows you down for a day, you’ll know that it’s not hard to catch up to your original plan. I made the mistake of making very ambitious goals and realized early on that being half a day behind meant pushing myself to the limit for a full week, going over my already tough goals, just to catch up to my original plan. I’m sure you’ll go 150+ miles at some point, but there might be a time when you only go 75 miles, so keep it in that sweet spot for your planning and you should be alright. Thanks for commenting, and happy trails!

      Jonah

  2. Lisa Kilian

    This is a great blog, thank you. My husband and I are planning on the PCT next year, we are also from Maryland! I am wondering about your gear list. It all sounds essential but heavy if carrying everything all the time. Do you have all of this gear with you at all times or is some packaged and shipped to different points along the way? Thanks in advance for any advice or insight you can offer. Good luck on your adventure.

    • Quiet_Earp

      I’m not carrying everything at once, and I’ve also sent a few things home. I didn’t use my thermal clothes very often in the desert and could have shipped them forward to myself, replaced my camera and map cases with ziplocks, ditched the tripod in a hiker box, and shipped my crampons ahead to Kennedy Meadows just before entering the high Sierras (which I absolutely needed when I summited Mt Whitney at night). Thanks for reading!!

  3. Craig

    I will be on the Pacific Crest Trail in early August packing in with horses and mule several fishery biologist to survey lakes, I have offered many trail hikers items they cannot carry. I hope to see you this summer in Oregon we will be camping near Marion Lake and Duffy Lake. Good Luck I should have tried to hike the trail earlier in my life now I am too old. Craig

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