Alyssa and I are going to attempt to thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) this year. While most thru-hikers start at the Mexican border and try to reach Canada 2650 trail miles up in one season, we will be starting in northern California at mile 1419 – McArther-Burney Falls State Park (about half way up on the map above). First heading north to Canada, our flip-flop approach should afford us better weather conditions and less crowding of hikers. Being accustomed to Florida for a while now, not having to post-hole hike through snow in high mountains seems like a plus, and maybe we won’t have to buy an ice-ax or ice-spikes for our shoes. Plus, all the permits were already gone for that northbound start from Mexico by the time my turn in the queue ended. They must have saw I lived in Florida. We hit the trail June 13, 2022.
Having hiked the entire 2200 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) in 2015 and 2016, Alyssa and I pretty much knew what kind of gear we wanted to bring. Thankfully, the technology improves every year to keep it as lightweight as possible. We are both happily starting out with a base weight of around 15.5 pounds. Of course that weight will easily double once we add a weeks worth of food, stove fuel and water for the day. You learn to try and minimize everything you can to try and keep your back, feet, ankles and knees as happy as can be (truly a never-ending battle). The heaviest item I have is a down puffy hooded jacket that weighs 24 oz., but I will be warm no matter what. Having spent a few very cold and sleepless nights in Maine in 2015 on the AT, I will gladly suffer this extra weight.
We will sleep in comfortable hammocks and heat reflecting air pads again for this trail, although we have traded out the ones we used for the AT for lighter weight versions. We have the flexibility to use or not use the rain tarps and bug nets based on the conditions and the ability to go to ground when trees are scarce.
I am very excited to start this journey with Alyssa. We have wanted to do this for several years now, but the Covid pandemic delayed our plans. We hope to be done in five months or so, depending on how fast we travel and if we can avoid spending too much time in trail towns. The allure of hot showers, a few beers and restaurant meals can be overpowering though; once hiker hunger kicks in, food is on your mind constantly.
I am concerned about several things, though, before we start hiking. I accidentally rolled my right ankle on a broken sidewalk about five months ago in Mexico and it hasn’t completely healed yet; some days it feels fine, other times it still hurts to walk on it. I’ll be wearing hiking shoes with ankle support and can wrap my ankle if needed but if the pain persists and/or my ankle swells too much, we may have to postpone this journey for another time, but I sure hope not.
Also, the drought situation on the west coast is severe again this year, so water sources could be affected, especially in the southern California desert, where we hope to be in the fall. The now ubiquitous summer wildfires can be a drastic obstacle, parts of the PCT are still closed from former fires and the logistics of going around the closures can be daunting.
So flexibility is a key ingredient when starting this kind of adventure. We look forward to spectacular views, our route will start us in the Cascade Mountains through northern Cali, Oregon and Washington. A bit of escape from city living, the kindness of strangers, back to nature basics and beauty, when a cool damp bandana on your neck can be your most prized possession.