At 85 days out, I slide like an ice skater around the spectrum between unbearable-bursting-through-my-skin excitement and complete-mojo-crushing overwhelm. Luckily, thank Facebook, I know I’m not alone in this. The PCT Class of 2016 Facebook page is bumping with questions about all aspects of planning–gear, start date, permits, food, food, food, on-trail logistics, clothing, trail names, food, water filtration, bears, rattlesnakes, rodents (oh my), food bags, bear canisters, food, bounce boxes, resupply boxes, sleep system, food, backpacks, and more food. It’s quite the undertaking, leaving friends, family and pets, home and job, sturdy shelter and running water for a 5 month trek through desert heat, mountainy snow, and rainy forest!
My thoughts are like: Should I wear pants? If I wear a skirt, it will be easier to pee and more comfortable. But what about when it’s cold? And what about when it rains? Should I shell out for a new raincoat or use a poncho? A poncho would be cheaper, but what about when it’s windy? Rain pants or rain skirt? And what about butt chafe? Is that a thing I should worry about? I should be training more. I need to figure out my resupply strategy. Is it really more cost effective to mail my food, or should I just buy in towns? Do I really need a bounce box? Should I carry my passport the whole way, or mail it to myself in Washington? What if it gets lost? I need to finalize my gear and put together my toiletries. Should I shell out for a new backpack? What if it’s not as comfortable as my current backpack and then I’ve spent all that money? I should be blogging more. Should I do a kickstarter? No. I need to prove to myself that I can do this on my own. How will I take good pictures on trail? Will I have enough space on my phone? What if I step on a rattlesnake? What if my thryroid decides to go haywire while I’m out there? Will I have enough money to finish my hike? Do I talk about this hike too much? Am I alienating my friends with this trail talk? Am I being selfish doing this? Should I go stoveless? What AM I going to eat? Will I get sick of Snickers bars? Is that possible? How will I avoid post-hike depression? Will I get a good trail name? I refuse to accept a lame trail name. Will I make friends? Should I carry camp shoes? Should I up my data plan? Should I get the inflatable or foam sleeping pad? Should I get the short or full-length pad? What if I break my glasses on trail? What WILL I EAT?
It just goes on and on and on like that all the time. And then, sometimes I make actual progress and the list of things I am obsessing over shortens, which feels really good.
I have to admit that my planning process has not been very organized. In 2010, I took a 3-week solo trip to Europe that I planned almost down to the minute. It was kind of stressful for a few days and then I scrapped my plans and decided to wing it. So, for this adventure, my strategy is to be fully armed with information and options, and then mostly wing it. So far, most of my hike preparation has been centered around (obsessing over) what gear to bring, although I have done a fair amount of study about all the rest. My main tools for planning have been blogs, Youtube videos, and hiker forums. (I’ll post a page of resources soon, for those of you who are interested.) According to past thru-hikers, this is a pretty good strategy. We’ll see.
Hopefully, my thoughts and plans will coalesce into some kind of shareable format, eventually. I’ll keep you posted on that. Until then, feel free to ask lots of questions and I’ll do my best to answer!