“It was futile, trying to impose logic on a movement of the heart.”
–Gail D. Storey, I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail
Dear family and friends,
It is with overwhelming excitement that I share with you my intention to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016! What!?!
Some of you already know that this is something I have been thinking about for awhile. Others might find it somewhat confusing, if not completely baffling. Or, maybe you’ll just think, “Well, there she goes again.”
So, where is all of this coming from? Well, I’m not sure how to answer that. It seems inexplicable, but the idea just won’t leave me alone!
I’m sure that doesn’t answer a thing for you, and more than that, you might have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. So, I’ve compiled some Frequently Asked Questions to offer some explanation. I hope this helps.
What/Where is the Pacific Crest Trail?
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-ish mile National Scenic Trail running from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington, passing through seven national parks, 24 national forests and 37 wilderness areas along the way. The elevation of the trail ranges from sea level to over 13,000 feet — traveling through the California desert, over mountains and into Pacific Northwest forests.
How long will it take you to hike this thing?
According to Postholer.com (a popular hiking website), “It will take 152 days and you have a 37% chance of success.” Truly, there is a narrow window of opportunity for completing a thru-hike (hiking the whole thing in one go) of the PCT — April through October. I’ll want to start early enough to avoid the worst of the heat in the desert, but late enough to avoid running into too much lingering snow in the Sierras, and finish early enough to beat the snowfall to Washington. I’m hoping to finish in 5-ish months.
When/Where will you start?
Traditionally, the PCT is hiked Northbound (NoBo) from Mexico to Canada, although some have been known to go Southbound (SoBo) from Canada to Mexico. While it is tempting to think of a SoBo hike because of the added solitude (not as many people go SoBo), it would mean added logistical challenges that I’m not sure I’m up for quite yet. So, I will begin my hike at the US/Mexico border in mid-April.
Have you read that book? Seen that movie?
Yes! Both! In fact, I might not even know the PCT existed if I hadn’t read THAT book first. In case you’re wondering, THAT book is “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed. It is the memoir of a woman who hiked the PCT after the death of her mother. It’s worth a read, but be warned, it’s an intense book more about her inner journey than about the trail.
So, I was hiking with my friend Rachel one day out at Percy Warner Park in Nashville. We were walking and talking and I started telling her how much I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT), some day, yadda yadda, and she said, “Have you read that book Wild?” I had never heard of it, but I went home and ordered it from the library. I didn’t love the book at first. I probably just wasn’t in the right head-space at the time– it’s quite an intense story– but, I was intrigued by this trail that I had never heard of. Which led me to the internet, which led me to walkingwithwired.com, the online trail journal that started it all for me.
Incidentally, I did eventually see THAT movie, “Wild”–the adaptation of the book, starring Reese Witherspoon– and I really loved it. So, I might go back and read the book again at some point.
Who Are you hiking with? Are you scared?
These are really two very distinct questions for me, but they usually come paired together from other people, so I’ve left them together here. I am planning the whole thing as a solo journey, meaning that I will set off from Nashville alone. Am I scared? Of going alone? No. I won’t be alone for long. While still not as populated as the AT, the PCT is well-peopled enough during thru-hiking season that I’ll still have to work at being alone for long. I’ll fall in step with someone soon enough, someone I may or may not stay in step with. The way of the trail is “Hike Your Own Hike” (HYOH), and I plan on abiding. It’s kind of the whole point.
Now, as for being scared of other things…I’m scared of this whole adventure! But it’s the exciting kind of scared.
So there. I hope that answered some of your questions. Please feel free to ask more, if you wish. There are lots of logistical questions about food and water and bears that people ask, but I’ll get to those later. I promise. In fact, by the end of all this, you’ll have either completely tuned me out, or you’ll know so much about thru-hiking that you can go teach a class.
I’ll try not to be too insufferable.
I’m excited to have you along for the ride…er…hike!