One of the biggest and attainable adventures out there is thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which spans from the California/Mexico border to the Washington/Canada border, highlighting perhaps some of the best natural landscapes the United States has to offer. And while the size of hike may seem daunting (2,650+ miles), there are plenty of hikers out there that have completed the journey. More importantly, there plenty of hikers happy to share some advice and inspiration for tackling the trail yourself.
The Clymb: The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long and runs north to south through California, Oregon, and Washington; how long did it take you to hike the entire thing in one go?
Jonathan (Captains of Us.com) (Hiker Trash): “I started the PCT on April 16 and finished at the Canadian border on September 8. That’s four and a half months. On days that I hiked I would average about 25 miles. I found myself falling into a rhythm quite quickly on trail in spite of never having done much hiking prior to the PCT.”
Jonathan and his hiking partner Dan make up the dynamic duo behind Captains of Us, an online journal about the ups, downs, and general good revelations that come from hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Full of insight, funny anecdotes, and stunning photography, this professional blog displays the community and natural good-heartedness that comes from hiking such a long distance. Alongside Captains of Us, you can find some more trail inspiration from Jonathan’s trail project, Hiker Trash, which provides professional portraits of some of the hikers you’re sure to meet on trail.
The Clymb: Every ounce counts on a long distance hike, especially with the big elevations found on the Pacific Crest Trail, do you have any advice on saving weight in your pack?
Arielle Parris (www.cycked.org): “To cut weight on your sleep system consider a quilt instead of a sleeping bag—it offers incredible warmth to weight ratio and an inflatable pad keeps you insulated from the ground. Buy a bag warmer than the coldest you can imagine being on trail—you’ll thank yourself later. A bivvy is an extremely light option as a shelter, especially with a Tyvek sheet as a ground cloth or tarp. If you are hiking with a partner, splitting up the tent halves the weight. Don’t buy a footprint, just use tyvek. Adding lightweight base layers only for sleeping and a down jacket with hood will keep you warm and dry even when it hails in July.”
Arielle alongside her trail counterpart Avry , comprise the team known as Cycked, and not only are these two badass ladies hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, they are doing it for a reason larger than themselves. In an effort to raise money for the YMCA Bold & Gold program which gives children the chance to learn from the natural environment through adventure, these ladies are providing insight, gear reviews, and good times from the PCT. Check out the Cycked website to learn how to participate, to get the latest gear reviews, and find inspiration of your own to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Clymb: You need a lot of calories to be hiking 20–25 miles a day, but any food that you want to eat you’ll have to carry on your back and add it to your load. What was your food experience like concerning preparation, favorite foods, and how often you resupplied at the mountain towns that sparsely lined the trail?
Mac (HalfwayAnywhere.com): “Personally, cooking became one of my biggest annoyances on-trail. Carrying extra water, needing extra time, cleaning up afterwards, and having extra gear all made the idea of going “stoveless” a very appealing alternative. I ate a ton of cheese, tortillas, Sriracha, and bars (Clif, Power, Pemmican, Nature Valley, etc.). Occasionally I would take the time to build a fire and grill up some quesadillas—my personal favorite on-trail. My resupplies usually came about every hundred to hundred fifty miles, and I usually just bought whatever was available in town. However, if I knew there was a sparsely stocked resupply point ahead I would sometimes buy my resupply in a larger town and ship it ahead to myself.”
Who is Mac? That is a question worth asking and one that’s hard to find the words for. Inspired by his travel and college education abroad, Mac pulled the trigger on a thought that has crossed many brains before and quit his day job to live a life of adventure. Along the way he has brought his camera and scribbled down some words, and his website (HalfwayAnywhere.com) displays the insights, the fun, and the adventure of living a life you choose. Check it out for some Pacific Crest Trail information, or for photo essays from around the world, whatever you do, it will excite you to live an adventurous life of your own.
The Clymb: The PCT takes an average of 5 months to complete and visits a wide variety of elevations and weather variances; did you have to rotate out your gear throughout the hike to accommodate the changing climates of the PCT?
Caroline “Puppy” (Little-Package.com): “I used the same 15lb set of gear (except a few fussy moments, but it always boiled down the same) for my entire 173-day hike. A thoughtful layering system will take you through three seasons and 2668 miles, as will a 15–30º sleeping bag. What many people don’t realize is that the desert is very cold at night and the High Sierra can actually be quite comfortable at night, even at 11,000 feet. But, it’s still important to be prepared with insulating layers, rain gear and/or umbrella, and a shelter. You never know what can pop up—hikers have dealt with some pretty puzzling weather conditions on the PCT, especially in the past two years.”
Caroline has been living an adventurous life for as long as she can remember, and lucky for everyone else she has been blogging about the experience since the year 2000 with her website Little Package.com. And while the website wasn’t originally built for PCT Recollection (actually it was built to sell custom made cycling caps), when the adventure bug bit her in 2013 and she completed the entire trail, the PCT narrative already fit well with her adventurous dialogue and viola, besides documenting Caroline’s recent RV travels, Little Package.com is also a great resource for anyone interested in hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Clymb: Thru-hiking for over 4 months at an average 20 miles a day can be just as challenging to the mental spirt as the physical. What were some of the difficult moments you faced and looking back on it now, how do you feel about the emotional toil you faced on trail and do you look back on your thru-hiking experience as a positive one?
Wendy (Movingtowardsfreedom.com): Thru-hikers are nearly always in some state of discomfort on the PCT, but it is precisely this discomfort that allows you to access your deep inner strength and strip away outer layers to uncover our joyful spirits that often remain buried inside of us. These discomforts also allow hikers to appreciate and enjoy each small pleasure more deeply and easily. As we walk, our life burdens are stripped away, and simple joy is allowed to rise to the surface. Thru-hiking gave me a great sense of purpose and it is there that I uncovered more of a feeling of self-worth than I have ever experienced before. No matter what adversity is thrown at me on a thru-hike, I continue to keep walking because my spirit is far happier on the trail than anywhere else.
Having completed the Appalachian Trail in 2009, the Continental Divide Trail in 2012, and the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013, Wendy has successfully obtained the Triple Crown of Hiking. And with a combined distance of over 7,500 miles, it’s easy to say that the Triple Crown is no easy task. If you’re wondering what inspires and pushes Wendy towards such big goals, as well as the human nature insights learned along the way, well you’re in luck because not only can you get some perspective from Wendy herself through her website MovingTowardsFreedom.com, but she is also a professional speaker ready and willing to give her trail based inspirational talks to any crowd wanting to learn more.