Pacific Crest Trail


I've had a lot of people ask me many questions about the trail, so I figured I'd post some of the most frequently asked questions & answers for those who care.

Q: So, how long is the trail?

A: 2,650 miles

Q: How long will it take you?

A: 5-6 months, though I'm hoping closer to 5, so mid-April through mid-September.

Q: Where does it start and end?

A: It starts at the USA/ Mexico border in Campo, California, and ends at the USA/ Canada border, but my hike will officially end in Manning Park, Canada.

Q: Are you hiking with someone?

A: I'm not starting the hike with anyone I know, and I do not plan on finding a buddy online to hike with. But, 50 people start at the Southern Terminus everyday from March through May, so I will hardly be alone on the trail. In fact, people thru-hiking the PCT generally report running into at least one hiker every day, and much more frequently earlier on the trail and around areas where day hikers frequent. I am also open to meeting thru-hikers around me and maybe hiking & camping with a small group if we share the same hiking style and values.

Q: What are you bringing for protection?

A: I am bringing a small knife, mainly for cutting things and sausage, but I guess it could be used to shank someone if necessary. I will not be bringing a gun, pepper spray, or large knife because I do not want to carry the weight, I don't know how to use a gun, it will not be in an accessible place (aka, it would be buried in my pack), and I personally think it's unnecessary.

Q: What about animals? Are there dangerous ones you need to worry about?

A: The main "dangerous" animals on the trail are rattlesnakes, black bears, and mountain lions. Rattlesnakes will be the main critter during the first 700 miles in Southern California. They generally want nothing to do with you, and if you hike smart & aware, they are easy to avoid, though may need to be coaxed off the trail so you can pass. Black bears can be found almost everywhere on the trail. They are more scared of humans than we are of them. Having come across black bears while hiking before, I've found that they really couldn't care less about you, but it is important to respect their space and never get between a mother and her cub, and to properly store your food in required areas (like the Sierra). Mountain lions are pretty scary, but they're incredibly elusive and generally don't mess around with adult humans. It's very rare to see a mountain lion, but they've seen thousands of hikers. If it's of any comfort, no one has died from animals on the Pacific Crest Trail in recorded history. Honestly, mosquitoes and gnats are my most-hated animals, but they are unfortunately unavoidable. 

Q: What's the weather like? How cold/hot does it get?

A: This is so dependent on the year, but generally speaking, the PCT has mild weather. Unlike the Appalachian Trail, where rain for weeks on end is not unusual, the PCT is generally dry. Rain is most common in Washington towards the end (mid-late September) and occasionally the desert will see rain in the spring. It can rain at any time though, which is why I am carrying a rain jacket for the whole trail. The desert actually has the most extreme weather. It can reach the 100s during the day, but then turn into a crazy wind storm with 40-50mph winds and then get into the teens at night. Falling snow is usually not an issue, but early season storms at higher elevations are not unheard of (even in the "desert"), and winter moving in early in Washington's North Cascades can end a hike early if snow dumps.

Q: How often do you get to be in civilization/ how do you get there?

A: It depends on which section of the trail, but usually every 3-7 days I will be going into a town to do errands like resupplying my food, laundry, picking up packages, placing orders for gear, re-charging devices & batteries, scheduling blog posts, and eating lots of town food, and sometimes to take a rest, or "zero", day. Getting to town usually involves hitchhiking. The PCT itself sometimes leads to a main road or highway, or sometimes you need to take a side trail to a main road/ highway. Sometimes the PCT or side trail will lead directly into town, but this is not the norm.

Q: What is resupply? How do you do it?

A: Everyone who hikes the PCT needs to resupply their consumables: food and fuel being the main two, but occasionally other toiletry things like band-aids, pain meds, sunscreen, toilet paper, toothpaste, floss, etc, and sometimes even gear. Some people choose to pre-make packages at home that are filled with non-perishable food and have someone ship them to pre-determined post offices/ businesses in towns along the way. I am not doing this, however. I will be buying food from local grocery stores in town because I don't want to deal with all that pre-planning, and because I know I will get sick of food that I picked out 6 months prior.

Q: What do you eat?

A: This is a good question! I am planning on starting the trail stoveless so that I don't have to worry about carrying and finding fuel to cook with. I'm also kind of lazy, so no-cook = less wait time to eat food, less time cleaning up. That means my meals will be cold and non-cook. I've been experimenting with cold-soaking, which means pouring cold water into a container of dry food and letting it soak for however long it takes to become hydrated. Right now that's looking like a lot of oatmeal, couscous, rice sides, ramen noodles, dehydrated beans, and mashed potato flakes, with GORP, bars, jerky, tuna packets, summer sausage, pop tarts, tortillas, and chips. Not the healthiest of foods, but calories are important, and I can always eat fresh fruits & veggies in town. If for some reason I hate cold soaking on trail, I have a stove & cooking cup on back-up at home.

Q: Where do you camp?

A: Camping along the PCT is not like normal car camping, and may seem different than some people's backpacking experiences too. There are very few designated campsites (like specific backpacker's sites, car campgrounds, etc.) along the PCT. Most camping is done in accordance with Leave No Trace ethics, meaning at least 200 feet from the trail and water sources, and attempting to set up camp in areas that look like they have been used for camping before (pre-existing sites). So basically, if you find a nice, flat spot that's about 40 paces from the trail & water, and there's no camping restrictions in the area, you can camp there. There are suggested campsites in resources like Guthook's app and Halfmile's maps & trail notes as well.

Q: What do you bring with you?

A: Many people do the PCT with a wide variety of gear. I'll be posting a gear list in the next few weeks once I get everything dialed in! Everything is subject to change however. If you are just dying to know, and can't wait for my detailed list, here's a good list from REI to give you a general idea of lightweight gear.

Q: Are you scared?

A: I'm not really afraid of animals on the trail, or getting lost. I am afraid of freak weather, getting injured, creepy mansplainers, and my #1 biggest fear is the mental aspect of the trail, specifically loneliness.

Q: What are you doing to prepare?

A: Good question! I'll actually be posting more blog posts about my prep in the coming weeks/ months, so stay tuned! But basically I'm doing physical, mental, and some food figuring out stuff.

Q: Can I send you treats on trail?

A: Sure! Text me if you actually want info on how/ where to send a box of goodies! You can also email me if you don't have my phone number.

Q: Can I meet up with you on the trail?

A: While I appreciate the enthusiasm, the short answer is probably not. Very few people will know my location on trail in real-time, and the beauty of thru-hiking is not having to make plans. Lack of phone service coupled with the need to do a certain number of miles per day to make it to Canada on time makes it hard to meet up with people to do day hikes along the trail. If you're in a certain trail town though at the time I'm taking a rest day off trail, let's go eat a ton of yummy food together!!! :D


If you have other questions that aren't answered above, feel free to ask below!

Feat2Emily SchrickComment